Lafayette's Tony Johnson, Bucknell's Mike Muscala are Patriot League's best

A moment before the first drill of Monday's late-morning practice, Bucknell's Mike Muscala grabbed the other six players in the rotation for a quick lecture about the importance of focus leading up to today's Patriot League championship game.

"I walked away, looked at one of my assistants and said, 'This is awesome,' " Bison coach Dave Paulsen said. "It took a while, but it is what is needed."

Muscala is an underappreciated superstar and a reluctant vocal leader, but he has recognized the need for his guidance this season.

Similarly, Lafayette guard Tony Johnson has finally received the message from coach Fran O'Hanlon and teammates that his shot is needed as much as his steady, calming influence.

"Tony is a maestro at the point guard position," Paulsen said. "And he doesn't miss."

There is little coincidence that Bucknell and Lafayette are the league's two best teams right now because they have the two best players — by a wide margin.

The two collide at 7:30 p.m. for the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Their performances and leadership will be center stage (and on the CBS Sports Network screen) for all to dissect.

It is hard to believe that both seniors won't play out of their minds, which should lead to a highly entertaining game.

Even they recognize each other's skills.

"It's tough when there's a 7-footer blocking shots, altering shots," Johnson said of Muscala. "The main key is to limit what he does in there."

Muscala, who leads the nation with 21 double-doubles, is the only player in school and league history to have at least 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in his career.

He averaged 28 points and 15 rebounds in the two regular-season meetings this year with Lafayette.

"Hopefully, we can change that number, and I don't mean by him getting 31 points and 18 rebounds," O'Hanlon said in jest.

There's been nothing humorous to Lafayette opponents of late. Johnson has averaged 20.8 ppg the last eight games with 38 assists and 64.2 percent efficiency from the field in that span.

In short, he's been near flawless during the Leopards' unexpected run to the final.

Another aspect that makes these two players so likable is they checked their egos at the college dorm room four years ago.

Both prefer a light-hearted approach to leadership over the barking, in-your-face attitude. Both could care less about their gaudy statistics. They would without hesitation trade them in for a championship.

So their efforts today will be out of love and respect for their teammates, not in spite of them.

"It's kind of like a battle of wills," Paulsen said. "Lafayette plays in such a rhythm with Tony directing the show. Same thing for us. You can contain Mike, but you're not going to shut him down.

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