The America East Conference tourney was fairly run-of-the-mill. The only lower seed to beat a higher seed before the finals was #5 UMBC beating #4 Maine in the first round. The finals were a match-up between #1 Vermont v. #2 Albany. I watched the game and it was a decent ball game, in the sense that the score was always close. The style of play was a little slow. It definitely is not the run-n-gun style of the bigger programs, but it was a dogfight, which makes for good viewing. The score seesawed back and forth all game; the largest lead was when Albany went up 27-20 in the first half. By the end of the game, it was a 1-pt contest, but to read about the strange final minute of play, jump with me (jump, jump!)…
The last minute of the game was particularly interesting because Vermont was down 59-60 with a minute left. They brought the ball up the court, ran some time off the clock and eventually took a shot and missed but managed to get the rebound. Now, Vermont is still down 59-60 but there are only 30 seconds left and the shot clock is off, so they are in an even better position than on the previous possession because now they get the last shot. In the previous possession, even if Vermont had made a 3 Albany still would’ve gotten the ball back and been able to tie it with a 2. So now, they have the last shot. All they need is a 2 to win the game. Pretty good situation, right?
Well, Vermont takes a time out and when they come out on the floor, I’m ready for them to run down the clock and have a play all planned out and win the game and the plucky Catamount fans will rush the court and it’ll be very exciting. However, Vermont never really runs a play. They try to take it inside and somebody mishandles the ball and it gets bounced around until finally Lillis from Albany just has to swat the ball down the court so that it bounces away as time expires and suddenly Albany has won the game. I’m sitting on my bed, my mouth open in a very Tyler Hansbrough sort-of way and I exclaim, “What in the hell was that?” I can’t do it justice in writing, you would’ve had to see it to fully appreciate the absolute mess that was the final possession.
So, the little Catamounts lost. The Albany Scooby Doos will represent the America East in the Big Dance. Since the conference’s inception in 1979, Albany had never been to the NCAA tournament until last year. Now they’ve put up back-to-back appearances, so that’s nice for them. I’m not sure they’re going to be my top pick for a first-round upset, however. They lost by 18 to Colonial Conference Tournament champion Virginia Commonwealth and they lost by 31 to UConn. Now, most years a 30 point loss by tiny beanstalk Jack Albany to Giant Ogre UConn is not that big of a deal. This year, however, UConn sucks. UConn was the last team to get in the Big East Conference tourney (if they’re going to call it a conference tourney, everyone should get to play and the Big East is too effing big, but that is a discussion for another article) and had a 6-10 conference record. So you never know, Albany may surprise us. But I feel like they’ll get the 15 or 16 seed and be headed right back to upstate New York.
The Albany Hottie MVP is Michael Knight.
Here he is, in all his Great Dane glory.