Lehigh-Duke Preview

To beat Duke, the Lehigh Mountain Hawks are going organic.

Or so says senior forward Jordan Hamilton.

”We’re well aware of Duke’s history and the prestige that

follows their program,” Hamilton said. ”But we kind of remove all

the hype surrounding it and I think that we’re able to approach it

from a more sort of organic perspective – approach it as just

another game.”

Sounds good, except an opening round contest is rarely just

another game for the Blue Devils.

They’re normally blowouts.

So the 15th-seeded Mountain Hawks will have their hands full

Friday when they take on the Blue Devils at Greensboro

Coliseum.

Duke pounded Hampton by 42 points last year in the opening

round. Arkansas-Pine Bluff lost to the Blue Devils by 29 the year

before that. Winthrop, Monmouth and Florida A&M have all

suffered 40-point losses to the Blue Devils and made quiet exits

from the tournament.

Duke, the No. 2 seed in the South, has won 14 of its last 15

opening-round games rather convincingly – by an average of 26.9

points per contest. The only hiccup came in 2007 when they stubbed

their toe against Virginia Commonwealth, 79-77.

Overall, Duke has won 25 of its last 27 first-round games under

coach Mike Krzyzewski.

But he’ll likely have to win this one without Ryan Kelly.

Krzyzewski said the 6-foot-11 forward will dress, but is not

expected to play against Lehigh as his sprained right foot he

injured in Duke’s regular-season finale is still not fully

healed.

That’s a tough break for Duke, which relies on Kelly’s outside

shot to create spacing on offense. The Blue Devils were forced to

adjust on the fly entering the ACC tournament and they looked out

of sync in a semifinal loss to Florida State.

”It’s changed some of our looks,” Duke forward Miles Plumlee

said. ”It’s not like we have put in anything too new; it’s just

different looks, focusing on different actions and getting the

floor spread even when we have two bigs in there.”

The Blue Devils lost three times this season at home and aren’t

considered as dominant as some teams Krzyzewski has brought to the

dance. But they’ve still been ranked in the top 10 all season.

That doesn’t seem to scare Lehigh coach Brett Reed, who said his

team is here for more than a cameo appearance.

The Mountain Hawks were in the NCAA tournament two years ago,

but lost to top-seeded Kansas 90-74 in the first round. Reed feels

like this time around his team has a different mindset coming

in.

”I think our goals go far beyond just participation,” Reed

said. ”Really our goal is to be a competitor in this tournament.

We have young men who have a great deal of confidence in

themselves, have a great deal of confidence in each other, and a

great deal of confidence in our system, and ultimately the things

that we’re trying to accomplish here.

”I think that confidence really can translate into something

that makes this tournament as special as it is and the reason it

has the moniker of March Madness. Because upsets happen – anything

can happen.”

True. But history is just not on Lehigh’s side.

Sure there have been No. 15 seeds that have advanced in the

tournament before, but Duke is one school that has managed to

discard first-round foes like a fast food hamburger wrapper –

especially when a high seed.

”Our coaches are great at preparing us for games,” Miles

Plumlee said. ”Regardless of the opponent, we respect each and

every one – and we’re just ready to play this game.”

If Lehigh is to pull what would be a monumental upset, they’ll

need a big game from the C.J. McCollum, the nation’s fifth-leading

scorer at 21.7 points per game. He had 29 points, five assists and

three steals during in the Patriot League championship and was

named the tournament’s MVP.

”Any time you’re top-five in scoring in the country, you’re

doing a good job no matter what level you’re at,” Duke guard Seth

Curry said. ”So he’s a great scorer and he has a lot of

responsibility on that team.”

Meanwhile, the Blue Devils will be looking to regain their touch

from the outside.

They shot just 5 for 20 from 3-point range in their loss to

Florida State last week and Curry has made only nine of his last 32

attempts from behind the arc. Lehigh is limiting its opponents to

just 32.4 percent shooting on 3-pointers.

The Blue Devils would also like to recapture the chemistry they

had two years ago when they won the national championship.

”That team that won, we were brothers that year,” Plumlee

said. ”And we got to play like that this year. We got to trust one

another, bring your A game for one another. You can’t let your

teammate down in any aspect of the game. That was the best thing

they had going for them that year.

”The seniors had each other’s back and we just followed their

lead. If we play like that, we’re going to do fine.”