Game 105: at Bucknell 87, Yale 60 Saturday, November 26, 2005
Sojka Pavilion - Lewisburg, PA
There's a white sign that greets you when you drive onto their campus, a lush green acreage dotted by vermillion-brick buildings. "Welcome toBucknell
" it says in capital letters, with two slide-lines between - presumably for event announcements or topical messages.
I've never seen the sign used to welcome or inform anybody to anything, but I imagine how some some might use the blankety-blank lines: "Welcome to Giant Killer U.
Bucknell" if you're a student or fan, "Welcome to Motherf*******
Bucknell" if you're from one of a number of certain power-conference schools.
But still, despite all of the recent wins, it'd more likely to say "Welcome to Who?
Bucknell." Why hasn't Bucknell captured the hearts and wallets of Hoops Nation yet?
Blame it on bad timing. Their first major upset of 2005, against Big East heavyweight Pittsburgh
on January 2, happened while the sports world was transfixed by BCS bowls. In March, they shocked Kansas
in Oklahoma City on the same night when plucky Vermont
knocked off Syracuse
, a result that came in too late for some east coast newspapers.
Then, in the ultimate indignity, their own solid defeat of the Orange(men) happened to fall on the same night that the illegitimate darlings of Mid-Majorville, the Unnamed Major Program From the Northwest
, beat Michigan State
in three overtimes out in Hawaii. That game was broken down ad infinitum on SportsCenter, dubbed an "Instant Classic," buzzed about for days. A half a world away, Bucknell coach Pat Flannery had to settle for teeth-chattering radio interviews outside the team bus as the snow fell in Syracuse. When it was all said and done, more ink was spilled about Adam Morrison's hair than on the Bucknell-Syracuse game.
Sure they won a big fan vote award over the summer for rock-blocking the Jayhawks, but I'm pretty sure the ESPY's are fixed. All this giant-killing hasn't translated to major love for this bunch of not-so-Breakin' Bison. All I'm saying is that I can buy an UMPFN sweatshirt at my local sporting goods store, but I have to drive six hours if I want to fill out my mid-major Christmas list and keep my credit card number off the web.
So one dark holiday-weekend Saturday night, the Bucknell hoopsters returned home for the first time since the upsets over SU and KU. They played before a few thousand alumni, a handful of Sojka Psychos who didn't go away on break, as well as a nearly-empty press row. The whiteclads treated all in attendance to a solid whipping of a confused and flat-footed group of Yalies, in a crisp and efficient hour-three-quarters.
Beforehand, it had appeared to be a classic "trap game," an opportunity for an inferior opponent to take advantage of a tired squad. But it was not to be - the intensity was at the same level that the Bison showed in the Syracuse game, the effort was equal to that the returning starters expended in the classic Kansas match. The only thing that was different was the starting lineup.
Mid-Majority heartthrob Abe Badmus, the drumbeat-solid point guard, was kept out of the game for the first ten minutes, as was athletic forward Donald Brown. The Bison coach said later that it was an "academic priority problem" that kept them on the bench - apparently, they'd skipped some class that week. Flannery said that he'd do the same if it was Syracuse, Villanova
, or Duke
on the other sideline.
I mean, wow. This Bucknell team is the embodiment of everything we've talked about on The Mid-Majority for the past year. They haven't sold out the scholar-athlete ideals that most of the NCAA merely chuckles at, they haven't used a nice shiny arena to fleece their fans (bleacher tickets are $8, as opposed to... I dunno, $20
). They do it in the middle of nowhere, without convenient air travel
. And above all, they beat the snot out of the big boys and they do so on their own terms, without drawing too much attention to themselves. They're just doing their jobs.
But they do have key dates with Villanova and Duke coming up. A couple more wins, and a big ol' Bucknell bandwagon might finally drive up dusty old US 15 into little Lewisburg. If and when it does, I hope the passengers realize that this isn't some half-assed boilerplated Hoosiers
template, that this is the real thing. I hope they find a sign at the gate that says, "Welcome to We're Not G*@%&!a