Kentucky Wildcats fans are no stranger to being unfairly treated by the NCAA Selection Committee during Coach Calipari’s run as head coach. It seems this year the committee has really outdone itself. Shortly after the brackets were announced, Coach Cal voiced his displeasure on national television. He has every right to criticize the choices of the selection committee as they have chosen the most difficult opponent possible for a first round matchup, the Stony Brook Seawolves. A team no one wants to schedule, let alone play in an elimination game.
Despite winning the America East Conference regular season title four of the last seven years, and playing in five America East Tournament Championship games during that span, this is Stony Brook Men’s Basketball’s first ever trip the NCAA Tournament at the Division I level. The Seawolves barely missed last years NCAA Tournament after falling on a last second shot to Albany as time expired in the America East Conference Championship game. In the 2015-2016 season Stony Brook has put together arguably the best team in school history has finally qualified for the NCAA post season after so many years of near misses.
A trio of seniors lead the team this year. Center Jameel Warney is a four year starter that has been followed by NBA scouts since November. He has averaged a double double thru 32 games. (19.8 ppg, 10.7 rpg). Carson Puriefoy is a dangerous cutter who can work off the dribble and is the teams second leading scorer after Warney at 15.1 ppg. Rayshaun McGrew is the other bigman at 6’7″ who plays in tandem with Warney on the weak side and despite being a fantastic rebounder, is comfortable taking shots from 20 feet. During one of last few regular season games the Seawolves lost a starter in Brian Sekunda due to a knee injury. This injury did not impact the team much since they run a deep bench with many players seeing significant playing time.
Stony Brook played one SEC team this season in Vanderbilt and thoughly dominated this team inside, out rebounding the Commodores by nine despite Vanderbilt running a lineup with three seven foot players. Vanderbilt eventually needed overtime and some home cooking to pull away for the win but this game gave Stony Brook the confidence that they could compete with any team in the SEC.
The Kentucky Wildcats generate most of their scoring thru Jamal Murray and Tyler Ulis and have been running a essentially a seven man rotation as the season ends. The officiating could play an enormous role in determining the game here because Coach Pikiell’s teams are defense/rebounding oriented. The experience of having so many upper classmen that can play in a variety of roles when called upon should also proove to be a boon to the Seawolves, especially if this game becomes a slow grind it out affair. Can we really count on Kentucky to not have any late game defensive lapses this late in the season?
For those who are unaware, the other thing Stony Brook is famous for is mascot fights. Sure there was the time an overzealous Wolfie led to NCAA mascot JJ Jumper being taken away on stretcher at the 2005 America East Tournament. Or the time there was a dust up with the Albany bulldog during game play at the championship game of the 2014 America East Tournament. Are your spirit squads truly ready for war? Our cheerleaders might not be as pretty but they are battle hardened.
It came as no surprise that when Coach Calipari scheduled a game on Long Island next year he chose Hofstra Basketball, a team Stony Brook had already beaten as an opponent. Rather than choose the more dangerous Long Island team with a larger fan base, he choose a weak opponent that draws a crowd of a few hundred to its home games so he can showcase his team in the ever important New York market. Now you don’t have an option but to finally face one of the top mid major squads in America. I can see why you are angry coach.