Assuming a healthy senior season, Bucknell center Mike Muscala will leave the Lewisburg, Pa. school with his mark all over the Bison record book.
(Credit: Marc Hagemeier)
Entering the year with 1,399 points and 715 rebounds, he has a reasonable chance to finish as the program’s all-time leading scorer (Al Leslie scored 1,973 points from 1977-1981) and an outside shot at finishing in that rarefied air of 2,000 career points and 1,000 rebounds.
If he achieves these marks, Muscala will be in the discussion to receive a second Patriot League Player of the Year award to bookend the one he received in 2011 as a sophomore when the Bison went 13-1 in the league and captured the post-season tournament.
But individual goals are on the back burner as the Roseville, Minn., native gets ready to lead Dave Paulsen’s veteran squad into a 2012-13 season filled with high expectations — a league championship and spot in the NCAA tournament.
“Offensively, we are really going to put the ball in the hole,” Muscala said during the Patriot League Media Day in October. “But losing (three time PL defensive POY) Bryan Cohen we are going to have to be much better, as a team, on defense.”
The road to the Patriot League title has a major obstacle in defending champion Lehigh, led by pre-season All-American guard C.J. McCollum. The Mountain Hawks defeated Bucknell 82-77 in the 2012 championship game and went on to stun Duke in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
The Patriot League has never received an at-large bid in its 22-year existence, but if it ever had a 1-2 punch to warrant such consideration this would be the year that a second team had the profile to force that discussion.
“I think you look at someone like Iona last year,” said Muscala, noting the Gaels at-large bid out of the MAAC. “They got in and I think that is a good example. We would have to win alot, alot of games for that to be the case. We have the ability to do so, but we can’t get too caught up and worried about that stuff. Win the league championship and the tournament and you’ll get in.”
(Credit: Marc Hagemeier)
Bucknell has a 30-game regular season that includes road contests against Purdue, New Mexico State, Penn State and Missouri. They also have George Mason, Kent State and LaSalle coming to Sojka Pavilion.
And then there are those home-and-home matchups against Lehigh in January and February.
Since Muscala, and fellow senior starters Joe Willman and Bryson Johnson, arrived on campus in 2009 the Bison hold a 5-3 edge head-to-head against Coach Brett Reed’s squad. But two of the Mountain Hawks wins have come in the Patriot League tournament in 2010 and 2012.
“I would like to keep that trend going where it is them winning, us, them, and then us for my senior year,” Muscala said. “Obviously, we are looking forward to playing them, but there is a lot of other games on the schedule.”
Paulsen also sees the symmetry of a Bucknell win in front of the “Sojka Psychos” in March.
“That way Mike and C.J. can split 2-and-2 for league Player of the Year and championships,” Paulsen said while gazing into his orange-and-blue crystal ball. “It’s only fair. It’s all about redistributing the wealth.”
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