Categories: College Sports
Former Siena coach Fran McCaffery, now at Iowa, hated the hype, the banter, the heat leading up to the annual Siena-UAlbany game, which from a distance is just another non-conference game on the schedule.
To fans and alumni, of course, it’s more than that.
But both current Siena coach Jimmy Patsos and University at Albany coach Will Brown love the give-and-take — and give as good as they get. If tonight’s Albany Cup (7:30, Times Union Center) lives up to the crisp and entertaining pre-game rhetoric, the 15th installment of the resurrected series could be one of the best yet.
Patsos, whose Saints have a 33-22 edge in the series, likens this matchup to the New York Yankees vs. the New York Mets, the Chicago Cubs vs. the Chicago White Sox, or perhaps more on point, the Beanpot hockey classics between Boston College and Boston University.
“If that’s the case, I hope this year we’re the Mets,” said Brown when told of the Yankees-Mets comparison. Brown countered he wishes it was a different type of matchup.
“I wish it was a sprint,” he said. “I’d definitely beat Jimmy in a sprint.”
In fact, Siena (6-4) might want the game to be more of a sprint in terms of pace, since the deeper Saints are healthier and have been on a roll since they started to run and gun. UAlbany (7-3) might need to slow the game down, since it will be short-handed without frontcourt players Richard Peters and Travis Charles, both ill.
“We are preparing as if we won’t have either one,” Brown said. “We might have to play with four guards.”
UAlbany’s normal starting lineup includes guards Ray Sanders, Evan Singletary and Peter Hooley and forwards Mike Rowley and Greig Stire. Siena counters with guards Marquis Wright and Kenny Wormley, forwards Lavon Long and Brett Bisping, and center Javion Ogunyemi.
Both coaches were pitching compliments at each other earlier in the week.
“We’re going up against a championship team,” Patsos said of the three-time defending America East Conference champion Great Danes. “[Joe] Cremo is good, and I really respect Peter Hooley. We know all about Evan Singletary. We recruited him back in Baltimore.
“Will Brown coaches a very cerebral game. He excels at defensive schemes. He’s good at adjusting his defense. Cremo might be the X-factor for them, but Hooley is their leader.”
Patsos didn’t want to say that this game is more important than any other in terms of his team’s overall success, but he admitted that his alumni base really wants a win after three straight UAlbany victories in the series.
“This is as good as it gets. This is big,” he said. “I don’t see many mid-major [rivalry] games like this that can draw a real 10,000. They [the Great Danes] have won three titles in a row. This is gigantic on the community level. They are a really good team, and they are a benchmark on our level.”
Both teams want to be the underdog.
“They’re the home team, and usually the home team gets the edge,” Brown said. “Besides, they are 100 percent healthy, and we’re not. They have high expectations at Siena. If you are Siena, you have to beat UAlbany. Siena has been at this level a lot longer than us.
“But Jimmy is a good coach. He has a lot of energy, and his players feed off that. We’re both sarcastic, and we both think that we’re funny. For us right now, we know that Siena is a top-three team in the MAAC. We are playing our fourth straight road game. Still, the outcome of this game won’t dictate the overall success of either team.”
Players on both teams are excited about the matchup that in terms of local marquee value is bested only by the Travers at Saratoga Race Course.
“I’m looking forward to this,” said Siena freshman guard Nico Clareth, who often comes off the bench and gives his team plenty of energy and offensive firepower. “Everybody around campus is talking about this.”
Ogunyemi, a Troy High grad who appreciates the game’s significance, broke out in a huge smile when asked if he was ready for the Great Danes.
“This is a rivalry game and for local bragging rights for the city,” he said. “The fact that we have three Section II players [Ogunyemi, Scotia-Glenville’s Cremo and CBA’s Greig Stire] says a lot about both teams.”
Wright, Siena’s junior point guard, wants a shot at Singletary.
“This is definitely a big game,” Wright said. “There’s been a lot of hype, but we can only do what we can do. I’d love to play against Singletary. Kenny [Wormley] might start off playing him, but if he does, I’m going to ask him to switch. We are very excited about the challenge.”
UAlbany’s senior guard Sanders respects the Saints.
“They’re talented, and they are one of the best teams in the MAAC,” Sanders said. “Also, I’m sure they have a bad taste in their mouths after losing last year.”
“It will definitely be fun,” Singletary said. “There’s been a lot of buzz around this game.”
Cremo, a freshman who has made an instant impact off the bench for the Great Danes after winning back-to-back Class A scholastic titles for Scotia-Glenville, said he watched Siena play UAlbany when he was in middle school.
“I’ve seen these games before, and it’s a fun environment,” he said. “There is a big pride factor involved. This game can’t define us, but it’s a big game for both teams. I know both teams will get after it.”