Championship Week reached a crescendo on the eve of Selection Sunday, as thirteen automatic bids were handed out. As each of the 31 automatic qualifiers plays their way into the Dance over the next week, we’ll take some time to give you an analytical snapshot of each team that you can refer back to when you’re picking your brackets this week.
How About A Court Storming On An Opponent’s Home Floor? Completely Legal, Especially If A Trip To The Big Dance Is On The Line. Congratulations Albany.
America East Champion (24-10, 12-7)
RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #143/#152/#172
Adjusted Scoring Margin = +2.0
Likely NCAA Seed: #16
Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.
It’s been a rollercoaster of a year for Albany, but Saturday’s ticket-punching win at Vermont means the ride will roll on to the Big Dance. The America East champs put together an impressive 11-3 non-conference campaign that included a win at Washington, but conference play proved trying for Will Brown’s team, as a 9-7 finish left them as the fourth seed in the America East tournament. Albany lived the familiar March mantra “survive and advance” to the fullest this week, winning three games by a total of eight points to earn the bid.
In a fashion quite typical for these Great Danes, Albany won games this week in which they scored 50, 61 and 53 points, respectively – not exactly “grab some popcorn and take in the show” territory here. The tempo is predictably slow (279th nationally), and with national ranks of 170th offensively and 144th defensively, Albany is very much middle of the road on both ends of the floor. Where the Great Danes do excel is on the glass. They are an above average offensive rebounding team and rank 40th nationally in collecting caroms on the defensive end, aided in part by a relatively big lineup, especially for the America East.
The Albany offensive blueprint is not especially refined, but they rely heavily on a small senior duo of three-point shooters. 6’0” Mike Black leads the Danes in scoring at 15 a contest and towers over his backcourt mate, 5’10” Jacob Iati, who chips in 12.2 PPG. The two have combined to make 139 threes this season, and they would be well served to keep chucking come next week, because unless Albany gets slotted for the First Four in Dayton, it will take a hot shooting night and then some (and then some more, and some more…) to keep the Danes surviving and advancing.
Rulers Of Conference USA For The Final Time, Memphis Is Dancing Again
Behind Kaleb Tarczewski, Grant Jerrett, and Brandon Ashley, Gabe York played a bit of the role of “forgotten freshman” early in the 2012-13 season. But York has improved his play significantly the past couple of weeks in practice, and he has continued his success in game situations. The freshman guard dropped a pair of threes on Saturday against USC en route to a career high seven points in Arizona‘s 24-point thrashing of the Trojans. As the feature points out, York needs to step up his play on both ends of the court (averaging just 0.2 SPG) before he sees any extended action for the Cats. But you can never be too deep once we hit the home stretch of the season, and York provides a nice option on Sean Miller’s bench.
Drew noted yesterday of yet another Pac-12 Player of the Week award for Arizona State wing Carrick Felix, and House of Sparky takes a wider look here at how the senior has led the Sun Devils from a 10th place finish last season to the NCAA bubble in 2012-13. Felix’s constant positivity and willingness to give up some of his touches to freshman Jahii Carson has paid dividends for Arizona State, as the Sun Devils find themselves at 16-4 and 5-2 in conference play heading into the final month and a half of basketball. The duo is now one of the most fun to watch in the league, as opposing defenses have to continually be on high alert for a streaking or backdooring Felix awaiting a dime from Carson. And then there’s this, which is on the short list for my favorite play of the season thus far. The Sun Devils visit Pullman tonight and will look to add to their two-game winning streak.
DISASTER. For once, that’s not exactly hyperbole surrounding the UCLA hoops program. In front of a lackluster blued-out crowd at the new Pauley Pavilion on Wednesday, Bruin fans felt extra blue as they fell behind by as many as 15 points and were upset by crosstown rival USC in overtime. UCLA is still safely in the field of 68 at this point, but it has to be careful in eight days when Washington comes calling. Another trip-up against the Huskies would mean a three-game skid and the rumblings would be back in earnest in the Los Angeles basin.
I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.
