The Bucknell Bison enter their 2015-2016 basketball season with high expectations, as they have a legitimate chance to win the Patriot League. This team has the right blend of young talent and Senior leadership, along with one of the best players in the league. The only real issues facing this team will be replacing a few offseason departures, a player and almost the entire coaching staff.
Looking at this team, there is a lot of talent to be found. Chris Hass was one of the best players in the league last year, making the league's first team. Hass is Bucknell's best player since Cameron Ayers, who is now playing professional basketball overseas. Hass really can do it all; he is a knockdown shooter from both middle and long range. He can put it on the floor and take it to the basket, as he is a very athletic player. By no means is Hass a defensive liability, either. You can definitely expect his name to be thrown around for Patriot League Player of the Year.
Sophomore big man Nana Foulland is another player who has high expectations for the Bison this year. Last year, Foulland surprised a lot of people just by starting on the team last season, let alone playing good enough to be named to the conference's All-Freshman team. While starting every game, Foulland averaged ten points, five rebounds, and a block, all while shooting 55% from the floor. He definitely played well defensively last year, and show plenty of flashes of potential on the offensive side of things. This could be a breakout season for the so-far successful center.
Dom Hoffman will probably be the big guy to start along with Foulland. Hoffman is a very strong and talented stretch-four, who can dribble the ball decently and definitely has good shooting range. If it's not Hoffman, it'll be Junior DJ MaCleay who'll see a majority of the starting minutes at the four. MaCleay is more of a typical power forward, so it really could come down to the matchup to decide who gets the nod. Along with Hass, Foulland, and Hoffman or MaCleay, Ryan Frazier is a guy that will likely be a staple in the starting lineup. A Senior, Frazier has earned his playing time through his hard work that is visibly obvious on the defensive side of the floor. Stephen Brown could likely be the starting point guard for the Bison this season. Just a Sophomore, Brown logged a lot of minutes last season as a Freshman. He has the experience and definitely the tools, a great athlete who can run the offense, shoot the ball, and play great defense. Zach Thomas is yet another talented Sophomore on this roster, and he could be in the starting lineup. He is very athletic and a great defender. There is a lot of talent on this team and only five starting spots to fill.
The thing that could come down to define this season for Bucknell could be this past offseason's departures. Coach Dave Paulsen left for the job at George Mason and took his staff with him. Paulsen, Dane Fischer, and Aaron Kelly are now all coaches on the staff. All three of those coaches were greatly liked by the players and it could definitely take some time for the Bison to straighten things out. The only coach that remains on Bucknell's staff is former Notre Dame players Ryan Ayers, brother of Cameron. Nathan Davis has replaced Paulsen as the guy in charge, and his assistants will be Paul Harrison, John Griffin, and Ayers.
Another key offseason departure was freshman standout JC Show. The 2014 recipient of Pennsylvania's Mr Basketball Award decided to take his surplus of talents to Binghamton University in the offseason. Show will be hard to replace for the Bison, as he is a great kid, leader, and player. He offered some quality minutes off of the bench last season and he could have potentially cracked the starting lineup this season. It will be interesting to see who fills Show's void, as it will take someone who offers a lot on both sides of the ball.
All things considered, this could be a great year for the Bison. As long as they adjust to the new coaching staff, this team should have no problem making their way to the Patriot League Championship. They have a dominant young big guy with tons of potential surrounded by a bunch of guys who can shoot the ball and play defense. On top of all of that, they have quite possibly the best player in the league. There is a decent chance that the Bison could be cutting down the Nets and heading for March Madness at the end of the season.