When your opening opponent is a team that's not on ESPN on a regular basis, you start with a few basic questions:
- Are they experienced?
- Do they have any size?
- Are they well-coached?
- Are they deep?
- Do they have a strong backcourt?
Starting at the top: they have a nice core of juniors and seniors. Like a lot of schools at their level, they're not huge: there is a 6-10 player listed on the roster but he doesn't show up in the stats. Gabe Knutson is 6-8 and averages 12.1 ppg and 5.5 boards. Justin Maneri comes off the bench; he is 6-8 and 240 and averages 3.0 ppg and 2.1 rpg.
Holden Grenier is 6-7 and 210 and averages 10 ppg and 4.9 rpg.
Lehigh's backcourt, though, is where they are dangerous, and in C.J. McCollum in particular can really take over a game.
McCollum, the nation's fifth-leading scorer, averages 21.9 ppg, also leads his team with 6.5 rpg and passes out 3.5 apg.
Backcourt mate Mackey McKnight (sounds like an anchorman's name) averages 3.7 apg.
And the coaching? Well, two years ago, they lost to Kansas in the tournament 90-74, which is respectable.
And this year?
They lost on the road to St. John's by five, Iowa State (a team which just took UConn out of the tournament) and Michigan State by nine.
They also beat Danny Hurley's impressive Wagner team by one.
They've played some very good teams already; there's no particular reason why they're going to be scared of Duke.
And in tournament play, smaller teams which have played together for a few years sometimes have an advantage over bigger teams which may not have.
Mismatches, though, work both ways: while Duke may spend a lot of time chasing small, quick players around, somebody has to guard Miles and Mason Plumlee. And that's not going to be easy.
The same goes for Lehigh's guards, who will for the most part face taller guards: Seth Curry is 6-3, Andre Dawkins is 6-4, Austin Rivers is 6-4. Even Tyler Thornton has a size advantage on McKnight.
The backcourt perimeter battle is going to be really interesting and it's hard to know how it'll work out since we don't know much about them defensively.
But here's something to consider. Ryan Kelly has opened the defense up because he pulls a tall defender away from the basket. In the last two games, that hasn't been there and Austin Rivers has shot 10-28 for 35%.
As we said, we don't know much about Lehigh's defense, but certainly it's not imposing in the same way that Florida State's and probably not as physical as Virginia Tech's.
For Duke, the key is obvious: cut off McCollum. If he is a minimal (or at least reduced) factor, Lehigh's path gets a lot narrower.
So they key player on defense? Tyler Thornton, naturally.
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