The past week brought bad news for mid-major fans in that the 2013 edition of the Bracketbusters will be the last. There are diverging views on the value and appeal of the Bracketbusters, which was designed to give mid-majors a higher profile in advance of the NCAA Tournament where their presence as potential spoilers is a crowd-pleasing hallmark of March Madness. Personally, I found every year’s Bracketbuster matchups to be compelling, as some of the best mid-major teams in the country were pitted against each other just as they were rounding into peak form. But individual aesthetics aside, it’s worth asking whether the Bracketbusters event served one of its more objective purposes — to help mid-major teams bolster their at-large resumes with quality wins over non-conference opponents late in the season. Recent years’ evidence suggests that Bracketbuster games have actually helped quite a bit in this regard. In each of the last three seasons, a mid-major team that snuck into the at-large field did so in part on the strength of a late season quality win over Bracketbuster weekend. And one of those teams went on to make the Final Four.
Without the Bracketbuster, This May Not Have Happened
Last year, Iona scored its second best win of the year (in RPI terms) when it knocked off Nevada. The Gaels went on to make the NCAA Tournament as a #14 seed. In 2010, Utah State also picked up its second best win of the season — one of only two RPI top 50 wins — when it defeated Wichita State. That may have been the difference-maker that got them into the NCAA Tournament field as a #12 seed. And perhaps the most famous beneficiary of the Bracketbusters concept was 2011’s VCU. The Rams notched a critical victory over Wichita State in the middle of a rough stretch during which they had lost four of five games to close the regular season. Their at-large selection defied the odds as it was, but imagine how tough a choice they would have been for the Selection Committee without the late season quality win over the Shockers. Without Bracketbusters weekend, we may never have had the privilege of watching the Rams wreak their unique brand of “havoc” on the Southwest region en route to the Final Four. So whatever else one might say about the Bracketbusters, let it not be said that it did not make a difference.
Who Won the Week? is a regular column that will outline and discuss three winners and losers from the previous week. The author of this column is Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker), an Oregon-based sportswriter best known for his willingness to drive (or bike!) anywhere to watch a basketball game.
WINNER: Kevin Ollie
Kevin Ollie Has Gotten Off to a Nice Start at UConn (credit: CT Post)
The debutante coach of the UConn Huskies still has a huge task in front of himself this season in trying to motivate a team ineligible for the postseason because of terrible academic performance. But he couldn’t have started his tenure off better. Beating a talented Michigan State team on Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany was one of the first night’s biggest surprises, and then coming back home to blow out Vermont in what could have been a letdown game was an accomplishment in itself. Ollie and the Huskies should cruise through the next two weeks before a December 4 match-up with North Carolina State in the Jimmy V Classic.
(Related winners: The UConn program, Jim Calhoun. Related losers: Michigan State.)
LOSER: The ACC
The Atlantic Coast Conference could have a big problem — depth. The league’s lower half has taken four losses from mid-major schools in the first week (two more than any other BCS conference): Virginia falling to George Mason and Delaware, Florida State losing to South Alabama, and Miami losing by 12 to Florida Gulf Coast. The separation between Duke/North Carolina/N.C. State and the rest of the conference could be vast this year, and that may hurt a lot of middle-of-the-road ACC teams come Selection Sunday.
(Related winners: The Colonial Athletic Association as a whole, South Alabama, bubble teams from other conferences. Related losers: The teams that lost to mid-majors, the other teams in the middle of the ACC.)
From the moment it was first rumored, the relocation of the conference tournament to Las Vegas has created quite a buzz among Pac-12 basketball fans.Adam Butler (@pachoopsAB) of PacHoops will be here every week as he offers his unique perspective along our March to Vegas.
