Despite getting upset by Princeton in the semifinals of the Ivy League tournament last Friday, Cornell was thought to be in position to earn one of the eight seeds in the NCAA tournament and the right to host a home game in the first round. Instead, the No. 5 Big Red (12-3) were frozen out and forced to travel to meet No. 9 and sixth-seeded Maryland (10-3) this Sunday.
Cornell had an RPI of eight and four wins against teams in the top 20 in RPI (seventh-rated Yale, 14th-rated Penn, 16th-rated Princeton and 19th-rated Virginia). Also, the team’s losses came at the hands of three teams in the top 20 in RPI (third-rated Syracuse, 11th-rated Bucknell and Princeton), and each setback was a one-goal decision.
Meanwhile, Duke and Penn State were awarded the seventh and eighth seeds, respectively, despite trailing the Big Red in RPI and number of quality wins.
Asked Tuesday afternoon if he was surprised about the snub, coach Ben DeLuca said, “A little bit. To a certain degree, probably based on what we did this year, I thought we put a pretty consistent product on the field. We were successful in a lot of different circumstances. We had some strong wins, each of our losses was very close to highly respected and ranked teams. But at the same time, I’ve been here at Cornell for quite a while and there’s a history of Cornell getting seeded in an interesting fashion.”
DeLuca was likely referring to the 2007 Cornell squad that was the only program to finish the regular season with an undefeated record (13-0), but was seeded fourth.
This year’s team did not have the same resume, but even Terps coach John Tillman expressed some surprise at the Big Red’s absence from the seeds.
“This team could easily be undefeated right now, and they ran the table in their conference,” he said. “So they’re really good. And it also shows that there are other good teams that fight hard and prepare well.”
DeLuca said he thinks the players will relish the role of underdog, but Cornell fifth-year senior attackman Rob Pannell said he expected the worst when he saw that North Carolina only got the fifth seed.
“You’ve got to welcome whatever matchup you have with open arms,” he said. “Going into the selection show, my attitude was, we’ll play anybody. We’d love to play at home, but we’ll travel anywhere as well. I still feel that way, and I’m extremely excited and our team is extremely excited about this matchup with Maryland.”