RTC Summer Update: America EastPosted by Brian Goodman on July 13th, 2011
With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our newest update comes courtesy of our America East correspondent, John Templon. John also writes about New York City basketball at Big Apple Buckets.
Reader’s Take I
- Coaches Moving On Up: Vermont and Boston University lost two very talented coaches this summer. The Catamounts’ Mike Lonergan went back to his Washington, D.C., roots and took the job at George Washington. Lonergan – who won a national title at Division III Catholic University in D.C. and also coached at Maryland – should fit in well at GW. Assistant John Becker replaced Lonergan, so there should be strong continuity. On the other hand, BU had to scramble after Pat Chambers was hired by Penn State to replace Ed DeChellis. The Terriers ended up with former Columbia head coach Joe Jones, who spent last season as an assistant at Boston College.
- Playing With The (Future) Pros: The 2010-11 America East Player of the Year, Boston University’s John Holland, played in the Portsmouth Invitational. He finished tied for ninth in scoring at 15.0 points per game and 18th in rebounding with 6.3 boards per game. He played with former Florida forward Vernon Macklin and former Villanova guard Corey Fisher on the Portsmouth Sports Club team that finished in fourth place. Holland had workouts with a few NBA teams before signing with Chorale de Roanne of France’s Pro A Division.
- A World of Experience: America East continues to pick up steam as a worldwide conference. Four players in Maine’s incoming recruiting class aren’t originally from the United States and Albany has two players coming in from Australia and another from the Dominican Republic in its 2011 class. Another Australian, Corban Wroe, will be playing for Hartford in the fall. Many of the incoming recruits have experience playing with their respective international squads and incoming Maine freshman Noam Laish was selected as the captain of Israel’s U-18 squad for the European Championships.
- Boston University: After making the NCAA Tournament in 2011, the Terriers return all but one of their linchpins. Of course, that one guy is America East Player of the Year John Holland who averaged 19.2 PPG last season. BU will also be going without head coach Pat Chambers, but he certainly didn’t leave the cupboard bare for Joe Jones. Darryl Partin (14.3 PPG) and Jake O’Brien (10.9 PPG, 5.5 RPG) should provide scoring. Also watch out for sophomore guard D.J. Irving. He averaged 8.0 PPG as a freshman and his workload should only increase in 2011-12. The Terriers have won 21 games in each of the past two seasons and a postseason berth is definitely the expectation.
- Albany: The Great Danes are in a similar position as BU, as the graduation of one key player will determine the fate of their season. Tim Ambrose was First Team All-America East last season and led Albany with 16.6 PPG and 3.6 APG. Two other Third Team All-America East teammates will try to pick up the slack next season and improve on a 16-16 record and both are high-scoring guards. Logan Aronhalt averaged 14.6 PPG and Mike Black averaged 12.1 PPG. They will be the leaders of a young Albany team that has a lot of potential, but doesn’t have a single senior amongst the key players.
- Stony Brook: Maybe this will be the season that the Seawolves finally make it to the NCAA Tournament? After coming one win away from the Big Dance last season, Stony Brook brings back a talented cast of characters and will look to build on a 15-17 campaign that only ended when Holland hit two free throws to give Boston University the title. The key man is Bryan Dougher, a 6’1″ guard that was second team all-conference last season. It was a tenacious defense that kept Steve Pikiell’s team in games last season and that’ll have to be this team’s calling card again in 2011-12. Dougher was the only double-digit scorer last season and the team’s second leading scorer, Chris Martin, graduated.
- Vermont: While it’s always hard to pick against the Catamounts, they have a number of glaring holes to fill for next season. The first is at head coach where Vermont decided to go with continuity by hiring former assistant John Becker after Mike Lonergan left for George Washington. The second is on the court, as leading scorers Evan Fjeld and Joey Accaoui graduated. Left behind though is a number of talented players. Brendan Bald scored 11.3 PPG last season and forward Brian Voekel was named Rookie of the Year in the conference. Four McGlynn, a 6’1″ shooting guard from Dallastown, Pennsylvania, is expected to come in and immediately use his shooting range to extend defenses so that Voekel has the space to work underneath. The midseason addition of Gonzaga transfer Keegan Hyland will also help boost the roster. By the end of the season, the Catamounts will once again be a team no one wants to face.
- Maine: The Black Bears end the list of serious contenders for the America East crown in the 2011-12 season. After finishing 15-15 (9-7 in conference), Maine looks to build towards the future and its first ever NCAA Tournament appearance. The loss of Troy Barnies will be a big blow to the Black Bears’ frontcourt after he averaged 14.1 PPG and 7.6 RPG last season. Serbian native Zarko Valjarevic should take some of the scoring load as a freshman. He’s a 6’4 shooting guard with the ability to make an immediate impact.
