College Basketball Tip-Off: St. John's Should Beware of C.J. McCollum, Lehigh

Ethan BackCorrespondent INovember 9, 2011

OKLAHOMA CITY - MARCH 18:  CJ McCollum #3 of the Lehigh Mountain Hawks drives against the Kansas Jayhawks during the first round of the 2010 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Ford Center on March 18, 2010 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

When you watch an early season matchup between teams from the Big East and the Patriot League, picking a winner is usually a simple task.

Tonight, however, the St. John's Red Storm should be on high alert when going up against the Lehigh Mountain Hawks.

The Mountain Hawks are led by talented junior guard C.J. McCollum. In just his freshman season, he was named Patriot League Player of the Year, and last year, he was amongst the nation's top scorers at 21.8 PPG. He is also an elite rebounder for a guard, as he pulled down 7.8 boards a contest last season.

McCollum's supporting cast will be solid, as Lehigh will get contributions from Gabe Knutson, Mackey McKnight and Holden Greiner. Knutson, a junior, averaged 12.2 PPG and 5.7 RPG last season, and could average close to a double-double this season. McKnight will handle most of the distribution duties, and he combines with McCollum to form a very solid backcourt. Greiner, a junior big man, will see an increase in his stats as his minutes increase from last year.

St. John's won it's first game of the season on Monday against William & Mary, and the inexperienced squad was led by Nurideen Lindsey (19 points), God'sgift Achiuwa (17 points, nine rebounds) and Moe Harkless (17 points, eight rebounds, four assists).

If those names look unfamiliar to you, it's because none of those players were on St. John's team from a season ago. The Red Storm will miss the presence of Dwight Hardy, Justin Brownlee and D.J. Kennedy, among others, who were all contributors last year.

St. John's only played seven players in its 74-59 opening win, so Lehigh could be able to expose the Red Storm's lack of depth.

If McCollum plays as well as he is capable of playing, and Lehigh gets good games out of its other contributors, the Patriot League could very well be 1-0 against the Big East to start the 2011-12 season.