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Chapter 4

Bring on the Blue Devils

The Lehigh players gathered at the Hawk's Nest at Lamberton Hall to learn, with the rest of the country, who they'd be playing in the NCAA Tournament.

Reed: We were watching the Selection Show and found out that we were playing against Duke. The [then-] president of our university, Alice Gast, was at that Selection Show. One of her impressions was, "Duke's a great school. What a great opportunity to compete against somebody that academically has a national reputation just like Lehigh does." She's thinking about it from a broad perspective. Then I turn and look at our guys, and they're about as excited as can be, and I think the excitement's a little bit different. What do you think? "Coach, that's a great matchup for us. We're going to win this game."

McCollum: When we got the Duke matchup we were happy about it, because we felt like we could match up against their guards. We felt like we were as good as just about any team in the NCAA, especially when teams were guard-heavy and facing injuries in their front court. So I liked the matchup, and I felt like we were going to win as soon as we'd seen the team we were playing.

Reed: There are certain teams that are just going to pound you to death, and Duke had that ability. But their style was a little bit more like ours, where you're going to use some interior play, but you're also going to allow the perimeter players to work. We had some tough matchups. We had some things that we were really going to have to mask.

But they would have had to play a slightly different style to turn almost into bully ball, to really capitalize on where we were weak, and that wasn't the way in which they generally played. So maybe part of it was just that youthful exuberance of our guys to play against Duke, "Ok, yeah, let's bring on the best" vs. some other team, and another part of it might have been the idea of where we're strong and where we're weak, and how that matchup could end up playing into those factors.

Knutson: You've gotta start with C.J. We knew he was better than all of their guards. We already felt like we were going to have the best player on the court. Then you had somebody like Mackey [McKnight], somebody with such competitive energy and fight. I don't think I've ever played with somebody so competitive. Having those two guys, then, we really felt like we had an advantage at the guard position.

When you know that, that's so reassuring, and it helps build so much confidence.


Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski

SELECTION SUNDAY: When the Mountain Hawks learned they'd be playing the Duke Blue Devils, led by legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski, they were happy. "That's a great matchup for us," the players told Lehigh's coach Reed. "We're going to win this game."

As for the bigs, it's hard to say that we had an advantage. That's where I came into play. I knew I had to play well if we were going to have a chance to win. They were much bigger than me, but skill-wise, they were just big bodies. Those weren't the kind of guys who you could just throw it down to in the low post and they were going to score 40. They were more like run-the-court, hustle guys. And we knew they weren't going to swing the game as long as we competed—me, Holden and John [Adams].

Greiner: I grew up a huge Duke fan. I was obsessed with Shane Battier and Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Jay Williams and all of those guys. My brother and my dad were also huge Duke fans. We watched every game. So for me, it was weird. I always wanted to meet Coach K, and I always saw Duke as this sort of mecca for college basketball—this other level entirely. I never saw Duke as being on the same level as me, even when I started getting scholarship offers. But then we're sitting there on Selection Sunday, and we had watched a lot of Duke, and we knew we matched up with them. We didn't match up well with Mizzou (another No. 2 seed in the tournament), but we knew we could beat Duke. So when we saw them on the board and were on TV celebrating, we weren't just celebrating because we knew we're on TV, we were celebrating because we knew that was a game we could win.

The team was excited. So, too, were the Lehigh fans. Or at least, the true believers were.

Haas: Right away, you know tickets will be at a premium. It's going to be a really hot ticket. We had already done pre-planning, but immediately we were working with our communications staff, setting up messaging. Instantly, people wanted to know about tickets. ... We did sell out our entire allotment within essentially minutes the first day.

Ariella Scalese '14, Lehigh cheerleader: All of my friends, especially my guy friends who follow college basketball, said, "I can't believe you guys are going. You're going to lose. You're playing Duke, the No. 2 seed, and you guys are a 15." Many people doubted us. I had this gut feeling, you know, that we'd win.

Mitch Goldich '09, Social Media Producer, Sports Illustrated: Somehow, Lehigh fans spent a week convincing ourselves we could win. We emailed each other movie clips of the Hickory High team measuring the court dimensions in Hoosiers and Jim Carrey deadpanning, "So you're telling me there's a chance!" in Dumb and Dumber.*