- UMBC: It’s time for the Retrievers to prove that the last two seasons were a fluke and that the team can be competitive again in America East. Led by Chris De La Rosa (see “Buzzworthy”), UMBC has to improve from 2010-11 when it went just 5-25 overall. A commitment to defense will be the key as the Retrievers finished last in America East in opponent field goal percentage and allowed 1.14 points per possession. Look for 6’6″ forward Chase Plummer to make a bigger impact during his sophomore season after the graduation of Justin Fry and Travis King. Also gone? Assistant head coach Nate Stewart. Stewart had been the longest-tenured assistant on UMBC’s staff, but he’s taking over as head coach at Eastern University in Pennsylvania.
- Hartford: The Hawks graduated four of its top five scorers this spring, and its top three overall, and now have a big scoring load to pick up. Luckily, Hartford is also bringing in a pretty talented freshman class. Texas guards Yolonzo Moore and Wes Cole should bring some hustle and firepower to the Hartford backcourt next season. Up front, Genesis Maciel will hold down the fort. Maciel is Hartford’s leading returning scorer at seven points per contest. On the plus side, the Hawks will host the first three rounds of the conference tournament again this season.
- New Hampshire: Bill Herrion likes to play slowly and, led by 2010-11 All-America East Defensive Team member Chandler Rhoads, the Wildcats should be able to frustrate their opponents. The question is can the team score enough to make it matter? There’s not much out there to suggest that they will. Ferg Myrick is a player to watch out for if he can come back strong from the knee injury that ended his 2010-11 season after just 14 games. When healthy, he averaged 12.1 PPG.
- Binghamton: Binghamton sure has developed a strong following, as the school has the led America East in attendance each of the past eight seasons. It’s tough to expect too much to cheer about in 2011-12 though as the team graduated its three leading scorers. Junior guard Jimmy Gray is Binghamton’s leading returning scorer after averaging just 6.5 points per game last season. Freshman Ben Dickinson at 6’9″ might get some playing time his first season, because the team will struggle to put size on the court.
2010-11 was a down year for the America East Conference as a whole. It finished 28th in conference RPI. The conference hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 2005, when Tom Brennan’s Vermont Catamounts upset Syracuse (read more from Brennan in this recent interview with RTC). Of course, before that, the last win was Drexel in 1996. Last season, just two conference teams finished over .500 overall,Vermont and Boston University, and now both squads are breaking in new head coaches. How quickly Joe Jones and John Becker adapt to their new teams and are able to establish continuity will go a long way towards determining what happens in the conference race this season.
It looks like it should be an exciting race overall, as there are a number of teams that should challenge the Terriers, the current league favorite, for the title. Albany and Stony Brook were young teams last season and bring back most of the important pieces of their roster. Improvements by those two teams could make America East at least a four-team race. Most importantly, the conference needs schools at the bottom to pick things up. UMBC won 24 games and reached the NCAA Tournament in 2008, but won just a combined nine games over the past two seasons. Binghamton is still recovering from the academics scandal that hit the university and won just eight games during the 2010-11 season. If either of those schools significantly improves, it would be a big boost to the conference overall.
Chris De La Rosa is a 5’10″ point guard playing on UMBC, so it’s not a shock that most of the country has no idea who he is. If the Retrievers are going to do anything next season, it’ll be the senior point guard that gets them there. Last season, De La Rosa led the America East by averaging 6.0 assists per game. He was also third in the conference scoring 15.5 points per game (and the other two guys graduated). The question for the guard from Washington Heights, New York, is whether he can get UMBC’s team success to match his personal accomplishments.
Reader’s Take II
Mark Your Calendar
- Vermont in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off – The Catamounts will go on the road to face South Florida on November 12 before traveling to Mohegan Sun to take on Marist.
- Maine at Connecticut, Nov. 17 – The Black Bears have just one victory over a power six team since 2000, a 2009 win over Boston College. The defending national champs will be as good a barometer as any in this early matchup.
- Stony Brook at Rutgers, Dec. 17 at Madison Square Garden– The Seawolves get tested in the non-con against Mike Rice’s Scarlet Knights in his second season.
- It also looks like Boston University is setting itself up with a challenging non-conference schedule and Vermont could have a few other games against quality competition. These are just the very early releases.
Over at Big Apple Buckets, I’ve been looking at team similarity scores. It’s fun to see how the style of certain teams compares to its peers. Here’s the closest comparison for each of the nine conference teams. The one caveat is I’m not taking into account schedule strength, so sometimes schools from the America East are being compared to major conference teams. I think it’s still a fun thing to look at.
- Vermont– Georgia 2011
- Boston University– Charlotte 2010
- Maine–Miami (OH) 2008
- Albany– Wyoming 2004
- Stony Brook – Houston 2004
- New Hampshire– New Hampshire 2010
- Hartford– Washington State 2004
- Binghamton– Indiana State 2007
- UMBC – Idaho 2006
A few things I found interesting:
- Vermont’s closest comparison made the NCAA Tournament last season. Georgia is the only comparison team that made the Field of 68, which makes sense considering the down quality of the league last season.
- Bill Herrion’s squads have had a very definitive style recently. That’s especially true in terms of effective field goal percentage defense (where UNH has been strong) and effective field goal percentage offense (where UNH has been miserable).
- UMBC finished 5-25 last season. Ironically, its closest comparison, 2006 Idaho, finished 4-25 overall.