Lehigh Mountain Hawks
2012-2013 Overall Rank: #76
Conference Rank: #1 Patriot
Lehigh spent the 2011-2012 campaign in a great battle with Bucknell for the Patriot League title. It is largely forgotten now, but Lehigh lost that battle. Bucknell returns as much talent as the Mountain Hawks, so it should be another thrilling conference race. However, Lehigh beat Bucknell when it mattered most in the conference tournament and earned the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. What they did once they got their will not soon be forgotten, as C.J. McCollum and company sent Duke packing in the second round. McCollum is back for his senior season after averaging 21.9 points 3.5 assists, 6.5 rebounds and 2.6 steals during the 2011-2012 campaign. McCollum is the heart and soul of this team on both ends of the floor and while the 2012 NCAA Tournament may be tough to top, McCollum has the ability to make 2013 an even more memorable March.
2011-12 Record: 27-8, 11-3
2011-12 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Brett Reed
Coach Record: 94-63 at Lehigh, 94-63 overall
The problem the Mountain Hawks will run into this season is depth in the frontcourt. Jordan Hamilton was a versatile forward who was the only player besides McCollum to start all 35 games in 2011-2012. Hamilton was not a big scorer, but he could shoot from long range and did some of the dirty work. John Adams started a handful of games and was a good rebounder for a 6-6 forward. Justin Maneri was the big body who could throw around his 6-9, 240 pound frame and eat up some fouls and space in the paint.
Coach Brett Reed does not need to ask for much from his trio of freshmen, but there are minutes to be had. Jesse Chuku and Justin Goldsborough, a pair of 6-8 forwards, fill the biggest need for Lehigh. Chuku has international experience playing on England’s Under-16 and Under-18 squads. With some time at prep school in New Hampshire, Chuku has enough experience to at least be able to provide some much, much needed frontcourt depth. Devon Carter, a 6-3 guard, is a big time scorer who will be a fine player when he gets the opportunity to play some quality minutes.
Who to Watch:
While Lehigh may have some concern over replacing the departed frontcourt players, this situation is quite familiar. A year ago Gabe Knutson, Holden Greiner and Mackey McKnight joined McCollum as returning starters. Those same four players are returning starters yet again and finding that fifth starter will again be Coach Reed’s little project. He did a fine job picking up Hamilton’s production last season. But as long as those four multi-year starters are on the floor, the Mountain Hawks will be a very dangerous team. Knutson is the inside presence and the secondary scorer behind McCollum. Knutson averaged 12.2 points and 5.6 rebounds during his junior campaign and also proved to be a dangerous shooter from 18 feet and out. With Knutson stretching out the defense and banging in the paint, McCollum is open a lot more than he should be. Greiner is another forward who can shoot. He will spend more time beyond the three-point arc than Knutson and connected on 1.2 three-pointers per game as a junior. McKnight will again run the point after dishing out 3.6 assists per game during his sophomore campaign. The most impressive thing about the four returning starters is their versatility. If Coach Reed finds a shooting guard he wants to plug into the starting lineup, McCollum can play the three, with Greiner at the four and Knutson at the five. If a big man appears more deserving of a starting nod, Knutson can play at the power forward spot with Greiner moving to the wing.
The options may be in Lehigh’s favor, but somebody still has to step up. Guards B.J. Bailey, Corey Schaefer, Anthony D’Orazio and Stefan Cyrkalj all bring something to the table. Bailey is a quality shooter and best suited to be a shooter off of the bench again this season. Corey Schaefer is the point guard of the future and performed well as a backup point guard during his freshman campaign. Unfortunately, he is not a great scorer at this point in his career, so there is not much need for him in the starting lineup unless Lehigh really needs a secondary ball handler on the court. D’Orazio is an experienced junior, but has yet to find his shot during his time in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Cyrkalj is the most intriguing choice. The sophomore is a good shooter, but did not crack the regular rotation last season. The expectations are still pretty high for Cyrkalj and he could be a player who really shines if he can beat out the rest of the guards and earn some minutes. Conroy Baltimore is another sophomore who did not see too action as a freshman, but is capable of at least seeing a large increase in playing time. Somebody will step up and fill the spot in the starting lineup and others will provide more than enough depth for Lehigh to ride their four stars back to the NCAA Tournament.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Mackey McKnight, Junior, Guard, 8.8 points per game
Stefan Cvrkalj, Sophomore, Guard, 2.3 points per game
C.J. McCollum, Senior, Guard, 21.9 points per game
Holden Greiner, Senior, Forward, 9.4 points per game
Gabe Knutson, Senior, Forward, 12.2 points per game
Madness 2013 NBA Draft Rankings:
#16 C.J. McCollum