It had been 11 years since Hampton defeated Iowa State, marking the last time that a #15 seeded team was able to upset a highly glorified #2 seed. That is, until today. Just less than three hours after #15 Norfolk state beat #2 Missouri, #15 Lehigh shocked Mike Krzyzewski's storied #2 seeded Duke Blue Devils.
The Mountain Hawks had never won in the "Big Dance" with a previous record of 0-4. Not anymore.
The game was close, but there was a sense of control for Lehigh for the entire 40 minutes. The unquestionable star of the game was C.J. McCollum who scored 30 points on 47.5% shooting overall.
Duke's Coach K said it best, "They had the best player on the court tonight in McCollum. He's been their player of the year, and he's really one of the outstanding players in the country. You could see why tonight."
The Lehigh players had plenty to say about the confidence they played with today.
"It means a lot as a team, a family and as the Patriot League in general," C. J. McCollum said. "We wanted to come out here and protect this team and this family, get the win and we did that tonight."
Lehigh Forward John Adams, who added 7 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals, knew the upset was in their reach.
"We saw on the selection show we had Duke and we thought we could match up very well against them," Adams said. "We all believed it and we showed it on the floor. Everybody bought into that idea that we could beat them. The rest is history."
Ok, I'm done with the stats now. Lets talk about what's really going on here. College basketball has reached its highest level of parity to date. A lot of this is the result of two factors. One, smaller conference teams are getting better, and two, the truly elite players are only spending one year in college before they bail for the NBA. Big name schools are bagging big name players that don't stick around, causing short-term team synergy, while the second-tier programs are creating teams chock-full of quality seniors that are seasoned together as a unit. In my personal opinion, it lowers the level of quality play in the college game and removes the joy of seeing your favorite college names that you have grown to love play strong in the NBA. The silver lining is that it makes the tournament more unpredictable and, in turn, more fun to follow.
What will happen next in the tournament will be news to me. I know quite a bit about sports but I have no idea whats going to happen at this point.
I would say that in absence of another wild upset, Kentucky may have solidified their spot in the Final Four. Then again, the idea of Lehigh making a Final Four run might be the most awesome sight I have ever seen.
Oh what the hell, GO MOUNTAIN HAWKS!
#15 Lehigh 75
#2 Duke 70
#15 Lehigh will play #10 Xavier on Sunday for the right to go to the Sweet Sixteen.
The other score from the South Region today:
#10 Xavier 67
#7 Notre Dame 63
No question, this game was amazing. It just kind of lost out to the only other South Region game that happened today. #15 Lehigh did an amazing job against #2 Duke, but they have no time to enjoy the victory. It's time to prep for #10 Xavier, and it won't be an easy task.
The games to watch in the South this weekend:
Watch for #12 VCU to build on the upset over #5 Wichita State and roll through #4 Indiana. They may only be returning one starter from last year's cinderella team, but they still do a great job of dictating games and making other teams play on their terms. Also, #15 Lehigh won't be favored to beat * but after the big win over #2 Duke they're going to be ready to shock the world all the more. In 2012, the South Region is all about the upsets. Maybe #1 Kentucky does have something to worry about...
Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS