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NCAA Tournament 2011: UConn Faces Bucknell In Bracket's First Round

The second round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament begins Thursday, with the Connecticut Huskies taking on the Bucknell Bison at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. at 7:20 p.m. EDT.

Matchup: No. 3 seed Connecticut (31-9) battles No. 14 Bucknell (28-8) in the second round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament. 

Date/Time: Thursday, March 17, 2011 - 7:20 p.m. EDT

Broadcast Information: Thursday night's match-up between the Huskies and Bison will be broadcast on TNT. Tim Brando, Mike Gminski and Lewis Johnson will serve as the broadcast team for Turner Sports.

Location: Verizon Center, Washington D.C. (20,600 capacity). The current home of the NBA's Washington Wizards, NHL's Washington Capitals and the Georgetown Hoyas.

Series History: Connecticut leads the all-time series 2-0 against Bucknell. The last time the two teams met was in 1953, when UConn posted an 80-64 win over Bucknell.

Odds: The opening line listed UConn as a 13-point favorite, while both 5Dimes.com and Bodog.com list the Huskies as 10-point favorites.

Connecticut In The NCAA Tournament: The Huskies have been to the NCAA Tournament a total of 30 times and boast an all-time record of 46-28 in the Big Dance. UConn owns two NCAA Tournament championship titles, winning once in 1999 and again in 2004. The Huskies have been to the Final Four three times, most recently in 2009.

Bucknell In The NCAA Tournament: The Bison have appeared in the NCAA Tournament a total of four times, but has never won a national championship. Bucknell owns a record of 2-4 in the Big Dance.

Road To The Big Dance: Connecticut had a roller-coaster season, opening the year with 10 straight wins before losing to Big East foe Pittsburgh, 78-63, on Dec. 27. The Huskies proceeded to win seven of their next eight games before falling to Louisville, 79-78, in double overtime on Jan. 29. UConn fell into a rut after that, dropping six of its next ten games against Big East opponents. Down but not out, the Huskies pulled off a miracle run in the 2011 Big East Tournament, rattling off an unprecedented five wins in five days to win the conference title and claim the Big East's auto-bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Bucknell began the season by losing six of its first eight games, but the Bison responded by winning 13 of their next 14 games, with their only loss in that span coming against the Boston College Eagles. Army topped Bucknell, 90-70, on Jan. 29 to snap the Bison's nine game winning streak. Bucknell closed out the season with seven straight wins. In the 2011 Patriots League Tournament, the Bison captured three wins against Army, Lehigh and Lafayette to emerge as the conference champions. 

Breaking Down Bucknell (via Sports Network):

Despite being only a sophomore, Mike Muscala made quite an impression on everyone in the Patriot League this season and because of that he was named the player of the year, just the third second-year player to earn the award. The Patriot League Tournament MVP, Muscala had a total of nine games this season in which he scored at least 20 points, watching his scoring average jump from 9.9 ppg a year ago to 14.9 ppg this time around. Even though his minutes increased less than three per game from his freshman campaign, Muscala's rebounding efforts also leaped from 4.9 per game to almost seven and a half per outing in 2010-11. Bryson Johnson was responsible for 11.7 ppg for the squad as he connected on an incredible 96-of-209 shots behind the three- point line, many times his shot being set up by Darryl Shazier (8.3 ppg) who handed out 185 assists and had a mere 49 turnovers. As a group, the Bison shot a very successful 40.2 percent from three-point range, much better than the opposition at only 31.5 percent.

Breaking Down UConn (via Sports Network)

Bucknell might have Muscala, but UConn has Kemba Walker who produced the third-highest scoring average in program history with 23.5 ppg and was one of the top scorers in the nation this year. A candidate for National Player of the Year and a finalist for both the Bob Cousy and Oscar Robertson Awards, Walker set a Big East Conference Tournament record with a staggering 130 points, although one has to remember that he produced that lofty total through five games. A starter in all 35 games for UConn, Walker not only scored a boat-load of points for the team, he also made sure to keep his teammates involved in the action with 150 assists, against just 77 turnovers. Many of those successful dishes found their way into the hands of Alex Oriakhi who contributed a modest 10.0 ppg towards the team's 73.6 ppg. More importantly, Oriakhi carried on the tradition of the intimidating big man in the middle for the Huskies as he provided 8.5 rpg and 58 blocked shots. Even though he is just a freshman, Jeremy Lamb (10.3 ppg) has also made himself into a scoring threat that Walker can feel comfortable sharing the ball with.

National Rankings: Connecticut, which is ranked No. 9/No. 19 in the AP Top 25 and ESPN/USA Today Coaches Polls, is 63rd in the country in scoring (73.4 PPG). In addition, the Huskies rank 11th in rebounding (39.6 RPG), 18th in field goal percentage (43.3%) and 157th in assists (13.1 APG).

Bucknell is not ranked in the AP Top 25 and ESPN/USA Today Coaches Polls. The Bison are ranked 121st in the nation in scoring (70.8 PPG), 101st in field goal percentage (45%), 55th in assists (14.7 APG) and 215th in rebounding (34.1 RPG).

Predicted Outcome (via Sports Network): Connecticut 79, Bucknell 63.

Be sure to grab a printable bracket as you settle in for Thursday's March Madness experience. Swing by SB Nation's NCAA Tournament hub for predictions, region previews and more.