Category archive: Lehigh Mountain Hawks

While other coaches are preparing to evaluate high school talent at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Lehigh coach Brett Reed is in Los Angeles for the ESPYS.

He got to L.A. on Tuesday and went out with local alumni who wanted to talk basketball, specifically Mountain Hawks basketball.

This probably wouldn't have occurred had Lehigh not beaten Duke in the NCAA tournament's second round last March in one of the two most significant upsets of the tournament (the other being Norfolk State over Missouri).

Lehigh, a small, private school in Pennsylvania, is drawing some buzz for the upcoming season.

Here are five ways the win over the Blue Devils affected the program:

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C.J. McCollum
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesC.J. McCollum returns to Lehigh after averaging 21.9 ppg in 2011-12.

1. C.J. McCollum is a coveted player. McCollum, who scored 30 points and dished out six assists versus Duke, is one of the top returning guards in the nation. He quietly declared for the NBA draft, but was never seriously going to stay in the draft. Reed said McCollum simply wanted to find out where he stood from the NBA's Advisory Committee.

"We got a lot of feedback,'' said Reed. "He would have been a valued draft pick in one form or another. He didn't do any workouts. He didn't get specific feedback from an organization but from the NBA.''

McCollum, a 6-foot-3 rising senior, then spent time at the Chris Paul, Kevin Durant and LeBron James camps. And in each of those stops, he faced great competition. "His confidence level is naturally high, but it continued to be positive,'' Reed said. "C.J. can play the point at the next level.''

2. The schedule nightmare Schools like Lehigh, from lesser-known conferences, struggle to get high-profile nonconference games after a successful season. And if most of their players return and they have a potential All-American (McCollum), the schedule is even tougher to fill.

"A lot of people are shying away from us, even when they need a game in July,'' said Reed. "They don't want to address the need in playing us.''

Reed said he still needs four games, but he has a few potential power-rating matchups. Lehigh will be in the Pitt pod for the NIT Season Tip-Off. The NIT is the one November/December neutral site-bound tournament in which the semifinalists aren't set. So, Lehigh could get to New York if it beats Pitt (the other teams are Fordham and Robert Morris). The other three "host pods" are at Kansas State, Virginia and Michigan.

Lehigh will open the season at Baylor in an attempt to give New Orleans/Houston transplant Mackey McKnight a "home" game. And just prior to the Patriot League season, the Mountain Hawks will play at VCU.

Games at Pitt, Baylor and VCU that should help bump up the RPI. Winning at least one would help.

3. Improvement of McKnight McKnight has spent the summer working on his shooting mechanics. He has increased his percentage in each of his two previous seasons, from 34 to 44 percent overall and 32 to 36 percent on 3-pointers. The 6-foot sophomore guard, who plays next to McCollum in a small backcourt, has already seen improvement this summer. Lehigh is also banking on Jesse Chuku, a 6-foot-7 forward from London, to make an impact. He tried out with the Great Britain national team which earned a host bid for the Olympics.

4. Interest in the program Reed doesn't go to L.A. without the victory over Duke. And the alumni certainly wouldn't be requesting to see him without that win. The overall buzz doesn't exist on campus if it weren't for the team's run in March.

"Promotion of basketball has grown,'' Reed said. "We have significantly improved our visibility. There is an alumni pride that is evident. We are using different metrics to look at it in terms of the alumni connections. This has been a good year for Lehigh athletics.''

5. Motivation for not winning the league The Duke win and subsequent loss to Xavier shouldn't cloud the fact that Lehigh didn't win the Patriot League's regular-season title. It had to beat league champ Bucknell on the road to earn the NCAA automatic berth.

"We didn't win the league, and we have respect for our other opponents in the league, and that will help drive us and stop us from being entitled,'' Reed said. "We want to win the regular season. Hopefully once we step back from this notoriety, it will fuel us to stay grounded and stay ultra-competitive in our league. We will be in for a dogfight to win and that should motivate us.''

The repercussions from Norfolk State's win over Missouri and Lehigh's win over Duke -- the first 15-over-2 upsets in the NCAA tournament in over a decade -- are still being felt like tremors across both campuses, both leagues and both bank accounts for each of the head coaches.

Just one win, even if it's just in the NCAA tournament's round of 64, has enormous consequences for a school that doesn't normally sit on this stage.

"It has created some very positive reactions for our department as well as our institution," Norfolk State athletic director Marty Miller said. "We've been recognized by the city of Norfolk. It gave recognition to the city. The students became more enthused about the programs."

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Kyle O'Quinn
AP Photo/Nati HarnikNorfolk State will have to survive without its star, Kyle O'Quinn.

