ALBANY — During Thursday’s America East men’s basketball conference call with reporters, Stony Brook head coach Geno Ford offered up the statistic that demonstrates how uncertain of a postseason the league could be headed toward starting up this weekend.
“Home teams,” Ford said, “were exactly .500 for the entire conference season.”
That ranked the America East last in the country, out of 32 conferences, in terms of its teams having a home-court advantage, according to kenpom.com’s database.
“So that should bode for an interesting playoff week,” Ford said.
Ford’s Seawolves will host UAlbany Saturday at 7 p.m. in the conference quarterfinals. Stony Brook is the No. 2 seed for the league’s tournament that sees higher-ranked teams play home games each round, while UAlbany is No. 7 after ending its regular season on a five-game losing streak.
“We’re hoping to find a way to win on Saturday,” UAlbany head coach Will Brown said on the conference call.
All season, Brown has described the America East as a league with great parity outside of top-ranked Vermont, which is the No. 1 seed for the fourth consecutive postseason. The veteran coach stuck to that script Thursday.
“Outside of Vermont, I think every matchup in the quarterfinals is a coin flip and can go either way,” Brown said.
Stony Brook (19-12) swept UAlbany (14-17) during the regular season, winning 70-62 at Island Federal Credit Union Arena on Long Island in mid-January before securing a 52-49 win last weekend at SEFCU Arena in Albany.
“We all know we could’ve lost last week,” Ford said.
While Vermont (24-7) is a significant favorite in the conference tournament, the Catamounts ended up with a quarterfinal matchup against an eighth-seeded Maine (9-21) squad that enters the postseason playing like one of the league’s top teams.
“All that we’ve accomplished is great,” Vermont head coach John Becker said, “but we’ve got to turn the page and be ready to go for the conference tournament, starting with a really hot Maine team right now.”
Maine won its final two regular-season games in impressive fashion. First, Maine ran past UMBC (No. 4, 15-16) 74-48, then head coach Richard Barron’s squad headed to Hartford (No. 3, 16-15) and won 71-65.
“We’ve been close all year,” said Barron, whose club’s 11 league losses included five by two-possession margins.
Vermont, though, has mostly rolled through conference play. The Catamounts swept Maine during the regular season, winning 77-52 at home and 59-57 on the road.
Brown said redshirt sophomore Adam Lulka (concussion) is unlikely to play against Stony Brook.
“That would be my expectation,” Brown said.
Lulka has missed UAlbany’s last two games. In a campaign that has seen Lulka deal with multiple injuries, he has averaged 4.3 points and 3.6 rebounds per game in 19 appearances. Lulka averaged 8.7 points and 6.4 rebounds per game last season.
Meanwhile, sophomore Malachi de Sousa (ankle/Achilles tendon) was limited at Thursday’s practice to “about 20 minutes” of court work.
Also at Thursday’s practice at SEFCU Arena, UAlbany’s Brown confirmed that junior Rian Carter — a walk-on guard who hasn’t appeared in any games this season for the Great Danes — had patellar tendon debridement surgery on his left knee earlier this week. Several times this season, Brown said a healthy Carter would have played minutes for the Great Danes, who have struggled all season with injuries.
Carter joined the UAlbany program last offseason after averaging 16.4 points per game last season for Colby Community College in Kansas. The Rochester native Carter’s left knee didn’t cooperate throughout the season, during which Brown said Carter attempted several different approaches to combating the jumper’s knee — patellar tendinitis — that ailed him, but none were successful enough to allow him to consistently practice or attempt to play.
“This was the last resort,” Brown said of the medical procedure Carter had Tuesday.
Carter will be reevaluated in three months.