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Columbia Lions at Kentucky Wildcats: Game Preview

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The Lions from the Ivy League make their first ever appearance in Rupp Arena tonight.

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

The Kentucky Wildcats welcome the Columbia Lions into Rupp Arena tonight for the first ever appearance by a Columbia team, and a very rare appearance by an Ivy League team. The Lions and the Wildcats have a very short but remarkably storied history in college basketball, and while Kentucky has played teams from the Ivy League over the years most have been in the NCAA Tournament.

General

About OPPONENT:

Location: New York, NY Conference: Ivy League Head Coach: Kyle Smith (since 2010) NCAA Appearances: 3 Most recent NCAA appearance: 1968 Most recent NCAA win: 1968 Founded: 1754 Enrollment: 29,250 Last season’s record: 21-13, (8-6 conf) Source: Basketball State

Season so far for Columbia:

Season record: 5-2, (0-0 conf)

Columbia is off to a very good start this season, reckoned by Ken Pomeroy to stand third among Ivy League schools behind 7-1 Harvard and 8-3 Yale. Their best win so far is against American University at home in a low-scoring affair, 52-43. Their worst loss is against Loyola of Maryland, also at home, 64-62.

Series history

Columbia and Kentucky have met only once before, 66 years ago (yes, you read that right) in 1948. That UK team contained such worthies as the recently deceased Wallace "Wah Wah" Jones, Ralph Beard, and Alex Groza, and went on not only to win the 1948 NCAA Tournament championship against the Baylor Bears, but also to win the Olympic gold medal in London over the French team.

It is also interesting to note that the Columbia team of 1947-48 contained a future NBA player, Walt Budko, who went on to play for the Baltimore Bullets for 3 seasons and for the Philadelphia Warriors for one. Another famous NBA name name from Columbia you may remember is Jim McMillan, an NCAA All-American, who played for the Lakers, Buffalo, New York and Portland.

Stats

Columbia Roster:

No. Name Status Pos. Ht. Wt. Yr. Hometown (Prev School)
00 Kyle Castlin S G

6'4"

180 Fr. Marietta, Ga. (Hillgrove)
2 Isaac Cohen S** G 6'4" 220 Jr. Orlando, Fla. (Orlando Christian Prep)
12 Maodo Lo S** G 6'3" 190 Jr. Berlin, Germany (Wilbraham & Monson)
23 Cory Osetkowski S** C 6'11" 270 Sr. Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. (Canyon Crest)
32 Chris McComber S F 6'8" 235 So. Nepean, Ontario (John McCrae Secondary School/REDA)
1 Jeff Coby MR F 6'8" 220 So. Pembroke Pines, Fla. (Choate Rosemary Hall/Sagemont)
5 Steve Frankoski MR* G 6'2" 190 Sr. Florham Park, N.J. (St. Benedict's Prep)
3 Grant Mullins R* G 6'3" 175 Jr. Burlington, Ontario, Canada (REDA/Notre Dame)
14 Kendall Jackson R* G 5'8" 155 So. Union City, Calif. (Suffield Academy/Bishop O'Dowd)
15 Nate Hickman R G 6'4" 175 Fr. Wilmington, Del. (The Peddie School)
20 Paddy Quinn R* G 6'1" 190 Jr. Ramsey, N.J. (Don Bosco Prep)
21 Noah Springwater R* G 6'3" 180 Sr. San Francisco, Calif. (University)
33 Luke Petrasek R* F 6'10" 215 So. East Northport, N.Y. (Northport)
52 Conor Voss R* C 7'1" 250 So. St. Cloud, Minn. (St. Cloud Cathedral)
Legend
S Starter
MR Major reserve
R Reserve
* Returning player
** Returning starter
+ Eligible transfer/red shirt
- Ineligible
@ Walk on
& Injured, not available

Source: Columbia Athletics website

Team Comparison

Stat UK Columbia
Record 8-0 5-2
RPI 2 195
Home 8-0 4-1
Away 0-0 1-1
Neutral 1-0 0-0
Top 25 2-0 0-0
Sched. Strength 265 337
AP Rank 1 NR
Coaches Rank 1 NR
Kenpom.com 1 121

Source: Statsheet.com

Four Factors

Columbia Team Notes

  • Columbia is a decent offensive rebounding team, but Kentucky is the best in the nation. This will be a big problem for the Lions.
  • Columbia has not played a team of the Wildcats’ stature all season. They are in the top third of the NCAA in size, so most of their opponents have been smaller.
  • Columbia shoots a disproportionate number of threes. The problem is, they don’t make them at a very high rate.
  • The Lions do have some shot blocking.
  • Defensively, the Lions are 11th in the NCAA in eFG% defense. The problem is, Kentucky is #1. Also noteworthy is the fact that Texas is #2, and that didn’t help them.
  • Columbia is 6th in the NCAA in 3-point defense.
  • The Lions do not pressure the ball much, and turn it over a fair amount (20% of possessions).

