Wednesday, October 29, 2014

UAlbany football's Omar Osbourne did not know he's 89 yards away from a 1,000-yard season

This is a true story. 

Omar Osbourne, the only UAlbany player selected all-CAA this preseason, is just 89 yards away from his second straight 1,000-yard season and he actually had no idea. 

"On the season?" Osbourne said after the Great Danes finished practice on Wednesday afternoon. "Hey, you learn something new every day."

Of course, that's just the kind of player Osbourne is. 

He's not a stat tracker, he's just sitting in his room pouring over box scores and post-game wrap-ups. He watches film. For hours. Then, for good measure, he watches it again, rewinding on the one time he fumbled this entire season. 

Coming into this fall, Osbourne was touted as UAlbany's top returning offensive player, maybe even the Great Dane's best overall player. 

He's lived up to the accolades and with four games left on the schedule, including a matchup against No. 2 New Hampshire this Saturday, Osbourne is looking (or hearing for the first time at practice) at 911 total yards and four touchdowns. 

"He’s tough. He’s a physical, tough runner," Danes' coach Greg Gattuso said. "He’s a good inside runner. He’s physical and takes the punishment and just keeps going. I think the o-line is learning to battle and giving him some holes to run through."

So, how exactly has Osbourne managed the season thus far? 

Easy. He's patient and perhaps the biggest metaphorical-fighter in the entire CAA. Osbourne has racked up six 100+ yard games this fall (13 on his career) and he's battled for every single one of those yards. 

This is the kind of running back who is going to battle in those trenches. He'll move his feet for those hard-fought three yards but give him an extra block or a little bit of daylight and Osbourne can take defenders on 50-yard sprints up the field. 

But while Osbourne is more than willing to battle up front, he's also the first to admit that sometimes he can get a little ahead of his own plan. 

"Sometimes it’s difficult," he said. "After a successful season like last year and just wanting to do good, wanting to help your team out, you try to do a little too much. Last week when I had that fumble, fighting for extra yards, I’m trying to make a big play happen. Unfortunately someone comes out of nowhere and I don’t see them coming."

During UAlbany's media day this past August, Osbourne was one of the few people - players or coaches - who refused to accept the Great Danes 10th-place prediction. He talked about conference championships and playing for months to come. That was before the team had won at Bob Ford Field or posted its first CAA-victory. 

Now, with November only a few days away and the final four CAA games of the schedule left in front of him, Osbourne's tune hasn't changed. He's still focused on posting notches in the win column and he's not entirely sure of what his stats are. 

"It’s going to be tough," he said. "They’re all going to be crucial games. We’re trying to make it to the playoffs. We’re trying to win the conference. So every game from here on out is going to be a big crucial game." 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Jon Rothstein tweeted about Siena on Monday

So, CBS Sprts' Jon Rothstein was at Siena men's basketball practice on Monday afternoon, continuing his tour of DI basketball practices around the country and he had some things to say (tweet) about. 

It was an interesting group of tweets and Rothstein doesn't seem all too sold quite yet on a Siena team that returns every single starter from last season as well as a good chunk of its bench. 

Rothstein tweeted that he believes (as do most of us) that Siena's projected starting five are: Marquis Wright, Lavon Long, Rob Poole, Brett Bisping and Javion Ogunyemi. 

While he seemed interested in Wright (who was an all-MAAC Rookie of the Year selection and Kyle Macy Freshmen All-American Team) he was concerned with the Maryland-natives turnover potential. 

Now, while this all seems vaguely negative, there were some pros to Rothstein's slew of Siena-oriented tweets. In particular he seemed particularly impressed with Bisping - last year's CBI championship - who has already assumed a big-time leadership role with the Saints this preseason. 

He also mentioned Patrick Cole, a Coppin State transfer, who was forced to sit out all of last season's due to NCAA regulations. 

So, that's the visit. Eventually there will be a story and when that happens, it'll be link'ed it on here.  

Sunday, October 26, 2014

UAlbany holds annual Purple & Gold Game

Despite practicing for two and a half hours earlier that afternoon, the UAlbany men's basketball team held its annual Purple & Gold Game at SEFCU Arena on Saturday evening in a matchup that coach Will Brown dubbed "a video game."

There was a lot of scoring and a lot of  running and not as much defense as Brown, of course, would have liked to see, but the running-time scrimmage still offered the veteran Great Danes choice a chance to see his team in action.

That chance is big for the Danes who, despite the return of standouts Peter Hooley and Sam Rowley, have some big questions to fill with a handful of young players and transfers into the program.

