The only thing better than winning a conference tournament is winning a conference tournament on your home floor. Well, that’s exactly what Stony Brook did this past Saturday, beating Vermont 80-74 in the America East Championship.
The win clinched the first NCAA Tournament bid in program history.
“It’s been an unbelievable 48 hours,” Stony Book head coach Steve Pikiell said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “It’s been a long journey, but our campus is buzzing here. One of the great reasons to have tournaments on your campus is – instead of these neutral sites, where very few people are showing up – our place has been for a week-and-a-half now a part of March Madness, which is awesome.”
Stony Brook became a Division I program just 15 years ago. Pikiell, 48, arrived shortly thereafter in 2005.
The first three years weren’t easy – Stony Brook went 20-67 during that time – but Pikiell has built the program from nothing into something. The Seawolves (24-6) have won 22+ games in six of the last seven seasons.
“I saw the potential here,” Pikiell said. “It’s a great university. It’s right on the water here in Long Island. I saw the potential and we’ve been able to slowly get better every year and start playing in postseasons and get league championships. It’s been difficult. One-bid league, though. You got to have that great weekend at the end. We’ve had good weekends. We just never quite had the great weekend.”
Until now. Senior forward Jameel Warney was a man amounts boys against Vermont, shooting 18-of-22 from the field and finishing with 43 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks.
Stony Brook, seeded 13th in the East Region, will need that and more against No. 4 Kentucky on Thursday.
“This is just a historic team and a historic program with a Hall of Fame coach,” Pikiell said, referring to John Calipari. “Our guys see them every day on SportsCenter. They’re very knowledgeable about the tradition, about the players. I think as a university, we’re just really excited about the great opportunity that’s in front of us. We’re going to have to play great basketball. He’s a great coach and they got great players. But we’re a veteran team, we’re one of the best assist teams in the country, we share the ball, we’re in the top 20 in defending, we played a great schedule. So we feel pretty good. We certainly will play hard and be well-prepared for this game, but you know how it is: You got to play really well against a team like them.”
Tip-off is at 9:40 p.m. ET.