Ok, some will argue that this is a moot point since Cornell crushed Harvard, 86-50, on Saturday night. That game notwithstanding, a case can be made for the Ivy League to get two teams in the NCAA Tournament.
The only way that can happen is if a team other than Cornell wins the regular season title. Can that happen? Yes. Although the Big Red destroyed Harvard, the two teams will meet one more time in Massachusetts on February 19. Real college basketball fans know anything can happen in late season conference road games. The Crimson (14-4, 3-1) may find a way to turn the tables and beat Cornell (18-3, 4-0) a second time around.
Truth be told, Harvard beating Cornell in February may be in the best interest of the Ivy League. Cornell has a very strong resume, with wins over Alabama, St. John’s and Vermont. They had an ultra-close loss against Kansas and played well against Seton Hall. They also have wins against Atlantic 10 teams, St. Joseph’s, UMASS and LaSalle.
Let's not forget the Kansas game was on national television on a weekday night. It doesn't get much bigger than that during the regular season in college basketball.
None of the aforementioned A-10 teams are contenders, but the fact that Cornell has played well against superior conferences should be a plus when the NCAA tournament selection committee meets. This is all assuming that Harvard finishes with the same record as Cornell and beats the Big Red in a one-game playoff for the conference championship.
What happens if Harvard drops another game before facing Cornell the second time? That won’t spell doom for the Ivy’s chances of getting a second team in, because Princeton has been riding a hot streak. The Tigers (11-5, 2-0) have won four straight and play at Harvard on Friday.
A Princeton win on Friday would keep the scenario intact. If Princeton splits with Cornell and finishes the season with the same conference record, the two will meet in a one-game playoff for the conference title. If Princeton beats Cornell in that game, the Tigers get the automatic bid to the NCAA tourney.
Based on Cornell’s non-conference schedule, including the five-point loss to Kansas, the Ivy could possibly see two teams in the tourney.
We all know this is a long shot, but this hasn’t been the biggest year for mid-major programs. And who knows? Cornell could take advantage of a week mid-major field and maybe steal an at-large bid. They have no bad losses and three notable wins. It may not happen, but speculation never hurt anyone.
Photo credit: AP