Cornell team capsule
COACH: Steve Donahue, 10 years at Cornell, three years in NCAA Tournament
HOW THEY GOT IN: Automatic bid (Ivy League)
MATCHUP BREAKDOWN: As a 12 seed, Cornell probably would have preferred a different No. 5 seed than Temple, which plays in the Northeast and has a former Ivy League coach in ex-Penn boss Fran Dunphy. Like the Big Red, the Owls have three primary scorers, two on the outside (Juan Fernandez and Ryan Brooks) and one on the inside (Lavoy Allen). It also has the trademark tough Temple defense, so the game may come down to how well Ryan Wittman and Louis Dale can loosen things up with outside shooting, and how well Jeff Foote can hold his own on the inside.
GO-TO GUYS: Cornell has three players who made the All-Ivy first team, so this isn’t a squad that lacks talent. Wittman, the Ivy’s Player of the Year, leads the team in scoring at 17.5 points per game and has the Ivy League record for 3-pointers in a season and a career. He’s been in double figures in 108 of his 118 career games. Seven-footer Foote and Dale also made the squad, and they fuel the inside-outside basis of the Big Red offense.
THEY’LL KEEP WINNING IF: Their 3-pointers fall. This is a very good Ivy League team that can’t be taken lightly, as it showed by nearly pulling off a January upset on the road against No. 1 Kansas. It has a seven-footer in the paint when Foote mans the middle, and enough depth to trade bodies with anyone. But its outside shooting runs hot and cold, and it’s a much more dangerous team when the shooters, particularly Ryan Wittman, are hot from beyond the arc.
STRENGTHS: Forget about the "Ivy League" on the conference affiliation sheet — this is a legitimately good basketball team that proved it both in league play and over a rigorous non-conference schedule designed to give the team the strength (both on the court and in the RPI) it needed to do damage in the NCAA Tournament. It has both the current Ivy League Player of Year (Wittman) and former Player of the Year (Dale), and Foote as a force in the middle. Cornell has a lot of depth and can bring in bodies in both the backcourt and the paint to replace starters in foul trouble or search for a spark on either end of the court. It’s playing in its third consecutive NCAA Tournament, and its senior-dominated squad is postseason-tested. Moreover, the team enters the postseason on fire from 3-point range, going 71-of-132 over its final six games.
WEAKNESSES: Apart from a random loss to Penn, when the Quakers couldn’t miss for 40 minutes, the Big Red had their biggest Ivy League problems with a Princeton team that controlled the tempo and slowed the game down. Cornell likes to play quicker, and any team that can stay disciplined on defense will make it difficult for Cornell’s offense to click. Wittman is a big-time player, but the teams that have had success against him have been those, like Princeton, with tall and athletic wing players to chase him around, so if Cornell draws a team with that kind of athlete, it could put a crimp in Wittman’s production.