Semifinals preview

(Originally posted: Saturday, 3:16 p.m.; Updated: 9:30 a.m.)

A quick morning update to add a few preview links:

  • Holy Cross keeps focus on Lehigh, from the Boston Herald
  • Lehigh aiming for some respect against Holy Cross, from the Morning Call
  • Keys to Bison's semifinal, from the Daily Item

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    (4)Lehigh vs. (1)Holy Cross, 1 p.m.: Holy Cross swept the season series, winning a close one at Lehigh and with ease in Worcester. This one shouldn't be as easy. Neither team is a stranger to the league semifinals. Lehigh is the defending champion and Holy Cross is led by three senior starters who have failed to get to the second round only once, last season, and have been a part of league championship teams their freshman and sophomore seasons.

    Despite those recent successes, this is the first tournament meeting of the two teams since 1991. Lehigh has never beaten Holy Cross in a tournament game and has not won in Worcester since 1998. Holy Cross is also riding a 15-game win streak.

    To break all those streaks, Lehigh will need a big game from Joe Knight and Jose Olivero. Knight need not score 45 like he did against Colgate, but he will have to be a factor. Ditto for Olivero. And they both will need to play both ends of the floor, since Holy Cross' Kevin Hamilton and Greg Simmons are easily as good a backcourt tandem as there is in the league.

    One problem facing Lehigh is its relative lack of an inside game. With 6-10 sophomre Jason Mgebroff nuring a bad foot and only no real depth at that position, The Hawks will find it tough to keep the HC guards from pressuring Knight and Olivero. If they get past their defenders, 6-11 shotblocker Nate Lufkin and the rest of HC's big men will be able to come to help, knowing there's not a lot of risk of the guy they leave causing a problem.

    Lehigh will try to keep the game close with its defense. In the game in Bethlehem, that, along with getting to the foul line, was what kept the game close and gave the Hawks a chance to win it at the end.
    HC notes | Lehigh notes | USA Today matchup | HC radio

    (3)American vs. (2) Bucknell: Andre Ingram has been a non-factor against Bucknell his entire career. There is no reason to expect that to change in this one. But Bucknell has to make sure it does not pay attention to Ingram at the expense of letting guys like Jason Thomas and Matej Cresnik go off from three-point range.

    Cresnik is the toughest matchup. He is 6-9, but shoots the three like a guard. Bucknell has to be certain to keep a hand in his face when he steps out.

    Since both 6-11 center Chris McNaughton and 6-9 freshman four man Darren Mastropaolo are big enough, and strong enough, to hold things down in the paint, it should not hurt the Bison's interior defense to have one of them step out when Cresnik has the ball at the arc.

    Bucknell will need to shoot the ball well from the perimeter to open things up inside for McNaughton. There's nobody on the AU roster that can guard the big kid in the post one-on-one, but if the Bison don't exploit the openings created when AU doubles McNaughton, that won't matter.

    A big factor in this one might be legs. AU's are not as fresh as Bucknell's. If the Eagles jump out early, the adrenaline will help overcome that. If Bucknell either jumps on the Eagles,or turns it into a grind it out sort of game, they will likely be able to wear down AU late in the game.
    American notes | Bucknell notes | USA Today matchup | Bucknell radio

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