Fantasy College Basketball Game of the Week: Lehigh at VCU

I came to watch C.J. McCollum. I didn't get to see him, but I did get to watch a very entertaining game. McCollum suffered a foot injury in the first half of the Mountain Hawks' close loss at VCU and sat out the second half. Somehow, Lehigh was able to compete even without the nation's leading scorer. Even when McCollum was playing in the first half, he missed all five of his field goal attempts and finished with four points. It's not hard to see what NBA scouts like about the 6-3 shooting guard. He has enough of a handle and some passing skills to be a passable (pun intended) combo guard at the next level.

With all of the Saturday games, you may be wondering why I'd pick a game that didn't feature Tier 1 teams, especially with conference play just starting. Well, the Ohio State at Illinois game was not on TV here in Louisiana, and I had written about the Buckeyes and the Illini a few weeks ago. I also thought about looking at Providence and DePaul because both have intriguing fantasy options, but the chance of either team playing in the NCAA tournament is almost nil. In fact, there is a much better chance that VCU and Lehigh (if McCollum's injury is not too serious) are involved in March Madness than the two schools from the Big East.

I also wanted to make a greater point about the top 25, which neither VCU nor Lehigh are a part of. I hate the top 25. I have written about this elsewhere, but I find it to be a media-driven self-love fest. If the rankings were mentioned in passing, perhaps I would not dislike it as much, but it seems to be used by the casual fan and most of the media as an all-encompassing ranking. If a team is in the top 25 and loses, it is an upset (even if they are playing on the road against a decent team). If a team in the top 25 loses, they are dropped in the rankings - no questions asked. The top 25 ranking is not used to determine who makes the NCAA tournament. It is supposedly used as a snapshot of the current season, but I find them useless and annoying. And that is the end of my rant ... for now.

As mentioned above, the game was close through which is a pretty mighty testament to the Mountain Hawks and their coach Dr. Brett Reed. Like the more famous Shaka Smart, Reed is a young coach who holds a PhD in instructional technology from Wayne State University (hence, the Dr. salutation). Like most successful coaches, it is apparent that Reed preaches defense first and sharing the ball on offense as a secondary platform. Even a fine defensive squad like VCU (and without their top scorer), Lehigh was able to get a few easy baskets. With McCollum at full strength they may have won the game. Of course, if if and buts were candy nuts, and so on and so forth. Senior forward Holden Greiner was able to come up with 17 points, including three 3-pointers, and may be a good pick up in fantasy leagues that use the Patriot League.

Smart also has the Rams playing their usual style of aggressive defense. They both applied full- and halfcourt pressure. Because of the emphasis on defense, neither team shot well (a combined 37 percent). The biggest difference was the Rams' ability to get offensive boards, especially off of missed 3-pointers. The numbers were not overwhelming, but players like Juvonte Reddic and 7-0 backup center D.J. Haley were able to use their size and positions to get second chance points for VCU. Leading scorer Treveon Graham had a rough shooting game and was just 1-of-10 on 3-pointers, while 3-point specialist Troy Daniels made just three triples in nine attempts. In a close game, Smart leaned on his starters more than he usually does and the bench combined for just 63 minutes. The Rams closed the non-conference schedule with nine straight wins, so they should be ready for their first run through the A10, which begins against Dayton on Wednesday.


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