The Albany Great Danes come out of the American East Conference, a conference I have honestly paid zero attention to in all the time I have been watching college basketball. The Danes sport a 1-1 record with their latest game being an 82-60 throttling by #4 Ohio State University. Last Season, Albany went 19-15, 9-7 in conference, losing their first round game in the CIT tournament.
The Great Danes have lost their top two scorers from last season who accounted for nearly 50% of their scoring total. However, their top returning scorer has stepped his game up and is averaging 17 points thus far with a 20 point night against a very good OSU team. The 6-0 180lb senior guard, Mike Black, is a solid all around guard who seems to be doing a little bit of everything for his team. Black is shooting a career average around 36% from range and about 45% from the field, while his free throw shooting is a respectable 70-75%. Last season Black led his team in assists, but has struggled to deliver the ball with the same aptitude 2 games into the year; something that should not throw off Husky or Albany fans. Abdul Gaddy and Andrew Andrews should make it their goal to contain Black as much as possible to limit his touches and shooting opportunities.
Perhaps the biggest surprise player for the Great Danes is the explosion of production from 6-10 235lb forward/center John Puk. After seeing his minutes dwindle between his freshmen and sophomore years where he averaged just over 2 points and 3 rebounds per game, Puk has immensely improved his game with some career nights to start the season resulting in a 9 point and 7.5 rebound per game average. In all reality, the rebounding number is the only one I have confidence in at the moment as Puk was shut down by the Buckeyes and held to just 4 points on 1 of 3 shooting over 30 minutes. To me that reads as a timid player who can be abused by a tough, defensive minded guy such as Aziz N’Diaye.
Jacob Iati is third Albany player that demands a bit more attention with a shooting mindset and the skills to back it up. The 5-10 165lb guard hit 45% from deep last year and is off to a fairly hot start this season with 4 makes on 10 attempts. What is more impressive to me is his foul shooting. Despite only taking 20 attempts last season, Iati made 16 to give him an 80% average for the year and is a perfect 6 of 6 this season. Iati seems to be getting more aggressive in the lanes, which is a great improvement for any sort of sharp shooting guard. Hopefully C.J. Wilcox will mirror this aggression and get to the lane with some regularity this year as he is the best foul shooter on the team.
Key to the Game:
The Huskies cleaned up their miserable 11 turnover first half performance against Loyola and went on to commit only 1 more infraction thus allowing the Dawgs to cruise home with a 20 point win. The Albany Great Danes should be much less of a match up than the Greyhounds of Loyola, but that does not mean the Huskies can afford to be as careless with the ball. Any halfway decent team can seize on the mistakes of their opponents and given the right circumstances a ball game can be made of a supposed blow out. Romar should treat this game as a real lesson teacher and pull players who do not show patience and basketball intelligence. With Seton Hall and the Buckeyes on the horizon, the Huskies really need to begin fine tuning their ball game and develop an identity. This all starts with ball control and guard play, where we are thankfully quite experienced.
Despite the official scorekeepers taking away one of N’Diaye’s rebounds, the senior center still had a career night with 16 boards to his name. The Great Danes’ tallest player comes in a 6-10 and their heaviest at only 235lb. No one on the court can match up with N’Diaye’s massive 7-0 260+lb frame and he should dominate the night. Romar and staff really need to begin riding the big man, holding him accountable for producing less than he is capable of on the offensive end. What I noticed last game is that N’Diaye was often much too far outside the block when receiving the ball. The Washington guards can help correct this by working the ball into the corners, forcing N’Diaye to create space by backing his body into the paint and opening up for entry passes. Not only will this allow inside domination by our bigger line-up, but it will also allow much better position when it comes time to clean up the glass. The Huskies held a narrow 34-30 rebounding margin last game and will need to improve upon these numbers if they intend to compete at the highest levels. As I have already repeated a dozen times this paragraph, the Dawgs are a much bigger and better team and as such they need to prove their skills by grabbing every single loose board in sight. There is no reason N’Diaye can’t be expected to grab another 15-20 boards come Tuesday night.
The Great Danes are averaging 76% as a team after two games and have several prove foul shooters. The Huskies had a great start on Sunday night with 22 makes on 30 attempts, but they can always do better. Free Throws win ball games. If you are new to my writing, be prepared to see this phrase written over and over in my articles. The importance of foul shots cannot be overlooked. If you don’t believe me, just go watch the Huskies in the Pac-12 tournament or against Nevada last season. The Dawgs need to capitalize on every single freebie to prevent any sort of confidence in the Albany players.
This is another nice warm-up game for a Husky team with a plethora of new players and play-makers. The chemistry with this squad already seems a great improvement over last year’s talented, but unorganized team. With some good games in the following week against Colorado State and Saint Louis on the horizon, the Dawgs should be able to utilize this outing as a great moral booster and another opportunity for Romar and staff to work on their rotation, especially in light of Shawn Kemp’s fairly serious knee injury that will keep him out most, if not all, of this season. The Dawgs should put this one away midway through the first half and enjoy a great home town experience.
Final Score Prediction: UW-92 AU-64