By Jeff Goodman
In the effort of full disclosure, my wife went to Lehigh University (I still wonder how someone so smart married me). However, that's not why I'm writing this blog on the Mountain Hawks.
Brett Reed & Co. have put themselves in a position to win the Patriot League regular-season title. This was unfathomable a week or so ago, when defending champion Bucknell was undefeated and rolling through league play at 10-0.
But Lehigh pulled out a huge win in Lewisburg on Feb. 16 and followed it up with a home victory against rival Lafayette. The Bison dropped one at Holy Cross this past weekend and Dave Paulsen's team now faces American, which is tied with Lehigh a game out of first place, on the road Thursday night.
The regular-season champion gets a significant advantage with hosting the league tournament.
"That win was good for us to get some confidence," Reed said of the victory over Bucknell in which star guard C.J. McCollum drained a game-winning 3-pointer with 0.5 seconds left. "To give us the feeling that even in a tough ballgame we were able to pull it out on the road."
It was Bucknell's first league loss at home since 2010.
McCollum is the best player in the Patriot League. Reed says he could play anywhere in the country, but he opted to go to Lehigh -- and he's had a stellar three-year career thus far.
"He's such a complete player -- and is so clutch," Reed said of the 6-foot-3, 185-pound Ohio native. "He can score in so many different ways -- can shoot it, score off the dribble, get offensive rebounds or deflections and steals. It's hard to pin him down as a one-dimensional scorer."
McCollum averages 21.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game -- and makes Lehigh a true contender to knock off Bucknell in the postseason and go to the NCAA tourney. Reed said that his star junior could probably break Daren Queenan's record of 2,703 career points, but that he's too unselfish and always puts the team first.
"He's special," Reed said.