The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Sports

December 4, 2012

Bill Bowman on college sports: Plenty of ball left to play

— A month of the college basketball season really isn’t enough to judge a team, particularly when you are playing nonconference games across the board.

Thanks to scheduling a row of cupcakes, some school can vault to a fast start and build an impressive record but a less-than-impressive résumé. Others can struggle out of the gate as they transition after the loss of key players, but the pieces are in place for a successful run once league play starts.

So remember, there’s a long way to go. Too soon to rejoice and print championship T-shirts; too soon to panic.

Let’s look at two sides of this coin.

Start in Lewisburg, where not even Aaron Roussell’s questionable wardrobe choice was enough to end the Bucknell women’s win streak on Saturday night. The Bison, playing in Davis Gym on Throwback Night — which led the first-year coach to break out a black and red plaid sport coat — toppled Buffalo to win their fifth game in a row after an 0-2 start.

Bucknell was 5-2 heading into Monday’s game at Penn, a pretty remarkable run considering several factors, not the least of which is the fact that the Bison are coming off a 5-25 season and were 16-50 over the last 2 1/2 years.

Five wins in a row in Division I basketball is nothing to sneeze at, especially when the five wins came in 15 days, something it took the Bison 3 1/2 months to do last winter. So you can’t take anything away from them.

They are scoring more, defending better and finding ways to win tight games — which probably shouldn’t be so tight when you look at the leads they’ve had. If you do that long enough, you end up having a pretty darn good season.

It is worth noting that four of the five teams Bucknell has beaten have losing records right now (the other is 3-3), and the two teams it played with winning records — Xavier and St. Francis (Pa.) — both beat the Bison. But you have to think when teams like Canisius or Niagara or Morgan State put a five-win Bucknell team on their schedule, they were thinking it would be filed under the ‘W’ column.

Now to the other side of the coin.

While the Bison women have stormed out of the gates, the Susquehanna men are seemingly still stuck in neutral at 1-5.

On the surface, it looks like time to not only push the panic button, but stomp on it repeatedly.

Right now is time for some patience, though. If Susquehanna isn’t the best 1-5 around, it’s pretty darn close. The Crusaders have lost three games by eight total points, including two at the buzzer.

SU had lost five in a row heading into Monday’s game at Misericordia, but it is far from the Susquehanna team you are going to see a month from now.

In the first month of the season senior J.T. Wilson, a four-year starter, has not started a single game as he works his way back from surgery. Harvey Pannell, a former Landmark Rookie of the Year who is coming off a knee injury, has played 13 minutes a game.

That doesn’t even take into account junior All-Landmark center Harley Sellinger, who is still overseas during a semester abroad.

Take three starters — veteran starters — out of any lineup at any level of basketball, and see what happens in the first month of the year. I bet it looks a lot like what is happening in Selinsgrove.

The best news to come out of the slow start for the Crusaders is that long-time coach Frank Marcinek is getting a great (and extended) look at his young players and he has to like what he sees so far. Eleven different players are averaging between 5 and 9 points a game for SU, and freshmen like Luke Cable, Tre Dean, and Spencer Ortmyer are getting invaluable experience that will help the Crusaders so much when the games count much more in February.

Until then SU just has to tread water. No need to panic, just stay the course.

Sports editor Bill Bowman covers college sports for The Danville News. Email comments to bbowman@thedanvillenews.com. Follow him at twitter.com/williambbowman.

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