Miller said the Spartans' upset of 2-seed Missouri has increased interest in all sports on campus. Putting a dollar figure on the improvement can't be measured just yet, but Miller anticipates an increase in all season tickets in all sports.

And that's not the only thing increasing. Miller had to pay head coach Anthony Evans, too.

Evans previously had one year remaining on this contract, but said he received a five-year contract extension and his salary went from a modest $125,000 to the range of $180,000 to $190,000.

Evans said recruiting has already changed. The visibility of the win put Norfolk State on the map, when it may not have been recognized by recruits before the upset. NSU isn't suddenly getting higher-level recruits, but within its sphere, the Spartans certainly have more name recognition than in the past.

"There were a number of calls that we weren't getting early on, but since we came back from the tournament they are pursuing us instead of us having to do it to them," Evans said.

"The enthusiasm has been incredible. Everyone seems to be smiling here all the time now. The faculty, the staff, the students, there have been great responses from everyone."

Up at Lehigh, head coach Brett Reed said there hasn't been a formal contract offered, but there are new terms being discussed. He said he's optimistic that he will have a new deal.

The Mountain Hawks, like the Spartans, have had an enthusiasm uptick for their teams after their tourney win over Duke in Greensboro, N.C.

"There is a greater awareness of the university as a whole," Reed said. "It's tangible. There were 8.4 million who watched the game live. I was sent newspaper articles from Baton Rouge and Los Angeles where Lehigh was on the front page. That's major for our institution."

Reed said there was also an alumni connection that occurred with the win.

"They were like rock stars and anyone who had a connection to Lehigh felt great about their experience, even if they never participated in sports," Reed said.

The shelf life could be short, though. Take it from Fang Mitchell of Coppin State, the dean of MEAC coaches whose Eagles also pulled a 15-2 upset out of the MEAC, defeating South Carolina in 1997.

"I don't know if it becomes as big in terms of people remembering it," Mitchell said. "We've won three out of the [MEAC's] six [NCAA tournament] victories and I don't think people recognize that. But if you do mention that we're in the same conference as Norfolk State that can help in recruiting right now.

"But people get amnesia quick. We need to keep having those big-type wins. It won't help me. It might help Norfolk."

Evans is trying to schedule up and take advantage of the March momentum. He said he has Illinois, Seton Hall and Iowa on the schedule.

He also said he's confident the 34-point loss to Florida in the round of 32 doesn't taint the history that happened two nights earlier.

"No one gave us a chance in [the Missouri game]," Evans said. "Every time the matchup was announced, we weren't even mentioned. We played with nothing to lose. We were Cinderella and that will be remembered more. We don't talk about [the Florida game]. The Missouri win was something historic."

The problem for Norfolk State is that its most recognizable player is gone. The Spartans lose senior center Kyle O'Quinn, who scored 26 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in the upset of Mizzou.

"It was great, though, having Kyle play so well at Portsmouth and being the MVP of the Portsmouth [NBA] Invitational," Evans said. "People will see that we had an NBA player, and that could attract others."

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C.J. McCollum
AP Photo/Chuck BurtonC.J. McCollum's draft stock was soaring after the upset of Duke, but he decided to stick with Lehigh.

As for the Mountain Hawks, they still have a future NBA player.

Lehigh returns C.J. McCollum, who could have decided to enter the NBA draft and been a likely first-round pick, but instead decided to return for his senior season after averaging 21.9 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists a game. He scored 30 points and had six rebounds and six assists in the five-point win over Duke. McCollum scored 14 points and had eight boards in the 12-point loss to Xavier two days later.

The Mountain Hawks also bring back second-leading scorer Gabe Knutson, fourth-leading scorer Mackey McKnight and key contributor B.J. Bailey.

"We have a strong nucleus back," Reed said.

Lehigh is looking at a game at Baylor and Reed said there are a few other options to get games against major-conference teams. The Mountain Hawks no doubt will be the favorites in the Patriot League and with McCollum will generate quite a bit of buzz with NBA scouts hanging around gyms every stop on the schedule.

So Lehigh has a chance to stay nationally noticeable, while Norfolk State will have a tougher challenge.

But regardless of what the 2012-13 season may bring, the Mountain Hawks and Spartans will always have that one unforgettable night of March 16 -- a night that still resonates six weeks later and likely will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

At this time last year, Ben Hansbrough's name didn't appear on the Wooden Award preseason watch list.

Five months later, he edged out Connecticut's Kemba Walker for Big East Player of the Year.

Using that as a backdrop, let's remember that the list of 50 Wooden nominees is flawed, much like any of the award lists. The Wooden Award does not allow its voters to nominate any freshmen or transfers (either four-year or junior college) on their ballots.