I won’t spend much time citing the University of Albany Great Danes’ resume. Maybe I’ll remind you of their projected strength of schedule (#318) or that their conference is approximately the 29th best in the nation. No, I don’t want to rain on the Great Danes’ parade. They walked into what’s often discussed as the toughest arena in the Pac-12 and beat the Washington Huskies, 63-62. Now losses like this make us prone to hyperbole, toss around words like “hot seat” and “overrated” and, to be frank, I’m prone to lambast Lorenzo Romar and his team’s performance. This is the program that, last year, lost at home to the South Dakota State Jackrabbits by 19 during a season in which they won the conference but did not dance; so yes, I believe they’re susceptible to questioning. When you lose to a team with the pedigree and assumed resume of Albany, a team that cites the win as the greatest in school history, one must raise questions.
Washington’s Loss To Albany Raises Familiar Questions About The State Of The Conference (photo credit: Geoffrey McAllister, AP)
Is LoRo complacent a la Ernie Kent? What’s this whole no-recruiting-class-thing all about? Why did UW lose this game? This monumental-by-Albany-standards loss makes the company line so overtly fed to us by each of the conference’s coaches hard to swallow. Is this conference really improved? If the most consistently successful Pac-12 program of the last four years can’t beat a team that was 9-7 last year in the America East and who is nicknamed for a domesticated animal best known for youthful deterioration, then I have to question what’s going on. A question that leads me back to complacency.
In 2006-07, Ernie Kent and his Aaron Brooks-led Ducks were an Elite Eight team. That’s rarefied air for most programs and to accomplish such was commendable. Two years later, the Oregon program was 2-16 in conference, 8-23 on the season. In a word: bad. Ernie Kent would have one more season (16-16) before Oregon embarked on an elongated coaching hunt, landing Dana Altman as their man. Oregon is a gig that affords a coach access to everything: money, recruits, facilities, and exposure. In Eugene you’re close enough to the hot beds of Seattle and Oakland to recruit and the aforementioned perks make this a desirable job. I can’t imagine Dana Altman is complaining about his situation. A situation not unlike LoRo’s.
First things first — more on the Shabazz Muhammad saga. Yesterday, the Muhammad family released a statement to the LA Times expressing their displeasure with the NCAA in this process. Probably the most interesting nugget out of this statement was the family’s claim that the NCAA previously promised the family it wouldn’t release a statement on the situation a week prior to ruling that Muhammad is ineligible for competition, and then saying that the NCAA’s accompanying statement on the matter was inaccurate in its portrayal of the investigation. Their main gripe is that they say Benjamin Lincoln (the financial advisor in question) received permission by the NCAA for Lincoln to pay for airline tickets and hotel rooms for Muhammad to take his unofficial visits to Duke and North Carolina. Allegations of shady activity on the NCAA’s part is nothing new, and it has been tough to decipher exactly what is going on for the most part, but it will be interesting to see what effect, if any, this latest Muhammad family statement will have on the situation. This is the first time we have heard from the Muhammad family, which did not want to face more repercussions from the NCAA. A direct response by to this statement is highly unlikely, but perhaps it will expedite things in terms of getting Muhammad cleared to play for UCLA.
More good recruiting news came for the Pac-12 when Long Beach Poly prospect Jordan Bell verbally committed to Oregon over Auburn yesterday. Bell is a 6’7’’ three-star power forward who is known for his shot-blocking ability and overall freakish athleticism, but is considered to be very raw with a limited offensive skill set. Another way to judge a recruit, albeit completely unscientific and wholly superficial, is to see which other schools were vying for his services. Auburn isn’t a school that will impress anybody, but Connecdticut and Kansas State were also reportedly in the mix before Bell narrowed it down to the Ducks and Tigers. It could very well be the case where UConn and K-State have better prospects at the “4” and over-recruited the power forward position, but a quick check at their prospect lists reveal that neither team currently has a power forward commitment. Bell now joins twins Tyrell and Tyree Robinson (Tyree is a four-star prospect according to Scout) and unranked shooting guard Fred Richardson as part of the Class of 2013 for Dana Altman; the Robinson brothers also plan on playing football for Chip Kelly.
