Dave Paulsen's first year at the helm of Bucknell was a rough one. The Bison won four games in the Patriot League and seven total and finished their season by being knocked out of the opening round of the conference tourney. In his second year though, he had a 6-10, 210 pound freshman named Mike Muscala. That year Muscala averaged 10 points, 5 boards, and led the league in blocked shots. Muscala was named 2nd team All Conference and the team improved to 14-17.
As a sophomore Muscala had added 10 pounds and his play improved. A lot. He was named the Conference Player of the Year. Bucknell went 25-9 and finished their season in the NCAA Tournament.
Two years later and he's still improving, having beefed up to around 6-11, 240. In year three they repeated as regular season champs, but were knocked off by Lehigh in the Patriot Tourney, and this year they're tied atop the league and have an 18-4 record. Bucknell has already beaten Purdue and came within a possession of beating Missouri. If they can get Lehigh the 2nd time around than the regular season Patriot League title will likely be their's. Some would argue that anything less than regular and post-season Patriot League Championships would be a disappointment, but I'm not here to argue that. I'm here because of Muscala.
It's a rare treat in the college game to get to watch a star develop over the course of four years. Bison fans have been blessed. They play in a 4,000 seat gym and have gotten to watch one of the top players in the nation from up close.
I took a look at how he has developed as a player in those four years. First up is this chart:
The red line is his offensive rating over the four years, and the green line is the percentage of possessions he uses when he's on the floor. Not only has his offensive rating improved every season, but he's also been called on to take over more of the offense with each season. So he's not only becoming more efficient, but he's doing it while increasing his role as well. He now uses nearly 33% of Bucknell's possessions, which is more than all but six college players nationally. As a senior he's made 53% of his 2s, draws 6.8 fouls per 40 minutes, and makes 78% of his free throws. He's also an elite offensive rebounder, and is the best in the conference grabbing 12.6% of his team's misses.
The great thing about his development is that it transcends scoring. That's what all players want to do – they want the ball and they want to score. Muscala does that. But he also works on the other things.
Here, the red line is his defensive rebound%. He's the 8th best rebounder in the nation, grabbing 28% of the misses when he's on the floor. That means nine other players are dividing up the other 72%. And his assist rate (green line) has improved every season as well. He's 10th in the Patriot in assist rate, and none of the other nine players are taller than 6-4.
So, Bison fans, snatch up those tickets to any remaining home games. It's going to be a while before another player like Muscala comes around.