NYC Buckets list

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.

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Columbia picks up the pace in a new era

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.

Read moreColumbia picks up the pace in a new era

Columbia’s 2016-17 best-case scenario

Columbia’s run to the CIT title, including a semifinal win over NJIT and Jim Engles, felt like catharsis for a class that had seen its fair share of ups and downs.

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.

Read moreColumbia’s 2016-17 best-case scenario

Columbia Season Preview – Watermarks and Engles

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.

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Jim Engles stresses continuity in his introduction as Columbia’s new head coach

 

Photo from byianwenik
Columbia Athletic Director Peter Pilling (left) and Jim Engles share responsibility for the future of Columbia basketball now, in addition to an actual basketball. (Ian Wenik)

NEW YORK — Jim Engles is a unicorn amongst college coaches.

He’s not much of a screamer during games.

He’s never too up or too down in press conferences (just watch the presser after the biggest win of his career, NJIT’s 72-70 win over Michigan in 2014, for proof).

Rarest of all, Engles has never had to move out of the tri-state area during his career, enabling his children to grow up in one home.

That kind of stability is what the Columbia basketball program desperately needs as it enters a period of tremendous transition. Maodo Lo, Alex Rosenberg, Grant Mullins and Isaac Cohen will all be gone, which means that Engles will be forced to replace roughly half of the team’s regular rotation (and its best player) right out of the gate. Oh, and there’s that newfangled conference tournament thing starting next year, too.

Read moreJim Engles stresses continuity in his introduction as Columbia’s new head coach

Kyle Smith’s departure from Columbia puts Ivy League at a crossroads

The only thing surprising about the news was its timing: hours before Columbia was set to host UC Irvine in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament final, a report that coach Kyle Smith would accept the same position at the University of San Francisco as soon as Thursday emerged from TV station KPIX.

Smith’s departure, confirmed with an announcement from USF Tuesday, has been a topic of discussion for years, more so now after he coached the Lions this year to what is one of their best seasons ever — a school-record 25 wins, plus the first postseason championship banner of any kind in Levien Gym. Add in the fact that three head coaching jobs opened up in the West Coast Conference this year — where Smith spent almost a decade as an assistant at Saint Mary’s — and the concept became more “probability” than “possibility.”

Read moreKyle Smith’s departure from Columbia puts Ivy League at a crossroads

Columbia defeats UC Irvine, 73-67, to win CIT championship and end an era

I have spoken, written, and typed many words about Columbia sporting events since I first stepped on campus and tonight I used a word to describe the experience that I had not used before: fun. Tonight’s environment in Levien felt more like an Ivy clincher than the championship game of a fourth-tier, mid-major only, buy-your-home-court-advantage tournament with teams selected in part by San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates. It was the first postseason tournament victory for the Ivy League in more than 40 years but more importantly than that, it was a happy ending to many eras.

Read moreColumbia defeats UC Irvine, 73-67, to win CIT championship and end an era

The four that roared for Columbia

If you had told Kyle Smith over the summer that Columbia would set their high-water mark in Ivy wins during his tenure and the Ivy title would be clinched on Levien Gymnasium’s sub-sea level court, he would have been elated.

Even if you had told him that was a trick question, it was hard to imagine even nine months ago that this would be the Lions team that won 10 Ivy games for the second time since Ronald Reagan took office, title or no. At various points in the last year, there was a distinct possibility that none of Smith’s four seniors (Isaac Cohen, Maodo Lo, Grant Mullins and Alex Rosenberg) would take the floor for him ever again. Despite the hardships suffered as individuals and the fact that Yale and Princeton were on their schedule four times this season, Columbia is going back to the postseason for the second time in three years. Kyle Smith believes it was this mismashed class of 2016 that turned the tide of the program from mediocrity to one that is on the rise and can ascend to a title in the near future, even without these players being a part of it. This is the story of how it all came together despite nearly falling apart.

Read moreThe four that roared for Columbia

Ivy Saturday roundup – Yale nabs first NCAA Tournament berth in 54 years

Cornell 75, Brown 71

Cornell won this season finale for both teams, scraping up a win with Brown offensive linchpin Tavon Blackmon missing the game due to an ankle injury. In his final collegiate game, Cedric Kuakumensah posted a characteristic 21 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks, with Steven Spieth adding 13 rebounds, 12 points and seven assists. But Cornell’s 27-18 advantage in points off treys and 11-0 advantage in fastbreak points proved enough, featuring freshman Matt Morgan with 25 points, four assists and four rebounds, a steal and a block.

Read moreIvy Saturday roundup – Yale nabs first NCAA Tournament berth in 54 years

Columbia beats Brown, can still play spoiler against Yale

Saturday night could be Yale’s coronation, a moment of pure joy even while a big black cloud slowly forms above the program.

The team standing in its way still has plenty to play for.

For Columbia, Saturday night’s game at Levien Gym will be the end of an era. It’ll be the final regular season home game for Isaac Cohen, Grant Mullins, Maodo Lo and Alex Rosenberg, a senior class that revived a struggling program and brought it to contender status.

Read moreColumbia beats Brown, can still play spoiler against Yale