2009-10 Conference Primers: #21 – America EastPosted by rtmsf on October 16th, 2009
Michael Hurley is the RTC correspondent for the Patriot League and America East Conference. Click here for all of our 2009-10 Season Preview materials.
Predicted Order of Finish:
- Boston University (13-3)
- Stony Brook (11-5)
- Vermont (10-6)
- Albany (10-6)
- New Hampshire (8-8)
- UMBC (7-9)
- Hartford (6-10)
- Maine (5-11)
- Binghamton (2-14)
- Corey Lowe (G), Sr., Boston U.
- Joe Zeglinski (G), Jr., Hartford
- Marqus Blakely (F), Sr., Vermont
- John Holland (F), Jr., Boston U.
- Will Harris (F), Sr., Albany
6th Man. Muhammad El-Amin (G), Sr., Stony Brook
Impact Newcomer. Luke Apfeld (F), Fr., Vermont
What You Need to Know. This offseason has been a rocky one for reigning America East champion Binghamton to say the least. The Bearcats went through one of the biggest roster changeovers due to disciplinary reasons in history of NCAA basketball. They are returning only four players as nine from last year are now gone. Out of those nine players, six were dismissed for disciplinary reasons including three starters and two all conference selections. Talk about a rough offseason for Binghamton fans. The latest blow (probably not a blow after how much trouble he got this program into) is that Coach Kevin Broadus has been placed on paid leave and assistant coach Mark Macon will take over in the interim. My humble opinion is that Coach Broadus will never be back. The school will try to work out some type of settlement and they will ultimately part ways. It is crazy to think that Broadus could stay with the program after all the public relations damage already inflicted. Mark Macon is going to have a tough first season to say the least. This team should not be expected to win more than two or three conference games, which is even a stretch. In other news, Boston University fired Coach Dennis Wolff, the all time leader in wins for the BU program, after 15 years. They hired Villanova assistant Patrick Chambers to lead the Terriers back to the top. With the roster he walked into, Chambers has it easier than most first time coaches. This season Vermont’s Marqus Blakely is going for his third consecutive America East Player of the Year award which would put him in the select company of only two others in history, Reggie Lewis of Northeastern and of Vermont. Blakely also has a shot at his third straight America East Defensive Player of the Year, which would be unprecedented.
Predicted Champion. Boston University (NCAA Seed: #15). Boston University may have hired a first time coach in Patrick Chambers, but he inherits a team that is as seasoned as they come in the America East. The team returns nine seniors, four starters, two America East all-conference selections, and the America East Rookie of the Year. Over ninety percent of the Terriers’ points, over eighty percent of the rebounds, and sixty five percent of the assists are back. After going through some turmoil after Dennis Wolff was fired (ROY Jake O’Brien, will he stay or will he go?), the team hopes to get back into the swing of things once they get back on the court. Tyler Morris and Carlos Strong look to come back from season-ending injuries last year to make a difference again. Those three and forward Scott Britain will be the main complements to the dynamic duo of Corey Lowe and John Holland. The two have a combined 2,209 points in their Terrier careers. Lowe is a sharpshooting guard who can handle the point guard abilities, while Holland may be the best pure scorer in the league. The talent is obviously there on this Terrier squad, so it is up to Coach Chambers to harness and unleash it on opposing teams in the conference. This team will not make any noise in the NCAA tournament though. America East teams have only one NCAA tournament victory in the past 13 years. It was the Vermont-Syracuse classic in 2005 where T.J Sorrentine hit a three-pointer from almost half court for Vermont. Do not expect magic like that to occur again, as the America East winner this year should be a fairly easy out for a #2 seed.
- Vermont will always be in contention as long as reigning two-time Player of the Year Marqus Blakely is on the court. The Catamounts return two other starters and Maurice Joseph will probably make the move into the starting lineup. Garvey Young played great as a freshman last year, making the all-rookie team, but he still needs to make huge strides his sophomore year. The loss of 2,000 point scorer Mike Tromboli is huge for the Catamounts. They will not be able to replace his points, assists, defense and leadership. This will keep Vermont from overtaking the Terriers for the top spot, but they will still be a tough out in the America East tournament and a top contender this season.
