The NCAA isn’t the only tournament going on right now, although you’re forgiven for not knowing that. The Lions are onto bigger and better things in the postseason, and resident sportster Ross Chapman is here to give you the scoop.
Yale may have been knocked out of the NCAA’s, but that doesn’t mean that the Ivy League is out of the postseason.
The Lions accepted a bid this March to the CollegeInsider.com Tournament, or the CIT, which extends bid offers to elite “mid-major” teams outside of the power conferences. On the back of a 21-10 regular season, the Lions earned home court advantage in their first game. After they crushed Norfolk State last week, 86-54, they earned a bye to the quarterfinals thanks to their regular season rankings. Tonight, at 7 pm in Levien, the Lions seek to continue their playoff run against the Ball State Cardinals.
What do you need to know about Ball State? In the first round of the CIT, they were down 20-3 against Tennessee state. They came back to win it in double overtime. On Monday, they were down 11 points with less than two minutes to go against UT Martin. They won that game in overtime, too. This very well could be Columbia’s nightmare. The Lions have had no shortage of defense implosions in the final minutes of the game during Coach Kyle Smith’s tenure. Columbia will have to put their memories of Princeton behind them at the end of this game if they want to close it out.
The Lions and the Cardinals profile pretty similarly as basketball teams. Both teams try to take down their opponents from behind the arc. The Lions and the Cardinals both rank in the top 40 nationally for attempted 3’s, and Ball State is closing in on their all-time team record for treys in a season. The Lions should look to press their 3-point accuracy advantage over the Cardinals – Ball State has exceptional interior defense, but is below average at defending the three-ball. Both teams also play at a deliberate pace, ranking 299th and 318th (out of 351) nationally in KenPom’s adjusted tempo. Since Columbia plays offense and defense better in half-court style, as opposed to in transition, we can expect the Lions to play at their comfortable speed.
Worth noting is the home court advantage that Columbia should enjoy. The Lions are 15-4 at home, with their two non-conference losses coming by a combined 3 points. With school back in session, the Lions should enjoy a full house of 2600, and not too many students from Indiana should be making the trip to support Ball State. The friendly, flat brick confines of Levien will be a stark contrast to the Cardinals’ home, the 11,000 seat Worthen Arena. The difference in sightlines isn’t bound to do any favors for a Ball State team which is 6-7 on the road.
Against a team that ranks in the top 50 for scoring defense, Columbia’s own D will be on trial tonight. During the Ivy season, when it counted most, Columbia allowed a three-point shooting percentage of 39.0, easily the worst in the league. the Cardinals have three players with over 150 three-point attempts – Columbia has just 1. The Lions will have to extend their defense to really contest opponent’s threes. Otherwise, shooters with space will tear them apart, just like Princeton and Yale. But with Mullins and Petrasek both having career years shooting the three, they should synergize well with Lo to run the offense from behind the arc. In a slow-paced game between two great three-point shooting teams, expect some fireworks. Columbia is currently a 6.5 point favorite at home.
If the Lions win tonight, they’ll advance to the CIT semifinals, to be broadcast nationally on CBS this upcoming Sunday.
Our boys in blue via Columbia University Athletics/Mike McLaughlin