ALBANY — It’s still early, relatively, in the America East Conference season.
But it could get late quick considering the conference has yet to announce details for its postseason format, including how many teams will qualify to compete in the league playoffs.
So this weekend at New Hampshire is a critical one for the UAlbany men’s basketball team, which is at .500 in league play, with its toughest games behind it and with six of its eight games following this weekend scheduled to take place at its home SEFCU Arena.
The Great Danes?
They’re not necessarily thinking that way. Their focus is on this weekend and a tough New Hampshire team — and on trying to make sure they build on the success they had last weekend against NJIT.
Graduate student Jarvis Doles said the Great Danes “certainly were happy” with the decisive fashion in which they earned a sweep against NJIT, but want that success to be the start of something that extends beyond one strong back-to-back showing.
“Two games is nothing,” Doles said earlier this week during a teleconference with reporters. “We haven’t done anything yet. We still have a lot more wins to go in order to be the type of team that we want to be.”
“For us,” graduate student Chuck Champion said of last weekend’s games, “it gave us a taste of winning and what it takes to win.”
The America East standings are a bit jumbled since teams have not all played the same number of games because of various pandemic-related disruptions. In terms of winning percentage, though, UAlbany (3-3, 3-5) is tied for sixth place with UMass Lowell, while New Hampshire (5-3, 6-5) is in fourth place.
Every team, though, already has at least a couple losses in league play. UMBC is in first place at 6-2, and Vermont is in second at 7-3, and those two teams have not played each other yet. Meanwhile, UAlbany has already played both the league’s top teams.
To some degree, New Hampshire finds itself in the same spot as UAlbany. It has had some success to this point in the league season, but could make a run at competing atop the conference if it comes out of this weekend with two wins.
This weekend’s series should play out much differently than last weekend’s games, when both UAlbany and NJIT pushed tempo, and the Great Danes scored 83 points each game and made 56.1% of their shots in securing a sweep. Within conference play, New Hampshire plays at the second-slowest tempo, according to kenpom.com, and protects its defensive glass better than any other America East squad.
UAlbany head coach Will Brown said the Great Danes “need five guys in the paint rebounding the ball,” and need to be prepared for the style of play New Hampshire brings to the court.
“If we don’t match or exceed their physicality [and] toughness, and we don’t rebound the basketball, the rest isn’t going to matter,” Brown said.
Both games this weekend at Lundholm Gymnasium in Durham, New Hampshire will start at 2 p.m.