- Stony Brook is also a top contender in the league this year. They return four starters, including one of the top players in the league in guard Muhammad El-Amin. El-Amin averaged 15.7 PPG and was fourth in the conference in 3-point percentage at 38.4%. The Seawolves also return two super sophomores, guard Bryan Dougher and forward Tommy Brenton. Dougher will run the point again for Stony Brook and looks to improve on his 11.2 points per game average. Tommy Brenton was a big reason the defense was the top ranked in the league last year. He averaged 9.1 rebounds per game and 1.8 steals per game to go along with 6.7 PPG. Coach Steve Pikiell just received a contract extension through 2013-14, so he will be expected to improve on last years eight wins, but is still a year or two away from the top spot in the league.
- Albany also returns four starters including two all-conference selections and should be back in contention for one of the top spots this year. After finishing in the top four in the league every season since 2003-04, last year the team fell all the way to the seventh slot.
Top 5 RPI Boosters. The America East has a slate of games that will help improve the conference’s standing come the end of the year. Albany opens up their season at Syracuse and then faces North Carolina during the winter break. Binghamton plays Pittsburgh in November, which looks like it will be a massacre with the team Binghamton has remaining. UConn invites two America East teams, Boston University and Maine, into Storrs this year. Hartford has the toughest challenge this year as they face one of the preseason favorites Kentucky in December.
- Nov. 9, 2009 – Albany @ Syracuse
- Dec. 2, 2009 – Boston University @ UConn
- Dec. 22, 2009 – Maine @ UConn
- Dec. 29, 2009 – Hartford @ Kentucky
- Dec. 30, 2009 – Albany @ UNC
Key Conference Games:
- Jan. 2, 2010 – Stony Brook @ Boston U. – The opening America East game for these teams will show us a lot about where they are at for the conference schedule.
- Jan. 10, 2010 – Vermont @ Albany – Vermont travels to Albany for the first test for each team.
- Jan. 21, 2010 – Stony Brook @ Vermont – It is the third game in five days for Vermont which could end up being the difference in the two team’s records.
- Feb. 6, 2010 – Boston U. @ Albany – BU has not won at Albany since the 2004-05 season, Coach Chambers is hoping to break that streak late in a game that could have seeding implications.
- Feb. 9, 2010 – Vermont @ Boston U. – Three days after playing in Albany, BU returns home to face a Vermont team that could end up playing BU in the semifinals or finals of the America East tournament.
Digging Deeper. The top of the 2010 graduating class has had the most prolific scoring career since 2005. There are two seniors this year with good chances finishing with 1,750 points for their career. Corey Lowe of Boston University has 1,334 points and Marqus Blakely of Vermont has 1,268. It would be the first class to graduate two 1,750 point scorers since the class of 2005 did with T.J Sorrentine and Taylor Coppenrath of Vermont.
Fun With KenPom. The America East seems happy with playing just a few of the high majors each season, instead generally settling on playing mostly mid- and low-majors to round out its schedules. Last season UMBC and Hartford were the only two teams that had nonconference SOS numbers in the top 200. Nearly every other team was well into the 200-300 range (and Stony Brook was in the bottom twenty).
NCAA Tournament History. The conference is 6-30 (.167) all-time in the NCAA Tournament, and five of those wins came from teams who are no longer part of the league (Northeastern, Drexel and Siena). Vermont is the sole current member who has a win in the Big Dance (2005), and Albany scared the living bejeezus out of #1 UConn the next season before succumbing, but the three latest league champions (Albany, UMBC, Binghamton) have gotten eviscerated in their first round games.
Final Thoughts. The America East is not a mid-major conference you can count on for an NCAA tournament win every year or an NBA draft pick, but it is a tough league full a ton of undersized guards and forwards who can play some serious ball. This year is no different with Blakely, Holland, Lowe, Zeglinski, El-Amin, Ambrose, Brenton, Dougher, and O’Brien, just to name a few. Some of the top teams have developed some staying power, creating serious rivalries between Boston University, Vermont, and Albany. The league will provide continued excitement and no team is heads and feet above the rest of the competition this season.