Friday, March 14, 2008

The Big Red Dance

Every year about this time, Americans come together and argue and wage large amounts of money on the outcome of a simple binary tree known as officially as the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship. 65 teams play 6 rounds (two teams play 7 rounds) over three weeks in a single elimination to move up the tree.

The participants and the tree itself get unveiled Sunday but the fate of two teams that matter to me have already been decided. For the first time since I was a graduate student my undergraduate Alma Mater, Cornell University, will be in the tournament after going undefeated in the Ivy league. Meanwhile my new school, Northwestern, will be staying home after having won just one game in the Big Ten and having their last slim chance extinguished last night losing to Minnesota in the Big Ten tournament.

In 1988, the last time Cornell went to the tourney, their game against Arizona was televised on tape delay at about 3 AM. I taped the game on my VCR and watched it next morning before I found out what happened. Rooting for a team on a game whose outcome has already been determined feels a bit weird, sort of like waiting to open the box to see if Schrödinger's cat is alive or dead. Still I got emotional at the highs and lows of the game, although there were not too many highs as Arizona beat Cornell 90-50.

Flash forward two decades and now all the games will be streamed live over the Internet for free. But I'll be in Israel, the game will likely be on some ridiculous hour over there and I probably won't have computer access anyway even if they allow streaming internationally. So go Big Red, win your first four games without my live or even taped of a tape delay support, so I can watch you on final four weekend. But I wouldn't bet on it.


  1. No worries Lance, I'll yell double-loud for you. (I probably won't be attending Cornell's game(s) in the tourney, but I should be able to yell at a TV showing the game, which is at least one step up...)


  2. The outcome of any Cornell game in the NCAA tourney does have a foregone conclusion. They lose. If you don't know that now, I am not sure what evidence will ever convince you.

    Go Kansas!--This is the year :)

  3. Teams move from the leaves to the root. Only a computer scientist would describe this as "moving up" the tree.

  4. What are your travel plans in Israel?

  5. Cornell-Stanford. Any bets?