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.
While hundreds of thousands of people came to New York to protest Penn’s first-ever President of the United States on Saturday, the Cornell basketball team came to the Big Apple to challenge its own Ancient Eight foe. Depending on one’s political views, the results for the marchers was inconclusive. No matter which Ivy Leaguer one supported in the recent election, however, there was no disputing the Big Red’s victory in avenging their loss to Columbia one week earlier.
With the Columbia students back from winter break, Levien Gymnasium was packed and the crowd was ready for the Lions to move to 2-0 at the start of conference play. With Robert Hatter, Cornell’s second leading scorer and primary ball handler, on the sidelines with a knee injury, things looked good for Columbia. Even with the loss of another starter, the Big Red looked calm and relaxed as the team completed its warmups. The Lions, however, appeared more serious as game time approached.
It is simply a rite of passage. A youngster at holiday meals joins his or her cousins, friends and siblings at a tiny, uncomfortable makeshift table with mismatched chairs. There they eat their meal on paper plates using plastic cutlery while in engaging prepubescent inanities. A tsunami-like fluid spill is also almost a certainty at some point in the repast. The adults, on the other hand, sit regally above them at the family dinner table. They sup the best dishes prepared for the day on fine silverware while reminiscing about holidays gone by in peaceful, civilized tones. Most importantly, the grown-ups are free to ignore the chaos transpiring next to them whilst they serenely enjoy their meal. It is therefore a juxtaposition of two worlds: one, dignified and graceful, and the other, utter chaos and irrelevance.
With the first-ever Ivy League Postseason Tournament, the regular season has focused on which teams would make it into the top four. In the preseason and the first two months of the campaign, Princeton, Yale and Harvard appeared certain to get to the Palestra for the second week of March. The first two weekends of conference play has confirmed those ideas. For most of the nonconference season, Penn seemed to take control of that fourth spot. While losing to Princeton at Jadwin Gym on the opening night of the league schedule, the Quakers showed enough on the offensive and defensive sides to justify those predictions. However, the Quakers’ two home losses this weekend showed that their path to the Palestra is uncertain and opened the fourth spot for all five lower division squads. After Saturday’s action in Philadelphia and Ithaca, Brown and Columbia took strong steps towards claiming the last spot in the top tier.
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.
Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv reported Friday (and our own Richard Kent confirmed) that Yale junior guard Makai Mason will play with the German national team for the next two months and then in the World Games 2017, joining Columbia 2016 graduate (and fellow All-Ivy first-teamer) Maodo Lo.
Lo has played for the German national team for the past two years and remains an “intriguing prospect from an NBA standpoint” on the Philadelphia 76ers’ Summer League roster per The Sixer Sense.
Maodo Lo, Columbia’s all-time leader in three-pointers, and former Cornell standout Shonn Miller is headed for the NBA Summer League.
The 2016 Columbia graduate will join the Philadelphia 76ers’ Summer League teams in Utah and Las Vegas in July, as reported by ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla.
Miller, who used his final year of eligibility at UConn last season after four years in Ithaca, has agreed to a Summer League deal with the Utah Jazz, as reported by Bleacher Report’s David Pick.