Columbia Player notes

  • Junior shooting guard Maodo Lo is Columbia’s star. He has good size, is a solid 3-point shooter at 35% and a good finisher off penetration. He is the most used player on the team by a fairly wide margin, and is also a good defensive player, leading the team in steals, averaging almost 3 per game.
  • 6‘11" senior center Cory Osetkowski is the big target in the middle, where he makes 56% of his shots. He shoots surprisingly often from the outside, but so far, has only made 12%. He’s the teams best rebounder and shot blocker.
  • Kyle Castlin is a freshman guard who also starts. He rarely shoots, but when he does, he makes them. He’s shooting 60% from 3 on only 10 attempts and makes 88% of this free throws.
  • Isaac Cohen is a junior point guard who is 48th n the nation in assist rate. He’s not a great shooter, but at 6‘4", he has great size for the position.
  • Chris McComber is the sophomore starting power forward. He’s not a great rebounder for a 6‘8"/235# player, but he is a solid threat from three.
  • Senior Steve Frankowski is the first guy off the bench. He’s not a great offensive player, but he’s a good defender and takes exellent care of the basketball.

Injuries

No injuries to report for either team.

Likely matchups

Starters

  • Isaac Cohen vs. Andrew Harrison/Tyler Ulis — Cohen is a big point guard, and that should be an advantage for Andrew, who tends to have trouble with much smaller guards. Because he is comparable in size, his strength and skill advantage should really help him on offense, and his length should help him on defense.

    Tyler Ulis might have a bit more difficulty against the bigger Cohen in the half court, but Cohen still has to get the ball up and deal with the relentless on-the-ball pressure Ulis brings.

Advantage: Kentucky

  • Maodo Lo vs. Aaron Harrison/Devin Booker — Lo is smaller than Aaron, but he is very quick and athletic and will give Aaron trouble defending him. Lo gets fouled a lot and makes his free throws, so Aaron is going to have his hands full when he’s on defense.

    On offense, Andrew’s size and strength give him an advantage, but Lo is an extremely competent on-the-ball defender and will really make Aaron work for baskets. He is a great defender, so a lot of what Aaron will have to do to get open will be away from the ball movement.

    Lo has an outright advantage on Devin Booker, as Booker really struggles to stay in front of quick guards, and despite his good activity on defense, Lo is probably just too experienced for Booker to handle.

Advantage: Push

  • Kyle Castlin vs. Alex Poythress/Trey Lyles — Castlin is really a 2-guard and a freshman, and although he’s likely quicker than Poythress, he won’t be any more athletic. Pothress’ size and athleticism give him a decisive advantage on both sides of the ball.

    Lyles will have similar problems defensively, but his size and length will force Castlin to attack the middle of Kentucky’s defense where even bigger and more athletic players lie, and Lyles can easily shoot over Castlin’s defense.

Advantage: Kentucky

  • Chris McComber vs. Willie Cauley-Stein/Marcus Lee — This is a really bad matchup for Columbia. McComber can in no way, offensively or defensively, deal with the force of nature that is Willie Cauley-Stein. WCS is simply too big, too athletic and too talented. Period.

    Marcus Lee is a slightly better proposition for McComber when he’s on defense, but he’s not likely to score much on the leaping pogo stick that is Marcus Lee.

Advantage: Kentucky

  • Cory Osetkowski vs. Karl-Anthony Towns/Dakari Johnson — Osetkowski is a big center, bigger event than Towns, and that size will make him a problem. Towns is long and talented enough to hold his own and maybe even some of Osetkowski’s, but size-wise this is a solid matchup for Columbia.

    Dakari Johnson is another matter. Johnson is just as big, probably stronger and absolutely relentless. Osetkowski will not fare as well against Johnson.

Advantage: Kentucky

Bench

Columbia uses a number of bench players, but all of them for small minutes. Steve Frankowski, the senior, is the first guy up and plays a lot of minutes for the Lions. Jeff Coby, a 6‘8" 222# freshman fills in from time to time, and has some nice low-post moves.

Honestly, though, no team in America has a bench comparable to Kentucky’s

Advantage: Kentucky

Analysis

Columbia is a solid Ivy League squad that plays heady basketball and gives a good team effort, but how they score against the towering athletic creature that is the Kentucky Wildcats men’s basketball team is anybody’s guess. Probably they will be forced, like most teams, to do their damage from long range or with floaters in the lane, but it’s very hard to shoot a high enough percentage even under ideal circumstances, and it’s not as if the Wildcats give away three point shots for free.

But the three is where Columbia gets most of their points, and almost half their shots. They have been only about average from the arc, but if they heat up, the combination of the 3-point shot and the slow pace that Columbia likes to play could present some difficulties for Kentucky.

Columbia is likely to hang with Kentucky throughout much of the first half, but after that, they are going to find themselves in deep water. Columbia is already a slow-paced basketball team, so possessions in this game should be at a premium, which means the final score might be closer than the game. Kentucky has to take advantage of every possession, because they won’t be able to speed up the plodding Lions, who want to run half-court offense for as long as possible.