The men’s and women’s teams will play their first home conference game tomorrow! Sports Editor Abby Rubel gives a preview of the season ahead. Spoiler: prepare for disappointment.
Men’s basketball (3-12, 0-2 Ivy) ended last season on a bitter note. After winning four of their first six conference games, the Lions had just one victory in the back end of the season to finish at 5-9, good enough for fifth place in the league but just missing qualifying for the post-season tournament. Going into the final week, there was a slim chance the Lions could still have qualified, but a loss to Yale and a Penn victory over Harvard precluded any tie-breaking scenarios.
So far this season, the Lions have continued their poor performance, going 3-10 in non-conference play compared to 6-7 last season and losing to three teams the team had previously defeated. But seven of these losses were by 10 or fewer points, which could indicate that the Lions have just been experiencing a streak of bad luck. (Although this is unlikely given how prevalent the problem is.) More promisingly, the Light Blue opened their season with a valiant performance against powerhouse Villanova, proving that they’re better than the play we’ve seen from them recently.
Tomorrow’s game against Cornell will be the Lions’ third conference game, following losses to both Princeton and Penn last weekend. Neither of these losses are necessarily surprising. Princeton was undefeated last season (though they did lose three key seniors). Columbia split against Penn last season, but the Quakers went 9-5 in non-conference play this season, perhaps thanks to their older team.
Statistically speaking, the 2018 Lions do not much vary from the 2017 Lions. Numerically, they should have won more than three games this season. Perhaps the problem is indeed chance and games will start slanting our way. Or maybe the Lions will start performing like the team we saw play Villanova. Unfortunately, the team is not poised to have a great season regardless. The Light Blue lost five seniors last season, including most of the team’s height. Although it’s possible that Mike Smith and the first-years will pick up the slack, they’ll probably need another season to start being competitive. But Columbia has a habit of surprising us–in both directions.
Fans should keep an eye of first-year Jaron Faulds. He has the best field goal percentage on the team and the most points scored in his class, although he hasn’t taken a single three-pointer. And Mike Smith has had an excellent season thus far. Although only a sophomore, he has played the most minutes and scored the most points per game. He has 100 more points on the season than junior Quinton Adlesh, the team’s next highest scorer.
The women’s team (6-11, 0-2 Ivy) has struggled in recent years. Last season, the Lions went 3-11 in Ivy play despite a 10-3 non-conference record. But despite their disappointing performance, then-junior Camille Zimmerman had such a good season that Bwog speculated that she may be Columbia’s greatest of all time. The Lions still tied Dartmouth for last place in the league.
The Light Blue went 6-9 in conference play this season, not quite as good as last season. But the team’s failure to continue that success means it was an exceptionally easy non-conference schedule. This year, however, the Lions faced a number of tough road contests, which could account for their slightly worse record.
The Lions lost their first two conference games against Princeton and Penn by large margins, but this does not necessarily indicate that they will struggle in the rest of the season. Princeton and Penn are both exceptionally difficult teams, taking the top two in the rankings last season, so losses to those two powerhouses aren’t surprising. Columbia’s performance against more middle-of-the-road teams like Cornell tomorrow and Brown later in the season will be more telling.
The success of the women’s team depends on whether or not other players can support Zimmerman’s exceptional play. As strong a player as she is, no one person can be a whole five-person team. This means that at least two players will have to step up. Right now, first-year Riley Casey and sophomore Janiya Clemmons seem the most likely candidates. The team is also hamstrung by the loss of several non-graduated players. Paulina Korner, Emily Surloff, and Alexa Giuliano, all of whom had the potential of being Camille’s partners, are no longer on the team.
Casey, however, has done an excellent job of filling the void they left. She has the second most minutes of game time and the second most points after Zimmerman. She’s also made even more three-pointers than Zimmerman for a success rate of 32.3%.
Zimmerman is without a doubt the team’s star. She averages almost 20 points. By the end of this season, she will likely be Columbia’s all-time top scorer and shooter. (She needs only 41 more points to be the former and 49 more field goals to be the latter.)
Both teams are likely to struggle this season. The men’s team because they lack experience and the women’s team because Zimmerman lacks a counterpart. It’s certainly possible, however, that both teams will work out the kinks and have successful conference seasons. Both their roads could start tomorrow when they take on Cornell.
The women’s game will be at 4:00 and the men’s at 7:00. Both games will be played in Levien.
Photo via gocolumbialions.com