Of all the teams we play this year, it’s unlikely that any will be more well documented than Cornell. The Cornell Basketball Blog keeps such a close eye on Big Red hoops that it might be unhealthy. Here is their nifty Preview Center.
Little to no differentiation: A rebuilding team that is guard centric team with a very inexperienced backcourt, a dependable point guard and a sophomore poised for a breakout season. That could hold for either U Albany or Cornell- these two teams look fairly similar on paper. This
should could be a competitive game… but we do not have a lot of actual evidence to go on.
Wroblewski’s Ankle: Chris Wroblewski is the most seasoned player remaining from last season’s Sweet 16 team- he played 75% of minutes and posted 9 PPG and 3 APG. He’s a top flight shooter from deep, 46% 3FG, and a few 20 point outbursts last season have the Big Red faithful hoping that he can develop into a go-to player. That said, he’s been battling an ankle injury and whether he will be cleared for the UA game is still murky- it’s going to be a game time decision.
You can sure one person will be happy see Wroblewski sit out: Erik Elkin. Elkin, of a certain illustrious local high school sporting a navy blue mythical bison, is the new color commentary guy for UA radio. The fewer times he has to say Wroblewski on his opening night, the better off he’ll be.
Three Point Defense: Last year’s squad played atrocious perimeter defense and if that transfers over to Friday night, Cornell could be in for a field day. Their offense keys on guard play and they have a lot of guys who can shoot the three ball, Max Groebe and Andrew Ferry are two to especially worry about. Enter Russell Moore. We’ve heard high praised about his defense- and it will need to show from the get go. If UA’s D around the three point line is anywhere as porous as last season, people in purple and gold will be heading for the exits early.
Turnovers: Does it need to be said?
Interior Defense: Holding Down the Fort? : (just realized I’m not wowing you with creativity here: D, turnovers, D) Neither front line has much experience. Will Brown has made it clear that two freshman, John Puk and Luke Devlin, will start on the inside. Cornell figures to go with Kentucky Transfer Mark Coury and Adam Wire, who combined for only three starts last season but they battled Jeff Foote in practice, while John Puk spent it going against Giff. How will these guys handle the a lead role?
Cornell, a team that does not figure to get much scoring from its posts, so if they successfully exploit UA’s young frontcourt inside, then most teams likely can and will. If Devlin, Puk and Metcalf hold their own against and let the guards decide the outcome, that would be a great sign.
Also note, according to Andrew Santillo’s twitter, Puk has been nursing an Achilles injury the last three days, but was supposed to resume practice and should be fine to start tomorrow. And be sure to take a look at this very well done interview by Santillo with the Cornell beat writer.
X Factor: Cornell’s ceiling this year is likely to determined by the development of sophomore wing Errick Peck. Peck’s potential has the fans raving and his numbers suggest he’s a high usage guy who could have a breakout year. If he starts a breakout campaign in Albany, the Danes are going to be in a tough spot. Fortunately, the same could be said for Logan Aronhalt; he needs to be the scorer Will Brown has touted him to be. Can either of these two take over the game?
All in all: This game is not set up for an inspiring plot line- U Albany is trying to beat up on David, who has lost his former strength, has a new stone slinging coach and a bad ankle, and is only 8 months removed from his defeated Goliath. But it’s hard to undersell how big a victory this would be for Will Brown and his young team. They are only favored in one of their first nine games, and, especially if things get off on the wrong foot, it’s not impossible for the Great Danes to remain winless until December. A win over Cornell by a hungry Albany team would be a signal to the fans, recruits, local media, the America East and the players themselves that the program is not washed up and on the brink of a house cleaning.
Prediction: For either outcome, at 9:45 PM Friday I will have to remind myself that the first game does not make or break the season.