Scouting the Griffs’ opponents: Bucknell
College basketball season is officially underway, for most teams anyway. The Canisius Golden Griffins don’t tip-off their season until Tuesday night when they travel to face an NCAA Tournament team from a season ago, the 1-0 Bucknell Bisons.
Bucknell pulled off an impressive come from behind victory on Tuesday night when they beat another Western New York school, St. Bonaventure 88-85 in overtime.
Coming into the game, the Bison were ten point underdogs but with a veteran group of players and the Bonnies missing their star player, an impressive overtime victory followed.
The Golden Griffins have the athleticism to match up to the Bisons fast-attacking guards, but the size Bucknell has inside could spell trouble for the Blue and Gold.
Senior guard Kimbal Mackenzie paced the way for the Bison on Tuesday, scoring 28 points on 10-of-15 shooting. He nailed four three-pointers and provided clutch free throws to seal the game in overtime.
I see Isaiah Reese matching up with Mackenzie to start the game. Reese’s length should hinder Mackenzie’s ability to get up uncontested shots off. He made 67 percent of his shots against the Bonnies largely due to that factor–if Canisius can contest every shot, the Kimbal Mackenzie that averaged 40 percent from the field his first three years at Bucknell will come out.
As mentioned earlier, I believe the Bisons size will play a monumental factor as to who wins this game. That size begins with 6’9 senior Nate Sestina. He opened the season with a double-double, scoring 15 points and pulling down 16 rebounds.
Sestina played sparingly his first three seasons, averaging slightly more than ten minutes per game–but everyone is aware of his talent being a Preseason All-Patriot League selection, the only player on Bucknell to receive that honor.
He was dominant down low against SBU and could not be stopped on the glass—this will be the test for the Griffs, with Jermaine Crumpton graduated who is going to step up when needed?
I’m intrigued by the rotation of big men Reggie Witherspoon has access to when attempting to replace Crump’s minutes. Early in the season coaches are working out kinks and settling into the best rotation that will ultimately make the team gel–so we may see Witherspoon go with the hot hand and not necessarily the presumptive ‘starter’ at the forward positions.
A Griff that easily has the size to matchup with Sestina and his 245-pound frame is junior Dantai St. Louis. At 6’8 240-pounds, he won’t be pushed around like the Bonnies were all night. That being said, St. Louis has never been able to crack Witherspoon’s rotation for a multitude of reasons. Will this year be the year he finally takes a step forward?
The likely scenario will be a handful of guys working to slow the Bison frontcourt down. Seniors Marcale Lotts and Jibreel Faulkner are the probably two, at least to start.
Sophomore guard Jimmy Sotos is another player that will need to be stopped in order for the Griffs to come away with the victory. Sotos was the first man off the bench in his freshman season but has been elevated to the starting lineup this year.
He scored 14 points and dished out seven assists against St. Bona, but he is careless with the basketball, something Canisius will need to exploit. Sotos had seven turnovers on Tuesday–pressure defense against him will make the turnover prone guard, well, turnover prone.
Bucknell plays another MAAC foe, Fairfield, on Saturday, so the Griffs will get one more look at their first opponent.
Stay tuned to MFST as we cover the Canisius Golden Griffins all season.