An injury update in Corvallis: Oregon State sophomore forward Daniel Gomis is still not cleared to play after suffering an ankle injury a few weeks back, though the team should have a better idea on when he will be good to go once Oregon State returns from New York for the 2K Sports Classic. Although Craig Robinson cannot comment directly on the injury, the report suggests that things are looking up for Gomis. The article also mentioned that Gomis was walking around practice earlier this week and helping out in a drill, and it would be good to finally see this kid play after missing last year recovering from a broken leg. He was ranked the 22nd-best power forward and 95th-best player in the nation by Scout out of the famed Oak Hill Academy, so it will be interesting to see what the native Senegalese post can do at the collegiate level. However, it might be tough for him to immediately break into a frontcourt that features Angus Brandt, Eric Moreland and Joe Burton up front.
Pat Forde recently released his 25 most interesting non-conference games to watch in November and December, and it featured a few games involving Pac-12 constituents: the Legends Classic final (which could be between UCLA and Indiana), Florida at Arizona, Missouri at UCLA and San Diego State vs. UCLA. It’s no shock that the non-conference games national writers are most interested in involve the teams that are predicted to go 1-2 in the Pac-12, but there are plenty of other huge non-conference games out there for the Pac-12, some of which we detailed on the Pac-12 microsite weeks ago. That said, it’s of the most benefit to the conference for UCLA and Arizona to win against the big boys of the other power conferences, because these are the games that most people around the country will be watching. As such, these are the games that will largely make or break the reputation of the Pac-12 in 2012-13.
Well there goes the dream of a perfect November and December. It took five days of real competition, but the Pac-12 became the last conference to lose a game this year. It wasn’t a good loss either; Washington lost at home to Albany last night by one point. The Great Danes were picked to finish fourth in the America East, fresh off a 19-15 record as part of a league that finished 29th in conference RPI (out of 32). Granted, you can’t make too much out of one non-conference game — especially one in which Scott Suggs lasted just two minutes before leaving with an apparent head injury — but this certainly isn’t a good look for a league that is desperately trying to repair its national reputation. Our Adam Butler will have more on the story later today, but this isn’t the first time Washington has pulled this stunt.
League On The Rebound - After suffering though one of the worst collective seasons in conference history, several top teams of the America East saw much of their talent defect via graduation and/or transfer. With 60% of the all-conference players from last season now gone, can the top America East programs replenish their talent and improve the overall performance of the conference?
Can The Seawolves Break Through? Stony Brook, winners of two America East regular season championships in the past three seasons, has come up short in the postseason tournament, falling each time in the conference finals. Now in his eighth season, is this the year Steve Pikiell finally has his Seawolves dancing come March?
Is This The Year Stony Brook Breaks Through And Goes Dancing? (AP)
Movers and Shakers – The 2012-13 season marks the last one that BostonUniversity will call the America East home before heading off to the Patriot League. With an America East postseason ban in place, can Joe Jones keep his players motivated and overcome the transfer of big man JakeO’Brien to win the America East regular season championship?
UMBC In A Bind – Two days before Midnight Madness, eighth-year head coach RandyMonroe unexpectedly resigned at UMBC. Monroe led the Retrievers to their only NCAA Tournament appearance in 2007, yet only won 13 games in his final three seasons at the helm. Will interim coach Aki Thomas provide a much needed spark for the hapless Retrievers?
It’s that quiet time for the ACC, but a number of folks are making noise even in the dead of late spring.
IMG Academy: In an interview given last week, Kendall Marshall revealed that he had also fractured his elbow at the same time that he suffered his season-ending scaphoid injury. There was no way that Marshall was going to play any more games for North Carolina after the injury, but it makes the Marshall’s-injury-is-fake crowd seem even more insane and conspiratorial.
Sports Illustrated: Virginia Tech has landed an intriguing transfer in UNC Wilmington freshman Adam Smith. The rising sophomore will be forced to sit out a year, of course, but he could provide some real scoring punch for the Hokies. After all, despite being a 5’11” freshman, Smith wasn’t shy during his time in Wilmington, taking a team high 30.1% of the shots when he was on the floor. Smith is the first player that new coach James Johnson has landed, a solid get, if not an absolute blockbuster.
