Bucknell Bison forward/center Muscala dunks against Syracuse Orange forward Fair during the first half of their NCAA men's basketball game in Syracuse, New York

Patriot League POY race will be one to watch in 2012-13

Leave a comment

Given the lack of national television exposure available to the Patriot League it can be tough for some of its best players to receive the level of respect that they deserve.

Lehigh was able to make waves this past March as a 15-seed, beating Duke in the round of 64 in Greensboro with guard C.J. McCollum (30 points) leading the way.

And with McCollum returning the Mountain Hawks will be one of the two favorites to win the Patriot League next season.

But he isn’t the only star in the Patriot League to keep an eye on as Bucknell welcomes back big man Mike Muscala for his final campaign.

While McCollum won league Player of the Year honors and briefly flirted with the NBA Draft before deciding to return to school, Muscala was a first team All-Patriot League selection for the second consecutive season after winning Player of the Year in 2010-11.

And with the goal being to get even better and lead the Bison back to the NCAA tournament Muscala spent a couple weeks this off-season working out at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.

A three-time All-Patriot League selection, Muscala said his time spent in Florida has been about much more than basketball. His day consists of two on-court, position-specific workouts in addition to one “athletic performance workout” each day under the supervision of the academy staff. In between workouts he has meetings with trainers, nutritionists and other specialists, including communication professionals and “mental conditioning,” according to IMG’s website.

“It’s been fun, but a lot of work,” he said. “We work on everything from agility drills to shooting and conditioning. When you get to go up against some of these guys who are getting ready for the draft, or the guys from bigger schools, you see things you need to work on.”

Muscala, who averaged 17.0 points and 9.1 rebounds per game for the regular season champion Bison, also noted the nutrition tips he picked up and hopes to benefit from.

McCollum has spent part of his off-season working out with his older brother Errick, who plays professionally in Israel.

McCollum averaged 21.9 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game last season for the Mountain Hawks, and while some may not have been too familiar with him before the game against Duke he’s been getting the job done for three seasons now.

The question of who ends up winning Patriot League Player of the Year (and whose team wins the league) may come down to what happens in their two regular season head-to-head meetings.

McCollum scored 15 points in each of the regular season meetings while Muscala led Bucknell to a 68-61 win at Lehigh with 20 points and 12 boards.

But it was McCollum’s game-winning three that made the difference in the rematch at Sojka Pavilion on February 16th.

Tough to call who wins Player of the Year right now, but college basketball fans would be wise to keep an eye on these two throughout the season.

Raphielle is also the assistant editor at CollegeHoops.net and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

No. 22 Cincinnati’s loss to No. 16 Butler shines light on AAC’s struggles

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 10: Head coach Mick Cronin of the Cincinnati Bearcats reacts against the Butler Bulldogs in the first half of the game at Hinkle Fieldhouse on December 10, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Kelan Martin scored 20 points and Andrew Chrabascz added 12 points, four boards and five assists as No. 16 Butler bounced back from a tough loss at Indiana State to beat No. 22 Cincinnati, 75-65.

The Bulldogs had been undefeated on the season prior to the loss to the Sycamores, but their ranking was built on the fact that they had beaten Arizona, who was No. 8 at the time, as well as a trio of high-major programs that look destined for the NIT.

Cincinnati probably isn’t destined for the NIT. Their top 25 ranking is justified, which is what makes this win valuable. Quality non-conference wins matter, and this is just one of a handful of good wins for what has proven to be one of the most top-heavy conferences in the country. Villanova, Creighton, Xavier and Butler all look capable of reaching the Sweet 16 this season.

The opposite is true for Cincinnati, who look like the flag-bearer in a conference that isn’t really all that good. They’re the best team in the AAC this season, but that’s a conference that has consistently disappointed this year. SMU, Temple and UConn have all struggled more than we expected them to. Tulsa and Memphis are in rebuilding mode. Houston was supposed to be good this season but they’ve yet to live up to the preseason hype.

Think about it like this: The only team in the AAC without multiple losses on the season is now UCF. That’s … not ideal, and it’s going to be interesting to see just how many bids the league is able to generate.

