Both Capital Region Division I men’s basketball teams will get a crack at defending national champion Kansas next season.
Several weeks after Siena College announced that it would take on the Jayhawks, the Great Danes released their 13-game non-conference schedule, highlighted by a first-ever matchup with Kansas.
The Great Danes trek to Allen Fieldhouse, a 16,300-seat facility in Lawrence, Kan., on Dec. 30.
UAlbany, which will host the America East Conference tournament next March, also opens the season with a pair of Big East opponents, at Villanova on Nov. 14 and at DePaul Nov. 17. Perennial Ivy League power Pennsylvania comes to SEFCU Arena Nov. 29.
Other major non-conference contests include a home game with Central Connecticut State Nov. 22 and the 48th meeting with crosstown rival Siena on Dec. 6 at Times Union Center, as well as games at Lehigh and Sacred Heart.
The Jayhawks won their third national championship last April with a 75-68 overtime win over Memphis. Sherron Collins is the top returning player for Kansas.
“We’ve known that we were playing Kansas even before last season began. We’ve known it since last October,” said UAlbany head coach Will Brown during a recruiting trip in Texas. “But we don’t release our schedule until every contract is signed. We were waiting for some revisions in the Villanova schedule, so that’s why we waited to release the whole thing.”
Brown said he is extremely satisfied with the mix of talent on his non-league schedule.
“I like the balance of our schedule,” he said. “What I try to do is to put ourselves in a situation where we play in some tough environments and where our guys will play in arenas known as the most difficult in the country, like Duke and Kansas. To play the defending national champions in that environment will help us in our America East schedule.”
Villanova, which defeated Siena in the second round of last season’s NCAA tournament, has made three NCAA regional semifinals and one Elite Eight appearance in the last four years under head coach Jay Wright. The Wildcats, who finished 22-13 last year, met UAlbany for the first time in 2004. Scottie Reynolds, a second-team All-Big East selection, is the top performer for the Wildcats.
“Villanova is a Top 15 team, with all their starters back,” Brown said.
UAlbany will meet DePaul for the first time at the Allstate Arena (18,500) in Rosemont, Ill. Jerry Wainwright is in his fourth season as the Blue Demons’ head coach and has two Big East All-Rookie players back in Dar Tucker and Mac Koshwal.
“DePaul is a good, young team with plenty of talent,” said Brown.
Penn is among four non-league opponents that will play the Danes at SEFCU Arena. The Quakers have made 23 NCAA appearances, including five of the last seven seasons.
“Penn is rich in history and tradition, and two years from now, we’ll get a chance to play them in the Palestra,” Brown said. “Sacred Heart returns its entire team from a year ago, and Siena will be very, very good once again. In Bryant, a first-year Division I team, we will have a pretty unique situation, because we will play them in a home-and-home series. What that does is prepare us for the conference schedule, where we see a team once and then play them again very quickly.”
UAlbany (15-15), which tied for second place in the America East Conference a year ago, returns six lettermen, led by second-leading scorer Brian Connelly (10.1 ppg).
“I think we will be more talented next year, but I don’t know how that will translate into wins and losses,” Brown said. “The high school kids we’re bringing in will help us, and the kids that are returning have been working hard in the weight room. I know they will be physically better. I like the makeup of this team on paper.”
Nov. 14 — at Villanova; Nov. 17 — at
DePaul; Nov. 19 — at Bryant; Nov. 22 — CENTRAL CONNECTICUT STATE; Nov. 25 — at Columbia; Nov. 29 — PENNSYLVANIA;
Dec. 1 — BRYANT; Dec. 6 — at Siena;
Dec. 8 — at Lehigh; Dec. 13 — CANISIUS; Dec. 19 — at Sacred Heart; Dec. 22 — at St. Francis (N.Y.); Dec. 30 — at Kansas.
Home games in CAPS.