The rundown on Columbia men’s basketball

A respectable .500 winning percentage in the Ivy League, buoyed overall by solid nonconference wins. A close game at Harvard in early March, in the thick of the title race. Yale, conference champions, with Harvard the runner-up and Columbia not far behind. Sound plausible?

It was more than plausible in 1901-02, the Ivy League’s first basketball season, which began shortly after Harvard topped Yale for the year’s football title (a “fitting climax to a season of surprizes,” as the Daily Princetonian put it). Only 10 years after James Naismith cast a ball into the first stationary peach basket, Columbia began its varsity intercollegiate basketball competition. The Lions are still going strong even after the addition of three “new” teams to the conference since its inception.

Going into year 119, here’s everything you need to know about the Columbia Lions men’s basketball team heading into the season.

Read moreThe rundown on Columbia men’s basketball

Ancient Eight thoughts – Ivy Friday men’s edition

Eight thoughts on the men’s side:

1. Columbia was due

Columbia hadn’t won an Ivy road game since its very first under Jim Engles at Cornell on Jan. 14, 2017: 17 such games ago. The Lions were 3-8 in games decided by one possession this season, including a 72-70 loss to Penn at Levien Gym three weeks prior, and were 4-20 in games decided by six points or fewer dating back to the start of last season. So when Maka Ellis’s stunningly easy layup off an inbound pass went in with 0.4 seconds left in overtime to clinch the 79-77 win for the Lions at the Palestra, it was a long overdue coup de grâce for a program that had long been far more competitive under Engles than its win-loss column showed. Kudos to Gabe Stefanini for coming up just two rebounds shy of a triple-double (20 points, 10 assists, eight boards) and Ellis for pitching in five of his 14 points in the final 1:24 in overtime as a rookie on the road to erase Penn’s 77-72 lead at that point.

Read moreAncient Eight thoughts – Ivy Friday men’s edition

Ivies take Manhattan for MSG Holiday Festival

NEW YORK – Back in the day, the MSG Holiday Festival was a premier two day four team bracketed event that featured several of the nation’s top teams.  In addition to the classic 1964 Festival featuring Princeton (Bill Bradley), Michigan (Cazzie Russell), Syracuse (Dave Bing) and St. John’s (Coach Joe Lapchick), there were years like 1995, when Penn won the title and used it as a stepping stone to the AP Top 25; 1997, when Princeton was victorious on its way to a top 10 AP ranking; and 2009, when Cornell took the title on its way to a Sweet 16 appearance.  Over the last few years, the event has morphed into a one day double-header featuring the Johnnies and three other local mid-majors.  This year, the “worlds most famous arena” was home to a quarter of the Ancient Eight as Columbia took the subway and Princeton came up the NJ Turnpike to take part in the annual pre-Christmas tradition.

Before the Garden was cleaned up for the Knicks nightcap versus the Hornets, the Lions held off Iona  and the Tigers succumbed to the Red Storm.  While neither team was perfect and the results were spit, both teams had solid efforts and hope to use the day as a motivator as the Ivy schedule quickly approaches.

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Columbia comes up short on the Hudson Shore

The Columbia Lions men’s basketball team started the season with more of a whimper than a roar, dropping their opening game 82-76 to Marist Saturday night in Poughkeepsie.

To take a page out of Jason Lloyd of The Athletic’s book, here are seven thoughts for Mike Smith’s seven field goals, as well as a bonus two looking ahead to Columbia’s participation in the 2018 Johnny Bach Classic …

Read moreColumbia comes up short on the Hudson Shore

Ivy League coaches’ roundtables: About the brand, not the players

In past years, the Ivy League office organized a teleconference call for the men’s basketball coaches, a few days after the preseason media poll. At those events, the coaches would talk about their teams, as well as answer questions from the Ivy League moderator and a small number of reporters. In addition, Reggie Greenwood, the league’s Coordinator of Officials, would discuss any rule changes for the upcoming season. This year, the league decided to do away with the call in favor of having roundtable conversations with the men’s and women’s coaches.

The two 30-minute videos, which were shot in New Haven on Sept. 5 (women’s coaches) and Sept. 12 (men’s coaches), focused on the general improved state of Ivy recruiting, the difficulties in scheduling nonconference games as an improved mid-major conference, the unique challenges in playing back-to-back Ivy weekends, the importance of the Ivy Tournament for late-season competitiveness, and the significance of the league’s partnership with ESPN.  What fans did not hear was anything related to the specific teams and players.

Read moreIvy League coaches’ roundtables: About the brand, not the players

Harvard men’s and women’s basketball release ’18-’19 schedules

Harvard Athletics announced the schedules for its men’s and women’s basketball teams last Thursday.

Men’s schedule

Men’s key non-conference games:

11/9/18 vs Northeastern
The Huskies (23-10, 14-4 CAA in ’17-’18) were co-champions of the CAA last year, and lost the title game to the College of Charleston.  One of its 23 wins came against Harvard, 77-61, at Matthews Arena last November.  The team returns senior forward Vasa Pusica (first-team All-CAA and runner-up for Player of the Year), junior guard Shawn Occeus (Defensive Player of the Year), junior guard Bolden Brace (Sixth Man of the Year), and sophomore forward Tomas Murphy (All-Rookie team).

Read moreHarvard men’s and women’s basketball release ’18-’19 schedules

Four to join Columbia men’s basketball in 2018-2019

Heading into the last weekend of conference play in each of the last two seasons, the Columbia men’s basketball team held the advantage for the final spot in the Ivy Tournament. Sweeps on the road by Brown and Yale in 2017, as well as losses to Dartmouth and Harvard this past March, kept the Lions away from the league’s postseason both years. Coach Jim Engles, heading into his third year as head coach in Morningside Heights, will look to change his team’s fortunes in 2018-2019 as Columbia seeks its first visit to Ivy Madness.

The Lions finished last season 8-19 with a 5-9 fifth place record in the Ivy League.  In conference play, they were 5-2 at Levien Gymnasium, but winless away from home.   The bright spots for Columbia were a 16 made three pointer performance against Cornell, a 83-76 win over eventual co-champion Harvard and a 25 point win over Princeton.  The Lions averaged 76.4 points and 10 made threes a game overall, as well as 77.8 points and 9.4 made threes in the Ancient Eight.  Their opponents, however, scored 77.2 points and 10 made threes overall, while conference foes put up 78.1 points and 10.9 made threes a game.  Looking towards 2018-2019, Columbia will need to keep its offense intact, while improving its three point defense (38.4 percent in Division 1 games and 39.8 percent in Ivy League) if it wants to move into the league’s upper division.

Read moreFour to join Columbia men’s basketball in 2018-2019

Ivy League men’s basketball 2018 recruiting update

Harvard

Noah Kirkwood, a three-star recruit from the Ottawa area, committed on Tuesday to Harvard for the fall of 2018.  The 6′ 7″ shooting guard recently graduated from nearby Ashbury College High School, and will spend a year at Northfield Mount Hermon School (Mass.) prep school before heading to Cambridge.  247Sports noted that Kirkwood had offers at Wichita State, Virginia, Texas, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh, Tulane, GW, and St. Bonaventure.  Verbal Commits listed additional offers at Villanova, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, and USC.

Read moreIvy League men’s basketball 2018 recruiting update