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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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Ready for a Fairytale?

George Mason, Virginia Commonwealth and Davidson didn’t always have Cinderella status heading into March Madness.

It took a stunning first round upset or an improbable run into the tournament’s “Sweet,” “Elite” or “Final” rounds for these teams to become regulars on the tournament’s “upset alert” list.

For Stony Brook University, a chance to play for a spot on this list is a mere three wins away as the team enters the America East postseason tournament in Albany beginning on March 6.

“Just because a team wins a few basketball games an entire school can get national recognition,” said John VanWagner, the Manager of Marketing and Corporate Sales for Stony Brook athletics. “[If] A freak team goes to the NCAA’s and wins one game, they sky rocket and become a dark horse for years to come.”

Since all nine teams in the conference make the America East Tournament, the Seawolves have always been a three or four game winning streak away from their first ever Big Dance. However, this season the university took great strides, both on and off the court, readying itself for such a run.

From 2005-2008, wins eluded the Seawolves as they only earned a total of nine victories in conference play and were seeded either last or second-to-last in each America East postseason tournament. Heading into this season, it was no surprise when the Seawolves were named the preseason favorite to finish at the bottom of the conference standings.

Yet, in a turn of events unforeseen by the preseason pollsters, Stony Brook has tallied eight conference wins and is sitting in a tie for fourth-place in the America East standings heading into the postseason. With its highest seeding since joining the conference for the 99-00 season, the Seawolves are looking to continue their already improbable season with a win against the University of New Hampshire in the quarterfinals.

“Winning has increased our product’s quality ten-fold,” VanWagner said. “This season there’s a positive buzz around the team and that’s driving media coverage, fans to the games and advertising in general.”

From the team perspective, one reason for the wins is that this is head coach Steve Pikiell’s fourth season with the team and the first time he’s leading a squad of solely his recruits. Also, having the conference’s leading rebounder, Tommy Brenton, and seventh leading scorer, Muhammad El-Amin, is a nice help.

“There’s no substitute for a winning team,” said Jeff Barnett, Stony Brook’s Associate Dean of Students. “We’ve been building up things on our end and this season the team has been responding to the school’s efforts.”

Since 2006, the university has planted several seeds in the form of a marching band, a Spirit and Pride Committee and a full-time employee to promote the school’s mascot, Wolfie, hoping in the future they’d help get people excited about Stony Brook sports, Barnett said.

Two seasons later, these efforts have blossomed into home basketball games with a packed “Red Zone” student section, in-game entertainment featuring a synchronized band, dance team, cheerleading squad, and a recognizable mascot that has 372 Facebook friends. With no home games remaining, Stony Brook will be busing its sixth man – over 100 students, 30 band members and the dance team – to Albany to support the team.

If everything falls into place, on Selection Sunday the Seawolves name will appear amidst the 65 teams and they’ll be given a chance to try on this year’s glass slipper.

Are you ready?

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