Bracket contest update

Six intrepid Patriot League fans had the courage to stand by their league's representative in the NCAA Tournament. Fittingly, those six have been rewarded richly. The Bison's win was worth 12 points (1 for the win, 11 bonus for seed differential). Those six who stuck with the Bison are also the top six in the current standings.

Two entrants stand to benefit further if the Bison advance to the Sweet 16.

You can view real time standings here.

By the way, we now have official prizes. The winner will receive a copy of the NCAA Tournament Record Book and a copy of the Bucknell postseason media guide. We also have a special prize for the last place finisher. That unlucky person will get a copy of the 2005 Kansas postseason media guide.

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Hoop Time Notebook (aftershock the world edition)

News, notes and leftovers from the off day in Oklahoma City, where things are always OK:

RENT A BAND – Over the course of the season, Bucknell has tried all kinds of things to get members of the school’s pep band to show up for games. They have not tried actually paying them, but they have gone so far as to offer free pizza bribes in an effort to get the band to turn out.

None of the tactics used has been particularly effective. On a good night, a half dozen or so musicians show up, usually long on reeds and woodwinds, woefully short on the brass it takes to make a good pep band.

Not suprisingly, given the spotty participation all year, school officials did not even try to muster a band for the trip to Oklahoma City. Not that they’d likely have had many takers since most students already had plans for spring break.

So who were those kids in the orange t-shirts belting out the ‘Ray Bucknell fight song on TV? That was Bucknell’s rent-a-band from Northern Iowa. After the Panthers lost to Wisconsin, the UNI band carried their instruments to the other end of the floor, swapped their Purple and Gold bowling shirts for the orange Ts that had been hastily procured Friday afternoon by Bison Club head Todd Newcomb. Newcomb also scrambled to come up with sheet music to the Bucknell fight song.

They sounded great, with an arrangement of ‘Ray Bucknell that was by far the best that Bucknell fans have heard in years. And they quickly jumped into the traditional pep band role of spirit leaders, starting impromptu chants of “Let’s go Bison” even before the players were introduced.

They even greeted the team with a serenade of ‘Ray Bucknell when they returned to the hotel after the game.

According to Newcomb, it all started with an encounter in the lobby of the hotel where the Bucknell team and the UNI band and cheerleaders were staying. Someone from the UNI band asked if Bucknell’s band was there. When they found out they had not made the trip, the UNI band quickly offered its services.

“They didn’t ask for any money,” said Newcomb. “They just wanted to stay there and play.”

Bucknell did feed them after the game. Bucknell administrators at the game also huddled after the game and decided to offer to pay the band’s expenses if they could stay for tomorrow’s game against Wisconsin. That did not work out because the band was travelling on a charter with the team.

Bucknell officials are hoping to find another band to play Sunday. They have contacted several local colleges and high schools. Most colleges and high schools in the area are on spring break, though. As of early afternoon, though, they had not yet found a fill-in. The school might also ask the Oklahoma State band if it will stay and play at the second game of tomorrow’s doubleheader. Oklahoma State takes on Southern Illinois.

ONE STEP AT A TIME -- How do you eat an elephant? Easy, one bite at a time.

How do you slay a giant like Kansas? According to Pat Flannery, you take pretty much the same approach.

“We tried to break the game into four minute increments. That was the only way to get to the finish line,” said Flannery. “If we looked at the task in front of us for 40 minutes, it was a little daunting.”

How well did that plan work? Out of 10 four-minute mileposts in the game, Bucknell held the lead when the game reached six of them. Of the four that Bucknell trailed, the biggest deficit was 3 points.

KUDOS FROM KANSAS – Although Kansas players and coach Bill Self opted to not come to the media room for a press conference following the game, their locker room was open to reporters.

Here are a few of the KU comments on the Bison, courtesy of a media pool report.

“They came out and played great,” said senior guard Aaron Miles. “The coaching staff prepared us well, they just simply executed better.”

“We just didn’t execute,” junior forward Christian Moody said. “They hit big shots and just played a perfect game.”

Much was made all week of the health of Kansas forward Keith Langford, who had been hampered for two weeks by a combination of a sprained ankle and severe flu-like symptoms. Langford did not start, but he did play 26 minutes off the bench, going 1-for-7 from the field and not coming close on any of his three three-pointers.

Langford was clearly not 100 percent, but he refused to use that as an excuse for the Jayhawks’ loss. “There won’t be any asterisk next to this game saying the status of Keith Langford,” he said.

Kansas coach Bill Self was also complimentary. “Give them credit. Their guards were terrific. They played well and certainly controlled the game. We never got in a good rhythm on either end,” Self said. “I feel for the players because it has been such a taxing year, but give Bucknell credit, they played terrific.”

NOTABLE: Bucknell’s win was the first by a No. 14 seed since 1999, when Wichita State defeated North Carolina State 76-74 . . . The Bison are the 14th 14 seed to win a game in the tournament . . . It was Bucknell’s first-ever win over a Big 12 team . . . Bettencourt’s five three-pointers give him 77 for the season, a new school record . . . Bettencourt entered the Kansas game having already tied the record of 72 he made last season . . . Bettencourt shared the old mark with J.R. Holden, who did it in the 1996-97 season . . . Bettencourt already had broken the school’s career mark earlier in the season . . . Bucknell’s win snapped a 25-game streak of games that Kansas had won when leading at the half . . . Kansas’ 1-for-11 on three-point shooting was its season low and its 9.1 percent shooting from the arc was the second lowest three-point shooting percentage ever in an NCAA Tournament game.

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Cinderella wears orange and blue

Bison make history with upset win over Kansas

Of Hoop Time

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK -- Davey used a slingshot. Bucknell used a hook shot.

The end result was pretty much the same; a giant fell and a story that will be told for ages was born.

Bucknell’s 64-63 win over Kansas last night in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament might not have been of Biblical proportion. But it was as close as it comes in basketball.

Kansas is one of the storied programs in all of college hoops. James Naismith didn’t invent the game in Lawrence. But he was the Jayhawks first coach back in 1898. Since then Kansas has been in the NCAA tournament 34 times, with a pair of national championship trophies.

Bucknell has a basketball history of its own. In fact, the Bison have been playing the game even longer than KU. Only Yale and Minnesota have been hooping it up as long as Bucknell, which began its program two years before Naismith arrived on the prairie.

But Bucknell’s program has never approached Kansas’ level of success. Before this season, only two other BU teams had made it to the dance, both visits resulting in quick, lopsided exits.

Teams in Kansas’ league, the Big 12, entered this postseason with a combined 235 tournament wins, including four championships and 30 top four finishes. No team from the Patriot League had ever won an NCAA Tournament game.

That all changed when McNaughton banked home a hook shot with eight seconds left, capping a big offensive night for the 6-11 sophomore from Germany, who finished with 14 points.

“We wanted to go inside,” said McNaughton. “I got the ball and I thought ‘just make the shot.’ It came off the backboard and rimmed in somehow. I don’t know how it went in.”

That McNaughton made the shot was hardly a surprise. As has been the case all season, the 6-11 sophomore was virtually unstoppable when he got the ball down low against single coverage. Whether he was spinning past a defender to drive the baseline for a reverse layup, or stepping back to pop a short little jumper, Kansas had no answer for McNaughton, who went 6-for-7 from the field.

What was surprising when Kansas elected to play straight man-to-man against McNaughton with a 1-point lead and the clock winding down, even if the one man guarding McNaughton was All-America center Wayne Simien.

Even though Bucknell shot the ball well in the second half, hitting 12-of-23 (52 percent), including 5 three-pointers, it would have seemed sensible to force someone other than McNaughton to beat you after Kansas took advantage of an intentional foul call on Charles Lee to score 4 straight points for a 63-62 lead with 24 seconds to go.

Maybe Kansas coach Bill Self thought Simien could handle McNaughton in man coverage. Maybe he was worried McNaughton would kick the ball out to Kevin Bettencourt if Kansas doubled down. Bettencourt, after all, had caused considerable damage, hitting 5 treys for 19 points.

“(Bettencourt) definitely hit some huge shots,” said Kansas forward Christian Moody. “It seemed like anytime we would make a run, he would hit a three and take it away from us.”

