America’s team won’t die.
Lehigh’s historic upset over the most hated team in the nation has caused the squad to become everybody’s favorite Cinderella. The 15 seed out of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania emerged as contenders against Duke, but they must take care of business against Xavier before celebrating their opening weekend success.
Here are five reasons why the Mountain Hawks will fly through the Musketeers and into the Sweet 16:
5. Xavier’s Road Woes
While the game will be played at a neutral location, everyone in Greensboro will be rooting for Lehigh. The gangsters in the locker room vs. the school that eliminated Duke—it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the more likable ball club.
On the season, Xavier is only 5-7 on the road. The Musketeers won’t be the same team that the nation witnessed against Notre Dame because of the crowd.
4. Momentum is on Their Side
Lehigh hasn’t lost a game since February 9 . Over the course of their winning streak, they annihilated five teams and won their conference tournament. Oh yeah, and they upset the Blue Devils.
Xavier, on the other hand, couldn’t even win their conference tourney. Why? Because…
3. Superior Frontcourt
St. Bonaventure’s big man Andrew Nicholson straight up exposed the Musketeers sub-par frontcourt in the A-10 title. He dropped 26 points, hauled in 14 boards and on the defensive end, he recorded eight denials in the Bonnies’ victory.
Lehigh’s Gabe Knutson isn’t as talented as Nicholson, but he’s still capable of going off on Kenny Frease. Knutson is the Mountain Hawks’ second leading scorer and put up 17 points and eight rebounds against the Plumlee brothers.
2. They Don’t Need the Three
Most Cinderella teams live and die by the three, but the Mountain Hawks don’t at all—three-point shooting is actually a weakness of theirs. But believe it or not, their weakness proves just how talented of a team they truly are.
Despite sinking just six shots from downtown, Lehigh scored a whopping 75 points on the Blue Devils including 47 in second half alone. The reason why Lehigh isn’t handcuffed by the three-point shot:
1. C.J. McCollum’s Dominance
C.J. McCollum is too good.
Against a school that recruits the entire nation, McCollum blew up for 30 points, six dimes and six boards. The 6’3”, 190-pound 2-guard will enter the Mountain Hawks’ showdown with Xavier scorching. And you know after outplaying Austin Rivers and Seth Curry, he won’t lack confidence in a shootout with Tu Holloway.
McCollum will lead Lehigh to the Sweet 16 with another outrageous scoring effort.
David Daniels is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer.