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Next Up - Bucknell

The Bison return to Cameron for the first time since 2005

NCAA Basketball: Champions Classic-Duke at Michigan State
 Nov 14, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Duke Blue Devils center Ryan Young (15) scores against the Michigan State Spartans during the first half at United Center. 
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Duke takes on the Bucknell Bison on Friday and while Bucknell is off its high point of several years ago, they’re still dangerous.

Bucknell has a history. Here’s some cool trivia: the last Bucknell coach to have a losing career record?

Jim Valvano, between 1972-1975, before he moved on to Iona.

Pat Flannery had a career record of 234-178 and Dave Paulsen went 134-94. Nathan Davis, who was let go last year, finished 139-115 and won the Patriot League regular season title from 2015-2019.Those winning percentages are .568, 588 and .547. It might not sound that great, but consistent success in the Patriot League is not easy.

His last four years, Davis’s record really fell off.

Our guess is, that like so many other programs, the pandemic disrupted Bucknell’s stability and continuity.

Davis was replaced by John Griffin, who played at Bucknell for Flannery and maybe one year for Paulsen. This is his first time as head coach anywhere, but he has worked his way up.

Who knows?

Not many people expected great things when UNC hired Dean Smith in 1960 or when Duke hired Mike Krzyzewski 20 years later. He could be a superb coach, but we won’t know for a while.

What we do know is this: Bucknell has known really good basketball and they have banners hung and upsets to point to. Duke is clearly favored, but the Bison have history.

By the way, the last time these two played was in 2005 and Duke, led by JJ Redick, was #1. Bucknell finished 27-5.

So far this season, they’ve lost to Delaware, Penn and LaSalle and beat Niagara.

Griffin has seven upperclassmen to work with, five sophomores and two freshmen.

Unlike a lot of so-called mid-majors don’t have a lot of size but Bucknell has sophomore Noah Williamson, who is 7-0 and 244.

He’s one of their two primary offensive options along with 6-5 senior Jack Forrest. Elvin Edmonds, a 6-2 junior, Josh Bascoe, a 6-0 junior and R

Williamson is averaging 11.5 ppg and seven boards but he doesn’t shoot very well: he’s hitting 47.5 percent from the floor and 53.8 percent from the line.

Forrest is averaging 16.8 ppg and he’s shooting 46.8 percent overall and 46.2 on threes. Free throws? 78.6 percent.

Edmonds is getting 10 ppg and shooting 46.9 percent. Threes are somewhat less of a factor at 28.6 percent.

Bascoe handles point duties and so far he’s passing out 4.0 apg. He’s also hitting 50 percent on his threes.

Riot Bijiek is a lean 6-9 forward. He’s not much of an offensive presence, hitting just 20.8 percent and averaging 4.3 points and 2.3 rebounds.

Upsets are never impossible but it won’t be easy for Bucknell.

They have to control Kyle Filipowski first, and while Williamson might be a solid big man, there is no one behind him.

And Mark Mitchell might prove to be a tough matchup for Bijiek, who is much thinner.

The backcourt is likely to be a major problem for Bucknell.

Caleb Foster was the standout against Michigan State, but Jeremy Roach, Tyrese Proctor, Jared McCain and Jaylen Blakes are all capable of tremendous defense and offensive eruptions.

The bigger question to us now is how roles evolve. You know how they're supposed to go, but things don’t always go according to plan - Foster proved that against the Spartans.

Watching what Duke works on early, and how coach Jon Scheyer works out minutes, is going to be very interesting indeed.