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 wouldn’t be the Morning Five without a John Calipari mention, as the sport’s biggest newsmaker spins the media like a top with his almost-daily appearances, interviews, and social media missives. Yesterday on his website the Kentucky head coach wrote that his new scheduling strategy — pushing for more neutral site appearances against marquee opponents — will result in a one-year hiatus in the Kentucky-North Carolina series, but the home-and-home battle between two of the best programs in the country will return in 2013-14. The purpose of this move according to Calipari is to alternate years where the Wildcats will have to travel to Chapel Hill and Louisville, meaning that UK will play at least one tough non-conference road game each year. The Wildcats have also picked up a home/neutral series with Baylor starting next season that will allow them to play in Cowboys Stadium in 2013-14, the site of that year’s Final Four. Perhaps most interestingly, though, is that Calipari says that he’s in negotiations with Duke to begin an annual rotating neutral site game that he says would be on the same weekend each year and become “THE GAME” to watch. We certainly can’t argue with that.
What we can argue with was a curious comment that Calipari made in his post explaining why he’s so gung ho on scheduling future neutral site games in football stadiums: “I’m convinced we would have won the title two seasons ago if we would have played in a dome during the regular season. Our guys weren’t prepared for it.” At first blush, this sounds reasonable on its face. But closer examination suggests that the head coach is tailoring the facts of his argument to justify what he wants. First of all, the Wildcats lost to West Virginia in the Elite Eight in Syracuse in 2010, which means of course that they had to win a Sweet Sixteen game in the Carrier Dome two days prior — on the same floor, in the same dome, only against a different team (Cornell). Did John Wall and company forget what they’d learned about playing in a dome environment just 48 hours before the loss to WVU? Next, the 2012 team that just won the national championship in the Superdome didn’t play in a dome environment at all in this year’s regular season or in the SEC Tournament. Still, without that ‘necessary’ experience, the Wildcats successively rolled through Indiana, Baylor, Louisville and Kansas to win it all. All in domes. If Calipari wants to play the lack of experience card to forgive the failure of the 2010 Wildcats, he probably should be looking at the ridiculously soft schedule that his Wildcats ran through on its way to a 35-3 record that year. When both teams matched up in the Elite Eight, the Mountaineers were by far the best team UK had faced all season. Kentucky’s lack of experience in playing good teams was the problem; it wasn’t that they hadn’t played in a dome. [Ed. Note: It is unclear which team Calipari was referring to, but the 2010 team was a far superior team if he was talking about winning a national championship.]
From a coach spewing nonsense to players doing likewise… Deadspinpublished a really interesting piece on Thursday examining in great detail documents from the cottage industry of companies who are tasked with monitoring college athletes’ social networking accounts. The article describes how it works: First, the schools get access to each player’s account through a special tracking mechanism that scans their pages regularly. Then, “once the computers gather all that data, the firms’ software searches it for trigger words and reports back to coaches and athletic department functionaries. This happens in near real-time.” It wouldn’t be Deadspin-worthy unless the examples were equal parts hilarious and horrifying, so we’d just suggest you set aside a few minutes of your time and get over there to poke around. Of particular interest is one company’s documentation and definition of many of the most common trigger words and phrases that could get players in trouble. Let’s just end this by saying that if you’re over 30 years old, you’re probably going to learn a few new slang words or acronyms to test on your buddies during the long weekend.
More conference realignment! And it doesn’t involve yet another rumor about Florida State, Clemson or Miami. No, UT-Arlington, a Southland school who is (we’re not kidding) joining the WAC on July 1, will spend one year in that league before movin’ on up to the Sun Belt, effective next summer. You read that correctly — in a span of 366 days (from June 30, 2012 to July 1, 2013), UT-Arlington will be a member of three different conferences. At the mid-major level, it’s just short of impossible to keep up with who is heading where, but we think that the Sun Belt will also pick up Georgia State and Texas State to replace the losses of FIU, Denver, and North Texas to the WAC and Conference USA. Whether the WAC survives all of this re-shuffling remains to be seen.
A couple of head coaching positions at the mid-major level were filled on Thursday, with Rider and Binghamton inextricably connected through the transition. Binghamton hired Rider head coach Tommy Dempseyto take over for Mark Macon, a former star player at Temple who was unable to dig out of the morass left by his predecessor, Kevin Broadus. Rider acted quickly to fill the vacuum, promoting assistant coach Kevin Baggett to the helm for purposes of continuity. Rider has averaged 18.5 wins per season in the six years that Baggett was an assistant for Dempsey, so it makes sense that the administration wants to keep the momentum moving forward.
