By Kyle Kandetzki – Assistant Sports Editor This is “The Scouting Report”, an online feature from The Hofstra Chronicle where we go in-depth on the Pride’s upcoming opponent. Stats and insight will be provided to help Hofstra fans know what to expect with each coming matchup.
The Hofstra Pride men’s basketball team will come off a ten-day break for a trip to Manhattan to play the Columbia Lions. Hofstra will look to make five wins in a row against a team Coach Mihalich said he has been looking forward to as a ‘big matchup’ on their out-of-conference schedule.
THE BASIC INFORMATION: Columbia is a well-known school from New York City, with their campus located just north of Central Park. Columbia was established way back in 1754, comes from the Ivy League, and boasts 26,000+ students and a typical Ivy acceptance rate of 7%.
HISTORY: Columbia has one of the longest histories in all of college basketball, picking up a program in the very early 20th century. They were considered unofficial National Champs in 1904 and 1905. Though since today’s tournament setup was created, they haven’t made it to the Big Dance since 1968.
LAST YEAR: Though the Lions are nearly 50 years removed from an NCAA Tourney appearance, 2014 was one of their more successful years (under their standards), qualifying for the CIT tournament, and reaching the quarterfinals with two wins against Valparaiso and Eastern Michigan. They would fall to Ivy foe Yale. Columbia went 19-12 on the year, and took 4th in the conference with an 8-6 record (the Ivy doesn’t play a postseason tournament).
THIS YEAR: Columbia is off to a 5-3 start, and is fresh off giving the top-ranked team in the nation in Kentucky a scare. The Lions led Kentucky at halftime, but ultimately lost by ten. The Lions have shared two opponents with Hofstra: Wagner (Hofstra won by 22, Columbia won by 14) and Stony Brook (Hofstra won by 1, Columbia lost by 1). The Lions’ other wins came against Lehigh, Fairleigh Dickinson, American, and Bucknell.
THE COACH: Kyle Smith is Columbia’s coach. He is in his 5th year, and has a 68-60 record with the program so far. Smith was an assistant with DI programs at San Diego, Air Force, and Saint Mary’s.
LOSSES: Columbia looked like a team that was going to bring back all of its talent for the 2014-15 season, but unforeseen circumstances made sure that wasn’t so.
Columbia’s top scorer from last season, forward Alex Rosenberg (16 PPG), was prepared to play his senior season when he suffered a foot injury in October. The Ivy League doesn’t allow graduates to play sports, so instead of ending his career on this note, Rosenberg withdrew from Columbia, presumably to play his final year elsewhere.
Columbia’s third best scorer Grant Mullins hasn’t played a game with the team since mid-February of last year with undisclosed injuries. The 6’3” guard had 11.7 PPG last year.
CURRENT ROSTER: The Lions only have one player who averages double figures in points, and it is 6’3” German guard Maodo Lo. Lo not only averages 16 PPG and 5 boards per game, but is 13th in the nation in steals per game with 2.8.
The team’s second best scorer is 6’11” center Cory Osetkowski, who has 8.5 PPG, but almost averages a double-double with 8 rebounds per game as well. He also adds 1 block per game.
The only other player to average over six points per game is guard Kyle Castlin, who has 8.3 PPG, shoots 45% from the field (one of the team’s best shooting percentages), and is 89% from the line.
Another notable player is seventh in scoring for the Lions, 6’4” guard Isaac Cohen. Cohen only averages 3.6 PPG, but is second on the team in boards with 7, and leads in assists with 4.6.
The defense is by far the highlight of this squad, as Columbia is 3rd in the nation in least points allowed per game with 50.8. The Lions have never surrendered more than 62 points (v. Loyola-MD), and have held teams under 50 points five times, their best effort was giving up just 39 points to Bucknell.
WEAKNESSES: Whereas Columbia is one of the best defensive teams so far, their offensive performance is one of the worst in DI basketball. Columbia averages just 57.4 PPG, which equals 337th in the nation (out of 351 programs). The Lions also only shoot 41% from the floor, and 32% from behind the arc.
The loss of two of the team’s three best scorers from last season has clearly hurt this team’s performance. Though Mullins may return at any point, it shouldn’t be expected for this game.
Either Lo or Castlin have led the team in scoring in all but one of the team’s games, meaning that if one (or both) players have a down performance, an already weak offense will take a huge hit.
THE MATCHUP: This game will be very interesting, as one of the best offenses in the nation (Hofstra is 17th in PPG), against one of the best defenses. The game could almost draw similarities to last year’s Super Bowl in terms of the type of play styles you will see. But when looking at the other side of the ball for both squads, Hofstra might have the upper hand. Though Columbia is one of the worst offenses in the nation, Hofstra’s defense is in the middle of the pack (162nd).
It is unclear whether either of Hofstra’s injured big men, Moussa Kone and Rokas Gustys, will be back for this matchup, but having one would be great for this front court. Though the Pride have succeeded greatly over this four game win streak, it is undeniable that they need some more help below the hoop. Andre Walker doesn’t add the offense down low that the team needs, while forcing Ameen Tanksley to play at big when Walker is on the bench. To add to the issues, Walker finds himself in foul trouble often, forcing Tanksley to play down low even more.
The return of Gustys or Kone would be beneficial in stopping nearly 7-foot center Osetkowski, who is a threat to take over the game with consistent rebounds.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: As mentioned before, Coach Mihalich said himself that this game is one he has been looking toward since this past summer. It will be interesting in how it can go either way as Hofstra’s prolific offense can render the Lion defense unable to catch up, and make this an easy game. But this is hard to believe, seeing as Columbia held Kentucky of all teams to 56 points.
Expect this game to be a hard fought effort for Hofstra to get space and consistency on the Lions. If Hofstra can have a parade of threes as they have had in the past, they can pull away from Columbia. But even if Hofstra’s offense is stifled, if Hofstra’s backcourt can lock down Lo, Hofstra may not need the 70-80 points they tend to typically have.
Hofstra should by no means rush back Kone or Gustys, since they are most essential for CAA play, but with this game and La Salle being the toughest two remaining this year, they may want them now in order to compete better at the hoop.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS Pride Green (18 PPG, 6.3 APG, 4.6 RPG) Nichols (6.7 PPG, back-to-back double-doubles) Bernardi (14.4 PPG) Tanksley (18.3 PPG, 6 RPG, 55% FG) Walker (2 PPG, 4.6 RPG)
Lions Lo (16.1 PPG, 4.9 RPG) Cohen (3.6 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 4.6 APG) Castlin (8.3 PPG, 3.8 RPG) McComber (5.4 PPG, 31% FG) Osetkowski (8.5 PPG, 7.9 RPG)
NEXT UP: Home vs. La Salle 12/23