Monday, June 27, 2011

News and Notes: Monday Edition

Above, the box score and NCAA Tournament bracket as of March 18, 1988 following Cornell's defeat to Arizona in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Also below, the A.P.'s game recap. In this post, some news and notes for Monday...

  • Cornell's Elite Prospect Camp, held over the weekend, was a huge success according to both players and coaches in attendance.
  • Speaking of elite camps, Cornell alumni, Louis Dale ('10), Ryan Wittman ('10), Jeff Foote ('10), Adam Wire, ('11), Aaron Osgood ('11) and Jon Jaques ('10), served as counselors at the Boston College elite camp.
  • With Joe Jones leaving the Boston College staff to assume head coaching duties at Boston University, speculates, "Donahue could promote Director of Basketball Operations Woody Kampmann to assistant and fill his role with a former BC or Cornell player who's looking to break into coaching."
  • Newsweek Magazine has an interesting article on the return home to Africa of numerous exiles and refugees from Sudan. Among the returning exiles is Stella Kenyi, a Cornell graduate. Her younger brother, Max Kenyi, played basketball at Harvard before opting to transfer out of the program a year ago. Max Kenyi was Tommy Amaker's first recruit, committing to Harvard back on September 28, 2007.
  • The Arizona Republic newspaper ranks the best Pac 10 teams of all time and lists as No. 1, the University of Arizona team of 1987-1988. The Wildcats defeated Cornell in the opening round of the 1988 NCAA Tournament. The Republic writes:

1. 1987-88 Arizona

The Wildcats (35-3) had everything, shooters, big men and an All-American in Sean Elliott. Ranked 17th in the preseason AP poll, they used the Great Alaska Shootout as their coming-out party, defeating Duquesne, Michigan and Syracuse.

Arizona quickly jumped to ninth in the poll. Soon, the Wildcats were at No. 1, where they spent six weeks. They entered the NCAA Tournament with a 15-game win streak. With balanced scoring, Arizona won its first four tournament games -- over Cornell, Seton Hall, Iowa and North Carolina -- by 26.8 points. In the Final Four, they lost to Oklahoma 86-78, making them one of the best teams not to win a national title.

Elliott averaged 19.6 points. Tom Tolbert (14.1), Anthony Cook (13.9) and Steve Kerr (12.6) also were in double figures. Throughout the season, Arizona outscored opponents by 20.5 points.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There is a mythology often repeated -- though perhaps still apocryphal -- that, in the late 1980s, the NCAA was considering a material restriction of the automatic bids awarded to conferences which had fared poorly in the tournament.

In this standard version of the telling of this story, the tremendous beatdowns that the Ivies suffered in the mid-1980s, culminating in the 40-point destruction of the 1988 Cornell team, put us squarely in the bull's eye.

Of course, we know now that the story of these small conference Davids against Goliath ultimately had a happy ending. In 1989, Princeton led Georgetown from the opening tip-off until the closing moments of their one-point loss to the Hoyas. ESPN could track its ratings going up minute by minute through the telecast, eventually achieving their highest viewership ever for a college game.

That's when the light bulb finally went on above network executives. They suddenly realized that what viewers wanted to see in the first round were the Cinderella stories writ large on the national stage, not two sub-.500 teams from the power conferences with practically zero human interest for unaffiliated fans.

I don't know if the NCAA truly ever put the Ivies and other low majors on the chopping block but, true or not, this story places the 1988 Cornell team squarely in central narrative of how the NCAA tournament evolved into March Madness.