While UAlbany's play down the stretch has been good and can push them into a tie for third with Maine, if they can beat the Black Bears in Orono on Sunday, the Great Danes will be the No. 4 seed for next weekend's conference tournament.
Things are starting to come in to form.
This is what we know so far.
Thursday, March 3 UMBC vs. Binghamton, 8:15 p.m.
Saturday, March 5 No. 4 UAlbany vs. No. 5 Stony Brook, 12:05 p.m. UMBC/Binghamton vs. No. 1 Vermont, 2:15 p.m. No. 2 Boston University vs. No. 7 (Hartford or New Hampshire), 6:05 p.m. No. 3 Maine vs. No. 6 (Hartford or New Hampshire), 8:15 p.m.
Hartford and New Hampshire play on Sunday at 3 p.m., so the winner will take the sixth seed.
Even if Stony Brook loses and finishes with the same record as the winner of that game, they have swept both schools, so they would win the tiebreaker.
If UAlbany wins their game, they would play in the first semifinal at 5:04 p.m., on Sunday.
It's a long way from where the Great Danes were last season, where it took Binghamton leaving the tournament, for UAlbany to move up to the No. 8 seed, after a 2-14 conference record.
ALBANY - Billy Allen will be playing his last game in SEFCU Arena on Wednesday evening.
Allen is just a fourth-year junior, but the dual major in physics and mathematics, will graduate in May and then move on to the next chapter in his life after the season concludes.
Allen, who redshirted his freshman season because of a back injury, made the decision that he will not return to the UAlbany team and will instead start an internship at an engineering firm in Syracuse and hopes to then land a job with the company.
“It’ll be said,” said Allen, who will be honored along with Tim Ambrose and Fran Urli before the game against UMBC. “But I’m taking another step in my life and coach understands that.”
Allen waited to tell coach Will Brown because he thought it might be a distraction.
“Nowadays, anytime a kid can graduate college with a job in hand, you’d be foolish not to explore or take it, especially if it’s a good job,” Brown said.
Allen is only averaging 1.3 points per game, but he hit some big free throw to seal Sunday's victory over Binghamton.
"There's not enough kids out there like Billy," Brown said. "He just wants to be a part of it and he's going to do really well for himself."
Allen is hoping that the team, which has won two in a row can get hot and do something special.
“March is that time of the year to be playing well,” Allen said. “I don’t think a lot of teams will want to be playing us in a week or two.”
LOUDONVILLE - After another frustrating loss against Saint Peter's on Wednesday, Siena's three seniors and assistant coach Craig Carter addressed the team in the locker room.
On Friday, coach Mitch Buonaguro said he hopes that will spark a resurgence in his team, which has lost a season-high four straight games.
“They guys respect the three seniors and they’re three great kids,” Buonaguro said of Ryan Rossiter, Clarence Jackson and Steven Priestley. “I think they expressed what they thought we had to do the rest of the year to be successful.”
With only three regular season games remaining in their careers, the senior are starting to feel a sense of urgency to start winning and keep the season going as long as possible.
“These are three guys that have played on three NCAA teams,” Buonaguro said. “They don’t want it to end. I think they’re realizing that we have to pick it up, get these wins and get a decent seed in the tournament.”
So I don't usually sit around the office just kicking ideas about where teams will finish in the league (at least not until February).
Here the cliff notes of this post - for if you don't have much time - UAlbany should prefer to finish fourth (or fifth) than third.
There's still a chance that UAlbany could finish third - if they win out and Maine loses at least two of three. The Great Danes could finish as high as 9-7 and Maine is currently 8-5. The two teams meet in Orono on Sunday, Feb. 27.
While there's no way to predict or choose where you finish, the Great Danes would be better served finishing fourth or fifth.
Vermont has all but wrapped up the No. 1 seed and the regular season championship.
UAlbany has a better chance to beat the Catamounts in the semifinals than they would at beating Boston University (the hottest team in America East and winners of five straight).
The Great Danes have always had a chance, when they play Vermont (see 2008 America East quarterfinal).
While both Vermont and Boston University swept UAlbany this season, the Great Danes played their best game (of those four) against the Terriers at home, leading by 16 at halftime, before losing by three.
The Terriers have adjusted to playing without Jake O'Brien, who I believe is out for the season. Boston University has rattled off 10 victories over their last 13 games and continue to get hotter, after Tuesday's 22-point victory over UMBC.
While there's still a quarterfinal matchup to worry about, I think that UAlbany's easiest path to the title game would be playing Vermont rather than Boston U.
LOUDONVILLE - It took Jonathan Breeden just one week to go from reserve to key player.
