Season Preview: Columbia Lions

Can Columbia learn how to win close games this season with a young roster of sharpshooters and unproven big men?
Can the Lions learn how to win close games this season with a young roster of sharpshooters and unproven big men?

In 2012-13: 12-16, 4-10, 8th place, No Postseason.

A Look Back

Before the start of last season, some considered Columbia a dark horse contender for the Ivy title. After a promising 8-6 non-conference record that included a dominant road victory over Villanova, that preseason prediction didn”t appear too farfetched. However, Columbia limped through a frustrating 4-10 Ivy League campaign. Senior Brian Barbour was banged up all year, while Mark Cisco averaged a career low 45.6% from the field and 8.1 points per game – 2 points below his junior season”s average. Alex Rosenberg shot an abysmal 26.7% from three, and Kyle Smith didn’t call for enough screens to free up Steve Frankoski. It seemed that many of Columbia”s losses were either the result of bad timing or bad luck. 

On the brighter side, last season we saw the emergence of two future all-Ivy League shooters, Grant Mullins and Steve Frankoski. The twine-tickling tandem combined for a 100-239 (42%) mark from behind the arc in the 2012-13 season, and could see those offensive numbers improve with the return of junior guard, Meiko Lyles. Lyles should get his fair share of defensive attention on the perimeter himself, and take some of it off of Frankoski and Mullins.

A player who showcased maturity and development during the tail end of the season was sophomore guard, Maodo Lo. He came onto the scene in the middle of the season, and showed a dynamic offensive game and gritty on-the-ball defense. As a likely candidate for Ivy breakout player, how can you not be high on Lo? 

It”s always tough to lose seniors – especially Barbour, Cisco and Daniels. Barbour is an obvious loss, and given his previous All-Ivy seasons, Columbia will need some of the younger players to step in and provide some much needed leadership at the point. Cisco – disregarding my personal frustrations with his finishing inside – had his moments, and will need to be replaced as a big body inside. John Daniels will be missed for his defense, energy off the bench, rebounding efficiency, and his legendary flush over IHO Defensive POY and Cornell rim-protector, best online casino Shonn Miller.

The Freshmen Breakdown

I’d like to start by saying that digging up online video of 1 and 2-star recruits isn’t just any ordinary task, but here at IHO we’re glad to go the extra mile for our readers.

Connor Voss: 7″0″” 245 / St. Cloud, MN 

The 2-star recruit (ESPN) who hails from Minnesota, proves that ESPN is a secondary source for Ivy Hoops insight. I think the two stars were more accurately a measure of his vertical leap… in centimeters. The lone YouTube clip I found of Voss showed a game in which he was lit up by 6″9″” all-purpose forward and ESPN 4-star recruit, Alex Illikainen (class of 2015). Illikainen finished with 39 points and 27 rebounds, and appeared to completely overmatch, out-skill and out-rebound the new Columbia big man. To be fair, Illikainen has some serious offers, but that IS quite a statline. On the positive side, “you can”t teach big,” and Voss is just that. He could see some PT simply due to his size and Columbia’s need for it.

Luke Petrasek: 6″9″” 205 / East Northport, NY   

Petrasek got no love from ESPN, but he WILL get a shout out from IHO. The thin, stretch 3-4 looks like he could get some minutes in his freshman campaign – according to my extensive YouTube analysis and Kyle Smith. Poking around YouTube, I found his name attached to some impressive stat-lines (30 points, 13 rebounds and 4 blocks, etc.). He is also an active rebounder that seems like he enjoys going after the ball, which could help one of the Ivy”s middle of the road rebounding teams. Here”s Petrasek showcasing his length, and dare I say, athleticism.

Chris McComber: 6″7″” 225 / Nepean, ON

The Canadian”s highlights proved to be quite elusive on the web, and I couldn”t find any video of him after several painstaking minutes of google search. That said, an anonymous Ivy message board member, “hoopsfan”, dubbed McComber the 10th best Canadian recruit, with Andrew Wiggins slotted in the number 1 spot…so there”s that.

Jeff Coby: 6″7″” 220 / Pembroke Pines, FL

Coby isn’t a mind-blowing athlete, but he is a competitor, and goes to the hoop hard. Offensively, Coby”s prep school teammate and Yale incoming freshman, J.T. Flowers is a similar, but more dynamic player than Coby. Overall, I think Coby”s best contributions will be scrapping on the offensive end, and slithering his way to the hole against slower tweeners.

Kendall Jackson: 5″11″” 160 / Oakland, CA

Columbia”s best recruit according to my film-scouring sessions, Kendall Jackson, the ESPN 1-star recruit, will make an impact early and will serve as a nice backup for Lo and Mullins in the backcourt. He is a better ball handler than any current Lion, and after the graduation of Barbour, ball-handling is a skill-set the Lions desperately need. 

Prediction

The rest of the league is aware that Columbia is going to shoot the three about 20 times per game, which means the Lions must develop some consistency inside. As in football, you gotta get the short game going to open up the deep pass, and if Osetkowski, Rosenberg and Petrasek don”t establish themselves as reliable rebounders, this could be a tough year for the Lions.

Sophomore guards Grant Mullins and Mado Lo, along with junior forward Alex Rosenberg, will the emotional leaders for this young Columbia squad, but junior sharpshooter, Meiko Lyles may be the anchor of the team”s success.  If you add Lyles’ 44% from beyond the arc to the Mullins/Frankoski combination, you have quite a spicy cohort of twine-ticklers. Two seasons ago, Lyles averaged 10.6 ppg, and it shouldn”t be a surprise to see some similar numbers from him this season.

On the whole, the problem last year never seemed to be the talent of the individual players, but rather the chemistry of the player combinations. Coach Smith never found that reliable five that could consistently get the job done. I said it last year and I’ll say it again; this team NEEDS to find its identity. My early prediction based on the current roster is that they’ll end up going small, and looking a lot like the famous 2006 four-guard Villanova lineup of Foye, Lowry, Ray and Nardi. 

I”m a guy who likes to project the future, and for this projection I”ll take the positive and ambitious route. Despite coming fresh off of a basement-stricken Ivy League finish, the Columbia Lions look poised to make a push to crack the top four in 2013-14. My prediction is an even 7-7 Ivy campaign, and a fourth-place finish for the Lions. Disclaimer: this prediction depends solely on the return, resurgence and effectiveness of Meiko Lyles, and the Lions” ability to go small without getting totally dominated on the glass. 

 

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