Happy belated Thanksgiving to all. Below are 5 quick observations from LU’s first 5 games.
We’ll give you 3 Ups and 2 Downs, to match the LU record.
1.) CJ – It is hard to believe that CJ has gotten better, again, but that is what he has done for the Brown & White. It seems that once again the hard work in the offseason has paid off, because through 5 games CJ has not only met expectations but he’s exceeded expectations, which is hard to do with all the media coverage and All-American teams that he was placed on prior to the season tipping off. The fact of the matter is you’d be hard pressed to find a better player anywhere in the country. To me, the thing that has been startling is his efficiency, he has been getting what he wants whenever he wants it, and he is shooting 50% from the field and 50% from the 3 point line. Add 5 rebounds and almost 3 assists per game, and it is going to take an army to stop this guy. Every game LU plays for the remainder of CJ’s career, the best player on the court each night is playing for Lehigh.
2.) Other Starters – CJ’s primary associates need to have big years, and they’re all off to a good start in Mackey, Holden, and Gabe. Mackey looks to have picked up where he left off when we saw him last causing trouble for opponents in March, with the 3 point shot(43%) operating at a high level and ability to get the the free throw line. File this under the “Die You Know” column, but Mackey has gotten to the charity stripe 8 more times then CJ through 5 games, pretty impressive. The only area of concern with Mackey has been the turnovers, as he is averaging over 3.5 turnovers per game which is too many, but that is a small sample size and will turn itself around. Holden is off to a nice senior season, as he has been rebounding effectively with almost 6 a game, and has been shooting the ball at a good clip. Gabe does what he does, shoots high percentages from the field and the line, and is a smooth operator down low in the post. Putting up 15 ppg and 6 rpg, to go along with a block per game, what a treat it is to watch such a skilled post man operate in Knutson.
3.) Scoring – This team won’t have problems scoring the basketball this season, and is averaging 75 points per game through their first 5 games, which puts them right in-line with last year’s team average of 75.7. With CJ and the other big 3 starters mentioned above, putting up points shouldn’t be a problem. When BB comes back, it just provides another weapon in Coach Reed’s arsenal.
1 & 2.) Rebounding, Rebounding, Rebounding – What was the fear of many Lehigh faithful during the preseason has clearly been the major problem so far in the very early going, and it is a big enough concern that it will occupy both my “Downs” for the team through the first 5 games. The team has lost the rebounding battle in 4 of their first 5 games, and for the season is averaging 31.4 rebounds versus their opponents who have grabbed 39.2 boards per game, good for an almost negative 8 rebound differential. Now I know you have two BCS teams as opponents thus far, but if you take Baylor and Pitt out of the equation, the team is a minus 17 in the rebounding department in the 3 games versus other mid-major teams. That is a big red flag. Perhaps even more concerning is the fact that in all 5 games of the season the team has given up at least 11 offensive rebounds, and the team with only 11 was Baylor(a number that was so low because they had so many dunks/layups that night). An average of over 15 offensive rebounds per game by the opponents is difficult to overcome. The rebounding needs to pick-up for this team to get to where it wants to get to, as giving up a ton of second chance shots/points is a tough recipe to overcome night in and night out. The ineligibility of Jesse Chuku and the fact that the McCarthy open scholarship wasn’t used, means LU is playing down 2 schollies in the frontcourt, and that is certainly a factor when looking at the rebound differentials. In the preseason we talked about the team introducing more zone defense this year, and we’ve not seen a ton of zone so far this year, as LU has been running primarily M2M defense. Packing it in with a 2-3 zone might be something that can help the rebounding efforts, help minimize taller frontcourts offensive advantages in the post, while also potentially helping keep our bigs out of foul trouble.