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Tuesday, December 21, 2004

The New York Times Discovers Columbia

Read all about the Columbia Lions men's basketball team and their resurrection under Coach Joe Jones. Now that St. John's has fallen mightily since the days of Chris Mullin and Mark Jackson and that the extracurricular incident on the road at Pitt last year was worthy more of the Post than the Times, the Times actually has some college hoops to write about.

A feel good story, as it were, because the Big Light Blue were getting powdered over the course of the last years of Armond Hill's tenure as coach. Now that Joe Jones and his recruiting magic have made Morningside Heights a preferred destination over other Ivies and even scholarship schools, there is a buzz about Columbia's men's hoop team. Thanks to Hoops Junkie for spotting the Times' article.

But does this story sound familiar? About four years ago there was a buzz in New Haven, where a new coach (who onced had assisted at Yale before moving to Ohio U.) returned to New Haven to bring some energy to a program that had won 4 games the year before under one-time Cal mentor Dick Kuchen. His name: James Jones, and, yes, he's the older brother of Joe Jones. James Jones talked a good game, perhaps too good for the liking of some Penn and Princeton fans, and he talked about how his team would be the best-conditioned and how they would take on Penn and Princeton. (In contrast, Joe Jones has maintained a much lower profile, and, most recently, his older brother has toned down his public statements about the opposition).

So what happened? James Jones did effect a great turnaround at Yale, leading the Elis to a tie for the Ivy title a few years back with Penn and Princeton. There was a three-way playoff, and after the Elis handled Princeton in the first game, Penn beat them handily for a spot in the Big Dance (ironically, many Princeton fans I know rooted for archrival Penn in that game, if only out of a feeling that the Ivy title was their shared plateau, and they didn't want an interloper to grab the title). Still, it was a great accomplishment, and James Jones proved to be an able recruiter, landing two top-150 recruits during his tenure in New Haven -- now-senior G Edwin Draughan and sophomore forward Sam Kaplan.

But this is a watershed year for the Elis, as PG Alex Gamboa and SG Draughan are seniors, and junior center Dominick Martin, the Princeton xfer, has yet to show why Stanford thought about offering him a scholarship, although he has played well in spurts. If Yale doesn't contend for the title this year (and I don't think they will), they'll cross paths with the Lions in years to come.

On their way down in the Ivy standings.

Because the Lions will be joining the Ivies' first division, while the Elis will exit it, at least for a time. Or, at least, that's what I'm thinking based upon what I've seen to date, and that's not meant to show disrespect to Kaplan, Martin or soph forward Casey Hughes, for whom great things have been predicted, but absent heady guards, winning titles is near impossible.

All that said, the best way for schools in the Ivies to challenge Penn and Princeton is to ensure that their travel pair is solid. What do I mean? Well, the Ivies play back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday nights during the Ivy season. Which means that schools get tag-teamed by Penn on a Friday night and then Princeton on Saturday, or vice versa, as the travel pairs are Penn-Princeton, Columbia-Cornell, Brown-Yale and Harvard-Dartmouth. Only when both members of another travel pair emerges as very solid will Penn and Princeton have a serious chance of stumbling. It's happened over the past several years because Yale and Brown have been strong at the same time, but Columbia also needs Cornell to stay tough in order to have a better shot at Penn and Princeton. It will be much easier to challenge the perennial favorites if you know that your travelmate bruises one of the them on the night before you have to play them as opposed to loses by 25.

As for the Lions, well, they're off to a great start, as many predicted they would be. Joe Jones has a good thing going in New York City, and the key thing is whether he'll be able to sustain it year-in and year-out. As his older brother can attest, the teams in Philadelphia and Princeton are still working hard, still out there recruiting the best players they can get.

It won't be easy.


Blogger yoni cohen :: said...


Er...About that Arizona State-Northwestern game.

Same old 'Cats, eh? The more things change...


2:34 PM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

Yoni: You're right. I posted on your blog early this morning about last night's game. The Cats must have been pathetic, and now I agree it's a long shot for them to make the tournament. They needed a good effort last night, and they got anything but. SportsProf

6:05 PM  
Blogger Sports Junky said...

I agree,

I love NCAAB. and recently I have bought stock in it. Not like real stock on Wall street, but a stock market that is strictly for sports.

You have seen it? Its pretty cool. You buy issues for your favorite teams and you make real money. Not like a fake stock simulator. I cash out Dividends each time the team wins. Also I can sell my team stock when the price goes up.

check it out if something like this interests you.
heres a link
you can log in and check it out for free..

They just released IPOS for NCAAB this week, so there are alot of good deals there.

Hope that helps

2:32 PM  

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