1) The Best Laid Plans... At this point last year, the Big Red were coming off an undefeated Ivy League season and looking to make a national impression in the tournament as a 14 seed. Instead, Cornell travelled cross country to Anaheim, had their worst shooting day of the year, got clobbered by third-seeded Stanford, and had their cheerleaders mocked by Bill Simmons. So in planning for 2009, Cornell decided to push for a better seed in the tournament. The Big Red returned their five leaders in minutes, including reigning Ivy League POY Louis Dale, sharpshooting forward Ryan Wittman (son of Randy), and 7-foot center Jeff Foote. In addition, the team set up an ambitious non-conference schedules for a Cornell team, including games at Syracuse, at Minnesota, at St. Joseph's, and vs. St. John's in the NIT Tip-Off. Things were looking rosy for the Red, right up until a few weeks before their opening game when they lost their entire starting backcourt—consisting of Dale and senior Adam Gore—to injuries. As a result, Cornell dropped all of their tough non-conference games and blew double-digit halftime leads against the Orange and Gophers. Dale and Gore have since returned to action—though Ivy League Rookie of the Year Chris Wroblewski has taken Gore's place in the starting lineup—and the Big Red won the Ancient Eight for the second straight year. They are the first non-Penn, non-Princeton Ivy League school in 50 years to earn consecutive NCAA Tournament berths. Their reward for such accomplishments is another 14 seed and another cross country trip. But instead of sunny Anaheim, they'll be in Boise, Idaho this year. At least it will make Ithaca seem more exciting when they get back.
2) Earning Their Andy Bernard Comparisons Cornell is traditionally a hockey school before anything else. Every year, Cornell students camp out for season tickets to Big Red men's hockey and, before the school changed the system three years ago, risk broken limbs in a mad weeknight stampede to claim line numbers. Cornell's Lynah Rink is known as one of the toughest places for visiting teams to play due to the volume and spirit of the student fans. The men's basketball team's recent rise to (relative) prominence has resulted in record attendance for Big Red basketball. But while the quantity of student fans may be there, the quality is not. Back in November, Cornell hosted South Dakota in their season opener. It was supposed to be a game to celebrate last year's accomplishments with the raising of the Ivy League Champion banner, as well as set the tone for a highly-anticipated season. At the end of the game, however, nearly every student in the crowd was booing. The Big Red didn't lose—in fact they won by 10—but by only scoring 79 points, the students were denied their free chicken wings at Generic Local Chicken Wing Restaurant. This situation nearly resulted in a unusual incident a couple weeks ago. The game that clinched the Ivy League title for Cornell was won by a score of 83-59 over Penn. Had the Big Red scored four points fewer in that game, it would have been the first occurrence in world history of students storming the court while booing.
3) Cornell's Best Hope for a National Title (Obviously Not Basketball) This year, Cornell best sport is wrestling. Seriously, their wrestling team is number 2 in the nation. Who knew?