The Madness Begins Tonight

The College Basketball Closer is written by the gang at Storming the Floor.

Even if you like conference tournaments as much as I do, this might still seem a little early to be talking about March Madness. But seriously, think about it; if this weren't one of those random leap years, it would be March right now, right? But the main reason we're going to talk tournament today is because we might very well have our first NCAA tournament entrant by the time we head off to bed tonight.

Now, as Deadspin readers, I know you're probably already aware that the Ivy League doesn't have a tournament, but rather gives their auto-bid to the regular-season champ. And you probably also know that Cornell has powered through the genius league with a perfect 10-0 mark, and a pretty stellar 18-5 overall record. The numbers are simple enough that even this public-school grad can understand them: Brown, the closest challenger to Cornell, has three losses. It was swept by Cornell, and there are four games left in the Ivy season. Ergo (Get a load of me! I said Ergo!), if the Teddy Bears knock off Dartmouth (9-15) tonight, they get the first bid.

Let's look at the Big Red via the incisive medium of bullet-points:

• Cornell hasn't lost since January 6th, at Duke. That's a twelve-game winning streak.
• The Big Red lost four road games: at Ohio, Bucknell, Syracuse, and Duke. Then there was the mystifying loss at home to Colgate. Honestly, ask the average American, and they'd probably be surprised to find out Colgate and Cornell were different schools.
• Their win streak includes the requisite victory over NJIT, in Newark. The Highlanders scored less than any other team that played Cornell this season. Their 33 was even less than the 46 put up by non-DI visitor Alvernia College.
• Cornell is led by 6'6" Ryan Wittman (15 ppg) and 5'11" Louis Dale (12.7 ppg), but it also sports a legit seven-footer in the person of Jeff Foote, a senior transfer from St. Bonaventure. I hear he can weld the hell out of anything you got.
• The last time Cornell made the Big Dance was in 1988, as a 16 seed. It was blown out 90-50 by Arizona, which eventually made the Final Four.
• Cornell is the Big Red. Dartmouth is the Big Green. It's going to be like Christmas all up in here.

Sadly, there will be no national television coverage of this event.

[The Cornell Basketball Blog]

• Louisville 90-Notre Dame 85. Harangody had 40 points and 12 rebounds, but the Cardinals put the kibosh on Kyle McAlarney to earn the win, holding the superb shooter to 3-of-14 shooting on the night, and just 1-8 from his beloved three-point line. Bizarrely enough, Harangody himself hit for 75% from behind the arc. David Padgett paced the home team with 26 points. Louisville is now tied with Georgetown atop the Big East, and the Irish fall 1 ½ games back.

• Wisconsin 57-Michigan State 42. Goran Suton went for 14 and 15, but his Spartans fell in Madison, allowing Wisconsin to claim a share of the Big Ten regular-season title.

• Butler 66-Wright State 61. This win officially gives the Horizon's #1 seed to Butler, which means that, barring an early exit by the Bulldogs, the road to the NCAA auto-bid goes through Hinkle.

• USC 70-Arizona 58. Here comes that crazy Strength of Schedule debate again. The Wildcats played everybody, but didn't beat enough of them. So does that make them a good team for the NCAA's, or does it prove that they can't handle the competition? On the other hand, maybe the Arizona football team should sign that kid who winged the water bottle at Tim Floyd.

The Weekender

Tonight

• Dartmouth (9-15) at Cornell (18-5). I'm going to have to preview the hell out of Cornell until March 8th, when the next bids go out.

• Niagara (18-8) at Siena (17-10). The winner of this game gets to break the three-team 11-5 logjam in the MAAC standings and join Loyola (MD) at the top of the heap.

Saturday

• Georgetown (23-4) at Marquette (21-6). If Marquette wins this home game, Louisville sits alone atop the Big East. I'm going to let that sink in for a minute...

• Washington State (21-6) at Stanford (22-4). Both teams are in, so this is for seeding.

• St. Mary's (24-4) at Gonzaga (22-6). Winner takes top seed in the WCC tournament.

• Kansas State (18-9) at Kansas (25-3). Take these last few chances to watch Michael Beasley and Brandon Rush, friends. You owe it to yourself.

Sunday

• Kentucky (16-10) at Tennessee (25-3). Will this be another 40-point thrashing for the Wildcats, or will they finally stamp their ticket to ride?

• Indiana (24-4) at Michigan State (22-6). Wisconsin has claimed their share of the Big Ten title, will Indiana make them slice that pie?

• UCLA (24-3) at Arizona (17-11). Want to hit Ben Howland with a water bottle? Go ahead, punk, make his day.

Eric Angevine writes about College Basketball for Storming the Floor and CAAZone. He can be reached at stormingthefloor@gmail.com.