Maybe Self explained the decision to the Kansas beat writers who scurried to the KU locker room in search of quotes after the Jayhawks declined to appear in the media room after the game.

That was not the only thing Self might have been asked to explain. He also might have been asked why he waited until the last seven minutes to start pressing a Bucknell team that seemed vulnerable to full court pressure in its conference final against Holy Cross, a game you would expect Kansas to have watched on tape.

Truth be told, it is hard to say how much a difference it might have made if Kansas had pressed more. Bucknell didn’t commit a single turnover in the last seven minutes against the pressure and coughed the ball up only 9 times all night. It was just the second time all season that the Bison had less than 10 turnovers (the other time as 8 at Army).

Self might also have been asked about his decision to play zone for long stretches in the second half, which, along with the lack of pressure, played into Bucknell’s hands by allowing the Bison to turn it into a halfcourt game played at the slower, more deliberate pace Bucknell prefers.

The loss was a stunning end to the careers of three Kansas seniors who had been to the tournament final two years ago and had made it at least to the round of 8 in each of their first three seasons. If not for the efforts of two of the three, Kansas might not have even been close.

Simien was as unstoppable as McNaughton, hitting 9-of-14 field goals and 6-of-8 at the foul line for a game-high 24 points. Michael Lee, who started in place of the ailing Keith Langford, added 18 for Kansas.

It was the seniors hands Kansas put the ball in twice in the last eight seconds with the game on the line. But neither Langford, nor Simien, was able to convert against a Bucknell defense that held the Jayhawks a dozen points below their season average. After shooting nearly 48 percent from the field all season, Kansas made only 20-of-46 (43.5 percent) against Bucknell, including a 33 percent (8-of-24) second half.

Langford, Kentucky’s second-leading scorer, was obviously hampered by the ankle he sprained two weeks ago in JU’s regular season finale. Langford was 1-for-7 from the floor, 0-for-3 from three-point range.

One of his six misses came when he tried to drive through a crowd in the lane with three seconds left.

Bucknell freshman John Griffin grabbed the miss and was fouled. Griffin missed the front of the one-and-one, giving the Jayhawks one last chance with 2.4 seconds remaining.

After a timeout, Kansas tried a log pass to Simien, who drew front iron on his turnaround jumper from the foul line.

“That was a tough shot, a turnaround with 6-11 Chris McNaughton in his face,” said Bettencourt.

McNaughton and Bettencourt were not the only ones who had big games for Bucknell. Charles Lee finished 15-points, 8 rebounds and 2 steals. Abe Badmus was spectacular with the ball, dishing out 11 assists without a single turnover. Donald Brown grabbed six rebounds, and his 6 points, along with another half-dozen from Chris Niesz, allowed the Bucknell bench to outscore the Kansas reserves 12-10.

Freshman Darren Mastropaolo also came up big for Bucknell. Mastropaolo only scored 2 points, and he struggled to finish offensively on some easy looks close to the basket. But he played tremendous defense on Simien, especially in the second half. Yes, Simien still had a big night. But Simien might have done far more damage if he had not had Mastropaolo banging away at him most of the second half, after McNaughton got in foul trouble.

“Our big kids battled Simien all night long,” Flannery said. “We really made him work for everything all night long.”

In the end, that, as much as McNaughton’s presence in his grill, might have been the determining factor. Simien, who played 35 minutes, the most of any KU player, drew front iron on his final shot. That is usually a sign of fatigue.

His season ended, Simien will have plenty of time to rest now. Bucknell, though, will be back in the gym this afternoon at 4:45 to get ready to take on Wisconsin Sunday with a berth in the Sweet 16 at stake.
Box score | Sportsticker | AP | Patriot-News | Daily Item
  • Bucknell upset unites fans of Cinderella stories(Sports Illustrated)
  • One shining moment(Sports Illustrated)
  • SHOCK! Kansas comes up short against Bucknell (Knight Ridder Tribune)
  • Langford comes up short in his return (Kansas City Star)
  • Death Knell (Kansas City Star)
  • This team will be remembered for all of the wrong reasons (Kansas City Star)
  • Kansas notebook (Kansas City Star)
  • At least Dr. Naismith didn't live to see this ... (CBS Sportsline)

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  • Hoop Time Notebook (Fri. midday edition)

    SEE OF ORANGE – The sold-out Ford Center is painted orange for the first of today’s four games as Oklahoma State fans basically took the place over.

    Oklahoma State’s campus is only about a half-hour away, and the partisan crowd is giving the Cowboys a decided home advantage over Southeastern Louisiana.

    It will be interesting to see what the crowd is like for tonight’s Bucknell-Kansas game. KU is expected to bring a large contingent. But Oklahoma City is almost midway between the Oklahoma State and Oklahoma University campuses. Local folks will likely have little enthusiasm for the Jayhawks, who are like the Yankees of the Big 12, the team despised by most everybody who is not on of their fans.

    Tickets for the afternoon and evening sessions are separate. But if there is a large local contingent tonight, they might well lend some support to Bucknell.

    The Bison sold their allotment of 550 tickets. But some of those were actually purchased by non-Bucknell fans who joined the school’s Bison club in order to get priority status for purchasing tickets to see Oklahoma State or Kansas.

    Even if they were all sold to BU fans, 550 voices in a crowd of over 18,000 will be tough to hear if the Kansas folks start to get excited.

    SORRY, YOU’LL HAVE TO WATCH ON TV – That apparently is the message from the NCAA to the teams who do not play until tonight. Although there is a small seating section for the teams awaiting the second game of the afternoon session, and presumably for the teams in the first game if they want to watch the second, there are no seats and no tickets for the other four teams.

    SPIRIT RATIONS – Also shut out are many members of some schools cheer and dance squads. The NCAA limits schools to 12 spirit-types and a mascot. For Oklahoma State, that means six cheerleaders and seven dance team members are on hand (the spare dancer rotates, with one sitting off the floor).

    HARTZELL UPDATE – Former Bucknell athletics director Rick Hartzell has a distinction few, if any, other ADs share. Hartzell actually is repsonsible for having hired two coaches in the 64-team field, both of whom happen to have their teams at the OKC pod.

    Hartzell hired Bucknell’s Pat Flannery before he left Lewisburg to take his current position as AD at his alma mater, Northern Iowa, where he hired Panthers coach Greg McDermott.

    You might recall mention a few days ago about Hartzell being criticized about his second job. Some people questioned the propriety of Hartzell, a long time NCAA hoops official, working games involving other bubble teams when Northern Iowa team was also vying for a tournament bid.

    Hartzell, who has worked the NCAA Tournament for many years, said he was offered a tournament game assignment, but turned it down, in part because it was a game scheduled for the same time as Northern Iowa’s first round game.

    “It was a no brainer,” Hartzell said.

    In light of the recent dustup, it will be interesting to see who is on the crew for NI’s game tonight. Frank Scagliotta, a ref familiar to Patriot League fans, is one of the officials assigned to the OKC pod. He also is a longtime friend of Hartzell’s, dating to their days working together in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

    If he should happen to be assigned the Northern Iowa game, it will also be interesting to see if the midwestern writers know of, and make anything of, the connection.

    Since Scagliotta is an East Coast ref, it would be surprising if anybody out here is even aware he and Hartzell used to work together.

    As an aside, Jim Haney, another ref who works Patriot League games, is also on hand in OKC. Haney is working the first game, between Oklahoma State and Southeastern Louisiana. Of course if you are watching that game on TV, you are probably already aware of that. Haney has not been inconspicuous in the first half.

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    Hoop Time Notebook (OKC Fri. AM edition)

    It was a loose bunch of Bison that too the floor of the Ford Center at 10 a.m. for their morning shootaround.

    If there was any nervousness or anxiety, it was well masked as they spent an hour shooting before the Oklahoma State Cowboys took the floor to warmup for the first of four games on today’s slate.

    “This is the same way they have been all year,” said Bucknell coach Pat Flannery. “They are pretty loose.”

    Of course there are about 10 hours between the end of the workout and this evening’s tip, set for 8:50 local time (9:50 back east). The Bison have nothing structured on their schedule between now and then other than a 5:30 pregame meal.

