The story line for the University at Albany’s men’s basketball team remains the same after playing three quarters of their 2011-12 season: The Great Danes have beaten the opponents they’ve expected to beat, and lost to the favorites. Don’t get me wrong, the 15-win Danes are in the midst of a successful season and will make a serious run at the 20-win benchmark for the first time since 2007, but if they’re going to make this season a special one, it needs to start with a win over either Boston University or Vermont. First place Stony Brook just picked up a big road win in front of a sold out SEFCU arena on Saturday night spoiling Albany’s 15th annual Big Purple Growl (winter homecoming) 76-69. The loss was the first time this season that Albany didn’t protect home court. If you took a look at the America East standings, Albany’s success and lack thereof is pretty cookie cutter: 7-0 when facing opponents beneath them, 0-4 when facing opponents above them. To be fair, 3 of those 4 losses in conference came on the road, but their inability to pull off upsets away from the SEFCU has put the America East regular season title more or less out of reach. It may sound a little sacrilegious to say this but, who cares? Minus getting a top seed in the conference tournament, it really doesn’t accomplish the ultimate goal, which is to play in the NCAA tournament. Whether first place or 4th place, everyone will lace them up and play at a neutral site where anything can happen. From here on out it’s about jockeying for position to play a more favorable opponent, and maybe instilling some confidence in yourself that you can in fact beat an upper echelon team. The team surely believes they can, the coaches believe they can, and I know they can, but for all parties involved actually seeing it happen will go a long way. Hopefully by the time you read this, Albany will have avenged their largest loss (13 points) of the conference schedule this season against Boston when they come to the SEFCU for the very first time. A win will not only convert believing Albany can beat a top team into a fact, but it will also match their win total from last season’s 16-16 finish, with still 5 games remaining on the schedule before the conference tourney. We all know Albany is good, it’s just a matter of how good. The next two weeks should provide some clarity.