All posts by Zak Kushner

Top Recruiting Classes in MBB, Do They Bring Top Results?

Top recruiting classes bring excitement to fanbases every offseason–

They invoke a feeling of hope for those looking to turn things around and excitement for those looking for continued success. While those with top classes during the one and done era are often considered favorites heading into the upcoming season, they rarely win it all.

The college basketball season itself is rarely predictable, injuries and underperformance can easily derail a season. Beyond the regular season and conference tournaments, the NCAA Tournament becomes a crapshoot. One bad game, one tough matchup, one off game from a team’s leader can mean the end of the season.

While far from perfect, the data below shows the average team recruiting ranking of each National Champion according to 247Sports the year they won their national title. Also included are their class rankings the year before their championship, and two years before their championship.

One must remember when analyzing the data that top classes during this time period mostly include players who fall into the “one and done” category. A strong example of this is Kentucky’s number one ranked 2009 class which included John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe who were all long gone by the time Kentucky won their 2012 National Championship with their fifth ranked 2011 recruiting class.

Since the 2006-2007 season, the only team to win the national title the same year they held the nation’s top recruiting class was the 2014-15 Duke Blue Devils– a class that consisted of Jahlil Okafor (1), Tyus Jones (7), Justise Winslow (14) and Grayson Allen (25).

On average the National Champion had a 26.6 ranked recruiting class the year they won it all, a 29.9 ranked class the year prior and the 23rd ranked recruiting class two years prior. Only two teams– 2011-12 Kentucky and 2014-15 Duke have had a top five recruiting class the year they won it all.

Six of the eleven champions during the selected years had a top ten recruiting class in at least one of the three years prior to winning their national title. While a top recruiting class won’t guarantee a National Championship, it certainly doesn’t hurt.

From teams who rely on elite players ready to make a difference in their first year, to those who develop their stars over a few years, it’s obvious that top talent certainly helps any program in their pursuit of a title…just don’t expect a top recruiting class to lead to a National Championship in the same season.

** Data from 247Sports

Year 1 2 3 4 Champ (that season) Champ Recruiting Rank Champ 1 yr prior rk Champ 2 yr prior rk
2006 UNC OSU Texas UConn Florida 11 61 8
2007 UVA Florida Cuse USC Kansas 20 21 3
2008 Kentucky Georgia UCLA Memphis UNC 13 NR 1
2009 Kentucky UNC Texas Villanova Duke 20 14 11
2010 St. Joes Alabama Ohio St. Arizona UConn 63 8 7
2011 Nebraska West Virginia Gonzaga SMU Kentucky 5 32 1
2012 Kentucky UCLA Arizona Baylor Louisville 79 7 104
2013 Kentucky Kansas Memphis Indiana UConn 37 29 31
2014 Duke Kentucky Arizona UNLV Duke 1 9 41
2015 Kentucky Duke Arizona Texas A&M Villanova 29 48 36
2016 Duke Kentucky Michigan St. Florida St. UNC 15 70 10
2017 Kentucky Duke Arizona UCLA ? 26.6 29.9 23

 

**Data from 247Sports

E-mail Zak and [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @playorbplayd.

 

NCAA Tournament: The Sun Rises In The East

The East is a beast featuring last year’s champion Villanova, the team everyone loves to hate in Duke and four teams which aren’t getting enough respect heading into the tourney (SMU, Wisconsin, Virginia & Florida).

There’s an argument to be made (rightfully so) for the South being the hardest region (UNC, UCLA, Kentucky, Cincinnati), but the East gives us three teams that were ranked 1st in the nation at some point this season, another that is arguably the best in the B1G in Wisconsin and a team in Virginia that can shut down any offense at any time.

If Villanova can get past Wisconsin and Virginia, and Duke doesn’t stumble against Baylor or SMU we may end up with a Villanova vs Duke matchup in Madison Square Garden for a trip to the Final Four on the line.

Even if you don’t care about the basketball you can spend your time waiting to see if Grayson Allen has another meltdown, what custom suit Jay Wright is wearing, what fun things Wisconsin senior’s Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes will say and if Frank Martin has a complete meltdown on the South Carolina bench.

On the court your attention should be focused on Duke, who after winning four straight games against big time competition in the ACC Tournament comes into the NCAA Tournament finally looking like the team most national media members picked to win it all preseason. Harry Giles is starting to look like Harry Giles again, Jayson Tatum looks like the guy who’s the safest bet to succeed in the NBA in all of college basketball and Luke Kennard can get his shot off from any spot on the court at any time.

Even if the basketball turns out to be a bust there’s three letters that make this region better than any of the others…MSG. Anytime high level basketball leads to The Garden it automatically brings a level of excitement unrivaled by any other venue…hey, if the Mecca can prop up the overrated Big East Tournament it can surely do the same for some of the premier programs in college basketball.

(KenPom ranking in parenthesis)

(2) Villanova vs (212) Mouth St. Mary’s

Nova survived losing Arcidiacono and Ochefu from their national championship team and ran the Big East sweeping both the regular season and conference tournament on their way to a 31-3 record head into the NCAA Tournament. Josh Hart has been that dude while Jalen Brunson has blossomed into the floor leader during his sophomore campaign.

The NEC happens to be headquartered in my hometown so I’ll be pulling hard for MSM (to little or no avail). The Mountaineers won the regular season, going 14-4 before taking down the conference tournament. A 1 point win over New Orleans in the First Four earned them a date with Villanova, quite the reward. Three of their players score in double digits per game, led by sophomore Elijah Long at 15.1 (14.9 in conference). They don’t do anything particularly well that would make you think they have a shot in this one.

Time/TV: 7:10pm ET Thursday, CBS

Prediction: Villanova by 27

 

(23) Wisconsin vs (44) Virginia Tech

Wisconsin was my favorite to win the B1G before they hit a skid, losing 5 of 6 between February 12th and March 2nd. They have three players averaging double digit points, led by Bronson Koenig at 14.1 per game. Expect Koenig and Hayes to turn it up for the NCAA Tournament, both seniors have big time tournament experience. I not only like them to win this one but to also defeat Villanova in the round of 32. If anything, their soft seed hurt Villanova, who as a 1 will have to face such a good team in their second game of the tournament. The Badgers enter the tournament with the 8th best defensive efficiency in the country.

Va Tech finished the ACC regular season 10-8 with some nice wins over Duke, Virginia (2OT), Miami and a sweep of Clemson. They failed to beat up on any of the other ACC heavyweights and got their three largest wins (Duke, VA, Miami) at home. They have a shot at the upset due in part to their ability to knock down the outside shot (40.3% as a team), but in the end Wisconsin should end up being too much for them. The LeDay’s lead them in scoring (Zach 16.3 PPG, Seth 14.0 PPG) while four other Hokies also average double digit point totals per game. Their offense is legit, I just don’t think their defense makes enough stops to win.

Time/TV: 9:40pm ET Thursday, CBS

Prediction: Wisconsin by 9

 

(7) Virginia vs (59) UNC-Wilmington

Virginia enters the tournament touting the nation’s best defensive efficiency, and boy can they be boring to watch if you don’t appreciate grind it out basketball. Their adjusted tempo of 58.5 is dead last in the country, making them the slowest team in the nation. The Cavaliers are led in scoring by senior London Perrantes at 12.5 point per game and he’s the only Virginia player to have a double digit scoring average. Wilkins availability is up in the air for the UNCW game as of this writing.

UNC-Wilmington likes to play faster and touts the nation’s 18th best offense when it comes to efficiency.  They excel taking care of the ball and at shooting a high percentage from two-point range, but have had issues on the defensive end. The Seahawks are led in scoring by C.J. Bryce (entertaining dude to watch) who comes into the tournament averaging 17.6 points per game. Four total UNC-W players score in double digits per game, with three averaging at least 14.5 points per game. Kevin Keatts is a hot name in coaching circles right now, but in the end the Virginia defense will be too much for them to overcome.

Time/TV: 12:40pm ET Thursday, truTV

Prediction: Virginia by 12

 

(9) Florida vs (64) East Tennessee St.

Florida enters the NCAA Tournament coming off back to back losses to Vanderbilt. Prior to those losses, they had won 10 of their last 11 with the only loss coming on the road at Rupp. It’ll be interesting to see if they find their groove again, while they’ll get past ETSU, Virginia awaits in the round of 32. They do a nice job protecting the three-point line and enter the tourney with the nation’s 4th best defense based on efficiency. The Gators are led in scoring by KeVaughn Allen at 13.9 points per game, while Canyon Berry (12.1) and Devin Robinson (10.9) are also in double figures.

ETSU will rep the Southern Conference after winning both the league’s regular season and conference tournament. They shoot a healthy percentage (38.2%) as a team from deep, but expect Florida’s defense to negate their outside scoring. The Buccaneers will have to get to the line and do some damage inside to have any shot at the upset. The good news for anyone looking for the upset is their roster is experienced, boasting 13 upperclassmen. They’re led in scoring by T.J. Cromer at 19.1 points per game, while Desonta Bradford (10.6) is the only other ETSU player in double figures.

Time/TV: 3:10pm ET Thursday, truTV

Prediction: Florida by 9

 

(11) SMU vs (59) USC

The NCAA decided SMU couldn’t play in the NCAA Tournament last year so one would expect they’d come in hungry and on a mission. Their offense is legit and they boast two wins over a Cincinnati team with a stifling defense, including a 15-point victory in the AAC championship game. Their offense is balanced and they come into the tourney hitting 40.6% of their threes, good for 5th best in the nation. The Mustangs are led in scoring by Duke transfer Semi Ojeleye at 18.8 points per game, while three other players averaged double digits this season. SMU finished AAC play at 17-1 before running through the conference tournament, their only stumble a two-point loss at Cincinnati on January 12th. They sport length on the perimeter but lack it inside and will go small every occasionally, with Ojeleye at 6’7’’ their tallest player on the court.

USC overcame a double-digit deficit to defeat Providence in Dayton during the First Four. Their last win over a top 50 program came on January 25th as they took down UCLA at home. All year they’ve looked to be a couple of pieces short, and that should be the case again in this one. Not much stands out for them statistically on either side of the ball, just ball security where they only turn it over 15.6% of their possessions, good for 16th best in the nation. The Trojans are led in scoring by sophomores Bennie Boatwright (14.6 PPG) and Chimezie Metu (14.5 PPG). It’s interesting that the Trojans top two scorers are listed at 6’10’’ and up yet they only get 49% of their points from two-point range.

