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College hoops: Shooting for upset

Local product gets ready for March Madness at Lehigh

Posted: March 17, 2010 10:35 p.m.
Updated: March 18, 2010 4:30 a.m.
 

Some might pity the plight of a No. 16 seed going up against a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Not Santa Clarita native Ryan Peters.

The Lehigh University guard is embracing the opportunity.

“Playing against the No. 1 (Ratings Percentage Index) team in Kansas, you couldn’t ask for anything else,” Peters said.

The Mountain Hawks will face Kansas at 6:30 p.m. today in the first round of the tournament at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City.

The Jayhawks won both the Big 12 regular season and tournament titles and enter the tournament as the No. 1 overall seed at 32-2.

Based in the city of Bethlehem in western Pennsylvania, Lehigh is 22-10 and the champion of the Patriot League’s regular season and tournament. This is Lehigh’s fourth trip to the NCAA Tournament and the first since 2004.

Peters attended Valencia High School before transferring across the country to enroll at Northfield Mount Hermon School in Massachusetts.

He has played just 14 minutes total in 10 games this season and taken just two shots, but he expected to have a limited role as a freshman and get more minutes later in his career.

“It was definitely difficult coming in,” he said. “We have a solid group of seniors and upperclassmen that really showed us the way academically and on the basketball court.”

Despite the limited action, Peters says he’s getting a taste of the big-time.

“We’re just here in Oklahoma City, having practices in the Oklahoma City Thunder arena, and you get the big-time feel,” Peters said.

An upset of Kansas would vault Lehigh into the spotlight, seeing as no No. 16 seed has ever beaten a No. 1 seed since the tournament field expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

This season, the Mountain Hawks have shown a penchant for playing better in the second half, which could help them if the game is close at halftime.

Peters said Lehigh would try to slow the game down and make Kansas take tough shots.

“We’re trying to start something at Lehigh and start a legacy and put the Patriot League back on the map,” Peters said. “Bucknell made an upset five years ago. We’re almost looking to do the same thing this weekend.”

Peters refers to the last time the Jayhawks played the Patriot League champion in the NCAA Tournament, a one-point loss to Bucknell in 2005.

That game was played on March 18 at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City, just like today’s game will be.

It was also the late game of the evening session, just like today’s game, and Kansas was the No. 1 RPI team, like it is this year.

But Peters knows Lehigh can’t rely on providence.

“Regardless of all the coincidences, I think our team already had the mindset that this is an opportunity for us,” Peters said. “We’re not just happy to be here. Why not make history?”

 

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