ORLANDO, Fla. – So about those garish Albany uniforms that got a nation buzzing on Thursday …
The head coach designed them himself.
"The pictures looked good on the computer," Will Brown explained after his team scared the daylights out of top-seed Florida, tying the Gators in the second half before losing by 12, 67-55. "Then we started getting hammered."
Hammered not only from outside the program, but from within.
"Not the biggest fan of 'em," said senior center John Puk.
"It's a new look for a lot of people," said associate athletic director Charlie Voelker, trying to sound supportive.
That's OK. Albany and its two-toned purple and gold shorts earned plenty of fans on Thursday with one of the most spirited efforts from a 16-seed you'll ever see.
"A 16 seed is going to beat a 1 seed," Brown said defiantly after the loss. "We wanted to be that team."
The Great Danes overcame a great imbalance before nearly overcoming a ferocious opponent. They played three games in six nights to get here, including a play-in victory on Tuesday in Dayton over Mount St. Mary's. Then they got on a 12:40 a.m. flight and landed in Gator Country nearly three hours later. Several players had trouble sleeping. The whole thing was so rushed that Puk's postgame meal was a salad on a bus ride, with no dressing and no silverware. He ate lettuce with his fingers.
"It's been a stretch," Puk said. "Tough week."
Let's call it what it is: unfair. The Great Danes had to go through an equivalent of the Amazing Race just to go up against the best team in the country in its own backyard. Albany didn't even have time to get on a court between Tuesday's play-in game and Thursday's second-round battle in front of a sea of orange and blue Gator chompers.
Brown had to duct tape a makeshift court in the team's hotel ballroom, with trash cans serving as baskets. It was straight out of "Hoosiers," except those guys didn't have to leave the state. Florida's 2012-13 basketball revenue was $13.39 million, according to University of Miami professor Alicia Jessop, compared to $1.72 million for Albany.
No excuses, though. None. "If they made us play every day," Brown said. "We'd play every day."
It's just that they had to play against the likes of Michael Frazier, who the Danes referred to as "Jesus Shuttlesworth" because of his unstoppable jumper, and Patric Young, who is 6-foot-9, 240 pounds and looks like he should be blocking at the Swamp.
"If he doesn't play in the NBA, he should play in the NFL," Brown quipped. "If he doesn't play in the NFL, he should be in the WWE. If he doesn't get into the WWE, he should go to UFC. D.J. came up to his kneecap."
D.J. is D.J. Evans, all 5-9, 175 pounds of him, who led the Danes to the brink of an upset that would have made them household names for life. Evans was knocked to the court twice in wince-inducing hits, and got up to lead his team from the point as if he just took off his warm-ups. He walked into the postgame media conference with a huge ice bag on his elbow – not often you see that in March Madness – and he declared he thought his guys were in the game from the start. They were. You could feel the air go out of the home crowd early in the second half, and you could feel breath being held all over the country as brackets were ready to burn. It's a little disheartening to wonder what might have happened if Albany had the appropriate rest leading up to the game.
"We kept them off-balance," Brown said. "But we ran out of gas."
One of these days, a bottom seed is going to beat a top seed in this tournament. A recent rash of 15-over-2 upsets makes something impossible seem ever more fathomable. We can only hope that landmark team will be a team like Albany, with its plucky style and funky threads.
If it is , it might not be Albany in the two-toned shorts. Brown said he's "one and done" in fashion design. He's going to let someone else do the jerseys in the future. Asked after the game if he thought he was Calvin Klein, the coach joked that he's "more like Buster Brown."
He's being too harsh. For a little while there, the purple-and-gold shorts were the coolest drawers in the country. Those colors stand for Albany, and especially after Thursday, they stand for pride.
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