Time/TV: 3:10pm ET Friday, truTV

Prediction: SMU by 11

 

(12) Baylor vs (87) New Mexico St.

Baylor has mastered being more talented than most of their opponents and outplaying them for 35 minutes. They should have enough to get into the round of 32, but they have a lot of toughness questions to answer if they plan on advancing beyond their expected opponent of SMU. As usual, they excel on the offensive glass and do most of their scoring on the inside. They play at a slow pace and do an awful job taking care of the ball, but their talent alone should carry them in this one after a quick exit last year in the NCAA Tournament. Motley who hurt his finger in their last contest is probable for their first tourney game.

NMSU enters the tourney representing the WAC (which had a down year) after finishing in second during the regular season and defeating Cal St. Bakersfield (regular season champion) by 10 in the title game. The Aggies get a large percentage of their points from the free throw line and will have to get there a ton to have any shot against Baylor. The Aggies are led in scoring by Ian Baker (16.6 PPG). It’ll be tough for them to take down Baylor without Sidy N’dir who they’ve been missing for all but 9 games this season.

Time/TV: 12:40pm ET Friday, truTV

Prediction: Baylor by 7

 

(32) South Carolina vs (29) Marquette

South Carolina comes into the tourney riding a two-game losing streak, a loss at Ole Miss and a first-round SEC tournament loss to Alabama. Senior Sindarius Thornwell leads them at scoring with 21 points per game, while two other Gamecocks averaged double digits this season. They make their living on the defensive end, as they enter tourney play with the 3rd most efficient defense in the nation. Their issues have been on the offensive end as they’ve shot poor percentages from both three point and two-point range.

Marquette enters the tournament with some nice wins (vs Vanderbilt, at Xavier, at Creighton, vs Villanova) and some head scratching losses (at St. John’s by 14, at Georgetown by 18). The Golden Eagles shot a nation best 43% from deep this season, and are top 50 in two-point field goal percentage, but have allowed their opponents to shoot high percentages from both as well. They’re led in scoring by freshman Markus Howard (13.2 PPG) and sport a balanced offense as 4 other Golden Eagles averaged double digits this season. Their offense is the 8th most efficient in the nation, it remains to be seen if they’ll get enough from it to carry their defense against South Carolina. Center Luke Fischer is listed as probable for the South Carolina matchup.

Time/TV: 9:50pm ET Friday, TBS

Prediction: South Carolina by 2

 

(13) Duke vs (136) Troy

Duke comes in as hot as can be having won four straight (including wins over Louisville, UNC and Notre Dame) to win the ACC Tournament. Harry Giles is close to returning to the player everyone touted pre-injury and Jayson Tatum seems to have finally realized how good he is. Their offense has been fine, it’s the defensive end where they tend to slip up, especially against athletic guards who can drive. Luke Kennard (20.1 PPG) led them in scoring while 4 other Blue Devils averaged double figures. I have them going to the championship game, but it’ll depend largely on Tatum and Giles and whether Grayson Allen has re-found his stroke.

Troy won the Sun Belt tourney after only finishing 10-8 in conference play during the regular season. They avoided UT Arlington in the conference tourney, but did defeat 2 seed Georgia St. on their way to the championship. Keep an eye on sophomore Jordon Varnado (16.5 PPG) and junior Wesley Person (14.8 PPG) for the Trojans. They don’t do anything extraordinarily well, and should have a tough time with all the weapons the Blue Devils possess.

Time/TV: 7:20pm ET Friday, TBS

Prediction: Duke by 28

 

Overall Predictions:

Round of 64

Villanova over Mount Saint Mary’s

Wisconsin over Virginia Tech

Virginia over UNC-Wilmington

Florida over East Tennessee St.

SMU over USC

Baylor over New Mexico St.

South Carolina over Marquette

Duke over Troy

 

Round of 32

Wisconsin over Villanova

Virginia over Florida

SMU over Baylor

Duke over South Carolina

 

Sweet 16

Wisconsin over Virginia

Duke over SMU

 

Elite 8

Duke over Wisconsin

 

Champion

Duke

 

How Young Is Too Young? The Average Class of NCAA Basketball Champs In The One & Done Era

Two teams have dominated recruiting headlines during the one and done era– each has won a national championship led by mainly freshman.

While Kentucky laid the blueprint under coach John Calipari, Duke soon followed suit under coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Since 2006, Florida, Connecticut and Duke have won multiple national championships. If you include UNC in 2005 (the last year the NBA allowed players to go straight from high school to the NBA) eight of the last 11 national championships have been won by four schools.

Go back a year farther to 2004 and there’s another Connecticut title thrown in there. That makes nine of the last 12 (75 percent) championships won by four schools.

I’ll save the “is there parity in college basketball?” conversation for a different piece.

(It lies somewhere between maybe and not at all, depending on how you determine success–titles vs. deep tournament runs)

For now, I’d like to focus on the winners themselves during the one and done era (since 2006). Breaking down their average age (by class), mainly concerning myself with the players who had an impact on their team that season.

At first I locked in on KenPom, taking players who played at least 40% of their team’s minutes and/or were labeled at worst as role players on their team– meaning they were used in at least 16.1% of possessions.

Each class was assigned a number 1-4, with one being a freshman and four being a senior. Redshirt years were ignored, players were assigned a number based on their listed class for that season.

After going through each champion under these guidelines the results shook out like this:

  1. 2012 Kentucky, Seven players accounted for with an average of 1.6

      T2. 2011 Connecticut, Seven players accounted for with an average of 2.0

      T2. 2015 Duke, Eight players accounted for with an average of 2.0

  1. 2006 Florida, Nine players accounted for with an average of 2.
  2. 2013 Louisville, Eight players accounted for with an average of 2.5

      T5. 2016 Villanova,Eight  players accounted for with an average of 2.6

      T5. 2009 UNC, Eight players accounted for with an average of 2.6

      T5. 2014 Connecticut, Eight players accounted for with an average of 2.6

  1. 2007 Florida, Eight players accounted for with an average of 2.9

      T7. 2008 Kansas, Nine players accounted for with an average of 3.0

      T7. 2010 Duke, Seven players accounted for with an average of 3.0

The 2012 Kentucky team makes an appearance just where you’d expect them, as the youngest title winner in the one and done era. A team led by freshman Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague would be expected to be one of the youngest champions we’ve had.

2015 Duke also makes an appearance near the top, just as we’d expect– that team led by freshman Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow.

The surprise is easily the 2011 Connecticut championship team. A team best known for junior Kemba Walker comes in tied with Duke for the second youngest champion in the past ten years. Not sure this team would come to mind for many of us when considering the youngest national champions during the one and done era.

Tied for the oldest champions, we have 2008 Kansas (thanks to older role players), and 2010 Duke (led by juniors and seniors)– before Mike Krzyzewski sold his soul (smart man) and copied the Calipari blueprint for recruiting.

After going through the numbers I decided to cross check the rankings by comparing each national champion’s top five scorers. If you want to skip to the bottom, or close out the article now I don’t blame you– In fact, if you haven’t already, I question your life choices.

Once again, 2012 Kentucky leads the pack as the youngest champion since 2006. 2014 Connecticut is the oldest team (by top five scorers) during the one and done era, finishing 0.2 points higher than 2009 UNC.

  1. 2012 Kentucky (1.4) led in scoring by Anthony Davis (Fr), Doron Lamb (So), Terrence Jones (So), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Fr) and Marquis Teague (Fr).
  2. 2011 Connecticut (1.6) led in scoring by Kemba Walker (Jr), Jeremy Lamb (Fr), Alex Oriakhi (So), Shabazz Napier (Fr) and Roscoe Smith (Fr).
  3. 2015 Duke (2.0) led in scoring by Jahlil Okafor (Fr), Quinn Cook (Sr), Justise Winslow (Fr), Tyus Jones (Fr) and Rasheed Sulaimon (Jr).
  4. 2006 Florida (2.2) led in scoring by Joakim Noah (So), Taurean Green (So), Corey Brewer (So), Al Horford (So) and Lee Humphrey (Jr).
  5. 2008 Kansas (2.8) led in scoring by Brandon Rush (Jr), Darrell Arthur (So), Mario Chalmers (Jr), Darnell Jackson (Sr) and Sherron Collins (SO).

T6. 2013 Louisville (3.0) led in scoring by Russ Smith (Jr), Peyton Siva (Sr), Chane Behanan (So), Gorgui Dieng (Jr) and Luke Hancock (Jr).

T6. 2016 Villanova (3.0) led in scoring by Josh Hart (Jr), Kris Jenkins (Jr), Ryan Arcidiacono (Sr), Daniel Ochefu (Sr) and Jalen Brunson (Fr).

T7. 2010 Duke (3.2) led in scoring by Jon Scheyer (Sr), Kyle Singler (Jr), Nolan Smith (Jr), Brian Zoubek (Sr) and Miles Plumlee (So).

T7. 2007 Florida (3.2) led in scoring by Taurean Green (Jr), Corey Brewer (Jr), Al Horford (Jr), Joakim Noah (Jr) and Lee Humphrey (Sr).

  1. 2009 North Carolina (3.4) led in scoring by Tyler Hansbrough (Sr), Ty Lawson (Jr), Wayne Ellington (Jr), Danny Green (Sr) and Deon Thompson (Jr).
  2. 2014 Connecticut (3.6) led in scoring by Shabazz Napier (Sr), DeAndre Daniels (Jr), Ryan Boatright (Jr), Niels Giffey (Sr) and Lasan Kromah (Sr).

What sticks out again is how young the 2011 Connecticut team really was. Kemba Walker, as the only upperclassmen in the top five scorers, was able to carry them through that memorable postseason.

2007 Florida finds itself as one of the three oldest champions thanks to all top five scorers from the 2006 championship team returning. 2009 North Carolina and 2014 Connecticut find themselves as the two oldest teams thanks to being led in scoring by all upperclassmen.

So what does it all mean?

By the numbers, Kentucky was easily the youngest team to win a national championship during the one and done era averaging just over one and a half years of eligibility on their 2012 team. On the flip side, 2014 Connecticut found themselves as the oldest team to win a title averaging just over three and a half year of eligibility.

Teams who have won a national title have averaged 2.7 years of eligibility during the one and done era– just a tick over the 2.5 average of the youngest and oldest teams. While Kentucky and Duke have gotten the press for their superior recruiting, and ability to get players into the nba during the era, each have only won one title (with youth) during it.

