Under Head Coach Steve Pikiell, the Stony Brook Seawolves men’s basketball team have once again had a fantastic 20-win season. Since 2011, Stony Brook has won 23 games or more every season, but all have fallen short of one primary goal: the American East Conference Championship.
Pikiell has completely transformed the team into one of the hottest basketball programs in the country. The Seawolves were a subpar 4-4 team after a heavy and challenging road schedule against big name schools, but this was Pikiell’s strategy: to improve the team’s performance by having them square off against the powerhouse schools early on the road.
“We’ll grow from it,” Pikiell said prior to the season starting about the rough road schedule, which included games at Notre Dame, Vanderbilt and Western Kentucky. “We’re getting the best in every league that we’re playing.” Following a tough loss at Northeastern, which gave SBU its fourth road loss of the year, the Seawolves had been nearly unstoppable; until the team was defeated by the University at Albany Great Danes on Feb. 17, it had carried the longest winning streak in DI collegiate basketball this season. It was also the longest winning streak of Pikiell’s 11-year tenure. Over the past five seasons, he’s led Stony Brook to 116 wins.
But since falling short of an NCAA bid , in an excruciating loss to Albany last year, there’s almost no significance for Pikiell in winning a lot of games.
This season, the program has received national attention for its record and winning streak. Its outstanding performance in games has earned it a possible AP Top 25 votes for the first time in the school’s history. According to Pikiell, it’s not a meaningful accolade. He went 4-24 in his first season at Stony Brook back in 2005.
“It means nothing,” Pikell said. “Coach Jim Calhoun, who won two national championships at Uconn. “He said this to me the first time we won 20 games: ‘You’re happy you won twenty, and oh yeah, we used to lose twenty.’ he said to me. ‘Well, win twenty games five more times and then call me.’ I have a lot of pride in the program but it is hard to win one game.” It took Pikiell a month and a half to win his first game here as head coach.
The team carries lethal artillery on the offensive end of the floor, with Jameel Warney, Rayshaun McGrew, Carson Puriefoy and Ahmad Walker all averaging 10 points or more and receiving 30 plus minutes a game.
Jameel Warney is a potential NBA prospect who has broken almost every school record in Stony Brook history this season. He was recently named to the Naismith list, which honors the best NCAA basketball players every season. He’s leading the America East conference in points, blocks, rebounds and field goal percentage. He’s surpassed 2,000 career points and looking at a possible second Conference Defensive Player of the Year award; he did it last year in his junior season. He’s averaging 19 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks a game in his senior season. At the same time, he also feels that the winning streak and national attention does not really do anything for the team.
“It’s great exposure for us and the whole community, but apparently it does not help us with getting wins,” Warney said after the victory against New Hampshire on their former winning streak. “It just really does not do anything for us.”
Warney also added that during this time of year, late in the season, it is crucial to play great basketball. “We love pressure right now,” Warney said on the team’s success. “We need to play our best basketball at the best time.”
The team thrives on becoming better and better every game. Their rigorous teamwork has paid dividends with the way they’re playing this season.
The players and coaches are heavily determined to reach the conference championship game for the fifth time in Pikiell’s tenure and make the NCAA Tournament for the first time in the school’s history.