The Lehigh men’s basketball team went into this season with high expectations. It was often touted as the undisputed favorite to win the Patriot League and advance to the NCAA Tournament.
But the combination of a difficult schedule, injuries and other struggles put the Mountain Hawks (15-14, 13-5 Patriot) in a position they would have liked to avoid. After losing the first seven games of the season — as well as 10 of their first 12 — the team was in a tough situation going into 2016.
However, contributions from junior center Tim Kempton and sophomore guard Kahron Ross have led the team to finish its regular season with nine straight wins. As the No. 2 seed in the Patriot League Tournament, the Mountain Hawks must win in order to qualify for a larger stage known to many as March Madness.
If Lehigh wins the Patriot League and move on, it will be the first time doing so since 2012. That run will be remembered as the time Lehigh, the No. 15 seed in its quarter of the bracket, upset one of the most successful college programs in the nation, No. 2 seed Duke University. Though it would likely be difficult to repeat such a performance in the NCAA Tournament, the Mountain Hawks will have another chance to get into the Big Dance by winning the league tournament.
Lehigh men’s basketball: 2012 vs. 2016
It was four years ago that Lehigh was led to fame by star player C.J. McCollum, ’13, as his team was able to knock off Duke in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Looking at this year’s team, there are some startling similarities. Will this year’s Mountain Hawks be able to replicate, or even build upon, the success they enjoyed in 2012?
Lehigh vs. past Patriot League winners
Lehigh’s season included a first half of misery and a second half of prosperity. The season was largely one of two completely different halves. However, this year’s Lehigh team compares well to past Patriot League winners, leading in multiple categories such as field goal percentage and 3-point percentage. Though the team is slightly lower in its point differential and free throw percentage, it has made up for the deficit in other categories. One category that Lehigh has excelled at this year is assists — at 15.6 assists per game, it has distributed the ball better than any Patriot League winning team since 2005.
Patriot League Tournament No. 2 Seed History
The last time Lehigh won the Patriot League Championship it was the No. 2 seed in the tournament. The graphic to the left shows how far each No. 2 seed has made it in the Patriot League Tournament since 2005. Three No. 2 seeds have won the tournament, while seven out of 11 of them made it to at least the championship game.