Basketball Scouting Report: Lehigh
Two games, two wins, an average of 88 points per game. Army's offense hummed with efficiency and potency at the start of the 2014 Patriot League season, a delightful turn of events for head coach Zach Spiker and staff. The challenge is now to make that output reasonably sustainable – enough, at any rate, to stay ahead of most competitors and make a run at the league title. Many college basketball teams don't mesh until February, so Army needs to ride this hot streak as long as it can. If teams such as Bucknell continue to labor through January, the Black Knights can build a cushion the next few weeks and gain leverage in the race for a favorable seed in the Patriot League Tournament.
The Mountain Hawks have enjoyed their most fruitful period as a program over the past four years under current head coach Brett Reed. Thanks to the brilliance of guard C.J. McCollum, Lehigh made two of its five NCAA tournament appearances in that span of time. The Mountain Hawks also won an NCAA tournament game for the first time ever, and they made it count. Lehigh joined the list of 15 seeds to beat a No. 2 seed, dumping Duke in Greensboro, N.C., in the round of 64 in 2012. The Mountain Hawks nearly became the first 15 seed to reach the sweet 16, but they lost to Xavier in the round of 32. Florida Gulf Coast became that history-making Sweet 16 team one year later.
Now, though, McCollum is no longer around, which means Lehigh is starting from scratch. The Mountain Hawks are coming off an opening two-game Patriot League swing in which they defeated Colgate in double overtime but then lost to Boston University by a point. Lehigh fits with the rest of the Patriot League in that this is a conference marked by parity. Blowouts aren't going to be the order of the day, and the league tournament is ripe for all sorts of surprises as far as seed matchups are concerned. (Accordingly, seeing any one result might not actually register as much of a shock – teams in this conference appear to be evenly matched right now.)
Center – Tim Kempton – Freshman, 6-10, 225 2013-14: 13.7 points per game, 6.7 rebounds per game
Does this name sound familiar? It should. This Tim Kempton is the son of the original Tim Kempton, a center who carved out a 12-year NBA career from 1986 to 1998. Carrying almost a "14 and 7" average as a freshman isn't too shabby. This is the centerpiece of Lehigh basketball for the coming years.
Forward – Jesse Chuku – Sophomore, 6-8, 225; 2013-14: 10.2 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.5 blocked shots per game
You can see that Lehigh owns a lot of size. Chuku is another underclassman frontcourt player who is appreciably productive. His shot-blocking ability at 6-8 tells you that he possesses solid defensive instincts.
Forward – Shane Whitfield – Freshman, 6-7, 210; 2013-14: 4.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg
Whitfield averages fewer minutes than any other Lehigh starter. He's gained as many minutes as he has because teammate Conroy Baltimore has been out with an injury over the past few weeks. Baltimore is trying to make his way back to the lineup, so Whitfield's role on this team might be reduced as January moves along.
Guard – Corey Schaefer – Junior, 6-1, 175; 2013-14: 9.9 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.7 assists per game
Schaefer does just enough of everything to blend into Lehigh's structure at both ends of the floor. He's not a dynamic player, but he enables this team to function on both offense and defense. He knows he's not the volume shooter on this squad, so he gets out of the way for the next player on this list:
Guard – Mackey McKnight – Senior, 6-0, 170; 2013-14: 14.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 5.8 apg, 1.9 steals per game
McKnight doesn't shoot the lights out – he hits only one third of his threes, and his overall shooting rate is just 40 percent. Yet, he is this team's leading scorer and the player who gets the rock in late-game situations. Army has to make McKnight uncomfortable and ensure that if he does take a lot of shots, they're not good ones.
In what is an eight-man rotation at the moment, Lehigh's primary reserve is freshman guard Austin Price, who averages 9.6 points and 1.1 steals per game.
Keys to the Game
1) Continue to attack on offense. Army hit 26-of-40 two-point field goals in its 91-82 win over Loyola (Maryland). The Black Knights earned 28 foul shots, hitting 24 of them. That kind of offense is sustainable and can win on the road. Let's see if Army can deliver such a performance.
2) Don't allow McKnight to get too comfortable. McKnight will shoot the ball; Army simply has to make sure McKnight isn't shooting comfortable and uncontested shots.
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