As the Stony Brook Men’s Basketball team travels to Albany for the America East tournament this weekend, it is fair to guess that there is only one end result that would satisfy the Seawolves.
“[The NCAA Tournament is] always the goal, not just for me but for the whole team,” Ahmad Walker, redshirt freshman, said.
Sophomore guard Carson Puriefoy took it a step further, telling Joe Galotti of The Statesman back in November, “We can go far into the NCAA tournament.”
As the saying goes, talk is cheap.
With the regular season behind them, sitting second in the America East with a 21-9 record, the Seawolves have put themselves in position to walk the walk.
To do so, they will have to maximize their potential for three games, beginning with ball security.
SBU has won seven of nine games when turning the ball over under 10 times, on the flip side going 14-7 when giving the ball away 10 or more times. This is an 11 percent gap in winning percentage that falls on the guards on the team.
Enter Walker, playing in his first America East tournament while giving the ball away more than any other Seawolf (among players who have logged 200+ minutes) in terms of turnover rate. The neophyte will have to walk a fine line between his usual dribble-drive game and overzealousness that leads to giveaways.
The problem does not lie solely with Walker, with the team’s elder statesmen falling victim to poor ball handling as well. Dave Coley has already racked up four games of four or more turnovers, and Anthony Jackson has given the ball away five or more times in four contests this season.
Of course, you cannot mention the Stony Brook offense without including Jameel Warney’s name.
The sophomore leads the team in scoring and ranks third in the nation in field goal percentage, becoming one of only 17 names (only four underclassmen) since 1998 to shoot 62.8 percent from the field while attempting 9.6 shots a contest.
He will be facing constant double teams as soon as he touches the basketball, but there shouldn’t be much concern here considering how often Warney has had to deal with this strategy. Jameel’s passing is at an elite level for players of his stature, with a near two to one assist-to-turnover ratio.
The biggest issue will likely be the opposition fronting Warney, a ploy that the Seawolves’ guards have struggled with maneuvering around.
Scoring is not Stony Brook’s MO by any means, but it is half of the game. Crisp passing and smart decisions mean a more efficient attack, and without these things the Seawolves won’t advance as far as they would like.
As for the opposite end of the court — Stony Brook’s strong suit — there aren’t any tangible complications to address. The Seawolves are second in the America East in defensive efficiency and 12th in the nation in defensive rebounding rate.
All the Seawolves have to do is show 100 percent effort for all 40 minutes. We have seen Stony Brook take stretches off, lose assignments, get beat easily and allow points that should have never landed on the stat sheet. These are symptoms of the regular season with most teams however, so barring any nagging effects of fatigue, Stony Brook’s defense is strong enough at its peak to fuel the team within reaching distance of their postseason aspirations.
There’s one prize on Stony Brook’s mind when March 15 rolls around, and that’s the America East championship and the program’s first NCAA Tournament berth. With a grueling regular season now behind them, the Seawolves must refocus in anticipation of a new set of challenges in order to accomplish a goal established over a decade ago.