Introduction: Bucknell is a small, private, liberal arts university located in Lewisburg, PA—roughly an hour north of the state capital of Harrisburg—with an enrollment of around 3400 students. They play in the Patriot League—a sort of Ivy League Light—which they have won a record eleven times.
Tournament History: This will be their seventh trip to the NCAA tournament and their first since 2013, when they lost to No. 6 seed Butler in the first round. They are 2-6 all time in the tournament. In 2005, they upset No. 3 seed Kansas to become the first Patriot League team to advance to the second round.
The Vital Statistics
Record: 26-8 (15-3)
Best Win: 75-72, @Vanderbilt
Worst Loss: 77-78, @Loyola-MD
Leading Scorer: Zach Thomas, 16 PPG
Various Statistical Ranking Numbers
- RPI: 63
- BPI: 85
- Strength of Schedule: 213
- KENPOM: 80
- Nothing Bucknell does jumps off at the page at you as being great, but nor do their weakness. They’re very sound on offense and defense, ranking in the top 100 in both offensive and defensive efficiency on KENPOM’s rankings. They shoot the ball well. Their 48 percent FG shooting ranks 26th in the NCAA, and though they look to get the ball inside off the low post to big man Nana Fouland or the versatile Zach Thomas. They’re also solid from behind the arc, where they rank 57th nationally.
- Defensively, the Bison are solid. Like WVU they like to pick your pocket, albeit at a lower rate than Press Virginia, averaging 7.2 steals per game.
- Unlike a number of low-majors you’ll see in the opening round, Bucknell also has decent size at every position.
- Junior Zach Thomas is not He Who Must Not Be Named, but he is talented. At 6’7”, he can score around the rim but also step out for the three, and is the team’s second-best shooter from distance. He is, however, a bit turnover prone. It will be interesting to see how WVU guards him in the half-court given his versatility. Will Huggs put Esa Ahmed on him, or will Nate Adrian get the call?
- Nana Fouland is no slouch either. The 6’9” junior from Reading, PA is an athletic shot-blocker who averages 2.2 blocks a game—good enough for 37th nationally and first in the Patriot League. He’s also team’s second leading scorer (14.9 ppg) and best rebounder (7.8).
- It’s cliche, but the Bison have not seen a team as athletic as WVU. In the non-conference, they did play four teams in the tournament field (Wake Forest, Butler, Princeton, and Vanderbilt) but of those teams only last-four-in Wake comes close to the physicality they’re about to see.
How Bucknell Wins
Bucknell didn’t win 26 games by accident. They’re well-coached and play solid defense. They could win by slowing the pace of the game down and forcing WVU, which has struggled to score in the half-court of late, to make shots to win. On the other end, the Bison need both Thomas and Fouland to show up and hit their shots if they want to advance for the first time since 2006.