StLouHoo's Preview:

An Ivy Comes To Town

Columbia Lions

No football? No problem. Virginia takes advantage of a bye week in the pigskin schedule to play a Saturday hoops matinee against Ivy League member Columbia. The Lions already played one P5 opponent to within a bucket; what odds do they have to play spoiler again this weekend?

Game Details:

Date/Time:Saturday, November 16th, 12:00 am ET
Location:John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, VA


What 'They' Say

TAPE:Ranks Columbia #209, predicts a 71-52 UVA win, 100% confidence
KenPom:Ranks Columbia #146, predicts a 72-51 UVA win, 97% confidence


Depth Chart:

PG#21 Mike Smith, 5'11" 180, SR
38.7 mpg, 21.3 ppg, 5.7 apg, 26.7 3P%
SG#33 Tai Bibbs, 6'3" 177, JR
23.7 mpg, 4.7 ppg, 0.3 apg, 22.2 3P%
SF#20 Jake Killingsworth, 6'5" 205, SR
36.0 mpg, 8.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 29.6 FG%
PF#13 Randy Brumant, 6'7" 200, JR
25.7 mpg, 8.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 55.0 FG%
C#24 Ike Nweke, 6'7" 240, SO
20.3 mpg, 9.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 50.0 FG%
Key Reserves
G/F#32 Maka Ellis, 6'5" 190, SO
30.0 mpg, 8.0 ppg, 1.0 apg, 0.0 3P%
G/F#4 Jack Forrest, 6'5" 200, FR
22.7 mpg, 7.0 ppg, 0.3 apg, 50.0 3P%
G/F#12 Cameron Shockley-Okeke, 6'6" 190, FR
12.3 mpg, 3.0 ppg, 0.3 apg, 14.3 3P%
C#50 Joseph Smoyer, 6'11" 230, JR
9.3 mpg, 2.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 33.3 FG%


The ABC's of Columbia:

A) They're missing their best returning players. The Lions weren't a great team last year, finishing 10-18 (5-9), and 7th in the Ivy League. But though standout senior point guard Quinton Adlesh was graduating, there was some cautious optimism as seven other key players were returning, including two all-conference selections in 2nd team guard Gabe Stefanini and Honorable Mention big man Patrick Tapé. But that all started to unravel in October, first when a major foot injury to Stefanini (13 points, 5 reb, 4 ast per game last year) sidelined the scoring guard until January at the earliest, and then when the 6'10", 230 pound Tapé decided to bail on his senior year at Columbia, finish his bachelors this spring, and save his last year of eligibility to grad-transfer next summer.

Additionally, returning sophomore wing Maka Ellis, who was hyped as this year's key 6th man and scored 8 points in 20 minutes in their opener, has been a mysterious DNP their last two games. TBD if we see him in this one either.

B) They feature the Ivy's Comeback Player of the Year. Left to carry the load is senior* point guard Mike Smith. Smith was 2nd-team all conference as a sophomore in 2018, but a leg injury shut down his junior season after just 8 games, derailing what looked to be another all-conference season with averages of 15.8 ppg and 5 apg at the time. He's back at 100% this year and is playing up to expectations, averaging 21 points and near 6 assists a game, though due to his extreme volume his percentages aren't that scary. He'll be a really intriguing assignment for Kihei to cover.

(*He's a senior by Ivy League rules, which doesn't allow 5th-year graduate players. Mostly likely he'll get a medical exemption for his lost junior year and be one of the nation's top grad transfers next offseason.)

C) They've got an undersized front court. The absence of Tapé leaves the Lions with a huge gap in the middle of the floor. They start sophomore Nweke at the 5-spot, and with 240 lbs packed into his 6'7" frame, he can hold his position. But it's telling he's only managed 20 minutes a game so far; conditioning may be at play. He also fouled out vs Wake after just 16 minutes of action. His backup, 6'11" 230 lb Portland transfer Smoyer is often overmatched as well. No other player on their roster even looks the part of a D-1 big man. Columbia will try to turn being small into an advantage, stretching the court with undersized 4's like Brumant, but ultimately Mamadi and the front court should have no problem shutting down both their interior scoring and controlling the glass.


Their Season To Date

The Lions are 1-2 on the year. They suffered back-to-back 65-63 road losses to Lafayette and Wake Forest to open the year, but got into the win column on Wednesday in a 75-63 win over Binghamton.


Keys to getting the win:

1) Set the Mong00se loose. Mike Smith is the real deal, and even in his game at Wake looked the part of a top D-1 guard. The 5'11" senior is fast with great instincts and a solid touch. Kihei Clark was made for defensive assignments like this. Against Syracuse, Kihei pestered Orange point guards Jalen Carey and Joe Girard into a combined 2-12 shooting night with just 3 assists vs 3 turnovers. JMU point guard Deshon Parker went 0-7 with 2 assists vs 3 turnovers. Those guys were all underclassman; Smith is a veteran. It will be Kihei's biggest defensive test of the young season, but if he does what we've seen him do to top point guards in the past, it will blow up the Lions offense before it even gets started.

2) 3-point shooting: Try and try again. Casey Morsell is 1-11 on the year from 3. Kody Stattmann is 1-9. Woldetensae is 0-3. Kihei is 3-13. Braxton 2-8. Jay hasn't even attempted one yet. Yes, we can still win against these bad teams while shooting so cold, and obviously even win at the Carrier Dome. But even if our defense is historically good this year, the shots need to start falling sooner rather than later. Defenses will start doing a better job defensively targeting our bigs (Jay, Mamadi, and Braxton have been the only consistent scorers so far), and we'll need our perimeter game to be confident, comfortable, and effective. Once again, this week, I'll be looking to see if our shooters can't finally break a game open.

3) Get the ball security issues under control. The Lions defense is averaging over 15 turnovers forced a game, and in their near upset of the Deacons got senior PG Brandon Childress to cough it up five times. The Hoos, meanwhile, gave it up 16 times at Syracuse and another 10 vs JMU, and currently rank 200th nationally in turnover rate, though blessedly few have been live-ball. Turnovers are currency to mid-majors looking to score upsets, and Virginia needs to ensure its offense is clean to enable the comfortable win we're all expecting.




This is not one to overthink. Ignore the fact that they took Wake to the wire... Wake sucks; the Deacs may be the worst team in our league this year. UVA's on another level from Columbia. The Lions are without a number of their best players. They have just one player over 6'7". Their best player is tailor made to be checked by Kihei Clark. And, well, UVA's elite. The only questions to answer in this one are (1) do we get to see Caffaro and/or Woldetensae in action, (2) is this the game our 3's start falling, and (3) how early do the Green Teamers get on the floor?

Hoos Win 75-40