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Know! Your! Foe! - Columbia.

On Saturday night Princeton wraps their first full weekend of Ivy play by hosting Columbia. As part of our Know! Your! Foe! series please welcome John Templon from Big Apple Buckets back to

Our email exchange can be found after the jump.

If you haven't read the Cornell preview that was published here yesterday, please do so.

Additionally, if you cover a team the Tigers will face down the line, let us know. It would be great to talk with you.

I'll reverse the same question I opened my Cornell "Know! Your! Foe" with. Columbia is 1-1 in the Ivy League, beating Cornell in Ithaca and then seeing a rally fall short on their home floor. What went right in the first game and wrong in the second for the Lions?

Where to begin? A lot of things changed from one game to the next. One of the biggest things though was that in the first game Mark Cisco was able to get into the paint and really bother Cornell. He had 18 points in that game. In the second the Big Red appeared determined to keep him out of the paint and he struggled mightily. Also, Columbia shot well on the road and not so much at home (which is an odd, but recurring theme). I think Isaac Cohen's athleticism caught Cornell off-guard the first two times these teams played, but then he was bottled up in the game at Levien.

Cornell's defense in the second game was much more aggressive. Galal Cancer also played especially well off the bench and Columbia just couldn't find an answer. The Lions got down big and then when Shonn Miller got in foul trouble were able to mount a comeback, but ultimately couldn't finish off the game. Both games came down to one 8-10 minute run. I bet a lot of Ivy League games will be decided that way this season.

Let's start with senior guard Brian Barbour. He's a much different player than Ian Hummer but like Hummer he's the nexus for so much of what the Lions do, using the most possessions and responsible for the most Columbia assists. Would you say he's the same player as a season ago or are there any subtle differences from his junior year worth watching?

I wrote about Brian Barbour earlier this season and one of the things he spoke about and I think is really true is that he's worked on becoming more of a true point guard. It's not so much what Barbour is doing this season, but the cast around him that has allowed him to grow and evolve as a player. His assist rate shot up last season and it's gotten even better this season. Barbour has also been especially careful about turning the ball over. He's how Columbia is so good at managing possessions. The offense is decent not because they shoot well or they rebound (they really don't rebound) or get to the free throw line, but because they use every single possession. That is a testament to their senior point guard.

Grant Mullins is a Canadian freshman guard who is second on the team in scoring, shooting a lofty 46.9% from behind the arc with an EFG% of 63.1% while second on the team averaging 11.1 ppg. Tell me more about this intriguing addition to the Lions' roster. Also, what is it with Canadian Ivy League marksmen?

He's fun. He's sort of a freewheeling type of player that has a lot of athleticism and can play at a very high level, especially for being just a freshman. He's excellent in transition, potentially even more dangerous than Barbour because I think he's probably a better shooter when left open. In that piece about Barbour I mention Mullins and how he'll eventually take over the role as the next "Brian Barbour" in that the Columbia offense will probably flow through him sometime in the next three seasons.

It's worth noting that Mullins isn't the only freshmen guard playing minutes for Columbia. Maodo Lo is more of a traditional point guard and excellent defensively. He'll really get into guards and harass them as they're dribbling up the court. He's started a number of games as a third guard as the Lions have once again gone a little smaller. Also, the aforementioned Cohen is very athletic. He almost never shoots, but when he does it is going in. He's 8-9 on twos for the season. In the first game against Cornell he drove into the paint at will and finished with seven assists, so he's dangerous if not accounted for.

I'm struck by the balanced scoring on Kyle Smith's squad, with five players averaging between 9.4 and 13.6 points/game. Beyond Barbour, Mullins, Alex Rosenberg, Steve Frankoski and big man Mark Cisco, is there someone below this tier worth keeping an eye on Saturday night?

Nobody else on the roster can really score at an efficient rate. That's where the shots should be going. John Daniels will probably play a lot against Princeton because the Lions will have to be a bit bigger up front given what the Tigers present, but he's more a defense, energy and rebounding guy. Though if you haven't seen his dunk from Saturday's game be sure to check it out. Corey Osetkowski will probably also get the chance to play some significant minutes on Saturday night and I'd expect him to be better offensively than his numbers suggest. He played some good minutes against Cornell as well.

Columbia's overall offensive numbers aren't that impressive, but they never turn the ball over (16.2% of all possessions - 9th nationally), shoot great from three point range (38.3% - 24th nationally), knock down their free throws (77.1% - 7th nationally) and their Steal % is best in Division I. What's bogged them down when CU has the ball?

Yeah, I touched on this a bit earlier, but Columbia is a pretty odd team offensively. They'll have nights where they just can't hit a shot and then they won't score. The team is a little overly reliant on the three-point shot (37.9% of their shots are from three). If they're falling, great. If they're not then the team struggles a bit to find other ways to score. A lot of the Columbia offense relies on pick-and-rolls for Mark Cisco and guard penetration and kick outs. Barbour and Mullins also have the gift of making athletic plays around the basket. But those are tough shots. If you're going against a tall defensive team that's tough around the basket then it's hard to make those shots. I know Princeton fits the first part of that description, but the second I'm not so sure.

swear you called Columbia "enigmatic" on Twitter, but now I can't find the post in question. Was that you? Is that true? After all this is a team that lost at home to Marist and won at Villanova in the same 72 hour period during November!

I think it probably was me or maybe it was Michael James. Anyways, this team can look like the best team in the country for 10 minute stretches and then it can look like the worst. It depends on if shots are falling and how hard they're guarding opponents. Columbia took a very good Bucknell team to task for 15 minutes and then blew the game because of the other 25. They lost to Marist, LIU Brooklyn, Holy Cross and Cornell, but they also beat Villanova. It's just odd.

The Lions make a statement in the race for the Ivy League title if...

...They push the pace a little with the three guard lineup and can make Princeton play their style.

Princeton creates some distance from one of their many challengers if...

...They slow Columbia down and guard hard in the interior during half court sets.

Anything worth plugging since we spoke last before the Fordham game? If so, have at it!

We've got a podcast! You can subscribe on iTunes or that category link has all the individual episodes. I try to have a different special guest each week. We also did a special Ivy League podcast before the league tipped off with Michael James, a.k.a. @ivybball on Twitter, that talked about the entire league and still might be a fun listen. There's a lot of NEC talk, but it focuses on mid-majors all over the country and is just a great time to record.

I'll be at the game on Saturday night. Planning on watching from the stands so I can root for someone (or maybe a good game).

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