Bucknell: March Madness 2017

Conference: Patriot League (Auto Bid)

Record: 26-8 (15-3)

NCAA Tournament Seed: 13 West

How they got to the Big Dance

The Bucknell Bison won the Patriot League Tournament, clinching an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. They finished the regular season with a 15-3 conference record, good for first in the conference, and then beat Lehigh in the conference championship game. In the regular season, Bucknell took control of the Patriot League, winning 12 of its conference games by ten points or more, and won two of its three conference tournament games by ten points or more. It’s easy to say that Bucknell was the clear favorite out of the Patriot League and they lived up to that mantra.

Why they’re a legitimate contender

As mentioned previously, the Bison won 12 of their conference games by 10-plus points, which is quite a statement, even from a mid-major conference team. Four players on the roster averaged more than 10 points per game, and the team shot 48.1 percent from the field. The Bison averaged 76.1 points per game while limiting their opponents to 67.4 points per game. Bucknell also shot 37.7 percent from 3-point range, so the team is a threat going into the NCAA tournament on both ends of the court.

Why they’re not a legitimate contender

The Bison played weak opposition in the regular season. Also, Bucknell has only been to the NCAA tournament six previous times, and has a combined record of 2-6 in those games. Unfortunately for the Bison, they suffer at the hands of a mid-major conference, so even if they have a good season and win their conference title, the tournament committee will still undervalue them by giving them a seed of 10 or lower.

Player to watch: F Zach Thomas

The junior from Maryland is arguably the leader of the Bison. He led the team with 16.0 points per game, and was second on the team in rebounds with 6.6 per game and assists with 3.5 per game. His 6-7 frame will be to his advantage as he can not only shoot from the outside, but can also drive to the basket. He shoots 41.5 percent from 3-point range and 81.6 percent from the free throw line, good enough for second-best on the team. He is a threat for Bucknell, and if the game gets close, the ball will most definitely be in Thomas’ hands.