The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

February 18, 2013

Todd Hummel's column on college sports: Basketball needs to be fixed

For The Daily Item

— One of the things I haven’t done much until recently is cover college basketball.

For the last 10 years or so that’s been the domain of my two former bosses, so my trips to Sojka Pavilion have been for the odd nonleague game or to fill in for Patriot League contest.

After 12 college games in the past six weeks, it’s quite easy to see that college basketball needs to be fixed quickly.

The talking heads can say the one-and-done rule to enter the NBA is the cause, but I think it’s more how it’s devolved into mid-90s NBA basketball. I keep expecting to see John Starks suit up for somebody.

College basketball has become a barrage of missed shots from all of the physical play allowed in the game. In Wednesday’s Colgate-Bucknell game at Sojka Pavilion, the Red Raiders packed their defense around Bucknell center Mike Muscala and he took plenty of shots inside working in the post. When asked if it was one of the more physical contests they’d been in, both Muscala and coach Dave Paulsen chuckled.

“You should have been at Army (the previous Saturday),” Paulsen said.

However, it’s not just inside that overly physical play occurs. Watch closely the next time you watch a college basketball game. With the preponderance of the pick-and-roll in college offenses, there is plenty of contact allowed there as well. The defender being screened is, for the most part, allowed to put his hands on the ball handler to hinder his movement, negating the screen and keeping the offenses clogged.

The days of an emphasis on hand-checking are long gone.

This leads me to something else that — in the words of Peter Griffin — really grinds my gears: Wednesday night’s crowd for the Bucknell men’s game with Colgate.

A team with just one loss in the league to that point and a possible NBA draft pick on the floor in Muscala, the announced Sojka Pavilion crowd of 2,958 (tickets sold, not seats filled) was very quiet. In fact, the crowd of 898 for Saturday’s home women’s game was louder.

The quiet crowd can be traced to the lack of student involvement Wednesday night. Not many “Sojka Psychos” were in attendance, and typically the Sojka crowd feeds off the intensity of students.

It seems these days it takes a national television audience for the Bucknell students to come to see this Bison team.

How big was Monday’s Bucknell-Lehigh game at Stabler Arena? The 50-seat press row at the venerable arena was filled for the game, including 10 NBA scouts. Three scouts from the Brooklyn Nets attended, as did two scouts from the Philadelphia 76ers, along with representatives from the Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns, Indiana Pacers, Dallas Mavericks and Toronto Raptors.

With Bucknell and Lehigh graduating a lot of players after this season, those looking to figure out who might be the face of the Patriot League next season might want to look north to Colgate.

Red Raiders’ junior Murphy Burnatowski has the full compliment of offensive skills: a 3-point shot, the drive to the hoop, and the ability to get himself open against tough defense. Another plus to Burnatowski’s game, he’s left-handed.

Burnatowski had 23 points in a loss to Bucknell last Wednesday and 19 points in Colgate’s upset of Lehigh this past Saturday.

The 6-foot-7 forward from Canada is the second-leading scorer in the Patriot League behind Muscala at 17.1 points.

Another note, Burnatowski played with Bucknell guard Bryson Johnson in Canada. The Score, a Canadian sports network, came to Bucknell last Wednesday to film a segment on the two players.

Correspondent Todd Hummel covers college sports for The Daily Item. Email comments or questions to