Columbia Season Preview – Is This Finally “The Year”?

Last year was supposed to be “the year” for Columbia, which hasn’t won an Ivy title since 1968.

Then star forward Alex Rosenberg broke his foot two weeks before the start of the season and withdrew from school — thanks to the Ivy League’s arcane player eligibility rules. A new star emerged in guard Maodo Lo, but the Lions collapsed at the end of the season, losing their final four games and any shot at competing in the postseason.

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IHO Power Poll – Feb. 2

Ben Franklin AQIt is I, The AQ. This week I am guest hosting the IHO Power Rankings. For the purists out there, after the first back-to-back Ivy weekend, the rankings should probably look something like this:

Yale
Harvard
Princeton
Columbia
Cornell
Dartmouth
Pennsylvania
Brown

Normally, this list is dutifully accompanied by the earnest commentary and incisive statistical analysis that you’ve come to know and love from IHO. An introspection of our favorite teams that is indeed worthy of our elite educations.

For those of you expecting this, my apologies in advance. This week, since it is still early in the 14-Game Tournament and because there were no real surprises in the games last weekend, I thought it was the perfect time to switch things up a bit. (After all, you have the whole month of February to get your ORAT freak on.) Instead, I’ve decided to rank the teams as I see them which of course has nothing to do with reality. So without further ado, here is The AQ’s “Special” IHO Power Rankings for February 1, 2015.

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Columbia Weekend Recap: Hosting Yale and Brown

NEW YORK – On Friday night, Maodo Lo showed his class.

Unfortunately, the rest of his teammates didn’t show up until Saturday.

The Columbia Lions fell to Yale in a heartbreaker, 63-59, on Friday night, as Lo put up 20 points on 6-for-8 shooting from long range but didn’t get much help from the rest of the squad. The full team came to play on Saturday, using a late 22-4 run to blow the Brown Bears out of the building, 86-65. It was Columbia’s largest margin of win in Ivy play in 11 years, but that’s little consolation for the disappointing loss on Friday night.

After four games, the Lions are 2-2 in Ivy play.

Let’s run through some of the major observations of the weekend…

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Lions must be able to win without Maodo

“We had a saying: everybody has to guard Lo.”

That’s how Carson Puriefoy described Stony Brook’s game plan against Columbia Tuesday night, when the two sides met in a Morningside Heights rematch.

It is fair to say the Seawolves executed that plan to near perfection, holding Lo to a season-low seven points on just 2-for-9 shooting; his first bucket didn’t fall until less than four minutes remained in the game. Puriefoy shouldered most of the load in stopping the Lions’ star guard, though he was consistently helped with double-teams and other defensive tactics which prohibited Lo from driving or getting clean looks from three.

The Lions fell, 70-61, and dropped to 7-6 on the season, with just a matchup against D-II Central Pennsylvania before Ivy play kicks off with a home-and-home against travel partner Cornell.

The game offered a blueprint to anyone trying to shut down Columbia this year.

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Whimsy: An Ivy transfer window

(thesportsquotient.com)
(thesportsquotient.com)

Much in the way that the frenzy around MLB’s winter meetings and the NBA’s star players hitting free agency captivate fans as much as or more than regular season games, so too do the machinations of the summer and winter transfer windows in soccer. As the winter transfer window opens on Thursday, I thought about an alternate reality where the NCAA also had a transfer window to deal with in between the fall and spring semesters. While English teams are roughly halfway through their round-robin season when the window opens, Ivy basketball teams have nearly completed their nonconference schedule and will have an opportunity to correct weaknesses, address injuries, or move the focus completely towards next year without worrying about getting relegated.

Along with IHO resident soccer expert Peter Andrews, I thought up moves each team could make in this hypothetical, never could, would or should happen situation. We will also be ignoring that in reality, Duke, Kansas or Kentucky would buy up all of the good players anyway.

BROWN: LOANS Kendall Jackson from Columbia and Andre Chatfield from Harvard No Bear averages more than 3.5 assists per game and no starter has an assist/turnover ratio better than 1.1. Thus, the Bears bring in two guards buried on their respective team’s depth charts in the hopes that one sticks as the ball handler of the future and a permanent transfer can be worked out after the season.

COLUMBIA: BUYS Gabas Maldunas from Dartmouth. Columbia remains weakest in the frontcourt, where Cory Osetkowski has put together an inconsistent campaign in scoring and on the glass. They”d pay a hefty transfer fee to pry Gabas Maldunas away from Dartmouth, a team going nowhere fast this year. Maldunas would instantly upgrade the post presence for Columbia. In addition to cash, the Lions would send monstrously tall center Conor Voss on a loan to Dartmouth, in the hopes that some regular playing time will reveal basketball skills.

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Columbia basketball needs better frontcourt play to defend ‘the bunker’

Kyle Castlin's scoring and rebounding impact has been felt immediately, but the Lions still have major depth issues. (onebidwonders.com)
Kyle Castlin’s scoring and rebounding impact has been felt immediately, but the Lions still have major depth issues. (onebidwonders.com)

The saying is that your home gym is a fortress; for Columbia, Levien Gymnasium — literally and figuratively — is better called a bunker. The Lions lost just four games there last year: a defeat at the death to Manhattan in the home opener, a double-overtime loss to Harvard assisted by the officials, a 10-point loss to Princeton and the CIT quarterfinal against Yale. Total margin of defeat: 18 points.

It comes as a shock now when the Lions lose in their bunker, as they did last night. It was another close game, as Loyola (Md.) scored a buzzer-beater to finish off the Light Blue after the home side’s furious fightback. Final two minutes aside, the result exposed some fairly major issues with a still congealing squad.

Read moreColumbia basketball needs better frontcourt play to defend ‘the bunker’