Great Danes hoping to create a little Madness against Duke
ALBANY In this overflow information age, there are very few surprises not covered by each college basketball team’s finely detailed scouting reports.
Yet even with every contingency covered, there are still plenty of upsets in the NCAA tournament. That’s what gives this special event the nickname “March Madness.”
Obviously, the 24-10 Great Danes of the University at Albany, seeded only 15th, are given little chance of beating second-seeded Duke (27-5) in Friday’s Midwest Regional at 12:15 p.m. in Philadelphia.
But don’t tell that to the Great Danes.
“I think most people think we have about a 1.5 percent chance of winning,” said fifth-year senior Jacob Iati before Monday’s practice. “But that’s why it’s called ‘March Madness.’ We play every game to win. I’m not sure who will be guarding who, because we haven’t seen the scouting report yet, but we’ll have a good game plan and we will be ready to go.”
Senior guard Mike Black, who was the most outstanding player during the America East Conference tournament, said players and coaches have a different outlook on the game than the casual fan.
“I think most people think Duke will kill us,” said Black. “But those people aren’t players. We are not intimidated by Duke. The fans don’t play the game. We are a Division I program. The only difference between Duke and UAlbany is that they play in a better league. We see them play on TV every day, but we are the same age, and many of us have played against some of those guys before. Just because everybody knows all of Duke players’ names doesn’t mean we don’t have a chance of beating them.”
Duke is the kind of program that expects not only to be in the NCAA tournament every year, but also to be a No. 1 or No. 2 seed. The Blue Devils have appeared in the NCAAs in 29 of the last 30 years, and they own four championship rings.
“The first NCAA championship game I remember was Duke versus Butler,” said junior Luke Devlin, one of three Australians on the UAlbany roster. “College basketball was just starting to become popular in Australia back then, and watching that game was one of the reasons why I decided to come to America to play basketball.
“Duke is a very high-profile team, and everybody knows who they are, even in Australia. We know we will be the underdogs, but that’s what is so exciting about college basketball.”
UAlbany head coach Will Brown is fully aware that his team is given practically no chance of winning this game, just like in 2006, when the Great Danes were seeded 16th and had to play top-seeded Connecticut.
“Every kid on my team wishes he could play for Duke or a high-level team just like it,” said Brown.. “They would love to play at Madison Square Garden or in the Dean Dome [North Carolina]. But let’s face it, only a few college players are that lucky to play at that level.
“In order to win this game, we will have to play incredibly well and better than we have all year long.
“Maybe the only way we can win this game is to score the first basket, and then have the lights go off.”
Brown, a self-professed basketball junkie, is fully aware that Lehigh stunned the Blue Devils as a 15th seed last year, but he said having that upset happen only one year ago hurts the Danes’ chances of pulling a similar feat.
“We will show them some film from last year’s Lehigh game because our guys need a sense that they can beat that team,” said Brown.
“We won’t catch Duke by surprise. They will try to knock us out early. The best team in the country should beat the America East winner 10 times out of 10. But I still buy a lottery ticket every day. Anything can happen.”
UAlbany was given only 300 tickets for players’ families, administrators and season-ticket holders. Student tickets were also limited. UAlbany was providing free buses for their donors and season ticket holders.
Brown said he was inundated with out-of-town media requests all day on Monday. Some of them were from outlets he never heard of.