#15 Lehigh Mountain Hawks vs. #10 Xavier Musketeers -3.5
Today, we get the down side of all the “upset excitement” of the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Everyone loves the upsets and everyone loves the Cinderellas, but today the nation will tell the truth about their love of Cinderella when they vote with their remotes. Duke versus Notre Dame moves the dial. Xavier versus Lehigh? Um… exactly. Not so much.
Alas, Cinderella gets to dance with a partner who has played their fair share of upset darling in tournaments past, before advancing past “mid-major darling” and evolving into a legitimate perennial tournament fixture. In fact, over the last five years, Xavier has more NCAA Tournament victories than all but seven schools in the country. A pretty impressive feat for a tiny Jesuit college nestled in the hills of Cincinnati, Ohio.
However, their story is nothing when contrasted against the utterly improbably appearance of Lehigh in the Round of 32. No one gave them a chance against Duke, and for good reason – Duke is so much better at every single position it is ridiculous, but apparently no one told the poised and focused kids at Lehigh. Did you SEE the way they reacted to the win? Most impressive thing I’ve seen all tournament. There was no mobbing of each other on the floor, no frantic mad dashes, no wild-eyed jubilation or tugging of jerseys for the cameras. They simply acted as if they expected to beat Duke and were now moving on to the next order of business. It was really awesome to see, and frankly a fascinating glimpse into the psyche of the Mountain Hawks. (By the way, that’s Lehigh’s nickname. Please don’t act like you knew that before reading this column…)
If Lehigh is to spring another upset victory, they are going to have to get another spectacular effort from two-time Patriot League Player of the Year, 6’3’’ guard C.J. McCollum. He had 30 points against Duke and was simply sensational. He will get quite a challenge from another sensation guard who put his team on his back in Round One, Xavier’s A10 Player of the Year, point guard Tu Holloway. If you need a reason to tune into this game aside from the fact the winner goes the Sweet 16 to meet Baylor, tune in for the best individual point guard matchup so far this NCAA Tournament. It should be fantastic.
The difference in this one, like in most eventual ends to Cinderella runs, isn’t the star players running out of gas, it is the better-seeded team’s depth and offensive diversity catching up with them. Xavier’s overall athleticism with Dezmine Wells and Robinson crashing the boards is something Lehigh can’t answer. Expect Xavier to create second shot opportunities and to be more effective rebounding and defending the rim. This line seems awfully tight at just three and a half points. I’d still like Xavier if this line was the 6.5 or 7 point line it probably ought to be.
Free Pick: Xavier Musketeers -3.5 <– click to bet it and get up to $2,500 in free bets