"It wasn't an NBA all-star game, that's for sure," Brown said. "There was a little more defense played than that, but not too much. The guys did a good job sharing the ball and for a running time, 30 minutes, our guys put some points on the board. We're a work in progress right now. We've got some good pieces, we've just got to put those pieces together."

One of the biggest additions to the UAlbany starting lineup this season could be Rowley's younger brother Mike.

The sophomore is in the running to open the season as the Danes' starting center and he showed exactly what he was capable of on Saturday afternoon, using his 6-8 frame to serious advantage under the hoop.

"There's a lot more pressure to rebound," Rowley said. "That's something I need to be better at. Just being more of a presence on the defensive rebounding glass."

Strictly speaking, Rowley knows that playing at the five, despite slightly out of position, is his best chance at getting some minutes; something he desperately wants. The Australia native has been plagued by injuries since joining the Great Danes

"That's kind of the thing," Rowley said. "I'll do anything. I just want to be playing and get on the court and try to contribute. Sam's probably, in my opinion, the best four in the league so there's no point in moving Sam to accommodate someone else. I think I'll play the five but our offense has the four and five as almost identical, so it's not much of an adjustment."

The Danes have collectively known for awhile that the team will be forced into some slightly different looks than last season. UAlbany is quicker than last year's championship team, especially on the outside and it showed in Saturday's scrimmage.

Of course, that might also have something to do with the fact that the teams were essentially sprinting up and down the court on Saturday.

"We're going to need some our new guys to contribute earlier than expected," Brown said. "That's fine. The talent is there. It's just trying to find out what pieces are going to put us in the best position to win."

The Danes have some decisions in front of them - including how much time potential starting point guards Evan Singletary and Tre Gree could end up splitting - but with nearly three weeks until the opener at Providence, these are good problems.

"The two point guards tonight put a lot of pressure on me," Brown said. "They both played really well. They both scored, they made a lot of plays. They're both going to play a lot of minutes."

Two players sat out from Saturday's scrimmage - CBA grad Greig Stire who suffered an earlier concussion but has been cleared to play on Monday and freshman Max Twyman who suffered a concussion of his own earlier this week.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

THE FIRST HALF: Colgate at No. 25 UAlbany or there was good and there was bad

Let's just say this to start; the University at Albany looked really, really good in the first quarter.

The Danes marched down the field slowly (the drive took over eight minutes) and methodically and the only play that didn't gain yardage was Will Fiacchi's one incomplete pass. It was great, it looked fantastic and it collectively put Colgate back on its collective heels; until it ended in a field goal.

That's a pretty good way to look at the Great Danes entire performance in the first half. It looked really, really good until it didn't and then it looked pretty bad - so much so that UAlbany and Colgate went into the break tied at 10 all.

After taking up more than half the first quarter on their opening drive, the Danes kept Colgate off the board in the first quarter and quickly jumped out to a 10-point lead early in the second as quarterback Will Fiacchi ran the ball into the end zone from one yard out.

Fiacchi was hot and cold in the opening 30 minutes of play. The senior quarterback was 10-for-14 for 119 yards but he also threw a pair of interceptions on his last two passes of the second quarter, stymieing a pair of potential Great Danes' drives in their metaphorical tracks.

Omar Osbourne, who rushed for 252 yards in last year's win over Colgate, was held to just 36 yards on 11 carries, including a long of nine yards.

Colgate was able to get on the board on its first drive of the second quarter, staging its own down-the-field possession as the Raidres' option play continued to give the Danes defense fits. Add into the mix that UAlbany was called for a handful of less-than-ideal penalties on both of the Raiders' scoring drives and Colgate was able to tie it all up before the final seconds of the first half.

The Raiders rushed for 82 yards, nearly doubling UAlbany's production.

There were good things.

Fiacchi's yardage was good. A pair of back-to-back sacks from the UAlbany defense was good. A solid performance by the Danes' linebacker corps (which someone - me - may have previewed today) was really good.

But, despite the good, the bad still existed in the form of a 10-10 tie. Colgate will get the ball to start the second half.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Siena basketball holds annual Madness event

There was dunking and there was dancing and there was basketball.

The Siena men's and women's basketball team held their annual Madness event at the Alumni Recreation Center in front of a jam-packed student crowd that packed the bleachers and stood nearly six rows deep on the sidelines.

"It's exciting," point guard Marquis Wright said. "I think there's more people here than last year and they're showing us a lot of support. We just have to go out and give it back."

Both teams entered to thunderous applause with player introductions and one last reminder of what the men's team was able to accomplish last season; a CBI championship, the first national postseason title in Division I program history.

The men's team then staged an inter-squad scrimmage (with a pretty sweet background soundtrack that included the Space Jam theme song) and was essentially just players tossing up give-and-go dunks to one another.