    At last night’s press conference, Flannery joked that if any media members knew of any tours that could occupy some of the team’s down time, they should let him know. But it doesn’t seem he was actually concerned. Flannery has pretty much allowed the team to be on its own during free hours since arriving in Oklahoma City Wednesday evening.

    That is not much different than the team’s regular road routine.

    “Pat never seems big on tours or anything,” said Bison Radio Network play-by-play man Doug Birdsong. “If we see anything, it is usually pretty much on our own.”

    That probably is a tribute, in a way, to Flannery’s confidence in his team. He doesn’t feel a need to keep them occupied every moment to keep them out of trouble. And he doesn’t worry about idle time leading to nerves.

    Flannery said he likes his team’s mindset.

    “You never know, but we think we are ready to go. We will see tonight,” he said. “We prepared well this week. The kids seem focused.”

    Flannery insists the looseness has nothing to do with being content just to be here.

    “I don’t believe there is nothing to lose,” Flannery said. “This is the biggest game of the season for us.”

    TEAM NO NAME – Fans from the other schools who watched the shootaround, or who see them come out for warmups tonight, are bound to wonder about their non-descript warmups.

    The team is wearing new blue and white Adidas suits that are as generic as any you could buy off the rack at your local sporting goods store. No orange, no team name.

    The new suits are the result of having to hurriedly replace the team’s regular warm-ups they wore all season. Seems those orange and blue duds violated NCAA rules about the size of a manufacturer’s logo on uniforms. The old warm-ups, made by Adidas, which is also Bucknell’s shoe manufacturer, had three vertical stripes running the length of the sleeves. Apparently that made them non-compliant.

    SHOOTERS’ PARADISE – We will not know how the Ford Center is from a shooters standpoint until we see the results of today’s games. But an early assessment from Bucknell’s Kevin Bettencourt is very favorable.

    “The rims are nice,” said the Bison’s all-time three-pointers leader. “It is a nice place to shoot.”

    CLARK UPDATE – Oklahoma native John Clark has been hampered by a foot injury all season. Down the stretch in Patriot League play, it got so bad he was forced out of the starting lineup and saw his minutes off the bench severely limited.

    It reached the point were Clark was unable to play in Bucknell’s final two Patriot League Tournament games.

    But the 6-7 sophomore forward insists he is ready to go tonight.

    “It’s pretty sore, but if I get a little adrenaline going, I’ll be OK,” Clark said.

    Any minutes Flannery can get from Clark off the bench will be a bonus in a game where one of the Bison’s biggest concerns has to be keeping its frontcourt guys out of foul trouble.

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    Somebody knows less than me

    The big problem with these bracket contests is that they show everybody how little you really know. Unless, of course, you are one of the 14 people ahead of me in the standings after the first round, in which case yoiu get to say "I kicked the so-called expert's ass."

    1 patrick o. 27
    2 Greg K. 26
    3 tom w. 25
    4 harry c. 22
    5 Drew W. 21
    5 tim c. 21
    7 Justin S. 19
    7 Russ N. 19
    9 Andrew L. 18
    9 Peter M. 18
    11 Brian O. 17
    11 steve c. 17
    11 Todd L. 17
    14 Robert C. 13
    15 Chris C. 12
    16 Robert S. 10

    To track your results in real time, go to and enter league nomber 212.

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    Hoop Time notebook (OKC edition)

    (Originally posted: Thursday, 10:52 p.m.)

    Bison coach Pat Flannery’s midseason leave of absence is old news to Patriot League fans, but here in Oklahoma City, it is a new story to the midwestern media.

    During tonight’s press conferences, questions about Flannery’s stress problems were posed to Flannery, Bucknell players Charles Lee and Kevin Bettencourt and Kansas coach Bill Self.

    Flannery, who has said he will discuss things more candidly after the season is over, gave the most comprehensive explanation of the situation he has done publicly so far.

    “It got to a point where it wasn’t as fun as it was supposed to be. I wasn’t communicating with my family and my kids,” Flannery said. “I just hit a wall and when I did, I got the help I needed.”

    Counseling was part of the process. Taking some time off to step away from the situation also helped.

    Self said he could certainly relate to what Flannery went through. Although he has never had to take time off, “the family doctor told me ‘you better change some things quick or you are going to have to.”

    Through it all, Flannery said he came to a realization. “Basketball is not who I am, it is what I do. And that was not the case before,” he said.

    Flannery said never missed a practice. And he was open and upfront with the kids about what was going on.

    “It has been a real teaching tool,” said Flannery. “We need to make sure that this game doesn’t become bigger than our lives.”

    Bettencourt said in the long run it was beneficial. “It was something he needed to do and we were there to support him,” he said. “When he did get back, seemed to bring the team closer together.”

    Flannery said he has enjoyed every game since his return. “I have really taken a different perspective in some ways. I will never change the way I am about the game and about loving the game,” he said.

    “It was the external things that were mounting that I let affect me. Once it affects you and you feel like it is affecting your players and your family, that was time to take a look at what I could do.”

    IN OR OUT -- That is the question everyone is asking about Kansas guard Keith Langford, who injured his ankle in the Jayhawks’ final regular season game against Missouri.

    A serious flu bug that forced him to spend three days in the hospital complicates Langford’s return. Langford got out of the hospital and returned to practice, only to reinjure the ankle. Then, on top of that, he had a second go-round with the flu.

    Yesterday, Kansas coach Bill Self said Langford’s status for Friday was doubtful. Today he was a little more optimistic.

    “I didn’t think before today Keith would be able to do anything today, but he practiced briefly and shot for about 30 minutes, which was very encouraging,” Self said. “I anticipate once the adrenaline gets flowing, physically he could play. But the reality is he hasn’t done anything in the past two weeks. The ankle won’t be 100 percent this weekend; it’s probably about 80 percent.”

    Self said although Langford was better physically, he has concerns about conditioning and stamina after doing almost nothing for two weeks.

    “I don’t know if he has the strength to play,” Self said.

    Bucknell’s Charles Lee, the guy most likely to draw the Langford matchup on defense, would have none of Self’s sandbagging though.

    “This is the big dance, of course he is going to play. He is a senior. He’s going to go out there and give it his all,” Lee said.

    That has been the Bison’s expectation all along.

    “The whole week in practice we prepared for everybody on their roster,” said Lee. “Anything they throw at us, we will be ready for.”

    In all likelihood, Langford will play as much as Kansas needs him to. No doubt Self hopes he will not need to play the 6-4 senior any more than he has to. The ideal scenario for Kansas would have Langford get a run in, break a sweat, but not much more, saving him for Sunday’s second round.

    Senior Michael Lee, said he expects to start again in place of Langford. Lee’s 4.3 points per game is a considerable dropoff from Langford, whose 14.7 ppg is second on the Jayhawks team.

    WRIGHT STUFF -– Flannery confirmed he spent some time on the phone this week with is old Bucknell teammate Jay Wright, the coach at Villanova.

    Villanova beat Kansas handily back in January. But Flannery said there was not a whole lot of advice he could take from Wright, nor much he could learn from watching film of that game because Villanova’s style is so different from Bucknell’s, especially on offense.

    “We were able to gauge (Kansas) offensively a little. We could tell a little about their quickness since we had played Villanova,” Flannery said.

    IN THE ZONE -- The word all season has been the way to beat Kansas is to play zone against them.

    Flannery is not so sure.

    “Everybody tells me they don’t shoot the basketball. But every time I watch them, they seem to go in,” Flannery said.

    The stats seem to back that up. On the year, KU shot 48.6 percent from the floor, 39.2 percent from three-point range.

    By comparison, American led the Patriot League in field goal percentage, shooting 45.2 percent. Bucknell was the league’s best three-point team, hitting 37.6 from the arc.

