As grueling as the last two weeks have been for the Boston University men's basketball team, that's how relaxing things have been on the campus of the University at Albany. Tonight, however, a matchup between the Terriers and Great Danes will kick-off an equally trying stretch for Albany, which will face the top three teams in the conference in a span of five days. BU is the first, Vermont the second and Binghamton the third. The Terriers, meanwhile, will play the third game in a stretch of four-in-eight days which will come to an end Saturday against the University of New Hampshire.
Tonight's game at Agganis Arena symbolizes much more than a highlighted spot among personal schedules, however. The matchup could solidify the Terriers (if they haven't been already) as one of the clear-cut top teams in the conference with a victory over an Albany team that defeated them 62-61 at SEFCU Arena on January 8th. That game was the first the Terriers played without the services of Tyler Morris and Carlos Strong and it was also played without Corey Lowe, who was serving a one-game suspension.
The Terriers won't have Morris and Strong on Thursday, but they will have Lowe (17.1 points per game), who's become one of the best point guards in the league since being pushed into the role after Morris got injured. Aside from his scoring numbers (which have been consistently good throughout his career) Lowe is playing the most balanced basketball of his life, and BU coach Dennis Wolff attested to that fact. Since moving to the point, his assists have skyrocketed (40 over his last six games), his turnovers have diminished and his appearance of poise on the court has been a steadying presence for a team that's on a conference-best six-game winning streak.
Lowe's had help, however, as every player has defined their role and latched onto it, especially Holland, who's in serious contention for Player of the Year honors (18.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.9 spg). Perhaps more than anything, the biggest sign of improvement is the way the Terriers have won on the road during conference play. BU is 4-1 against America East opponents away from home, outscoring them 369-300. Tonight's game, however, isn't on the road -- it's at Agganis Arena -- a building where BU has lost its last nine regular-season games and lost by 10 to the Great Danes when BU hosted the America East tournament two seasons ago. While the Terriers have dispelled any shooting woes that may impact the team at Agganis (thanks in large part to Lowe's 36-point performance against Marshall) BU still hasn't found a way to win in the dead-atmosphere arena. Doing so tonight would go a long way to proving the Terriers are for real, especially against a physical team such as Albany.
The Danes rank 20th and 12th in the nation respectively in rebounding offense and defense and that's by far their biggest advantage over the Terriers, who are not a particularly strong rebounding team. The battle should be fairly defensive, despite the fact that BU's averaging over 70 points per game thanks to a torrid scoring pace in conference play.
One X-factor could be whether or not UA's starting point guard, Anthony Raffa, is healthy enough to play. As reported in the Albany Times Union, Raffa has turf toe in his left foot (which he suffered in their most recent win over Hartford on January 28) and he "hasn't done anything" since, according to UA coach Will Brown. Raffa reportedly received a special orthotic today and would attempt to practice. If Raffa's unavailable, Mike Johnson will start in his place.
M. Bball takes on Albany
UAlbany ready to play again, with or without Raffa
3-Part test for Great Danes
Projected starting lineups: