ALBANY — The problems the UAlbany men’s basketball team are facing don’t have easy solutions. That’s why they’ve continued to persist for the Great Danes, who will bring a four-game losing streak into their regular-season finale at league-leading Vermont.
The Great Danes can’t get healthy, aren’t making enough shots and don’t have the personnel to crash the glass the way head coach Will Brown’s teams usually do.
And . . .
“I’m going to tell you,” Stony Brook head coach Geno Ford said after his team’s win Saturday at SEFCU Arena, “every coach in the league knows when the tournament rolls around [that] they’ll be as dangerous as anybody. I don’t care what’s going on now.”
That reputation exists because of the way Brown’s program has often out-performed its seed in the conference tournament. This season, with its season-long losing streak coming at the worst possible time, the Great Danes appear likely to head on the road for all of their postseason. While a win at Vermont — which has defeated UAlbany in eight consecutive meetings — would offer help to the Great Danes in the standings and in tie-breaker scenarios, Brown’s club enters its final game looking like it could finish anywhere from tied for fourth place to tied for sixth.
To some degree, though, a win Tuesday for UAlbany — which currently is tied for fifth place at 7-8 in league play with UMBC — is not the most important thing it could achieve in the first part of its week as it starts to turn its attention toward the “new season starting the following Saturday” with the America East Conference playoffs. Hitting some shots to gain some offensive confidence is key for UAlbany, while figuring out a way to get several players headed in the right direction is most important for the Great Danes.
UAlbany has battled one health-related issue after another this season, and appears likely to play Tuesday without redshirt sophomore Adam Lulka (concussion), while redshirt junior Jojo Anderson (knee) saw his season end weeks ago. Then, redshirt sophomore Brent Hank (upper respiratory infection) is limited at the moment and redshirt sophomore Cameron Healy (hip/back) hasn’t been his usual all-conference self in weeks. Meanwhile, Brown described freshman Trey Hutcheson as “exhausted” at this point in his rookie college season, and sophomore Malachi de Sousa has struggled offensively since dealing with an illness earlier this month.
At this point, only seniors Ahmad Clark and Romani Hansen are consistently playing well for the Great Danes, while sophomore Antonio Rizzuto has increased his productivity in the last month. UAlbany was able to stay afloat through its first 25 or so games through sheer will, and great play from Clark and Healy — but it’s difficult for a squad to do that for an entire season.
“I think we’re tired,” Brown said. “I think we’ve hit the wall a little bit.”
“We’ve got to keep plugging away,” Brown said.
And that’s the truth, because the America East — outside of Vermont — is a league this season with barely anything separating its nine teams. It’s possible the league could see seven of its teams finish the 16-game regular season with at least seven wins, which would be the first time that’s happened since the 2005-06 season.
Regardless of how UAlbany does Tuesday at Vermont or what seed it earns for the playoffs, the only matchup that UAlbany — or any team in the conference — would enter as a significant underdog would be a postseason contest at Patrick Gymnasium in Burlington, Vermont.
“The league,” Ford said, “has a lot of parity this year.”