Navy (8-22) at Bucknell (25-5)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, March 6, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Sojka Pavilion (4,000) -- Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. Television: None. Home Record: Navy 5-9, Bucknell 11-1. Away Record: Navy 2-12, Bucknell 12-4. Neutral Record: Navy 1-1, Bucknell 2-0. Conference Record: Navy 2-12, Bucknell 12-2. Series Record: Navy leads, 34-32.
GAME NOTES: The 2013 Patriot League Tournament gets underway on Wednesday night, with one of four quarterfinal round bouts pitting the Navy Midshipmen against the Bucknell Bison at Sojka Pavilion.
The winner of this bout moves on to the semifinals to challenge the winner of the Army/American clash.
Navy had a season it would much rather forget, the team going just 8-22 overall and 2-12 in conference. The lackluster league ledger earned it the eighth seed in this event, and the Mids are seeking redemption following a 62-46 setback to Bucknell just four days ago. Navy, which has lost three straight and 10 of its last 11 heading into the postseason, has gone just 2-12 on the road this year, and it will likely have its hands full against Bucknell as no No. 1 seed has ever lost in the opening round of this event.
The Mids own a 13-18 record all-time in the PL Tournament, and they've won it all three times, the most recent of which occurred in 1998.
That top billing belongs to Patriot League regular-season champion Bucknell, which staked its claim to an impressive 25-5 overall mark, which included a 12-2 record in conference. The Bison won their final four games of the regular slate, not allowing more than 57 points in any of them, while holding its last two foes, American and Navy, to an average of 46.5 points.
Bucknell is the first team in the Patriot to win three regular-season crowns in a row, and the team is trying to improve upon its league-best 29 wins in this event. The Bison, who are 11-1 at home this season, have won this tourney three times, the last being in 2011.
Navy owns a 34-32 lead in the all-time series with Bucknell, and the Bison have won the last six meetings.
Navy rarely goes on the offensive, averaging a mere 55.6 ppg to rank last in the conference and 340th of the 345 Division programs. The team has only one double-digit scorer in Worth Smith (10.5 ppg), and he also contributes in other areas with his club-best 5.5 rpg, 37 blocked shots and 35 steals. Tilman Dunbar (9.6 ppg, 5.0 apg) and Brandon Venturini (8.9 ppg, .355 3-point FG percentage) aren't far off the scoring pace, and the team's defensive effort is what has kept it in the games it has been in this season, foes allowed just 61.0 ppg. Navy is +1.9 in turnover margin, but it being beaten on the boards to the tune of a -5.9 rebounding differential. Venturini hit for 13 points and Smith tallied 11 in the recent loss to Bucknell, the team shooting just 36.4 percent from the field, while allowing the Bison to connect on nearly 49 percent of their total shots, and claim a 35-26 rebounding advantage.
Bucknell got 14 points from Cameron Ayers, 12 from Bryson Johnson, and nine each from Joe Willman and Mike Muscala, helping the Bison easily sail by Navy last weekend. A +9 in rebounding margin certainly helped matters, as did an 8- of-14 effort from beyond the arc. Muscala (19.1 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 75 blocks, .523 FG percentage, .775 free-throw percentage) is the Patriot League's best player, recently earning a sweep of the conference's three top awards (Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Scholar-Athlete of the Year. He is joined on the All-Patriot First Team by Ayers (12.7ppg, 4.0 rpg, .417 3-point FG percentage), and two others -- Johnson (11.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg) and Willman (10.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg) -- average double figures for a team that produces 67.4 ppg while allowing just 57.7 ppg.
Simply put, there is very little chance Navy keeps this game close let alone thinking it has a shot at sinking the Bison. Expect Muscala and company to have a field day, picking up right where they left off just a few days ago when they controlled the Mids.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Bucknell 66, Navy 50
03/06 10:37:27 ET