Columbia all-time moment No. 9: Craig Austin’s POY campaign

We’re counting down the top 10 moments in each Ivy school’s history as part of our Ivy League at 60 retrospective. Columbia is next because powder blue is a beautiful color.

The 2000-01 season was not a great one for Columbia basketball as a team, but for Craig Austin, it was one to remember. The junior small forward became the only Columbia player to win sole possession of the Ivy Player of the Year award. (Buck Jenkins shared the award with Jerome Allen in 1993, the award was given out for the first time in 1975.) The Lions were perfectly mediocre in Ivy play, finishing tied for fourth place at 7-7. But Austin’s numbers stood out far and beyond his competitors in league play, especially down the stretch. Austin averaged 18.4 points per game on the season, the only Lion to average double figures, and nearly doubled the point total of the next highest scorer on the team.

Read moreColumbia all-time moment No. 9: Craig Austin’s POY campaign

Columbia all-time moment No. 10: Columbia 11, Kentucky 0

We’re counting down the top 10 moments in each Ivy school’s history as part of our Ivy League at 60 retrospective. Columbia is next because the Chairman is in.

In news that should surprise no one, our countdown of the top 10 moments in Columbia basketball history begins with a loss. It was a game that all basketball fans had written off as a Lions loss from the second the fixture was announced, as their opponent was expected not just to be one of the best college basketball teams in 2014-15, but in the history of the sport. Coming off a national championship appearance in 2014, Kentucky was preseason No. 1 and would ultimately feature six NBA Draft picks, including four in the lottery and the number one overall pick in Karl-Anthony Towns. Since taking over for Joe Jones, Kyle Smith has made a habit of scheduling challenge games against major conference opponents like Michigan State, St. John’s and Villanova, so putting Kentucky on the slate in a game nationally televised on ESPN2 was not a surprise.

Columbia’s hot start in Rupp Arena, however, was stunning.

Read moreColumbia all-time moment No. 10: Columbia 11, Kentucky 0

Maodo Lo not declaring for NBA Draft

Maodo Lo
Maodo Lo”s not going anywhere. (AP Photo)

Don”t worry, Columbia fans: the greatest basketball player of all time isn”t graduating just yet.

Okay, that”s hyperbole from a Columbia fan. But you can”t deny that “Chairman” Maodo Lo was one of the Ivy League”s best players in the 2014-15 campaign. And, despite rumors out of German media that Lo was declaring for the 2015 NBA draft, the junior guard made it clear on Thursday that he”ll be wearing Columbia blue next year.

“He did go through some preliminary discussions, with the help of coach (Kyle) Smith, to see what his potential pro prospects are, but he had every intention on coming back,” Columbia Sports Information Associate Director Mike Kowalsky said. “They were just doing their due diligence.”

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ALL FOOLS’ DAY: Kyle Smith reminds us that Columbia played Kentucky close for a while

Kyle Smith reminded reporters Wednesday that Columbia jumped out to a 11-0 lead at still-undefeated Kentucky at Rupp Arena and led for nearly 27 minutes before losing to the Wildcats, 56-46.

“Hey, do you guys remember that game?” Smith said. “That was awesome, right? 11-0!”

Smith also let slip that the Lions will play at Kentucky, Michigan State, Duke and Wisconsin.

“I promise you, we will play our hearts out in those games come next season,” Smith said. “And we’ll make everybody forget about finishing 5-9 in conference play this year.”

Read moreALL FOOLS’ DAY: Kyle Smith reminds us that Columbia played Kentucky close for a while

ALL FOOLS’ DAY: Entire Columbia roster withdraws from school, will return in 2016-17

If you can’t beat them, join them. If you can’t join them, run away and see if you can beat them next year. This is the lesson that the Columbia Lions have learned, as the entire team has withdrawn from school, saving each a year of eligibility and casting focus to the 2016-17 season.

The Light Blue will effectively dodge a a solid Princeton squad, an experienced Yale team with Justin Sears in his senior year, defending champion Harvard with the ever-problematic Siyani Chambers in his final year, and will no longer have to suffer at the hands of Dartmouth’s Alex Mitola, something Columbia coach Kyle Smith will not take lightly.

“Look, there comes a point at which you have to do what’s best for your team,” Smith said. “Plus, it’s not like we’re going to do any worse than the football team! Am I right? Guys?”

