Less than 45 minutes to tip-off between #6 seed Butler (26-8) and #11 Bucknell (28-5), and though I’ve been back and forth between my thoughts on the game, I’m pretty confident in my thoughts that Butler will advance to the third round on Saturday.
Much has been made this week about how tough the Patriot League champions Bucknell will be as an opponent, and everything about that is true. The Bison, similar to Butler, are established winners this year are not a team that can just be blown out. There defense, which has allowed a hair under 58 points per game, has slowed down opponents all year and has kept them in virtually every game.
Not to mention, the Bison’s Patriot League MVP Mike Muscala and his 19 points and 11.2 rebounds per game are going to be tough to handle.
With all that said, I really believe that Butler’s physicality and rough style of play is something that is really going to catch this Bucknell squad off guard. Though the Bulldogs aren’t going to come out blowing the roof off Rupp Arena with offense and points galore, I feel like over the full course of the game they will have a game-plan that wears the Bison down during the critical late stretches of each half.
Also, I can’t envision a Brad Stevens’ squad making critical mental mistakes and leaving Bryson Johnson and Cameron Ayers open in the corner. I wouldn’t be surprised if the team has an excellent game-plan to slow down Bucknell’s offense, and I would be shocked if Butler doesn’t execute it to near-perfection.
Unless Andrew Smith and Khyle Marshall get in foul trouble, I predict a 69-58 victory for the Bulldogs, with Kellen Dunham leading the way with 18 points and some sneaky threes from Erik Fromm off the bench.