    FILED UNDER MISCELLANEOUS –- All eight teams held public shootarounds in the Ford Center Thursday . . . The teams also held regular practices at other venues nearby . . . Flannery ran Bucknell through a series of easy drills during the Bison’s shootaround . . . Kansas, on the other hand, wowed the fans with a dunking exhibition at the end of their workout . . . A limited number of tickets were made available today at the Ford Center. Reportedly, there were fans camped out overnight in line to get them. With Oklahoma State almost next door and Kansas also an easy drive, tickets have been in heavy demand . . . As is always the case for big events, police are promising heavy enforcement of scalping laws. And in Oklahoma, those laws are very strict. Tickets can not be resold for more than 50 cents over their face value . . . Some creative OSU and KU fans found a legal way to pay extra to insure they got tickets. When they called Bucknell to try to purchase some of the Bison’s allotment, they were told that tickets were being made available to Bison Club members first, before they would be sold to people from out of the area. As a result, the Bucknell booster organization now has about a dozen new members with midwestern zip codes

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    Cinderella City

    (originally posted: Thursday, 10:38 p.m.)

    That's what the local paper called Oklahoma City in a special tournament section today.

    AP sportswriter Jaime Aron explains:
    Upsets have been almost a rule when the first two rounds of the NCAAs are held in Oklahoma City. Lower seeds have won eight of 18 games here, with at least one first-round stunner each time (1994, 1998 and 2003) and second-round surprises that have sent a 12th seed and a No. 13 into the second weekend.

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    Worth a read

    (Originally posted: Thursday, 10:32 p.m.)From Jason King of the Kansas City Star, a nice profile on KU's Wayne Simien.

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    Still time to enter

    Last call for entries in the Unsponsored Hoop Time Brackets Challenge. Entries close at 12:15 p.m. Eastern. This is your chance to test your prognostication skills against the smartest fans of America's smartest conference.

    To enter, go to:

    You might need this info to log in: League number: 212 League password: hooptime

    Let the Madness begin!

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    Limited morning update today

    It's travel day today, with the Hoop Time staff off to Oklahoma City (by way of Dallas and a rented car) for Friday's Bucknell-Kansas matchup. Between an early flight out of D.C., and an even earlier than expected departure time from home made neccessary by botched Travelocity resverations that have us flying out of Dulles but returning to National, there will be no time for a full morning update.

    We do plan on posting some original content later in the day, including reports on both Bucknell and Kansas's shootarounds, which are open to the public.

    Of course Friday we will have a full update, though it might be a little later in the morning than usual due to the time difference. We will also have a full report as soon after the game as possible.

    Looking for a reason to take Bucknell and the points? Consider this: AFter an update on Saturday, I will drive to Dallas to catch a g a.m. return flight, which will get me in, assuming we are on time, with about two hours to get from the airport across the Potomac to College Park, where we will cover Holy Cross against Ohio State in the first round of the women's tournament.

    Since we must leave OKC Saturday, and cannot stay for Sunday's games, we figure Bucknell's chances are pretty good. It is sort of a reverse jinx effect.

    Of course if it works and the league finally gets that badly needed first NCAA win, it will have been worth the sacrifice.

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    KU's Langford doubtful

    From this morning's Kansas City Star:
    Jayhawks coach Bill Self said recurring problems with the stomach flu probably will keep Langford out of Friday's first-round NCAA Tournament game against Bucknell.

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    All in the family

    This quote from Ted Bettencourt, the former Holy Cross player and brother of Bucknell's Kevin, says a lot about the respect that has become apparent between the Bucknell and Holy Cross programs. It comes from a Boston Globe story about Kevin, who is from Massachusetts:
    "Of course I love Holy Cross, but I root for Bucknell because Kevin's wearing their uniform. When he finally takes it off, I'll be a Holy Cross fan again. I would have been happy if he'd gone to Holy Cross, but I'm proud of what he's done and I have a lot of respect for Pat Flannery, who congratulated me on my career back in 1996 at the Patriot League tournament. I never forgot that."

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    Got a chance to spend most of the day Tuesday at Bucknell, working on a story for my day job.

    We'll link to it when it runs in Friday's paper. In the meantime, here are some segments that ended up being cut when I edited the story to a manageable length.

    These are "raw" segments, pieces of a story. There are no transitions. There is no flow. But each segment taken as a seperate sort of note seemed worth sharing, so here they are:

    ESPN is on the television Tuesday afternoon in the campus apartment of Kevin Bettencourt, Charles Lee and Tarik Viar-McClymont.

    The all-sports network is on a lot in the small living room that serves as the social center for the Bucknell team. Not all the time, but enough to make you think that if they lost the remote control, it could be a while before anybody bothers getting off the couch to change the channel.

    The rest of the Bucknell team lives in regular dorm rooms, except Chris Niesz, the team’s lone senior, who has an apartment in town but spends so many night’s on the juniors’ couch that they don’t bother putting the spare comforter back in the closet.

    In the middle of Sportscenter, a graphic flashes for a story about the graduation rates of the teams playing in the NCAA Tournament. At the top of the list is Bucknell, with its perfect 100 percent showing. Their first round opponent— Kansas — is No. 10 of the 65 teams on that list. The Jayhawks graduation rate? 60 percent. They get a little chuckle out of that.

    # # #

    They gathered around a television set Tuesday afternoon in the coaches’ offices, too. A Fed-Ex truck has just delivered six videotapes of Kansas games from a service that tapes almost every game that is televised. Assistant coach Nathan Davis is busy watching the Jayhawks lose to Iowa State, one of two common foes Bucknell shares with Kansas.

    The Bison played Iowa State tough in an early season meeting. Iowa State won the game Davis is studying in overtime. Stop, rewind, fast forward, back up again; Davis is searching the film for chinks in Kansas’ armor.

    “I have seen them play twice now,” Davis says. “By the end of the day I will have seen them five or six times.”

    Later Davis will load a game or two on a laptop computer so the coaches can continue their preparations on the charter flight to Oklahoma City. Preparations
    won’t stop until the team steps on the court Friday night.

    # # #

    Like the coaches, Bucknell Sports Information Director Jon Terry has been spending a lot of time in his office since the Bison earned the trip to the tournament by beating Holy Cross last Friday night.

    Terry was in his office Sunday morning at 9 a.m. to begin work on the media guides and team notes that the press in Oklahoma City will rely on for facts about a team most of them probably never heard of before the Bucknell-Kansas pairing was announced. Aside from a quick dash home for a shower, Terry didn’t leave his office until 9 p.m. Monday.

    By 9 a.m. Tuesday he was back at it.”I knew it was going to be busy, but I didn’t think I realized how much the phone would ring,” Terry said. “We have gotten phone calls by the 100s; requests for information, requests for interviews. The midwestern media doesn’t know a whole lot about our team.”

    # # #

    For the most part, media attention is new to Bucknell. Aside from non-conference games against big time schools, the Bison seldom encounter more than three or four reporters at postgame press conferences. Television coverage in the league, aside from the conference championship game, is pretty much limited to local cable and satellite providers.

    Bucknell got a small taste of the media attention back in January, when it knocked off then No. 7 Pittsburgh in a game that ranks as the biggest upset of the season. Coming on the heels of a win over a Saint Joseph’s team that came within a basket of making the Final Four last season, it thrust the Bison momentarily into the limelight.

    Papers all over the country took note of the win over Pitt. So did ESPN, which included highlights on Sportscenter. Bettencourt and Davis appeared on ESPN2’s morning show, Cold Pizza. They even started to get a few votes in the AP Top 25 poll.

    A midseason slump put an end to all that as quick as it had started. After losing three out of four games in a two-week span at the end of January and beginning of February, Bucknell returned to obscurity. Even the followers of the Patriot League seemed to forget they had been the preseason picks to win the conference.

    The attention came back with last week’s nationally televised win over Holy Cross in the championship game.

    In the 48 hours after the tournament pairings were announced Sunday night, Flannery made an appearance on Cold Pizza and did phone-in appearnces on a handful of sportstalk radio shows, including Mike and the Mad Dog on New York’s WFAN.

    # # #

    “I got a call yesterday from the Boston Globe and another from an AP reporter,” says Bettencourt, who grew up in Massachusetts. “It is definitely different getting so much attention.”

    Read more!

    History lesson

    More from the Kansas City Star :
    (Michael Lee) was a freshman in 2002, when the top-seeded Jayhawks nearly became the first team in history to lose to a No. 16 seed. Kansas trailed Holy Cross at halftime before eventually rallying for a 70-59 victory.

    KU found itself in the national title game one year later, but not before escaping with a 64-61 opening-round win against No. 15 seed Utah State.

    Read more!

