When Lehigh defeated Duke in their opening game of the NCAA Tournament last season, the sky seemed to be the limit for C.J. McCollum and the Mountain Hawks.
After dropping 30 against Duke, you could see the confidence in McCollum, and it translated into him being named a preseason First Team All American this year. McCollum didn’t disappoint, scoring 36 points in his first game of the season against then No. 19 Baylor.
We haven’t heard much from the 6-foot-3 senior out of Canton, Ohio as of late, and we may not hear from him before the NBA Draft this coming June, as the combo guard has been sidelined since early January with a broken left foot which may not be healed in time for this week’s Patriot League tournament.
As it stands, Lehigh is the third-seed in the tournament – and the conference at that – but with the 105th best RPI in the nation, we most likely won’t see Lehigh make the NCAA Tournament unless they can make some serious noise in their conference tournament.
It would be truly unfortunate if college basketball was cheated out of one more glimpse at the Patriot League’s all-time leading scorer (2,361 points), but the timetable for McCollums return was 8-to-10 weeks, which just so happens to lineup with the start of this week’s tournament.
Before getting injured, McCollum was having another terrific season, averaging 23.9 points per game to go along with 5 rebounds per, having scored 30 or more points in four of his first 12 games of the season. According to reports, McCollum hasn’t done much on the hardwood aside from practice free throws, as he literally just shed his crutches this past week.
While everyone heals differently, Duke forward Ryan Kelly was in a walking boot just days prior to returning to the court this past Saturday, and we all saw him drop a career-best 36 points in a huge win over Miami.
It’s understandable that Lehigh head coach Brett Reed doesn’t want to rush McCollum back, but I’m sure he’s praying his superstar is ready to go when the tournament kicks off for the Mountain Hawks on Wednesday.
For the sake of interesting college basketball, I’ll be kneeling right there with you Brett.
For hoops, hip-hop and other random sports and pop culture commentary, follow Jared Mintz on Twitter @JaredMintzTruth