While 2015 Duke was young, they were guided by second leading scorer Quinn Cook, leaving 2012 Kentucky as the only team to truly win a national title while being led in scoring by underclassmen during the era.

In the end these stats are limited and don’t tell the entire picture. While they’re helpful getting an idea of how these teams were built, they only give us a small glimpse into each champion. If anything, the numbers show that it’s tough to win a national title with just elite young talent– more often than not you need some upperclassmen mixed in.

Email Zak at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @playorbplayd.

Image via Photo Courtesy of Dave Hogg, wikimedia.org

There’s Nowhere To Go But Up For Rutgers Men’s Basketball

Rutgers basketball fans kept waiting to hit rock bottom.

In typical New Jersey fashion the university and it’s fans became impatient 10 years ago. Gary Waters had just led the Scarlet Knights to a 19-14 season, 7-9 in the Big East, when the Big East was still THE Big East. Kenpom had them as the 71st team in the nation– nothing to write home about, but respectable enough that there was light at the end of the tunnel.

Instead of keeping Gary Water on the banks Rutgers turned its program over to Fred Hill, a man who had built his reputation as a recruiter. Quincy Douby, the last Rutgers player to be drafted into the NBA was gone — Rutgers finished 207th.

2008 brought highly coveted local recruit Corey Chandler, it didn’t work out — the team finished 11-20 overall and 3-15 in the Big East. 2009 brought in another highly touted local recruit in Mike Rosario, along with a talented big body in Gregory Echenique.

The 2009 team had a ton of talent, but for as much talent as they had, they possessed even less discipline. Rutgers finished 11-20 overall and 2-16 in conference and 159th in the nation.

In 2010, Dane Miller and Jonathan Mitchell came on board. Mitchell, a junior who had sat out the previous season after transferring from Florida was a do it all forward/wing. Dane Miller fit the same role, a slasher who ran on pure athleticism at times. Rutgers finished 15-17 overall, 5-13 in the Big East.

That would be Fred Hill’s last season as Rutgers head coach. As he departed so did Mike Rosario (transferred to Florida) and Greg Echenique (transferred to Creighton).

After going in the recruiting direction with the Fred Hill hire Rutgers turned to a hard working X’s and O’s guy in Mike Rice for 2011. He took the remaining talent and mixed in two freshman — a New York City guard in Mike Poole (would end up redshirting) and big man Gilvydas Biruta.

The result was the Scarlet Knights best campaign since Gary Waters’ final season. Rutgers finished just 5-13 in the Big East but 15-17 overall, good for a final KenPom ranking of 78th.

There was hope on the banks, the 2011 team played hard and was fun to watch. Mike Rice got the most from a team led by seniors Jonathan Mitchell, Mike Coburn and James Beatty.

Adding to the fans optimism was a 2012 recruiting class that infused the program with talent. Guard Myles Mack, Eli Carter and Jerome Seagers were joined by wing Malick Kone and big man Kadeem Jack.

Mack and Carter were local Paterson products, Kadeem Jack was from Queens. The Scarlet Knights had not only brought in talent, they had landed local talent. The team finished 14-18 overall and 6-12 in the Big East. The final KenPom ranking of 120 was a step back, but it was to be expected with such a young team.

After the 2012 season sophomore Gilvydus Biruta decided to transfer to Rhode Island (where former Rutgers assistants were now employed). At the time there wasn’t much concern, in hindsight it was a sign of things to come.

For the 2013 season, Rutgers would add Wally Judge who was now eligible after transferring from Kansas State. It helped ease the blow of losing Biruta the previous offseason. The Scarlet Knights now had talent which had gained valuable experience the year prior.

Half way through the season things started to get ugly. They finished the season 5-13 in the Big East and 15-16 overall — one Big East Tournament win away from their first .500 season since Gary Waters roamed the sidelines.

Then everything imploded.

Rutgers needed to do damage control, they went with program legend Eddie Jordan.

Jordan returned home with a NBA pedigree as he had both played and coached in the league. Many viewed it as a way to move past unfortunate recent events, while reminding both fans and potential recruits of Rutgers illustrious past.

In 2014, Rutgers would be playing in the American Athletic Conference, a one-year stop mover before their new home in the Big Ten. While expectations were low following a flood of transfers after the firing of Mike Rice, the AAC set Rutgers up with a softer conference schedule than the Big East they once competed in.

The team would finish 12-21 overall, 5-13 in conference. At the time it was easy to overlook, the program had just been through a lot. Talent had been lost and pieces needed to be plugged in last minute.

In hindsight there was still plenty of talent left in the program. Myles Mack, Jerome Seagers and Kadeem Jack were now all juniors. Rutgers had committed a fatal flaw when they handed the program over to Eddie Jordan — he had no idea how to run it.

College isn’t the NBA, in the NBA players are often as talented as they think they are– in college that’s rarely the case.

More than anything college players need to be broken down, their game dissected and torn apart before being rebuilt into a superior finished product. While John Calipari at Kentucky often has NBA level talent, he’s great at doing this.

Now in the Big Ten, Rutgers would finish the 2015 season with an overall record of 10-22 and a conference record of 2-16. Overall KenPom would have them ranked as the 198th team in the nation.

A team with talented seniors in Myles Mack and Kadeem Jack was getting blown out in non-conference play by 27 to George Washington and 18 to Saint Peter’s.

In 2016, now with both Mack and Jack gone, the Scarlet Knights would bring in talented playmaking guard Corey Sanders. Sanders would be joined by Deshawn Freeman and Jonathan Laurent, Rutgers was once again young but somewhat talented.

Poor play and injuries defined the 2016 season.

Rutgers would go on a 17 game losing streak, double digit conference blowouts were more likely than wins. There was a 22-point loss to Wisconsin, followed by a 25-point loss to Maryland, followed by a 34-point loss to Nebraska, followed by a 26-point loss to Ohio State, followed by a 50-point loss to Purdue

…followed by a…you get the point.

Rutgers finished last season 7-25 overall and 1-17 in Big Ten play. Their lone Big Ten win coming in their final conference game — at home over Minnesota.

KenPom had the Scarlet Knights ranked as the 279th best team in the country come seasons end. Their offense ranked 303rd, their defense ranked 235th. Rutgers would be labeled by most national media reporters covering college basketball as “the worst Power 5 program in the country”.

ROCK BOTTOM.

Now Steve Pikiell takes over — the UConn product who was able to build his previous universities program from the ground up (Stony Brook).

Here’s to digging our way out of this hole together.

E-mail Zak at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @playorbplayd.

Photo Courtesy of sheilnaik, Flickr

Will Brown and Company Have Mastered The Rebuild

Many view 2016-17 as a transition season for Albany, and rightfully so. The Great Danes come into the season without three guards that Will Brown relied heavily on over the last two seasons to lead the team, both on the offensive and defensive ends.

Despite a crowded backcourt, Evan Singletary, Peter Hooley and Ray Sanders played the majority of the minutes for Albany during the 2015-16 season. Not surprisingly the three finished tops on the team in scoring and assists.

The Great Danes had the same issue following their 2013-14 campaign and their 2012-13 campaign.

After the championship season of 2013 they lost Mike Black, Jacob Iati, Jayson Guerrier and Blake Metcalf. After the 2014 championship season the Great Danes would lose DJ Evans, Gary Johnson, Luke Devlin and John Puk.

Following the 2015 championship Albany lost their workhorse in Sam Rowley. Enough can’t be written on his importance to their team that season.

A pattern developed, Will Brown and his staff found ways to replace the talent they were losing with players already on the roster and incoming recruits, whether they were out of high school or from the junior college ranks.

In 2014 Albany hit it big with DJ Evans, a juco transfer who was buried on the depth chart the year before behind lead guard Mike Black. In 2015 the staff hit juco gold, Evan Singletary and Ray Sanders were both able to come in and perform at a high level right away.

Their ability to perform at a high level from day one gave the Great Danes some stability on the perimeter, between them and mainstay Peter Hooley, Albany would be able to roll out the same backcourt in back to back seasons.

Now it’s time for another reset for 2016-17.

The interior pieces return for the most part. Mike Rowley (the younger brother of Sam) will spend his senior season anchoring the inside along with junior Greig Stire. If they’re not the most talented interior in the America East, they’re certainly the most physical defensively and efficient offensively.

After a breakout Freshman campaign, Joe Cremo will be expected to take on a larger role for the Great Danes. Whether the skilled and feisty guard is able to adjust to a lead role may well determine how good Albany can be this season.

Following those three the roster becomes a question. Point guard David Nichols, while showing flashes of brilliance in limited playing time last season, was buried behind Singletary and Hooley. Jamir Andrews who sports a big body, and a beautiful shooting stroke, was also buried on the depth chart last season. Deep threat Dallas Ennema returns for his senior season, with plenty of competition at the two and three for the Great Danes. Travis Charles, a crafty interior scorer returns after missing most of last season with a heart issue.

Along with their returning players Albany brings in six juco transfers.

Only five will be available this year as Xavier Cochran, who the coaching staff was high on, will redshirt this season due to a hip injury. The five unknowns are Marqueese Grayson, Costa Anderson, Devonte Campbell, Terrel Martin-Garcia and Jaraan Lands.

While I have limited information on these pieces at this time, if Will Brown and his staff can hit on two or three of the six as they have in the past, Albany will be as dangerous as ever.

Right now Albany sports depth, albeit unknown commodities, at every position. Most fans expect a starting backcourt of David Nichols and Joe Cremo. There’s been some chatter of Cremo playing the thee with Nichols at the two — that leaves juco import Marqueese Grayson as the starting point guard.

If Nichols and Cremo remain at the one and two then juco import Devonte Campbell should slide into a starting role at the three.

The Great Danes could end up with a rotation that settles around nine or 10 players deep. Not bad for a team that’s “rebuilding.”

Whether the results are there from day one or not, one thing can be sure — Will Brown and his staff will have Albany playing their best ball late in the season.

Email Zak at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @playorbplayd.

Photo courtesy of WikiMedia Commons

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For Villanova, A Champion’s Hangover

It’s happened in consecutive years now, the media overrates the defending national champion heading into the following men’s basketball season. We saw it with Duke after its 2014-15 championship– the Blue Devils were picked to win the ACC and return to the Final Four in 2015-16 by most major publications.

Now it’s happening with Villanova.

