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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


Time is now for men’s basketball

So this is it. A second regular-season championship in three years, and now the Seawolves have never been in a better position to make it to the NCAA national championship tournament.

The road to the tourney goes through Hartford, where Stony Brook will have to avoid some early March madness in the conference tournament – a feat that has been easier said than done in recent years. But this group has the talent, the depth and the leadership to punch its ticket to the dance.

Please, please don’t blow it.

For the first time since they arrived here, the starters on the floor for Stony Brook will be more senior than their opponents. It’s important that they take advantage of it this time.

Last year, after a season that started with high expectations and was riddled with injuries along the way, the Seawolves improbably made it to the conference finals, only to blow an enormous lead under the weight of a huge second-half performance by Boston University senior John Holland.

That one hurt, but this year, the seniors waiting to have a monster game are wearing Stony Brook uniforms.

Danny Carter, Al Rapier, Dallis Joyner and Bryan Dougher are all playing in their final season, and this is their last chance to make another mark on Stony Brook and the America East.

Make no mistake — this senior class, and let’s include Tommy Brenton, who is a junior after sitting out last season with an injury — has already made its mark on this program. When they came in, Stony Brook wasn’t even getting a winning record, much less conference titles. Dougher turned down Princeton to play for Stony Brook, and now stands 30 points away from having the most points in the school’s Division-I history. They took a chance on Stony Brook, betting on head coach Steve Pikiell and their own abilities to take them to the ultimate prize of the NCAA tournament.

Now, they stand three games away. Each game will be the biggest they’ve ever played, in part because each could be the last in college for these seniors.

And it’s important that they treat it this way. The conference tournament is never a cakewalk, as proven by Stony Brook last year. And last week, Binghamton — possibly the worst team in the country at a dismal 0-26 — knocked off America East frontrunners Vermont in a game that gave the Seawolves the inside track to this regular season championship.

But this group has been good about keeping its focus all year. That’s how the team got here in the first place, taking care of business against the lesser teams.

Sunday’s game was a prime example of this, as the Seawolves handled a Maine team that finished in the middle of the pack. It was an easy game to look past, but Stony Brook stayed level and celebrated as a result.

All year, the players have talked about how the coaching staff has kept on them, never letting them rest on their laurels or take a game off.

“They’re too confident,” Pikiell often said in the post-press conference. He deserves a lot of the credit for putting this group together and keeping them playing as hard as they can all game, every game.

They will need every ounce of that effort and focus next weekend. Add a dash of seniority, a sprinkle of good shooting and a healthy helping of defense and rebounding (Brenton being back in the mix doesn’t hurt, either) and the championship game will be in Stony Brook on March 10.

So this is it: NCAA tournament or bust. But first, take care of business, and bring the championship game to Stony Brook.

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