The America East Playoffs are a new season and no group knows that better than Stony Brook.
In the last two seasons the Seawolves have reached the conference’s championship game only to fall at the hands of Albany. But this time promises to be different as Stony Brook will own home court advantage thanks to their 14-2 record during the regular season.
Their first opponent will be UMBC on Wednesday night at 7pm at Island Federal Credit Union Arena. Should they advance they will play the lowest seeded team to escape the quarterfinal round, which means they will avoid facing the two teams that have beat them this season in Albany and Vermont.
However they will have to start with the Retrievers, who are the bottom seed having compiled 3-13 record in conference play. Stony Brook swept the season series winning 86-74 on Jan. 13 at home and 75-52 on Feb. 11 on the road.
“They’re, I said, the most the dangerous 8th seed we played,” senior Jameel Warney said. “They got one of the top scorers, they have guys that can score at every position and they’re really talented. So we have to come ready to play and play on both sides, at the end of the day find a way to win.”
UMBC has seen redshirt sophomore Jarius Lyles who, if not for playing only 20 games this season due to his transfer from Robert Morris at midseason last year, would rank as the conference’s leading scorer with 23.0 ppg. Lyles earned a spot on the second team All-America East on Monday and Stony Brook head coach Steve Pikiell was blunt in his assessment of the star guard.
“He scores against everybody, I don’t worry about that matchup, he scores against everybody,” Pikiell said. “No one’s been able to stop him, it’s all the rest of the guys that are very important.”
The 6’2” guard scored 24 points against the Seawolves in their first meeting, but only 13 in their second.
“He’s terrific, but he’s putting up obscene numbers, so he does it efficiently too,” Pikiell added. “He’s really good. We got our work cut out with him.”
“There’s no easy game, when you’re in this situation you have to play well and you certainly have to play well at home. I like my team a lot and I feel real good.”
Senior Carson Puriefoy will be among other Seawolves who will likely draw the assignment of guarding the 6’2” Lyles and look to hold him under his average in order to advance to the semifinal round on Monday night.
“We just got to surround him definitely,” Puriefoy said. “He’s one of the best scorers in the league, but we know they’re a good team, we played them twice we just have to surround him.”
“We have to surround everybody. We have to play team defense, we’ve been doing this all year it’s nothing new to us, we’re just going to get back and prepare for every team we have to play next.”
Stony Brook has won their last six games in the quarterfinal round and has advanced to the finals in four of the last six years.
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.