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The nightmarish 80-47 box score Saturday night is the enduring memory of this men’s basketball season for some. But not for me.
At 18-11 overall with two games remaining, the popular narrative should be about Columbia’s potential first 20-win season in four decades.
While a 20-11 record wouldn’t put the Lions in the NCAA Tournament—those hopes set sail after that whole Harvard game meltdown thing—it would still represent something significant for the program.
Twenty wins in college basketball is a basic benchmark of a solid team. Championship-caliber teams rarely jump from mediocrity straight to immortality—they usually have a very good season in between, one which is a sign of good things to come. Harvard, for example, finished with 21 wins in 2009-10. It was a seven-win improvement from the previous season and a 13-win improvement over the season before that. Fast forward to the present: Harvard has clinched its fourth consecutive Ivy title. More »
Our sports reporters travel around the Ivy League to watch the Light Blue. Games aside, the experience at each venue is unique. We’ll review each arena/field/gym after we travel there.
On Saturday, I went up to Harvard to watch men’s basketball face the Crimson.
I was expecting a competitive game. I was wrong, but at least I got to go to Harvard’s basketball arena, Lavietes Pavilion, for the first time. Game aside, it was not my best experience as a visiting media member.
Venue accessibility: A. I bused to Boston, took the train to Harvard Square, then walked just across the river to Harvard’s athletics complex. Penn aside, this is pretty much as convenient as it gets around the Ancient Eight.
The only negative is that the concrete stairs in the athletics complex are kind of steep and I tripped, scraping my hand to save my phone. (No, I was not texting.)
Layout: C. There’s not a lot of space to walk from end to end. The food stand and snack bars were too close to the entrance and bathrooms, so the flow of people in and out mixed with the lines for food and toilets. The stairs up to media row were (relative to the entrance) all the away across the gym and behind the bleachers. Exactly what I’m looking for in an arena.
That said, there were bleachers on either side so the 2,000-ish fans could watch the game—which is the most important thing, I guess.
While many of us enjoyed being spectators to the 2014 Winter Olympics, some Columbia student-athletes among us have their sights set on the 2016 games. I sat down with Gardenia Centanaro, CC ’17, to discuss her own aspirations and routines as a pole vaulter on the Women’s Track & Field team.
Gardenia, you’re shooting for the 2016 Olympics. That’s amazing! When did you first start pole vaulting?
I first started in my first year of high school, when I was 14. My father had mentioned that he vaulted in high school, and I was looking for a spring sport to do after playing volleyball and basketball…so I started!
Did you ever consider going professional in the other sports?
I didn’t! I did these sports primarily just to keep busy and to be a regular high school student. They helped me round out my schedule and stay active. Sports were also very much a part of my school culture.
The low tonight is a frosty seven degrees (50 please come back!), and while you’re curling up with a blanket to finish watching Frank Underwood conquer the world, Columbia’s defending Ivy League Champion baseball team is heading down to Tampa to begin its season on Friday.
Hopefully, you were paying attention in that last sentence because yes, the Light Blue is a perennial contender in the Ancient Eight. And with three of its four pitchers in the starting rotation back, there is plenty of reason for optimism for this season, which begins on Friday against the University of South Florida.
But before we get there, if you’re the least bit familiar with baseball then you probably know there’s a lot of jargon that goes along with America’s favorite pastime. If you’d like to pick up this great game over the next few months, here are some terms to get you started. And be sure to read Spectator’s baseball season preview either online or in print tomorrow.
“Ace” — A team’s best pitcher.
“Diamond” — Another name for the baseball field.
“The Dish” — A fancy term for home plate.
“Extra Bases” — A hit goes for extra bases anytime it’s better than a single. A double, triple, and home run all count for extra-base hits.
“Go Deep” / “Go Yard” — A synonym for hitting a home run.
“K” — Basic synonym for striking out. A “Backwards K” (which is almost never written out like that…) means the batter struck out looking.
“Uncle Charlie” — A fancy name for a curveball. More »
To loosely paraphrase from those familiar with Columbia basketball: The Light Blue chokes in crunch time. The story started in the Spring of 2012 and, two years later, is still going strong.
But Friday’s victory over Brown should bring our attention to a surprising development: The Lions have been much better in close games this season than their reputation would suggest.
(For the sake of clarity, let’s say a “close game” was decided by five points or fewer, or went to overtime.)
Muneeb Alam, one of our sports editors, wrote about this very topic the other day. As he explains, men’s basketball head coach Kyle Smith attributes the improved late-game results to tangible goals set in the offseason, like better conditioning.
