2014 NCAA Tournament Preview: Albany vs. Mount St. Mary's - Old Schools vs. New School

Gregory Shamus

The Albany Great Danes of the America East Conference (18-14, 9-7) will battle Mount St. Mary's of the NEC (16-16, 9-7) on Tuesday night in Dayton, Ohio at 6:40 p.m. Eastern on TruTV. They are both 16 seeds, the winner will play Florida on Thursday.

Perhaps it's good fortune, but it's probably just dumb luck that I happened to see both these teams play live this season. From what I saw out of both teams, and I saw Mount St. Mary's play live twice, this will be a battle of contrasting styles.

A quick look at KenPom, confirms my eye-test of contrasting offensive styles:

Albany's offense only takes 26.4 percent of their field goal attempts from beyond the arc, 327/351 in the NCAA.

The Mount's offense takes 42.8 percent of their field goal attempts from beyond the arc, 17/351 in the NCAA.

The Division I average is 32.9 percent, so each team has a very different offensive game plan.

The Mountaineers play at the 31st fastest pace in all Division I, at 70.1 possessions per game. Conversely, the Great Danes play at one of the slowest at 63.2 possessions per game, good for 313st in the NCAA.

Other KenPom quick-stats:

Albany seldom sent the Pittsburgh Panthers to the line when I saw them a few months ago. The Division I average of free throw attempts vs. field goals attempts is 40.6 percent. The Great Danes are in the top-5 in that category, limiting opponents to just 29.2 percent.

MSM doesn't get to the free throw line a lot, just 37.3 percent FTA/FGA. However, when they do get to the line, their collective team FT% is 74.1 percent, which is good for 37th in the NCAA.

What to Expect:

Albany head coach Will Brown joked in an earlier post-game press conference that if the NCAA took away the three-pointer, his team would be really good. Look for the Great Danes to get the ball into junior forward Sam Rowley to establish him early in the game. Rowley takes 77.1 percent of his shots at the rim, and converts 57.9 percent of those. He leads the team in rebounds at 6.7 per game, and is second in scoring at 11.5 points per game.

The team's leading scorer is redshirt sophomore guard Peter Hooley at 15.7 points per game. In the event Albany starts firing triples, it will most likely be Hooley along with senior point guard DJ Evans. Hooley is just over 40 percent on triples for the season, while Evans is at 33.6 percent.

It will be vital for the Great Danes to play at a slow pace, as they aren't a deep team. No player outside of their starters have taken more than 60 shots on the season despite that four reserves average more than 10 minutes per contest. Given the time of year, I would expect Albany to go with their starters for as long as possible unless someone gets in foul trouble.

Mount St. Mary's is going to want to push the pace and force the 'Mayhem' style that head coach Jamion Christian brought from VCU as an assistant. There's always a lot of emphasis on senior guard play this time of year, and they have three excellent ones in Julian Norfleet, Rashad Whack, and Sam Prescott. They are one, two, and three in terms of scoring: Whack (17.7ppg), Norfleet (17.5ppg), and Prescott (11ppg).

The trio also all finish at 50 percent or better at the rim, shoot at least 40 percent on their two-pointers, and 32 percent on their triples. You simply can't really take a lot away from this group. Norfleet is an excellent distributor; he is currently 12th in the NCAA in assist rate at 37.1 percent. Whack is the team's best on-ball defender, and received some consideration for NEC Defensive Player of the Year. Both were on the All-NEC Second-Team.

Prescott is an X-factor and utility player for the team. Sophomore center Taylor Danaher is a true 7-0 player, who averaged 1.3 blocks per game and a team-high 5.1 rebounds per game. Reserve freshman forward Will Miller is the team's best marksman from beyond the arc at 38.1 percent, and the team also boasts talented underclassmen in guard Byron Ashe and forward Gregory Graves.

Summary:

The Mount probably have a slight edge because they take more attempts that count for more points. The Great Danes don't defend the three-ball particularly well, either - just 35.2 percent (223rd in Division I). The Mountaineers are really bad at defending two-pointers - opponents shoot 54.3 percent from the floor (337 in Division I) - but, will take more attempts that count for more points.

The pressure that MSM can muster will force turnovers, something that Albany struggles with already - 19.8 percent of their possession end in one. Christian's team runs over 150 plays throughout the season, and can change their entire set from game-to-game, which makes them extremely hard to game plan for. Conversely, Albany's strategy is a known quantity at this point.

It's really going to be about who can force who into playing at a pace they are most comfortable with. Whichever team emerges the victor will play against the 1-seed Florida.

Details

No. 16 Albany vs. No. 16 Mount St. Mary's
Where
: Dayton, Ohio
Time: 6:40 p.m. Eastern, Tuesday
Televsion: TruTV
Tickets: NCAA

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