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Bucknell (28-5) vs. Butler (26-8)



Thursday, March 21, 12:40 p.m. (et)

The Sports Network

By Phil Neuffer, Associate College Basketball Editor

FACTS & STATS: Site: Rupp Arena (23,500) -- Lexington, Kentucky. Television: truTV. NCAA Record: Bucknell 2-5, Butler 16-10. Series Record: First meeting.

GAME NOTES: In a matchup of mid-major powers the sixth-seed Butler Bulldogs will take on the 11th-seed Bucknell Bison in the second round of the NCAA Tournament East Region at Rupp Arena on Thursday afternoon.

Bucknell coasted to both the regular season title and conference tourney crown in the Patriot League this season as the unquestioned class of the conference. The Bison are the first team in conference history to win three straight league titles as they get set for their third straight NCAA Tournament appearance. Bucknell has just two wins in seven previous contests in the tourney, including an 81-52 rout of Connecticut last year.

Though Butler has not played in one of the power conferences it has been one of the more successful teams in the NCAA Tournament in recent memory. The Bulldogs missed out on a spot last season after making consecutive trips to the title game in 2010 and 2011. This season was the Bulldogs' first in the Atlantic 10 and they certainly made a splash, spending time in the national rankings, while posting a 26-8 overall record. Butler also collected a win against the East Region's No. 1 seed when it stunned Indiana, 88-86, in December.

This game marks the first time these teams have ever been matched up. Whichever squad manages to advance will get to face either third-seed Marquette or 14th-seed Davidson.

Patriot League Player of the Year Mike Muscala was at it again as he led the Bison to a 64-56 win over Lafayette for the conference crown. Muscala had 20 points and 11 rebounds for the Bison who outscored Lafayette, 28-16, in the paint.

Muscala (19.0 ppg, 11.2 rpg, 2.4 bpg) is the key for the Bison if they hope to pull off the upset. The 6-foot-11 center has posted an NCAA-leading 22 double- doubles this season and can be expected to get the ball fed to him on the low block early and often on Thursday. With Butler likely to be keying in on Muscala the Bison will need strong efforts from their other key pieces, including Cameron Ayers (12.5 ppg), Bryon Johnson (11.1 ppg) and Joe Willman (10.3 ppg). Muscala doesn't just make an impact on offense as he can really protect the rim and anchors the Bison's exemplary efforts on that end. Bucknell allows just 57.5 points per game and holds foes to 37.8 percent shooting.

Butler was another victim to the stingy defense of Saint Louis in the battle between the teams in the semifinals of the A-10 Tournament. The Bulldogs hit just 38.9 percent from the floor and turned the ball over 20 times in the contest. Rotnei Clarke did his best to keep the Bulldogs in the contest but needed 15 attempts to get his team-high 16 points.

Clarke (16.7 ppg) is the centerpiece for Butler on the offensive end. The 6- foot guard had the best season of his career after transferring from Arkansas setting career-highs in points while netting 41.2 percent from beyond the arc. Clarke didn't mind deferring when he needed to either as he set a career-high with 2.7 assists per game. Andre Smith (11.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg) will have the unenviable task of matching up with Muscala but he has been a solid scorer in his own right. Roosevelt Jones (10.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 3.5 apg) provides versatility as well for the Bulldogs.

This game will come down to how well the Bulldogs can handle Muscala. That is easier said than done especially for a Butler team that doesn't have a ton of size up front. If Muscala avoids foul trouble and puts up another big effort this could be one of the first upsets of the Tournament.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Bucknell 68, Butler 65

03/21 10:35:30 ET

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Scoreboard
Local
Final
NOR 3
DUR 5
 
Final
PIT 0
CAR 10
 
Final
CIN 7
CHC 2
Final
DET 3
NYY 2
Final
SFG 4
COL 1
Final
BAL 5
TAM 4
Final
NYM 1
ATL 6
9th
CWS 2
CLE 3
 
9th
KAN 5
MIN 5
 
Final
HOU 4
TEX 2
 
4th
ANA 3
OAK 0
 
Final
SCAR 28
TEXAM 52
Final
LAMON 17
WAKE 10
 
4th
MISS 35
BSU 13
 
4th
TULSA 20
TULA 28
 
2nd
WASU 10
RUTG 21
 
1st
ARST 17
WEBER 0
 
1st
VANDY 0
TEMPL 7
 
Final
JAC 14
ATL 24
 
Final
BUF 0
DET 23
 
Final
CIN 35
IND 7
 
Final
GBP 34
KAN 14
 
Final
PHI 37
NYJ 7
 
Final
MIA 14
STL 13
 
Final
PIT 0
CAR 10
 
Final
NYG 16
NEP 13
 
Final
TAM 10
WAS 24
 
Final
NOS 13
BAL 22
 
Final
CLE 33
CHI 13
 
Final
DAL 3
DEN 27
 
Final
TEN 3
MIN 19
 
Final
HOU 13
SFX 40
 
2nd
SDC 9
ARI 3
 
2nd
OAK 28
SEA 14
 
Final
NOR 3
DUR 5