    Grampa tell us a story

    Ron Borges of MSNBC sayshigh seeds will go home early, even though he imagines:
    It would be something to see though, wouldn't it? Bucknell in the Final Four? That would be something to tell your grandkids about when they need an example of plucky resolve.
    Actually, right about now our idea of plucky resolve has to do with overcoming the woes of botched Travelocity reservations and a myriad of other obstacles to get to Oklahoma City. If things go according to plan, which so far they have not, we will share this tale of plucky resolve over beers in Bricktown tomorrow night. Stay tuned.

    Read more!

    We bet you didn't know

    Have a little fun with Coach Trivia on the sites. And while you are at it, here's a nugget they failed to include in the Pat Flannery file. While they mention Flannery's winning record his first season at Lebanon Valley, they forgot about the Division III National Championship his Dutchmen won in 1994.

    Read more!

    You could charter your own jet

    (This is a paid announcement)

    . . . and fly back and forth between Bucknell's NCAA games and Holy Cross' NIT matchups with the Million Bucks you could win in Cingular's "Shot at a Million" sweepstakes and test your NCAA trivia knowledge on your mobile phone. One lucky winner will win a trip to the Men's NCAA Final Four in St. Louis to take a winning half-court shot worth a million dollars! Enter by March 20 by clicking here.

    Read more!

    God favors HC

    The headline on the wire story posted on CBS Sportsline pretty much sums up the story of Holy Cross' first round NIT win over Notre Dame last night: Holy Cross shows a lot more fight than Notre Dame in NIT opener. Despite the fact a lot of subway alums felt ND was robbed when it did not get an NCAA bid, the Sportsline story says:
    Holy Cross looked a lot more deserving of such a berth, outhustling and outplaying the Fighting Irish . . .
    According to the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette:
    The undersized overachievers from Worcester, Mass., delivered the final blow to the Notre Dame season, putting an unceremonious end to the careers of Irish seniors Chris Thomas and Jordan Cornette.
    Most of the stories from the Midwest about the game seem to focus on how bad Notre Dame was, with scant mention of how well Holy Cross played to post this upset (if you can really call it that given the fact that HC's RPI was actually higher (66) than ND's (73). Knight Ridder writer Reggie Hayes did find room to give the Crusaders props in his story:
    Holy Cross (25-6) shook off the disappointment of missing an NCAA Tournament invitation by playing both more aggressively and more carefully than the Irish. The evidence: 20 offensive rebounds but only nine turnovers. Notre Dame turned the ball over 19 times.

    Notre Dame, noted for its perimeter play, could not control Holy Cross guards Kevin Hamilton (26 points) and Torey Thomas (16). Hamilton and Thomas seemed a step quick on both ends of the court.
    Avani Patel of the Chicago Tribune also noted:
    Holy Cross outrebounded Notre Dame 40-36, and scored 34 points in the paint, while allowing the Irish only 12.
    Box score | Quotes | Gary Post-Tribune story
  • Two former Willard players meet in NIT game

    Read more!
  • KU's Langford still hobbled

    From the Kansas City Star, the latest on the health of Keith Langford, the Jayhawks' second-leading scorer:
    `Asked Tuesday whether Langford would play in Friday's game against Bucknell, Self said: "I don't know. He's not going to practice today. We'll try to practice him tomorrow."

    Langford hasn't played since suffering a severe left ankle sprain in KU's regular-season finale March 6 at Missouri. After going through individual workouts over the weekend, Langford returned to practice Monday and "tweaked" the injury, Self said.

    "Yesterday he didn't do great," Self said Tuesday. "His ankle is just average. He moves pretty good on it, but not great. He tweaked it there at the end, so that kind of set him back for the rest of the day. He's going to get a lot of (treatment) this week."
  • Langford tweaks ankle in practice (Wichita Eagle)
  • Jayhawks still dealing with health concerns (Lawrence Journal-World

    Read more!
  • Dodd: KU flawed

    CBS Sportsline's Dennis Dodd takes a look at Kansas and concludes:
    After a 14-0 start, observers were wondering 'How good?' After stumbling to a 3-5 finish, Jayhawks fans were incredulous: 'Not great?'
    Doff points out a number of chinks in the Jayhawks armor. He does not go as far as to suggest those flaws make them vulnerable against Bucknell. He is more concerned with KU's chances of making the Final Four.

    Matter of fact, he never even makes mention of the Jayhawks first round foe.

    Read more!

    A look at BU

    Perhaps the best report on Bucknell by a Kansas paper that we have encountered so far is this one in the Wichita Eagles.

    Read more!

    Gushing alumnus alert

    Lee Lewis, executive editor of the Waterbury Republican-American is not the only Bucknell alum excited about the Bison making it to the dance. But he might be the only one of them that gets to witea column about it:
    As a graduate of a small school known more for, well, anything other than athletic prowess, we don't get this kind of attention on a national stage. Oh, fine, some geek with a Bucknell shirt might win a prize in economics or organic chemistry research, maybe become a CEO or university president, but nothing meaningful like this.
    Longtime Bucknell fans will enjoy his memories of Charlie Woollum, too, even if he forgot how to spell the old coach's name.

    Read more!

    Vertical stripes are slimming

    After all the complaints heard about officiating in Patriot League games this season, some might be shocked to hear a pair of guys who worked a lot of league games this season will be working the tournament this weekend.

    According to a story in the Express-Times:
    (Frank) Scagliotta and (Jim) Haney both were assigned to first- and- second-round games at the same site. Each will work one of four first-round matchups Friday in Oklahoma City and then one of two second-round contests on Sunday.
    Don't expect to see them working the Bucknell-Kansas game. The NCAA usually assigns neutral crews that do not work the conferences of the two teams meeting.

    Read more!

    In case you missed it

    In his breakdown of the Syracuse bracket, John Feinstein, who, unlike most so-called national experts, has actually seen Bucknell play, had this prediction:
    The Jayhawks will beat Bucknell, which really got short shrift with a 14th seed; apparently beating Pittsburgh and Saint Joseph's on the road meant nothing.

    Read more!

    All in the numbers

    Just in case you forgot about the Patriot League's dismal record in the tournament, some columnists out there are eager to remind you.

    From a notes column in the San Diego Union Tribune:
    Big number: 0-13
    The NCAA first-round record of Patriot League champions. This year's champion is Bucknell, which plays Kansas on Friday.
    Then there's an A-Z look at the tournament by John Linsay of Scripps Howard that points out:
    P is for Patriot League champion Bucknell. The Bison carry the upset hopes of all Patriot fans considering the league's winner is 0-13 in first-round games. Make that 0-14 after third-seeded Kansas drubs No. 14 Bucknell on Friday.
    One of these years these guys are going to need to find something new to write about. Maybe they could mention the Knight Commission report, or this study of the teams in the NCAA Tournament, which found:
    The men's teams participating in the tournament with the highest graduation rates are Bucknell University (100 percent), Utah State University (100 percent), and Stanford University (92 percent).
    Eight women's teams participating in the tournament graduated 90 percent or more of their players. College of the Holy Cross, University of Montana, and Vanderbilt University achieved 100 percent graduation rates.
    Sure it would be nice to win a game in the tournament, but as easy as it is to be critical of the Patriot League about some things, it is important to remember now and then that the league does a pretty good job with the truly important stuff.

    Read more!

    Scouting the Bison

    Here's what Bill Self told the Topeka Capital Journal's Hawk Zone about Bucknell in a beware the Bison story in this morning's paper:
    "We know we'll have to be ready to play, because they're a capable team. They play great defense. They play some zone, which I don't know in and out yet, and some man-to-man. They're solid and they can shoot."
    Knowing Bucknell's zone look in and out in one short week of preparation might be difficult. The Bison do a very good job of disguising their defenses as they switch up.

    It is not unlike Holy Cross' halfcourt defense, which history has shown can give unfamiliar opponents fits in the first round.

    Read more!

    10 steps to a better bracket

    Bracket advice from columnist Neil White of the State in Coumbia, S.C.:
    8. Don't look for the (South Carolina) Gamecocks on your brackets. In case you didn't realize it, USC is playing in the National Invitation Tournament. That's the tournament reserved for teams not as good as Bucknell. And, no, there has never been an NIT office pool in the history of mankind.
    Is it just me, or does somebody else hope USC sticks around long enough to meet Holy Cross in the NIT?

