By Lucas Gulotta, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Greensboro Coliseum Complex (23,500) -- Greensboro, North Carolina. Television: CBS. NCAA Tournament Record: Lehigh 0-4, Duke 96-31. Series Record: Duke leads, 4-0.
GAME NOTES: The 15th-seeded Lehigh Mountain Hawks will try to take down the second-seeded Duke Blue Devils in a South Regional matchup in the second round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
Lehigh earned an automatic bid to the Big Dance by taking down a very talented Bucknell Bison team in the Patriot League Tournament title game. The Mountain Hawks have built up a lot of momentum and are riding an eight-game win streak. Coach Brett Reed has gotten the most out of his team this season, as it set a program record with 26 wins. What might be even more impressive is none of Lehigh's losses have been by more than nine points, despite squaring off with top-notch programs such as Michigan State, Iowa State and St. John's. The Mountain Hawks led the Patriot in scoring offense with an average of 76.2 ppg while holding their opponents to 65.1 ppg. Lehigh is very good at defending the three-point arc, which will be crucial against the trigger-happy Blue Devils.
Duke comes in with the highest winning percentage of any program in NCAA Tournament action. The Blue Devils have won 14 of their last 15 opening games in the tourney as well. Coach Mike Krzyzewski is also the NCAA's all-time winningest coach in the NCAA Tournament. Krzyzewski led his Blue Devils to a 27-6 overall record and a second-place finish in the Atlantic Coast Conference this season, and will be looking to add his fifth NCAA Championship trophy to his collection. Duke is very similar to Lehigh as it has a strong offensive attack that averages 77.5 ppg. Duke relies heavily on three-point shooting for its offensive production.
This will be the fifth meeting between Duke and Lehigh, and the Blue Devils have won all four previous encounters. The most recent meeting occurred on Dec. 2, 1996.
Despite being a mid-major program, the Mountain Hawks have one of the best guards in the nation in C.J. McCollum. The junior earned his second Patriot League Player of the Year award this season after finishing fifth in the country in scoring with an average of 21.2 ppg, while also leading Lehigh in rebounds and steals. Junior forward Game Knutson is the team's second option as he is posting 12.1 points and 5.5 caroms per contest. Mackey McKnight directs the offense and has handed out 4.3 assists per game over his last 20 bouts, while Holden Greiner provides a spark off the bench.
McCollum will have his hands full as he faces the Blue Devils' dynamic backcourt duo of Seth Curry and Austin Rivers. Curry, like his older brother Stephen, is a lights-out shooter with the ability to catch fire at any time. Rivers is a crafty, shoot-first point guard. Mason Plumlee provides support from the forward position with a team-high 11 double-doubles on the year. Forward Ryan Kelly, who is the team's third-leading scorer, missed the ACC Tournament with a right foot sprain. His return is expected, but there is no promise he will be 100 percent and in the flow of things right away.
This Lehigh team isn't going to be a pushover like some of Duke's recent NCAA Tournament-opening competition. The Blue Devils have a more talented and tested team, but this one will go down to the wire if McCollum is able to get it going early. Duke really struggled to stop Florida State's Michael Snaer this season, who is a similar player to McCollum. Kelly's return and full effort will be needed to ground the Mountain Hawks.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Duke 73, Lehigh 67
03/16 10:46:50 ET
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