Sure, fatigue can be a determining factor at the end of games. Basketball, after all, is a physical battle for 40 minutes. Experience is crucial as well. Every coach would argue that, regardless of the level of basketball being discussed. But both proper conditioning and experience, in reality, are minor explanations for why Columbia has improved so significantly.
The key starts with being luckier or, in the case of the Lions, being less unlucky. More »
The fight for the championship title looks to be another two-horse race this year as Princeton and Harvard continue to distance themselves from the rest of the pack. After the second day, Columbia remains in fourth place. Here’s the lowdown on the results from yesterday, what they mean for the team, and where the main action’s at today.
As always, you can follow the live results here and watch for a fee on the Ivy League Digital Network.
1. Closing the gap
From the outset, Columbia knew Yale would be its chief rival for third, and at the start of the day Yale, had over a hundred points’ advantage on the Lions. Columbia managed to make up roughly 30 of those points on Friday to shrink the Bulldogs’ lead, but whether it was enough remains to be seen. Given that many of its go-to events were yesterday, the Light Blue had certainly hoped to do better and were undercut by some close finishes and disappointing swims. More »
After the first day of the women’s swimming Ivy League Championships, Columbia trails leader Princeton by nearly 200 points and holds only a one-point advantage over Penn.
The Lions shouldn’t have trouble shaking the Quakers—it’s Yale that will be the Light Blue’s primary competition for the next two days, as the two teams enter their annual head-to-head for heavily (and regularly) contested third place.
Here are some highlights from yesterday’s competition and storylines to watch on the final two days.
1. Kluge’s second NCAA bid?
Senior co-captain Alena Kluge certainly made her presence known. Her pool-record time of 1:58.74 in the 200-yard individual medley was nearly two seconds clear of the second-place finisher and cleared the NCAA B-cut, giving her a provisional qualifying time for the Division I National Championships.
Last year, it took a 1:58.51 to be invited and that time will likely only get faster this year. But Kluge has yet to swim her specialty, the 400-yard individual medley, which is later today. The 400 IM got her a NCAAs invite last year.
Admittedly, swimming fast, whatever the stroke, is no easy feat, but freestyle is such a vital part of the championship that the point deficit there is probably the Lions’ biggest worry. Yesterday, Columbia took fifth in the 200-yard free relay, 15th and 18th in the 500, and 10th and 16th in the 50, while top opponents Harvard, Yale, and Princeton flooded the higher-level heats. More »
(By the way: I think it should have been a ‘no call.’)
But, lost in Laurent Rivard’s Jedi mind control of the referees is the reemergence of Light Blue guard Meiko Lyles.
While Mullins did return to action this past weekend, he only played 56 minutes between the Harvard and Dartmouth games—and 44 of those minutes came in the first game. In other words, Mullins is getting healthier but is still not 100 percent.
Meanwhile, Lyles is becoming a vital cog in the Lions’ backcourt rotation. In the past four contests, he has averaged close to 28 minutes per game—the same amount as junior forward Alex Rosenberg this season.
In case you were unaware, the Light Blue men’s basketball team hosts Harvard tonight. You may not think of Harvard and Columbia as sporting an athletic rivalry (unlike, say, Harvard and Yale or Penn and Princeton). But the two Ivies collide on the court/field/
ice many times a year, and several recent meetings have been noteworthy.
Starting sophomore guard Grant Mullins left the Friday game in Princeton—which Columbia later won in a dramatic fashion—with what turned out to be a concussion. He missed Saturday’s game at Penn and is day-to-day going into this weekend’s games. Though the status of one of his best players is up in the air, head coach Kyle Smith thankfully hasn’t declared Mullins out for the season and gone on all Jim Mora or Denny Green on us.
(Okay, I couldn’t resist. Those coaching tirades are comedic gold.)
Last season Mullins was the primary wingman for leading scorer Brian Barbour. When Barbour graduated, it seemed Mullins would assume the role of the team’s top dog. That hasn’t exactly been the case. Instead, sophomore guard Maodo Lo and junior forward Alex Rosenberg have taken huge steps forward. (The latter, in particular, looks like he could be an All-Ivy player this season.)
But that doesn’t mean Mullins hasn’t been immensely valuable to the team so far—it just means that he’s flown under the radar compared to two of his teammates. Take a look below at his stat lines from the past two seasons:
The columns, in order: season, minutes per game, points per game, rebounds per game, assists per game, field-goal percentage, three-point field-goal percentage, free-throw percentage.
His numbers are steady or up across the board. And keep in mind that without Barbour, he has to create opportunities for himself and others more than he has in the past. More »