The men’s basketball team (19-12) will kick off its postseason slate tonight, on the road at Valparaiso (18-15).
Columbia was invited to play in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament. Founded in 2009, the CIT consists mostly of mid-major schools that were not selected to participate in the NCAA Tournament or National Invitation Tournament. It is a single-elimination competition—which means Columbia’s season is over if it loses.
“I think we’re excited to play someone else outside of the Ivy League and see what we’re made of,” Light Blue head coach Kyle Smith said.
Columbia rates among the best teams in the CIT by several ranking metrics—but not by enough to be favored over Valparaiso on its home floor. This season, a year after taking the Horizon League title and the automatic NCAA Tournament berth that goes with it, the Crusaders finished fourth in the standings and fell in the second round of the conference tournament to eventual champion Milwaukee.
“They have some nice pieces,” Smith said. “They’re the biggest, most athletic front line I’ve seen probably since Michigan State or St. John’s.”
Forward Alec Peters finished second on the team in scoring with 12.7 points per game and third in rebounding with 4.8 boards per game. In the latter category, he trailed forward Vashil Fernandez and seven-foot center Moussa Gueye, who both also averaged around five rebounds per game despite playing fewer than 20 minutes a night.
While Columbia has had some trouble guarding strong players in the post, Smith also said stopping the Crusaders’ leading scorer, guard LaVonte Dority, will be key. The senior averages over 16 points per game, shooting 39 percent from beyond the arc and 42 percent from the field in his four years. He also gets 41 percent of his shots at the rim, according to Hoop-Math. Valparaiso as a team has gotten over 45 percent of its field goal attempts at the rim this season, the 28th-best mark in the country.
“It would be a really good win for us on the road,” Smith said.
He added that if Columbia can string some wins together and is still playing when classes resume next week, the Light Blue may consider hosting a CIT matchup. Ivy foes Brown and Yale decided to host games. The Bears fell to Holy Cross last night, while the Bulldogs will face Quinnipiac.
Tipoff is just after 8 p.m. ET in Valparaiso, Ind. The game will be streamed live on CollegeInsider.com.