This is Lehigh’s strength, and they’re led by CJ McCollum (average shooting line: 4/8 2FG, 2/5 3FG, 5/6 FT). The two NCAA teams in their comps both lost in the first round when their offenses were completely shut down – Vandy because they couldn’t hit a three to save their life (4 of 20), and the Zags because they couldn’t hit a two (12 of 37) or grab a rebound. I’m guessing it will be more of the latter case for Lehigh, assuming they run into an opponent with good D.
Lehigh’s going to have to hope they face a poor shooting team, so that their only real defensive strength – rebounding – plays an important role. Bracket Project puts them as a likely #16; their best matchup of the #1’s is probably HAHA I”M JUST KIDDING – Lehigh doesn’t have a chance no matter who it is.
Their ability to avoid turnovers is absolutely remarkable – they were first in the NCAA in TO%, and second place was the Seton Hall team shown above. The difference between the two was the same as the difference between Seton Hall and the 19th-best team. If they have even average rebounding, I’d be predicting them as very good upset pick.
Has Tom Penders been moonlighting as the head coach of Seton Hall the past few years? Maybe they were just forced into similar styles dues to personnel issues (both have relatively short teams)? At any rate, while the turnovers again look good, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that letting your opponent dominate the offensive glass is not a good indicator of tourney over-performance.
They can’t hit 3’s, so if they run into a good zone defense, or a team that is willing to clog the paint and dare them to shoot, they’re in trouble. Though they do get to the line a lot, so maybe they’ll just dribble headlong into the clog, and hope for whistles.
Before you get too excited, about these great comps, note that Vermont’s adjusted efficiency is far higher than the teams listed – one of the problems with my system is that most of the values are not adjusted for opponent quality. Still, this does at least show that the Catamounts have been playing a style that is conducive to tournament success – a containing, hand-in-the-face man defense that (probably) does a good job helping, so opponents get few open looks from inside. What’s surprising is that their low opponents 2P% is accomplished with an interior anchor that is only 6’8” tall (Evan Fjeld). I’m not sure that will work against taller major conference teams.