By William Bowman
The Daily Item
LEWISBURG -- As his Bucknell basketball team prepared for the new season to start, Dave Paulsen knew one thing for sure and was pretty certain about another.
A month in, with the Bison now in the middle of an extended break for final exams, the fifth-year coach is positive about both.
After facing a brutal stretch of games out of the gate, the Bison are 8-1, the lone blip a three-point loss the day after Thanksgiving at Penn State. So far Bucknell has beaten a team from the Big Ten (Purdue), Colonial (George Mason), WAC (New Mexico State), MAC (Kent State) and Ivy (Columbia, Dartmouth). Bucknell has gotten off the fast start despite playing the 105th toughest schedule in the nation, by far the best in the Patriot League. Top-ranked Indiana has played the 272nd toughest.
"I thought we were going to be pretty good, but I knew we played a really difficult schedule to start, so to be 8-1 right now, we are really thrilled," said Paulsen, who has led the Bison to back-to-back 25-win seasons. "To get through that stretch, playing on the road and against teams that play all different kind of styles, is great."
One of the reasons for the fast start has been the play on the defensive end. With the likes of 1,000-point scorers Mike Muscala and Bryson Johnson, and soon to be 1,000-point scorers Joe Willman and Cameron Ayers, Paulsen and his coaching staff knew offense wasn't going to be the problem.
But with graduation of three-time Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year Bryan Cohen, Paulsen knew work needed to be done on the defensive end. One player was not going to replace Cohen, so collectively the Bison had to get better as a team defensively.