The Patriot League and the Big Ten are different beasts, surely — that’s what makes the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament so much fun. The David and Goliath scenarios are responsible for a lot of the madness in March. In the first round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament when Bucknell, an academically rigorous Pennsylvania school whose most famous alum is probably the author Philip Roth, tips off against the mighty Michigan State Spartans (29-4) — well let’s just say there won’t be a lot of money in Vegas on the Bison. But maybe the gamblers just didn’t watch the Patriot League conference tournament, in which the Bucknell Bison (25-9) obliterated a capable Colgate University team 83-54 in the final to secure their second straight berth in the NCAA tournament.
Can the Bison do it to Tom Izzo and the Spartans? What was a glimmer of hope for big underdogs in 2018 turned into real sunshine after Arizona got smashed in the teeth by unheralded Buffalo, who sent the Cardinals home ignominiously in Round 1, whupping them by 20. (Buffalo was a 13 seed; Bucknell is a 14 seed.) Bison head coach Nathan Davis is on a roll and he has a team playing with great confidence. Davis is 209-71 (.746) overall as Bucknell’s head coach. It’s also worth mentioning that Bucknell has a rich history of underdog victories in March. In 2005, Bucknell sent the seemingly superior Kansas Jayhawks packing in the first round. Bucknell was a 14-seed then too. (The next year, the Bison knocked off Arkansas.) Coach Davis played his gritty, intelligent basketball at Randolph-Macon, where he set some records for achievement in various stat categories, recording 983 points and more than 500 rebounds, 300 assists and 100 steals in four years. The Bison play the Spartans on March 16 at 7:10pm EST.