Monday, November 14, 2011

The Cornell Basketball Blog Q&A with The Unranked America East Blog


We here at Unranked strive to give fans coverage they can't get anywhere else. In our pursuit of becoming the go-to spot for America East coverage, part of our duty is to give the fans not only everything they want to know about their own team, but a feel for who their favorite teams happen to be playing. The Q&A format will be a constant theme throughout the year as we reach out to bloggers covering the teams opposing our beloved America East squads. For tonight's game between Binghamton and Cornell, we got the guys at The Cornell Basketball Blog to answer five questions, with topics ranging from the Steve Donahue-to-Bill Courtney transition to "how on earth do they have twenty-one players?"

Q&A

1. The last three match-ups between Binghamton and Cornell have resulted in some very exciting games (two of which have been decided by just one point), the type that define what college basketball is all about. With the universities so close in proximity and having played such close games recently, do you feel this has a chance to develop into something of a non-conference rivalry? Would you like to see it develop as a rivalry?

The Cornell Basketball Blog: I would like to see Cornell and Binghamton continue to play each other. As you you noted, the schools are close in proximity and both are mid-majors, so facing one another makes sense from that perspective. As for a rivalry, I am not sure it exists just yet. Rivalries develop organically. Cornell has them with a few Ivy programs and some non-league opponents such as Bucknell. But there is certainly potential for a rivalry between Binghamton and Cornell. The teams just need to both get back to the top of their leagues and continue to play each other annually. The rivalry will grown in time.

2. Last year, the first under coach your new coach Bill Courtney, the Big Red struggled to put up wins for much of the season before seemingly coming together and winning six of their last nine games, including three straight to end the year. What direction have the Big Red been headed in since former coach Steve Donahue left for the same position at Boston College? Is the program in a state of rebuilding or is the consensus that this year's team is ready to compete for the Ivy League crown?

TCBB: Cornell's goal year in and year out is to win the Ivy title and go to the NCAA Tournament. That said, any realist would have to acknowledge that Cornell is in a rebuilding mode. In 2010, Cornell appeared in the Sweet Sixteen and finished the season ranked No. 17 in the country. That team graduated eight seniors, including three of the greatest players ever to play in the Ivy League (Jeff Foote, Ryan Wittman and Louis Dale). Cornell is still in need of replacing the 7'0" Foote and the current frontcourt is still very much a work in progress. But recruiting and the program as a whole are headed in the right direction. For example, in the early signing period, Cornell landed a commitment from 6'11" 265 lb. center Braxston Bunce out of Canada. A member of Canada's junior national team, Bunce selected Cornell over firm scholarship offers from schools in the Pac 10, Mountain West and WAC conferences. Bunce might be the next great mid major post player.

3. As previously mentioned, Cornell put together some Ws late in the year. However, I am someone who didn't see the Big Red play after their trip to Vestal. Were the wins at the end of last year reflective of the team finally coming together or the result of playing some of the average (Yale and Penn) to weaker (Dartmouth and Brown) Ivy League teams? Or perhaps a bit of both?

TCBB: Cornell's success down the stretch last season was absolutely the result of Bill Courtney becoming more familiar with his personnel and vice versa. The chemistry improved and so did the team's results. Cornell did win 6 of its last 9 games, including beating Yale, a team which received a CollegeInsider.com Tournament invite. Cornell also fell to Princeton on a Kareem Maddox jumper with 12 seconds remaining in the game.

4. With four of last year's top five scorers returning, can we expect to see similar offensive and defensive gameplans to what we saw last December in Vestal? If so, could you reiterate for our viewers what type of offense and defense Cornell typically runs? If not, what type of changes have been made?

TCBB: Offensively, Cornell wants to push the tempo off of defensive rebounds and look for its shooters on the wings. If the three point shot is available in transition, most Cornell players have the "green-light" to pull up and take it. In short, Cornell wants the defense backpedalling and off balance. In the half court set, a lot of the motion offense is reliant on moving the ball around the perimeter for either an open three-pointer or for an opportunity for a player to try to create his own offense off the dribble. There are not a lot of sets going "outside-in" for a feed into the post. Defensively, Cornell pressures the basketball and will take chances. With a deep bench, Cornell is not concerned with fouls or fatigue and Bill Courtney is willing to go 12 or more deep into his rotation. From a pure fan perspective, Cornell plays a very entertaining brand of basketball. Obviously, winning would make it more enjoyable. But Cornell will keep you entertained.

5. Lastly, I've always viewed Cornell as a perimeter-oriented team, one capable of sinking opposing teams to death with the three-ball. With your roster having ballooned to an incredible 21 players, is the plan to eventually reach 22 and play full-on 11 v. 11 football in hopes of collectively toughening the team up?

TCBB: (Laughing) Yeah, Cornell has a 21-player roster, which is sort of typical in the non-scholarship Ivy League. Of this 21-player roster, two kids are former walk-ons, and three others are Division I transfers. So at the end of the day, the staff really only recruited 16 kids out of high school. Additionally, Cornell has by far the best "retention rate" in the Ivy League. Since 2009, Cornell has only lost two players off its roster due to non-eligibility/graduation reasons. While proud of the retention rate of keeping kids happy and in the program, it also resulted in a fairly large roster for the Big Red. In comparison, Ivy teams such as Harvard, Penn and Dartmouth have each lost at least ten players for non-graduation reasons during this same time span.

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