The Wildcats return talent, most notably Josh Hart and Big Shot Kris Jenkins. Jalen Brunson returns with a full year of play under his belt, expect him to take a leap.

There’s a lot to be excited about.

Talent, experience, a proven head coach who now has a national championship to solidify his place in the upper echelon of NCAA head coaches. How could the 2016-17 Villanova Wildcats possibly be overrated?

Ryan Arcidiacono is gone.

Arcidiacono led Villanova in assists, three point percentage, steals and minutes. The stats don’t begin to define his importance to the 2015-16 Wildcats. Not only was he their leader on the floor, he was their leader off it. A man Jay Wright could trust to get everyone in position both offensively and defensively.

Coming off of its 2014-15 national championship, Duke lost Quinn Cook. While his fellow departing teammates Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow would grab the headlines, Cook is who the Blue Devils turned to when they were out of sync during that season.

His departure left the Duke with a leadership void (and along with the departure of Tyus Jones) one true point guard on the roster in incoming Freshman Derryck Thornton. It didn’t work out for Duke and Thornton, and the Blue Devils would finish with seven conference losses and a Sweet 16 loss to Oregon.

It’s easy to point out Duke competed in a tougher ACC, and lost more talent coming off of their national championship than Villanova has coming off last year’s title. The Wildcats should be able to compete for a regular season Big East title, with safe money going on them finishing anywhere between first and third in the conference.

The issue is not with where they will finish in conference, it’s where people have them placed nationally. Many have the Wildcats as a top-five team nationally in their preseason polls, which is puzzling.

The same media members who refused to take Villanova and the Big East seriously throughout the 2015-16 are now stating the Wildcats have a good chance to repeat as national champions. A team which got hot, playing their best ball down the stretch, is expected to continue to play at such a high level without the man who enabled it all the come together.

I’m not buying it, and neither should you.

Josh Hart should be better, Kris Jenkins should be better, Jalen Brunson should be better– Villanova will not be better.

Arcidiacono, their leader, is gone. Daniel Ochefu, their main interior presence from last season is gone. Omari Spellman, who many media members touted would replace the play of Ochefu, is ineligible.

The Wildcats has returning talent, and one heck of a head coach, but believing they’re a top-five team heading into the 2016-17 season is an insult to what Ryan Arcidiacono brought to the 2015-16 Villanova Wildcats.

Email Zak at [email protected] or follow him @playorbplayd.

Image courtesy of justinknabb, Flickr

Jameel Warney – Three Heartbreaks Before A Return Of The Mack

Sometimes you start running —  you have no clue why.

Maybe it’s from your past, maybe it’s towards your future…or just maybe, you don’t know what else to do.

Mid-major basketball can be cruel — win your conference tournament, or remain irrelevant.

The game ain’t always fair and that’s the thing though
You can play your heart out, everybody don’t get a ring though – Drake, Made

Stony Brook had never danced, the DJ cut the music every time they were about to hit the floor. From 2011-2015 they lost four out of five America East Championship games. Two of those four at home, as the higher seed.

Heartbreak became standard — A top two regular season, just enough to make their fans believe, before being dumped by Albany or Vermont.

Jameel Warney had offers from larger schools in larger conferences, in the end he stuck with Stony Brook. The university on Long Island gave him a place to play ball close to home, a place to find out how good he could be.

As a freshman during the 2012-13 season, he would start all of Stony Brook’s 33 games. Leading the team in points, field goal percentage and blocks.

Stony Brook gave him a place where he could get on the floor and contribute immediately.

Warney credits fellow forward and New Jersey native Eric McAlister for easing his transition into college ball, someone who was able to show him the way things worked both on and off the court.

Coach Jay Young — who Warney states has kicked him out of at least 10 practices during his time at Stony Brook, gets the credit for his early development.

Sitting across from him, it’s hard to imagine him getting kicked out of a practice at this point.

He’s self aware, a loyal soldier, who has nothing but praise for the staff that worked with him at Stony Brook, and now has mostly followed head coach Steve Pikiell to Rutgers and the Big Ten.

His fifth game freshman year is when he says he finally felt comfortable, an 18 point, 7 rebound effort in a win against Canisius. Warney follows it up with an 8 point, 11 rebound performance at UConn.

Jim Calhoun lets Warney know he “has a chance to be a special player” — that gets his attention.

Next comes his first double-double, a 17-point, 11-rebound effort at Cornell. Four games later he goes for 17 points at Maryland.

Jameel Warney is rolling, and so are the Seawolves, entering conference play at 9-4.

Stony Brook finishes the America East season 14-2, earning them the top seed in the conference tournament. A loss at Vermont and a loss at Hartford the only two blemishes.

The final game of the regular season, on senior night, Stony Brook defeats Albany by 5 at home to secure the regular season title.

They’ll meet the Great Danes for a third time this season — in the semifinals of the America East Tournament.

Albany leads by nine with just over two minutes remaining. Stony Brook fights back late, tying it with 14.3 seconds left — Carson Puriefoy, a fellow freshman, hits a couple of big three pointers during the run.

Albany has the final possession, they choose not to call a timeout. Mike Black takes Carson Puriefoy off the dribble and hits a layup with 2.4 seconds left, ending any chance Stony Brook has of dancing.

Jameel Warney, who over the final minute was being subbed in for offensive possessions and out for defensive possessions, isn’t on the floor for the final play.

Their tourney hopes die with a two point loss to Albany in the semifinals of the conference tournament — a team they had beaten twice during the regular season, including a 16-point win in Albany.

Albany 1, Jameel Warney and Stony Brook 0

Stony Brook plays in the NIT, Warney goes for 16 points in a win at UMass and 17 points in a loss at Iowa.

A successful Freshman season is cut short, there’s still work to be done. Warney knows he must bulk up to deal with a physical Albany front court. Other America East teams fronted him, attempting to deny him the ball — Albany played behind him, without added strength and post moves the results wouldn’t change.

Three years left, one goal — bring Stony Brook to their first ever NCAA Tournament.

Warney finishes the season averaging 12.4 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 27.2 minutes.

Offseason.

It’s Jameel Warney’s sophomore year. He goes for 23 points and 19 rebounds in a win against FAU on November 25th, the following day he goes for 32 points and 21 rebounds in a triple overtime win at Detroit.

I ask if this was the best two game stretch of his career.

Warney laughs — he’d rather talk about coach Pikiell chewing him out for his lack of defense and rebounding in a 105-99 loss the game before against Toledo.

I want to talk about his first America East POY award, apparently I’ve jumped the gun.

He wants to talk about being immature and selfish at points that season.

People took notice after the FAU and Detroit box scores, scouts started to come around. The 19-point, seven-rebound effort at Indiana before the Toledo game didn’t hurt either.

A five-point, five-rebound effort in a loss to St. Francis (NY) follows the Detroit game, 3 games later there’s a four-point, six-rebound effort in the conference opener at New Hampshire.

It’s basketball, there’s never enough shots to go around.

Three wins are followed by two road losses — an 18 point loss at VCU, and a 5 point loss at Columbia.

Stony Brook starts conference play 7-0, they then lose by 10 at Albany on January 29th. Warney goes for 21 on 10-15 shooting, with four rebounds in the loss.

The Seawolves win back to back games before a bad home loss to New Hampshire, a team KenPom had ranked 329th in the country at the time.

Three more wins are followed by a 16 point road loss to Vermont. Jameel Warney has seven points and one rebound in 26 minutes. The regular season ends with a five-point home win over Albany.

Since his outburst against Detroit, Jameel Warney records only four double-doubles in 23 games to close the regular season.

An injured hand prevents a good season from becoming a great one.

The Seawolves finish conference play 13-3, good for second place in the America East.

Stony Brook hosts Albany (who has taken out top seed Vermont) in the America East Championship game. The Seawolves start the game on a 9-0 run, Albany answers with a 10-0 run and takes a 34-31 lead into halftime.

With 7:02 remaining in the game Stony Brook goes up six on an Eric McAlister free throw, by the 4:17 mark the game is tied. Carson Puriefoy hits a jumper with 1:30 remaining to bring Stony Brook within two.

Peter Hooley hits a step back three with 1:04 remaining to bring the Albany lead back to five, Albany cruises to a 9 point victory from there.

Jameel Warney finishes with 12 points on 3-8 shooting and nine rebounds.

Albany 2, Jameel Warney and Stony Brook 0

A nine-point loss at Siena in the CBI follows.

Warney finishes the season averaging 14.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 29.7 minutes per game. He wins his first America East POY award.

Offseason.

Stony Brook has gone 48-19 since Jameel Warney has stepped on campus — 44-15 in the regular season, good for a 74.5 win percentage.

The university still hasn’t been to the NCAA tournament, regular season America East dominance hasn’t translated to the conference tournament. The upperclassmen are gone, this team now belongs to Jameel Warney, Carson Puriefoy and Rayshaun McGrew.

Stony Brook will play in their newly refurbished IFCU arena. A bit of a change from Pritchard Gymnasium, where Stony Brook played during the remodel of IFCU. Their new home seats close to 4,200 fans, a step up from the 1,700 that fit into Pritchard.

There’s buzz around the program, they have a state of the art facility, Jameel Warney is the reigning America East POY, joined by America East second teamer Carson Puerifoy. The pieces are in place for Stony Brook to earn their first NCAA Tournament bid.

The season opens with a come from behind win against Columbia — a game Stony Brook trails 28-12 with 5:29 remaining in the first half. Stony Brook closes the gap to 6 by halftime, an attempt to salvage the first game played at Island Federal Credit Union Arena.

With 1:27 remaining in the contest Stony Brook trails by five. With 1:18 left. Bryan Sekunda hits a three, the Columbia lead is now down to two. There are now 20 seconds left when the Seawolves get the ball back. Rayshaun McGrew is fouled and heads to the line for two shots, a chance to tie the game with 13 seconds left.

He hits the first, misses the second. Warney gets the rebound and his fouled. He heads to the line to shoot two — down one with 12 seconds left. The first is off, the second is off. He gets another offensive rebound, the putback is missed.

Rayshaun McGrew grabs a third offensive rebound for Stony Brook, his layup with 7 seconds left is good. A missed Columbia three point attempt with three seconds left gives the Seawolves the victory, the missed free throws don’t come back to bite them.

Stony Brook loses the next two games, both on the road — a 10-point loss at Georgia followed by a one-point loss to their Long Island rival Hofstra.

