Team preview: Cornell
Blue Ribbon Illustrated previews the 2004-05 college basketball season, exclusively on Insider.
Fifth-year coach Steve Donahue is a college basketball historian. He probably talks hoops in his sleep. When asked about his team's fortunes this winter, Donahue spoke of the 1984 Virginia team.
"They lost Ralph Sampson and got to the Final Four that season," Donahue said.
Indeed, after making just one Final Four with Sampson (1981), the three-time Naismith Award winner, Virginia, with a collection of no-names, advanced to the Final Four in '84, the year after Sampson departed for the NBA.
There are other examples, too.
Keith Van Horn, the best player in Utah history, was never able to bring the Utes to the Final Four, but sure enough, the first year after he left for the NBA, in 1998, Utah lost to Kentucky in the national championship game. That same year, on the football field, Tennessee captured the national title in its first year of the post-Peyton Manning era.
Last year, Ka'Ron Barnes completed one of the most prolific careers in Cornell history by leading the Ivy League in scoring with 20.1 points and also contributing 4.6 assists and 1.9 steals per game. He was the Big Red's first All-Ivy selection since John McCord in 1997 and also was selected to the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) All-District II second team. The last time a Cornell player received the latter honor was nearly two decades ago.
However, Barnes, in some ways, was a one-man show. And in crunch time, which came often for Cornell last year, opposing teams focused their attention in shutting Barnes done. They ran match-up zones and double teamed him, resulting in forced shots and turnovers. Cornell lost eight games in which it led in the second half, including several disappointing defeats in the final minutes.