Think about it. Temple has beaten West Virginia and Florida State while losing to New Hampshire and UMass. SMU’s best win is either Pitt or TCU, both of whom are borderline tournament teams. UConn beat Syracuse but has some atrocious losses on their resume. Houston beat Rhode Island but lost to Arkansas and LSU. Memphis beat Iowa, but Iowa’s not all that good. UCF’s best win is … Mississippi State?

Cincinnati’s lone quality win is at Iowa State, who is about to drop out of the top 25.

POSTERIZED: Wichita State’s Daishon Smith dunks on Oklahoma big man

WICHITA, KS - NOVEMBER 13:  Guard Daishon Smith of the Wichita State Shockers drives up court past forward Roschon Prince #23 of the Long Beach State 49ers during the first half on November 13, 2016 at Charles Koch Arena in Wichita, Kansas.  (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)
Peter Aiken/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Daishon Smith is 6-foot-1.

Kristian Doolittle is 6-foot-7.

The lil guy won this battle:

Here’s another angle of the dunk, which sent Wichita State’s bench into hysterics:

POSTERIZED: Duke’s Grayson Allen with a Dunk of the Year candidate (VIDEO)

screen-shot-2016-12-10-at-5-37-33-pm
Leave a comment

It looks like Grayson Allen’s toe is healthy. I’d say his explosivness is back:

Whoa.

Yeah.

POSTERIZED: Five-star Class of 2017 guard Trevon Duval dunks on 6’8″ defender

CHARLOTTE, NC - JULY 9: Trevon Duval during the 2015  Under Armour All-America Basketball Camp on July 9, 2015 at Queens College in Charlotte, NC. (Photo by Ned Dishman/Under Armour)
Leave a comment

Class of 2017 point guard Trevon Duval put down a huge poster dunk on a 6’8″ defender on Saturday as the five-star prospect showed why many consider him the top lead guard in high school basketball.

The 6-foot-2 Duval is considered the No. 3 overall prospect in the Class of 2017 by Rivals.

Nigel Hayes shines against as No. 17 Wisconsin beats Marquette

MILWAUKEE, WI - DECEMBER 10:  Nigel Hayes #10 of the Wisconsin Badgers is fouled by Luke Fischer #40 of the Marquette Golden Eagles during the first half of a game at the BMO Harris Bradley Center on December 10, 2016 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Stacy Revere/Getty Images
1 Comment

What a difference a year makes.

Last season at this time, Wisconsin dropped a home game to a Marquette team that was headed to the NIT.

This year?

The Badgers put six players in double-figures as they went into Milwaukee and knocked off Marquette, 93-84.

Bronson Koenig continued his hot shooting, finishing with 18 points and six assists while shooting 4-for-6 from beyond the arc. Vitto Brown chipped in with 15 points, Khalil Iverson had 16 and Ethan Happ chipped in with 11 despite battling foul trouble all afternoon.

But the really story here – hell, the story of Wisconsin’s season to date – has been the change in the way that Nigel Hayes plays.

Hayes was terrific again on Saturday. He had 17 points, nine boards, four assists and three steals. He shot 6-for-10 from the floor and attempted just a pair of threes, making one of them. He had the ball in his hands when Wisconsin was trying to kill off the game, and, more importantly, head coach Greg Gard has seem to start to take advantage of just how good Hayes can be as a facilitator.

There are a couple of points that need to be made here:

  1. When Hayes plays like this, he deserves to be in the all-american discussion. He’s averaging 18.0 points, 7.3 boards and 6.7 assists in the three games Wisconsin has played against high-major competition since the change, and the Badgers have won five straight games while playing easily their best basketball of the season.
  2. And it’s not just because of the numbers he puts up. When Hayes operates as Wisconsin’s de-facto point guard, it makes everyone else on the roster better. For starters, it allows Koenig to play off the ball, where he seems to be more effective. He’s at his best when he’s hunting shots and trying to create off the bounce, but his aggressiveness can be detrimental when he’s the only one touching the ball. It also means offense runs through Happ more often since Koenig isn’t dominating possession, and it lets guys like Brown space the floor because they’re actually able to get rhythm threes.

As of today, Wisconsin is the favorite to win the Big Ten, even if Indiana is far more likely to end up being a No. 1 seed in March.