With the ongoing changes to the landscape of college athletics it is often difficult to remember who is headed where and which conferences have ended up as the winners and losers in realignment. As usual, Luke Winn has proposed a solution by looking at how each conference’s overall strength has changed with the moves using data from KenPom. We can already see a certain segment of our readers beginning to twitch with that last sentence. As you would expect the biggest loser out of the major conferences is the Big East. Of course, there will be certain segments (probably the same ones that were already twitching) that will continue to believe that the overall strength of the conferences will not change even with all the movement.
Speaking of the Big East, do you remember that conference tournament that was held at Madison Square Garden and was one of the highlights of March? Yeah, not so much any more. Despite getting significantly weaker, there are some individuals in the Big East who are looking to expand its conference tournament to 18 teams. Outside of the logistical nightmare of trying to hold the Big East Tournament over six days in Madison Square Garden there is the even bigger nightmare of watching what could be the early-round play-in games for a significantly weakened conference. As it is some of the early-round games are sparsely attended by fans of schools who know their teams are mediocre at best. Can you imagine what it would look like with the worst Big East teams in those same spots? Yeah, we don’t want to either.
After a disastrous past few season Binghamton will be looking to head in a different direction as they are set to name Rider coach Tommy Dempsey as their next head coach. Dempsey, who grew up near Binghmaton, compiled a 119-105 record in seven seasons at Rider, which would be a big step up from the 23-70 that Mark Macon posted in three seasons at Binghamton including 2-29 last season. It is worth noting that despite his respectable overall record Dempsey has never taken Rider to the NCAA Tournament and last season his team had its fewest wins (13) since he took over since he took over as interim coach.
After last season’s Crosstown Shootout brawl, which we detailed from the scene, pundits from across the country weighed in on how the administrations from the two schools should handle the rivalry going forward. Yesterday, they revealed one part of their reaction–moving the game to a neutral site–and judging from the response we have heard the public does not appear to be buying into the move. Personally, we don’t understand this move. Outside of the symbolism of playing on a neutral court it seems like a pointless action since the same players will be on the court regardless of where they are and the same fans will be in the stands. If people want to act like idiots, they will do so regardless of which arena they are playing in.
We may not be fans of the decision to make the Crosstown Shootout a neutral site rivalry, but we are fans of the Crossroads Classic, which is held in the Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The Classic, which was started last year to pair the premier programs in the state of Indiana–Butler, Indiana, Notre Dame, and Purdue–against each other, has been extended for at least two more years. As we have stated before we are big fans of these type of match-ups and advocated for more in our Big Four State Tournament series last year. For some states like North Carolina where the premier programs are all located in the same conference it is not a major issues, but there are plenty of other states, which we identified where it would be a big boost to all the teams involved and more importantly would generate more interest in college basketball.
The firing of Seth Greenberg led to a short circuitous route for James Johnson, who served as Greenberg’s assistant for five years before deciding to take a similar job at Clemson on April 19 just a few days before Greenberg was fired. Now it appears that Johnson will be headed back to Blacksburg less than two weeks later, but this time as the Hokies’ new head coach. The amusing part of the hire is that it technically keeps up the athletic department’s directive to move in a different direction since Johnson was no longer part of Greenberg’s staff when Greenberg was fired, but in reality it is not. While that is just semantics the real issue is whether Johnson can bring some consistency to a program that has been a veritable roller coaster the past few seasons leaving them on the outside looking in on Selection Sunday.
One assistant who will not be taking a job as a head coach is Chris Collins, the longtime Duke assistant. Ok, that may be a stretch, but at least we know that he will not be heading to Illinois State according to his father. Collins, whose name has been brought up with increasing frequency during the past few years when coaching positions opened up, seemed like he would be a good fit at Illinois State. Not only was it one of the better programs in a very solid mid-major conference (the Missouri Valley), but it was also his home state (where he was a high school legend), and his father (Doug) was the school’s most famous player. Unfortunately, it was too good of a fit and Chris removed his name from consideration. While this might seem like a blow for Illinois State, who reportedly had Collins at the top of their list, they should have plenty of interested coaches waiting for the opportunity. As for Collins, we expect that he will spend at least another season on Duke’s bench waiting for Mike Krzyzewski to pass the torch to him or, more likely, for a better position to open up.
