According to an Associated Press report on Columbia’s 82-73 loss at Boston College Wednesday night, Lions coach Jim Engles announced that star point guard Mike Smith has a torn meniscus and will miss the remainder of the 2018-2019 season. Smith’s injury occurred in the first half of last Friday’s game against Bryant. The junior point guard ends his season as one of the Ivy League’s top performers with 15.8 points, 5.0 assists and 2.3 steals per game.
While Ivy Hoops fans were still processing the disturbing allegation against former Penn men’s coach Jerome Allen, the Columbia Spectator broke the surprising news that rising senior Lukas Meisner had signed a pro contract and would be forgoing his senior year in Morningside Heights. Columbia Athletics posted its own story detailing the move a few minutes later.
Meisner, originally from Braunschweig, inked a contract to go back home to Germany and play for Medi Bayreuth of the easyCredit Basketball Bundesliga. The team came in fourth place in the BBL in 2017-2018 and sixth in the German Cup. The 6′ 8″ forward started 24 of 25 games for the Lions in 2017-2018, averaging 27.5 minutes and 11.2 points per game. With his 50 percent overall and 41.7 percent three-point rates, he joined Princeton’s Myles Stephens as the only two Ivy Leaguers to shoot more than 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from three last year. His 7.5 total rebounds and six defensive boards per contest were tops in the conference and he became the first Columbia player to lead the Ivy League in rebounds since Jim Tubridy in 1994-1995.
Now that the dust has settled on the 2017-18 season and the curtain has closed on NYC Buckets, I thought now would be as good a time as ever to look back and honor a site that covered Ivy League basketball (among other conferences) so well for seven years.
NYC Buckets, formerly Big Apple Buckets, has been done since UMBC bowed to Kansas State in the NCAA Tournament several weeks ago. But several schools covered by NYC Buckets have been in the news lately (Siena for men’s coach Jimmy Patsos denying allegations of abusing a team manager and Marist hiring John Dunne away from St. Peter’s after firing Mike Maker), driving home the reality that the mid-major programs that NYC Buckets dutifully covered will move on while the website won’t.
Site founder John Templon and Ivy beat writer Kevin Whitaker both graciously guested on our On the Vine podcast several times. Even though it’s sunken in these past few weeks, NYC Buckets shuttering is still a tremendous loss for Ivy League basketball.
Last week, Andrew Slater of 247 Sports reported that Yale rising senior Makai Mason will attend Baylor University in the fall of 2018 as a graduate transfer. The 2015-16 first-team All-Ivy guard missed all of last season due to a foot injury suffered in a preseason scrimmage against Boston University. Mason, who was recently named the Yale captain for the upcoming season, averaged 16.0 points, 3.8 assists, and 32.7 minutes of playing time per game in his sophomore campaign.
Mason declared for the 2016 NBA Draft, but withdrew his name a few days after the combine. Since he did not choose an agent, he returned to Yale and retained his last two years of eligibility. After his first-semester injury, Mason decided to continue his studies at Yale instead of taking a leave of absence, as opposed to Alex Rosenberg at Columbia or Siyani Chambers at Harvard. By staying in school, Mason will earn his degree in the spring of 2018 and retain one year of athletic eligibility. Since the Ivy League does not allow graduate students to participate, he is free to play his last season at any institution the following season. That freedom has been exercised over the last few years by Cornell’s Shonn Miller (Connecticut), Penn’s Tony Hicks (Louisville), Harvard’s Patrick Steeves (George Washington), Dartmouth’s Alex Mitola (George Washington) and Brown’s Rafael Maia (Pittsburgh). Recently, two graduating All-Ivy Princeton players, Hans Brase (Iowa State) and Henry Caruso (Santa Clara), have added their names to this ever-growing list.
One could quite easily make the case that the five most important people to Columbia’s 2015-16 10-4 Ivy season and CIT title run are no longer with the team. Maodo Lo and Alex Rosenberg are overseas. Twitterless Grant Mullins is on the left coast, so is San Francisco head coach Kyle Smith, and Isaac Cohen is in the professional world. It would have been easy to expect a team that lost that degree of experience and their coach to struggle immensely implementing into a new season. But thanks to a strong freshman class, an affable guard with a knack for clutch shots, and a big man who leads the team in scoring, the Lions expect to make some noise in this new Ivy basketball world.
1. Princeton (8-6, 1-0)
See Toothless Tiger’s recap for game details, but the team’s 61-52 win over Penn proved they’re a resilient bunch. It’s not easy to withstand a 26-5 run from your archrival, but the Tigers did just that in the second half, hanging on with team-wide superior composure and characteristically clutch play from Devin Cannady. It was Cannady who broke the 44-44 tie following Penn’s gangbusters run and played outstanding defense alongside Myles Stephens down the stretch. Princeton’s defense is more than good enough to carry it to the league’s top slot.
Now it’s November and the leaders behind that run are gone: Kyle Smith to San Francisco, Maodo Lo and Alex Rosenberg to overseas contracts, Grant Mullins to Cal, and Isaac Cohen to the working world. So if everyone hits their 99th percentile performance in Morningside Heights this season, what can we expect? A group whose most experienced players are bigs and a coach who promises to run at a breakneck pace (at least compared to Kyle Smith’s) is a recipe for either the greatest incarnation of Seven Seconds or Less ever, or at least the most hilarious one. We do not know what Columbia’s lineup will look like. We do not know which freshmen will be able to contribute starting Friday at Stony Brook. What we do know is if everything goes according to plan, Columbia is going to win the Ivy title in the most ridiculous way possible.
What happened last year (25-10, 10-4): Columbia was expected to vie for last year’s Ivy title with Yale and Princeton, but an overtime loss at home to Princeton midseason relegated Columbia to a lower tier within the conference and a CIT appearance. Columbia made the most of the CIT, though, winning the tournament and sending off the four that roared – Isaac Cohen, Maodo Lo, Grant Mullins and Alex Rosenberg as champions. Then Kyle Smith subsequently left to coach at San Francisco, and Jim Engles from NJIT was tapped to succeed him.
What’s new: With the four that roared gone, senior forward Luke Petrasek will likely be asked to shoulder much more of the offensive burden than he did a year ago, but more on that later.
IHO’s Sam Tydings caught up with first-year Columbia head coach Jim Engles, who took over the Lions’ program in April after eight years as head coach at NJIT, ironically after Columbia defeated NJIT en route to the 2016 CIT title. Engles discussed 2016-17 team leaders, what pace he wants the Lions to play at and why he’s not talking about winning with his players at the moment:
Former Columbia forward Alex Rosenberg has signed a two-year deal to play professionally for Maccabi Kiryat Gat of the Israeli Basketball Premier League, Columbia Athletics stated Wednesday.
Rosenberg graduated in May after finishing sixth in school history with 1,430 points and his 478 free throws ranked second in Lions history as well.