The chance of injured Lehigh star and preseason All-American CJ McCollum making another big postseason run seems to be getting more remote.
Lehigh coach Brett Reed said Monday that McCollum is getting healthier after the guard broke his left foot in early January. McCollum's recovery is in line with the eight to 10 weeks the school estimated at the time of his injury - or right around the Patriot League tournament that begins this week.
But Reed has also sounded a cautious tone over the last few months when asked about the high-scoring senior with NBA potential. While McCollum finally shed his crutches last week, Reed didn't give much of an endorsement Monday when asked if the league's all-time leading scorer (2,361 points) could be available for the conference tourney.
Third-seeded Lehigh hosts Colgate on Wednesday.
"I'm approaching our next game ... with the team that we played the regular season with," Reed said in a conference call. "But he continues to become more and more healthy."
Bucknell is the top seed for the third straight year and opens against last-place and eighth-seeded Navy. Lehigh was a slight preseason favorite over the Bison but ended the regular season with the third seed after losing McCollum for all league games.
Lehigh gained national prominence a year ago after the 15th-seeded Mountain Hawks stunned powerhouse Duke in the NCAA tournament, 75-70, led by 30 points from McCollum. At the time of his injury, McCollum was leading the country in scoring (25.7 points).
McCollum has been considered a potential first-round pick in the NBA draft, and his promising future has weighed on Reed. McCollum has been shooting free throws outside of organized practice times; otherwise, it doesn't appear as if the guard has been doing much else.
Reed said he doesn't make the decisions on McCollum's availability.
"It's been a year with unique challenges but also great opportunity," Reed said. "For us to finish the regular season with 20 wins and 10 wins in league play has been an impressive mark considering the adjustments we've had to make at midseason."
Bucknell senior center Mike Muscala won conference player-of-the-year honors. He was also honored as the league's top defensive player and scholar-athlete - the first time a Patriot League player won all three awards.
Muscala leads the league in scoring (19.0 points), rebounding (11.0 per game) and blocks (2.5 per game). Bucknell coach Dave Paulsen praised Muscala's ability to stay composed, both in the post against double teams as well in the lane defensively.
"He's really anchored our defense," Paulsen said. "His ability to play aggressively defensively without getting in foul trouble is a sign of maturity."
Army's Zach Spiker was named the league's coach of the year. The Black Knights finished 8-6 in league play, the first time the program has finished .500 or better in conference.
Fourth-seeded Army hosts American on Wednesday, while No. 2 seed Lafayette hosts Holy Cross.
Follow Genaro Armas at http://twitter.com/GArmasAP