Lehigh team capsule
COACH: Brett Reed, three years at Lehigh, first year in NCAA Tournament
HOW THEY GOT IN: Automatic bid (Patriot League)
MATCHUP BREAKDOWN: There’s a reason the selection committee tabbed Kansas as the top overall seed — these guys are loaded. Lehigh freshman guard C.J. McCollum is special, but KU has a freshman guard, Xavier Henry, who was special this year in the Big 12, not the Patriot League. The rest of the Kansas cast, Sherron Collins, Cole Aldrich and others, makes this an impossible task for the Mountain Hawks, who really don’t have much of a chance. McCollum is always capable of getting hot, but against KU?
GO-TO GUYS: Freshman G C.J. McCallum was the first player ever to be named Patriot League Player and Rookie of the Year and scored 20 points as the Mountain Hawks beat rival Lafayette in the league title game to earn Lehigh’s fourth Patriot title, its second since 1988. McCollum has averaged 18.9 points per game, while hitting 81.3 percent of his free throws and 42.9 percent of his 3-pointers. Help in the title game came from senior F Zahir Carrington (18 points, 10 rebounds) and senior G Dave Buchberger scored 13. Senior G Marquis Hall is second on the team in scoring (11.0 per game).
THEY’LL KEEP WINNING IF: This team is 22-10 out of a weak conference, so the future is not bright. But the only way for Lehigh to make things interesting is to shoot the lights out, and they’re more than capable of lighting up the nets for a half. The defense might be a bigger key. Consider Lehigh lacks a true lock-down defender, the Mountain Hawks might have to settle into a zone look and hope for the best. In all six of the team’s losses (including one in overtime) since Thanksgiving, Lehigh allowed more than 70 points.
STRENGTHS: The Mountain Hawks can shoot, hitting 40 percent of their 3-pointers on the season, 45.6 percent overall. They hit their free throws and have more assists than turnovers. They have a Sporting News All-American freshman in McCollum and strong senior leadership. McCollum made 42.9 percent of his 3-point tries and has the quickness to escape snug defense. He’s hit 20 points in eight of his last 10 games entering the NCAA Tournament. In the other two, he had 19.
WEAKNESSES: Life as a low seed comes with innumerable pratfalls. Lehigh earned entry into the tournament by winning a grudge match with down-the-road rival Lafayette, but it hasn’t been tested by a big-name program for months. The Hawks hung around in the very first game of the season (65-53 loss to Richmond), but that was four months ago and Lehigh hasn’t been truly tested since besides a loss to Dayton.