And with college basketball as loaded with talent as any year since 2007-08, narrowing it down to 50 is not easy. So below I've attempted to come up with the names that didn't make it, either as "just missed the cut" omissions or just because they're freshmen or transfers. These guys aren't on the list (which can be found here), but might show up when it's updated during the season.

This group is by no means definitive, either. There's no telling who else might emerge nationally as the games get under way.

Let's take a look …

The omissions (in alphabetical order):

Julian Boyd, Long Island: The Blackbirds are the favorite again in the Northeast Conference and the main reason is because Boyd is back and ready to dominate the stat sheet.

D.J. Cooper, Ohio: The diminutive point guard does a little bit of everything; he averaged 15.8 ppg, 7.5 apg and 5.0 rpg for the Bobcats last season.

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Duke's Seth Curry
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesSeth Curry hasn't done enough to warrant a mention on a preseason watch list, but he might end up being a Wooden addition.

Jared Cunningham, Oregon State: Cunningham has some of the best hops in the sport and a chance to be a Pac-12 star, allowing the Beavers to finally move up in the standings this season.

Seth Curry, Duke: Curry was a standout shooter for the Blue Devils on their trip to China and could be one of the top scorers on the team.

Brandon Davies, BYU: Davies was recently reinstated to the Cougars, and the offense is expected to flow through him inside and out as BYU mounts a campaign to win the WCC in its first year in the league.

Matthew Dellavedova, Saint Mary's: SMC coach Randy Bennett envisions this as one of the best teams he's ever had, but a lot of that will have to do with whether Dellavedova can shoot like Mickey McConnell did last season.

Greg Echenique, Creighton: Echenique was a rebounding force for Venezuela this summer and should do even more for the Bluejays with a full season to work with.

TyShwan Edmondson, Austin Peay: The Governors should be the favorite in the Ohio Valley with a legit scorer like Edmondson, who has a strong man, Will Triggs, to take pressure off him.

Kyle Fogg, Arizona: Fogg is next in line to assume a leadership position for the Wildcats, who are in a position to compete for Pac-12 titles for years to come.

Kevin Foster, Santa Clara: As a sophomore, Foster sort of came out of nowhere to average 20.2 ppg and become one of the nation's top 3-point shooters.

Chris Gaston, Fordham: The Rams aren't any good, but the nation's leading returning rebounder (11.3 rpg) at least deserves a shout-out in this space.

Yancy Gates, Cincinnati: UC coach Mick Cronin said he'd be surprised if Gates wasn't one of the 10 names on the Big East preseason first team.

Malcolm Grant, Miami (Fla.): The Hurricanes have to play most of the season without big man Reggie Johnson, so Grant will have more opportunities to shine.

Rob Jones, Saint Mary's: Jones could be a double-double regular for the Gaels, and for Saint Mary's to win the WCC, Jones will have to be a star.

Doron Lamb, Kentucky: John Calipari says Lamb will be the Wildcats' best player. Just Coach Cal mind games, or the truth?

Meyers Leonard, Illinois: Leonard didn't contribute a whole lot as a freshman, but he was a hidden gem on the U.S. U-19 team in Latvia this summer. The Illini are expecting big things out of him.

C.J. McCollum, Lehigh: McCollum is the nation's leading returning scorer (21.8 ppg) and is in the top five in steals (2.5 spg). Oh, and he did that as a freshman. What more do you need to know?

Cameron Moore, UAB: The Blazers have been consistently good under Mike Davis and have had unheralded C-USA stars. Moore is the latest.

Toure' Murry, Wichita State: If the Shockers win the Missouri Valley over Creighton, a lot of the credit will end up going to the veteran Murry.

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Ryan Pearson
Rafael Suanes/US PresswireRyan Pearson looks to lead Mason to another run to the NCAAs.

Brandon Paul, Illinois: Illini coach Bruce Weber was a bit surprised Paul didn't crack the top 50 on the Wooden list, given his overall importance to this team.

Ryan Pearson, George Mason: The Patriots are a trendy pick for the Top 25 and a lot of that has to do with the versatility of Pearson.

Damier Pitts, Marshall: The Thundering Herd are a real sleeper to gain an NCAA tourney berth out of Conference USA in large part because of Pitts.

Herb Pope, Seton Hall: Pope has come back from multiple life-threatening situations and has a real shot as a senior to put it all together and finally shine.

Terrence Ross, Washington: The Huskies can't be dismissed as a major player for the Pac-12 title, and if they win it, Ross will be a significant reason why.

Robert Sacre, Gonzaga: Sacre has matured into a solid post player, and that progress shows no signs of stopping as the Zags once again compete for the West Coast title.

Mike Scott, Virginia: If the sleeper Cavs mount a run to the NCAA tournament, the oft-injured Scott will be the reason why.

