Columbia (0-0) at Furman (0-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 10, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Timmons Arena (4,000) -- Greenville, South Carolina. Television: None. Home Record: Columbia 0-0, Furman 0-0. Away Record: Columbia 0-0, Furman 0-0. Neutral Record: Columbia 0-0, Furman 0-0. Conference Record: Columbia 0-0, Furman 0-0. Series Record: Series is tied, 1-1.
GAME NOTES: The Furman Paladins will tip off their 2012-13 season tonight at Timmons Arena, as they host the Columbia Lions.
The Lions enjoyed a strong start to last season, and they even won 11 of 12 games from late November to early January, but faltered down the stretch to finish 15-15 (4-10 Ivy League). With all five starters returning, Columbia's prospects are looking up, as it was picked to finish third in the preseason Ivy League poll.
After winning 22 games during the 2010-11 campaign, Furman took a step backwards last season. The Paladins were mired in mediocrity in the Southern Conference, going 15-16 overall, while winning just 8 of 18 conference tilts. They will enjoy four straight home games to start the season.
The teams have split the previous two meetings in the all-time series. Furman won last year's matchup in New York, 62-58.
Columbia was merely an average team in the Ivy League in terms of scoring, putting up 65.2 ppg on 43.1 percent field goal shooting, but it stayed competitive thanks to a tough defense, which ranked second in the league by allowing opponents to drain just 41.6 percent of its shots. The return of a strong core can only help this season. Brian Barbour was one of the top scorers in the league a season ago (15.5 ppg), and while he was nearly automatic from the free-throw line (.901), an improvement upon his 39.4 field goal percentage would help the team greatly. Barbour also ranked fifth in assists with 4.4 apg, and he was named First Team All-Ivy League. Meiko Lyles (10.6 ppg) is a trusty running mate for Barbour at guard as he drained 43.9 percent of his three-pointers last year, but he will miss the fall semester due to personal reasons. He will be replaced in the starting lineup by Steve Frankoski (6.5 ppg). Mark Cisco (10 ppg, 7.2 rpg) and Alex Rosenberg (7.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg) provide a steady presence at the forward position. After averaging just 11 minutes per game as a freshman, Cory Osetkowski (6-11) will hope to make a larger impact this year for a team in need of a shot-blocker.
Furman also struggled putting points on the scoreboard last year (64.7 ppg), but unlike Columbia, it will be without its leading scorer, as Brandon Sebirumi (11.1 ppg) has graduated. Luckily for the Paladins, they have plenty of returning experience to help pick up the slack. Taking over as the primary scoring option will be junior guard Charlie Reddick, who scored 10.4 ppg and grabbed 4.9 rpg in 2011-12. Colin Reddick is not nearly the scoring threat his brother is (4.3 ppg), but the 6-9 senior brings physicality to the low block as he comes into the season ranked ninth in school history with 75 blocked shots. Joining the Reddick brothers in the starting lineup are two other seniors, Bobby Austin (7.5 ppg) and Bryant Irwin (7.7 ppg), both of whom connect on more than a three-pointer per game. Freshman Stephen Croone (6-1, 170) made enough of an impression over the summer to begin the season as the team's starting point guard.
Both teams know that another 15-win season isn't going to cut it in their conferences and are eager to start off the new year fresh. Furman has been historically tough to beat in Timmons Arena (including a 9-5 record there last season), but Columbia won't need much time to regain the chemistry it developed last season.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Columbia 65, Furman 63
11/10 10:33:22 ET