July 16, 2007

Battle: M. Cagers Set to Dominate

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This column appears in the 2007 edition of The Sun’s annual Freshman Issue.

In the Battle series, Sports editors chose their favorite Cornell sports to watch, and defended their selections (with valor).

In the Cornelian world of sports, men’s ice hockey, lacrosse and wrestling reign supreme. Rightfully so, each of the aforementioned varsity clubs have been ranked amongst the nation’s top schools as long as I can remember.
But the purpose of this column is not to inform you newcomers to East Hill about the best teams at Cornell, it is to let you know which sport is the most enjoyable. This year, unlike previous ones, the title belongs to the men’s basketball team.
If you are a fan of collegiate athletics, you would be ignorant — and should have your admission to Cornell revoked — if you do not agree that the first weekend of NCAA March Madness is the best event in sports. The only other event that can come close to that level is the Super Bowl — and if I felt like picking a fight with any NFL fanatic, I could argue that the commercials have outdone the actual game the past couple years.
But getting back to the task at hand — convincing you that the absence of men’s basketball titles creates a better product than other successful Cornell programs. As much as I love to brag when Cornell sports do well, it could be tiring (not really, but just work with me). The lacrosse team always wins, what’s so new and exciting about that? Yeah, there are few expletives echoed throughout Lynah Rink from a host of rowdy hockey fans during games, but it just doesn’t appeal to me as much as a groundbreaking season of men’s basketball.
The Red has a great chance to land in first place after landing in the No. 2 and No. 3 spots the past three years. As a matter of fact, since the end of the basketball season, ESPN.com men’s basketball expert and bracketologist Joe Lunardi has chosen Cornell to represent the Ivy League in every edition of updated brackets.
Since freshman year, I have opted to skip class (don’t follow my lead, fellow undergraduates) to watch March Madness. The thrill of Economics just doesn’t do it for me. The joy of note-taking just can’t replace the probability of watching Virginia Commonwealth taking out traditional power Duke, or watching Davidson’s Stephen Curry nail three’s much to Terrapins’ coach Gary Williams dismay.
This year, you can expect to see (knock on wood) the Red run away with the Ancient Eight title. This will earn the Red an automatic bid into the tournament, where we can see sophomore — and last year’s Rookie of the Year — Ryan Wittman launch a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to defeat Ole Miss à la Valparaiso’s Bryce Drew, or sophomore Louis Dale do his best Tyus Edney impression, zooming down the court in 4.4 seconds to score the game winning layup. That would enter the Red into the decorated history of Davids who slew Goliaths.
But why am I so confident that the Red can finally emerge above Penn and Princeton as perennial Ivy League champions? Penn lost four out of five starters, including two-time Ivy League Player of the Year Ibrahim Jaaber (now playing on the Pistons’ summer-league team). Reason numero dos: former Penn head coach Fran Dunphy will be entering his second year away from the Quakers. He leaves former Brown coach Glenn Miller in charge of a storied Ivy program, even though Miller’s past at Brown leaves much to be desired. Third of all, Princeton is not good and hasn’t been good for a while. The only team I truthfully worry about is Yale, because it did place second in the league last year. But the Bulldogs did lose all-league performer Casey Hughes to graduation. Add that to the Red’s new eligibility of USC transfer junior Collin Robinson, the return of junior Adam Gore, a former Ivy League Rookie of the Year, and the cast from last year and we have an exciting team to root for into NCAA acclaim.