LEWISBURG – The Bucknell men’s basketball team’s 2019 non-conference schedule features the usual array of high-quality opponents, exciting road trips, and a four-game home slate that brings top-notch competition to Sojka Pavilion.
Four traditionally strong mid-major programs will be visiting Lewisburg this season, starting with America East powerhouse Vermont for the home opener on Sunday, Nov. 10. Hofstra (Nov. 13), Princeton (Nov. 30) and Albany (Dec. 7) will also appear at Sojka Pavilion.
“We are very excited about the four home non-conference games this year,” said coach Nathan Davis. “Those are four quality opponents, and I think our fans will be treated to some high-level basketball. Our community support has been great year in and year out, and these are the types of games that our fans will be excited to come out and watch.”
This year, the Bison will participate in the NIT Season Tip-Off, highlighted by on-campus games at Penn State (Nov. 19) and Syracuse (No. 23), followed by a trip to Orlando, Fla., for a four-team sub-regional tournament at HP Field House at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex. Bucknell will face Seattle for the very first time on Monday, Nov. 25, with Ivy League champion Yale and Western Michigan squaring off in the other first-round matchup. The winners and losers will meet the following day, with all four games in Orlando, as well as the Penn State and Syracuse games televised on the ESPN family of networks.
Bucknell and Penn State will clash for the 104th time dating back to 1897. The Nittany Lions were the 2018 NIT champions. The got out to a slow start last season but won seven of their last 10 regular-season games, including top-20 wins over Michigan and Maryland.
Bucknell returns to the Carrier Dome for the first time since 2011 to take on a Syracuse team that made its 40th NCAA Tournament appearance a year ago. The Orange went 20-14 overall and 10-8 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. As a No. 8 seed, they fell to Baylor in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
“The NIT Season Tip-Off is another high-profile event that everyone in our program gets excited about,” said Davis. “The success that Bucknell Basketball has enjoyed over the last several decades allows us to be considered for these kinds of tournaments, where we can show off our program. And our guys are very excited for a trip to Orlando in late-November.”
Vermont and Hofstra both won 27 games a season ago. The Catamounts won the America East title and went to the NCAA Tournament last year, and they are one of only eight Division I programs with a streak of at least 11 straight 20-win seasons. This will be the third year in a row that Bucknell and Vermont have met. The Bison captured the previous two encounters, which were both considered among the team’s best wins of the season.
Meanwhile, Hofstra went 15-3 in the Colonial Athletic Association and 27-8 overall. After winning the regular-season conference title, the Pride lost to Northeastern in the CAA Tournament championship game and settled for a bid to the NIT, where they dropped a close first round game to North Carolina State.
Princeton is annually one of the top teams in the Ivy League – the Tigers fell to eventual-champion Yale in the Ivy League Tournament semifinals last season – and the Bison will look to snap a four-game series losing streak to the Tigers. Albany is looking to bounce back from a rare down year. The Great Danes have been to five NCAA Tournaments since 2006 and saw a streak of seven straight winning seasons come to an end in 2018-19.
Bucknell opens the season on the road at Fairfield on Tuesday, Nov. 5. This will be the sixth meeting in the last seven years between the Bison and Stags, and the visiting team has won each of the previous five games. Fairfield is also the first of four 2019 opponents from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, all of which are road games. The Bison will later play at Canisius (Nov. 16), at Rider (Dec. 3) and at Siena (Dec. 21).
The Bison wrap up non-conference play against La Salle on Sunday, Dec. 29. The game will be played at The Palesta in Philadelphia, one of the most historic venues in college basketball. The 92-year-old facility has played host to 52 NCAA Tournament games, as well as many of the great clashes between Philadelphia’s Big 5 teams.
This will be Bucknell’s first game in The Palestra since Dec. 1, 2004, when it lost to Penn 65-52. That was a notable game, because following that loss, the Bison won their next 11 games in a row, including a victory at No. 7 Pittsburgh, and they went on to stun Kansas in the first round of the 2005 NCAA Tournament.
Bucknell’s 2020 Patriot League schedule will be announced at a later date, as will game times and television clearances for all games.