Columbia plays it safe with schedule

Columbia released its complete 2012-13 schedule today and while the Lions will play a number of solid mid-majors there’s a stunning lack of elite teams on the docket.

Two Ivy League teams, Harvard and Princeton, finished in the nation’s top 100 teams according to Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted pythagorean win percentage. The Crimson finished 44th in the nation. In two of the past three years an Ivy has finished around the top 50 in the nation. (Cornell finished 52nd in 2009-10.) That’s the way the league is going right now. The top teams in the league are trying to compete with the top teams in the country.

Well, Columbia didn’t schedule those types of teams during non-conference play. In their 14 non-conference games the Lions will play just two teams that were ranked in the top 100 last season, Villanova and Bucknell. The Wildcats are the only team from a BCS conference, the Atlantic 10, Conference USA or the Mountain West on the schedule. Why limit yourself?

The schedule could still be challenging. Besides those two upper tier games, Manhattan and LIU Brooklyn are both expected to compete for their conference titles. Those are two more quality games. Playing at San Francisco, LIU Brooklyn and American isn’t easy.¬†Eight wins would be impressive.

But then there’s the bottom of the schedule. Columbia will play a non-NCAA school in its opener of the San Francisco Hilltop Challenge – though my guess is ending up with Wayland Baptist wasn’t the Lions’ fault – and four teams that ranked worse than 250th in the Pomeroy rankings last season. Yes, there are two Ivy League teams that held the same distinction. But isn’t non-conference play supposed to prepare a team to win a league?

In this case it seems like Columbia’s 14-game non-conference mimics all too well the 14 games Kyle Smith’s team will play during the far more important months. (The average is actually slightly worse at 206 for non-conference versus 177 for last year’s Ivy League minus Columbia.) I just wish they would’ve stretched themselves a little bit more.