I took in Harvard - Cornell last night, and am now a premium subscriber to the Big Red. Pete Thamel of the New York Times was to my left on press row, and it was great to get his take on this team since, he knows a ton about them.
Some have offered their support for Cornell (with an astounding nine seniors!) as an at-large bid in the event they somehow were to lose the Ivy. Not needed. This team appears locked in after defeating their two biggest competitors, Harvard and Princeton, in the last week.
As for seeding in the tournament, 12 sounds about right. Potential five seeds beware. Here's why:
That Ryan Whittman kid is pretty good - Last night's game might have been pegged as Whittman vs. Harvard's Jeremy Lin, but Whitman was far more impressive. His 24 points came within the flow of the offense with many of his makes just crippling the crowd and erasing any sort of momentum the Crimson had. He was frieken lights out last night, getting open looks and also creating his own shot. You should know that on-court savvy runs in his blood. His father was Randy Whittman, a 12 year NBA vet.
They have a legit seven-footer - Jeff Foote might not be as consistent as you'd like, but he gives them a real threat inside. He's got great footwork, which I love, and posted a respectable average of 12 and 8 on 11-15 shooting against Kansas (Cole Aldrich) and Syracuse (Arinze Onuaku) earlier this season. He helps curb any potential size disadvantage against BCS conference teams.
Every guard can shoot -Whittman may be the face of the team, but he's just one of six Big Red players who have hit 20 or more three pointers this season. Senior Louis Dale (who has averaged double figures his entire career) was the conference player of the year as a sophomore in 2008, and Chris Wroblewski trumps both Whittman and Dale, shooting 43 percent from beyond the arc. Max Goebe is also one of the great treasures for this team. Twenty-one of the 24 baskets he's made this season have been worth three points.
- They've traversed through some of the nation's toughest arenas - Allen Fieldhouse, The Carrier Dome, Madison Square Garden; the Big Red had the 74th toughest non-conference schedule this season. Not bad for an Ivy League team. This team is fearless, and play with a swagger that suggests they expect to, at the very least, compete with any and every team in country. The bright lights won't get their testicles up into their stomach. Said Jim Boeheim, a great resource when some perspective is needed: "[Cornell] could play in the Big East. They would win games in our league. They would win a bunch of games."
- They blog - It really has no bearing on this team's chances to play into the second weekend of the tournament, but forward Jon Jacques is an aspiring sportswriter, and has been filing blog entries for the Times' "The Quad" for the past two seasons. What's not to love about that?