Breeden scored a combined 44 points over the weekend, in losses to Iona (Friday) and Manhattan (Sunday).
The sophomore led the Saints in scoring, in both games, playing for the injured Rakeem Brookins, who was out with a rib injury.
“I was happy for Jon,” said Siena coach Mitch Buonaguro. “He’s been through a lot his first two years. Last year, he didn’t get a chance to play with Ronald (Moore). This year, I’ve played him and have confidence in him. I had a good meeting with him before we left for the trip and he responded with two great outings. It’s a real positive we took out of the weekend, with him playing that way.”
Buonaguro called Breeden a "key player" on Tuesday, at his weekly luncheon.
He said that Breeden should start Wednesday against Saint Peter's and Brookins will likely come off of the bench.
Breeden's play didn't surprise any of his teammates.
“I don’t think that was any surprise to me,” said senior Clarence Jackson. “Jon has shown flashes. When he gets an opportunity, he makes the most of it.”
With Siena dealing with so many injuries this season, the younger players have received a chance to step up and play big minutes, something that could really help the team down the stretch.
“I think that was a great step for Jon in building his confidence,” Jackson said.
LOUDONVILLE - Siena senior Ryan Rossiter had already earned his title as the top rebounder in school history.
Rossiter now has his sights set on the MAAC record, although he won't catch Lionel Simmons from La Salle, who has grabbed more than 1,400.
Here are the top five rebounders in MAAC history.
1. Lionel Simmons (La Salle) '90 - 1,429 2. Jason Thompson (Rider) '08 - 1,171 3. Drew Henderson (Fairfield) '93 - 1,080 4. Juan Mendez (Niagara) '04 - 1,053 5. Ryan Rossiter (Siena), '11 - 1,045
Rossiter has at least seven games remaining (including one in MAAC tournament) and at his current pace of 13.1 per game, he would end up with 1,137.
He could end up with more games and therefore has a shot at finishing second all-time, ahead of current NBA player Jason Thompson.
"What's been amazing about him is how much he's improved every year," said Siena coach Mitch Buonaguro. "Normally, there's an improvement level and then it levels off, but this guy has gotten better, significantly, every year."
ALBANY - Will Brown knows what it's like to play at Madison Square Garden.
The University at Albany coach got a chance to play their twice as a collegiate player.
Unfortunately, I couldn't find any pictures of him playing for Penn or Dowling College, so the one on the left will have to do.
“It’s just a great experience,” he said Tuesday, before his team's practice. “I’m a Long Island guy, so I’m very familiar with the Garden.”
Some of the UAlbany players have never been to Madison Square Garden and never even been to New York City, like sophomore Mike Black.
"I'm just excited to go down there," Black said.
Brown went to events at MSG growing up.
“I went to pro wrestling events there, when I was a little kid,” he said. “Islander/Rangers games. I’ve been there several times, but playing there is different. You walk in and you look around. You just can’t caught up in all of that.”
It's those games, at great venues, that players remember throughout their careers.
“I was fortunate,” Brown said. “I got a chance to play at Rupp Arena, Rick Pitino’s first game at Kentucky. I got a chance to play at the Garden. Those are things you remember. You ask guy like Brent Wilson or Brian Lillis, playing in Cameron Indoor Stadium (Duke), playing in Pauley Pavilion (UCLA), those are things they remember."
ALBANY - Ryan Rossiter was breaking program records and single-handedly outrebounding Loyola (Md.).
Siena was cruising along, again playing without key pieces, but somehow maintaining a lead and then something happened.
Just like that the Saints fell behind and fell into sixth place in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference standings, losing to the Greyhounds 76-69.
The Saints didn't play their best game on Monday night, but they played all right - until the final five minutes.
The Greyhounds snatched the lead on back-to-back 3-pointers from Justin Drummond and it seemed like the game ended just as quickly.
“We have to a better job of pushing our leads and building on them, as opposed to giving them back up,” said senior Ryan Rossiter.
Rossiter scored 23 points and grabbed 20 rebounds, but the rest of the team struggled.
Siena shot okay without Rossiter's 9-for-20, going 19-for-47 (40.4%), but again, when it came time for someone else to make a basket, no one did.
“It's frustrating watching, sometimes, Ryan do it by himself,” said fellow senior Clarence Jackson, who shot just 2-for-12.
Still, the Saints led 58-50 with 12:12 remaining and scored just 11 points the rest of the way.
“It's very frustrating,” Jackson said. “We had the game right on the ropes.”
After falling behind 69-65 with 3:21 to play, the next points didn't come until 36 seconds remained, after Siena finally fouled.