In one of the more unusual NBA Draft declarations we have seen, Maryland‘s Terrell Stoglin announced that he was entering the NBA Draft after being suspended by the school for the next year. While the school is not announcing what the suspension was for it appears that it may have been to a third violation of the school’s drug policy, which is referenced in the linked article. The loss of the ACC’s leading scorer (21.6 points per game) is a big blow for a Terrapin team that was expected to be one of the better teams in a weakened ACC. Now they will probably be a middle-of-the-pack ACC team next season, which is less impressive than it sounds. As for Stoglin, we hope that he was taking some foreign language classes at Maryland because he is going to need that part of his education in the not too distant future.
After a 2-29 season, you should expect a few changes and at Binghamton the head coach was one of those changes as the Bearcats fired Mark Macon yesterday. In three seasons at Binghamton, his first head coaching position, Macon went 23-70, which is a horrible record by itself, but is magnified by the team’s win trajectory (13 then 8 then 2). We have not heard who is on the school’s list of potential targets to replace Macon, but that individual has a monumental task ahead of him or herself. On the plus side, at least they will have Mr. Tony rooting for the success of their team.
Kentucky fans may have taken quite a bit of joy in the legal issues of Christian Laettner, but now one member of their “Unforgettables”–Richie Farmer–appears to be facing some legal issues of his own. The former Wildcat star has been accused of abusing his public position as state agriculture commissioner. The report released yesterday by the state of Kentucky details “a toxic culture of entitlement and self-dealing at Kentucky taxpayers’ expense”. While the individual acts barely register on the level of corruption we have seen other politicians accused of the number of violations noted is remarkable. From what the lawyers are saying it seems like there are still ongoing discussions if there will be any criminal charges brought against Farmer, but at the very least he will probably go in from of the state ethics board.
With all of the scandals in college sports that seem to occur without the schools suffering significant on-the-field repercussions it is sometimes hard to remember that sometimes programs actually do suffer. Such is the case for Binghamton as Pete Thamel notes. Thamel goes through the program’s decision to chase Division I glory and looks at the result for a program that earned a NCAA bid by winning the America East Tournament leading their fans to rush the court and our site to get its first on-air mention later that night on SportsCenter. This year, the students rushed the court again, but instead of doing it for a coveted NCAA bid it was for their first win of the year after losing their first 27 games.
For college basketball fans, Perry Jones III is one of the most enigmatic players in the country. But as Jason King writes there is more to the Perry Jones story than just what you see on the court. King tells the fascinating story of Jones including his time bouncing between cheap hotels during his senior year of high school because his family could not afford a house. After reading this piece you may still struggle to understand Perry Jones the player, but you will have a greater appreciation of Perry Jones the person.
No coach at a major program utilizes social media quite like John Calipari and his post on “The great myth of our program” is an excellent example. After taking some heat for being labeled as a “one-and-done factory” Calipari took to his blog on his personal site to defend his program and more importantly his kids. We are sure that fans of rival programs will inevitably find a few parts to take issue with, but Calipari’s ability to sell his program is phenomenal. If you want to know why he cleans up on the recruiting trail, you could do a lot worse than to start by reading this piece and getting a sense of how he promotes his program.
In this week’s edition of his power rankings, Luke Winn takes a look at many of the statistics he has tracked all season giving a few interesting updates. However, the one statistic that he cites that is the most interesting to us is one regarding Kentucky and Marquis Teague that he mentioned in a post the day before. All season long, fans and analysts have pointed to Teague’s play as the key to Kentucky’s long-term success. Along with that there has been a sense Kentucky is at its best when they are using their athleticism and getting out and running rather than playing at a slower pace. So it would seem to make sense that Teague and Kentucky would be at their best when they got out and ran except that it does not appear to be the case for Teague. As Winn notes, an analysis done last year showed a similar trend for Brandon Knight so perhaps it is more a reflection of the team, position, and opposition, but it is something worth watching over the next month to see if the narrative fits reality.
Most of the major recruits in the class of 2012 have already committed to their schools and fans of most teams will soon be looking forward to next season. Fans of course are asking the natural questions: what impact will these new faces have and how long will they stay? Drew Cannon of Basketball Prospectus takes a look at the latter by looking at the relationship between class rank and transfer rates. Looking at top 100 recruits from classes from 2002 to 2009, Cannon analyzes how long players who are on their team by the end of their freshmen year stay at the school. While there are a lot of factors involved in these decisions, it is interesting to look at the analysis and the accompanying chart to get a better sense of what you can expect.
