A Far Too Comprehensive and Ridiculous Columbia Season Preview, Part 2

Rookie Watch

By Peter Andrews

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.

A 6-8 power forward, Meisner might not have Dirk Nowitzki’s long, flowing hair. But he is otherwise very similar to the German legend, and Kyle Smith will be hoping that his new recruit can establish similar dominance in the Ivy League. The New York Post reported that Meisner picked Columbia over offers from Florida, Tennessee, and Wake Forest, suggesting that top-caliber teams were hot on the trail of the young German.

It remains to be seen where Meisner fits in to the Lions on the court. An “athletic big man,” per the Post,Meisner could play some at power forward or center, where he would be a dangerous complement to Alex Rosenberg. He’ll be competing for time with a quartet of juniors: Luke Petrasek, Jeff Coby, Chris McComber and Conor Voss.

One sentence about (and one tweet from!) each of the other six members of the class:

  • Local (Archbishop Malloy) product C.J. Davis is coming off a post-grad year at The Peddie School, and might see spot duty at point guard in preparation for a much larger role in 2016-17.
      •  Rodney Hunter claims that Kyle Smith told him that “[Hunter] is a peacock and [Smith is] going to let [Hunter] strut [his] feathers;” I don’t know what that means exactly, but it could be fun to watch.



      • If you put the 2015-16 Columbia Lions in alphabetical order by last name, Quinton Adlesh would come first.



  • Like me, Shane Eberle is a fan of Philadelphia sports teams and Arsenal FC, which means he should be well acquainted with Columbia’s tradition of heartbreaking defeat.

      • John Sica is a tall human being, and there is often room for tall human beings on a basketball court.



  • Peter Barba is apparently an elite three-point shooter, but more importantly he has the same name as me, so I hope he turns out to be a good basketball player for Columbia.

Biggest Question Mark

By Sam Tydings

Two negatives plagued Columbia for most of the 2014-15 season: its lackluster record in close games, and its poor defense. The failure to finish close contests has plagued the Lions for most of the Smith era, but if they’re going to get over that hump one would think it would be this year, as Maodo Lo and Kyle Castlin will have one more year of experience, and Alex Rosenberg will come back from injury to provide some much needed scoring. Most of the failures down the stretch of games has been Columbia’s ability to put the ball in the basket in the final minutes, and while that cannot exactly be schemed for, the porous defense which puts them in those situations needs to be addressed.

To call Columbia’s defense in conference play last year sieve-like might be insulting to strainers. The Lions were seventh in the Ivy League in defensive efficiency, giving up 107 points per 100 possessions. They were seventh in forcing turnovers, defending two-pointers, defending three pointers, and were worst in the league in allowing their opponents to get to the foul line. Teams exploited the Lions by turning their pace against them. While the Lions tried to milk as much clock as possible on the offensive side, Ivy opponents pushed the tempo against them, as Ivy offenses got off shots every 19 seconds against the Lions. Columbia’s defense always seemed to be on its heels, especially early in games as opponents tried to impose the quicker tempo on them in league play.

Maodo Lo is the one elite wing defender Columbia has to slow the opposition’s top scorer, and Castlin may follow in that mold one day. As for other likely Columbia rotation stalwarts? Grant Mullins is a huge question mark, especially after battling injuries through most of his Columbia career. Isaac Cohen has never been known as much of a defender on the perimeter, and Kendall Jackson, while having his moments as a backup point guard on the offensive side of the floor, is often a defensive liability because of his 5-8 frame.

On the inside, one would expect the Lions to improve a bit at rim-protecting with Cory Osetkowski’s graduation and thus more minutes for Conor Voss and freshmen Dirk Junior and Shane Eberle. The biggest question mark for Columbia is Alex Rosenberg’s ability to defend both stretch fours and post players in league play. Rosenberg was charitably not a great defender before he suffered a Jones fracture before the start of last season, inside or outside. Teams that play small against the Lions will have a mismatch with Rosenberg being forced to cover a wing player for long stretches of time. Teams that play big will be able to push him around in the post, assuming they’re willing to force Rosenberg to give them the opposite problems on the other side of the ball.

This is a Columbia team that is well positioned to compete for the league title not just because of its three elite players (Castlin, Lo, Rosenberg) but what appears to be its deepest team in years. If their defense plays at the level it did last season, then this will be yet another Ivy campaign that ends in disappointment for the Lions. However, if Rosenberg improves on that side of the floor and the Lions can find at least one consistent rim protector to back up Castlin and Lo on the wings, it could be an immensely mad March in Morningside.

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