“Instinctively, we should have fouled,” said sophomore Jonathan Breeden, who played a season-high 23 minutes, after Rakeem Brookins went down with an injury. “I think we were trying to gamble for a steal first.”
The Greyhounds avenged a 17-point loss to the Saints, which was probably Siena's best all-around game of the season, only a 11 days ago.
“They had the loss in their mind,” Rossiter said. “They wanted to come out and prove something tonight and they definitely did.”
ALBANY - Loyola (Md.) coach Jimmy Patsos is usually a media favorite.
His love for the city of Albany should have him on mayor Jerry Jennings' good list.
Patsos has said numerous times that he thinks the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament should be held in Albany because it's the best place for it.
“For once in my life, I'm not going to say what I think,” Patsos said, after his team's 76-69 victory over Siena on Monday evening. “I love this town and I love this building and hopefully someday we'll be back in this building in March.”
Patsos is one of the most outspoken coaches in the MAAC and probably the entire country.
His antics are pretty wide-ranging, from double teaming Davidson guard Stephen Curry for an entire game or sitting in the stands, after a call he disagreed with.
MAAC commissioner Rich Ensor was in the building on Monday night, but he departed before the press conferences began.
Remember, the tournament will be held in Bridgeport, Conn., this season and then in Springfield the next three years.
Patsos was very complimentary of Siena senior Ryan Rossiter, saying that he feels like Rossiter could be a second round selection in the NBA Draft.
He called Rossiter a "terminator" going after the ball and there's always a spot for a guy like that on an NBA roster.
He also said it's obvious from an opposing coach standpoint that senior Clarence Jackson isn't at 100 percent.
The Boston native said, you think of Larry Bird and Kevin McHale, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant, but Rossiter's partner in crime isn't at full strength.
“All of a sudden, Rossiter's out there as a one-man wrecking crew,” Patsos said.
Patsos knows that, at full strength Siena is very dangerous and the three-time defending champions won't give up their crown that easily.
ALBANY - After UAlbany played Georgia Tech, earlier this season, a UAlbany alumnus came up to assistant coach Jeremy Friel and said that his son could definitely play for the Great Danes, if the kid playing point guard could.
That player playing point guard was Jacob Iati.
Iati started a number of non-conference games when Mike Black went down with his ankle injury.
Iati, who transferred to UAlbany from High Point, also played some big minutes on Saturday night, in UAlbany's 62-59 victory over Hartford.
"He doesn't pass the look test," said UAlbany coach Will Brown. "His brother didn't either."
Jon Iati was a 1,000-point scorer for UAlbany and helped lead the Great Danes to two America East Conference championships.
Jon was the 2004 America East Rookie of the Year and is currently an assistant coach for Quinnipiac University.
Both Jon (5-foot-9) and Jacob (listed at 5-10) are undersized, but both play with a tremendous amount of heart.
"He's unbelievable in practice," Brown said of Jacob. "Every day I know the effort I'm going to get from him. If I tell him don't let (Hartford senior Joe) Zeglinski get the ball or go jump on Western Ave and take a charge from the next SUV that comes down the road, that's what he's going to do."
Iati came into Saturday's game averaging just 1.7 points per game, but he finished with five points in 12 minutes.
"That's what I want to do is win games," Iati said. "When the opportunity comes, you have to do what you want to do to win."
"I'm glad he was able to go in there and play down the stretch," said Brown.
The Great Danes dropped a tough game Wednesday night.
They had a couple of chances to win the game, including freshman Ralph Watts, missing two free throws in the waning second of regulation.
Watts was 2-for-7 from the free throw line and the team shot an awful 7-for-20 (35 percent), but of course, that's not the only reason UAlbany dropped the game.
It was not a shooting clinic, as both UAlbany (22-67) and New Hampshire (22-69) shot less than 33 percent from the field for the evening.
One positive was the play of freshman Luke Devlin, who 10 points, grabbed 14 rebounds, made two blocks and grabbed two steals.
Devlin is making a great case for an all-rookie selection.
This game hurts UAlbany in the standings and it's the first conference game they've lose to a team with a worse record than them.
Here are the America East standings Maine 8-2, 14-8 Vermont 8-2, 17-5 Boston U. 6-4, 11-13 Hartford 4-4, 7-14 Stony Brook, 4-5, 9-12 UAlbany 4-6, 11-14 New Hampshire 4-7, 10-13 Binghamton 3-6, 6-16 UMBC 2-7, 3-19
Andrew Santillo is a sports reporter at The Record in Troy, New York. Originally from Niskayuna, Andrew graduated from Ithaca College in 2005 with a degree in journalism. He currently resides in Albany.