America East Wrap & Tourney PreviewPosted by Brian Goodman on March 3rd, 2011
Matt McKillip of Purple and Gold Nation is the RTC correspondent for the America East Conference.
- Injury Updates: Brenadan Bald and Evan Fjeld were held out of practice for Vermont- if they’re significantly hampered, the Catamounts will need heroic efforts from the rest of their cast. Their body of work has been garnering 14-seeds from bracketologists, but health will be the key factor to weather they will dance.
- Hot Black: Albany’s Mike Black was the best player in the conference over the past week and if he can keep it up, the Danes will be a tough out.
- Maine Who?: Maine has been the best in the league– and has also bottomed out with losses to basement dwellers. The talent is there, but can three point threat Gerald McLemore and crew rally to their former selves after losing seven of their last eight games?
Relive last season’s finale between Vermont and BU in the video below:
A Look Back
War of Attrition: Part 2, The Rolling of the Ankles: It has been a rough season for star players in the America East. Pre-season POY candidate Tommy Brenton went down for Stony Brook before the year started, and then New Hampshire lost two leading scorers during the non-conference (Alvin Abreu and Ferg Myrick). In the past week though, a series of sprains have created a lot of uncertainty for the playoff picture. John Holland of Boston University, the league leader in scoring, was kept out of the final regular season game with an ankle Injury, as was one of Vermont’s top scoring threats, Brendan Bald (11.5 PPG). And then in the final game of the year, another POY candidate, Evan Fjeld of Vermont, rolled his ankle and was kept out for the rest of the game. While all are likely to play the entire postseason, it marks a potential weakness for the two top teams in the league.
Conference Player of the Year: John Holland, Boston University. The senior Holland was the presumptive favorite after being showered with post-season recognition accolades during his first three seasons. Despite leading the league in scoring (19.9 PPG) essentially wire to wire, Holland’s year got off to a bumpy start. Holland struggled to assume a leadership role with a young and transfer laden cast- his shot selection especially struggled. But as conference play turned towards the home stretch, Holland led the Terriers to 8 straight victories entering the post-season.
America East Honor Roll (stats in conference play):
- Sr. Evan Fjeld, Vermont (13 PPG, 6 RPG)
- Sr. Troy Barnies, Maine (16.4 PPG, 8.3 RPG)
- Fr. Brian Voelkel, Vermont (9.5 RPG, 4.6 APG)
- Sr. Tim Ambrose, Albany (15 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 3.6 APG)
Unjustly Left Out: Chris De La Rosa. Perhaps CDLR deserves credit for managing a 100+ offensive rating, leading the league in assists (5.7) and being fifth in points (16.5)… but I cannot bring myself to vote a point guard on a 5-24 team with a 317 RPI.
Coach of the Year: Mike Lonergan, Vermont. Don’t be surprised if you hear Lonergan’s name tossed around this off-season for job openings. It’s hard to overemphasize how many pieces the Catamounts lost entering the 2010-11 season. With four starters and the heart and soul of the team departed, Lonergan was left with a low-usage third option and a handful of pieces. Incredibly, the team was model of consistency, finishing 22-7 overall and tops in the conference at 13-3. He maximized the potential of mite-sized guard Joey Accaoui while striking America East gold with his freshman class. Brian Voelkel played point forward and led the league in rebounds (9.9 RPG) and came in second in assists (4.7), while he brought along Sandro Carissimo at the guard position. This team took UConn to the wire early on and just grind out victories with incredible offensive precision and tough rebounding- trademarks of Lonergan’s coaching.
Rookie of the Year: Brian Voelkel: The focus of all of Vermont’s success, the do-it-all forward came into the league as one of the strongest and most physical players- not to mentioned one of the headiest. As gifted of a passer that there is in the league, Voelkel elevated the play of his teammates.
Honor Roll: The under-card of this strong class are lightning quick point guard DJ Irving (115 O Rtg, 9 PPG, 4.2 APG) of Boston University and Albany forward Luke Devlin (8 PPG, 7.5 RPG in AE) whose toughness was epitomized in the season finale where he had five stitches in the first half of the season finale and came back to record a double-double.