Washington Post: In slightly weirder transfer news, former starting Albany guard Logan Aronhalt will be joining the Maryland Terrapins, great news for a team whose backcourt seemed thin since the departure of Terrell Stoglin. The weird part about the news is that Aronhalt was part of an Albany team that actually played against Maryland last season at the Comcast Center. Aronhalt’s mention of appreciating the fine facilities there as a contributing factor in his decision to transfer will likely give some coaches pause come scheduling time. Still, the veteran guard looks to contribute immediately to the young team in College Park; already equipped with his undergraduate degree, he’ll be taking advantage of the graduate school exception for transfers to play this coming season.
Herald-Sun: Kentucky coach John Calipari recently made waves with his announcement about his vision for Kentucky’s non-conference schedule. Buried under a lot of overdone outrage about his insistence on playing mostly if not only neutral site non-conference games, ACC fans got the welcome news that Calipari remains committed to the renewal of the series with North Carolina and has been working to get a series going with Duke. Considering that Duke and Kentucky are two of the best non-conference rivals in all of college basketball, it’s hard not to applaud a regular squaring-off of blue bloods.
Fayetteville Observer: North Carolina State coach Mark Gottfried caught a really big fish but ended up in the water. This is not a metaphor, but everyone keep this anecdote in mind in case it feels like one as next season progresses with some of the biggest recruits in the country all showing up on campus in Raleigh.
Yesterday, long-time Pacific coach Bob Thomason announced that he would retire following the upcoming season. Those on the East Coast may not be familiar with Thomason’s work, but he has compiled a remarkable record during his time at Pacific. During his quarter century at the school Thomason led the school to four NCAA Tournament appearances while picking up 414 wins, a record for the Big West Conference. His career probably peaked with opening round wins in the 2004 and 2005 NCAA Tournament against Providence and Pittsburgh, respectively. We doubt that this will get much coverage during the season outside of possibly a brief mention on SportsCenter after his last game, but if you are watching Big West basketball next season take a moment to check out Thomason and his Pacific team.
Those who are weary of the dominance of a certain Worldwide Leader in college basketball will be pleased to hear that some of the regular season games previously televised on ESPN’s family of networks will now be on CBS Sports starting this coming season. After reaching an agreement with ESPN, CBS Sports will have the right to broadcast games from the ACC, Big 12, and Pac-12 with a total of 20 games growing to 26 games during the following seasons as well as the Atlantic 10 Conference Championship and the Missouri Valley Championship Game for the duration of the agreement (the duration of the agreement was not disclosed). Although ESPN still is the leader in college basketball coverage with its near monopoly on regular season coverage, CBS Sports in conjunction with Turner Sports is making a strong push in adding to its exclusive coverage of the NCAA Tournament. With these moves it will be interesting to see if CBS Sports is able to poach some of ESPN’s top analysts with the promise of more high-profile games.
Georgetown picked up a big commitment yesterday when junior small forward Stephen Domingocommitted to play for the school in the 2013-14 season. Domingo, a top-30 recruit in the class of 2013 and an all-state player in California, chose Georgetown over a long list of schools that included offers from Arizona, UCLA, Stanford, Harvard, and Louisville. In the end, Domingo decided that the Hoya system provided him with the best opportunity to showcase his versatility and “develop into an outstanding basketball player and an outstanding young man”. Hoya fans are probably celebrating the addition now, but we should point out that there is a lot of time left before Domingo or any other player in his class can sign and a lot can change during that time so we wouldn’t go Sharpie on this one just yet.
The sudden departure of Terrell Stoglin left Maryland with a big hole in its backcourt heading into the upcoming season, but they may have found a reasonable replacement in the form of Albany tranfer Logan Aronhalt, who averaged 13.8 points and 4.3 rebounds per game last season. Aronhalt, who will be able to play immediately for the Terrapins after graduating with a degree in December, will have to answer questions about his athleticism after multiple knee injuries and chronic pain caused him to see limited playing time at the end of Albany’s season (26 minutes in its final seven games). However, he can provide them with veteran leadership and savvy as they try to navigate a difficult stretch to begin the season on a roster laden with younger players and an injured starting point guard (Pe’Shon Howard). At the very least, he should be able to provide the younger players with a role model and ease their transition into the college game.
