LEWISBURG As the victories accumulated for the Bucknell Bison, so did the comparisons to the successful?Bison NCAA?tournament teams of the past.
The 2005 and 2006 teams that won tournament games in back-to-back seasons, beating Kansas and Arkansas, were the reason several of the current Bison selected to come to the Lewisburg campus.
Senior G.W. Boon was a Kansas fan the year Chris McNaughton and the No. 14 Bison shocked the No. 3 seed Jayhawks in what is often called one of the greatest upsets in tournament history. Months later, Bucknell came knocking on Boon's door and he didn't need an introduction to the program.
"I was a Kansas fan when they beat Kansas so I was cheering against them," said Boon from Harvest, Ala. "I was really upset about that win but when they came out and knocked on my door the next summer to try and recruit me, I automatically knew who they were so I knew they were a team and a program about winning."
Boon knows the history of those Bison teams, but he's been reminded about them this season with stories from fans wanting to reminisce and when Charles Lee returned to Sojka Pavilion earlier this season during the annual alumni game, Boon told Lee of the comparisons. That's when the former star stopped the current Bison player and said this year's team needed to build its own legacy and make its own history.
"I told Charles we hear a lot about the hype when they went to the tournament and he stopped me right there and was like no, no, no, no, no," said Boon. "He said we did what we did because we looked at what they did before and we acknowledged it and then we were like forget that, it's our time and we are going to do this for ourselves and our teammates.
"That's what we decided to do this year. We acknowledged that they had some great teams in the past, but this our team and this is our legacy and we are going to keep riding it with this championship and the games that are yet to be played."
The next game is Thursday in Washington when the Bison play No. 3 Connecticut at 7:20 p.m. in the Verizon Center.
Lee's teams had success against a couple of Big East teams, winning at Pittsburgh and at Syracuse in back-to-back regular seasons. Boon's team is 0-2 against the conference this season and is still looking for a win over a Top 25 program.
But it's easy to see why people want to compare these teams. Both dominated league opponents the 2005 and 2006 tournament teams lost just three league games in two years and went undefeated in 2006 while the this year's team lost just one league game. The 2006 team won 27 overall games, a school record. The 2011 squad became just the second team in school history to win 25 games.
Both teams featured a rarity a skilled big man. McNaughton led the mid-2000s teams while Patriot League player of the year Mike Muscala makes the headlines now. Shooters helped spread the floor whether it was John Griffin and Kevin Bettencourt or
Bryson Johnson and Boon. Defense became a staple of each unit and both had a defensive player of the year Abe Badmus in 2005 and Bryan Cohen this year.
Cohen, like Boon, didn't know much about the Bucknell program until that memorable victory by the 2005 team and a run-in with someone with that locker room.
"I knew John Griffin and the year after they beat Kansas I was at an AAU game and he came parading around with his Bucknell shirt on," said Cohen. "I really didn't know that much about Bucknell then, but after that day he let me know where that program was and I've been following it ever since."
Cohen has followed the lead of the Patriot League coach of the year this year in Paulsen and Griffin took direction from the 2006 coach of the year Pat Flannery.
Both teams resembled their leaders and played with passion. Each had a focus that didn't allow them to look too far ahead or too far in the past. And they both were fearless and played with a confident, but not cocky, swagger.
A victory in the NCAA tournament stands as the dividing factor. The 2005 team made good on its first opportunity. Now it's time to see if the 2011 edition can follow and the if the comparisons will continue.