The best point guards walk a fine line between playing with aggression and making too many mistakes.
Bucknell senior point guard Daryll Shazier appears to have figured out that delicate balance to become the top point guard in the Patriot League.
The 14th-seeded Bison may need Shazier to be at his mistake-free best if they want to pull off another stunner in the first round of the NCAA tournament. They will face third-seeded Connecticut (26-9), the Big East champs, in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.
At least statistically, there are few better in taking care of the ball, than Shazier, whose assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.78 (189 assists to 49 turnovers) is second in Division I only behind Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor.
"He's matured so much to be solid with the ball while still attacking. That's a fine line, to be aggressive but not to throw the ball away," Bucknell coach Dave Paulsen said Monday in a conference call from Lewisburg. "He's become much, much more a student of the game."
Defense is Bucknell's forte — the Bison (25-8) are 10th in the country in field-goal defense at 39.2 percent. But unlike those Bucknell squads that stuffed Kansas and Arkansas in first-round NCAA upsets in the mid-2000s, this version of the Bison can score, too — the Bison were second in the Patriot League in scoring at 70.8 points per game.
Paulsen gives much of the credit to Shazier, the senior who was a holdover recruit from former coach Pat Flannery.
"Head coaches have a very unique relationship with their point guard, certainly I do," Paulsen said. "I think we can only go as far as the young man will let you push him, and I've pushed Daryll very, very hard, and he's responded very step of the way."
The assists category gets a lift on the stat sheet with the help of 6-foot-11 center Mike Muscala, a sophomore who can post up or skip out to hit the mid-range jumper. He averaged nearly 15 points and seven rebounds and was the Patriot League player of the year.
And like a good point guard, Shazier is deflecting attention to teammates.
"A lot of times, I tell people that with assists, it takes two people," Shazier said. "Someone has to take the shot."
Shazier can score, too, averaging about eight points a game. He's led the Bison in scoring five times this season, shooting 35 percent from 3-point range.
And Paulsen called Shazier Bucknell's best on-the-ball defender. He may see some time defending Connecticut star Kemba Walker, though that task will primarily fall on Bryan Cohen, the Patriot League defensive player of the year.
"It's definitely going to take everyone on the team to stop him," Shazier said of Walker. "And I may have to pitch in also."
Spoken like a true, team-first point guard.