Columbia had a season for the ages in 2013-14. The Lions won 21 games, won two games in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament, and finished in the top half of the Ivy League. It was the first major step in Kyle Smith’s rebuilding of a program that hadn’t won 20 games in a season since 1969-70.
Smith said that playing in the postseason was an important step for his young team. The Lions are trying to follow in the footsteps of teams Princeton and Harvard that used postseason success to help propel them to ever higher heights in the league standings. It could also help bring more life to Levien Gymnasium next season. The Lions had large crowds for both of their home games in the CIT, versus Eastern Michigan and Yale.
“There’s an undercurrent of people that care and want to see us do well,” Smith said. “It’s always been there. They’re scared to go both feet in. I think the postseason got them to take the plunge.”
The postseason also helped Smith’s young team learn how to win in March. Columbia didn’t have a single senior on its roster this season. Everyone should be back in 2014-15. And with it will come something many of them aren’t accustomed to – expectations. The Lions will be expected to compete for an Ivy League title next season.
Even if the team does improve, Smith knows that it might be hard to duplicate this 21-win season. While the Lions were able to do a good job with the RPI in their scheduling, things are going to get tougher now that they’re not picked eighth in the Ivy League. Still, Columbia will continue to look to play, local, like-minded, mid-majors with some extra spice sprinkled in. (Manhattan vs. Columbia is actually a great game for both teams nowadays.)
No matter where things go from here though the Lions will have lots of memories to carry with them. There might’ve been some heartbreakers – CU lost to both Manhattan and Harvard at home when it looked like a win was oh so close. The Lions also scared Michigan St. at the Breslin Center. It was his young team’s resiliency after those tough losses that impressed Smith most about his team. Just three times all season did the Lions suffer back-to-back losses. More importantly, CU found a way to put together a four-game winning streak during Ivy play, including a huge home weekend sweep over Brown and Yale.
The team’s talent also developed during the season. Grant Mullins missed most of Ivy League play after suffering a concussion, but Alex Rosenberg made a big leap from his sophomore to junior season. The 6’7″ forward’s ability to get to the free throw line makes him one of the most dangerous scorers in the league. Also, Corey Osetkowksi continued to improve the entire season. The junior center scored at least 10 points in each of his final five games of the season, including 21 at Valparaiso in the first round of the CIT.
“It’s not uncommon for big guys to come on late,” Smith said. “They need to start to believe and know.”
Combined with the maturation of Maodo Lo, plus the addition of some new talent, including the highly respected C.J. Davis from Archbishop Molloy in Queens, means that the Lions will potentially have more talent than will have time on the court. It’s an uncommon luxury at Columbia. As this season showed. There’s something special brewing in Morningside Heights.
Saying Goodbye: None