When Stony Brook hired Steve Pikiell to run its basketball program in April 2005 there was a lot of work to be done on Long Island. Struggling in the classroom and on the court, the Seawolves reached the semifinals of the America East tournament just once in their four seasons in the conference pre-Pikiell.
It’s safe to say that the former George Washington assistant has changed the culture of Stony Brook basketball. And on Sunday afternoon the Seawolves wrapped up at least a share of their third regular season America East title in the last four years, winning 69-53 at Maine.
Fifth-year senior Tommy Brenton was outstanding against the Black Bears, accounting for 13 points, 20 rebounds and seven assists in the victory, falling three assists short of posting a second triple-double against Maine this season. In total three players reached double figures and two more scored eight points apiece in what was a balanced offensive effort.
The Seawolves have three players averaging between 11.0 and 12.1 points per game: freshman forward Jameel Warney (12.1 ppg, 7.4 rpg), junior guard Anthony Jackson (11.1) and senior guard David Coley (11.0), and it isn’t uncommon to see eight players reach double digits in minutes.
But even with Stony Brook’s recent success there’s still one step to be taken: the program’s first NCAA tournament appearance as a Division I member.
In each of the last two season the Seawolves have reached the title game of the America East tournament, losing at Boston University in 2011 and falling at home to Vermont last season.
With the versatile Brenton and some capable scorers leading the way, could this be the year that Stony Brook takes that step? With the top seed in next month’s conference tournament already in hand, the Seawolves are well-positioned to do just that.
Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.
Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.
After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.
Video credit: Wyoming Athletics
Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.
Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.
Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.
Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.
Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.
But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.