This is going to be an outstanding backcourt matchup. McCollum put up 30 points in the win over Duke to go along with his six rebounds and six assists. The talented guard is very dynamic with the ball in his hands and has an extraordinarily high usage rate, meaning most Lehigh possessions run through him. He's just a decent 3-point shooter at 35 percent, but similar to Holloway, he's very good at creating space and hitting a shot off the dribble. The Mountain Hawks will let McCollum go to work off of a lot of high ball-screens, where he's not only very difficult to keep from scoring, but he can also set up his teammates and make them better. Holloway had a memorable performance in the first round to lead Xavier over Notre Dame. He finished with 25 points on 10-of-15 shooting, and made multiple big shots, including the game-winner, as he was bringing Xavier back in the second half. This matchup may actually come down to which one of these guys lets the game come to him and tries to keep his teammates involved. Both players are very talented and capable of taking the game over, but both also have the tendency to try and do too much.
McKnight is a smaller point guard with good quickness and some scoring pop to compliment McCollum in the backcourt. The sophomore came up big against Duke with two huge threes, and finished with 11 points. He's a 35 percent shooter from beyond the arc for the year, but he's made at least two in each of his last three games. He's also averaging 13 points and has scored double-figures in the last four games. McCollum has been getting all the hype, and rightfully so, but McKnight has made some big shots in the postseason so far. There's a good chance McCollum and Holloway are going to be matched up with each other, so expect Lyons to draw the assignment of McKnight. Lyons struggled a little bit from the field against Notre Dame and finished with just eight points. McCollum is going to be difficult to contain, so Xavier may need a bigger night out of Lyons to hold the advantage in the backcourt.
Moderate Edge Xavier
Dezmine Wells Fr (6-5, 215) vs Jordan Hamilton Sr (6-6, 205)
Hamilton is a wing with good size that is always looking for an open three. He's a 33.9 percent shooter from beyond the arc, but that percentage is a little low due to his shot selection. He's a guy that will hit multiple threes if left open and given the opportunity to get going. Stopping the ball when McCollum and McKnight drive is important, so the defense doesn't have to help off of guys like Hamilton. Wells was a monster in the first round against Notre Dame, finishing with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Much like against Notre Dame, Wells has a huge opportunity in front of him against Lehigh if he is aggressive and physical. Despite Hamilton having good size, he does not look to rebound at all, and is not known for his toughness. If Wells attacks the offensive glass, he could end up with another big night. He will also be a mismatch going to the rim off the dribble. Wells is averaging 12 points per game over the last four contests.
Slight Edge Xavier
Andre Walker Sr (6-8, 225) vs John Adams Sr (6-6, 225)
Adams' numbers may not pop out when you look at Lehigh's stats, but he will be important for both teams in this matchup. Adams gives the Mountain Hawks that face-up, skilled four man that can step out and hit a three off the pick and pop, which we've seen give Xavier trouble this year. Lehigh will need Adams to give them some toughness and rebounding though. Though a little undersized, Adams can rebound with his wide build and strength. He's only averaging 3.7 boards on the season, but his minutes picked up big time about midway through conference play, and he's put up bigger numbers since then. Against Duke in the first round, he scored seven points and had eight boards. We might see Xavier play a little bit more with two forwards and let Walker slide over and guard Knutson, but while he's on Adams, Walker shouldn't have any problem. He was about as efficient as one can be against Notre Dame, scoring eight points on just one shot attempt, while also hauling in six boards. The most important thing for Xavier to get out of Walker is his rebounding in this matchup, as the Musketeers have a good chance to control the glass, which will go a long way towards a win.
Kenny Frease Sr (7-0, 275) vs Gabe Knutson Sr (6-9, 220)
Knutson is a very impressive big man. Averaging 12.3 points and 5.6 rebounds on the year, he's dropped 40 points and grabbed 15 boards in the last two games combined, including 17 and eight against Duke on Friday. He's a versatile big that can face-up, pick-and-pop and score in the post. Not much of a 3-point shooter, Knutson prefers to hit the mid-range jumper. He's also a guy that can post several feet outside of the lane, and then face you up and score in an isolation scenario. Xavier will have to offer some help defense, so their big men aren't on an island guarding him one-on-one, as he's very good at getting to the rim with a dribble or two from 6-10 feet out. Frease will have his work cut out for him, as Knutson will try to take him away from the basket a little bit. On the other end of the court, Frease should have his way inside if he's aggressive. He'll be by far the biggest player on the court, but his minutes may be limited if he has trouble when Lehigh tries to spread Xavier's defense out.
Slight Edge Lehigh
Xavier Bench vs Lehigh Bench
The Mountain Hawks will go about eight deep in their rotation, with seven guys seeing the bulk of the minutes. B.J. Bailey is a 6-3 guard that can come in off the bench and knockdown the open three. He's 12-for-24 from beyond the arc on the year. Justin Maneri is a 6-8, 240 pound senior that comes in to eat space, rebound and defend for Lehigh. He's not much of a scorer at all. The Mountain Hawks are just like the Muskies in the sense that they're going to win in the tournament with their starting five. They'll play those other guys, but mainly to rest their starters or plug a few minutes if someone is in foul trouble. Xavier is in a similar boat, although they might call on their reserve forwards a little bit more in this matchup. Lehigh is a little bit smaller, and with their center being more of a face-up player, Walker might prove to be the best matchup for him. Robinson, though he struggled to score, provided some really good minutes for Xavier against Notre Dame, and may be the guy who gets the first opportunity off the bench on Sunday night. Dee Davis also did a good job of providing defensive pressure and playing a little more aggressive on the offensive end against the irish.
Slight Edge Xavier
Lehigh is legitimate. They didn't beat Duke on accident. However, they did present matchup problems for the Blue Devils that they don't necessarily present for Xavier. Duke really struggled to defend Lehigh's guards off the dribble all game, which they've had problems with all year. Xavier will have a much better chance of slowing them down with Holloway and Lyons. Lehigh plays a little more uptempo, slightly faster than Xavier even, but do a tremendous job of not turning the ball over. They'll run some motion offense and try to spread Xavier out on the defensive end, and they'll also let McCollum operate off of the high ball-screen a lot. The bottom line is, McCollum is going to have the ball in his hands on most possessions. Containing his penetration is the key. If he becomes a jump-shooter and is passing from the perimeter, as opposed to kick-outs from the lane, the Musketeers should have no problem. Rebounding will also be really important, as Lehigh is a decent rebounding team in their conference, but their overall size isn't very good and they struggled on the boards against Duke. If Holloway and McCollum are able to negate each other, Xavier has the better talent at the other positions. As long as the Musketeers come ready to play and are aggressive, Coach Mack should be making his second Sweet Sixteen appearance in three years.
Score Prediction: Xavier 75 Lehigh 71