In every single one of them I have Bucknell beating UConn.
Crazy? Maybe; after all, I spend an inordinate amount of my spare time following Patriot League sports, and while my loathing for all things orange and blue knows no bounds when the Bison Burgers take on Lehigh, once the NCAA tournament happens... madness.
I think there are at least ten good reasons as to why Bucknell will win over the Huskies today. Read them - and then judge for yourself if I'm crazy. (more)
- Abe Badmus. Yes, he's not a current player on the Bison. But Badmus was a huge reason why Bucknell's ""upsets" over Kansas and Arkansas in 2005 and 2006 shouldn't have been so surprising - his stats weren't gaudy, but he did the little gritty things - play physical, get big rebounds - to win games. This 2011 Bucknell team has this Badmus quality in spades - and that's why they'll win.
- G Bryan Cohen. UConn fans have probably never heard of this Badmus clone averaging only 7 points per game, but they will. His mission will be to "Badmus" a certain superstar on UConn, a guy you might have heard of: G Kemba Walker. He won't totally stop him - but he'll frustrate him and get into his head. You won't see Cohen fall flat on the floor trying to guard him.
- UConn Overconfidence. They will have heard it all this week: don't overlook Bucknell, they beat Kansas, they're good. But watch 30 seconds of coverage of UConn on ESPN and you'll see evidence of a team that has been reading an awful lot of their own press clippings on how great they are. By the time they figure out this is a game, they might be down by double digits.
- Inexperience. In all the talk about Kemba! Kemba! Kemba!, folks tend to forget that the Huskies have precious little experience on this team. Only three seniors dot the roster, none of whom average double-digits in scoring. How will they respond when they're down by 12 to the Bison?
- Pressure. Bucknell has zero pressure. If they win, they'll add another scalp to their growing NCAA Tournament trophy case; if they lose, hey, it was Kemba Walker. But while expectations at UConn are outsized even in the best of times, Walker's magical run through the Big East Tournament has caused folks to think of an inexperienced, one-trick pony team as a lock for the Final Four. How does UConn respond to this - especially after they fall behind?
- Free Throws. The Huskies shoot 75% from the charity stripe - not bad, but there are clearly some easy guys to foul, like C Charles Okwandu (52.9%). However, Bucknell shoots 78% - and have almost nobody to foul during crunch time. (G Darryl Shazier is the "worst" at 75%, and trust me, you don't want to foul him, either.) If this game is close - and I think it will be - Bucknell's free-throw shooting becomes a gigantic plus.
- Depth. The Huskies don't come at you in waves - hardly. They only have five players who average 20 minutes or more a game. Bucknell has eight, and will go to the bench often to switch people in and out. Especially considering UConn played so many games last week, how will UConn endure going against Bucknell's large supply of fresh bodies?
- Style of play. Bucknell's style is one that looks like it could pose problems for the Huskies - a precision-passing, turnover-forcing, screening, disciplined team. UConn will try to line up their team athlete for athlete - say, C Alex Orihaki on F Mike Muscala - and try to beat the Bison. They will find that very difficult due to the way the Bison play. If they try to man them athlete for athlete, Muscala will probably score 18 points off of screens alone.
- No Home-Court Advantage. Though crazy UConn fans will indeed make the trip to Washington, DC to watch their Huskies, Bucknell is also bringing the full allotment of Sojka Psychos to the Nation's Capital. While long-time Bison fans will be deeply outnumbered, you can bet that the other two schools - Missouri and Cincinnati - will be big, big Bison fans as well. It's not going to be like a home game for the Huskies - this will be split right down the middle.
- Mental Toughness. I've learned something about this Bison team - they are one mentally tough team. I know they will not come apart mentally when playing UConn. They were not sitting in awe watching the film in Lewisburg of the Huskies. They know full well they can - and will - win this game.