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Preview: Bucknell at Butler

Preview: Bucknell at ButlerSixth-seeded Butler will meet No. 11 Bucknell in an East Regional second-round matchup on Thursday in Lexington, Ky. The mid-major battle features a pair of 6-11 centers in the paint. Mike Muscala leads the Bison with 19 points and 11.2 rebounds, ranking 28th and fourth in the nation, while the Bulldogs counter with Andrew Smith (11.1, 5.7). If Smith can hold the Patriot League's Player of the Year in check, traditional giant-killer Butler will likely avoid an upset in their return to the Big Dance.

Led by Muscala, the program's all-time leading scorer, Bucknell won 12 of its last 13 games to return to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three seasons and fourth in nine. Muscala had 20 points and 11 rebounds as the Bison dispatched Lafayette 64-56 in the Patriot League final Wednesday. With no other player averaging at least 10 shots, Bucknell will only go as far as Muscala carries it.

ABOUT BUTLER (26-8): After five consecutive NCAA Tournament berths and back-to-back championship game losses in 2010 and 2011, the Bulldogs missed out on the action last season. Brad Stevens' team is back with a vengeance, though, led by Rotnei Clarke (16.7 points), who shoots 41.2 percent from 3-point range and 88.6 percent from the foul line. Roosevelt Jones pitches in 10.1 points and 5.7 rebounds for the Bulldogs, who had a four-game winning streak snapped when St. Louis beat them in the A-10 conference semifinals 67-56 on Saturday.

ABOUT BUCKNELL (28-5): The Bison are no stranger to upsets either, having knocked off powerhouse Kansas in the 2005 Big Dance. Fresher in the program's memory, however, is a 29-point loss to Connecticut two years ago. Muscala is supported by a trio of double-digit scorers: Cameron Ayers (12.5), Bryson Johnson (11.1) and Joe Willman (10.3), all of whom were on the roster for the loss to the Huskies. No other Bison player averages more than 2.9 points.

TIP-INS

  1. Muscala is the first player in Patriot League history to sweep the conference's Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Scholar-Athlete of the Year honors. He was also named conference tournament MVP.

  2. Butler has won six of its last seven opening-round NCAA Tournament games.

  3. Bucknell is 2-5 all-time in NCAA Tournament games, most recently beating Arkansas 59-55 in 2006.

PREDICTION: Butler 68, Bucknell 67