ALBANY — What’s certain about the 2020-21 schedule for the UAlbany men’s basketball program?
“Just that it’s been turned completely upside down,” head coach Will Brown said Monday.
The veteran leader of the Great Danes, though, knows little more than that when it comes to the schedule ahead for his club that’s coming off a 14-18 season. When the UAlbany men’s and women’s basketball teams will be able to conduct a full practice remains unclear as the Great Danes take the first steps this week in restarting athletic activities following a 24-day shutdown because of concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic, while college basketball schedules remain works in progress after the NCAA moved the season’s start date from Nov. 10 to Nov. 25 less than a month ago.
Teams are allowed to start official practices next Wednesday, but specifics within UAlbany’s reopening plan for athletics make it unlikely Brown’s team will be able to start on that date. Not knowing when his team will be able to start formal practices adds an extra layer of complexity for Brown in terms of remaking his squad’s non-conference schedule, as does the continued lack of clarity from the America East Conference regarding how the league will format its games.
It’s expected a number of teams — including Siena — will head to Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut to play non-conference games in a bubble-like environment, and Brown said the Great Danes are still lined up to play a pair of games in Uncasville as part of their involvement in the 2020 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament. At Mohegan Sun Arena, UAlbany is scheduled to play in a bracket that includes Lehigh, LIU and Quinnipiac.
Including conference games, teams are allowed this season to play up to a maximum of 27 regular-season games. With the addition of NJIT this season to the America East, it’s likely the conference’s teams will play 18 league games rather than the 16 of past years. Brown, though, said he isn’t sure how many non-conference games his team will attempt to play because of the combination of his team’s likely late start to practice and an uncertain start date for when conference play will begin this season.
“But, right now, we’re planning like we’re going to play non-conference games. I haven’t received any indication otherwise,” Brown said. “How many we play? We’ll figure that out as we move forward. But, right now, our expectation is we’re going to play some. An exact number, I don’t know.”
There will be no exhibition games or closed scrimmages this preseason, and UAlbany normally has taken advantage of playing multiple warm-up games in past seasons. This year, Brown said he is planning “several intrasquad scrimmages, with officials,” in order to prepare the Great Danes for whenever their season-opening game is played.
“We’re going to treat those, as much as possible, like they’re scrimmages against an opponent,” Brown said.
Before those scrimmages, Brown said his split roster will receive scouting reports on their teammates so they can better simulate game preparation. Changes like that — unusual in any other year — will be necessary, Brown said, to best prepare the Great Danes.
“It’s all about adapting and adjusting,” Brown said. “I can’t say that enough.”