For the first time ever, The State University of New York is sending three basketball teams to the NCAA Tournament, or March Madness. For the third year in a row, the University at Albany Men’s and Women’s Basketball Teams are both slated to compete in the fierce bracket-style contest that takes place across the United States in March and April. They will be joined by the University at Buffalo Men’s basketball team who are off to the tournament for the first time in school history.
In 2014, the University at Albany sent both the Women’s and the Men’s Teams to their respective tournaments. The Men came out firing and won their first NCAA tournament game in school history. This year, SUNY is yet again thrust into the national spotlight when the competition begins this week.
The Men’s Basketball Team, headed by Coach Will Brown, punched their third consecutive ticket with a 51-50 victory over Stony Brook University at SEFCU Arena in the America East championship game. Senior forward Sam Rowley led the Danes with 14 points and 7 rebounds.
The Seawolves, led by 2014 and 2015 American East Player of the Year, Junior Forward Jameel Warney, took the lead with 2:24 left in the first half and held on tight, dominating most of the second half. With seconds ticking down in the game, Albany dribbled down the court down two. Ray Sanders drove hard to the basket but was unable to connect, when players from both the Great Danes and the Seawolves fought for the rebound that was eventually tipped back into the hands of Junior guard Peter Hooley. With less than 2 seconds on the clock, Hooley released the ball and drained the game winning three-pointer. The shot landed Hooley and the Great Danes into the NCAA Tournament, and into the media spotlight, including ESPN’s top 10 plays.
Hooley, a junior guard from Australia, missed a chunk of the season to be with his family as his mother was dying of colon cancer. Hooley’s mother, Sue, died Jan. 30 and Hooley missed eight games during the season, spending as much precious time with her as her illness would allow. There was never any doubt that he’d come back to play, though. “I made a promise to mum that I was going to come back [to America] and play,” Hooley told Yahoo’s Pat Forde. “She got so much joy out of watching me play.”
“When you have angels watching you, anything can happen,” Hooley told ESPN. “… This is special to me, it’s the best moment of my life. After everything I’ve been though, this is for my family, for mom especially.”
“I know Mom was with me every step of the way,” Hooley said. “She probably put that ball in the basket better than I did. So … I’m speechless. Speechless.”
The Danes earned a #14 seed in this year’s tournament and will take on #3 Oklahoma Friday March 20th in Columbus, Ohio.
The Women’s Basketball Team, headed by Coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson, is celebrating its fourth straight America East title, each granting them a spot in the NCAA Tournament. This year the team defeated Hartford by a score of 84-75. Led by Shereesha Richards, who became Albany’s all time leading scorer during the tournament, the Great Danes became the first team to earn four-consecutive America East titles since Maine did in the mid-90s. After playing a tight game against the West Virginia University in last year’s NCAA Tournament, the Great Danes will be looking to make some noise in this year’s competition as well.
The University at Buffalo earned their first ever trip to the NCAA Tournament receiving the Mid-American Conference Champions automatic bid following an 89-84 win over top-seeded Central Michigan on Saturday.
The Bulls are led by Coach Bobby Hurley. Coach Hurley is best remembered for being the point guard at Duke on one of the best college basketball teams of all time. Along with Western New York native Christian Laettner, Hurley led the Blue Devils to three Final Four appearances and consecutive national championships in 1991 and 1992. Following his outstanding career at Duke, Hurley went on to play five years in the NBA with the Sacramento Kings and Vancouver Grizzlies.
On their way to the NCAA bid, the Bulls were led by tournament Most Valuable Player Xavier Ford who scored 18 points and MAC Player of the Year Justin Moss, who finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds in the championship game.
In their first ever NCAA Tournament appearance, the Bulls earned a #12 seed and will take on the #5 seed West Virginia. Since 2001, a #12 seed has advanced to the round of 32 every year except for 2007. More recently, in both the 2013 and 2014 tournaments, three #12 seeds have advanced to the Round of 32. It’s time for SUNY to add a little madness into the month of March.
SUNY has more than 85 NCAA Division I, 290 NCAA Division III, and 385 NJCAA athletics teams, as well as hundreds of non-competitive athletics clubs. Two of these public universities representing New York State is, once again, further credence that quality education complimented by our students’ skillful athleticism is perfectly fitted for the Empire State.
Glenn is a student assistant in the Office of New Media of the State University of New York. He is an undergraduate economics and political science major at the University at Albany in Albany, NY.