Syracuse fans waiting to get a look at their next coach (whenever Jim Boeheim decides to retire) will get a chance when Mike Hopkins acts as a co-coach of the USA Basketball Select Team that will play the US Olympic Team in its training camp. Hopkins along with former Toronto Raptors coach Jay Triano will coach a team that includes Kyrie Irving, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, and several other well-known younger players against whatever team the US assembles for its defense of the Olympic gold medal in London. While Hopkins will not get to coach any of the players he recruited or coached at Syracuse, he will have a very interested onlooker from the other sideline in Senior National Team assistant coach Jim Boeheim.
John Templon is the RTC correspondent for America East. You can also find his musings online at NYC Buckets or on Twitter @nybuckets.
Conference Tournament Preview
The top four seeds in the America East have been dominating conference play all season. That’s why they’re expected to meet up in the semifinals. The team that could potentially crash the party is six-seed Hartford, which is playing close to home. If the Hawks get hot from three, there’s always a chance to pull an upset, because they love to shoot the long ball. Also, seven-seed Maine has a ton of talent, but crashed at the end of America East play, losing six of its final seven games. The highest seeded team that survives Hartford is going to get the opportunity every team wants, to host 40 minutes of basketball that will ultimately lead to a berth into the NCAA Tournament. It should make for an exciting, gritty long weekend and championship game.
A Look Back
At the beginning of the season the expectations were that Boston University, StonyBrook, Vermont and Albany would be at the top of the standings. At the end of the season, that’s exactly what we’ve got, except they’re in a slightly different order. An injury to D.J. Irving seemed to throw BU off its rhythm a little bit, but the Terriers still finished 12-4 in conference, including a win over Stony Brook and a sweep of Albany.
Vermont benefited from the continuity of having John Becker take over for Mike Lonergan, but an upset loss to Binghamton, the biggest surprise of the conference season, leaves them slightly behind the eight-ball heading into the conference tournament. But it did save the Bearcats from the indignity of needing to win the play-in game on Thursday to avoid a winless season.
The rest of the bottom of the standings worked out pretty much as expected. None of the other teams has managed to crack the upper echelon of the conference. Hartford, after starting the season 0-13, rebounded to finish 7-9 in conference and qualifies as America East’s biggest surprise.
Gerardo Suero's Quickness And Scoring Ability Caused Headaches Across The Conference.
Player of the Year:Gerardo Suero, Albany – He burst onto the scene this season after a long, circuitous route to upstate New York. On the way, he learned a lot of tricks on offense and it showed, as he was incredibly efficient while using the third most possessions in the nation when he was on the court. Suero averaged 21.7 points per game and also contributed 5.7 boards and 3.0 assists.
Coach of the Year:Steve Pikiell, Stony Brook – Pikiell wins this award because his team finished in first place. It’s tough to deal with expectations and he’s formed a talented rotation into a team that can have a different person beat you on any given night. This is the second time in three seasons that the Seawolves have won the regular season title. This time, Stony Brook needs to finish the deal and qualify for its first ever NCAA Tournament.
G Gerardo Suero, Jr. Albany
G Darryl Partin, Sr., Boston University – This team was supposed to be Partin’s this season, and after a midseason injury to D.J. Irving, it truly was. He did a good job as the go-to guy, holding down the fort and scoring 19.7 points per game until his running mate was ready to go again.
G Bryan Dougher, Sr., Stony Brook – The designated gunner on the conference’s best team, Dougher shot 37.3% from three and scored 13.4 points per game, the highest of his career, in the fewest minutes per game in his career.
F Tommy Brenton, Jr., Stony Brook – Brenton isn’t your traditional First Team player, but his defense made him one of the key players in the Seawolves’ rotation. He averaged 7.9 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.5 steals in 29.4 minutes per game this season.