    Read more!

    Let's not forget the ladies

    Last year was a strange one in Worcester, Mass. Losing seasons have been rare for the Holy Cross men in recent years, so when Ralph Willard's Crusaders went 13-15 and lost in the first round of the league tournament, eyebrows were raised.

    Even more troublesome was Bill Gibbons women's team turning in an identical 13-15 record. The men's subpar year ended that three-year streak. Before that run, though, the HC men had five consecutive losing seasons. The women had never been below .500 in Gibbons' previous 18 seasons, during which his teams had won 20 games 15 times, winning a MAAC title and 10 Patriot League crowns in that span.

    But all is well in Worcester, or at least close. No the men are not in the NCAA's. But they are in the NIT and that in no consolation prize at this level. And the women restored order in the universe by claiming their 11th league crown.

    Holy Cross drew a 15 seed for the NCAA Tournament. They will open play Sunday at noon in College Park, Md., taking on No. 2 seed Ohio State. Here's a good story on the HC women from Monday's Boston Herald.

    Read more!

    Links Library

    Today at
  • Bucknell thrilled with site, if not foe
  • A video report on Bucknell from Channel 6 in Lawrence
  • Kansas basketball briefs

    From yesterday afternoon's Williamsport Sun-Gazette:
  • Time to dance: Bison will play No. 3 Jayhawks

    Read more!
  • The mood in Lewisburg

    Eric Thomas, State College ESPN radio dude and a fellow blogger was on hand in Lewisburg Sunday evening when the Bison saw their name come up on the board. He has a good report at ET on Sports.

    Read more!

    Ralph rumors

    With Steve Lappas apparently on the way out the door at UMass, speculation has begun about possible successors. On the short list, according to the Middletown (Ct.):
    University of Connecticut assistant men's basketball coach Tom Moore will be one of the favorites to take over at Massachusetts, a job that is expected to be vacant today.
    . . .

    Others early candidates for the UMass job will include Manhattan head coach Bobby Gonzalez, Memphis assistant and UMass alum Tony Barbee, Holy Cross head coach Ralph Willard and Boston University coach Dennis Wolff, a UConn alum.

    Read more!

    What they say, what they think

    The folks in Kansas are saying all the right things. At the Lawrence paper's site, Gary Bedmore writes:
    KU's opponent, Bucknell of the Patriot League, already has the Jayhawks' attention. In 2002, Holy Cross of the same league fell to KU, 70-59, in a first-round thriller in St. Louis.

    "They won at Pitt, and that caught everybody's eye," Self said. "They also lost a close game at Ames (62-55 loss Nov. 27), and we know how tough it is to go to Iowa State and win."

    KU's players respect the Bison. "I've kind of followed them since they beat Pitt. They've earned our respect," senior Keith Langford said.
    But the story also makes mention of a possible distraction for the Jayhawks:
    Way down the line is the meeting that already has the media in a frenzy -- KU versus North Carolina in the Elite Eight. The Jayhawks would not meet Bill Self's former team, Illinois, until the NCAA title game.

    "It would be incredible," Langford said of the KU-UNC matchup. "That's the story of college basketball right there. If it happens, the relationship is good off the court (but) if the time comes Kansas does play North Carolina, there's no love between the lines. If that happens, it will be an emotional time.

    "But we're not playing against coach Williams. It's not like Roy Williams is going to be standing out there for the jump ball."
    Could KU get caught looking ahead?
    "If it is a distraction we won't even get a chance to get to that game to play them," Self said. "Carolina is not on my brain at all. This is a two-game tournament we play this weekend. If we play well we go to another."
    Of course it is easy for the coach to say that. A more difficult task is getting the players to think that.

    Read more!

    In the Zone

    The Topeka Capital-Journal's HawkZone is a pretty good source of Kansas coverage.

    You need to register, but it is free. Feel free to use the user name "HoopTime" with the all lower case "hooptime" as the password.

    Some tidbits we found there:
  • KU draws No. 3 seed 03/14/05:
    They were all freshmen in 2002, playing in the NCAA Tournament as a one seed, when the Jayhawks received an intense first-round scare from Holy Cross.

    That game served as a reference point Sunday after Kansas (23-6) was awarded a No. 3 seed to the NCAA Tournament and drew Patriot League champion Bucknell (22-9) in the first round.
  • Film library tapped 03/14/05:
    "Believe it or not, we tape every game from about February on, so we'll have at least one game on Bucknell," (Kansas coach Bill)Self said."
    You can also bet that if FLannery did not dispatch an assistant to get film of KU from Jay Wright, then it arrived this morning FedEx. Wright, the Villanova coach, is a BU alum His Wildcats whooped the Jayhawks on national TV in January, about a month prior to putting a similar hurting on Bucknell.
  • KU tourney tip-ins 03/14/05

    Read more!
  • Bison scouted

    Somebody at did a dandy job pulling togethera first glance at Bucknell for the Kansas fans. Here's an interesting tidbit from that story:
    Bucknell and Kansas will meet for the first time ever Friday, but the two schools had three common opponents this season. Just before the Bison's thrilling victory over Pittsburgh, they beat Saint Joseph's, 69-62, in late December. They also fell to Villanova, 89-51, last month, and to Iowa State, 62-55, in an early season tournament in Ames, Iowa.

    Kansas also beat Saint Joseph's and fell to Villanova, and split a pair of games with the Cyclones.

    Read more!

    No Fear Factor

    Bucknell coach Pat Flannery told the Kansas City Star:
    "We will be ready to play (Kansas). We play a tough non-league schedule to hopefully prepare for a situation like this. We have played with teams like Pitt and Saint Joseph's and Iowa State, so I certainly don't expect any intimidation factor at all."
    The take them lightly factor probably will not come into play either. Although Bucknell is not a familiar name on the dance card, they will not sneak up on the Jayhawks.

    From that same story:
    “They caught my attention earlier in the season when they beat Pittsburgh,” KU guard Keith Langford said. “And everyone remembers how much trouble we had with Holy Cross two years ago.

    “Bucknell is a team who wants their respect and a team that's earned it throughout the course of the season. We're going to have to pay attention to that.”

    Read more!

    How bout some cheese with that

    Poor Ben Smith. The entire state of Indiana is hurting today after the state's schools were all shut out of the dance. In his column in the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, Ben takes out his frustration by bashing Bucknell and taking a rip at former BU AD Rick Hartzell.

    Gems from the column include:
    How can we show our faces again, we Hoosiers of "Hoosiers," now that Bucknell's in and we're not?

    . . .

    First, (Indiana coach Mike) Davis has to watch Iowa coach Steve Alford arrive in Indianapolis like a conquering hero for the sub-regional; then he gets to watch Northern Iowa play Wisconsin – the very team his Hoosiers played on a night when one of the floor officials was Rick Hartzell, Northern Iowa’s athletic director.

    The Big Ten verbally riddled Doug Gottlieb of ESPN for pointing out the impropriety of a school official from one bubble team officiating the game of another, but Gottlieb was absolutely right. It was improper – and it looks even more so now.
    Sour grapes make boring whine.

    Read more!

    Need a bracket?

    Even in this new age of computerized brackets, you still need a good print copy to make notes on.

    You can download a printable .pdf at

    For the Acrobat challenged, they also have a gif image of the brackets.

    Read more!

    Bucknell homecoming

    Tom Housenick .says it will be old home week for a pair of Bison when Bucknell travels to Oklahoma City to meet Kansas in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

    Read more!

    Maine man

    If columnist Travis Lazarczyk of the Kennebec Journal in Augusta Maine has any influence with his readers, the state of Maine will be rooting for Bucknell in the tournament. Why Bucknell? Let Lazarczyk explain:
    If you want a sentimental 14 to pick as a winner, go with Bucknell against Kansas, with Falmouth High School graduate Darren Mastropaolo in the starting lineup as a freshman. With Maryland and Deering's Nik Canner-Medley, and Buffalo, with Valley High School's Brian Andre, relegated to the NIT, Mastropaolo is the Pine Tree State's only hope for tourney glory.
    He also points out:
    The Jayhawks had all they could handle from Holy Cross, Bucknell's Patriot League brother, a few years ago.

