Bucknell at Lehigh Picks and College Basketball Odds
by Alan Matthews - 2/18/2013
With all due respect to games like West Virginia-Kansas State (Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins’ return to KSU for first time since leaving there; highly doubt it’s a warm welcome) and Notre Dame-Pittsburgh, which involve ranked teams, the most interesting matchup in college basketball on Monday night, in my opinion, is between Bucknell and Lehigh, two very good mid-major clubs from Pennsylvania (did you know that?). It will be televised nationally on CBS Sports Network.
Unfortunately, only one of them is likely to get an NCAA Tournament bid, and that’s by winning the Patriot League Tournament. The two schools are tied atop the Patriot at 8-2, so the winner here would have the upper hand at the top seed. Bucknell (21-5) might have an outside chance at an at-large NCAA bid if it won out but then lost in the Patriot Tournament final, but it’s unlikely. The Bison have an RPI of 61 entering Sunday but just one win over a Top 50 team (La Salle). They also have bad losses to Princeton, Penn State and Lafayette. Bucknell has made five NCAA Tournament appearances overall but none since 2011.
Lehigh (18-6) absolutely will need to win the Patriot League Tournament to get into the NCAA Tournament. The Mountain Hawks have reached the Big Dance five times, most memorably last year when they upset Duke as a 15 seed (more on that in a minute) before losing to Xavier in the second round. Lehigh’s RPI is 88 with not a win over a Top 50 team. It has bad losses to Lafayette and Colgate.
Bucknell at Lehigh Betting Story Lines
Both teams enter off upset losses Saturday. Bucknell fell 63-62 at Lafayette as the Leopards’ Tony Johnson hit a game-winning jumper with six seconds left. Bucknell blew a double-digit second-half lead as it was probably looking ahead to this game. Ditto for Lehigh, which lost 64-60 at Colgate. The Mountain Hawks were down 21 in the second half and nearly rallied before falling short.
Nearly a dozen NBA scouts will be on hand for this one, mainly to see Bucknell star Mike Muscala. The 6-foot-11 senior center is a potential first-round pick in the 2013 year’s draft. He tied his season high with 29 points in Saturday’s loss and had 15 rebounds, his national-leading 19th double-double. Muscala leads the Bison in almost every statistical category, including points (19.4), rebounds (11.6), assists (2.7), blocks (2.6) and field-goal percentage (.522). He is the only player in the country averaging at least 18 points and 11 rebounds per game and one of three players nationally to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists and blocked shots.
There probably would be a scout from every NBA team at this game if Lehigh star C.J. McCollum wasn’t hurt. The senior guard is an NBA first-round lock. However, he broke his foot in a Jan. 5 loss to Virginia Commonwealth. At the time, he was given an 8-10 week recovery period, but McCollum has said he’s not going to return if he’s not 100 percent as he doesn’t want to jeopardize his draft standing. McCollum led the nation in scoring when he went down. He has averaged 21.3 points over his career at Lehigh. You may remember him from last season’s NCAA Tournament when No. 15 Lehigh stunned second-seeded Duke 75-70 in the first round thanks to McCollum’s 30 points.
Lehigh won 65-62 at Bucknell on Jan. 23, its third straight victory in the series. The Mountain Hawks shot just 35.6 percent from the field overall but 55.6 percent (10-for-18) from three-point range against one of the nation’s top three-point percentage defensive teams. B.J. Bailey led Lehigh with 18 in that one, while Muscala had 16 points and eight boards for Bucknell. Lehigh also won in Bucknell’s gym twice last year, including in the Patriot League Tournament championship game. The Mountain Hawks became the first team ever to win twice at Bucknell’s Sojka Pavilion in the same season. Lehigh did lose at home to the Bison, however.
Bucknell at Lehigh College Basketball Betting Odds and Key Trends
Bucknell is 1-5 ATS in its past six road games vs. teams with a winning home record. The Bison have covered just once in their past eight against teams with a winning record overall. Lehigh is 11-1 ATS in its past 12 vs. teams with a winning record. It is 8-1 ATS in its past nine conference games. The under is 6-2 in Bucknell’s past eight conference games. The over is 4-0 in Lehigh’s past four after a loss.
Bucknell at Lehigh Picks and Betting Predictions
I tend to like Bucknell here for two reasons: It has the best player on the floor in Muscala and is very good on the road (Saturday notwithstanding) with a national-leading 10 true road victories. Lehigh leads the conference in scoring, while Bucknell is tops in points against (58.7). I usually lean defense when it’s two polar opposites. Take the Bison and the under.
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