America East announces new format for conference tournament

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One of the bigger upsets during conference tournament play last season was Albany’s win over regular season champion Stony Brook in the semifinals of the America East tournament. That contest drew added attention due to the fact that the Great Danes, who went on to represent the league in the NCAA tournament, hosted the first two rounds of the tournament. Even though the setup was known going into the season, the fact that a lower-seeded team could host a tournament game against a higher-seeded team didn’t sit well with many.

On Thursday the conference announced a change in its tournament format for the 2015 and 2016 editions, going to a model in which the higher-seeded team will host each game of the America East tournament. The tournament will also be re-seeded after the quarterfinal round, meaning that the highest remaining seed would host the lowest remaining seed in one semifinal game and the other two semifinalists playing in the other.

The last time the conference used this particular format was back in 1995.

“This is great for our league,” Stony Brook head coach Steve Pikiell said in the release. “We have great home court venues and enthusiastic fan bases across the conference. To be rewarded for a great regular season and have an opportunity to play in front our fans and bring a piece of March Madness to multiple campuses is really exciting.”

While most would prefer a neutral site for conference tournaments, the fact of the matter is that not all leagues can do thanks to issues such as fan attendance. Playing a tournament on campus, in theory, addresses that issue but other problems can arise like the one Stony Brook faced last season. The new format does add weight to the regular season, rewarding the teams that perform well throughout the season with home-court advantage.

“Moving to this high-seed format and re-seeding the bracket enables us to protect our best teams, the teams that have shown their mettle over the course of a 16-game schedule,” Vermont director of athletics Robert Corran noted in the release. “This will put the conference in a better position to send its best representative forward to the NCAA tournament and obtain its best possible seed. We felt that was very important for the health of men’s basketball in our conference both in the short and long term.”

Last season Albany, seeded fourth, became the first team since the 1993 Delaware (now in the CAA) squad to win the league’s automatic bid despite not being one of the top two seeds in the event. Was this enough to change the way in which the conference determines its NCAA tournament representative? Apparently so.

Albany, head coach Will Brown agree to contract extension through 2018

Albany Great Danes head coach Will Brown shouts instructions to his team while playing against the Duke Blue Devils during the first half of their second round NCAA tournament game in Philadelphia
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After winning the America East tournament last season and leading the Albany Great Danes to their third NCAA tournament appearance, head coach Will Brown has been rewarded with a contract extension through the 2017-18 season. Overall Brown, whose been in charge of the Albany program since 2001, has led the Great Danes to three America East titles and a record of 172-191.

“‘I am pleased to announce that Coach Brown has signed a five-year contract extension,” Albany athletic director Dr. Lee McElroy said in the release. “Coach Brown and his staff demonstrated that his leadership, with an emphasis on service, athletics and academic excellence reflect the core values of the University.

“President Jones and I are delighted that Coach Brown will continue to build character, integrity and accountability with our student-athletes for years to come.”

Albany finished the 2012-13 season with a 24-11 record, setting a school record for wins in a season. Repeating the feat of reaching the NCAA tournament will be tough with leading scorers Mike Black (14.8 ppg) and Jacob Iati (12.2) having graduated, but the Great Danes do welcome back leading rebounder Sam Rowley (9.0, 6.2 rpg) and sophomore guard Peter Hooley (8.0, 3.1 apg).

6-10 center John Puk also returns for Albany, who will need players who were merely a part of the rotation last season to raise their level of play with Black and Iati out of eligibility. Also in the running for the America East title are Vermont, which returns six of its top seven scorers from a season ago, and reigning regular season champion Stony Brook.

America East content with nine teams in its league
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When the dust settled, for the time being, with teams jumping around from one conference to another during conference realignment, the America East lost Boston University to the Patriot League, but picked up Massachusetts Lowell, formerly a Division II school from the Northeast 10. One would think that the America East would have sought to add an additional team to have an even ten teams in the league, but that did not come to fruition. And, according to commissioner Amy Huchthausen, that’s okay.

Huchthausen told Ryan Restivo of Big Apple Buckets:

I feel like we’re in a good spot right now with our presidents, this branding campaign was their initiative and I’m really proud to see where it’s ended up as a result of that as we look ahead to the future, would it be better just from scheduling purposes to have an even number? of course it would, but the America East has been at nine for several years now and we’ve managed to make it pretty well with an odd number. You don’t want to add someone just to add someone.

The America East has been locked at nine teams since the 2005-06 season, and have been able to make it work. Prior to that year, Northeastern was in the league before heading off to the Colonial Athletic Association.

What is dangerous is if other schools from the America East begin to look for greener pastures. Earlier in August, Shades of 48, a blog about William & Mary athletics, released an investigative article with email dialogues from Tom Yeager, the commissioner of the CAA, to people associated with the other schools in the conference. The topic? Among several things, poaching Albany and Stony Brook from the America East.

Both of these schools became associate members of the CAA over the summer as they are set to embark on their first year in the league for football. Stony Brook, in particular, is a school that has made a serious commitment to athletics and is on the rise. One would think that the CAA presents them more opportunities to elevate their program than the America East, but they maintain they are content in the nine team league.

