Lehigh engineered its way south for a 5pm tip. The game is being televised nationally on NBCSports Network.
Mountain Hawks are the nation's #1 three-point shooting team (44.8%)
and the #2 free throw shooting team (80.5%). They turn the ball over on
17.2% of their possessions, 26th best nationally. Lehigh's best win is
over Fairfield (#98) and is a top 70 RPI/KenPom team.
There are 32 NBA scouts and four NBA general managers representing 21 organizations expected in attendance. They are in the Siegel Center to see me Lehigh's
CJ McCollum, the NCAAs leading scorer, do his darndest against havoc.
McCollum is expected to be a lottery pick in next year's NBA draft.
Ken Pomeroy forecasts an 86-69 VCU victory, giving the Rams a 91% chance of winning by any score.
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five Things I'm Watching
1. Foul trouble: McCollum is the kind of player who can get whatever shot he wants, and point guard
Mackey McKnight (yes, I said Mackey McKnight) is a jet who finds open
men. Briante Weber and Darius Theus will have to be careful with reach
ins. I've got to think the best defense on McCollum is to make him take
tough shots. How much aggression is allowed by the officials matters. Plus, fouls lead to foul shots, and Lehigh is second in the nation in FT percentage.
Offensive rebounds: the one thing Lehigh does not do well is hit the
glass. The Mountain Hawks are 326th nationally, allowing teams to
rebound 38.8% of their own misses. VCU is 16th nationally, grabbing 39.7
of their misses. Simply stated–VCU has to win the offensive rebounding
battle, by a healthy margin. It also means fan-friendly tip-dunks.
Rob Brandenberg's explosion: Brandenberg is not 100%, and
his ability to explode to the hoop is a game-changer against a Lehigh
team that isn't particularly deep (think fatigue). Lehigh will play some
zone and the Rams will have to break it down by getting into the middle
of it or attacking from the weak side. Brandenberg is key for both
4. Troy's trigger finger: I'm enjoying the shooting gallery known as Troy Daniels as much
as anyone, but we all know he's going to cool down at some point. At
what point does he back off the bombs away? 0-4? 1-6? Never? Or, perhaps
he continues filling the hoop at a rate similar to the rate at which I
fill an all-you-can-eat buffet plate.
Rubber legs. Daniels played 31 minutes against FDU, but other than that
you have to go back to the Old Dominion game to find a game in which
someone played 30 minutes. I wonder how VCU comports itself in a tight
game with tired legs because they are playing extended minutes, and
longer rotations. This also matters greatly in scramble situations. VCU
is so doggone good in chaos, recovering nicely when the press is broken.
But you combine VCU tired legs with Lehigh's bevy of gunners and you
have a lethal mix.
We Don't Work For Free
McCollum (26.6ppg, 5.5rpg, 2.9apg) can shoot out to 25 feet but also
work his way free in the lane for tough midrange shots reminiscent of
Eric Maynor. McCollum plopped 36 points on Baylor and has the full
35-67 (52.2%) from three.
Mackey McKnight (12.7 ppg, 5.6 apg) is a very quick point
guard who forces the issue whenever he has the ball in his hands. Mackey,
though, averages 3.8 turnovers per game—high pressure with discipline is the
Gabe Knutsen (16.5ppg,
4.5rpg) is a 6-9 lefty and an absolute warrior. Knutsen does everything
hard and with purpose, the kind of player you hate but would kill to
have on your team. Knutsen can also hit threes when left open (9-17 on the year).
Others in the rotation:
Holden Greiner (10.8ppg, 5.9rpg) is an excellent three point
shooter (18-38) who plays hard and is more athletic than he looks. Anthony D’Orazio (4.2ppg) and BJ Bailey are solid role players that VCU cannot lose, especially in transition.
Conroy Baltimore (2.8ppg, 3.2 rpg) is a big, strong, 6-6 post player who crashes the boards hard. Corey Schaefer (4.4ppg) is a quick combo guard and Stefan Cvrkalj (5.6ppg) is a bomber–19-41 from three.
Cvrkalj is most impressive because he has seven letters in his last name and six are consonants.
matters in this game. There's the fun of havoc–backcourt steals that
lead to threes and Baja Bean nachos, passes to that really cool tuba
player in The Peppas. But the understated aspects of halfcourt havoc
must come to the forefront–taking charges, forcing bad shots, finding
shooters in scramble situations.
is a step up in overall competition and about four steps up in terms of
offensive prowess. Lehigh also takes care of the basketball–a 17.2%
turnover rate in 26th nationally. The VCU defense must show.
Upset Stomach Saturday at The Stu. Forcing Lehigh to become uncomfy and
turning those moments into points is a way of reaching down their
throats and ripping out their guts.