Crossposted here.

The Series: This will be the third time the Blue Devils and Lions have faced off. The all-time series is currently tied at one game apiece. Columbia beat Duke 66-58 in 1951, while the Blue Devils evened the series in 1999 with a 99-52 victory.

Jones Turning The Lion Program Around: When Joe Jones took over the Lions program, he inherited a team that was coming off a 2-25 campaign. Since that time he’s earned double figure victories in each of his first three seasons, and had the 2004-2005 squad off to a 12-5 start (the best in school history). In that season, the Lions won a tournament for the first time in nearly 20 years, claiming the inaugural Columbia Classic Championship to open the season.

Experience Is Not An Issue for Columbia: After undergoing years of young and inexperienced squads, the Lions return all five starters from last year’s team. In addition to the upperclassmen returning, Coach Jones added four freshmen to the roster. They are Patrick Foley (Blue Point, N.Y.), Kevin Bulger (Glenview, Ill.), Wesley Matthews (Austell, Ga.), Michael Gately (Sudbury, Mass.) and Niko Scott (New York, N.Y.).

Columbia picked 5th in Ivy League: Following last year’s 11-16 campaign, the Lions were picked to finish fifth behind Penn, Princeton, Cornell, and Yale in the Ivy League preseason media poll.

Defense is Key For Coach Jones: A season ago the Lions finished third in the Ivy League in free-throw percentage, third in field-goal percentage, first in three-point percentage, and no one out-rebounded their opponents better than Columbia. However, the Lions were also last in the conference in turnover margin, which contributed to their late season dive.

Paulus Quetionable For Season Opener: Duke’s starting point guard Greg Paulus is questionable for this game. The sophomore returned to practice on Wednesday afternoon, but will be a game time decision.

Young Blue Devils Ready For Prime Time? Duke will likely start at least two members of their four man freshman class against the Lions. The foursome of Jon Scheyer, Brian Zoubek, Lance Thomas, and Gerald Henderson aquitted themselves well in the two exhibition games and will look to continue as the regular season begins.

Scheyer, who started at point guard in place of the injured Paulus, averaged 16.5 points 3.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists (against 1.5 turnovers per game). Henderson (8.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg) and Thomas (9.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.5 spg) also showed well in their first exhibitions. The surprise of the preseason, however, was Zoubek. The 7-foot-1 New Jersey native averaged 11.5 points and 8.0 rebounds, while blocking 4 shots and shooting 10-of-15 from the field.

Veterans Accepting Enhanced Roles: With such a young team, a large responsibility has fallen on the shoulders of junior DeMarcus Nelson and sophomore Josh McRoberts. During the exhibition season the pair improved on last season’s numbers with Nelson averaging 14 points and 4 rebounds in 22.5 minutes per game. McRoberts added 12.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 4.0 assists in 27.5 minutes per game.

A New Style of Play Coming? After being heavily reliant on the three point shot in the past few years, the Blue Devils’ roster seems to be lacking a true long range sniper. Through two exhibition games the Devils are shooting just 13-of-43 (.302) from the perimeter.

Duke 89
Columbia 64