Cornell, the Biggest Surprise This Season

By: Ally White

After 20 years, the Cornell men's basketball team has had the dominance and superiority in their conference Ivy League. Cornell University sealed its first league championship title since 1988 and got the automatic classification to the NCCA tournament by beating the University of Harvard this past Saturday 86-53.

However; Cornell's players still have to work to prepare and get ready for the NCAA tournament, this is just the third time the university has qualified to the tournament. Currently; Cornell has a record of 20-5 and 12-0 in the conference with two games to go. One game is at Penn on Friday and the other is on Saturday at Princeton. Moreover; Cornell will attempt to end its schedule of the Ivy League unbeaten; presently they have 14 straight wins.

"It's another way to put your stamp on it, to leave your legacy," Cornell coach Steve Donahue said Sunday. "It also helps with the (NCAA) tournament seedings."

The University of Pennsylvania and Princeton are the only schools that have gone unbeaten in conference play; Penn did it during the season 2002-2003. These two schools have controlled and influence the Ivy League since it was established in 1956; either one getting the classification to the NCAA tournament in all except for seven seasons. The Ivy League does not have a conference tournament; consequently the champion of the regular season moves on.

Over the last three seasons the University of Penn has won the regular season, however Donahue thinks his team's title pointers a new surge. "There's going to be more parity over the next decade," he said.

The Cornell Big Red can be a power for a few more years. Their two top scorers Louis Dale, who is the point guard and scores 13.1 points per game and Ryan Wittman who scores 15.3 points per game, are just sophomores. Another player is Adam Gore who is a junior guard, has two more years of eligibility since he torn his ACL of his right knee last year. Before that he had an average of 9.9 points per game.

Ryan Whittman, is one of the nation's leading three pointer shooters with 47%. His father is currently the coach of the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves. On the other hand Louis Dale at Birmingham Altamont School was one of the state's top high jumpers and top triple. Presently; he is the nation's leader in free-throws shooting at 94.6%.

"He's 5-11 but gets over the rim," Donahue said. "That's rare at this level." Cornell's Coach Steve Donahue states that Gore is really a key for the team and the team's heart and soul. "Since late December, the team has bought into what he does," Donahue said, pointing to Gore's defense and hard-nosed work ethic as intangibles. "When we need big shots, it's him." However; Gore's injury forced Dale and Wittman to had more responsibility in their shoulders last season. Coach Donahue considers the experience always paid off. Coach Donahue expresses, "It was devastating at the time," Donahue said, "but that's why all these good things are happening."

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