March 17, 2006
I apologize in advance for beating a dead horse, as I wrote about this very topic last year.
But yesterday, as I watched teams from the Horizon and Big Sky conferences earn first-round upsets, I couldn’t help but get angered by the fact that our beloved conference’s stupidity is sinking it deeper into NCAA basketball obscurity.
Tomorrow, Penn will take the court against Texas and will surely lose. It will be the eighth straight year that the Ivy League champion has bowed out in the opening round.
So, I pose the question – why are our peers from the Patriot League (namely Bucknell) and other mid-majors gaining national exposure while the Ivy League is earning respect at the same rate as Ashlee Simpson’s singing voice?
I have one solution to this problem – an Ivy League tournament. Last season the Quakers were one game better than they were this season and earned a 13 seed without playing a single team in the top-25 in the country. This season Penn played back-to-back games against No. 1 Duke and No. 3 Villanova, and took the Wildcats down to the wire before falling by seven at the Palestra. But the Quakers are a 15 seed this season.
Why is this point relevant in a discussion about an Ivy tournament? The bottom line is that our conference has become a laughingstock. While all the other teams in The Dance were battling conference foes to earn a bid, the Quakers were squeaking out wins over Yale (by two) and Brown (in overtime) before losing to Princeton to end their season. Not exactly a great momentum boost going into a contest against the Longhorns.
The bottom line is that, for some reason, the Belmonts and Bradleys of the world are surpassing the Ivy League in basketball prestige. Obviously that’s not of much concern to the Ancient Eight elitists, but still, isn’t there any way that we could market ourselves better to quality athletes? Should Cornell be content being a national power in such niche sports as hockey and wrestling? I love to watch those sports, but come on, I’d watch underwater basket weaving if it was competitive.
Please don’t get me wrong – Penn was the class of the league this year and deserved to make the tournament, but why shouldn’t we put our top teams through the gauntlet of the league before facing top national competition? For some odd reason, we allow our teams to get rusty before the tournament, playing meaningless games against teams who know that their postseason chances are about as good as Michael Jackson’s chances of being normal again. For the last two weeks of the season, nobody wants to go see Columbia, Dartmouth, or even Cornell games. It’s like watching the Knicks, except without the Garden, Knick-City Dancers, and beer concessions. So what’s the point?
There are other conferences of eight teams that run successful postseason tournaments every year, using various formats. Personally, I feel as if a league tournament can be easily suited to cater to the regular-season champion.
If I were king for the day, the top-2 seeds would get byes into the semifinals (which they would host on their respective home courts), while the bottom four teams duke it out to play the No. 3 and No. 4 teams (who would host the quarterfinals). Then, the finals could be hosted by the best remaining seed to determine the league’s automatic bid. Can any one of the Ancient Eight athletic directors tell me why this already isn’t in place? I’d love to hear the argument.
Last year when I wrote about this, plenty of people gave me feedback about how the current system gives the bid to the conference’s best team. Well, yes and no.
I’ll explain by simulating the system I just proposed. Okay, so in the first round Brown would host Dartmouth and Harvard would welcome Columbia, while Cornell and Yale awaited the winner. Say the top seeds prevail. The Red would host the Crimson and the Bulldogs would host the Bears.
Therefore, all Penn and Princeton (the best teams in the regular season) would have to do is beat Yale and Cornell, respectively, to earn the chance to play for a tournament berth. I’m sure that doesn’t sound like such a tall task to those teams. And even if the Quakers and Tigers lost in an exciting end-of-the-year event, would it be that big of a deal?
Maybe for once in our lives we can see a team other than Penn and Princeton get hot and have a shot at a top-ranked opponent. The last time that happened was Cornell in the 1987-88 season.
So even though I’ll be gone next year, I urge the league’s athletic directors to finally right these wrongs and put Ivy League basketball exactly where it should be – on the map.
Chris Mascaro is the former Sun Sports Editor. He May Be Tall will appear every other Friday this semester.
Archived article by Chris Mascaro
March 17, 2006
OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLA – It was a scene of controlled chaos yesterday at the 76th annual NCAA Division I national championships – 300 wrestlers, various media moguls and over 15,000 fans gathered inside the Ford Center for sessions I and II, as eight Red wrestlers looked to make waves on wrestling’s biggest stage.
Cornell wrestlers went 10-6 overall in the tournament on day one. Every wrestler except sophomore Steve Anceravage advanced to day two of competition. Freshman Troy Nickerson, senior Joe Mazzurco and junior Jerry Rinaldi all went 2-0 on the day.
“It’s still a little too early to make judgments on how the team is doing,” said head coach Rob Koll. “I was a little disappointed with session I, but I feel a little better about our guys after session II. My mood is dictated by the session. I can be real happy or real upset within a matter of minutes.”
Senior Mike Mormile competed in the tournament’s very first match, dropping a close decision to the No. 2 seed, Nathan Morgan, of Oklahoma State. The three-time NCAA qualifier Mormile got behind early, surrendering a takedown in the first period. Morgan added a reversal as the wrestlers traded escapes, extending his lead to 5-1 going into the final period. Despite recording two escapes in the third period, Mormile couldn’t land a takedown in the final seconds, eventually losing 6-3 after a point was awarded to Morgan for riding time advantage.
Despite losing his first match, Mormile roared back in session II, eliminating both Iowa State’s Jesse Sundell, 12-9, and Old Dominion’s Ryan Williams, 8-5, from the tournament.
