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Gazette staff's Division I hoops
by Gazette staff

Division I hoops

A Daily Gazette sports blog
Our staff covers Siena and UAlbany

Danes not done yet

Some harsh criticism lately from area media outlets about the UAlbany men's basketball team.

It seems that 16 wins don't mean much because the Danes haven't beaten enough strong teams on their schedule.

Decent point, but UAlbany certainly has surpassed most observers' expectations about this campaign, especially after the Danes lost their top two scorers, Gerardo Suero and Logan Aronhalt, in the off-season. Suero, one of the nation's top scorers a year ago as a junior, went pro, while Aronhalt transferred to Maryland, even though he had another year of eligibility left with the Danes.

While it is true that the Great Danes continue to have difficulty beating the top teams in the conference, namely Vermont, Boston University and Stony Brook, the numbers can be deceiving. Yes, all three of the conference's power programs own dominating records over the Great Danes over the last four years, but this year's team isn't the same one that endured those losses.

Vermont did prove to be the better team twice this season against the Danes, with a resounding 25-point win at Patrick Gym in Burlington and Saturday night's 50-43 win at SEFCU Arena. This Vermont team is the real deal and is an extremely solid team on both ends of the court.

But Boston University was lucky to get out of SEFCU with its 85-80 overtime win in a game that the Great Danes simply handed to the Terriers with one poor inbounds pass and two terrific three-pointers by D.J. Irving at the end of regulation. If UAlbany won that game, all the talk about the Danes not living up to expectations would probably fade away.

Indeed, this is a very tough stretch for UAlbany, and if first-place Stony Brook wins Tuesday night at SEFCU, things could get even tougher, as the Danes would slip from third place to fourth. They were in first place just last week.

But don't give up on the Danes just yet. UAlbany head coach Will Brown pointed out that the America East Conference is a still one-bid league, meaning only the winner of the conference tournament will most likely get an NCAA berth.

Nobody ever said that this UAlbany team was great in terms of personnel. Brown has said all along that the Great Danes would have to play at their best to beat every team on their schedule. Against tough teams like Vermont and Stony Brook, some of the Danes will need to step up even more.

With the tournament in Albany for the next two years, it will only take a couple of good victories for the Danes to advance. If Mike Black's shooting touch finally returns, don't be surprised if he leads them to the promised land.

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