Jameel Warney has 26 points on 11-14 shooting against Hofstra, the rest of the team goes 16-37, including 4-18 from three.

Four wins, including two against Non-Division I opponents are followed by four losses. Losing to Cincinnati and Providence is tolerable, losing by double digits to Princeton and in overtime to Canisius by not as much.

The coaching staff is fed up, Coach Pikiell and his assistants are all over the team. The pieces are in place for a special season, the team is still too inconsistent.

Jameel Warney is  posting big time stats anyway — 14 points and 10 rebounds at Cincinnati, 17 and 15 against Western Kentucky, and 18 and nine versus LIU Brooklyn. Numbers that don’t mean much without victories.

Post Christmas, Stony Brook travels to Washington, who is 11-0 entering the matchup — already with wins over Oklahoma and San Diego St. The team features some big time players, including 7-0 sophomore Robert Upshaw — who Warney hits a floater over to give Stony Brook its first lead of the game with 30 seconds remaining. Stony Brook overcomes a 16 point deficit with 13:43 left to play on their way to a 62-57 victory.

Warney credits the three point shooting of his teammates for the comeback — Kameron Mitchell gets hot and goes 4-5 from deep in the second half, the team a total 7-9 during the final 20 minutes. Warney himself finishes the game with 15 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

The team is hyped, there’s talk of a possible undefeated conference season. Looking back he views the win as a blessing and a curse. I get the feeling he believes the team started to feel themselves a bit too much after the Washington win.

I might be too strung out on compliments,

overdosed on confidence – Drake, Headlines

The calendar flips and on January 3rd, Stony Brook opens conference play with a 10-point home win over New Hampshire. They follow it with another (non-conference) win over Columbia, this time on the road by nine.

Warney has 22 points and 10 rebounds against UNH, 25 and 13 at Columbia. Next up is a trip to Vermont; a place Jameel Warney still hasn’t won.

Personally, he posts good numbers. Jameel finishes with 26 points on 10-14 shooting, 10 rebounds and two blocks. For the team it’s a bad 14-point loss in which they shoot 19-51 from the floor. Vermont shoots 53% from the field, including 43% from deep.

The thoughts of an undefeated conference season have vanished after just two games.

Stony Brook wins their next two games, including an 82-39 destruction of Maine on the road. For the first time, the Seawolves will host Albany at IFCU — a rivalry game that is always circled on the calendar of their fans.

News starts to leak prior to tip-off that Albany will be without star player Peter Hooley. Hooley has returned home to Australia to be with his mother, who has battled colon cancer for the past four years.

Warney tells me the opponent he’s closest with from his time at Stony Brook is Peter Hooley — their stories intertwined.

Albany plays inspired basketball, defeating Stony Brook 64-47. The Seawolves go just 4-22 from deep. Warney finishes with 16 points and 7 rebounds, Rayshaun McGrew is the only other Stony Brook player with double digit points.

I ask Jameel Warney the games he got up for the most, who were their biggest rivals?

I assume Hofstra and Albany. He quickly lets me know it’s Vermont and Albany.

Stony Brook is now 3-2 in conference, 0-2 against Vermont and Albany. The thoughts of an undefeated conference season are long gone, the chances of finishing first in the conference are now slim.

A 15-point road loss at New Hampshire followed by a nine point road loss to Vermont seels their fate. To reach the NCAA Tournament they’ll have to beat both Vermont and Albany on the road.

At 6-4, after the second Vermont loss, they’re now fighting for third in the America East.

Stony Brook finishes their America East conference slate on a six-game winning streak —  which includes a 3 point victory at previously undefeated Albany, the eventual America East regular season champion at 15-1.

The America East has changed their format for the 2014-15 postseason. Previously there would be a main tournament site for each round leading up to the finals — now the higher seeds would play host to their opponents.

Stony Brook has finished conference play in third — ensuring that if Albany and Vermont keep advancing, they’ll only host one game, their quarterfinal matchup.

That game ends up being against Binghamton — a team Warney remembers as dangerous despite their record. Stony Brook wins by five, despite trailing by three early in the second half.

Albany and Vermont advance, Stony Brook will head to Vermont — a place Jameel Warney reminds me he has never won, and a team Stony Brook has lost twice to this season.

Vermont lights them up early, after starting the game on a 10-0 run they lead by 16 with 1:25 left in the first half.

Stony Brook punches back early in the second half, the game is tied less than five minutes into the half after a Carson Puriefoy three. Less than a minute later Stony Brook has their first lead, at the 11:31 mark they’re up 10 — a 23-point swing from halftime.

Vermont doesn’t go away, they tie the game with 3:09 remaining.

Jameel Warney breaks the tie with just over two minutes remaining, Carson Puriefoy goes 2-4 from the free throw line over the final 13 seconds, just enough to squeeze out a two-point Stony Brook victory.

Warney makes sure to let me know that Deshaun Thrower was as big of a reason for this comeback victory as anyone else on the team — calling it one of, if not his best game in a Stony Brook uniform. Thrower went for 16 points in the second half, shooting a perfect 3-3 from deep.

Jameel Warney had finally won in Burlington. One rival down, one to go.

The Seawolves were headed to Albany, once again they were one win away from the NCAA Tournament.

An early 11 am start time led to a sloppy start — 10 minutes in Albany leads 6-4. 11 ½ minutes in, Stony Brook still has only four points. By half, Stony Brook leads 20-16, thanks to a Carson Puriefoy three pointer with 12 seconds remaining.

Albany shoots 20.7 percent in the first half, Stony Brook manages to do a little better at 32 percent. The Great Danes are 0-4 from three, Stony Brook is just 2-8.

It’s been a defensive battle, Jameel Warney is carrying the offensive load for Stony Brook. He hits the locker room at halftime with 12 of his team’s 20 points, nine of their 23 rebounds. His two blocks are more than the one Albany has as a team.

The game has been an ugly, physical, grind it out contest — an Albany style game, still Stony Brook leads.

Warney scores the first two baskets of the second half for Stony Brook, recording 6 of their first 10 points. The team’s trade baskets early, Stony Brook stretches their lead to six, Albany cuts it back down to two.

Stony Brook goes on a run, after two Warney free throws they lead by seven with 13:08 left. Their lead remains in the 5-7 point range until a Carson Puriefoy three pointer with 6:16 remaining puts the Seawolves up eight. Puriefoy hits another three with 2:54 remaining to put Stony Brook up seven.

After Albany hits two free throws, Puriefoy hits two himself to once again give Stony Brook a seven-point advantage with just 1:57 on the clock.

Evan Singletary hits a jumper for Albany, Warney misses two free throws. With 35 seconds left Sam Rowley misses two layups, his brother Mike Rowley grabs the offensive board off of the second miss and is fouled by Warney.

Mike Rowley hits both free throws, Stony Brook now leads by one as they take a timeout with 20 seconds left. Carson Puriefoy is fouled with 14 seconds on the clock and heads to the free throw line. He hits the first and misses the second.

Albany is out of timeouts, there’s 14 seconds left on the clock and the Great Danes down two. Their offense stalls, they settle for an attempted layup by Ray Sanders with six seconds left.

The shot banks high off the backboard, in Jameel Warney’s direction. He’s surrounded by the Rowley brothers, there’s no option but to try and tip the ball out towards the perimeter.

If Mike Rowley gets his hand on the ball instead of Warney, Stony Brook dances…

Instead Warney tips the ball to the top of the key, right into the waiting arms of Peter Hooley.

Hooley hits the first and only made three pointer of the game for Albany with 1.6 seconds left, trailing by one, Stony Brook never gets off a final shot.

Albany 3, Jameel Warney and Stony Brook 0

screen-shot-2016-08-15-at-8-30-55-pm

Draw a straight line to the stands from Warney who is standing at mid-court. That’s me in the purple plaid button down and backwards hat — pumping my fist, celebrating next to my clapping father. That’s how sports work, one man’s pain is another man’s pleasure.

Coming out of the game, after watching Albany cut down the net, I was sure of two things — Peter Hooley’s three would become a national story, and Jameel Warney could ball.

I’ve watched my fair share of Big East, AAC and Big Ten action up close at Rutgers, some of the nation’s most elite big men have have stepped on the floor at the RAC as an opponent throughout the years.

Jameel Warney was good enough to hang with any of them.

During our interview Warney reminds me Stony Brook’s season would end on another buzzer beater — a 72-70 loss to Mercer, the game winning shot hit with 1.2 seconds left on the clock.

Warney finishes the season averaging 16.4 points, 11.7 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in 33.0 minutes per game. He wins his second America East POY award and leads the nation in double-doubles with 24.

Offseason.

Three years down, and three America East Tournament losses — two in the final seconds, with Stony Brook’s first chance to play in the NCAA Tournament on the line. Stony Brook is 39-9 (81.2%) in the America East regular season since Jameel Warney has put on their uniform.

The Peter Hooley buzzer beater hurts — there’s no way around it.

A whole season erased by an errant tip, combined with a right place right time three pointer. It takes Jameel Warney a bit to get over what transpired that Saturday morning in Albany.

Stony Brook isn’t just a small conference team — they’re a small conference team that can’t even win their conference tournament. The team is being overlooked, and so is Jameel Warney.

Win or remain irrelevant.

After every season the Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association votes on their men’s basketball player of the year. The Haggerty Award is given to the All-Met NY Division I player of the year — a who’s-who of NYC area college players are finalists.

Following his junior season Jameel Warney loses out to Sir’Dominic Pointer for the award– Warney posts better stats than Pointer, the writers go with the player putting up his stats in the Big East.

Used to being overlooked, Warney remembers this as one of those “oh, really” moments. We’ve all had them– a time when you’re not getting the respect you feel you deserve.

Who cares about the best player in a one bid league… on a team who’s never won their conference tournament?

If the local writers weren’t showing love, the national writers sure weren’t going to take notice.

The 2015-16 season opens up with a demolition of Division III US Merchant Marine, a 103-32 win for Stony Brook. Jameel Warney goes for 16 points and 14 rebounds (nine offensive) in 22 minutes of action.

The Seawolves and Warney visit Vanderbilt five days later — a team ranked 18th in the preseason AP Top 25 poll and 20th in the USA Today Coaches Poll.

Stony Brook shoots poorly from deep in the contest, hitting only 23.5% (4-17) of their threes. Rebounding keeps the Seawolves in the game– they lead Vanderbilt 62-56 with 3:17 left.