Nickerson recorded the Red’s first win of the tournament, notching a 10-5 victory over Missouri’s Austin Devoe in the 125 pound bracket. The matched looked bleak at first for the Chenango Forks native, as Devoe fell awkwardly on Nickerson’s leg just 45 seconds into the match. After an injury time out, Nickerson felt out Devoe the rest of the first period, eventually taking control of the bout after scoring two takedowns in the second. He scored an escape and a reversal before adding an extra bonus point for riding advantage.
Nickerson added his second win on the day in session II, defeating Tanner Gardner of Stanford by a score of 3-2. Nickerson, the Red’s leader in wins and falls during the regular season, took the early lead by scoring two points on a reversal in the first period. After allowing two escapes throughout the rest of the bout to tie it at two, Nickerson then shut the door on Gardner, winning the match by accumulating 1:05 in riding time.
Junior Keith Dickey won his first NCAA tournament match of his career in the 149 bracket, defeating Lock Haven’s Joshua Medina by a score of 6-0. After leading 1-0 going into the final period, Dickey recorded three points on a near fall as time expired. He was awarded an extra point thanks to his advantage in riding time.
Dickey then faced a tough draw in his second match of the day, losing by pinfall to the tournament’s No. 7 seed, Edinboro’s Gregor Gillespie.
In perhaps the most surprising match for the Red on day one, senior three-time All-American Dustin Manotti was upset by Oregon State’s Tony Hook at 157 pounds. Coming off being knocked out in the EIWA title bout two weeks ago, Manotti looked sluggish as he wrestled from behind the entire length of the match, eventually losing 13-5. With the match as close as 6-4 with 1:30 left to go, Manotti took several shots with no avail, as Hook scored insurance points on reversals and near falls.
Manotti finally returned to form, defeating Jacob Yost of Chattanooga by a score of 7-3 in session II. Manotti led going into the third period, 4-3, and eventually scored another takedown with 1:07 left to go in the match. He was awarded a bonus point thanks to his 2:19 riding time advantage.
“Obviously we were disappointed early on with Dustin,” Koll said. “He kind of got caught on his heels a little bit. Now he just has to wrestle back and place high.”
Anceravage faced Northwestern’s William Durkee in his first NCAA tournament appearance. Anceravage and Durkee wrestled to a stalemate for most of the match, with Anceravage coming out on the short end of a 2-0 decision. Durkee scored the only points of the match on a takedown with seconds remaining in the first period. Anceravage seemed to have Durkee wrapped up and turned over for near fall points late in the third period, but time expired before Anceravage could shift his weight.
Anceravage was then a victim of tough luck, as he was set to take on the No. 6 Matt Nagel of Minnesota who had been upset earlier in the day. Nagel got the best of Anceravage, controlling the match en route to a 4-3 victory because of riding time advantage. Anceravage scored a late takedown with three seconds remaining in the bout, but the rally was too little too late as time on the clock expired.
“With all the upsets happening today it goes to show you that you have to take advantage of every opportunity given to you,” Koll said. “Anceravage wasn’t opportunistic at all and it cost him. It doesn’t matter if you win by one or win by 10, a win is a win. Unfortunately, if you lose two close matches like Steve did, it still means the same thing.”
Senior Dan Miracola faced similar fortune in the 174 bracket, as he dropped his first match to the local favorite, Wes Roberts of Oklahoma. Roberts rode Miracola the entire way through, winning by a score of 4-0. Roberts racked up 2:05 in riding time.
Miracola bounced back in the consolation bracket, beating Christian Arellano of Cal St. Baker by a score of 6-2.
“I was real pleased with the guys who wrestled back,” Koll said. “Miracola did a great job.”
Mazzurco and Rinaldi impressed in the first round of their respective brackets, with both wrestlers winning decisively at 184 and 197 pounds. Mazzurco defeated Cal Davis’ Tyler Bernacchi by major decision, 17-6. Rinaldi took down Rider’s Tim Morrison by a score of 7-2.
The duo’s second matches were similar as well but in opposite fashion as both wrestlers advanced to the round of eight by winning in overtime. Mazzurco, who wrestled with his head bandaged because of a lacerated chin, defeated Christian Sinnott of Central Michigan, 6-4. After a Mazzurco escape tied the score at four, the match eventually went into sudden death overtime. Mazzurco, in vintage form, scored a textbook single leg takedown to secure the win with 16 seconds left to go in the extra period.
Rinaldi needed three overtimes to cement his victory over Matt Delguyd of Northwestern. After going into overtime deadlocked at one, neither wrestler could muster any offense as Rinaldi was awarded the victory after Delguyd was penalized for stalling.
The seven Red wrestlers still alive in the tournament will return to action today at 10:00 a.m. Some, like Mormile and Rinaldi will see some familiar faces. Mormile is set to wrestle Harvard’s Robbie Preston, a wrestler Mormile has a long history with, winning only one of four matches against him in the last two years. Rinaldi is set to face Buffalo’s Kyle Cerminala, a wrestler who Rinaldi lost to earlier in the season.
“We know how to wrestle Preston and we know how to wrestle Cerminala,” Koll said. “It doesn’t mean we’ll beat them, but at least we have a game plan and we’ll try and stick to it. The only downside is that they have a game plan too.”
Nickerson will face the dangerous Michael Sees of Bloomsburg. Sees pulled off one of the tournament’s biggest upsets yesterday, defeating the No. 4 seed, Illinois’ Kyle Ott, in their first round match up. Dickey will wrestle Penn State’s James Woodall, Manotti will face No. 4 Matt Lebe of West Virginia, Dan Miracola will square off against Edinboro’s Eric Ring and Mazzurco will take on Oregon’s Shane Webster.
Archived article by Tim KuhlsSun Assistant Sports Editor