Tonight’s Lede. On the first night of March, the college basketball slate did not disappoint. It was another packed night around the country, featuring some important Pac-12 action and bubble teams blowing opportunities in home games. We also have our first conference tournament final matchup set, as VMI and UNC-Asheville both completed 20-point victories to advance to the championship of the Big South Tournament. There was much quarterfinal action in other tournaments as well. But first, we highlight a crazy finish in the ACC that left the home team stunned and the visitors in a familiar place — victorious after a game-winning shot…
Your Watercooler Moment. Another Seminole Game-Winner.
The previous two times, it was Michael Snaer. On Thursday night, it was Ian Miller. For the third time this season, Florida State converted a game-winning three-point bucket to give the Seminoles a dramatic win. Virginia led 58-47 with under five minutes to play before the ‘Noles made a late surge that culminated in Miller’s buzzer-beater. This result also has major implications in the ACC, as FSU avoided a three-game losing streak to clinch the #3 seed in the upcoming ACC Tournament. Virginia, meanwhile, is in a bit of trouble after this loss. The Cavaliers now drop to 8-7 in the ACC, tied with NC State, Miami, and Clemson. Despite still being ranked in the Top 25, UVA has to start getting a bit worried about its NCAA Tournament status. The Cavaliers are 21-8 overall but don’t have a particularly strong overall profile, with just one top-40 win that came over Michigan in November. They have the #226 non-conference strength of schedule that includes a bad loss to TCU early in the year. They have an RPI of #39 that will be falling as well — not exactly lock status anymore. Virginia should be alright going forward if it can get a win at Maryland in its season finale, but a loss in that one on Terrapin Senior Night will definitely spell some worries for Tony Bennett’s team.
Tonight’s Quick Hits…
Kentucky Won’t Let Up. Throughout the grueling conference season, nearly all teams end up slipping up at least once along the way. Trap games, long flights, three games in a week — there are plenty of excuses that teams use for poor performances. But John Calipari’s team has played at an elite level the entire season. UK, which leads the country in scoring margin, hammered Georgia from the start on Thursday night to remain undefeated in the SEC heading into its season finale in Gainesville this weekend. Don’t expect a letdown from this team in that one.
No Howland Hangover. Just one day removed from the Sports Illustrated article that shed light on Ben Howland’s loss of control over the UCLA program, the Bruins did not seem at all distracted on the court. UCLA dominated Washington State for a 32-point victory, led by Lazeric Jones’ and Tyler Lamb’s combined 34 points and 10 assists. How crazy would it be if this team shut everyone up and made a run in the Pac-12 Tournament to win the conference and advance to the NCAA Tournament? It’s certainly possible, given the Bruins’ talent and the overall weak state of the Pac-12. 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.
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 »
While all season-ending injuries are disheartening, the one that has taken Kevin Parrom out for season is especially difficult after all he has had to endure recently. Parrom as you probably remember was shot while visiting his ailing mother in New York City just a short time before she died, which was a few months after his grandmother passed away. Parrom, who had been showing signs of playing like he used to recently, was dealt another setback as he will be out for the rest of the season after breaking his right foot in Arizona‘s two-point loss to Washington on Saturday. Fortunately, based on the way he appears to have handled several much bigger setbacks in his life we expect Parrom to bounce back from this and be a force for the Wildcats next season.
Connecticut got its versatile freshman guard Ryan Boatright back this weekend, but not without more controversy. On Saturday, the NCAA released a statement clearing Boatright to play and also provided a timeline with some of the alleged improper benefits that Boatright and his family reportedly received. The following day while Boatright was playing the attorney representing the Boatright family issued a statement criticizing the NCAA for releasing the information about the alleged improper benefits and threatened the NCAA with legal action. The NCAA then replied with an update to the document (a blue text box in the prior link) that said their previous statement was “factual and in response to numerous public misstatements and the resulting inaccurate reporting by some media”. We are not sure when this will end, but at this point it is beginning to seem petty and would probably be best for both sides to let it fade away rather than trying to get the last word in.
