University at Albany head coach Will Brown hopes his players enjoyed soaking up the Kansasenvironment as much as he did.
While preparing to meet the defending national champion Jayhawks, Brown was walking through downtown Lawrence, Kan., catching the sites and looking for a few mementos of the trip.
“Every place we play on the road, I try to make sure I get my son a T-shirt and a hat of the team we’re playing,” said Brown. “He’s got stuff from Notre Dame, Florida, Duke, UCLA and now Kansas.”
Although it’s highly unlikely that the 8-4 Great Danes can upset the 8-3 Jayhawks, Brown said his Great Danes still can get plenty from the experience.
“There are several things that make this a great trip,” he said. “First of all, it’s a great challenge. Playing the defending national champions is something we’ve never done as a program. Plus, we’re playing at an historic arena in Allen Fieldhouse. It’s like playing in Cameron Indoor Stadium or Pauley Pavilion. It’s one of the toughest places to play in the country, and it’s something you want to do in your career. This gives our guys some memories. Playing against elite programs in historic buildings is something they can look back on. From my end, I also like the fact that this game will be seen on national television on ESPNU. It’s great publicity for the university, and it will help our recruiting.”
The Great Danes left for Kansas Sunday, and practiced at Allen Fieldhouse early Monday morning.
“We were planning on having the guys compete in a bowling tournament, and we were going to catch a Kansas barbecue,” said Brown. “We always try to get a feel of the place when we go to a place like this.”
Although Albany was competitive against the likes of Big East foes Villanova and DePaul in the its first two games of the season, Brown knows the Jayhawks are formidable opponents who could blow the Danes out of the gym if they are not careful. Kansas has one of the most storied programs in the country, with five national titles and 13 appearances in theFinal Four.
“Size and athleticism of a team like this is always an issue,” said Brown. “Programs like this are always bigger and quicker at every position. Most of them are kids who had a choice to go to any school in the country. The two biggest challenges for us, personnel-wise, is how do we guard two of the players I consider some of the best in the country in Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich.
“Aldrich was the first big man off the bench for them last year, and now he’s the focal point of their offense down low. Sherron is, in my opinion, the third-best point guard in the country, behind Ty Lawson of North Carolina and Stephen Curry of Davidson. Everything starts with those guys.”
Collins is the Jayhawks’ top returning scorer, and is on theNaismith Trophy Watch list. The junior guard averages 17.9 points per game and 4.8 assists.
Aldrich, a 6-foot-11, 245-pound sophomore, leads the Big 12 in blocked shots (2.4 per game) and averages 13.6 points and 9.9 rebounds a game.
Tyshawn Taylor, a 6-3 freshman, contributes 10.6 points and 4.0 assists. Other key players include6-8 Marcus Morris and 6-9 Markeif Morris, twins who average 8.6 ppg and 5.6 ppg, respectively, and sophomore guard Brady Morningstar (7.5 ppg), who has canned 17 of 37 shots from beyond the arc.
“We’ve got to do a good job of rebounding against them, and that won’t be easy,” said Brown. “It will be interesting to see if we can rebound against the defending national champion whose strength is also rebounding. Both teams outrebound their opponents by quite a margin.”
UAlbany, which will try to extend a three-game winning streak, will be meeting a nationally ranked team for the 16th time.
The Great Danes’ probable startling lineup includes freshman point guard Anthony Raffa (11.9 ppg), redshirt freshman Billy Allen (3.2 ppg), 6-11 junior center Brett Gifford (2.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg), 6-8 senior forward Brian Connelly (8.4 pg, 3.7 rpg) and 6-5 senior swingman Jerel Hastings (4.2 ppg).
Tim Ambrose, a 6-0 sophomore guard, leads the team in scoring at 12.8 ppg, but has been relegated to the bench after a recent shooting slump. Will Harris, a 6-6 junior forward from Virginia, is third on the team in scoring at 10.3 ppg.
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