Vanderbilt hits back to back threes, the second tying the game at 62 with 2:17 remaining. Two free throws later the Commodores lead for the first time in the second half, 64-62. A Jameel Warney basket with 1:21 left ties the game at 64, Vanderbilt and Stony Brook trade baskets to end regulation– the game is headed to overtime tied at 66.

Vanderbilt takes an early lead in overtime and doesn’t look back. Stony Brook falls 79-72, a chance to take down a top 25 opponent early in the season slips through their hands.

Warney, who finishes with 22 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks, outperforms Vanderbilt’s seven-footers — including Damian Jones, who will be taken with the 30th pick of the first round in the 2016 NBA draft.

Two days later Stony Brook visits Western Kentucky, once again they shoot poorly from deep (5-23, 21.7%) in a 67-66 loss. The Seawolves out-rebound Western Kentucky 53-35, but can’t overcome their poor shooting (27-75, 36%).

Warney has 16 rebounds, but only 11 points on an off shooting night. Rayshaun McGrew carries the offense for the Seawolves with 18 points on 9-14 shooting.

Rayshaun Mcgrew gets the credit from Jameel Warney for being the emotional leader of the team– the guy, who would get in the face of teammates if they weren’t playing hard enough.

While Warney and Tre (Carson) Puriefoy would often get most of the press (rightfully so), anyone who watched close enough could see Rayshaun McGrew would be the guy who could make or break Stony Brook’s championship aspirations.

There needed to be an enforcer down low, a big man to compliment the game of Jameel Warney– one who could hit a jump shot here and there. Not only did Mcgrew fill this role, he became the emotional leader of a program fighting to overcome past postseason failure.

Stony Brook follows their back to back losses with a road win at Loyola (MD) — a game they lead the whole way. Warney scores 18 points on 8-9 shooting, he hauls in 13 rebounds and blocks four shots in the victory.

Following their three-game road trip, the Seawolves return home for a two game stretch. A  91-42 win over non-D1 Farmingdale State is followed up by a 14-point win over Princeton– a good home win over a team ranked 65th by KenPom.

Jameel Warney has a monster game against Princeton — he finishes with 26 points on 11-14 shooting, 15 rebounds, five assists and eight blocks. He gets support from Rayshaun McGrew (18 pts, 7 rebounds) and Roland Nyama (15 points in just 15 minutes).

Following Princeton the Seawolves head back on the road to South Bend, Indiana for a matchup with Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish come into the contest at 5-2– their losses include a two-point neutral site loss to Monmouth and a one-point neutral site loss to Alabama.

Stony Brook takes a 1-0 lead to begin the contest, from that point on Notre Dame mostly controls the first half. The Seawolves are able to cut the Irish advantage to 1 with 7:21 left before the break; however, Notre Dame opens up their lead once again and takes an 8 point advantage into the break.

Jameel Warney finishes the first half with only three points (1-6 shooting) and three rebounds. Tre (Carson) Puriefoy paces the Stony Brook offense with 13 points and Rayshaun McGrew tallies eight to lead the Seawolf offense.

A Warney layup just under four minutes into the second half would bring Stony Brook within four, the closest they’d get in the final twenty minutes. Notre Dame would finish the contest with their largest lead of the game, a 25 point loss for the Seawolves.

While Jameel Warney struggled in the first half, he goes for 13 points (6-11 shooting), five rebounds and two blocks in the second half — unfortunately for Stony Brook he is the only Seawolf to score more than four points after the break.

Outside shooting continues to be a major issue for Stony Brook, they’re now 14-58 (24.1%) from deep in their three losses.

Four days later the Seawolves visit Northeastern, the Huskies lead the whole contest and defeat Stony Brook by 13. Jameel Warney finishes with 29 points (12-22 shooting), 11 rebounds and four blocks — the rest of the team scores 33 points on 7-26 (26.9%) shooting.

Stony Brook goes 4-18 (22.2%) from deep against Northeastern, they’re now 18-76 (23.7%) from three in their four losses on the season.

Jameel Warney, who is averaging 21.3 points and 12.3 rebounds, has begun the season with seven double-doubles in eight games, but the Seawolves are .500 with a 4-4 record– including two wins over Non-Division I opponents.

The team hits a bit of a rough patch in early December, something Warney and Stony Brook went through the previous year– during his Junior campaign. Jameel says the team was able to use the lessons learned from the previous season’s struggles to get back on track.

Stony Brook has five games remaining before America East play begins, each one a new opportunity to make adjustments before conference action.

They defeat American on the road by 18, the team shoots 7-13 (53.8%) from deep with Warney leading all players in scoring with 22 points.

The American victory is followed by a three-point win over Hofstra — a recently renewed rivalry game that probably means more to the fans than the players (don’t most?). Stony Brook shoots 9-19 (47.4%) from deep and holds Hofstra to 9-31 (29%) on two point field goals. Jameel Warney is the only Stony Brook player in double figures, scoring 22 points on 10-18 shooting.

The Hofstra win is big– it gives fans a bit of a distraction as they get bragging rights over their fellow Long Islanders, while Stony Brook is able to overcome a four-point halftime deficit and stay poised late in the second half of a back and forth affair.

The Seawolves have hit 16 three’s in their last two wins, only two less than the 18 total they’ve made in their four losses on the season.

A 13-point win at Lehigh follows– Jameel Warney has 22 points and 10 rebounds, Tre (Carson) Puriefoy leads all scorers with 25 points.
Puriefoy’s father Cal was a captain on the 1983-84 Bucknell Bison team (a team Jay Wright would captain the year prior) that went 24-5 and 14-2 in the East Coast Conference, I’m guessing it was a little special to watch his son go off against a former conference foe.

After the Lehigh win comes a 12-point victory at NJIT — Jameel Warney scores 20 points on 10-13 shooting in 27 minutes of action and has three blocks. He misses a double-double by one rebound.

Since a two game losing streak Stony Brook has now won four straight by an average of 14 points. The Seawolves have gotten steady production from Jameel Warney since their first game, now they’re hitting their three point attempts to compliment the inside play.

The final non-conference contest results in a nine-point victory over Columbia. The Seawolves struggle from deep (4-14, 28.6%), but hold Columbia to 11-30 (36.7%) on two point field goal attempts. Jameel Warney leads the way with 20 points (7-11 shooting), seven rebounds and five blocks in 28 minutes of action.

Stony Brook enters conference play at 9-4 and on a five-game winning streak.

The Seawolves are ranked as the 63rd team in the nation by kenpom.com– they have two top 100 wins over Hofstra and Princeton, while just missing a third over 31st-ranked Vanderbilt.

At 9-4 Monmouth is getting national press for their out of conference play and bench entertainment– the Hawks have defeated power programs UCLA, Notre Dame, and USC.

Despite having the same record, and being ranked only 10 spots lower by kenpom.com, no one is talking about the Stony Brook. A team with two Seniors who rank amongst the best in their program’s history, including one who is arguably the best in his conferences history, AND plays within the NYC media market is getting minimal attention.

Small school, small conference, overlooked star– win the big games or remain irrelevant.

Stony Brook begins conference play against Binghamton, they have a rough first half in which they only shoot 37%, including 30% (3-10) from deep. Warney goes 2-6 from the field and only scores 5 points, Puriefoy is 1-6 from the field for three points.

The Seawolves trail 43-41 with 9:14 left in the contest, the game is back and forth until Stony Brook puts it away late, winning by 10. Rayshaun McGrew leads the way with 10 second half points, Warney adds 8, while Puriefoy has seven.

The Binghamton win is followed by a 27 point victory over UMass-Lowell, a game in which Stony Brook leads the whole way. Next is a 12-point win over Maryland-Baltimore County, another game that Stony Brook never trails (UMBC cut the SB lead to three with 9:18 remaining before Stony Brook put them away for good).

The Seawolves follow the win over UMBC with a visit to Durham, New Hampshire to face New Hampshire. Stony Brook last trails (10-9) with 14:34 left in the first half, they lead by 19 at the break and win by 30 (80-50). Ahmad Walker leads the way for them with 19 points and seven rebounds in 28 minutes.

The Seawolves score 80 points and win by 30 with Jameel Warney and Tre (Carson) Puriefoy only combining for 27 points, everyone is starting to contribute offensively as Stony Brook is streaking.

After a 34-point win over Hartford; a game in which they never trailed, Stony Brook sits at 5-0 in conference with a home contest against Albany up next.

Albany enters the matchup 4-1 in conference; as the team who has won the past three America East Conference Tournament’s– receiving the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

The game which I attended, (sitting in the Albany section) had a great atmosphere. Stony Brook fans truly hate Albany, and I don’t blame them.

The contest is a usual Albany/Stony Brook affair, all knotted at 30 at the half. Jameel Warney, who got into early foul trouble, only plays seven minutes in the first half.

The second half remains a back and forth battle;  Albany leads by 1 with just over one minute remaining. With 42 seconds on the clock Albany big man Greig Stire fouls out and sends Jameel Warney to the line for two shots– Warney hits both to give Stony Brook the 64-63 lead.

Albany misses on their next possession forcing them to foul, Ahmad Walker heads to the free throw line for two shots with the Seawolves leading by 1. Walker misses both, and just as Stony Brook fans prepare to have their hearts ripped out by Albany once again, Rayshaun McGrew snatches the offensive rebound.

McGrew puts the rebound back up and is fouled– his layup is good and he hits the free throw to complete the old fashioned three point play. Carson Puriefoy adds two free throws and Stony Brook goes on to a 69-63 victory.

Jameel Warney plays all 20 minutes in the second half, finishing the game with 17 points (7-9 shooting), 5 rebounds and 3 blocks.

The win is a huge one for Stony Brook; not only does it give them breathing room between themselves and Albany in the standings, but it’s a win over their bitter rival in which they’re able to close out with timely rebounding and free throw shooting.

The past is the past, this is their present.

Stony Brook wins their next six conference games by an average of 17.8 points:

  1. Maine (81-54)
  2. @ Vermont (72-61)
  3. Binghamton (76-51)
  4. @UMASS-Lowell (91-73)
  5. Hartford (85-72)
  6. @ UMBC (75-52)

During the run the Seawolves are only truly tested at Vermont and against Binghamton.

Vermont gets out to a seven-point lead with 8:45 remaining in the first half before Stony Brook is able to close the gap, the teams head to halftime tied up at 33.

Warney leads the Seawolves with 8 points, 6 rebounds and 4 blocks at the break, he adds 15 points and 4 rebounds in the second half– scoring six of Stony Brook’s 14 second half field goals on just 7 attempts.

