No, this one will not be on a ship nor are there are any lingering fears or trepidations that excess condensation will in any way impede Ohio State's second shot at opening the 2012-2013 men's basketball season. Though Marquette is back in Milwaukee dealing to their own affairs, the Buckeyes will move on to the next one and give kicking off the year another go, this time with the University of Albany.
We should probably start by looking at what Albany did in their respective season opener. By playing host to Duquense in SEFCU Arena, the Great Danes (yes, that is in fact their mascot) were both able to keep a dry court and also immerge from 40 minutes of hard fought basketball with a win. Though there were eight second half lead changes, Duquense never led by more than one on the night.
Albany, at one juncture, broke open a night point lead, helped in large part by the play of Mike Black. Black, the Danes' senior Chicago product point guard, led Albany with 15 points on the evening. He was 6-for-15 from the field and also added two assists to go along with two trey's in the win. The 6'10" Iowan junior, John Puk, used his size to his advantage in chipping in fourteen points of his own. He also brought down eight boards and shot a monster 77% from the field (essentially exclusively in the paint for those fearing a midwest Dirk Nowitzki).
Puk isn't the only Dane with starting center experience. Senior forward/center Blake Metcalf returns after a junior year which saw him score a career 15 points against somewhat perennial NCAA tournament presence Vermont. Metcalf at 6-9 doesn't quite bring in the same presence that Puk does, but is able to use his physique to box out some of the opposition. He's not exactly known for dominating the box score minutes wise, so expect to see plenty of Australian Luke Devlin, a sometimes 2011-2012 starter, as well.
Another outside shooting presence for Albany comes in the form of the fleet of foot 5-10 Jacob Iati. Iati stroked 3 three pointers in the 69-66 win Friday. Jacob's older brother Jon is a first year assistant on the Albany staff and former Dane starter. The fifth year senior and fellow senior guard/forward Jayson Gurrier were a fairly prolific outside scoring duo last season, combining to make 77 of 176 three point attempts, good for 43.8% from beyond the arc. Guerrier actually finished the year as the top three point shooter in the Danes' American East Conference.
The other two players we should expect to see in the rotation for Albany are two more Australians, 6'6" sophomore forward Sam Rowley, and 6'4" freshman two guard, Peter Hooley. 12th year head coach Will Brown gets the most out of his frequent flier miles, and has used his international recruiting prowess en route to becoming the longest tenured head coach in the America East Conference.
The Danes last made the NCAA tournament in 2003 when they were a 13 seed and lost to Virginia in the first round, 78-58. They've been to the dance one other time under Brown, the year prior, when as a 16th seed they played 1 seed UConn and famously gave the Huskies and legendary coach Jim Calhoun all they could handle. Marcus Williams, Denham Brown, and co. had to rally the Huskies down from 12, and if anything should show that the Danes are no stranger to at least the psychology of giant killing.
But what of this incarnation? Last year's Albany squad finished 2011-2012 19-15 losing their final two games. The Danes lost 57-55 to Stony Brook in the America East Conference Tournament in West Hartford, then fell a little more than a week later to Manhattan in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament. The tournament, which claims to use "the old NIT model in which matchups in future rounds are determined by the results of the previous round" expanded from 24 to 32 teams in 2012 and was ultimately won by Mercer. Yeah.
Albany's arguably best non-conference aspect of 2011-2012 came in a December 28th road loss to Maryland, 83-72. While last year's Terrapins program was down from the lofty standards of the Gary Williams era, Luke Devlin, this year's team's projected 6th man, managed a career high 16 points in the losing effort. The Danes do return three of the five starters from that one. Puk, Guerrier, and another backup guard Tanner Wilson also saw minutes in the moral victory ripe L.
Is there anything short of a perfect storm Albany can do to win this one? Probably not. UAlbany (their preferred name shortening) is 1-0, and the last three times they've started a year 1-0, they've gone on to make the NCAA Tournament. Clearly they have this season made in the shade and can completely mail this one in.
In all seriousness, Deshaun Thomas, Craft, et al. will likely be rather eager to get 2012 underway officially. They might just have to take their frustrations out from missing their season opener on the Great Danes.
Holy diver. Ohio State 80 - Albany 57. Making up numbers is the most fun.