University at Albany and Binghamton are experiencing quite a reversal of fortune.
The former State University of New York Athletic Conference rivals started the season at different ends of the competitive spectrum, but when they meet for the 85th time tonight at 7 at the 5,142-seat Events Center in Vestal, their spots in the food chain have changed dramatically.
Although Binghamton won the America East Conference championship and earned its first-ever trip to the NCAA tournament last March, the program experienced some offseason troubles that included recruiting violations and the suspension of several key players. League coaches chose the Bearcats to finish last in the preseason poll, while UAlbany was picked third.
In the conference standings, however, Binghamton is a surprising fourth at 5-3 (10-13 overall), while the Great Danes are tied for last at 1-8 (6-18 overall).
How did Binghamton shake off the heavy roster losses?
“They had some guys on their roster who were experienced, and they added Greer Wright, who is averaging about 20 points in conference games,” said UAlbany head coach Will Brown. “They picked up the Dylan Talley kid, who is 6-5 and 215 pounds, and then the kid, [Mahamoud] Jabbi, transferred from Oswego State. He was a kid nobody knew about, and just fell in their lap.
“The biggest thing with Binghamton is not that they don’t have quality players, it’s that people were wondering if they had quantity. Would they have enough guys was the question. I think the coaches were looking at the people that they lost rather than at the people they have.”
Brown said Binghamton’s toughness makes the Bearcats difficult to play.
“They are the biggest team and the longest team in the league. They switch everything defensively, which means you may have a center on your point guard. They put a guy on the ball, and everybody else sags in the lane. Then, they use their length to their advantage.
Offensively, they use dribble-penetration and go to the glass. They find enough ways to stay in games and win games.”
Greer averages 15.6 points and 6.3 rebounds a game, while Talley (11.3 ppg) and Mousssa Camara (9.9 ppg) are other key weapons for the Bearcats.
Brown admits that the Great Danes have fallen further than anyone would have imagined.
“On paper, with Will Harris and Tim Ambrose back, picking us third was the sexy choice,” Brown said. “But our overall team chemistry hasn’t been great. We haven’t clicked, for whatever reason. My job is to find a way to click before the season is over. The only people who really know what is going on in our program are the kids and the coaching staff.”
Both Ambrose, the team’s leading scorer at 13.8 ppg, and Harris (13.6 ppg ), who has missed numerous games because of a contusion on his left knee, have been relegated to the bench in favor of a youth movement. Sophomore Billy Allen, junior Fran Urli and freshmen Logan Aronhalt, Blake Metcalf and Mike Black are projected starters tonight.
“We’ve got to sell our young players on the fact that there isn’t a lot of room for error. We’ve got to stay aggressive and knock down shots,” said Brown. “We might be able to get a few more wins riding the older guys all the way, but I’m not sure at this point it’s the best thing to do. We want to win some games down the stretch, though, and we will need contributions from our older guys like Will, Scotty [McRae], Giff [Brett Gifford] and Michael Johnson. Everyone will get an opportunity.”
Categories: College Sports