F Brian Voelkel, So., Vermont – Voelkel didn’t score much, averaging just 4.9 points per game, but he was amongst the America East leaders in rebounds at 8.3 per game, and assists at 5.0 per game.
Darryl Partin (far left), Bryan Dougher, Tommy Brenton and Brian Voelkel Rounded Out The America East First Team
Freshman of the Year:Four McGlynn, Vermont – McGlynn and his top competition for this award, Maine’s Justin Edwards, look like they’ll be great cornerstones for their respective teams for years to come. McGlynn, though, was more consistent overall this season. He scored 24 points in 27 minutes in a 68-49 win over Stony Brook that was the Catamounts best victory of the season.
Defensive Player of the Year:Tommy Brenton, Stony Brook – At 6’5,” Brenton has the ability to cover anyone in America East. He’s an excellent rebounder and his offense comes from his defense. Always taking on Stony Brook’s toughest assignment, he led a defense that finished first in conference play by allowing 0.91 points per possession.
Stony Brook(20-8, 14-2)– The Seawolves have good wins at home over Cornell, Rider and Columbia, but a victory at Northeastern during BracketBusters was the first road win for SBU outside of conference play. Considering how down America East is in general this season, Stony Brook might end up in the play-in game and they could definitely win it.
Steve Pikiell and Stony Brook Are The Favorites To Win The America East Tournament (AP)
Vermont (20-11, 12-3) – The Catamounts own the America East’s best win – over Old Dominion in overtime – and its worst loss – at Binghamton. This is a solid team, but it needs every player on its game in order to win the slowdown games Vermont likes to play.
Boston University(16-15, 12-4) – The record isn’t great, but most of it can be traced to losing D.J. Irving right before a key stretch in conference play and a lack of options in the frontcourt. Joe Jones did figure out a way to beat top seed Stony Brook once, at home, but they were swept by Vermont, their likely semifinal opponent. The second one was close, 68-67, and gives the Terriers hope they can repeat as champions.
Albany(18-13, 9-7) – Head coach Will Brown has a contract extension, but the length and terms won’t be announced until after the postseason. That makes it sound like he has a lot of incentive to get the Great Danes some wins. The potential is there with Gerardo Suero, Mike Black and LoganAronhalt. The problem is up front. UA suffered two losses to Stony Brook by a total of 20 points because there’s no one who can handle SBU’s size.
New Hampshire (13-15, 7-9) – The Wildcats are hot, having won five of their last six games, including the last one Albany and UNH played on February 9. They’ve been winning close games over the elite (Albany, Boston U.) and taking care of business against the bottom. It’s straight to the elite teams on Saturday with Albany.
Hartford(8-21, 7-9) – A number of talented freshmen, including Nate Sikma and Mark Nwakamma, give the Hawks something to build upon. There’s also some positive momentum considering the 8-8 finish to the regular season after the winless streak to start. John Gallagher had to spend a lot of time getting his team ready for this level, but it should pay big dividends in 2012-13.
Maine(12-16, 6-10) – So much talent, so little to show for it. Justin Edwards and Alasdair Fraser are great blocks to build around, but they’re going to need some more help. The departures of Gerald McLemore and RaheemSingleton is going to leave holes in the offense next season. What TedWoodward really needs is for his team to commit to play defense. Maine has allowed six of its last seven opponents to score at least a point per possession and lost each of those games.
UMBC(4-25, 3-13) – Losing Chris De La Rosa at the beginning of the season basically tanked the Retrievers’ season. Along the way, though, ChasePlummer picked up a lot of the slack and walk-on Ryan Cook became an integral part of the rotation. Both those players will be back next season as UMBC tries to find a new way to hold down opponents after surrendering a conference-worst 1.12 points per possession this season.
Binghamton(1-28, 1-15) – All those losses have exposed the fact that changes still need to be made in upstate New York. The Bearcats have left Mark Macon with an almost impossible situation and while there’s some talent on the roster, Robert Mansell’s knee injury and Ben Dickinson’s immature actions on the court leave questions that need to be answered before next season.
