Preview: Army vs. Lehigh

The eighth seed Army Black Knights (14-14, 4-10 in Patriot League) will meet the top seeded Lehigh Mountain Hawks (19-10, 10-4 in Patriot League ) in the first round of the Patriot League tournament Wednesday night at Stabler Arena. Lehigh is probably the most difficult matchup in the Patriot League for Army.

The Mountain Hawks have dominated the Black Knights in the two meetings this year. Lehigh beat Army by 18 at Christl Arena and 12 at Stabler Arena. It is a match up of the league's best offensive team Lehigh, scoring 75.4 ppg, against the league's best defensive team Army which allows 60.9 ppg.

The Match ups:

Lehigh is the best offensive team in the Patriot League. They average 75.4 points per game and have the most balanced scoring team in the league with four of their five starters averaging double digits. 6-7 forward Zahir Carrington averaged 20 points in the two games against Army this year while hitting 15 of 21 shots (71.4%) from the field. Carrington has played his best games against Army and presents a huge match up problem for the Black Knights.

Marquis Hall their senior guard averages 11.3 per game and is a terrific point guard. Hall sports an excellent 2.6 assist to turnover ratio. C.J. Mc Collum, a 6-3 super freshman guard, benefited from playing with Hall. Mc Collum led Lehigh in scoring with 18.8 ppg while hitting 43.4% of his shots from beyond the arc. Lehigh's other impact freshman Gabe Knutson is a 6-9 forward who has provided scoring in the low blocks (10.0 ppg) while hitting 51.7% of his shots. The other player in the three guard offense is 6-4 senior Dave Buchberger. Buchberger doesn't look to shoot (5.8 ppg) often but when he does he hits .462% of his shots and nails .419% from three point range.

Army has lost eight of their last ten games because of their consistent shooting woes. Army relies on Cleveland Richard, Julian Simmons and Josh Miller for their scoring. Richard has consistently scored in double digits but Simmons and Miller have struggled the last month. Simmons is Army's best pure shooter but he's been hampered by a late season illness. Army need him to regain his shooting touch from three point range (42.6%) if they hope to pull the upset. Miller went through a horrible shooting slump hitting only 1-of-19 three point attempts over a long nine game stretch. Miller hit two late three pointers in the loss against Bucknell. Army fans hope that recent success will restore Josh's confidence. He can be a difference maker as he was in leading Army, with 25 points, in a tournament win over Lehigh two years ago.

Army need to bring its best defensive game to compete with Lehigh. As mentioned earlier it's a difficult match up for Army. The Black Knights had the best three point defense in the league this year but have struggled defending the perimeter the last two games as opponents have hit 50% (21 of 42) beyond the arc. Lehigh hit 43.2% (16-37) from three point range in the two games this year.

Army played the first contest without last years Patriot League Defender of the year Marcus Nelson who missed the game with a ankle injury. Nelson only played 17 minutes in the second game. Nelson, a superb man on man defender, is Army's best chance to keep McCollum in check. With Army struggles scoring of late its best weapon might be the Patriot League tournament jinx they hold over the Mountain Hawks. Army has defeated Lehigh and knocked them out of the Patriot League tournament in the first round the last three years. While I am obviously rooting for the jinx to continue, I expect Lehigh to prevail due to the Black Knights chronic offensive struggles

In the other games # 2 seed Bucknell, the most balanced team in the league, has the best point guard and has won eight over their last ten games. The Bison should beat #7 Holy Cross at home despite the fact the Crusaders match up fairly well against Bucknell. # 3 seed Lafayette high powered offense is led by three players; forwards Jared Mintz (14.6 ppg), Ryan Willen (12.0 ppg) and guard Jim Mower (13.7 ppg) should advance past #6 Colgate. In the four/five match up American and Navy are two teams going in opposite directions. I think Navy will have trouble stopping 6-9 scoring machine Vlad Moldoveanu. American should win. In the semifinals I expect Lehigh to defeat American and Bucknell to beat Lafayette. In the Patriot League final I think Bucknell will upset Lehigh. Enjoy the tournament.

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