Normal hype missing from Siena-UAlbany game
ALBANY The text messaging has been silent.
The Twitter exchanges have been non-existent.
If bandwidth capacity in the Capital Region has been tested at all this week, it hasn’t been because of trash talk between the Siena Saints and UAlbany Great Danes.
When asked if he knew anyone on the UAlbany roster, Siena’s Rob Poole thought for a moment, and the best he could come up with was Stephan Jiggetts, a player who was supposed to play for both programs, and now is with neither.
Fact is, the teams barely know each other, compounded by the absence of scouting material, which has taken one element out of the usual buildup for tonight’s Albany Cup double-header at the Times Union Center.
What they do know is that, no matter what, the game itself will have the extra energy that always fuels the crosstown rivalry, which was renewed in 2001.
It’s also the season opener for both teams. The Great Danes are coming off a 24-win season in which they went to the NCAA tournament, and Siena fans will get their first look at a remodeled roster under new head coach Jimmy Patsos.
“This is one of the reasons you take this job,” Patsos said. “They’ll be favored. That’s alright. We’re very lucky to play in a game in front of 10,000 people at the midmajor level.”
“This is good for all college basketball fans,” UAlbany coach Will Brown said. “I’m sure both teams will make mistakes. It’s a tough way to start the season. In a rivalry game, anything can happen.”
The men’s game will be preceded by the women’s game at 5 p.m.
As of Thursday afternoon, over 8,700 tickets had been sold.
In a rough poll of the Siena men, the Saints, who were 8-24 last year and are expected to start three freshmen, believe themselves to be the obvious underdog.
Siena has won nine of the 12 games since 2001, but UAlbany has won two of the last three, including a 69-56 win last year.
Brown claimed that his team should be the underdog based on tradition and the fact that the Great Danes are the “road” team.
While praising Brown and his program, Patsos teased Brown for his desire to get one of these games at SEFCU Arena for a change.
“Sorry, your gym’s not big enough,” Patsos said during his first media lunch on Tuesday. “You built a football stadium; maybe you should’ve domed it.
“Look, it’s just an unbelievable game at the mid-major level.”
UAlbany has experience and size on its side, and Siena will counter with a system that Patsos learned as an assistant to Gary Williams at Maryland for 13 years and has used with success for nine seasons as the Loyola head coach.
The Saints will try to press and run, but Brown said the Great Danes will be prepared for that.
“I think we can win in the 90’s [points] and the 40’s,” he said. “Don’t mistake my team’s size for a lack of athleticism.”
Even if it’s difficult for the players to turn this edition of the Albany Cup into a bragging rights deal, both sides acknowledged how good it is for the Capital Region.
The 12 games have drawn an average attendance of 10,940.
“It’s not that we don’t like each other; we don’t even know those guys that well,” UAlbany sophomore Peter Hooley said. “We just want to put on a good show.”
“I know it’s really big for the alumni, and it’s two really good basketball colleges in town,” Poole said. “It’s fun, but for me it’s not as fun as when we play a Loyola or Iona. They’re a very good team, and, of course, we want to win and they want to win, so we’ll have to come out playing hard.”
The women’s matchup carries a similar characteristic, a UAlbany team with NCAA tournament experience against a Siena team trying to find its way under a relatively new head coach, Ali Jaques, who is in her second year at Siena.
“It’s a tough environment to go into the first game,” Jaques said. “They’re already excited enough, and then when you have that kind of a crowd and that kind of an atmosphere, it can be a little overwhelming for everybody. I think it’s going to come down to which team comes out in attack mode first.
“It’s our home opener, so everybody’s going to be excited for that. Add on top of that the rivalry, and it speaks for itself. It’s a huge game.”
“The underclassmen will experience this game for the first time,” UAlbany coach Katie Abrahanson-Henderson said. “They have no idea what to expect. They won’t understand why the other team is being so aggressive.
“I don’t look at any game as fun, but this game will be a lot of fun for the alumni and for the fans.”