Friday starts the regular season for Pitt basketball so let's preview our first opponent of consequence: the Albany Great Danes of the America East conference.
Team: Albany Great Danes
Record: 0-0 (0-0)
Good Wins: N/A
Bad Losses: N/A
Last season, Albany finished 16-16 overall and 9-7 in the America East, good for 3rd place. They're led by coach Will Brown, who took the school to consecutive NCAA tournament appearances in 2006 and 2007. Despite being a young team, they played 13 games decided by four points or less and went 8-5, including 4-2 in games decided by two points or less. Albany had trouble scoring last season, averaging around 62 points/game, but with a more experienced group returning, look for their scoring average to go up. Defensively, they were pretty good, holding teams to 64 points/game. An area they struggled in were assists: the Great Danes only averaged around 11 per game, placing them near the bottom of Division 1.
The Great Danes will be a veteran team this season, losing just one starter from last year's team, although the loss was a big one. Albany lost scoring threat in guard Tim Ambrose, who finished his career ranked 4th on the school's all-time scoring list and was a great rebounder. His likely replacement will be Logan Aronhalt, who averaged 14 points per game. Aronhalt was one of the top three-point shooters in America East last season at .372 and is the Great Danes' top returning scorer. Joining Aronhalt in the backcourt will be guard Mike Black, who is more of a scorer than someone who can run the offense, but will likely be the point guard for Albany.
In the frontcourt, center John Puk will be the big man duking it out with Dante Taylor. Puk didn't practice with the Great Danes for the second half of last season because of Achilles' tendinosis and instead only played in games. Also starting will be Luke Devlin, who was one of the top freshman last season in the conference. He had back surgery in June, so there are some questions as to whether he will be able to build off of last season. The final starter is not as clear, although if I had to guess, I would say it would go to Gerardo Suero, a junior college transfer from Technical Career Institutes (IL). According to his coach, he's one of the top incoming talents in the conference and is capable of scoring in bunches while also being a good passer.
Coming off the bench, a few names to watch are guard Ralph Watts and center Blake Metcalf. Watts is a versatile guard capable of running the offense while Metcalf is a solid defensive player in the middle. Also keep an eye on junior college transfer Jayson Guerrier, who is a great perimeter shooter, making 50% of his three-point shots at Alabama Southern Community College, while also being a solid rebounder.
Pitt needs to keep an eye on Aronhalt throughout the game as he is capable of scoring from the perimeter. Other than that, it should come down to the basics. Make smart decisions on offense, go for high percentage shots, get rebounds, don't turn the ball over, play good defense, and Pitt should win. The Panthers are unquestionably more talented than Albany, but it's the first game of the season so there are bound to be some struggles as the coaches figure out which lineups work best.
If you're interested in reading more about Albany, or any of the America East schools, head on over to SB Nation's relatively new blog, Unranked AE.