NCAA tournament team previews: Albany Great Danes
As part of its preview of the 2015 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team’s national rank. All stats are through Monday, March 16.
Record: 24-8 (15-1 in America East)
Adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency: 104.1 (119th)/101.6 (151st)
Seed: No. 14 in East
Impact player: Sam Rowley, senior, forward: 14.0 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 51.1 FG%
The Case For: Albany’s deliberate style of offense could pose a big problem for Oklahoma. While high-flying, fast-tempo teams certainly are capable of pulling upsets in the tournament (see: Florida Gulf Coast in 2013), would-be Cinderellas often fare better when they slow the game down, limit the number of overall possessions and force their superior opponent to play at their pace. The Great Danes embody that philosophy, ranking 320th in the country in adjusted tempo, according to kenpom.com. And while they don’t have a lot of possessions, they make the most of the ones they do have, scoring 1.04 points per possession to lead the America East.
Rowley is the fulcrum of the offense and makes life difficult for opposing defenses in the paint, and the team’s excellent defensive rebounding ability means whoever it plays won’t have a ton of second chances on offense. Don't discount the feel-good factor either. Junior guard Peter Hooley hit the game-winning three-pointer with 1.6 seconds remaining in the America East tournament final last Saturday just weeks after losing his mother to colon cancer.
The Case Against: Playing slow and shortening the game sounds like a good strategy, but it could backfire against the more talented Sooners. If the Great Danes fall behind they would be put in an uncomfortable spot, as they’d likely have to go against their character and speed up the game. Rowley is a very good player, but the 6’6”, 230-pounder could find things much tougher against bigger and more athletic opponents than he’s used to seeing in the America East, and with Albany’s offense so reliant on Rowley, the Danes could be in trouble if he struggles. Albany also has a hard time defending the three-point line due to its zone-heavy, pack-the-paint defensive philosophy. Opponents have shot 36.5 percent from deep against the Great Danes this season, and the game could be over quickly if Oklahoma gets hot from deep.
SI prediction: Lose to Oklahoma in Round of 64