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Lehigh vs. Xavier Pick
It had been over a decade since a 15 seed sent a 2 seed packing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. It happened twice in a single day on Friday. The second team to do it, Lehigh (15), sent home the Duke Blue Devils (2). The storied team led by the legendary Coach K was dropped by a score of 75-70. Now Lehigh will face the Xavier Musketeers (10). Once ranked as high as #8 in the country, Xavier struggled through the latter half of the season and barely made the cut. They won their first game over Notre Dame (7) by a score of 67-63.
The Lehigh Mountain Hawks, champions of the Patriot League, showed no fear against the Duke Blue Devils. Senior John Adams said it best. "We saw on the selection show we had Duke and we thought we could match up very well against them," Adams said. "We all believed it and we showed it on the floor. Everybody bought into that idea that we could beat them. The rest is history." Facing Xavier will be yet another tough test.
The Musketeers boast one of the best back courts in America. Senior G Tu Holloway was a preseason All American and lived up to that billing by averaging 17 PPG and 5.1 APG. He is a tremendous free throw shooter at 86.6%. He played incredibly well against the Irish, going 10-15 for 25 points.
Holloway is complimented by junior Mark Lyons. A young man full of swagger, Lyons is good for 15.5 PPG. He came up big in an overtime win against Dayton by scoring 20 points. When they are confident and playing their best ball, the Muskies are a force to be reckoned with.
It will be the duty of the Mountain Hawks C.J. McCollum to go head to head with Tu Holloway. McCollum had no problem against Duke and will be equally fearless against Xavier. McCollum averages 21.9 PPG, 6.5 RPG and 3.5 APG. He crushed Duke for 30 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists. Fellow junior Gabe Knutson will be the Robin to McCollum's Batman. Knutson had 17 important points and cleaned the glass for 8 rebounds against the Blue Devils.
Xavier has shown the ability to beat some of the best teams in America. They downed Purdue, Vanderbilt and Cincinnati early in the year. Despite that, the Musketeers are also capable of losing to some of the worst teams around. That was shown when they reached a season low by losing to Hawaii in the Maui Invitational.
Lehigh shouldn't be taken lightly. They lost by nine points on the road against Michigan State, a team that would go on to win the Big Ten and earn a No. 1 seed. The Mountain Hawks also won 18 of their last 21 games.
This game features two teams with nothing to lose. That should make for some of the best basketball of the NCAA Tournament. But don't expect Lehigh to sneak up on Xavier. That cat is out of the bag. Xavier -3.5
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