It's college basketball preview season, and you know what that means: tons of preseason info to get you primed for 2013-14. But what do you really need to know? Each day for the next month, we'll highlight the most important, interesting or just plain amusing thing each conference has to offer this season -- from great teams to thrilling players to wild fans and anything in between. Up next: The sneaky-good Stony Brook Seawolves.
I'll always remember the first time I watched Stony Brook play basketball.
My memory isn't vivid because of Stony Brook itself. It was mid-November, 2010, roughly seven hours into my first-ever College Hoops Tip-Off marathon chat. The 6 a.m. ET start slot went to Stony Brook and Monmouth, which is precisely the kind of game that gets scheduled at 6 a.m. ET -- both schools small enough to be willing. I remember being impressed by the sold-out Monmouth crowd. I remember being floored that a few hundred people were a) awake and b) spending their time chatting with me. I remember being horrified by a shrieking woman, or at least chatting about a shrieking woman; she could have been in a different game. Things were already starting to blur together. But I do remember two things: The game was thrillingly close, and the basketball was pretty bad.
Stony Brook would go on to win 15 games in 2010-11. They ended the season ranked No. 216 in the Pomeroy adjusted efficiency rankings. They were never particularly noteworthy.
All of which comes in service of this point: There was very little reason to expect Stony Brook would vault into the nation's top 60 just a few seasons later. I would venture to guess even most die-hard college hoops fans had no idea. But it really happened: In 2012-13, the Seawolves went 25-8, finished No. 55 in the Pomeroy rankings, suffered a couple of ugly losses (Sacred Heart, Hartford) along the way, went 14-2 in their league, and lost to Albany 61-59 in the America East tournament.
The 2013-14 season holds nearly as much promise. There is the small matter of replacing senior guard Marcus Rouse, who shot 41 percent from 3, turned the ball over on fewer than 10 percent of his possessions and was a major factor on the defensive end, where Steve Pikiell's team shined. Waving farewell to senior forward Tommy Brenton won't be easy, either; those are two big defensive losses. But Stony Brook has three starters returning, and a host of promising young players. The best of them last season was 6-foot-8 freshman forward Jameel Warney, who shot nearly 62 percent from the field, cleared double-digit rebounding rate tallies on both ends of the floor, blocked 6.6 percent of opponents' available shots, and gradually began to fit the archetype of the dominant mid-major star.
Warney's going to be really good in 2013-14, and it appears Stony Brook could be, too. Had you told me that back in November of 2010, I would have -- well, I would have asked you to bring me a cup of coffee. Then I would have told you that you were crazy. But here we are, and here Stony Brook is, on the verge of a mid-major breakout, no caffeine required.