The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

January 22, 2013

Best game is in our own backyard

Daily Item

---- — The grass, they say, is always greener somewhere else. Maybe not this time.

There are 62 Division I men's college basketball games in the United States tonight. The best one of all might be in Lewisburg where Bucknell -- off to one of its best starts in the program's 118-year history -- meets rival Lehigh in a Patriot League showdown with national implications.

Tickets for the nationally televised showdown are already sold out and tip off has been moved up an hour to 6 p.m. to accommodate TV.

The game doesn't quite have the luster it should have, however. A few weeks ago Lehigh senior C.J. McCollum broke his foot and is sidelined for at least two months. Bucknell fans certainly remember McCollum. He's the kid who twice stunned them last spring, once with a buzzer-beating three-pointer to wreck a perfect Patriot League season, and the other in a league title game that denied the Bison a second consecutive March Madness trip.

Just because McCollum, a preseason All-American who was the nation's leading scorer at the time of his injury, will not play does not mean the game isn't big.

Bucknell enters tonight's game 16-3, ranked No. 3 in the College Insider Mid-Major poll. Lehigh is 13-4 and is No. 8 in the same poll. More important is that both are 3-0 in the Patriot League and the winner of tonight's game moves into sole possession of first place in the league. That is huge in a league where the regular-season champ gets to play all the league tournament games in its own gym.

That is an enormous advantage for any team, but no more than it is at Bucknell. There is no place like Sojka Pavilion, where crowds swell to nearly 4,000 for big games.

In the 10-year history of Sojka, Bucknell is 106-32 at home and has lost just 14 of 86 games against league foes. One opponent that won't be intimidated is this Lehigh team. The Mountain Hawks won twice in the span of three weeks at Sojka a year ago, becoming the first visiting team to ever win two games in Sojka in the same season.

If you already have a ticket, good for you. If not, get in front of a television at 6 p.m. Oh, and don't fix the color on your screen. Everybody is really wearing orange.