ACC in the NCAAs: Scouting Duke vs. LehighPosted by KCarpenter on March 16th, 2012
Nate Wolters of South Dakota State and De’Mon Brooks of Davidson both got their chances to make their name known on Thursday, but both failed to lead their teams to the upset. On Friday, another batch of one-man offenses get their shot at making an impression. For Lehigh, C.J. McCollum is the guy. He takes 33.7% of the Mountain Hawks shots and thankfully converts the shots at a very efficient rate. He’s not just a scorer, though he does average 21.9 PPG, and he manages to pitch in with most statistical categories, averaging 3.5 APG, 2.6 SPG, and 6.5 RPG, which is all the more impressive when you consider that McCollum is only 6’3″. He’s a stud, completely capable of carrying his team when it needs him, and his team is going to need a lot out of him when Lehigh plays Duke.
Lehigh hasn’t beaten a single team that made the tournament. The Mountain Hawks’ best wins are a pair of wins against Bucknell, the regular season champions of the Patriot League. That’s it. The best that Lehigh can do, when trying to present evidence that the Mountain Hawks can hang with the Blue Devils, is mention that they lost to Michigan State and Iowa State by only nine points apiece. Lehigh has yet to beat, or even closely lose to a tournament caliber team. There is little reason to think that Duke won’t pummel the hapless Mountain Hawks. Yet, for the sake of argument, if Lehigh were to beat Duke, let’s think about what that victory would look like.
Lehigh can make threes, and, just as important, McCollum and the rest of the team aren’t shy about taking those chances. Duke has a bad reputation for shoddy perimeter defense this year, but over the last half of the season, the Blue Devils have actually done an excellent job running shooters off of the three-point arc. But who knows, maybe guys make mental mistakes and Lehigh gets hot. If the threes start falling, Lehigh stands a shot. Yet, when push comes to shove, that won’t be enough. Gabe Knutson, the Mountain Hawks’ second leading scorer and biggest player at 6’9″ will have to find a way to beat the Plumlees on both ends. Outside of Knutson, the Mountain Hawks really only have one other player who can bang with Duke’s bigs, 6’8″ Justin Maneri. Of course, the absence of Ryan Kelly (or spare minutes, I guess), is a big help to the otherwise undersized Lehigh.
A theoretical Lehigh victory has three key elements: big scoring games by McCollum and Knutson, contributions on defense by the team’s other players, and foul trouble for the Plumlees and Austin Rivers. If Lehigh can nullify Duke’s key edges and coax career-best games out of its two stars, the Mountain Hawks have a shot at the upset. When all is said and done, those are some big ifs. If Duke plays disciplined perimeter defense, avoids fouling, and gets solid contributions from the team’s role players, this game should be a walk in the park. A Lehigh victory isn’t impossible, but such a win would be near-miraculous.