Monday, November 8, 2010

No. 7 Columbia Lions

After an uneven non-conference run, in which the Lions went just 6-8 against the nation's 340th ranked strength of schedule, but played better basketball in games against the strongest competition, Columbia kept the pattern going in the Ivy season, sweeping Penn and Brown, but only managing a split with Dartmouth.

The Lions often provided a gritty defensive effort, but rarely had enough offensive firepower to capitalize - highlighted by their disappointing 5-3 record in games in which they held opponents to an offensive rating of under 90.

With increased grumbling around Morningside Heights about then-coach Joe Jones' future with the program, Jones took a job on Steve Donahue's staff at Boston College, and Columbia replaced him with St. Mary's assistant Kyle Smith.

Last Season: 11-17, 5-9 Ivy
Pomeroy Ratings: .1461 Win Pct (301st), 89.3 Offense (317th), 104.1 Defense (226th)
Key Losses: G Niko Scott, G Patrick Foley, G Kevin Bulger

Player Outlook:

Luckily the Lions have two more years with POY candidate Noruwa Agho, because the other offensive options on this team are extremely limited. Agho's 25.5% possession usage rate last year was second in the league to Penn's Zack Rosen among returning players, so he should be an effective workhorse for the Lions once again this season.

Columbia lost its remaining backcourt stalwarts to graduation last year, however, and potential replacements are surrounded with question marks. Brian Barbour posted good numbers last year, but in limited minutes and on scarce possessions. Freshman Dyami Starks could be the answer, but asking a rookie to take on a starting role is often a daunting assignment. The Lions might not have a choice, as the only other returning veteran is Steve Egee, but his 31.1 effective field goal percentage (eFG%) and 23.8% turnover rate last season, probably cemented his position as an extreme backup option.

The Lions do have plenty of frontcourt options, though the specialty of most seems to be more defense than offense. Brian Grimes and John Daniels can rebound well, but Grimes' 34.3 eFG% and Daniels' 37.1% TO rate make each an offensive nightmare. Seven-footer Max Craig was a bit better offensively in limited action, but doesn't have the same defensive presence despite his size. Asenso Ampim and Mark Cisco are the two best offensive/defensive bigs, but the former has been plagued by injury throughout his career.

If Coach Smith can find some production from his backcourt aside from Agho, he should have enough defensive options down low to keep the Lions competitive in a bunch of games this season.

Team Outlook:

Expected Record: 12-16, 5-9 Ivy (T-6th)
Expected Efficiency Stats: .2493 Win Pct, 92.0 Offense, 102.9 Defense

As usual, the Lions chose to put together a relatively manageable non-conference schedule of half the Patriot League, a bunch of other low-majors and a couple challenging dates with LaSalle and St. John's. With seven home games, six of which will likely be against 250+ competition (or DIII), there's no reason that Columbia can't put together an 8-6 or 9-5 out-of-league mark.

While that may help the Lions prepare for teams in the lower half of the Ivies, it likely isn't doing much to help prepare Columbia for potentially being competitive in the league race. In other words, don't draw too many conclusions if the Lions have a wildly successful non-conference run.

The Lions aren't built to win the league, even in a wide open year. But they'll have their nights. Agho is a premier player in the Ivies and should carry Columbia to a few solid wins. It's not out of the question that the Lions could hit or eclipse the .500 mark, but more than likely, they'll fall short in the quest to make the league's upper division.

1 comment:

  1. It is unfortunate but the Lions can give more. They are very bad in attack and their defense is not encouraging. They have their glory moments and I hope that they change their position and attitude.