MBB Preview: Villanova tips off season

Michael Zipf

The Albany Great Danes have garnered recent success in the American East Conference, capturing back-to-back championships and NCAA tournament appearances in the ’06 and ’07 seasons. Last season, Albany experienced a transition, finishing with a 15-15 overall record and a 10-6 record in the American East Conference. This season, the Great Danes will continue their transition process and are pegged to finish sixth in the American East Conference.

Head Coach Will Brown enters his seventh season with a relatively young and inexperienced team that will face three NCAA tournament teams from last year: Villanova, Siena and Kansas. Villanova owns a 3-1 all-time record against Albany.


Senior Brian Connelly returns as the team’s top scorer after averaging 10.1 points per game and shooting close to 50 percent from the field. Containing Connelly, a versatile combo forward, will be a priority for Villanova.

Leading the Great Danes’ backcourt is sophomore Tim Ambrose, who received All-Rookie honors last season. Ambrose, a shifty point guard with a strong build, was among the team’s leaders in 3-point field goal percentages. Poised for a breakout season after averaging close to 8.0 ppg in only 13 minutes of action, Ambrose has the potential to cause trouble for a Wildcat defense that struggled to contain good guard play.

Although Albany is a lackluster shooting team, the Great Danes demonstrated great rebounding prowess, owning a plus-seven margin on the glass last season. Junior Will Harris, who just received eligibility from the NCAA a couple of days ago after transferring from Virginia, provides Albany with an incredibly athletic forward who will attack both the basket and the glass and possibly give the Wildcats trouble.


Inexperience and youth will plague the Great Danes throughout the year. Albany enters the season with seven new players, many of whom will see significant time as freshmen.

Replacing the production of First-Team All-American East performer Brian Lillis is a daunting task. Lillis was one of 10 players in the country last season to lead his team in scoring, rebounding and assists. However, even with Lillis, the Great Danes struggled on the offensive end last season, averaging only 68.5 ppg.

Albany, who had its fair share of offensive struggles last season, averaged almost 15 turnovers per game last season, which plays right into the hands of an active Villanova defense that forced 31 turnovers in its last game. With Albany only shooting 34 percent from beyond the arc, the Wildcats’ suspect 3-point defense should remain unexposed. The Danes are also expected to have trouble with their interior defense because of the ‘Cats size.