(2) Duke vs. (15) Lehigh Preview
Senior NBA & College Basketball Editor
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(2) Duke Blue Devils
The term rebuilding might as well not even be in Duke’s vocabulary. They’re much more familiar with reloading, which is exactly what they have done after losing Kyrie Irving, Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler to the pros last season. Led by dynamic freshman Austin Rivers, son of Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers, the Blue Devils have one of the nation’s most potent offensive attacks. They average 79 points a contest; Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee average double figures along with Rivers. Kelly missed the ACC Tourney with a right foot injury but is expected to be ready for the opener. The Blue Devils rely heavily on the three-point shot since Mason and his brother Miles are their only true low-post threats. Although they’re not the best defensive team that Mike Krzyzewski has coached, the Blue Devils are solid on that end of the floor. On the year, they’re holding the opposition to 43 percent shooting from the field and 31 percent from beyond the arc. Beating them will require a lot of discipline, strong perimeter defense and the ability to hurt them on the glass. They are a viable threat to get to New Orleans and cut the nets down.
(15) Lehigh Mountain Hawks
After finishing a game behind Bucknell in the regular season, the Mountain Hawks knocked them off in the conference tournament final to take the Patriot League’s guaranteed spot in the tournament. The win against Bucknell marked their 12th victory in their last 13 tries and eighth straight overall. Junior guard C.J. McColloum has been a prolific scorer since he was a freshman and is averaging 21.9 points this season along with six rebounds and three assists. As a team they possess solid depth, score 76 a night and give up 65. The Mountain Hawks played Michigan State tough in December, giving them confidence in their ability to play against the best. Pulling off an upset, which would be their first tournament victory in school history, will require the Mountain Hawks to be competitive on the glass and get a big effort from someone other than McCollum, whose scoring is a given. Gabe Knuston, who had 23 points against Bucknell, could be that guy. The Mountain Hawks lost both their games against RPI Top 50 teams in the regular season.
HOOPSWORLD’s pick: Duke. The Blue Devils’ guard play is going to be too tough for the Mountain Hawks to overcome.
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