“There’s always concern that someone will leave, in this fluid environment that we’ve had for the last few years, there’s very few commissioners in the country who aren’t thinking about that, but at the same time that’s where you really have to focus on the relationships that you have with existing schools,” Huchthausen said. “Make sure that they’re open and transparent, you’re working with them so they are being honest and upfront with you, but at the end of the day a school’s going to decide what they want to decide so no commissioner can control that.”

Albany will reportedly offer extension to coach Will Brown

Will Brown Albany
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The University at Albany has offered head coach Will Brown a four-year contract extension that would sign him through the 2017-18 season, Pete Iorizzo of the Albany Times Union is reporting.

Brown has one year remaining on his deal and this would reportedly add four more to that contract, giving him the five years that are the maximum total allowed by the State of New York.

He has been offered the extension after leading Albany to a 24-10 season, including 9-7 in the America East. The Great Danes defeated Vermont to win the America East tournament title and earn an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Once in the tournament, they lost to No. 2-seeded Duke.

Brown has made three NCAA tournament appearances with Albany in his 12 seasons with the team, including back-to-back appearances in 2006 and 2007. He is the longest tenured head coach in the conference and according to the report will discuss the contract extension with athletic director Lee McElroy after the Final Four.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Duke shows qualities of a champion in first tourney game

Duke v Albany

Duke beat Albany 73-61. Big deal, right?

You’d better believe it’s a big deal to a team that got bounced by C.J. McCullom and the Lehigh Mountain Hawks in a similar seeding situation last year. Missouri didn’t learn the lessons of 2012, so it’s meaningful to note that Duke did.

This year, the Duke machine was well-oiled, tuned up and purring. They showed exactly why they deserved a No. 1 seed. That honor went, instead, to Gonzaga, who came oh-so-close to being the first 1-seed to lose to a 16 when they narrowly edged the Southern Jaguars last night. Duke showed how it’s done, romping over a 15 seed with a big second-half run.

I wrote earlier this week that Louisville will not win the national title. The inclusion of Duke in their bracket was the primary reason I gave. Discussing brackets with my college-hoops-mad buddy Stormy last night, I said of Duke: “If you asked me to design a team that could win a national title, that’s what it would look like.”

I’ll elaborate. Duke has a point guard, Quinn Cook (nine assists, one turnover today), who likes to distribute. That’s where everything starts. Cook could probably score a few more points per game, but it’s crucial to the Blue Devils’ success that he’s not obsessed with doing so. When he’s looking for someone to dish to, here’s what he sees:

Seth Curry, a pure shooter who can also handle the ball well enough to get his own shot.

Rasheed Sulaimon, a freshman wing who loves to drive the lane.

Ryan Kelly, who can and will hit a bucket anywhere from one to twenty-four feet from the hoop.

Mason Plumlee, a big body with soft hands, a variety of moves and the smarts to know how to use them.

Defensively, the Blue Devils became top-notch once again when Kelly came back from a foot injury that cost him half the season.

So, if you’re an opposing coach, what do you game-plan to stop? You can’t stop all of it, so you end up in a game of Poison Cup with Mike Krzyzewski, who has been playing and winning since you were in high school, in all likelihood.

Now, Rick Pitino may be able to gain the upper hand if the anticipated Louisville-Duke game comes to be, because you never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line. But I’m not sure anyone else in the Midwest Bracket has the goods.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

NCAA Tournament Cheat Sheet: Getting to know Albany

Will Brown Albany
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Read through the rest of the Cheat Sheets here.

Conference: America East

Coach: Will Brown

Record: 24-10 (9-7 America East)

Rankings and Ratings:

– Kenpom: 152
– RPI: 142
– AP/USA Today: N/A

Seeding?: Our Dave Ommen did not have Albany in his brand new bracket projection Sunday. They will likely fall where many small-conference fall, which would be either a 15 or 16 seed.

Names you need to know: Mike Black (15.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg), Sam Rowley (9.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg), Peter Hooley (7.8 ppg, 3.0 apg)

Stats you need to know: The Great Danes surrender just 60.9 points per game, ranking 36th in the country. They rely on that defense because they don’t score many points.

Tendencies: It’s all about pace for Albany. The Great Danes want to slow teams down and grind it out. It’s not always the prettiest brand of basketball, but it won them 24 games this season. With fewer possessions, Albany will need to limit its turnovers if it wants a chance in the NCAA tournament.

Big wins, bad losses: Albany beat Washington, Wagner, and Stony Brook. It lost to Quinnipiac and Maine.

How’d they get here?: Albany won the America East title Saturday by beating Vermont, 53-49.

Outlook: It’s always difficult for a 15- or 16-seed to win in the NCAA tournament, especially when the team relies so heavily on controlling the pace. Against bigger, more athletic teams, they’ll likely have trouble.

How do I know you?: The Great Danes went on the road to Washington early in the season and upset the Huskies on a last-second layup by Mike Black. Albany last won the America East tournament in 2007 and has made two NCAA tournament appearances under coach Will Brown.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_