Those who know about college basketball will tell you that it's the stuff behind the scenes that makes a player great, that allows him or her to be successful on the court and over the long term.
Oh, but most everything is behind the scenes for Mike Muscala, a Roseville High School product who was skipped over by the Gophers and who now leads mid-major Bucknell -- a team rarely on national TV -- with 19.4 points and 11 rebounds a game. He is the only player in the country, in fact, averaging at least 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Quietly, Muscala has cobbled together a résumé that has earned him three All-Patriot League selections and has been projected to go in the second round of this year's NBA draft on some mock draft sites after improving on his already-impressive junior season.
Muscala attributes his increased success in part to things he took away from the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., where he attended a camp with players who were working out for the NBA draft.
"I think my confidence grew just from being there and playing against some of the players," Muscala said. "But also, I think, just taking care of my body ... little things that I hadn't thought of being a junior in college."
Muscala stopped eating fast food completely and started cooking for himself -- making big batches of food on off-days and storing them to eat throughout the week. He started paying visits to the training room on a regular basis, rather than just when he had an injury.
"I always kind of viewed the training room, before I went to IMG, as a place to go if you're hurt," he said. "But now I can of view it more as a place to recover and get your body right."
As a result, Muscala is able to get more out of practices, he said, and recover more quickly from weight training. And with another year of experience to boot, his stat sheet has improved several ticks, all the way across the board. Muscala leads the Bison not just in points and rebounds, but also blocked shots (43) and assists (50), while tying for the national lead in number of double-doubles per game.
And when the stage is there, he's ready for it. In Bucknell's 66-64 loss at then-No. 12 Missouri on Jan. 5, Muscala exploded for 25 points and 14 rebounds, completely outplaying Tigers center Alex Oriakhi and nearly leading the Bison to a victory before Muscala stepped out of bounds with the ball with three seconds to play.
But the Bison should get more opportunity for the bright lights with other Patriot League heavyweight Lehigh -- which the Bison play for the first time this week -- losing its best player, preseason All-America C.J. McCollum, to a foot injury, possibly for the rest of the season. That injury makes Bucknell (15-3, 2-0 Patriot) a likely bet to win the league and get the NCAA tournament automatic bid.
"We were very frustrated to lose that game," Muscala said of the Missouri setback. "But I guess one thing we can take away from that is at least it wasn't the last game of our season. So hopefully if we get back to the tournament in March, we'll be able to learn from that game, hopefully get a win."
• An unassuming man in a wheelchair rolled his way into the adoring conscience of basketball lovers across the country last Saturday by fearlessly allowing himself to be wheeled to the middle of the North Carolina State court after the Wolfpack downed then-No. 1 Duke. The man, Will Privette, was tipped out of his chair in the hubbub, then quickly carried to safety by star forward C.J. Leslie. The event has already spurred custom-made T-shirts printed with "Roll Pack" and a wheelchair.
• N.C. State cannot seem to win the game following the big game. Before last Wednesday's matchup at Maryland, the Raleigh News & Observer's Joe Giglio noted that in 13 N.C. State victories over Duke or North Carolina since 1994-95, the team had lost the following game 12 times. History repeated itself once more as unranked Maryland upset the Pack by a single point.
• Michigan State coach Tom Izzo has expressed concerns from the start of this season about the challenge of replacing not just the physical hole from Draymond Green's graduation but the leadership role he vacated. Now that demand has been unearthed again after what started out as two players "needling each other" -- as Izzo said -- at the team hotel at Penn State turned into a fight in which punches were thrown, police were called and a wall was dented. "You've got to have leadership when people aren't watching," Izzo said. "It's still a problem for this team."
• Going into Tuesday, Wisconsin had won 10 in a row over Indiana. This time, however, it seemed that the visiting Badgers -- who looked early on as if they might have a down year -- would no longer have the strength to beat the talented, second-ranked Hoosiers. But true to form, Wisconsin made an early run in the second half to close out victory No. 11.
BIG TEN POWER POLL
1. Michigan: The Wolverines are no longer undefeated, but that's bound to happen in this league.
2. Indiana: Don't second-guess the Hoosiers based on the Badgers loss. They deserve their ranking.
3. Wisconsin: I didn't see this coming, but the Badgers are the last undefeated team in the conference. It's been fairly impressive.
4. Ohio State: Beating Michigan made this team intriguing, as we finally got to see the grit we've been looking for.
5. Gophers: It doesn't seem so far away that this team is ready to play with the elites in the league.
6. Michigan State: Post-Minnesota, the Spartans have taken care of business, but show me an impressive victory.
7. Illinois: Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Without the Illini's shots doing the same, they've dropped three straight. Panic time?
8. Purdue: I'm withholding judgment until we see how the Boilermakers fare against Michigan next week.
9. Iowa: With Indiana, Michigan and Michigan State, it has been a tough stretch. Next up, Wisconsin.
10. Northwestern: I can't take too much from a victory over Illinois at this point. Too many variables with that team.
11. Nebraska: Their style isn't always fun to watch, but they'll trip a team up with it along the way.
12. Penn State: Mama said there'll be games like this, there'll be games like this, Mama said.