This is a difficult game to call as it featured two mid-majors with some recent tournament success. Coach Brad Stevens of Butler has proven that his initial tournament run is no fluke and has turned Butler into a perennial tournament team. He has shown his loyalty to the school by turning down “bigger” and more high paying schools to stay at Butler. They are led by senior guard Rotnei Clark who is a lights out shooter and scorer. He is a transfer from Arkansas and that appears to be a decision that has worked out for both school and student athlete. He is certainly their go to guy and a lot of their success will be determined by how well or how poorly he plays. Senior Center Andrew Smith is not the rebounder you would like for a player his size but he is adept around the basket and can finish in traffic. Sophomore Roosevelt Jones is a nice complimentary player who is not an outside shooter but plays much bigger than his six foot four frame.
The Bucknell Bisons are unquestionably led by senior Mike Muscala who averages 19 points and 11 rebounds a game. He is a beast on offense capable of scoring against zones and/or double teams. He also is a force defensively who averages two and a half blocks a game. If he were to be sent to the bench for any extended period for foul trouble or any other transgression then the Bisons will be going home early. He is as critical to their success as any player in the country. Missouri big man Alex Oriakhi is one of the best defensive big men in the country and Muscala lit him up to the tune of 25 points and 14 rebounds. Junior Guard Cameron Ayers is a strong all around guard who can make an outside shot and is tough defensively. Senior Guard Bryson Johnson is a 3 point shooter who benefits from the attention Muscala receives inside. Senior forward Joe Willman is a strong compliment inside and he makes his free throws which can become huge in big moments.
Bucknell had a strong season including a tough 2 point loss to Missouri on the road. But they have been rather consistent throughout the season and have won 7 straight headed into the postseason. Butler has been rather inconsistent this season. They are a team that beat Indiana yet lost to Charlotte. They are 4-3 in their last 7. Butler did play a significantly tougher schedule that Bucknell and it remains to be seen if that will translate into tournament success. The game will likely come down to its two stars in Clark and Muscala. Clark is capable of taking over a game by himself but it will have to be from the outside as the imposing Bucknell frontline will be looking to close off the lane. Butler will have no answer for the size and strength of Bucknell.
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