Renardo Sidney, Mississippi State: If Sidney is in shape and plays up to his potential, he has SEC Player of the Year potential and could be the difference between the Bulldogs making the NCAAs or NIT.

Andrew Smith, Butler: The Bulldogs will have fewer stars this season, but Smith has a chance to outshine Khyle Marshall and newcomer Roosevelt Jones with his scoring prowess in the post.

Chace Stanback, UNLV: Stanback's suspension to start the season is only one game, so that won't diminish his ability to lead the Rebels in their hunt for a Mountain West title.

Raymond Taylor, Florida Atlantic: FAU quietly won the Sun Belt East Division last season and Mike Jarvis' diminutive point guard was the catalyst behind the regular-season championship.

Hollis Thompson, Georgetown: If the Hoyas are to make the NCAA tournament again and be a pest in the upper half of the Big East, then Thompson needs a breakout season.

Kyle Weems, Missouri State: Doug McDermott is the one everyone is talking about in the Valley, but let's not forget that Weems is the reigning MVC Player of the Year. Too bad for the Bears he's their only returning starter.

Kendall Williams, New Mexico: The sophomore guard was the leading scorer in four postseason NIT games for the Lobos and should only get better with the addition of Australian Hugh Greenwood.

The transfers

Dewayne Dedmon, USC: Trojans coach Kevin O'Neill firmly believes this JC transfer is an NBA talent who could dominate the post and average a double-double for SC.

Arnett Moultrie, Mississippi State: The former UTEP big man is ready to have a bust-out season for a team that has serious bounce-back potential after a disappointing 2010-11 campaign.

Mike Rosario, Florida: The former Rutgers scoring guard finally has plenty of support around him and will put up numbers for a winner.

Rakim Sanders, Fairfield: The Boston College transfer should flourish after dropping down a level, and he should get coach Sydney Johnson another trip to the NCAA tourney. Johnson is beginning his first year at Fairfield after leading Princeton to the 2011 tourney.

Royce White, Iowa State: White is finally ready to be a star on the college scene after multiple transgressions at Minnesota.

Brandon Wood, Michigan State: The Spartans picked up a rare senior transfer (taking advantage of the graduate transfer rule) from Valparaiso who could be one of the best shooters in the Big Ten.

Tony Woods, Oregon: The embattled Woods arrived from Wake Forest after legal issues and has a chance to really shine as a double-double player for the first time in his career.

The freshmen

Bradley Beal, Florida: Beal has a chance to be a productive player in a frontcourt that has a vacuum after multiple seniors departed.

Gary Bell Jr., Gonzaga: Coach Mark Few has been anticipating Bell's arrival for over a year now. He's expected to step in and deliver right away.

Wayne Blackshear, Louisville: The Cardinals fancy themselves a Big East title contender, and that's partly because they consider Blackshear a star in the making.

Jabari Brown, Oregon: Brown was the star of the Ducks' trip to Italy with his scoring prowess, and expect that to continue in the Pac-12.

Jahii Carson, Arizona State: There is some question right now as to Carson's eligibility, but if he's good to go, the Sun Devils might become relevant in the Pac-12 again.

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Anthony Davis
Brendan NolanThere seems to be little doubt that freshman Anthony Davis will have a major impact for UK.

Erik Copes, George Mason: Copes was bound for George Washington before Karl Hobbs was fired; now he'll be a headline performer for the Patriots and first-year coach Paul Hewitt.

Anthony Davis, Kentucky: Davis has a chance to be the SEC Player of the Year and the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, so expect him to be on the midseason list when freshmen are allowed.

Andre Drummond, Connecticut: He will be an immediate star and help lift the Huskies into the national title chase again. He's more than likely a future top-five pick in the NBA.

Myck Kabongo, Texas: Coach Rick Barnes has had quite a bit of success with big-time freshmen guards, and Kabongo is next in line.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky: Gilchrist will be another star on what will be a headline team throughout the season.

Johnny O'Bryant, LSU: Coach Trent Johnson needs the Tigers to start trending upward again, and he has a shot with the arrival of the big man from Mississippi.

LeBryan Nash, Oklahoma State: OSU is a bit of a mystery team in the Big 12, but the All-American from Dallas could push the Cowboys into contention.

Austin Rivers, Duke: Rivers will have the ball in his hands quite a bit and appears to be the next Duke star in a lengthy list of recognizable names.

Josiah Turner, Arizona: The Wildcats will win the Pac-12 regular-season title if Turner is as good as advertised.

Cody Zeller, Indiana: If coach Tom Crean is going to turn the Hoosiers into a relevant team this season, it will be because of Zeller and his impact in the Big Ten.