John Templon is the RTC correspondent for America East. You can also find his musings online at NYC Buckets or on Twitter @nybuckets.
The Week That Was
Binghamton Breaks Through: The Bearcats sure picked a good time to win their first game of the season. After starting 0-26 they took down Vermont 57-53 and the students rushed the court. Robert Mansell scored 18 and Ben Dickson added 16 for Binghamton. The Bearcats led by as many as 12 points during the game, by far the most this season, and held on for the victory.
Albany All Banged Up:Will Brown’s team is hurting. Just seven players got on the court during the Great Danes’ BracketBusters game against Rider, which Albany won. Guys sitting on the bench included Gerardo Suero and Logan Aronhalt – Albany’s top two scorers – and Luke Devlin. Devlin and Aronhalt are battling knee problems, while Suero missed the game against Rider because of a case of shingles. Suero and Aronhalt both returned in a 74-63 win over Binghamton. Suero played 25 minutes and Aronhalt nine. The plus side for Albany is that it will have had more than a week off before the conference quarterfinals for players to rest.
Brackets Busted: The America East went a surprising 5-4 during BracketBusters. Stony Brook picked up a nice win over Northeastern, Vermont beat Niagara by 22 and Albany got a win over Rider. Overall, the conference did well and helped itself out by beating two teams from the CAA and three from the MAAC.
An RTC In Binghamton To Snap A 27-Game Losing Streak Proved Cathartic. (Daniel O'Connor/Binghamton Pipe Dream)
Stony Brook (19-8, 13-2) – The Seawolves have done everything asked of them this season. Their two losses are on the road at the teams sitting in second and third in the power rankings. They’ll almost certainly have the #1 seed, a home championship game, if they make it through two rounds in Hartford, and a top seed in the NIT.
Vermont (19-11, 12-3) – How about we all agree that the Binghamton game didn’t happen? If that’s the case, the Catamounts should certainly be in this spot. Vermont had won 10 games in a row at that point. Odd note about the Catamounts: they have got both the best free throw percentage and free throw percentage against during conference play. Read the rest of this entry »
John Templon is the RTC correspondent for America East. You can also find his musings online at NYC Buckets or on Twitter @nybuckets.
The Week That Was:
Walk-on Sensation – With Chase Plummer sidelined due to a concussion against Albany, former walk-on Ryan Cook took over the scoring duties for UMBC and scored a career-high 28 points in an 11-point defeat on the road. In the Retrievers’ next game against Maine, he teamed up with Plummer to help them almost pull the upset, before falling 78-77 in overtime. Cook scored 21 points in that game. The junior guard has scored 20 or more points four times this season after not appearing in a collegiate game until recently.
Vermont’s Near-Miss– The Catamounts had a 16-point lead with 3:28 remaining against Boston University, but they almost blew it. BU had two opportunities to hit a three in the final 11 seconds that would’ve sent the game to overtime, but both clanked off the rim. The win put Vermont in sole control of second place in the conference.
Binghamton Falling Hard – The Bearcats are currently winless on the season. Even Towson has a victory, but the closest Binghamton has come was six points at Albany and eight points at Maine. I’ll bet Mark Macon wishes his team had gotten the monkey off their back in the opener against Colgate, which the Bearcats lost by four. This lede pretty much sums up where things stand right now.
The Seawolves Are Running Towards A Conference Title.
Stony Brook (16-7, 11-1) – The Seawolves haven’t gone to Vermont yet, but other than that SBU has passed every test an America East team must face. The defense is top-notch. The offense is unspectacular but Tommy Brenton and Bryan Dougher get the job done. Against New Hampshire, Brenton shot 12 free throws and finished with 14 points.
Vermont (16-10, 10-2) – When the Catamounts lost to Stony Brook in the first game of the season, it looked like maybe John Becker’s crew wasn’t ready, but he’s slowly formed a disciplined offense on the backs of few turnovers and getting to the line often. The Catamounts have shot 78.2% from the line during conference play, best in America East. Read the rest of this entry »