Originally written on College Chalktalk  |  Last updated 11/14/14
Upon hearing that Mercer upset defending Atlantic Coast Conference champion, Florida State, 61-56 Sunday, a friend of mine asked, “Give a me a reason why mid-major teams upset high major programs?” Distracted by the TV’s unfolding scroll of the day’s scores and highlights, I responded, “They recruit great players.” He was not amused. (Credit: Marc Hagemeier) “Come on.” He rebutted. “I get that good teams, on any level, have good players…but give me a tactical reason why these mid-majors knock off high major teams…a reason the novice fan might not see.” Needless to say, my buddy not only epitomizes the definition of hoops junkie but he’s also persistent. So then, here’s my answer… Mid-major teams, which successfully compete against high major programs, possess good players but, ultimately, they have an ability to consistently alleviate defensive pressure along the perimeter. In other words, when facing the heightened talent of most high major programs, these goliath-bound squads successfully establish and exploit an inside presence. When an inside presence is established, scoring opportunities become increasingly diverse described by scores in the paint, five feet and in, or open jump shots as a result of unguarded kick-outs. Case in point: the impact of Mike Muscala a 6-foot-11 senior, center for Bucknell University. Bucknell Head Coach, Dave Paulsen, has the Bison off to a great start this season at 7-1. Three of those wins have come against higher profile teams, Purdue (Big Ten), George Mason (CAA), and New Mexico State (WAC). How? Yes, Paulsen and his staff have recruited a host of good players at a variety of positions; however, Muscala was a consistent force on the interior. Bucknell debuted with a 70-65 win over Purdue. Muscala more than established an inside presence. He posted 14 points, 10 rebounds, while attempting 13 shots from the charity strip. Muscala followed-up with 16 points and 14 rebounds in a 61-56 win over George Mason at Sojka Pavilion on Nov. 13th. George Mason made it difficult on Muscula inside – half of his points came from the free throw line but he made his presence felt and, more notably, alleviated the Mason’s pressure along the perimeter. Bucknell finished 7-12 from beyond the arc (58 percent). On Nov. 17th, Muscala was again dominant inside; accounted for almost half of Bucknell total shots. He marked 24 points, nine rebounds in a 62-49 win against New Mexico State. The rest of the Bison starting five went 10-22 on the night (45 percent). Not too shabby. Muscala, who after the Bison’s 65-57 win over Columbia Saturday night, moved from eighth to fifth on Bucknell’s career scoring chart with 1,541 points. The Bison frontliner also grabbed his 800th career rebound on Saturday, joining former Colgate and NBA player, Adonal Foyle as the only Patriot League players ever to record 1,500 points and 800 rebounds. His play has been key to the Bison charge. It is why…my friend, Bucknell, according to Collegehoops.net, is ranked among the top 25 non-BCS programs in the country.   Related Posts:Only a Patriot League title will do for Mike Muscala and BucknellLehigh and Bucknell clear favorites for Patriot League men’s basketballFacing Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum an eternal nightmare for Patriot League coachesCarissimo’s poise proves promising for VermontMid-majors sharing in the spirit of giving
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