Matthew McKillip is the RTC correspondent for the America East Conference.
A Look Back
- Maine Smacks Penn St.: The Maine Black Bears have been heating up and Penn State figured out the hard way, losing by 10 points in their home arena.
- Holiday Spirit: Will Brown and the Albany Great Danes made headlines throughout the basketball community when they lent a ride to one of their upcoming opponents, Xavier’s Mark Lyons, after the brutal northeastern weather left Lyons stranded in New York. The feel good story for the Danes ended there, as Lyons snapped out of a shooting slump and buried them with a barrage of early threes.
- Split to be Proud of: Vermont finished an impressive, even shocking OOC schedule with a road tumble with MAAC favorites Fairfield and Iona (the Catamounts beat Siena on the road earlier this season). UVM lost at Fairfield, but bounced back for a convincing victory over Mike Glover and the Gaels.
- John Holland…back? At last update, POY favorite John Holland of Boston University was in the doghouse and coming off the bench. He is back in the starting lineup and his play has steadily improved but the Terriers still aren’t trustworthy with a lead late in the game: they have five losses of three points or less this season.
- Thanks, Colgate: The 0-11 Raiders have dropped three straight games to the America East (Maine, Albany, Stonybrook) since the last check-in and five throughout the year.
- Fan Shot: If you’re interested in a more in-depth look at the America East, fans, bloggers and writers from around the league chipped in for a conference roundtable.
1) Vermont (9-3): Vermont nearly had a letdown at home against Mount St. Mary’s after the Iona victory, but they prevailed in overtime. Brian Voelkel cemented his value as point forward- when he had an off night against Fairfield (6 turnovers), the offense struggled mightily. A positive sign in recent weeks has been the improvement of guard Brendan Bald.
2) Maine (6-5): Maine is the hottest team in the league with four straight wins and they’ve had contributions from all over the map. It’s impossible to game plan against their leading scorer because I don’t think coach Ted Woodward has any idea who will come out hot for him tonight. They’re defined by their defense, led by the efforts of Murphy Burnatowski, but if the offense comes around, the Black Bears could be the top team in the America East.
3) Albany (7-7): Tim Ambrose, the compact and burly guard, can play with the best of them right now. The six-foot wrecking ball has upped his assist-turnover ratio to 1.2, averaging 18 points per game and shooting 53% from the field and almost 50% from three. He’s going to need continued improvement from his sophomore backcourt mate Mike Black if the Great Danes are truly going to challenge for an NCAA bid.
4) New Hampshire (6-5): The Wildcats had the most perplexing loss of the season when they got destroyed by CCSU… while the coach’s son, Ryan Herrion, played 22 minutes and leading scorers Dane Diliegro and Ferg Myrick played 14 and 10 respectively. UNH bounced back with a victory over Cornell on a neutral floor and has seen improvement from rookies Kazadi Nyanguila and DeAndray Buckley. The Wildcats remain puzzling team that searching for leadership.
5) Boston University (5-8): During this pre-season we’ve learned that Coach Chambers has as much talent as we thought, but also been forced to realize how young this team is. The Terriers’ have played the toughest schedule in the league and they’ve left a lot of close games on the table. This team could very well will the title, but they have no business heading into the regular season as favorite. Rebounding forward Jeff Pelage is back from an off-season injury, so his experience and muscle should help bolster a talented and deep front line.
6) Stony Brook (5-6): The Seahawks lost on national TV to a very good Notre Dame squad by a lot, but Stony Brook’s young and fearless backcourt showed it’s potential. Freshman Dave Coley plays aggressively with a loose handle that belies his New York City background and he has some success getting to the basket. Fellow freshman Anthony Jackson and sophomore Marcus Rouse also took turns taking swings (figuratively) at the Big East power. They may not develop this season, but Coach Pikiell has a strong basing moving forward.
7) Binghamton (3-8): If only a game was two second halves, the Bearcats would be incredible. They erased a 13-point halftime lead to storm back and clip Cornell in the final minutes with heroics from Mahamoud Jabbi. This team is wildly unpredictably, but if they happen to be on and putting in the effort, Binghamton could beat any team in the league.
8)Hartford (2-9): Hartford took a long holiday break and their only action has been a drubbing at the hands of Cal. A game against St. Mary’s doesn’t figure improve the Hawks’ confidence moving into conference play.
9) UMBC (0-12): Recruit Jarrel Lane hit a game winner for St. Patrick (NJ). He has not yet decommitted. And that’s where positives end.