ALBANY — For right now, the UAlbany men’s basketball program has no upcoming games on its schedule.
UAlbany postponed its two upcoming two-game America East Conference series, which were set to be played against UMass Lowell and Hartford, on Thursday after it was confirmed the Great Danes will need to pause in-person team activities until next Thursday because of a confirmed positive COVID-19 test result within the team’s Tier 1 personnel group.
With the America East recently making the decision to announce its schedule for the remainder of the 2020-21 season in two-week blocks, UAlbany currently doesn’t know when it will next play.
“It’s a sign of the times,” UAlbany head coach Will Brown said in a phone interview.
The Great Danes, and the rest of the America East men’s and women’s basketball programs, did find out Thursday an outline of how this year’s postseason structure will look. The league announced a format that will include all teams that “have completed at least 12 Division I contests by the end of the regular season” and will take place over two weeks. In the men’s and women’s brackets, the top-two teams will advance automatically to the semifinals, while the rest of the teams will initially compete among two separate “playoff pods.”
“The balance of each pod could be filled true to seed or by geographic proximity,” the league announced. “Teams will not move more than one seed line when filling out the bracket.”
The winners of each postseason pod will advance to the semifinals. The semifinals and championship game will take place at one predetermined site for the men, and another for the women. The men’s championship game will take place March 13, and the women’s championship game will be played March 12.
“They came up with a plan that, ‘A,’ involves every team and, ‘B,’ one that they feel is the best plan for the overall health and safety of the teams and the student-athletes,” Brown said. “Hopefully, the plan can end up being executed, as is.”
America East Conference Commissioner Amy Huchthausen said Thursday in a phone interview that the league has a “working model” for how it will handle tiebreakers for seeding since it’s unlikely that all teams will have played the same number of games. Those guidelines, though, “are still a work in progress” as the conference sees how close its member teams come to playing full 18-game league schedules.
“But,” Huchthausen said, “I think everyone understands that we’ll be lucky if any team gets a full 18 in.”
UAlbany is 4-6 overall and 4-4 in league play. If the America East continues only to play conference games on weekends, UAlbany would appear to only have enough time to play six more league games before postseason play. Huchthausen, though, said “all options remain on the table,” and that it’s possible the conference could schedule weekday games during February to allow for able-to-play teams to get as close to 18 league games as possible.
“But we’re going to run out of time at some point,” Huchthausen said.
Brown’s team hasn’t practiced this week, but has conducted film sessions and exercise workouts through Zoom. The goal, Brown said, is for the team’s coaches and players to remain in “non-stop, constant communication” so the program can continue the progress it’s shown in winning three of its last four games.
“I really want them to understand, especially from these last four games, what went right, what we need to bottle up and what we need to correct,” Brown said. “Just getting them thinking about when we take the court again, this is what we need to do.”
For a variety of pandemic-related reasons, the UAlbany men’s basketball program had a stop-and-start offseason and preseason. Before its most-recent pause, though, the team had played 10 games in a stretch of 36 days.