Thank you, Iowan friends, for warmly embracing UAlbany’s cause yesterday, as we happily watched the Great Dane Men’s Basketball Team take down Mount Saint Mary’s and earn a spot against overall #1 seed, Florida, in Orlando on Thursday night.
As mentioned in yesterday’s post, the UAlbany Men gave #1 Connecticut fits in 2006, so I’m optimistic that they’ll also put on a strong and credible performance tomorrow night. The 2006 Team’s motto was “Why Not Us?” I think that’s just as germane for this season: some day, some #16 seed is going to knock off some #1 seed, and until the final buzzer Thursday night, UAlbany is still alive on the list of team’s that have a chance to do it.
So I hope you’ll continue to watch and to pull for this scrappiest of underdogs, given all of those strong Iowa connections I mentioned yesterday. UA! You Know! Go Danes!
But, dearest Iowan friends, your work on behalf of the Great Danes is not yet done, because the UAlbany Women’s Basketball Team will be playing the Big 12’s West Virginia on Sunday on a neutral court in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in a #2 vs #15 match up. While the Men’s presence in the Big Dance this year was something of a surprise, since they finished the regular season in fourth place in the America East Conference, the Great Dane Women have been Bracketology locks pretty much all season. This is their third straight visit to the NCAA Championships, and they go in this year with a 28-5 (15-1 Conference) record, and a #4 ranking in the College Insider Mid-Major Top 25.
I gave you a bunch of reasons to root for the Men yesterday, and they all apply to the Women too. But there are even deeper connections between Iowa and the UAlbany women, designed to appeal to both Cyclones and Hawkeyes alike. Continuing our numbering from yesterday’s column, consider this:
7. Head Coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson is a native of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where she was a Parade Magazine and USA Today High School All American.
8. She played for legendary coach C. Vivian Stringer at the University of Iowa, making two NCAA Tournament appearances (including and Elite Eight and a Sweet Sixteen finish) with the Hawkeyes.
9. From 1994-2000, Coach Abe (as she’s know about UAlbany) was an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for Bill Fennelly’s Iowa State Cyclones. During her time on staff, the Cyclone Women earned a Big 12 Championship and four NCAA Tournament appearance, also earning and Elite Eight and Sweet Sixteen finish, as she did as a player.
10. From 2002-2007, Abrahamson-Henderson was head coach at Missouri State University of the Missouri Valley Conference — no strangers in these parts, as they played home and home series with Drake regularly — earning three conference championships during her tenure.
11. Coach Abe’s husband, Michael Henderson, played with the Harlem Globetrotters. That doesn’t have anything to do with Iowa, mind you, but it’s just way cool.
While UAlbany doesn’t feature any Iowa-bred players on the current Women’s roster, their team is exciting to watch, and represents the true globalization of modern college sports, with players from Nigeria, the British Virgin Islands, Canada, Jamaica and New Zealand on the roster. They took the formidable University of North Carolina women to the wire in last year’s Big Dance, and I guarantee you they will not be intimidated by the West Virginia.
Yesterday, the Great Dane Men beat the Mountaineers of Mount Saint Mary’s. On Sunday, I want to see the Great Dane Women beat the Mountaineers of West Virginia. Doesn’t that just have fate, or kismet, or whatever, written all over it? I think it does.
So rifle your closets, Iowans, and pull out whatever purple and gold you can find, and join me Sunday in celebrating the UAlbany Women as they make us all proud.
Once again: UA! You Know! Go Danes!