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NCAA Tournament Primer: Albany Great Danes

Mar 15, 2014, 2:26 PM EST

Albany Great Danes head coach Will Brown shouts instructions to his team while playing against the Duke Blue Devils during the first half of their second round NCAA tournament game in Philadelphia Reuters

Get to know all of the NCAA Tournament’s automatic bids here.

Conference: America East Conference

Coach: Will Brown

Record: 17-14 (9-7 America East)

Rankings and Ratings:

- Kenpom: 195
- RPI: 199
- AP/USA Today: None

Seeding?: 16

Names you need to know: Peter Hooley (15.7 ppg, 40 percent from three); Sam Rowley (11.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg); DJ Evans (11 ppg, 2.8 apg); John Puk (5.7 percent block rate)

Stats you need to know: Albany flew under the America East radar this season thanks to seven conference losses (though only two of those losses were by double-digits). Brown’s squad isn’t an offensive juggernaut — 1.03 points per AE possession — and the Danes’ goal is to consistently attack the bucket. Nearly 50 percent of their shots are at the rim, with many of those attempts taken by Rowley and Gary Johnson, a 6-foot-6 senior who leads the squad in two-point field goal percentage (53.1 percent). Similar to the Albany team that danced last season, a stout defensive effort is demanded by Brown each time the SUNY school takes the floor. The Danes’ defensive efficiency rating is second in AE play, and their constant switching between man, 2-3, and 3-2 defenses kept Stony Brook off-balance during Albany’s AE final win.

Tendencies: The offense flows through Hooley and Rowley, two of Albany’s several Australians on the roster. The duo leads the team in percentage of shots attempted, and while Rowley prefers to work within the paint, using his heft to bully opposing defenders, Hooley’s game is a bit more diverse — the sophomore made 40 percent of his threes. But because the Danes aren’t going to offensively overrun teams, Albany needs to control the game’s pace, using a glacial strategy that involves going deep into the shot clock before unleashing their attempt — Albany uses just 63 possessions per game, 317th slowest nationally — and since their defense is so stingy and yields few offensive rebounds, additional possessions, and easy buckets, fail to materialize for Albany opponents.

Big wins, bad losses: Save for a late January win at home against Stony Brook, Albany did not have any big wins until the league tournament tipped. Perhaps a close lose to Pitt could be counted as a moral victory, but dropped games to UMass-Lowell and Duquesne weren’t great. The Danes didn’t begin to roll until the AE tournament semis, beating top seeded Vermont, a win which catapulted Albany to their match-up, and eventual victory, over Stony Brook.

How’d they get here?: Handcuffing Stony Brook (.89 PPP) in the America East final, winning 69-60.

Outlook: The America East representative has won just two tournament games within the past decade, and both wins were secured by Vermont (2012, over Lamar; 2005, over Syracuse), so while Albany lost only two players from s squad that won the league’s auto bid last season, it is hard to see Albany advancing past their first contest. However, the combination of NCAA tourney experience, a slow pace, and continuously switching defenses might confuse their opening round opponent.

How do I know you?: Brown has been Albany’s head coach for much of the 21st century, taking the bench’s first seat for the 2001-02 season. He’s led the Danes to four NCAA tournament appearances — 2006, ’07, ’13, and now ’14 — and is regarded as one of the nation’s most underrated coaches.

  1. uskbms02 - Mar 17, 2014 at 5:49 PM

    From the land of Down Under, Go Danes!!

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