Dartmouth hosts Columbia Friday night in a game that only a true Ivy hoops fanatic could love. The Big Green is still searching for that elusive first league win, while Columbia is off to a disappointing 1-3 start, dropping those three games by a total of 11 points. Both teams are out of the title chase, but Columbia needs to prove that they belong in the second-tier of this year”s league. Dartmouth, on the other hand, has to get off the schneid. Given that this Big Green squad is significantly more talented than past teams, it seems inevitable that this year”s group will pick up a W sooner or later. So why not tonight?
Well, first off, Columbia”s not a great matchup for the Big Green. Mark Cisco is big and strong enough inside to outplay freshman Gabas Maldunas, whose performance has dipped lately (27 percent shooting over the last two weeks); Brian Barbour has already shredded the likes of Zach Rosen, Doug Davis, and Chris Wroblewski to the tune of 20.8 points per game, so Jabari Trotter should not pose much of an obstacle; and, while Alex Rosenberg and Meiko Lyles have been streaky, they’ve incredibly managed to synchronize their hot-and-cold cycles so that the Lions have a viable third scoring option.
From a larger perspective, Dartmouth is an average defensive team (1.017 points per possession) that is inept offensively (.883). Columbia is an (almost) OK offensive team (.948) that is good defensively (.965). That means when Columbia has the ball, it will be a fair fight. When the Big Green has the ball, it will be ugly.
Dartmouth has managed to compete with the likes of Harvard and Yale because it does have young talent (Maldunas, Jvonte Brooks, and John Golden). But that youth comes at the price of inexperience (Columbia, with barely 17 percent of its minutes going to seniors, is actually the far older team). Time and again, the Big Green has shown a penchant for blowing close games, so, even if it overcomes the matchup problems and sticks around, I like the visitor’s chances at pulling a win out.
With the matchup on a Friday, Dartmouth will get a fresh, focused Columbia squad that, with Harvard looming the next night, will need
a win to avoid potentially falling to 1-5. That record would seem unimaginable after the Lions’ impressive non-conference performance, but it just goes to show how cruel the Ivy League can be. If Columbia wants to prove it belongs in the second-tier of the Ancient Eight, it needs a win at Leede Arena to start climbing the rankings. I think the Lions will find it.
Columbia 58, Dartmouth 51