Game #9-539: Bucknell Bison vs. Butler BulldogsMarch 21, 2013 12:40 pm
The NCAA Tournament can make you famous. It made Bryce Drew into a folk hero. It probably made Stephen Curry millions of dollars in NBA Draft money. For the first time all season, March Madness combines Our Game with The Game, catapulting mid-major stars onto the national scene in front of viewers across the country.
Even though Butler and Bucknell tipped off right around the lunch hour on Thursday - one of the first games of the day - the burden fell on Mike Muscala on this particular afternoon. The 6-foot-11, All-Everything center played in the NCAA Tournament two years ago, but he wasn't a star yet. He's a star now, the kind of kid who transcends the "Have You Heard of This Guy?"
sentiment and has become essentially a household name among college basketball fans. People who barely watch the game don't know him, sure, but anybody with a brain has at least heard the name.
He's not obscure anymore, but Bucknell doesn't play on television very much in the Patriot League. I've seen him play one time at Mizzou Arena, and he was every bit as good as I thought he'd be. He's a traditional big man in a lot of ways, only with a stellar shooting touch, great vision and a smoothness to his game that keeps your eyes locked on him for 40 minutes.
Against the mighty Butler Bulldogs, no stranger to the NCAA Tournament, this was Mike Muscala's chance to show everybody - on television, for a change - that he was the real deal. That is the beauty of the NCAA Tournament.
It is also the curse. Muscala's first half was nothing short of terrible. He made his first shot from the field, and then it all fell apart. Andrew Smith and other Bulldog defenders swarmed him, and he seemed uncomfortable in every aspect of the game.
The fans weren't impressed.
"If that guy's a first-round pick," a guy says to his friend in the hallway during halftime, "then I'm at least a second-rounder."
Pure ignorance. We all know that. First of all, Muscala's not projected as a first-round pick. But he has a bright professional career ahead of him, whether it's in the NBA as a second-round pick or in the D-League or in Europe somewhere. The guy's a stud, plain and simple.
Except you couldn't tell that during his brutal first half against Butler. The whole game was ugly, but he might have been the ugliest. After halftime, Bucknell caught fire and rallied to take a brief lead, thanks in part to increased production from Muscala. But he finished with only nine points after shooting four for 17 from the field. Bucknell lost, and Muscala faded into the background of the college basketball landscape, along with the countless other All-Conference players from non-power conferences who don't play well in the NCAA Tournament and thus are never heard from again.
It's unfair to Muscala to judge him based on such a tiny sample size. One game doesn't tell the story, but this is the NCAA Tournament. That's just the reality. If you don't play well in the spotlight, people will think you're no good.
I hope Mike Muscala gets a chance to shut the critics up one day. I hope that guy I overheard in the hallway will turn on the television five years from now and see Muscala playing for the Celtics or the Thunder or the Warriors. I hope he says to himself, "I thought that guy was terrible, and it turns out I was dead wrong."
I want Mike Muscala to be that guy who NBA fans make a trivia question out of. Dude, where did that guy go to college?
He went to Bucknell. He was damn good, too, NCAA Tournament star or not.
BUTLER 68, BUCKNELL 56
BUCKNELL 28-6 (12-2) -- J. Willman 10-16 0-2 20; C. Ayers 3-10 0-0 9; M. Muscala 4-17 1-1 9; S. Kaspar 3-8 0-1 6; B. Johnson 2-8 3-3 9; R. Frazier 1-2 1-1 3; B. Fitzpatrick 0-1 0-0 0; R. Hill 0-0 0-0 0; B. Brackney 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-62 5-8 56.
BUTLER 27-8 (11-5) -- R. Jones 6-12 2-3 14; A. Smith 3-8 7-8 14; R. Clarke 5-14 4-4 16; A. Barlow 2-5 7-8 11; K. Marshall 3-5 1-1 7; K. Woods 1-4 2-2 4; K. Dunham 0-4 2-2 2; E. Fromm 0-1 0-0 0; C. Stigall 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 20-55 25-28 68.
Three-point goals: BUCK 5-16 (B. Johnson 2-6; M. Muscula 0-1; J. Willman 0-1; C. Ayers 3-7; R. Frazier 0-1), BUTL 3-17 (R. Clarke 2-8; C. Stigall 0-2; A. Smith 1-2; E. Fromm 0-1; A. Barlow 0-3; K. Dunham 0-1); Rebounds: BUCK 30 (M. Muscula 10), BUTL 36 (A. Smith 16); Assists: BUCK 13 (S. Kaspar 6), BUTL 8 (R. Jones 4); Total Fouls -- BUCK 20, BUTL 12; Fouled Out: BUCK-None; BUTL-None.
© 2004-2014 The Mid-Majority. All content is the property of its authors.