Duke vs Lehigh: Prediction

March 14th, 2012

(2) Duke vs. (15) Lehigh: South Region

 

Records

Duke 27-6, 13-3 ACC (At large)

Lehigh 29-7, 11-3 Patriot (Conference Tournament Champions)

 

Time: 7:15 p.m. Friday

 

TV: CBS

 

Location: Greensboro Arena in Greensboro, N.C.

 

Winner will face: (7) Notre Dame or (10) Xavier, Sunday

 

Rankings

Duke No. 8 AP; No. 8 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll

 

RPI Ratings

Duke 5

Lehigh 100

 

Line: Duke -12½ (O/U 148)

 

Players to Watch

 

Duke: G Austin Rivers, 6-4 Fr. (15.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.1 apg); G Seth Curry, 6-2 Jr. (13.4 ppg, 2.5 apg, 39.4% 3s); F Ryan Kelley, 6-11 Jr. (11.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 40.8% 3s). Rivers was the only Duke player named to either of the first two All-ACC teams after a freshman year that saw him lead the Blue Devils in scoring and leading them to a win over rival UNC with a 29-point performance that included a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer.

 

Lehigh: G C.J. McCollum, 6-3 Jr. (21.9 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 3.5 apg); F Gabe Knutson, 6-9 Jr. (12.1 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 50.2% FG); G Mackey McKnight, 6-0 So. (8.3 ppg, 3.7 apg, 1.1 spg). McCollum is a 2-time Patriot League Player of the Year and probably the best undiscovered player in the country. The junior, who is fourth-leading scorer in Patriot League history, will the Hawks to the NCAA bid with 56 points, 13 rebounds, 11 assists and five steals in semifinal and final wins over American and Bucknell, respectively.

 

Why Each Team Dangerous

 

Duke: The Blue Devils have great balance and depth. Eight Devils average at least four points and seven play 20 minutes per game. Duke guards the perimeter well. It holds opponents to 31.7 percent from the 3-point line, which could be a key against McCollum and crew. Rivers is an excellent 1-on-1 player and he’s proven to be clutch, even as a freshman. Kelly and Mason and Miles Plumlee give Duke diversity and toughness. The Devils get to the foul line 21.6 times per game and score 23.1 percent of their points from the charity stripe.

 

Lehigh: Good things happen almost every time McCollum has the ball in his hands. He can shoot, get to the rim and create for his teammates. He’s also clutch, knocking down a 3-pointer at the buzzer to win at Bucknell in the regular season, then putting up a 29-point, 3-rebound, 5-assist, 3-steal, 2-block performance against the Bison in the Patriot championship game. He’s similar to Stephen Curry, who led Davidson to the Elite 8. He’s not quite the scorer Curry was, but he’s a better rebounder and a better playmaker. Knutson gives the Hawks a solid inside option. Lehigh turns the ball over just 11.7 times per contest. It also plays excellent defense.

 

Why Each Team is Vulnerable

 

Duke: Duke is young and average in a lot of areas of the game. The Devils shoot just 45.8 percent from the field. They have just a plus-2.9 rebounding margin. Their assist-to-turnover ratio is just 12.5-to-12.2 and their turnover margin is just plus-0.7.

 

Lehigh: The Hawks shoot just 44.9 percent from the field and 35.7 from deep, and they are an average rebounding team. Aside from Knutson, Lehigh doesn’t have a lot of size and shot selection is an issue at times. The Hawks assist on just 51.2 percent of their field goals.

 

The Bottom Line: In the end, Duke has too many matchup advantages for me to take Lehigh outright, but I certainly don’t count the Mountain Hawks out. McCollum is too good for anyone to take this win for granted.

 

The Pick: Duke 80, Lehigh 75

 

 

Greg Against the Spread This Season: 198-150-6 (Through Tuesday, March 14)