With orientation week festivities having come to a close and yet another year of classes finally upon us, the minds of most students are far from the awe-inspiring NCAA Tournament run put forth by the men’s basketball team last spring. For some, however, it is never too early to look ahead to next season.
New head coach Bill Courtney and the rest of this year’s men’s hoops squad is among those looking forward to a new year and another chance at wearing the Ivy League crown. If Courtney and the Red are to produce an encore performance of a year ago, however, they will need to overcome the departure of several key players and a difficult non-conference schedule that includes dates with fellow 2010 NCAA Tournament teams, Syracuse and Minnesota.
Cornell will open the season away from home for the second consecutive season when it travels to the University of Albany on Nov. 12. The Red will then remain on the road, as the team faces off against Big East foe Seton Hall on Nov. 14 in a rematch of last year’s home opener; the Pirates defeated Cornell, 89-79, in Ithaca last November as NBA prospect Jeremy Hazell exploded for 33 points. Unfortunately for Cornell, Hazell decided to withdraw his name from the NBA draft this past May and will once again be wearing a Pirates uniform when the two teams meet in November.
Newman Nation will get its first glimpse of the new-look Red on Nov. 17, when the team plays host to the University of Delaware. Cornell comes into the season on an 11-game home win streak and will look to extend that streak against the Blue Hens. Another opportunity at a home win will come two days later, when St. Bonaventure travels to Ithaca on Nov. 19.
Following its matchup with the Bonnies, Cornell will embark on a five-game road trip spanning four states between Nov. 22 and Dec. 18. Back to back games against 2010 NCAA Tournament participants will be the highlight of the road trip, as the Red travels to Syracuse on Nov. 30 and Minnesota on Dec. 4.
Syracuse emerged as a national title contender early last season, winning its first 13 games en route to a 28-3 regular season record and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Favored by many to advance to the Final Four and beyond, the Orange was stunned by National Title runner-up Butler University in the Sweet Sixteen. Despite losing Big East Player of the Year and First Team AP All-American Wes Johnson to the NBA this past summer, Syracuse still figures to remain a formidable power with several key players returning and a highly-touted recruiting class on the horizon.
The Cornell-Syracuse game has become somewhat of a yearly occurrence, with the Orange holding the all-time edge over the Red, 86-31. Cornell suffered its 32nd consecutive defeat at the hands of its Big East rival last November, fading in the second half for a final score of 88-73. Oddly enough, that game didn’t mark the last time the Red would visit the Carrier Dome last season; Cornell battled Kentucky at the Dome late last March in the Sweet 16.
Minnesota struggled through a far more tumultuous season in 2009-10, needing a deep-run in the Big Ten Conference Tournament in order to sneak into the NCAA tournament field as an 11-seed. The Gophers then left as quietly as they came, losing in the first round to Xavier, 65-54.
In addition to its big dates with Syracuse and Minnesota, the Red will face Lehigh, Boston, and Binghamton over the course of its four-week road trip. After concluding the trip against the Bearcats, Cornell will return to Ithaca for a game against Bucknell on Dec. 20 before taking a brief holiday break.
After the holidays, the team will escape the tundra that is Ithaca in late December and will travel to Richmond, Va., to compete in the VCU Tournament. Play will begin on Dec. 29 as the Red faces off against New Hampshire and will conclude the following day against either VCU or Wofford (another NCAA tournament team from a year ago).
The new year will begin with a pair of home games for the Red, with contests against Buffalo and Stony Brook on Jan. 3 and 8, respectively. The matchup with Stony Brook will mark the end of Cornell’s non-conference schedule, at which point the team can begin its quest for its fourth straight Ivy League Championship and NCAA tournament berth.
That quest will officially begin on Jan. 15, as the team travels to New York City to open Ivy League play against the Columbia Lions. A week later the two teams will meet again, as Cornell welcomes Columbia to Newman Arena on Jan. 22.
For the two weeks following its Ivy League home opener, the Red will return to the road, traveling to Dartmouth, Harvard, Yale and Brown on consecutive weekends. Then it will be on to Newman Arena for two weeks, as Cornell will host Penn and Princeton on Feb. 11-12 and Harvard and Dartmouth on Feb. 18-19. The final two weeks of Ivy League play will find Cornell on the road against Princeton and Penn before finishing at home against Brown and Yale during the first weekend in March.