    Read more!

    Easy as ABC

    In Mark Whicker's column "March Madness: From A to Z" in the Orange County Register:
    T is for Turnabout, executed by Kevin Bettencourt of Bucknell, who beat Holy Cross in the Patriot League final. His brother Teddy was on a Crusader team that eliminated Bucknell 12 years ago.

    Read more!

    HC to meet ND in NIT

    (Originally posted Sunday night)

    From the AP Wire :
    The Fighting Irish, who once thought they were shoo-ins for the NCAA tournament, dropped to the National Invitation Tournament for the second straight year and the third time in six seasons. They will face Holy Cross in the first round to be played this week.

    Read more!

    Saders get repsect

    Lou Somogyi of Notre Dame publication says: "Holy Cross Not An Easy Out "

    Read more!

    HC snubbed

    Holy Cross was one of 11 teams says were snubbed. In their analysis:
    Holy Cross [24-6 (13-1), RPI: 51, SOS: 184] Fell in Patriot League final at home to Bucknell. 1-3 vs RPI Top 50 and 21 wins outside RPI Top 100 provided finishing touch to candidacy.

    Read more!

    Where have you gone (AD edition)

    Former Bucknell AD Rick Hartzell has been one of the top hoops officials in the NCAA for years. A longtime ACC whistleblower, Hartzell shifted his schedule to the midwest when he took the AD job at his alma mater, Northern Iowa.

    Hartzell has been both an AD of a D-I program and an official for many years. But with Northern Iowa's emergence this season, some people all of a sudden seem to have a problem.

    In his Doyel's Dribbles column, CBS Sportsline's Greg Doyel say's:
    (Hartzell's) dual role -- AD of a bubble school, game official of games involving other bubble teams -- has drawn national scrutiny and even national criticism.
    Doyel concludes what we have known for years: Hartzell is a good official who would never risk his rep as a ref.

    Read more!

    Coming attraction

    Be sure to get in on the Hoop Time Bracket Challenge. We will have details when the brackets are announced, but basically it will be a free, friendly little online pool for entertainment and bragging rights only.

    Think of it as your chance to claim the title of the smartest fan from the smartest league in all of D-I.

    The setup will also offer you an option to enter your bracket in an "open" contest run by the same folks with a $250 cash prize.

    We can't match the prize money, but we might be able to come up with some sort of token prize. How does a slightly used league media guide sound? Maybe we will even spring for a T-shirt.

    Be sure to check back Sunday night or Monday morning for details on how to enter.

    Read more!

    Hoop Time Notebook (pre selection show edition)

    Does Holy Cross belong in the NCAA Tournament?

    After the championship final Friday, Crusaders coach Ralph Willard would not make that claim.

    "That’s not for me to say," said Willard. "These kids have done everything they could have done. They won 16 games in a row. We did lose this one, but we won the regular season championship. The four games we lost non-conference we lost by a total of 21 points. We’ve had a great year. But that is out of our hands right now."

    Willard might also have mentioned that five of the six Crusaders losses came against teams headed to the tournament.

    Bucknell coach Pat Flannery, though, said the answer was obvious to him.

    "I certainly think Holy Cross deserves to go to the tournament," Flannery said.

    While the consensus opinion now seems to be the NIT for Holy Cross, not all prognosticators are ready to relegate the Crusaders to the consolation tournament.

    In his bracketology piece in today's Grand Rapids Press, David Mayo writes:
    Last five in: 61. Iowa State; 62. North Carolina State; 63. Iowa; 64. UAB; 65. Holy Cross.
    Of course Mayo's is a minority opinion. Even folks in his own newspaper chain don't agree with im.

    John Walker, of the Saginaw News writes:
    The interesting question is whether the committee will take the big boys or the mid-majors in the No. 38-76 range. You can probably guess the answer to that.

    So, tonight expect to hear some mid-major crying from teams like No. 38 Northern Iowa, No. 50 Wichita State, No. 51 Holy Cross, No. 57 Southwest Missouri State, and the MAC teams, of course. No. 44 Northeastern will tumble and is out of the discussion after getting destroyed by Vermont in the America East championship.
    Actually, I would not expect a lot of crying from Holy Cross if they are not selected. I'd be surprised if we even hear a whimper. Ralph Willard made it clear before the league tournament even got underway. As many bracketeers were pondering the chances of a second bid for the Patriot League, Willard made it clear he wasn't going to count on that possibility.

    The Patriot League, he pointed out to anyone who would answer, has never gotten a second bid.

    One of the reporters in the postgame brought that fact up to Willard, prompting this reply: "Everybody knows that. That is a fact of life. We know that. We knew that six months ago and we know that now."

    Almost nobody talks of the Patriot League as a two-bid league. Even when Holy Cross was getting a lot of attention from bracketeers predicting high seeds for the Crusaders, many hedged, saying that was if they could win the tournament to get in.

    Given the improved play in the Patriot League, Flannery said, "Maybe it is time to start talking about it a little bit."

    "It’s a dynamite league. If you get people who will schedule our league, let us know who they are because I know coach (Willard) is always looking for them and I am always looking for them. It’s an outstanding league," Flannery said.

    SENIOR LEADER: Much of the talk before the final was about the leadership of Holy Cross' five seniors. In fact, in a matchup that looked every bit as close on paper as it did when it finally was played on the court, the fact that HC had three seniors in the lineup was one factor folks favoring the Crusaders pointed to.

    Bucknell has only one senior on the entire roster, Chris Niesz. Niesz is a bench player who was a starter at the beginning of last season before being injured in the Penn State game. By the time his broken hand healed, Bucknell's freshmen and sophomores were on a roll in league play. Niesz's starting job was gone. So were most of the 24 minutes a game he had been playing before getting hurt.

    This year, the team's lone senior was really never in the starting lineup mix. Donald Brown won the starting four spot in the preseason. Darren Mastropaolo got a look there , too, before Flannery settled on John Clark and the Bison began to roll.

    When Clark's chronic bad feet finally forced him to the bench, Flannery went back to Mastropaolo as the starter. Even though Niesz had been playing more minutes than the freshman off the bench when Clark went down.

    Flannery's reasoning was straight-forward. Neisz, though 6-8, is reed-thin. Fallnery wanted the bigger Mastropaolo on the floor to help protect 6-11 center Chris McNaughton from foul problems.

    Mastropaolo has gotten better down the stretch, especially defensively and on the glass. But a bigger factor in Bucknell's emergence from the funk it fell into about the same time as Clark broke down has been Niesz's play late in the season.

    In the last four games, Niesz has averaged over 20 minutes per game. Strong, productive minutes, too. His ability to step out on the perimeter to hit the jumper has stretched defenses and opened things up in the paint for McNaughton.

    On Senior Night, with his team on the verge of entering the postseason on a skid, Niesz drained a three-pointer at the end to give Bucknell the win and a huge emotional lift entering tournament play. In the semifinals against American, he scored 11 points, grabbed four rebounds and dished out two key assist to spark the run that gave the Bison the win (he also scored 5 of the points in that 14-3 spurt).

    Everybody thought senior leadership might be the one thing this Bucknell team lacked. All of a sudden it was there in spades.

    In the final, Niesz was the X factor. Niesz's 8 points, including a pair of threes, pretty much cancelled out the 11 John Hurley scored for HC.

    Hurley, an oft overlooked element of the Holy Cross team, was justly rewarded with a spot on the all-tournament team. But Niesz also received some votes, and had he been called on to do more in the romp over Lafayette, might well have joined Hurley at the postgame awards ceremony.

    When you add in the contributions of Mastropaolo (2 reb., 3 points, 1 assist, 1 block) and Brown (5 rebounds, 2 points, 1 block in 16 minutes), the three-headed monster's combined line totals 13 points, 9 rebounds, stacking up almost even against the combination of Hurley and Kevin Hyland, who had 15 points and 9 rebounds between them. Thanks to Neisz's offensive contribution, the Bison ended up with a draw in a matchup that had been expected to be a Holy Cross advantage.

