ALBANY — American visited Albany once already this season, and looked overmatched in that opening-night game against Siena at Times Union Center.
At SEFCU Arena on Saturday morning, UAlbany men’s basketball head coach Will Brown knows his team is unlikely to have a similarly easy outing against American. Senior guard Sa’eed Nelson missed that game earlier this month against Siena, but the Patriot League’s preseason player of the year is expected to play against the Great Danes.
“They’re a completely different team with him,” Brown said. “He’s dynamic. He keeps his dribble, he’s always in attack mode and he demands so much attention.”
Since missing his team’s opening game, Nelson has averaged 20.5 points on 56.9% shooting. American has split its four games with Nelson is the lineup.
“And if he’s making jump shots against us,” Brown said, “we’re in trouble.”
While slowing Nelson will be the Great Danes’ top defensive aim, the No. 1 challenge for UAlbany — and American — is just making sure it’s focused and ready to play for the contest’s opening tip. With the UAlbany football team hosting its FCS playoff game at 1 p.m. at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium against Central Connecticut, the men’s basketball game was moved three hours earlier than originally scheduled. The rescheduled opening tip-off between American and UAlbany is set for 10 a.m.
Brown said needing to make such a change was a “good thing” for the overall UAlbany athletic program. The switch, though, did mean his team would need to get creative to make sure it was ready to play an early morning game.
“Our normal routine is we eat our pre-game meal four hours before tip-off,” Brown said. “We’re definitely not going to be eating this pre-game meal at 6 a.m.”
It’s the second weekend in a row with an unusual schedule for the Great Danes. Last weekend, UAlbany played three games in three days as part of Quinnipiac’s Bobcats Invitational. The Great Danes went 2-1 in that series of games, with each of those games tipping off within a span of 41 hours.
UAlbany lost the first game of that stretch with an 86-69 defeat against Quinnipiac, a matchup in which the Great Danes’ defense struggled to defend the 3-point line. Quinnipiac made 17 of 33 3-pointers in that contest. The rest of the weekend, Brown said his team showed greater attention to detail.
“It was a good weekend for us, overall,” said Brown, whose team is 4-3 on the season.
Brown does not expect redshirt sophomore Adam Lulka (ankle) to return to UAlbany’s lineup against American, but said the forward should return during one of the Great Danes’ following two games. Lulka has missed UAlbany’s last four games.