It didn’t take long, as we already have our first standout of the NCAA Tournament. In the first set of games, Bucknell Bison senior Joe Willman emerged as a star during his breakout performance in Bucknell’s first round loss to the Butler Bulldogs.
With Butler playing stifling defense on Bucknell’s leading scorer Mike Muscala, Willman stepped up his game. Willman appeared to be the only player on the floor for Bucknell in the first half that was capable of scoring, as he scored more than half of his team’s 14 first-half points. In the second half, it was Willman that led a run that gave the Bison the lead, and had the nation thinking that the tournament’s first upset was about to commence. Ultimately, Willman did not receive enough help from his teammates against a suffocating Butler defense, but the one player that the Bulldogs could not stop was Willman.
For the game, Willman scored 20 points, which is twice his season average of 10, making 10 of his 16 field goals. He also collected six rebounds, dished out two assists, and blocked three shots, making him the ultimate stat stuffer for the Bison. In the midst of Bucknell’s second half run, Willman was a trending topic nationally on Twitter, as the country quickly became enamored with the fiery red-head from Bucknell, hoping he would be able to lead the Bison to victory and become the next great Cinderella team in the NCAA Tournament.
Sadly, Willman’s extraordinary effort was not enough to propel the Bison to victory, and as quickly as we all learned his name we are likely to forget it. But for a brief moment in time, Willman made his presence in March Madness felt, and had everyone watching at home learn his name; and by doing so, he became the first of many shining stars we’ll see over the next three weeks.
Bryan Zarpentine is a New York Mets writer at RantSports.com. He also writes frequently about the NFL, College Football, College Basketball, and International Soccer. Follow him on twitter @BZarp and add him to your network on Google+.