    Neisz didn't just help get a stalemate at the four, he also helped tip the scaled way to the Bucknell side at the five by forcing Holy Cross to try to stop Chris McNaughton with one defender.

    "When you play Chris Niesz as many minutes as we did, it’s tough to double there," said Flannery. "When we were playing Darren and Tarik (Viaer-McClymont) they were doubling hard. When we had a perimeter presence it was a lot harder."

    Niesz was 2-for-2 from three-point range in the first half. As a team, Bucknell was 5-for-8, with Kevin Bettencourt making a pair early and John Griffin also dialing in. The result: there simply was nobody HC could leave alone to go give help on McNaughton.

    We have already detailed the damage McNaughton did when he got isolated on a single Holy Cross defender (7-for-8 from the field, 3-for-4 at the line, 17 points and 7 rebounds).

    LOST IN THE SHUFFLE: Amidst all the talk about Bucknell's early lead and Kevin Hamilton's end game heroics, a missed box score line that says a lot. Keith Simmons: 2-for-9, 1-for-6 on threes, 6 points, 1 assist 5 turnovers.

    A first team all league pick in recognition of his tremendous season as HC's sixth-man, Simmons had shot the ball better than 51 percent from the field nd his 43 percent effort from the three-point arc was fourth-best in the league. Simmons had averaged over 12 points a game in the regular season and 11 per in two tournament games.

    What happened to Simmons in the final happened to every guard not names Hamilton that Bucknell faced in the tournament. Take a look at some of the other lines posted by opposing backcourt players in the Bison's three games:
  • Andre Ingram (1st team all-league, 15.2 ppg ave.): 2-12, 1-5 on threes, 5 points
  • Jason Thomas (2nd team all-league, 12.4 ppg): 0-7, 0-6 1 point
  • Take your pick of Lafayette guards, the three starters were a combined 4-for-14 from the field, 2-8 from the arc. The Betley cousins had a combined line of 0-for-6.

    In a guard dominated league, where 11 of the top 12 scorers in the conference are backcourt players, Hamilton was the only guard to reach double figures against Bucknell. Even he was bottled up most of the game, scoring just 5 points on 2-for-7 shooting in the first half.

    PRESSURE POINTS: That Holy Cross pulled out the full court press was no surprise. What was surprising was that Ralph Willard waited so long to go to the pressure.

    Ever since last year's first-round matchup, when Holy Cross forced 28 Bucknell turnovers with the press, it has been obvious the Crusaders have the personnel to give Bucknell fits full court.

    Maybe the reason Willard was hesitant was because of what happened when HC did not get the turnover in that first round game. Bucknell shot over 61 percent from the field, winning by six despite taking 24 fewer shots than the 'Saders.

    That was the result of all the odd-man advantage situations Bucknell greated when they broke the press. By attacking the basket in those situations, the Bison got enough easy buckets to stay in front.

    This time around, Bucknell seemed to take a different approach and it almost cost them. Several times during the last 10 minutes, as HC was making its final push, Bucknell broke the pressure and had a three-on-two or an open look early in the possession. But instead of continuing to attack, time and again Bucknell passed the quick opportunity, cautiously pulling the ball out to try to keep the pace of the game in control.

    "We tried to attack them, get easy baskets if we could. If we couldn’t, then we were going to run some clock and then we were going to run our halfcourt sets," Flannery said. "We did what we wanted to do. We did what we did all year, and we haven’t lost many leads."

    Matter of fact, Bucknell was 18-1 this season when leading at halftime.

    POINT EXPERIENCE: With the season on the line, both coaches opted for experience at the point. Willard went with Torey Thomas over freshman Pat Doherty to start for HC and Thomas played the lions share of the minutes.

    For Bucknell, a slight wrinkle was the return of Kevin Bettencourt to his role from last year running the point when Abe Badmus too breathers on the bench. Freshman John Griffin, who has been the relief guy up top all season, played 10 minutes, scoring 6 points on a pair of threes. But much of his 10 minutes came at the two, with Bettencourt or Badmus handling the ball.

    "It was something we felt we had to do a little bit of coming in here with the amount of pressure they put on. I love John (Griffin) to death and you saw the moxie that kid has," Flannery said. "But he is really going to have to get stronger and spend some time in the weight room, which he will, because he is that kind of kid.

    We thought that Kevin has had this experience. He has been here before so we decided to run him more at the point. Then when Abe got in foul trouble, we had to do more with Kevin. Kevin did it all last year. It was nothing new to him. Plus it moves him around. It changes their matchups. They do such a great job of scouting and playing that match. Any time you can move one piece, it really can help you."

    THIS AND THAT: Bucknell is the only team in the league with a better than .500 all-time record against Holy Cross in League play. The Bison led the series 21-18 . . . Holy Cross and Bucknell have met nine times in tournament play, making it the most played tournament matchup . . . The Bison now hold a 5-4 edge in tournament games . . . The two teams are among four schools with all-time winning records in league tournament play. The other two are Navy and American . . . Bucknell is the fifth No. 2 seed to win the tournament . . . when reaching the final, two-seeded teams have gone 5-5.

    Read more!
  • Random links

    From Bubble Watch:
    Holy Cross [24-6 (13-1), RPI: 51, SOS: 180] Fell in Patriot League finals at home to Bucknell, which almost certainly condemns Crusaders to NIT. 1-3 vs RPI Top 50 and 21 wins outside RPI Top 100.

    Saint Joseph's [18-11 (14-2), RPI: 56, SOS: 99] Hawks fell to GW in A-10 final and very well may have to settle for an NIT bid. SJU is overall A-10 regular-season champ, but loss to awful Rhode Island team and poor non-conference performance might make A-10 a one-bid league.
    Having seen both teams play several times (HC 7 in person, SJ 1 in person and 3 or 4 on TV), I can't buy any argument that has the Hawks in and the Crusaders out.

    That said, I must add that this would be a dandy NIT matchup.

    A couple other items that we won't bother commenting on but figure are worth a link:

  • Call from NIT should come for BU, Holy Cross (Boston Globe)
  • Bucknell celebrates first Patriot League title(Daily Item)

    Read more!
  • Bison get respect from UConn coach

    Sounds like Jim Calhoun has already figured out who he does not want to meet in the first round. The UConn coach told the New Haven Register:
    You watch a team like Bucknell (in its 61-57 win over Holy Cross in the Patriot League final Friday). They can frustrate you. Now you're down 10 and they pack it in, and you're not making a shot. That could be a scary moment for a good team. If you can't accelerate the pace, then it can be very difficult to win.
    Of course given the similarities between Bucknell and Holy Cross, that comes as no surprise. Calhoun has told Willard there is no way he would agree to a game with the Crusaders until Willard starts using a defense his team can figure out.

    Read more!
    Saturday, March 19, 2005
    Bracket contest update

    Hoop Time Notebook (aftershock the world edition)

    Cinderella wears orange and blue
    Friday, March 18, 2005
    Hoop Time Notebook (Fri. midday edition)

    Hoop Time Notebook (OKC Fri. AM edition)

    Somebody knows less than me

    Hoop Time notebook (OKC edition)

    Cinderella City

    Worth a read
    Thursday, March 17, 2005
    Still time to enter

    Limited morning update today

    KU's Langford doubtful

    All in the family


    History lesson

    Grampa tell us a story

    We bet you didn't know
    Wednesday, March 16, 2005
    You could charter your own jet

    God favors HC

    KU's Langford still hobbled

    Dodd: KU flawed

    A look at BU

    Gushing alumnus alert

    Vertical stripes are slimming

    In case you missed it
    Tuesday, March 15, 2005
    All in the numbers

    Scouting the Bison

    10 steps to a better bracket

    Let's not forget the ladies

    Links Library
    Monday, March 14, 2005
    The mood in Lewisburg

    Ralph rumors

    What they say, what they think

    In the Zone

    Bison scouted

    No Fear Factor

    How bout some cheese with that

    Need a bracket?

    Bucknell homecoming

    Maine man

    Easy as ABC

    HC to meet ND in NIT

    Saders get repsect

    HC snubbed

    Where have you gone (AD edition)
    Sunday, March 13, 2005
    Coming attraction

    Hoop Time Notebook (pre selection show edition)

    Random links

    Bison get respect from UConn coach

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