"We're a pretty athletic team," men's coach Jimmy Patsos said. "They've done a lot of work in the off-season and they're excited about the season. Last year I think we came out and we were nervous about this. I want the players to have fun with this."

While the acrobatics were certainly a crowd-pleasure, there was one performance in particular that may have sparked a few extra cheers. Wright, a sophomore guard who is listed, at six feet tall on the Siena roster, dunked more than once in the scrimmage, including a two-handed slam, hang-on-the-rim performance that almost certainly would have earned him a technical foul in a game.
Siena fans react to the t-shirt toss at the Madness
event at the ARC on Thursday. 

On Thursday night, it simply earned him even more cheers.

"Hopefully," Wright said of getting the chance to dunk. "I'm not going to press that first. But I'm going to let it come. It's great. I tried to do that (hang on the rim) on purpose. It feels good."

After a dance competition at half court (that really happened) both the men's and women's teams also staged a shooting contest, pairing players and fans against the clock.

A half-court shot competition and free pizza later and the night had officially wrapped, the final set-up to the start of the season next month.

"This is just great to bring all the teams together," sophomore guard, and Albany High grad, Emia Willingham said. "It's great to have our students support us. It's a fun atmosphere. We can see all the fans that will, hopefully, come to all of our games."

It wasn't all just fun and games though, men's basketball commit Kenny Wormley was also in attendance, taking in the event with his family. Wormley, a a 6-3 guard from Maryland, verbally committed to Siena over the summer.

The men's team officially opens the season on November 14 at UMass while the women open at Buffalo on the same day.

"This is great for the players and the students," Patsos said. "The student body is great. I don't think we would have won the CBI without them last year. It's just fun.

UAlbany men's basketball picked third in America East pre-season poll, Stony Brook first

The two-time defending America East champion, University at Albany men’s basketball team was picked to finish third in the preseason poll, the league announced on Thursday.

A season after winning their second straight league title and the first-ever NCAA Tournament game in program history, the Great Danes received on first-place vote and picked up a total 51 points in the preseason poll.

Stony Brook was selected to finish first for the first time in program history, receiving six first-place votes, while Hartford took second place with two first-place tallies.

Last season’s regular season champion, Vermont, was tabbed fourth with 48 points.

In addition to the overall team pick, Great Danes junior Peter Hooley, the reigning America East Tournament MVP, was named to the pre-season all-conference team.

Hooley led the Great Danes in scoring last season and his 15.4 points per game were the second best average in the America East.

This marks the second straight year that UAlbany was projected to finish third in the league. The Danes have not been picked first in a preseason poll since the 2006-07 season.

This season may be a little different though as just four letterwinners and two starters from last year’s championship team return to the roster, including Hooley and senior Sam Rowley. The changes open a few question for the Danes who finished fourth in the regular season last winter.

UAlbany opens the season next month with a non-league matchup at reigning Big East champion Providence on November 15. The Danes open at home on  November 19 against NJIT.

1. Stony Brook (6) 60
2. Hartford (2) 55
3. UAlbany (1) 51
4. Vermont 48
5. Binghamton 34
6. New Hampshire 26
7. UMBC 23
8. Maine 17
9. UMass Lowell 10

Peter Hooley, Jr. G, UAlbany
Mark Nwakamma, Sr., F, Hartford
Carson Puriefoy, Jr., G, Stony Brook
Jordan Reed, Jr., G/F, Binghamton
Jameel Warney, Jr., F, Stony Brook

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

No. 25 UAlbany depth chart vs. Colgate

Hey! The University at Albany football team is nationally ranked again!

Following last week's victory over Maine, the Great Danes moved back into the national spectrum with a No. 25 spot on the latest TSN-FCS poll. More importantly, UAlbany improved to 2-2 in the CAA, keeping in the middle of the ultra-competitive pack midway through the season.

Now, the Danes return home for their final non-conference game of the season, taking on a Colgate team that just saw its three-game win streak snapped by Yale last Saturday despite scoring the most points of any game so far this season.

UAlbany is a little banged up this weekend -  most notably with the probably absence of linebacker (and game one hero) Neil Morrison who suffered a hamstring injury last week - so it'll be interesting to see how the Danes can restructure a little bit. Morrison is still listed first on the depth chart, but according to Greg Gattuso on Wednesday the likelihood of him actually suiting up are "pretty slim." So, take that for what it's worth.

A victory this weekend would be a huge momentum boost into the final stanza of the season, especially into a game against New Hampshire, the preseason CAA favorite, on November 1st. So, who's most likely to suit up on Saturday afternoon? Check it all out under the cut.