Basketball Scouting Report: Bucknell

Navy now knows that Tilman Dunbar is out for the rest of the season. The Midshipmen must adjust to the particular characteristics of each opponent over the next two months, but their biggest adjustment must come from within. Navy has to find enough offense to supplement its strong defense. Everyone knows this, but the doing of the deed is the hard part.


Easy to say, hard to do – that's the reality of the situation for Navy now that its leading scorer, Tilman Dunbar, has been suspended for the remainder of the season. The Midshipmen continue to play well on defense, as shown in last Saturday's game against Army. However, coach Ed DeChellis just isn't finding quite enough offense to make the whole project work. Navy is playing an opponent every game night, but the Midshipmen's toughest foe right now is their own lineup, which is thin and relatively impotent. Cultivating a different mindset on offense – getting players to be more assertive and creative at the offensive end of the floor – must be DeChellis's main task tonight against Bucknell… and for the rest of the season.

BUCKNELL AT-A-GLANCE

The Bison, as longtime Navy hoops followers know, have been the best program in the Patriot League over the past decade. The Bucknell name commands respect in this part of the college basketball world. Now, though, the Bison are forging ahead without the star player who made them so hard to beat over the past few years. Mike Muscala has graduated, and as a result, Bucknell is a much more mortal team right now. Yes, the Bison are 3-1 in the Patriot League, but they barely scraped by an undermanned Holy Cross team at home this past weekend. They're not the heavyweight they once were, and Navy can pick them off tonight. Coach David Paulsen has a lot of work to do with this particular group.

The Bison use a nine-man rotation. Of their four reserves, only forward Dom Hoffman leaves a substantial statistical footprint, with averages of 6.9 points and 4.1 rebounds per game.

Starting Lineup

Forward – Brian Fitzpatrick –
Senior, 6-8, 230; 2013-14: 9 points per game, 4.1 rebounds per game

Whereas Muscala stood at 6-11, Fitzpatrick – at 6-8 – is the tallest player on the Bucknell roster. This is an undersized team, one that is desperately trying to replicate just a fraction of the production Muscala provided in seasons past. Fitzpatrick is a worker bee, but Bucknell will need each of its players to more authoritative as the season progresses.

Guard – Cameron Ayers – Senior, 6-5, 205; 2013-14: 14.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.7 assists per game

This is Bucknell's best player, though not necessarily its most complete one. Ayers handles most of the workload for this team as a scorer, but you'll notice that at 6-5, he rebounds well for his position. The simple fact that Ayers makes "effort plays" in addition to fulfilling his duties as a scorer tells you a lot about his dedication to team basketball.

Guard – Chris Hass – Sophomore, 6-4, 170; 2013-14: 10.5 ppg, 3.7 rpg

Hass is a poor man's version of Ayers, another guard who rebounds well for his size. One thing that's worth pointing out is that Ayers hits 46 percent of his threes, Hass 39 percent. Navy has to pay attention to the three-point shooting of Bucknell's guards.

Guard – Ben Brackney – Senior, 6-6, 205; 2013-14: 8.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg

As one of Bucknell's bigger guards in what is technically a "one-forward, four-guard" lineup, Brackney needs to make more of an impact on the glass and find ways to score near the rim in order for the Bison to grow as a team. Navy needs to prevent Brackney from having a breakout game tonight.

Guard – Steven Kaspar – Junior, 6-3, 193; 2013-14: 7.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 4.9 apg

Ayers might be the best scorer on the team, but Kaspar is Bucknell's most complete player. He's the leading rebounder on the roster despite his lack of size. He's a dynamic passer who sets up his teammates and displays leadership at the offensive end of the floor. Navy has to contain Kaspar on the glass and stop his dribble penetration.

Keys to the Game

1) Team rebounding.
Bucknell lacks size, but the Bison crash the glass, regardless of position or height. Navy has to make the Bison a one-and-done team at the offensive end. That's the biggest step to victory the Midshipmen can take tonight.

2) Don't let Kaspar breathe. Bucknell's offense goes through Kaspar, a terrific facilitator and distributor. If Navy can choke off driving lanes and prevent Kaspar from getting into the paint, the Midshipmen can gum up the Bison's offense and win a low-scoring game in the 50s, which is how they'll need to play the rest of the season in the absence of Dunbar.

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