Most Improved: Troy Barnies, Maine. This hardworking senior forward had a breakout season as his numbers soared from 6.3PPG to 14.3 while he upped his boards from 7.7 RPG from 5.5. He was the steadiest player on a team that was challenged by lack of consistency, not lack of talent.
“Why Was He On the Bench?!?” Award: Leonard Hayes, Stony Brook. One of those stories that always give rapid fans that glimmer of hope that someone on the bench could be doing better. After seeing very limited time (six DNP’s), he burst onto the scene as a three-point specialist and has averaged over ten points a game since he earned his installation into the starting lineup.
1) Boston University (18-13, 12-4): It seems John Holland was kept out of the regular season finale for completely precautionary reasons, but even if not, there is a lot to feel good about with DJ Irving shredding AE defenders and Darryl Partin finishing third in the America East in scoring (17 PPG). Patrick Hazel fortifies inside by leaguing the league blocks (2.3 BPG) and hitting the glass (7 RPG). The Terriers have reeled off eight straight wins and three more doesn’t feel like that much of a stretch.
2) Vermont (22-7, 13-3): With Evan Fjeld as one of the toughest assignments in the league (comparable to Ryan Rossiter of Siena but with a better mustache) and Brian Voelkel as perhaps the grittiest player in the league, the Catamounts can (and have) notch victories over any team in the America East. The switch of the freshman Sandro Carissimo to point guard proves this team’s versatility, but also its weakness. The lack true guard leadership could be compounded if Brendan Bald’s injury is serious at all. The X factor could be versatile forward Matt Glass, who has been inconsistent all year, but causes huge mismatch problems when he is hitting from outside.
3) Albany (16-15, 9-7): After Boston University, the Danes are the hottest team in the league. Yes, this was done with the help of a soft schedule, but an away victory over Maine has this team believing. The player to watch is point guard Mike Black, who has been NBA Jam unconscious in the few games leading up the post season (44 points, 8-10 3FG, 10:3 A/TO). The Danes league the conference in three-point percentage and if Black can keep it going, he, Tim Ambrose and gunner Logan Aronhalt could make some noise.
4) Maine (15-14, 9-7): The most difficult team to gauge after their late season swoon. Coach Ted Woodward seems to have grossly mismanaged this team down the stretch, but their still wildly dangerous. Gerald McLemore can go off at any time from deep and a trio of Troy Barnies, Ali Fraser, and Sean McNally inside make Maine a tough opponent– if they get their heads on straight.
5) Hartford (10-19, 7-9): After sustaining an injury, three-point shooting forward Morgan Sabia has seen his effectiveness drop. But you know, on their home court, the Hawks won’t leave any three point shot un-taken, and if they’re hitting, especially senior Joe Zeglinski (15 PPG), the Hawks could make some noise- especially starting off against Maine, a team they swept this season.
6) Stony Brook (13-16, 8-8) Three-point specialist Leonard Hayes came out of nowhere, but the bigger factor might be the return of slashing guard Chris Martin. He takes the ball out of the hands of spot shooter Brian Dougher (who was forced to play point guard) and is getting a team of gunners open looks. Martin’s return seems to have revitalized the Seawolves the last two games and SBU will look to get revenge to SUNY rival Albany, who beat them twice during the regular season.
7) New Hampshire (12-17, 6-10): The Wildcats will need the high-flying and streaky shooting Tyrone Conley to go out with a flurry. With two of the leagues top rebounders, Dane DiLiegro and Brian Benson, UNH will need to dominate the boards for a poor shooting team.
8) Binghamton (7-22, 4-12): Former non-recruited walk-on Mahamoud Jabbi is an incredible story, but pre-season pick Greer Wright never got going for the undermanned Bearcats this season. If he comes alive during conference play… (that couldn’t happen- could it?!)
9) UMBC (5-21, 4-9): The Retrievers’ cannot ask much more of point guard Chris De La Rosa (16 PPG, 4 RPG, 6 APG), but he might as well be out there alone. It seems as if this team has already thrown in the towel for the year.