Bucknell (25-9) at Nevada (27-6)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Sunday, March 18, 3:00 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Lawlor Events Center (11,200) -- Reno, Nevada. Television: ESPNU. NIT Record: Bucknell 1-0, Nevada 4-4. Series Record: First- ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The eight-seeded Bucknell Bison will try to log another upset win when they square off with the fifth-seeded Nevada Wolf Pack in the second round of the 2012 National Invitation Tournament at the Lawlor Events Center in Reno.
Bucknell ended top-seed Arizona's season with a 65-54 victory on Wednesday in the first round. The win puts the Bison at 25-9 on the year, after the squad won four straight before falling in the Patriot League Tournament final to Lehigh. The Bison won the regular season crown, but with the loss to the Mountain Hawks had its NCAA Tournament hopes dashed.
Nevada was another team that won a regular-season title but couldn't get it done in tournament play. After going 13-1 against Western Athletic Conference foes this year, the Wolf Pack made it all the way to the WAC tourney semifinals, but was upset by Louisiana Tech. Before that game, Nevada had won four straight and with a 68-59 win over Oral Roberts in the opening round of this event, has won five of its last six bouts overall.
This game marks the first-ever meeting between these two schools in men's basketball.
Bucknell was strong on defense in its first-round win over Arizona, as the Bison held the Wildcats to just 35.4 percent shooting and 17 total field goals in the game, while outscoring UA by slim margins of 21-18 from three-point range, and 18-14 at the free-throw line.
Bucknell's defensive success this year has been well documented, as the team allows just 60.9 points per game while holding it's opponents to 39.4 percent shooting and a mere 28.8 rpg. The teams +8.0 scoring differential is facilitated by it's conference-leading field goal percentage (.463). Mike Muscala (16.8 ppg, 8.9 rpg) had a strong regular season and carried that into the postseason by dominating the interior against Arizona. He scored 20 points and was a rebound shy of a double-double in the game. Muscala is flanked by Cameron Ayers (10.9 ppg) and Joe Willman (10.8 ppg), who while not prolific scorers, have been able to produce enough to complement Muscala nicely. The pair combined for 22 points and 15 rebounds in the first round, with the majority of that effort coming from the 12-point, 10-rebound effort from Ayers.
Nevada was on the road against Oral Roberts and trailed, 30-29, at the end of the first half. The Wolf Pack then outscored the Golden Eagles by 10 in the second half to pull out an impressive road victory. The team converted 43.1 percent of its shots from the field and outscored Oral Roberts 15-8 from the free-throw line, which proved to be the difference in the game.
Nevada's scoring differential has not been as wide (+6.2) as Bucknell's this season, but the Wolf Pack are a better scoring team (70.6 ppg) while allowing more than four points per game more than the Bison (64.4). The Wolf Pack's major strength comes on the boards (37.4 rpg) in which it ranked second in the WCC this season. Senior forward Dario Hunt and Olek Czyz have been pillars in the paint for the Wolf Pack this season. Hunt (10.6 ppg, 9.8 rpg) is the superior rebounder after finishing the season ranked second in the category. Czyz (13.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg) adds more in terms of scoring. The pair combined for 31 points and 20 rebounds, with each recording double-doubles in the first round of the NIT. Deonte Burton (15.0 ppg, 4.3 apg) was the team's leading scorer on the season as well as being its primary playmaker and finished with a strong all-around game against Oral Roberts by scoring 17 points, grabbing eight rebounds and dishing out five assists.
Nevada enters this game knowing that Bucknell will be trying to get the ball as often as it can to Muscala. With the Wolf Pack's strong frontline, that strategy will be difficult to execute and should swing things in favor of the home team.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Nevada 71, Bucknell 64
03/18 10:46:59 ET