LEWISBURG, Pa. -The Bucknell men's basketball team gathered with an enthusiastic standing-room-only crowd of family, friends and fans of the program Sunday evening at Lewisburg's Campus Theatre to watch the NCAA Tournament Selection Show and learned its postseason destination. The Bison earned the 11th seed in the East Region and will face sixth-seeded Butler in their opening game at 12:40 p.m. (Eastern) Thursday at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky.
The Bucknell-Butler game will air on TruTV, with Ian Eagle and Jim Spanarkel on the call.
Bucknell (28-5, 12-2 Patriot League) earned an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament by winning last week's Patriot League Tournament title over Lafayette at Sojka Pavilion. The Bison are making their sixth NCAA Tournament appearance, and their second in three years. Bucknell also earned berths into the NCAA Tournament in 1987, 1989, 2005 and 2006. The Bison posted opening-round wins in 2005 vs. Kansas as a No. 14 seed and 2006 vs. Arkansas as a No. 9 seed and is 2-5 all-time in NCAA Tournament play.
"We are excited to be an 11 seed," said Bucknell head coach Dave Paulsen. "Most of the prognosticators had us as a 12 or 13, so I think our seed is a reflection of our body of work and what we accomplished this year.
"Butler is a terrific opponent. Brad Stevens is as good a coach as anyone in the country. A lot of what we do and what we want to be is modeled after Butler."
Bucknell, the Patriot League regular-season champion, has won seven games in a row and 12 of its last 13. It features four 1,000-point scorers on its roster, including two-time Patriot League Player of the Year Mike Muscala, who has piled up 2,027 points and 1,083 rebounds in his career.
Butler (26-8, 11-5 Atlantic 10) earned an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs finished in a tie for third place in the regular-season standings and advanced to the semifinals of the conference tournament before losing to eventual champion Saint Louis. They have had plenty of postseason success in recent years, advancing to the NCAA Championship game in both 2010 and 2011.
Thursday's meeting will mark the first time Bucknell and Butler have played.
The winner of Thursday's Bucknell-Butler contest will meet the winner of the Marquette-Davidson matchup in Saturday's third round.
Other games that will be contested in Lexington include Louisville vs. North Carolina A&T or Liberty and Colorado State vs. Missouri.
Bucknell's NCAA Tournament History
1987: #1 Georgetown 75, #16 Bucknell 53
1989: #2 Syracuse 104, #15 Bucknell 81
2005: #14 Bucknell 64, #3 Kansas 63; #6 Wisconsin 71, #14 Bucknell 62
2006: #9 Bucknell 59, #8 Arkansas 55; #1 Memphis 72, #9 Bucknell 56
2011: #3 Connecticut 81, #14 Bucknell 52