Case for the Ivies

Jaime IrvineCorrespondent IJanuary 14, 2010

CAMBRIDGE, MA - JUNE 7: Former Harvard President Larry Summers receives applause from Microsoft co-founder and Chairman Bill Gates (R) and former NBA star Bill Russell (L) during commencement ceremonies at Harvard University June 7, 2007 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Gates, who enrolled at Harvard in a pre-law program in 1973 and left in his junior year, received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
Darren McCollester/Getty Images

We are going to play the old game of say the first thing that pops into your head. Ok, so here goes.

Ivy League Basketball

Your answer: “Oxymoron?”

Since I played in the Ivy League, I am probably biased. OK, I am biased. But, as Rodney Dangerfield says, “we get no respect.”

This year the Ivies are different. Well, at least the top of the Ivies are different, and I believe it should get strong consideration for two teams in the field of 64 65. Sorry, still think having 65 teams is, as Alan Garner would say, "ratarded."

Cornell and Harvard have been very good this season and I am prepared to present their cases to the NCAA tournament committee.

Cornell Big Red (14-3)


The Big Red have rolled these past few years to two-straight NCAA appearances and this year they have returned eight of their nine top scorers. They have gotten off to a fast start this preseason with wins at Alabama (11-5), at Massachusetts, and at St. John’s (11-5).


Their three losses have all come at the hands of teams within the power conferences. Cornell lost to Seton Hall of the Big East early in the season 89-79. It lost at Syracuse, which is currently ranked No. 9, by the score of 88-73, though the game was closer than that. Syracuse coach Jim Boehim said about Cornell after the game, “They’re going to be in the NCAA tournament.”

Probably the biggest showcase for the Big Red was their nail biter at then-ranked No. 1 Kansas. Cornell took the Jayhawks down to the wire in Lawrence and eventually lost 71-66. The Big Red had the lead at halftime and most of the second half before the Jayhawks came back at the end.


In the much coveted RPI ranking by the NCAA tournament committee, Cornell is (as of today) ranked No. 34. Plenty of spots ahead of the bubble teams, most of which we start to see in the 50s range.

Harvard Crimson (12-3)


Harvard has been on a steady incline ever since the hire of Tommy Amaker, the former University of Michigan Coach and Duke PG. His top-notch recruiting is starting to pay off this year with a strong record of 12-3. Harvard does not have as many good wins as Cornell, but it did beat Boston College at BC by a score of 74-67.


The Crimson's losses include at No. 15 UConn by a score of 79-73, which was a close game down to the wire. They lost at No. 11 Georgetown 86-70, and their one true blemish is a loss at Army 56-53. Army is not a slouch of a team and does have a good chance to win the Patriot League and go on to the tournament. Also, they are the No. 1 ranked military in the world, so that has to count for something.


Harvard ranks No. 41 in the RPI, still plenty of spots below a “bubble team.”

For this all to work out for these smaaart kids, Harvard and Cornell would have to beat out every other team in the Ivy league. I would say then they would probably have to split their season series versus one team sweeping the other. If they do this, Cornell will be at 27-4 and Harvard 24-4 with one team having an extra loss and one an extra win after they play the tiebreaker game for the Ivy Championship, since the Ivies are the only conference not to have a conference tournament.

With those records, I believe both of these teams should be tournament bound with one getting the automatic bid and the other an at-large bid. Both of these teams have very quality wins underneath their belt with losses mounted up against some of the top-notch teams in the country. They have played in some of the most hostile environments (Syracuse, Kansas, UConn) and almost came out with victories.

Give it up to these kids and vote them in. After all, we could be working for them someday.