Cornell Goes For First 2010 NCAA Bid TonightPosted by rtmsf on March 5th, 2010
Unless half of the Cornell basketball team (the starting half) suffers serious food poisoning or takes a sudden interest in the illicit pleasures of Federal Hill in Providence, we should have our first 2010 NCAA Tournament bid secured at around 9 pm eastern tonight. With the Big Red’s twelfth Ivy League victory likely this evening, Steve Donahue’s team will have clinched their third straight regular season title (and NCAA bid).
In filling the vacuum left by the Penn and Princeton boondoggles, it’s been a phenomenal run for the men from Ithaca as Cornell has won 36 Ivy games over the past three seasons. Their Ivy scoring margin of +15.6 this year is the best seen in the league since the great Quaker teams at the turn of the millennium, with eight of Cornell’s eleven wins this year virtually in the books by the first timeout. We’d love to build up some drama about tonight’s game at Brown, but Cornell has defeated the Bears by a 22-point average margin of victory in the last five games between the two teams; given that this is Donahue’s best team of his career, we doubt that tonight’s the night for the 12-19 (5-7) Rhodies to shock the world (ed. note: the previous game this year was closer than the 14-point margin indicates, but we expect Cornell to come strong tonight with their NCAA bid on the line).
The one thing Cornell has so far failed to do in their three-year reign of Ivy dominance is to win a game against an RPI top-50 opponent (0-8), which squares with their 0-2 record in the NCAA Tournament (Ls to Missouri and Stanford). But they’re getting closer, as a closely-contested January game against #1 Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse showed. The core group of seniors — guard Louis Dale, forward Ryan Wittman, and center Jeff Foote — have been playing together for so long (and so well) that they know what each other is going to do before they’ve even thought of it yet. In an era of elite teams led by young players not far removed from the Prom and Selective Service sign-ups, the opportunity is ripe for the Big Red to catch an overconfident, sloppy team in the first round of the Dance this year.
In Zach Hayes’ latest RTC Bracketology, he has Cornell as a #13 seed playing #4 seed Temple, while Joe Lunardi has the Big Red as a #12 seed playing #5 Georgetown. While neither of those particular teams fit the criteria as a young, undisciplined team, there are others in that seed range who do (Tennessee in particular comes to mind). With a little luck in the draw this year, the Ivy League champion could be on the cusp of more than just its third straight trip to the NCAAs but also its first-ever win in Tournament history.