Sports | Sports Columns

GUEST COLUMN: Men's basketball worth the time this weekend

  • Kiera Wood / Senior Staff Photographer
    Keep it up, Kyle | Under head coach Kyle Smith, the Lions have improved a great deal.

I was never supposed to be biased—in fact, it was my job as the sports editor two years ago to be unbiased—but I guess it just sort of happened. I’ve been a fan of all Columbia sports teams since I set foot on this campus, but at least to me, there has always been something special about the men’s basketball team. I’m not one to play favorites, but this time, I’ll admit it.

I try to make as many home games as possible. I’ve even gone to two away games, and since both of those games were against Yale in New Haven, I can guarantee you that there was no added joy of sightseeing. My motivation was purely basketball-based.

Although I wish it weren’t true, the men’s basketball team has struggled throughout my time as a fan—or at least on paper, they have. In my first year, the Lions finished fifth, winning six conference games. The following year, they finished sixth, winning only four Ivy games. Last year, the Lions finished at the bottom of the league, yet again posting a 4-10 conference record. This season, they’ve done much better: they’re 18-11 overall, and 7-5 in the league. And although they’ve been eliminated from the race for the conference title, they’re tied for third with Brown.

I could try to convince you to come out to the team’s final games of the season this Friday and Saturday against Penn and Princeton simply because of how well the team has done this season. But, in my opinion, this school focuses too damn hard on records and rankings. And furthermore, focusing purely on wins and losses causes us to forget how exciting individual games are—let me tell you, they’ve been pretty spectacular this year in particular. At Princeton, Columbia trailed by two with 30 seconds left, but pulled out the win after Meiko Lyles drained the game-winning three. It was the team’s first win at Jadwin Gymnasium since 1993. Three weeks ago, Light Blue fans suffered a Valentine’s Day heartbreak as they watched what might have been a game-winning bucket by Alex Rosenberg get called off due to a questionable charge call. And early on in the nonconference season, the Lions played Michigan State, then ranked No. 2 in the nation. The Lions played the Spartans—who beat the No. 1 team just before facing Columbia—close, leading for most of the game before eventually falling, 62-53, in the final minutes.

This is why I love the basketball team: They (almost) always make it exciting. I love the basketball team because Kyle Smith is a great coach, and I consider myself lucky to have seen how much the Lions have improved over the past few years. I love the basketball team because they always play hard, even if the result is potentially heart-shattering. And I’m not the only one. I’m not kidding when I say that I’ve met and bonded with several good friends and sorority sisters based on how much we enjoy watching, loving, and rooting for this team.

So this is where I tell you to come out to at least one of this weekend’s games, if not both. It might not seem like it’s the best thing to do in light of the Light Blue’s uncharacteristic 80-47 decimation at the hands of the Crimson. It also might not seem easy considering the impending paper deadlines and upcoming midterms looming before a much-needed spring break. But I promise you that watching this team is worth your time. Basketball games at Columbia are one of the few places I’ve felt that we truly have the stereotypical school spirit.

But most importantly, our boys in blue deserve a packed house as they take on Penn and Princeton, a combination often referred to as the Killer P’s. So take a break from studying or writing that thesis and head out to Levien Gymnasium Friday or Saturday at 7 p.m. You won’t regret it. I promise.

Rebeka Cohan is a Barnard College senior majoring in history. She is a former staff development director and a former sports editor for Spectator. 

rebeka.cohan@columbiaspectator.com | @rebekacohan

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