Thursday, January 7, 2010

Could Cornell earn an at-large bid?

In most college basketball seasons, popular questions on January 7 don’t normally concern Cornell University or the Ivy League in general. However, after the Big Red’s highly publicized close loss last night at Kansas, that seems to be the question on many fans’ minds.

It’s certainly not a ridiculous query: Cornell is 11-3 in Division-I games and has proven it can compete with anyone in the country. But will it have a good enough resume come March to warrant at-large consideration if it fails to win the Ivy League regular-season title – and the automatic bid that comes along with it?

Heading into Wednesday, Cornell had an RPI of 34 and an SOS of 152. The Big Red’s best wins are at Alabama and St. John’s, and they also defeated La Salle on the road. Moreover, they don’t have any bad losses; their three defeats have come at Kansas, at Syracuse and against Seton Hall.

Now, the bad. Cornell is only 2-3 against the top-100, and the wins over St. John’s and Alabama might not hold overwhelming clout come Selection Sunday. Moreover, the rest of the Big Red’s schedule is not conducive to improve its at-large profile. They face Harvard – No. 25 in the RPI – twice in conference play, but no one else has an RPI in the top-125. Cornell has 11 games remaining against teams with RPI’s of 230 or worse.

Of course, a sweep of Harvard would make Cornell’s top-100 record much more impressive. If the Big Red were to sweep the Crimson, though, they would pretty much lock up the Ivy League title – and would therefore not need an at-large bid.

If the NCAA Tournament was selected today, Cornell would have a decent case for an at-large bid. Qualitatively, the Big Red clearly deserve a spot in the Big Dance and their current profile is solid. However, with not many chances remaining to boost its profile, it will be very difficult for Cornell to build enough of an overall resume to earn an invite come March. The RPI and SOS will keep dropping, and the lack of good wins will be noticeable.

With that said, I think that Cornell will roll through the Ivy with only one or two losses and get an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. As a result, the argument could be moot. 


  1. Interesting to think about, but not really worth discussing because they play in the Ivy League and therefore the automatic bid is awarded to the regular season champ. If they take 2nd in the league, they won't have the resume for an at-large bid.

  2. Exactly the point I made in the article. If they lose enough games to finish in second, they're not going to get an at-large. And if they only lose one game, I think they're going to get the automatic.