Northwestern basketball is off to a 2-0 start, but it faces its stiffest test yet when the Columbia Lions (1-1) come to Welsh-Ryan Arena for some Friday night hoops.
The Lions, who are led by senior guard Maodo Lo and senior forward Alex Rosenberg, are likely the toughest mid-major foe on Northwestern's non-conference schedule. They, along with Yale, were one of two preseason Ivy League favorites, and on paper look like the exact type of team that Northwestern could struggle with.
The Wildcats had their fair share of issues in both their season opener against UMass Lowell and their second game of the campaign against Fairfield. However, coach Chris Collins' team came away from both victorious.
Columbia, on the other hand, lost its first real game of the 2015-16 season. The Lions opened with a win over Division III Kean University, but then lost to Kansas State in Manhattan, Kan., 81-71.
Columbia is infatuated with the three-ball, and with good reason. Rosenberg shot 43 percent from beyond the arc in 2013-14 (he missed the 2014-15 season due to injury), and Lo shot 42 percent a year ago. Sophomore guard Kyle Castlin is also a threat. Even without Rosenberg last year, the Lions took nearly 46 percent of their field goals from three-point range, a top 10 rate nationally, so Northwestern will have to be quick to step to shooters.
Columbia is a far better offensive team than defensive team though. It finished 285th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency a year ago, per KenPom. But the Lions don't lack size. Their starters are listed at 6-foot-3, 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 and 6-10, a fairly similar lineup size-wise to Northwestern's.
On Northwestern's end, the offensive end of the floor will be the one to watch. Things haven't clicked like fans would have hoped through two games. Tre Demps hasn't yet gotten going, Alex Olah has been inconsistent, and the effects of Vic Law's absence are already apparent.
The Wildcats are still the superior team athletically though, and should like their chances in what is the first of three games in five days. Here's how to watch on Friday night:
Time: 7 p.m. CT
Online: ESPN3, WatchESPN
Mobile: WatchESPN App
Radio: ESPN 1000 AM, WNUR 89.3 FM
KenPom projection: Ken Pomeroy gives Northwestern a 79 percent chance to win, with a projected score of 73-61.
Betting line: Northwestern is favored by 5.5 points after opening up at -8.5.
Follow us on Twitter for live, in-game updates from Welsh-Ryan. Also, this post will turn into the GameThread 30 minutes before tip.