Read moreALL FOOLS’ DAY: Entire Columbia roster withdraws from school, will return in 2016-17

One injury too many for Columbia

In the Ivy game I’m sure you all were watching on Friday night, Columbia put out a horribly uninspired performance in the Palestra, falling to Penn 54-46. The Lions scored just nine points in a nightmarish first half, knocking down just three of the 20 shots they put in the air.

Sitting on the bench, watching three after three clang off the rim (or, in Cory Osetkowski’s case, miss everything entirely), Steve Frankoski sat, unusually quiet, with a large brace on his right ankle.

Frankoski’s playing time on this team has fluctuated over the course of the season, but he started to come on down the stretch. The senior picked up his first start in Columbia’s rout of Brown, and scored six points in the first three minutes the next night at Yale.

Read moreOne injury too many for Columbia

A road sweep for Columbia breaks a seven-year streak

With nine seconds left, Kyle Castlin was suddenly all by himself.

Isaac Cohen had flung a floating touch pass, a perfectly weighted through ball that would make the likes of Mesut Ozil proud, over the pressing defense of the desperate Yale Bulldogs. Castlin, breaking away from his man, hauled in the pass in stride, nothing but an empty basket ahead of him.

The freshman rose up and put down a two-handed slam, sending a disappointed crowd of 1,900 out into snowy New Haven. The small clique of Lions fans behind the bench went nuts as Kyle Smith let out a celebratory fist pump, Castlin’s dunk providing the exclamation point on a weekend to remember for Columbia.

Read moreA road sweep for Columbia breaks a seven-year streak

Rosenberg = Durant: On evolving expectations

Kevin Durant

Results are not the driving factor in fan happiness. Results in relation to expectations are.

For example, many Sixers fans are incredibly optimistic about the future despite the team’s putrid results on the court for a second straight year because they understand the front office’s plan and see a light at the end of the tunnel. Oklahoma City Thunder fans expected their team to compete for a championship before the season, but everything changed once Kevin Durant suffered a Jones fracture in his right foot and Russell Westbrook broke his hand on opening night. At 29-25, the Thunder are finally healthy and have an opportunity to reach the lofty goal but will face an uphill battle come playoff time. As a fan of the team, it would be understandable if a full-strength Thunder team got knocked out by the Warriors in the first round of the playoffs. Had you told me this was the likely scenario in August, I would have been irate.

All of this brings me to the constantly shifting expectations and the ensuing questions raised by the 2014-15 Columbia Lions.

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Six seconds of glory for Columbia’s Jeff Coby

Jeff Coby's glory lasted a precious six seconds at Lavietes Pavilion this weekend.
Jeff Coby’s glory lasted a precious six seconds at Lavietes Pavilion this weekend.

For six beautiful seconds, it was the biggest shot of Jeff Coby’s life.

The sophomore forward from Florida doesn’t have the traditional build of a three-point shooter. He’s 6-foot-9, a prototypical power forward who attempted just three shots from long-range his freshman season. As most Kyle Smith players are required to do, Coby added a three-point shot during the offseason, hitting a respectable 10 of 32 so far during this campaign.

None, though, were quite as important as that 10th shot. In the sauna that is Lavietes Pavilion in Cambridge, the 10th shot arced through the air after a brilliant feed from Maodo Lo found Coby all by himself, the clock running down, and the Lions needing a three to complete a brilliant second half comeback against a Harvard team that led by 17 at halftime.

It went in. The Columbia corner of the gym exploded. For six seconds, Coby was the hero.

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The test is yet to come for Columbia

Maodo Lo 4
Maodo Lo notched 16 points in Columbia’s 83-56 rout of the Quakers Saturday night.

NEW YORK – Last night had the feeling of a bigger game than it actually was. Levien Gymnasium was sold out and deafening as Columbia rained down three-pointers against an easily relenting Penn defense. Press row was as packed as I have seen it since Columbia played against Harvard the last few years or Cornell in 2010 –  as in, against teams that went on to win the Ivy League, not one looking to avoid the cellar. Columbia could not have drawn up a better game, and every adjustment Penn attempted was met with a barrage of Lions three-pointers that actually went in, unlike in their previous struggles in their home gym. Unfortunately for Columbia this led to an all too common refrain from their fans: Where has this been the last two weeks?

Read moreThe test is yet to come for Columbia