Stony Brook would take a two point lead two minutes into the second half; one they wouldn’t relinquish, although Vermont would hang around and make it a one possession game with 3:37 remaining.

Jameel Warney, who at one point had never won at Vermont, has now won back to back games in Burlington.

The following game against Binghamton Stony Brook trails 33-29 early in the second half before taking over the game. They outscore the Bearcats 47-18 over the final 18 1/2 minutes — eight players score for the Seawolves in the second half with none reaching double figures.

Jameel Warney records a career high with 37 points on February 8th against Hartford (on his bobblehead night), a game in which he also pulls down 13 rebounds, leading the Seawolves to their 16th win in a row.

After a victory over UMBC Stony Brook now holds the nation’s longest winning streak at 17 games, they’re starting to get some national attention. At 12-0 in conference only 4 games stand between them and an undefeated America East campaign.

While Jameel Warney says the team was just having fun, and didn’t notice the streak for the majority of it, he’s willing to admit they may have lost some hunger along the way. It’s tough for anyone to stay focused when things start coming easy.

Over the first 17 games of their winning streak Stony Brook won 14 by double figures, one of the three single digit wins was a nine-point victory over Columbia. Every conference win minus the Albany game was by double-digits to this point.

On Valentine’s Day New Hampshire visits Stony Brook, it’s a low scoring first half and Stony Brook leads 25-23 at the break. Jameel Warney and Tre (Carson) Puriefoy have combined for just 11 points on 4-14 shooting (Warney is 2-8 on his own).

New Hampshire star Tanner Leissner leads the game in scoring with 12 after the first 20 minutes, outscoring the two Seawolves stars combined.

Rayshaun McGrew has kept the Seawolves in the game offensively, tallying 9 points on an efficient 4-6 shooting in the first half.

In the second half Warney and Puriefoy combine to score nine of Stony Brook’s 13 field goals, tallying 21 of the Seawolves 34 points.

With 3:27 remaining in the contest Stony Brook takes a 59-56 lead thanks to a basket by Jameel Warney. Two Tanner Leissner free throw’s later and Stony Brook only leads by one with 2:43 on the clock.

With 16 seconds left no one has scored since the Leissner free throws for New Hampshire, Stony Brook still leads by 1. After a timeout with 7 seconds remaining UNH runs their final play, it results in an attempt by Jaleen Smith…that is blocked by Jameel Warney.

Stony Brook escapes with the one-point victory, their winning streak now sits at 18 games and they are a perfect 13-0 in conference. A close win is still a win, Stony Brook heads to Albany three days later for their final regular season meeting with the Great Danes.

Albany smothers Jameel Warney early and holds him to two points on just three shot attempts in the first 20 minutes. Rayshaun McGrew takes advantage of all the attention Warney is receiving and goes for 13 points on 5-9 shooting before halftime.

The Great Danes lead the Seawolves by seven at the half, Stony Brook is held to 30 points on 42.9% shooting including 14.3% (1-7) from three before the break.

The second half doesn’t go much better for Stony Brook as Albany opens up a 15 point lead with 8:44 left on their way to a 12-point win.

During the contest, Jameel Warney becomes Stony Brook’s all time leading scorer, regardless of division.

The Stony Brook winning streak is over, after two months worth of victories they’ll need to regroup– two games remain before the conference tournament begins. More important than the loss to Albany is a season ending knee injury to Bryan Sekunda. The Seawolves will have to continue on without one of their perimeter threats.

They bounce back nicely with a 19-point win at Maine, Jameel Warney scores 20 points and pulls down 9 rebounds in a game which Stony Brook leads the whole way.

The regular season will end against Vermont, at home on Senior night. It’s an emotional day for Jameel Warney and his fellow seniors — it shows as Vermont jumps all over them in the first half and takes a 39-29 lead into the break.

The second half doesn’t fair much better for the Seawolves, Vermont outscores them by four and ruins the night with a 14 point win.

Stony Brook finishes America East conference play in first place at 14-2, they run up an 18 game winning streak on their way to a 23-6 regular season record. None of it matters; they’d trade all 23 November, December, January and February wins for three in March.

Jameel Warney says the late Albany and Vermont losses were a wake up call, the team has one goal and if they don’t lock in they’ll fall short once again.

Warney has won 88 regular season games in his 4 year career at Stony Brook. He is now the school’s all time leader in games, wins, points, rebounds and blocks. He is already a legend, three wins separate him from immortality.

Stony Brook hosts UMBC in their America East Quarterfinals matchup. They trail by 8 (43-35) with just over six minutes remaining in the first half. They close out the half on a 9-0 run and take a 44-43 lead into the break.

Jameel Warney has 15 points and 13 rebounds at the half, Will Darley has led the way for UMBC with 24 first-half points.

With 12:24 remaining in the game UMBC has a three-point lead, by the 8:35 mark Stony Brook has taken the lead for good. The closest UMBC would come down the stretch is a Will Darley three which cuts the Stony Brook lead to one with 3:49 remaining.

The basket is followed by two Jameel Warney field goals for Stony Brook, the Seawolves close out the contest from there from the free throw line.

Warney finishes the game with 27 points and 23 rebounds, Stony Brook has advanced to the semifinals with a 86-76 win.

One win down, two to go.

The Stony Brook players, coaches and fans get word that No. 2 seed Albany has lost to seventh-seeded Hartford. A third meeting with Albany isn’t in the cards — with the America East reseeding throughout the playoffs, No. 1 seed Stony Brook will now host No. 7 seed Hartford.

Hartford hangs with Stony Brook through the first 16 minutes, the Seawolves only lead by one with 3:58 remaining before closing out the first half on a 7-3 run.

Jameel Warney has seven points and seven rebounds at the break, he’s only attempted 5 of Stony Brook’s 32 field goals (two trips to the free throw line excluded).

The Seawolves get Warney early touches in the second half– he hits one of two free throws to give them a six-point lead, and follows it with a bucket at the 18:35 mark to stretch the lead to eight.

By the 12:09 mark Stony Brook leads Hartford by 15 points after a Tre (Carson) Puriefoy three pointer. Hartford cuts the lead to single digits with 6:53 remaining; however, this is as close as the Hawks would come.

Jameel Warney finishes with 21 points and 13 rebounds (including 7 offensive) in 37 minutes of action. Tre (Carson) Puriefoy leads all scorers with 22 points and plays all 40 minutes for the Seawolves in their 16 point victory.

Stony Brook has again advanced to the America East Conference Finals. They’ll host 3 seed Vermont, the same team who beat them by 14 points on their home floor on Senior Night.

Two wins down, one to go.

History has a way of repeating itself, Stony Brook fans knew their own too well. Zero NCAA Tournament appearances — Four America East Tournament Final losses in the past 5 seasons.

2011 – lost in finals by two

2012 – lost in finals by eight

2013 – lost in semifinals by two

2014 – lost in finals by nine

2015 – lost in finals by one

I’m not sure I can explain to someone who doesn’t follow the America East how starved Stony Brook was for their first tournament championship. The easy way out is equating them to the Boston Red Sox pre-2004.

This isn’t just a team that had lost big games, they found the most excruciatingly painful ways possible to lose them. Conversations about big regular season wins would always be followed with “but they haven’t done it in the postseason”.

It’s gameday, Jameel Warney goes through his regular pregame routine. With an 11am tip he gets to the arena around seven, he says the day feels different, something special is about to happen. By tip time IFCU is packed, the fans are rowdy.

Vermont enters the contest on a seven-game winning streak– they’re young, but hot and led by Senior Ethan O’Day.

After the team’s trade misses O’Day opens up the scoring with a deep two point jumper over Warney, just inside the top of the key at the 19:08 mark of the first half. Rayshaun McGrew answers for Stony Brook with a deep baseline jumper to tie the game 2 ½ minutes in.

Jameel Warney gets his first touch on offense at the 16:34 mark, he’s fouled and heads to the line with Stony Brook trailing 4-2. Warney misses the first and hits the second, the Seawolves trail 4-3.

After a Vermont basket Warney gets another touch on the following Stony Brook possession, he crashes the basket and banks a shot off the backboard to once again bring Stony Brook within a point.

At the under 16 media timeout of the first half the Seawolves trail 6-5, it’s been a slow start offensively for both teams. Jameel Warney pulls down an offensive rebound and lays it back in to give Stony Brook a 7-6 advantage with 15:02 left in the first half.

Warney scores the game’s next basket at the 14:09 mark. He’s now scored the game’s last six points and Stony Brook leads by 3, 9-6. After Vermont commits an offensive foul with 13:55 remaining in the half Jameel Warney is subbed out.

A Dre Wills basket cuts the Stony Brook lead to 1; Warney subs back in with 13:01 left in the half. Wills hits another basket, this time a turn around right handed hook shot to regain the lead for Vermont– 10-9 at the 12:49 mark of the first half.

Tre (Carson) Puriefoy has a three point attempt blocked by Wills; Warney follows it with a block of his own on Dre Wills and the game hits the under-12 media timeout of the first half with Vermont leading 10-9.

Vermont switches to a zone, but it doesn’t matter. Jameel Warney gets his next touch at the 10:54 mark, making a tough catch and layup in traffic. Stony Brook retakes the lead 11-10, Warney has scored their last eight points and has nine total.

Tre (Carson) Puriefoy hits a three, Jameel Warney misses a layup, gets the offensive rebound and hits one of two free throws — Stony Brook leads 15-10 with 9:14 left in the first half.

Warney subs out and Ethan O’Day immediately takes advantage on a post up, cutting the Stony Brook lead to three. At the next break Warney subs back in, his breaks have been quick, just enough time to catch his breath.

Ernie Duncan, a standout Freshman for Vermont hits a three to tie the game at 15 with 8:25 left in the half. Jameel Warney answers with a dunk 11 seconds later.

Stony Brook leads 17-15 at the under-eight media timeout, Warney has 12 of their 17 points.

Out of the media timeout Jameel Warney blocks a Cam Ward layup attempt, on the following possession he mishandles a pass from Lucas Woodhouse turning the ball back over to Vermont.

Vermont ties the game and then takes the lead on a Darren Payne and-one layup following an offensive rebound with 7:11 remaining in the half. Tre (Carson) Puriefoy ties the game at 18 after going 1-2 from the free throw line.

Over the next 1:38 Vermont scores six straight points until a Jameel Warney spinning left handed hook shot against a double team stops the bleeding.

