NCAA Tournament: Cornell Takes on Kentucky in David vs. Goliath Matchup

Sam BlumCorrespondent IMarch 24, 2010

JACKSONVILLE, FL - MARCH 21:  Louis Dale #12 of the Cornell Big Red celebrates in the game against the Wisconsin Badgers during the second round of the 2010 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Jacksonville Veteran's Memorial Arena on March 21, 2010 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

What a magical ride it has been for the Cornell Big Red.

They have done the unthinkable by beating two of the most prominent college basketball programs of the 2010 season. And they did it pretty easily. So two games down, four to go, no problem right?

Well, maybe it's not that easy. 

They will be taking on the Wildcats from Kentucky in a huge matchup on Thursday that could shock the foundations of the college basketball world should the Big Red take down the Big Blue.

Kentucky is arguably the best basketball school ever. They have won the national championship seven times, been to the tournament 50 times, and have played in 13 Final Fours.

The case is not so similar for the Big Red. They have been to the tournament just five times, and are 2-5 in tournament games.

Those two wins happened this season.

They have never been to the Final Four, and no Ivy League team has since 1979, when Penn did. Since 1979, Kentucky alone has been there five times.

Cornell's basketball players were not recruited to play at the division one level, and are not receiving a scholarship. Kentucky has 12 players on athletic scholarships.

Nearly every player on the Kentucky team will be playing professionally, just two players from the entire Cornell team were invited to an NBA summer camp. They will be lucky to get drafted. 

Cornell's coach is making a couple hundred thousand, while John Calipari is making more than a couple million.

So if you're not convinced just yet that a Cornell win would be one of the biggest ever, then just tune in tomorrow.

The game will be played in Syracuse, NY. That is less than 60 miles away from the Cornell campus in Ithaca. A win would bring some much needed spirit to an Ithaca community which has had to deal with quite a few suicides in the recent weeks. 

Other rough news for the Ithaca faithful is that this is likely to be the last season for beloved head coach Steve Donahue.

Going into today, he was highly considered for the open job at Fordham, which was filled by Tom Pecora. He is now at the top of the list for Seton Hall, and an outside option for St. John's and a few other schools. 

So the key for a Big Red win will be keeping a slow tempo and being able to find good shots in a half-court offense. They have been able to do that all year by utilizing their three-point shooting—their not-so-secret weapon. They led the nation in that category with a 43 percent mark.

They will also need to be able to slow down the high-scoring Kentucky offense, which features four players averaging over 11 points a game. By no means will they be able to stop them. They will need to keep them to 65-72 points, while Kentucky averages 80 a game. 

So, best case scenario, Cornell hits threes, John Wall has an off night, and Cornell actually has the home court advantage.

If all of that happens, Cornell's Cinderella story will still be alive.