Through the first three weeks of the season, Albany was hardly the team that head coach Will Brown envisioned at the start of the year.
This team, picked second in the preseason America East poll, was expected to rely on their back court featuring seniors, Peter Hooley, Ray Sanders and Evan Singletary. However, it has been the front court that has paced ahead, the Great Danes have made 51.7% of their two pointers – good for 87th in the country and have improved at getting to the free throw line.
“I thought, heading into the season, for sure our perimeter would be outstanding and I still think it will be,” Brown said. “I just think, right now, I’m shocked that we’re not shooting it nearly as well as we’re capable of.”
While they are off to a 6-3 start and will seek to win four non-conference games in a row for the first time since the 2012-13 season at Marist, their cold shooting has cost them a chance of making that start even better. Albany made just three of 20 three-pointers in their two-point loss in the final seconds at South Florida and made just one three in their loss to Boston University.
“I just think it’s one of those things where our guys are starting to realize that regardless of how we shoot the ball, we’re just going to find a way to win,” Brown said, emphasizing their 49.9% free throw rate which ranks 16th nationally. “If we’re going to struggle shooting the ball from the perimeter, even if we’re shooting it well, we’re going to find a way to get to the line and get some free points. In the meantime, we’ve got to continue to tighten up a little bit defensively and on the glass, which I’m pretty sure we will do, but as poorly as we’ve shot to be sitting at 6-3, we’ll take it.”
How Albany has managed to win games is through their four front court pieces, who each have played vital roles at times in wins. Junior Mike Rowley has led the team in rebounding (8.7 rpg), while sophomore Greig Stire (6.3 ppg) has taken a step forward but Brown said “he’s got a tendency to hit anybody that moves,” resulting in increased foul trouble. Even junior Richard Peters, who made the key deflection to seal their NJIT win on an inbounds play, has provided solid production and junior Travis Charles has proven to be a scorer, but still needs to grasp the defensive side of the ball.
“We’re just getting such good consistency from him,” Brown said of Rowley, who averaged 3.8 ppg last season. “He’s had some games where he’s scored the ball, his defense and his rebounding have been consistent.”
“He’s out of that shadow of his brother, he’s never going to be a 20 point scorer he just isn’t made that way, but he’s one of those guys that in my opinion that can get us eight to 10 points and seven or eight rebounds every single game. It’s a guy that could be a consistent threat up there and play off our perimeter guys and also somebody that can make some plays when we throw him the ball.”
While the front court has progress it can hardly be expected that shooters, such as senior Peter Hooley will continue to shoot 16.7% from three-point range after entering the year making 36.5% of his three’s for his career. That is where the Great Danes will focus on fixing in their remaining six non-conference games.
“I’d like us to get a little more crisper offensively, just as far as moving a little quicker, cutting a little harder, but really the biggest thing is statistically our numbers look good defensively,” Brown said. “I want to make sure that if we go 0 for 20 from three and shoot 33% from the floor for the game, that we still have a chance to win those games because it’s going to happen.”
“I want a few less breakdowns defensively and as long as we’re getting shots offensively, I don’t have an issue, but you can’t shoot poorly from three or on jump shots and then not get shots by turning the ball over.”
Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2015-16 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference among others for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.