Ernie Duncan hits a tough deep two point step back jumper before Tre (Carson) Puriefoy answers with a three. Vermont leads 26-23 with 4:35 left in the half. A Vermont turnover later; Stony Brook goes back to Jameel Warney, who banks in a layup to cut the deficit to one.

With 3:07 remaining Warney misses his last field goal attempt of the half. Besides two free throws with 1:42 remaining, the first half ends much like it started — with Jameel Warney not getting enough touches.

Stony Brook gets sloppy over the final minutes, they turn the ball over twice as Vermont goes on a 6-0 run to take a 36-27 lead into the break.

Jameel Warney has 18 points and five rebounds at halftime. He’s made seven of Stony Brook’s 10 field goals on the way to scoring 18 of their 27 first half points.

Rayshaun McGrew gets in Warney’s ear in the locker room, letting him know he’s going to have to score 40 for the Seawolves to pull this one out.

McGrew opens up the second half scoring himself– he puts back an offensive rebound. Vermont answers on a Trae Bell-Haynes floater, their lead back up to nine. With 18:36 left in the contest Jameel Warney is fouled and hits both of his free throw attempts, Bell-Haynes punches back with a layup.

After Warney misses a bank attempt Ethan O’Day gets out ahead of the pack and lays it in. Vermont has stretched their lead to 11 with 17:43 remaining.

A Bell-Haynes floater puts Vermont up by 13, Stony Brook is forced to call a timeout which turns into the under-16 media timeout.

The crowd at IFCU seems to have lost its life — the fear of past on court tournament failures repeating is slowly becoming a reality. By the time a deep Darren Payne jumper puts Vermont up 15, the only cheering that can be heard is coming from Vermont fans.

Jameel Warney spins out of a double team and banks one in to make it 48-35. On the next Stony Brook possession Warney spins to his left away from the double team and hits a jumper– the Vermont lead is cut to 11.

Thirty seconds later Jameel Warney lays in a pass from Tre (Carson) Puriefoy, and there’s life from the crowd. Warney has scored six straight points to cut the Vermont lead to nine.

After a Vermont timeout they push the lead back to 11 from two free throws by Cam Ward. Tre (Carson) Puriefoy drills a three to cut the Stony Brook deficit to eight. Trae Bell-Haynes answers with a three of his own…then another, the Vermont lead is now 14 with 12:26 remaining.

Tre (Carson) Puriefoy punches back with another three 15 seconds later, Jameel Warney then slams home a dunk to make it a nine-point game. A Vermont turnover sends the game to the under-12 media timeout.

At the 10:30 mark Warney spins off the pick and roll, laying the ball in with his right hand– the Vermont lead is down to seven.

Warney subs out for 13 seconds — he doesn’t miss an offensive possession. Ahmad Walker gets to the free throw line and hits one of two, Stony Brook is within 6. Vermont answers on a Trae Bell-Haynes spinning floater in the paint, before Puriefoy hits another three to make it a five-point game.

Vermont turns the ball over and Ahmad Walker is fouled on the break, the Catamounts are hit with an intentional foul on the play. Walker makes both free throws, but Stony Brook comes out of the extra possession empty handed and still trail by 3 with 8:40 to play.

A Lucas Woodhouse floater makes it a 1 point game, but Vermont answers with an old fashioned three point play by Drew Urquhart.

Jameel Warney responds with a layup, he then blocks a Dre Wills attempt which is followed by a Rayshaun McGrew jumper.

Stony Brook has fought all the way back, the game is now tied at 61 with 6:29 left. Warney gets fouled on the next Stony Brook possession and hits one of two free throws, the Seawolves lead 62-61.

With 5:20 remaining Ethan O’Day fouls out. Vermont responds by hitting their second straight three, after two free throws by Cam Ward they hold a four-point lead with 4:22 remaining.

Stony Brook goes back to their big man; Jameel Warney slips a screen and banks a floater over two defenders to make it a two-point game. The next Seawolf possession Warney drops in a left handed layup to tie the game at 68 with 3 ½ minutes left on the clock.

Over the next couple of possessions the teams trade free throws with Stony Brook going 2-3 from the line, while Vermont makes both of their attempts. Stony Brook holds a 71-70 lead with 2:18 between them and their first trip to the NCAA Tournament.

Jameel Warney hits another layup to give Stony Brook a three-point advantage, Dre Wills makes it a 1 point game once again after hitting two free throws.

With just over a minute left Lucas Woodhouse misses a corner three, Jameel Warney grabs the offensive rebound with one hand and in the same motion flips it back in. The Stony Brook lead is back up to 3 with 1:15 remaining.

Warney swears to this day he was fouled on the play, and it’s hard to argue with him…it sure looks like his left arm is being held down as he completes the play with just his right free.

Two Tre (Carson) Puriefoy free throws are countered by a Darren Payne dunk, Stony Brook leads by three with possession of the ball and only 34 seconds on the clock.

Rather than run the clock down (there was a four-second difference between the game and shot clock) the Seawolves get a quick shot from Ahmad Walker who misses a layup with 20 seconds left.

Jameel Warney has lost enough in the postseason, it’s his time now– Warney grabs the offensive rebound and lays it back in, Stony brook takes a five-point lead.

Vermont rushes down court, eventually throwing the ball away with 11 seconds left. As Tre (Carson) Puriefoy is fouled, Jameel Warney slaps the floor in pure joy.

The final Vermont shot bangs off the rim and lands in the hands of Jameel Warney, giving him 10 rebounds to complete another double-double performance.

He takes off running towards his bench…

Sometimes you start running —  you have no clue why.

Maybe it’s from your past, maybe it’s towards your future…or just maybe, you don’t know what else to do.

After coming up short three years in a row it’s Jameel Warney’s turn to dance. He finishes with a career high and America East record-tying 43 points on 18-22 shooting, adding 10 rebounds and four blocks in 38 minutes for good measure.

The hours and days after the win are crazy. Jameel Warney says he barely slept, maybe an hour or so. That night he’s in a car on his way to get some food when someone furiously starts banging on the car window congratulating him.

Stony Brook makes an appearance as a team on Inside College Basketball on CBS Sports. The kid and team who were once overlooked are now getting the attention they felt they’ve always deserved.

Mark Morrison of Return of the Mack fame DMs Jameel Warney after the game.

It’s safe to say Warney and Stony Brook are no longer irrelevant.

Stony Brook falls to Kentucky in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Jameel Warney more than holds his own against the Kentucky big men as he finishes the game with 23 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks.

Warney finishes the season averaging 19.8 pts, 10.8 rebs, and 3.0 blks. He wins the America East POY award, the America East Defensive POY award and the America East Tournament MOP award. He finishes 11th in the nation with 21 double-doubles on the season.

Jameel Warney and Stony Brook 1.

Final Career Statistics

Points- 2,132 (First in Stony Brook history)

Rebounds- 1,275 (First in Stony Brook history)

Blocks- 275 (First in Stony Brook history)

FG%- .596 (First in Stony Brook Division I history)

Field Goals Made- 884 (First in Stony Brook history)

Email Zak at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @playorbplayd.

Photo courtesy of Flickr/John Feinberg

Mike Krzyzewski is as Overrated as Roy Williams is Underrated

When the question of the best coach in men’s college basketball gets asked, many immediately respond with Coach Mike Krzyzewski. He has over 1,000 career wins, five NCAA Championships and is currently the man leading USA Men’s Basketball at the Olympics.

His career numbers are impressive — since the 1983-84 season he has only missed one NCAA Tournament. There’s been 12 Final Fours, 12 ACC regular season championships and 13 ACC conference tournament championships.

From the 96-97 to 00-01 seasons Duke won five straight regular season titles. The final three years of that stretch included three straight ACC tournament championships to go with the regular season titles. There were two Final Four’s, with an NCAA Championship in 00-01.

That was easily the most dominant stretch of Coach K’s coaching career.

While Duke won the NCAA Tournament in the 2014-15 season, it’s been six years since they’ve won the ACC regular season, and five since they’ve won the ACC Tournament. That’s a decent drought for a coach considered head and shoulders above his peers.

Back to the question — Who is the best coach in men’s college basketball? How many names were brought up before Roy Williams? I personally don’t put him in my top 5, which is telling since North Carolina is one of three teams I follow closely.

He’s often labeled as a coach who gets by with the talent on his roster, one who lacks the ability to make in-game adjustments. Sometimes it seems as if UNC finishes games with more timeouts than they started with.

Furthermore, there’s criticism that he’s been unable to land top-tier high school prospects in recent years. It’s pretty impressive when you can be accused of relying on your team’s talent, while also being blasted for the lack of it.

Williams has won 16 regular season conference championships, including seven as the head coach of UNC. He has two national championships in eight trips to the Final Four.

Yet, he’s overlooked by the public, underrated amongst his own fan base.

Where Coach K and Duke don’t have an ACC regular season championship in six years, Williams and UNC have three. That’s telling for two elite coaches in the same conference — with a large gap in how they’re perceived by the public.

Coach K very may well be the best coach around, but good ol’ Roy deserves some respect as well.

For what it’s worth, here is my top 5 list of active men’s college basketball coaches:

  1. Rick Pitino (7 Final Fours, 2 National Championships)
  2. Tom Izzo (7 Final Fours, 1 National Championship)
  3. Mike Krzyzewski (12 Final Fours, 5 National Championships)
  4. John Calipari (4 Final Fours, 1 National Championship)
  5. Jim Boeheim (5 Final Fours, 1 National Championship)

Active wins leaders:

  1. Mike Krzyzewski, 1043
  2. Jim Boeheim, 989
  3. Roy Williams, 783 (8 Final Fours, 2 National Championships)
  4. Rick Pitino, 743
  5. Bob Huggins, 719 (2 Final Fours)

While I applaud Krzyzewski for building Duke into the power it is today, I still can’t shake the feeling that too many of his teams in recent memory have underperformed. Top-level talent should produce consistent top-level results — both in the regular season and postseason.

This is why I give Pitino and Izzo the top spots, they’ve done more with less.

Coach K is overrated — somehow the coach who has won more games than anyone, hasn’t won enough. Roy Williams is underrated — viewed as a man just trying not to screw up a program that runs itself.

‘Tis how it goes when you’re the head men at Duke and North Carolina.

E-mail Zak at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @playorbplayd.

Photo courtesy of Flickr/Bryan Horowitz