Here we are. The Stony Brook men’s basketball team is once again on the verge of taking on the America East for a shot at advancing to the NCAA Tournament. Will this season end in bitterness and shock like so many before it, or will the Seawolves finally go dancing in March?
It all comes down to an assortment of factors; basketball nuances that have appeared, disintegrated, evolved and regressed throughout the season.
They all come into play in the coming weeks, and here is how Stony Brook needs to take hold of these many facets and use them to achieve what they have long dreamed of achieving.
In all likelihood, following a win against Binghamton at home, Stony Brook will travel to Vermont for its second round matchup. If SBU wins there, it is on to Albany.
On the offensive end, the Seawolves ranked No. 234 in the nation according to Kenpom, a troubling number.
Jameel Warney has been nearly unstoppable and this team is much more willing and capable of shooting the three than last year’s. However, there are still major concerns.
The scoring can not strictly come from Warney. The Seawolves are 15-3 this season when three or more players score in double-digits.
Others have to step up, especially since it is hard to imagine teams will not double Warney with impunity in tournament play.
Who and how is the question, though. Carson Puriefoy has not been consistent all season, even closing the season with a month where he only shot above 50 percent in two games. Rayshaun McGrew mostly thrives on open jumpers and offensive rebounds when it was expected that he could bully his way in the post against conference opponents.
Then, there is freshman Roland Nyama, who has come on as a scorer late in the season, but has only scored a combined eight points in four games against Vermont and Albany.
Puriefoy and Nyama need to be aggressive in looking for their shots, especially inside looks. Both have a tendency to settle when lanes are not revealing themselves, but doing so usually does more harm than good. McGrew will have to knock down those baseline jumpers and take advantage of any mismatch he gets.
Bryan Sekunda and Kameron Mitchell will have to make their open threes, especially against zone defenses SBU will certainly face.
The ball has to keep moving, and under no circumstances can Warney have an off night. He is the team’s go-to guy and will be the first name on each team’s scouting report, but he must take that with perseverance and dominate as he has all season.
However, in the end, Stony Brook’s offense merely has to be solid with how good its defense has been this season.
The Seawolves ranks a remarkable No. 70 in the country in defensive efficiency according to Kenpom and have not allowed a team to score 70 points since mid-December. Simply put, if SBU is at its best defensively there is not much to worry about on this end.
Head Coach Steve Pikiell will likely not change up his schemes, but instead rely on his team communicating, and being a step faster and an inch higher off the ground.
Some individual matchups to be on the look out for are Puriefoy on Binghamton’s Marlon Beck, Warney on Vermont’s Ethan O’Day and McGrew on Albany’s Sam Rowley.
The only real concerns for the Seawolves would be keeping out of foul trouble and being able to defend teams that can spread the floor five positions deep like the Catamounts and Great Danes.
Rebounding the basketball has also been an area in which SBU has been superb, finishing in the top-20 in the country in both offensive and defensive rebounding rates.
Binghamton, Vermont and Albany will all put up a strong fight on the glass however, once again calling on SBU’s role players to help out the big names.
Whoever is playing the three spot must crash the boards, whether it be Nyama, King or anybody else.
Many of the wings on the roster can be a huge help in rebounding, but effort and wanting to leak out on offense have impeded their effectiveness.
This obviously has to be avoided. The last headline Seawolves fans want to read when the America East Tournament winds to a close is “Same Seawolves, Different Year,” but trying to circumvent that will be a daunting task for a roster absent seniors and so reliant on freshmen.
It is fair to say that Stony Brook’s youth would be a valid excuse for not going all the way this season, but it would not fend off the disappointment.
A safe bet would be to expect SBU to get knocked out of the second or final round, but they do not call it “March Madness” for no reason.