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Albany Great Danes

1. You Never Forget Your First Time. Saturday, the nation was treated to a tremendous performance from the Godfather of SUNY Albany basketball, Jamar Wilson, who dropped 29 on the hopeless Vermont Catamounts in the America East title game. Wilson has been the central figure in Albany s climb to the top of the America East after joining the conference just five years ago. Hell, the Great Danes have only been in Division I since 1999. It was a year of firsts: First NCAA Tournament berth, first conference regular season and postseason titles, first season above .500 and first 20 win season ... not too shabby for a former D-III program. However, for all the good Jamar Wilson did yesterday, the greatest player Albany ever had was a 5'6", 135-pound JuCo transfer from Brooklyn, Earv Opong. Who you say? Earv "I ll Be Right Back" Opong, an And1 legend breaking ankles 24/7. The genesis of the nickname? Earv earned it on the New York playgrounds, blowing by defenders so often and easily that summer league announcers said "Opong just told the defender, 'I'll be right back.'"

2. Big Purple Growl. Not sure if you noticed, but the place was going nuts during that Am-East tourney final. Forget about Rutgers ... Albany s got the best RACC (Recreation and Convocation Center) in the country. A half-hour before tipoff, the place was sold out (4,500 or so), cheering wildly and waving white "growl towels." The Big Purple Growl. A yearly basketball homecoming of sorts, with booze and food and booze and hoops (women s game before the men s game) and good times all around. Hell, the event is so fun there's even a Mr. Bounce Bouncy.

3. TOGA! TOGA! Year after year, Albany manages to make the Princeton Review s Top 10 Party School list, and year after year I am baffled by this development. Truly bizarre if you ask me, but I guess having been on the U-Albany campus many times, drinking heavily may be the only viable option. Albany was No. 5 this year, and I m shocked the Admissions Department isn t racing to use this quote in their marketing materials: "Albany is a good school, but the partying can take over your normal good student. You have to be mature to learn to balance both." SUNY Albany: You Can t Stop the Party, You Can Only Hope to Contain It. — Thomas J. Doyle

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