Eigenvalue comparison theorems for the Laplacian on a Riemannian manifold generally give bounds for the first Dirichlet eigenvalue on balls in the manifold in terms of an eigenvalue arising from a geometrically or analytically simpler situation. Cheng's eigenvalue comparison theory assumes bounds on the curvature of the manifold and then compares this eigenvalue to the eigenvalue of a ball in a constant curvature space form. In this paper we examine the basic Laplacian - the appropriate Laplacian on functions that are constant on the leaves of the foliation. The main theorems generalize Cheng's eigenvalue comparison theorem and other eigenvalue comparison theorems to the category of Riemannian foliations by estimating the first Dirichlet eigenvalue for the basic Laplacian on a metric tubular neighborhood of a leaf closure. Several other facts about the the first eigenvalue of such foliated tubes as well as some needed facts about the tubes themselves are established. This comparison theory, like Cheng's theorem, remains valid for large tubes that are not homotopic to the middle leaf closure and that may have irregular boundaries. We apply these results to obtain upper bounds for the eigenvalues of the basic Laplacian on a closed manifold in terms of curvature bounds and the transverse diameter of the foliation.