Stony Brook men’s basketball, led by the premier low-post star Jameel Warney, held the longest winning streak of the season in Division I with 18 straight. Yet a loss in the first round of the NCAA Tournament is likely.
Stony Brook finished with a 26-6 record and earned a 13 seed in the bracket and matches up against a Kentucky squad that received a 4 seed and finished the season 26-8.
Although the Seawolves never appeared in the Top 25, Warney has blown up and may provide the push they need to mask the talent gap between their team as a whole and the red-hot, widely acclaimed Kentucky Wildcats.
Warney averaged 30.3 points and 15 rebounds while shooting 61 percent from the floor in the America East Conference Tournament and scored 43 in the championship game against Vermont. The numbers relay the recommendation to feed the ball down low to Warney. And if that is accomplished, the victory would truly be up for grabs.
Kentucky’s offensive attack relies on shifty and elusive guards talented at shooting from outside the arc and driving into the lane. Kentucky guard Tyler Ulis averages seven assists a game, and guard Jamal Murray shoots 45 percent from the field and averages 20 points a game.
Warney will at least slow them down on the inside. His defensive length and rebounding ability have worked amazingly well in recent games — not to mention his scoring.
Both Stony Brook and Kentucky fought their way through their conference tournaments victorious. Kentucky finishing atop the Southeastern Conference attracts more attention from the selection committee, however, mainly because, compared to the SEC, the America East Conference doesn’t wield similar-caliber competition.
Kentucky, matched up with seven tournament teams during the season, faced a tougher schedule than a Stony Brook team that only saw two all season. In those two games, the Seawolves lost by seven to Vanderbilt and got crushed by Notre Dame. This fact is laughable compared to a Kentucky team that was ranked second by the Associated Press entering the season and maintained a spot in the Top 25 all season.
Team stats aren’t the only factor, however, especially when considering teams with Cinderella-story potential. With an on-fire, confident Warney in the frontcourt, the Seawolves may have a shot to be one of those.
A victory over Kentucky may even lead to a second-round win against either fifth-ranked Indiana or 12th-ranked Chattanooga. With Warney’s tear only stretching farther, the confidence fueled-advantage will weigh heavier in the Seawolf favor. Don’t count out Stony Brook just yet.