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Penn State vs. Albany Preview: The Season Opener

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It’s a great day-ne for college basketball!

Oklahoma v Albany Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images
Who: Albany Great Danes
When: 7:00pm Friday, November, 11
Where: Bryce Jordan Center
TV: ESPN3
KenPom Rank: 183
Vegas Line: n/a

A tough draw for the Great Danes pits them against a team in blue with a talented incoming class for the second-straight year. It might surprise you, however, that Albany hung close in a 78-65 loss to Kentucky en route to a 24-9 record last season. This team is much different than the team that finished 2nd in the America East conference last year, losing over half of its scoring production through the graduation of Peter Hooley, Ray Sanders, and Evan Singletary. Some growing pains are expected as the team sorts out its rotation and new roles.

Scouting the Opposition

"You always want more practice time," Brown said. "I am very concerned heading into the early portion of our season." Not exactly the words of encouragement you hope from from a head coach leading into the season. Joe Cremo was a little more bullish in his quote, "We don't pay any attention to any of that. We believe that we can compete with anyone. Now is the time to go out there and show it."

Head coach Will Brown is 239-224 in his career. The Great Danes went 24-9 (13-3) last year finishing behind Stony Brook, and losing in the opening round of their conference tournament to miss the NCAA tournament for the first time in 4 years. They are led by sophomore guard Joe Cremo, who was selected to the American East preseason all conference team. As a freshman, Cremo averaged 10.5 points coming off the bench. He had 19 double-digit scoring performances last year, shooting over 50% from the field.

Senior forward Mike Rowley is the only returning player who started in all 33 games for the Great Danes last year. Only Rowley and Cremo appeared in all of the games. The 6'8" Aussie will be joined by Junior forward Greig Stire in the front court.

"I know we will come out and play our butts off. I'm not worried about that. But you can come out and play your butts off and not execute. We think we have a realistic shot to win, but our execution needs to be terrific and we need to play well." - Coach Will Brown

But whether or not the team can execute, especially on defense, is the main concern for Albany.

What to Watch for

This will be Tony Carr’s first game at the collegiate level, and he will be the starting point guard on a young team. We’ve heard a lot of positive remarks about his maturity, and tonight will be a good test against the talented sophomore Joe Cremo. Another player to watch is Lamar Stevens, another true freshman - who will play the wing - making his first start. His size and athleticism will make him a nightmare match-up if Albany tries to go with their expected starting lineup that includes three guards 6’4” and smaller.

Overall, I’ll be paying attention to the rotation that Chambers decides to use in this game, as this is the deepest bench he’s had to work with while at Penn State. Fans should anticipate a faster pace of play, including more full-court press on defense. The days of 36-33 wins are over. Chambers has set a goal of 80 points per game this season.

Prediction

Beware a brick-fest as the Nittany Lions try to find their stroke beyond the arc. I expect Penn State to struggle during the opening minutes, as there will be 3 players experiencing their first game of Division-I basketball, but those struggles should be short lived. The athleticism and talent on this team will overwhelm the Danes as the game goes on. Two freshmen will record their first career double-doubles, and Davis Zemgulis will have a chance to impact the game with Josh Reaves injured and Peyton Banks coming off injury.

Pat Chambers’ team reaches their 80-point goal in the opener, but barely, winning this one by a score of 82-67.