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Dear Hoop Time:

Do you think Bucknell has a chance to run the table in league play?

-- AU Fan

Dear AU Fan:

Anything is possible.

But realistically, you'd have to say Bucknell running the table is not probable.

First of all, keep in mind, in the 14 seasons the league has played hoops, nobody has gone unbeaten in conference play. Not the Damon Lopez Fordham team that went 25-8 in 1990-91 -- they were 11-1 in the league. Not Bucknell's 23-6 team in 1992-93 -- they were 13-1. Not Lafayette's Stefan Ciosici-led 1999-200 team that won 24 games, or Navy's team the same year that won 23 -- they both went 11-1. Holy Cross' 2002-03 team recorded the best winning percentage in league history (.839), going 26-5, but they were only 13-1 in the league, losing to an American team that had five conference losses.

Most years this conference would be better named the Rock, Paper, Scissors League. Seven times at least two teams have tied for the regular season title. In the 1993-94 there was a four-way tie (Navy, Fordham, Colgate, HC -- all 9-5).

Most likely scenario, I think, has AU or ... you'll laugh ... Lafayette will knock someone off at their place. Although I think the race is HC-BU, with AU to show, your Eagles' ability to shoot the three will always give them a puncher's chance. They are bound to have a few red-hot nights in conference play, and if it comes against HC or BU it could be the deciding factor in deciding top seed.

There's always the injury factor to consider, too. Nobody in this league is that much stronger than the others (academies excluded) that they can lose a key guy and still expect to win most games.

AU without Ingram, HC without Lufkin (more important than Simmons because they have NO replacement), Bucknell without McNaughton ... they all quickly drop to Lehigh-Lafayette-Colgate middle of the pack level probably.

Bucknell is definitely the favorite to take the regular season. But if you are betting on a perfect league record, it best not be with the mortgage money.

Of course, as the cliche goes ... that is why they play the games. We shall
see, eh?

Dear Hoop Time:

Any comments on the game atmosphere against HC. big crowd, but students on break. any chance we can recapture the old Davis atmosphere?

I realize no one has seen much of HC so far, but how would you say their frosh stack up against ours at this point?

-- Ken Z (via the Bucknell board)

Dear Ken:

This was the biggest crowd ever for a home game at Bucknell, but it was far from the best. I have yet to see any Bucknell crowds come close to the crowds in the Patrick King, Mike Bright, Billy Courtney days.

Back in 1991-92 and 1992-93, the crowds in Davis were large and loud, the students were into it, and Charlie Woollum's up-and-down style generated a lot of excitement.

It will be interesting to see the crowd tonight for Army. This is a bad opponent, and there are no free tickets this week. The free tickets promotion filled Sojka, but not necessarily with serious basketball fans. It remains to be seen how many will come back. Also remains to be seen how excited the students will get about this team. Bucknell has always seemed a very apathetic campus when it comes to supporting its teams.

Recapturing the old Davis atmosphere will be tough. The new place is twice as big and the acoustics make it about a fourth as loud. You could make Davis roar with 1,000 fans; 2,000 almost get lost in Sojka.

As for part two of your question: that will best be answered three years from now. Right now, you'd have to give the edge to Bucknell. John Griffin and Darren Mastropaolo are certainly giving the Bison more than Tim Clifford and Pat Doherty are giving Holy Cross.

But it is not a fair comparison, because Bucknell's freshman needed to step in and play right away. Remember, this is just the second scholarship class for BU. They did not have a deep roster of upperclassmen. In fact, Chris Niesz is the only senior on the roster.

At Holy Cross, they have more scholarship kids already on board. Three seniors start; Kevin Hamilton and Kevin Hyland are juniors who contribute a lot, too. So Willard has less need to push his freshmen into action.

Remember, usually when you have freshmen playing, especially in a league like this, where you don't get any blue chips, it tells you more about the weaknesses of the rest of the roster than it does about the strengths of the freshmen.

I like what I saw of Holy Cross' freshman big guy, Tim Clifford. I was surprised he didn't get more minutes against Bucknell. He didn't show a lot of polish offensively, but he pushed Chris McNaughton off the blocks nicely and held his own on the boards. He is probably as strong already as any big man in the league and has a lot of upside.

I did not see enough of the guard, Pat Doherty, to form an opinion.

Two other factors that might give Bucknell's freshman class the edge in the long run are the Bison's other two freshmen. The Thomas kid has not seen much action, but he is supposed to be a pretty athletic player who has a lot of upside. Morrison is 6-7, can play both forward positions, and is said to have a nice touch on his shot, with 3-point range. He also has decent genes -- his dad played at Drexel and his uncle is Sixers coach Jim O'Brien.

To tie your two questions together, it is probably worth noting that what you gave up in atmosphere when you left Davis for Sojka, you probably more than made up for in being able to recruit better players. Along with the rest of the facilities added when they built the new arena, Sojka made Bucknell a much more attractive place to recruits

Flannery will tell you having a practice facility with more than two usable baskets has helped a little, too.

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