In November in the year of our Lord 2016, students, alums and fresh-faced future Lions will pack into Levien Gymnasium. As fans of all ages watch Kendall Jackson rack up triple-doubles, or Jeff Coby slam home put-back dunks, or even a transformed Chris McComber knock down 30-foot threes—as a wistful Cory Osetkowski watches from afar—one can notice Kyle Smith pace nervously on the sidelines. Then, a strange calm takes hold, and he tilts his head up toward the rafters and smiles.
“2015-16 NCAA National Champions – Columbia Lions.”
On paper, there isn’t much room for Columbia’s seven-man freshman class to make a difference. With a veteran rotation that goes 11-deep, it may be a “wait-and-see” year for the class of 2019. One name, though, stands out from the rest. And that name is Dirk Junior.Okay, that’s not his actual name. However, it is the official Ivy Hoops Online ™ (must credit @pfandrews and @simmonsclass) nickname for Lukas Meisner, Columbia’s newest German import.
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.
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 CIT stands for Columbia Is Theatrics.
The CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament is the newest and least prestigious of college basketball’s postseason offerings. The tournament is designed to give schools from one or two-bid leagues the opportunity to experience postseason play, and the Ivy League has been a feeder to the CIT since its 2009 inception. Columbia’s first postseason appearance since 1968’s great run began with a bang in Valparaiso, Indiana. While Valpo basketball is best known for Bryce Drew’s buzzer beater in March, the Chairman was about to deliver one of his own.
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.
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.
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.
It’s New Year’s Eve, and that means New Year’s resolutions abound. If the Ivies could have one doable New Year’s resolution each, here’s what they would be, along with the likelihood of each team making good on that resolution (Ivy power rankings included).
8. Penn (3-7) – Get the freshmen substantially more minutes
Sam Jones is averaging 6.1 points in just 15.1 minutes per game so far this season and has proven himself to be the kind of sharpshooting threat Penn has been missing for a long time, shooting an eye-popping 45.9 percent from beyond the arc. Yet Jones logged just 10 minutes at La Salle last night. He must be in coach Jerome Allen’s doghouse, but he has to play more regardless.
Meanwhile, now that Mike Auger’s back from a foot injury, he has to play more too. He’s just seventh on the team in minutes per game despite being second in rebounds and third in points per contest. Freshman guard Antonio Woods is actually logging more minutes than anybody due to junior guard Tony Hicks’ chronic foul trouble, but he’s just one of many frosh that will have to pick up the slack if Penn is to make a run at the top half of the conference.
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 Columbiaand 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.