Preview: Columbia vs. LIU Brooklyn

There is no Q&A for tomorrow night’s game because well, LIU (0-4) and Columbia (4-2) are two teams we see a lot here on the site. The Blackbirds are still looking for their first win of the season and return to the Wellness Recreation and Athletics Center (WRAC) is exactly what the doctor ordered. Unfortunately, the opponent could be a little easier. Columbia has some good wins, and some odd losses, but the Lions certainly have the talent to make this game close. It’s a great local game. Here are some things to watch for.

3 Key Statistics:

  • Columbia’s three-point shooting: Why could LIU really be in trouble in this game? Well one reason is that the Blackbirds have had a real hard time defending the three-point shot. They rank 346th in the nation in three-point defense (that’s second worst in the nation). Columbia has a number of good three-point shooters including Brian Barbour, Grant Mullins and Steve Frankoski. LIU is going to have to get out on those players in order to prevent Columbia from having a big advantage downtown.
  • LIU’s turnovers, particularly Columbia steals: Most people think of a 2-3 zone as a passive defense, but Columbia is trying to turn some of that logic on its head. Part of it is because the Lions play man sometimes as well, but they’re also rather aggressive. CU has the 21st best steal rate in the nation on defense. LIU has been really good at protecting the ball early in the season. The offense hasn’t been the problem either early in the season.
  • Bench minutes: LIU really wishes Kenny Onyechi was healthy. This team is paper thin right now and it is costing the Blackbirds games. LIU ranks 310th nationally in bench minutes. Columbia ranks 119th. Also worth noting, Columbia starts a gigantic frontline and LIU is short. There’s a surprisingly large gap between these two teams. If the Lions can stay in the 2-3 zone and avoid having to play Jamal Olasewere and Julian Boyd man-to-man then they can sneak out of Brooklyn with a victory.

2ish Key Players For Each Team:

  • Grant Mullins, G, Columbia: The freshman guard is going to be thrust into a local game, if not a “rivalry” per say. He’s scored 14 points in each of his past three games and another strong effort would give Columbia a lot of leeway. Either he or Frankoski will have to step up if CU is going to escape with a victory.
  • Khalil Murphy / E.J. Reed, F, LIU: One of the two Blackbirds backup forwards needs to step up in this game. They don’t even necessarily need to score points, but they must play strong defense against Mark Cisco, Corey Osetkowski and Alex Rosenberg and grab some rebounds. Columbia doesn’t hit the glass very hard anyways, but a few extra possessions could go a long way in a close game.
  • Mark Cisco / Julian Boyd, F: It’s interesting, because minus Boyd’s occasional drives to the basket the two pivot men in this game actually play quite similarly. Both like the mid-range jump shot. Both are senior big men that are looking to be an important part of their team’s offense. Both have also just been okay to start the season. If one of them breaks out with a big game (20+ points), their team is going to win. Look out if either Cisco or Boyd’s jump shot is falling early.
  • Brandon Thompson, G, LIU: Can Thompson give LIU a few more minutes than normal on Wednesday? He’ll need to play strong perimeter defense and also hopefully knock down a few threes. Jack Perri really needs him to step up.

1 Pomeroy Prediction: LIU 76, Columbia 75 (55% chance for the Blackbirds at home.)

Note: As two alternate resources for game coverage tonight I’d suggest you check out the Blackbirds Hoops Journal and The Columbia Daily Spectator. Both do a great job of covering their respective teams. Nelson Castillo’s work at BHJ is that of a true fan and because of the high expectations (picked third preseason) The Spectator is really diving in deep to Columbia basketball this season.

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