There has been a lot of talk about why there has not been as much interest in college basketball this season after many people expected the sport to have a breakthrough season with several potential lottery picks opting to return to college for at least another season. Many pundits have proposed solutions to fix this, but Dan Wolken’s may be among the most interesting that we have heard. In a column yesterday, Wolken proposed that the start of the college basketball season be moved back to January and the NCAA Tournament start in May. Under this proposal, college basketball would not have to compete with college football and would be finished by the time the NBA Playoffs were in full swing. While some fans and some administrators may find this jarring to their established sensibilities it does make some sense and although it may interfere with college finals, which would only affect Duke students according to Dick Vitale, it could be a generate more season-long interest for many fans. At the very least moving back the season so it does not start at the most important time of the college football season would be a big boost. If January-May is too much for administrators, perhaps a season that starts in December after the college football conference championship games could provide a reasonable compromise.
The streak is over. Mercifully, Towsonended its NCAA Division I-record losing streak at 41 games as it knocked off UNC-Wilmington 66-61 on Saturday. The Tigers, who improved to 1-22 (bubble team status in the Pac-12), were led by 18 points from Marcus Damas. There are quite a few numbers that will give you a sense of just how bad this losing streak was, but we will now turn our attention to Binghamton, which now has the longest losing streak in Division I at a rather pedestrian 22-game losing streak. We are guessing this will be brought up on PTI much to the dismay of Mr. Tony.
Charleston will be without Bobby Cremins for the foreseeable future as the legendary coach has taken an indefinite medical leave of absence to tend to undisclosed medical conditions. Cremins, who has compiled a 579-375 record in his career, is best known for his time at Georgia Tech where he led the school to the 1990 Final Four, but has also made a mark at Charleston where he has gone 125-68 in a little over five and a half seasons and pulled off several memorable upsets over more prominent schools. Cremins will be replaced for the time being by assistant coach Mark Byington. We wish Bobby a speedy recovery from whatever he is dealing with and hope that it is not too serious.
John Templon is the RTC correspondent for the America East. You can also find his musings online at NYC Buckets or on Twitter @nybuckets.
The Week That Was:
Nicks and Bruises: Every team has a few injuries at this time in the season and they’re impacting some rotations. Ben Crenca is out for a few weeks for Vermont and his backup Luke Apfeld also tweaked something. Apfeld, though, returned to play 23 minutes in Vermont’s last game against Saint Louis.
Dropping the Albany Cup: Siena and Albany have a great rivalry. Unfortunately, this time the Saints took home the victory, 64-60. O.D. Anosike scored 21 points and grabbed 18 rebounds for Siena in the victory. The Great Danes really struggled, shooting 24-64 (37.5%) from the field.
Chris De La Rosa leaves UMBC: De La Rosa was an All-America East Second Team selection last season, but after playing in just one game this season, the Retrievers’ star point guard sent a release out through the school stating that he was leaving the program. The release said that he left for “personal and family-related matters.”
Maine's Justin Edwards May Exude A Quiet Demeanor, But He Lets His Game Do The Talking. (GoBlackBears.com)
Boston University (4-5) – From November 26 through December 3, the Terriers played the best stretch of basketball of any America East school. Wins over Rhode Island, Hofstra, Delaware and Boston College reasserted Joe Jones’ team as the one to beat in the conference this season. Darryl Partin is shouldering a huge amount of the offensive load and is averaging 23.9 points per game. His sidekick in the backcourt is D.J. Irving, who averages 13.8 points per game.
Vermont (4-5) – The win over Old Dominion is the best by any America East this season. The Catamounts don’t play very pretty basketball, being one of the slowest teams in college basketball, but they’re just good enough at offense and defense to be a contender this season. Brian Voelkel continues to be a beast on the boards averaging 7.8 rebounds per game. Read the rest of this entry »
Getting Healthy: A number of America East teams are counting on the healthy return of star players to help boost their fortunes this season. New Hampshire has two players returning from injuries that cost them time last season, Alvin Abreu and Ferg Myrick. Abreu was a second-team all-league choice in 2009-10 before missing all but two games of last season with a knee injury. Myrick averaged 12.1 PPG and 4.1 RPG last season, but missed 16 games due to his own knee injury. Another second-team player from 2009-10, Tommy Brenton, returns for Stony Brook as well. Even after missing last season, Brenton is the current conference leader in career rebounds. One player who missed most of last season, Boston University’s Jake O’Brien, unfortunately re-injured his ankle and will miss the entire 2011-12 campaign as well.
Departed Head Men: Two of the top teams in the America East lost their head coaches during the offseason carousel. Pat Chambers made the NCAA Tournament at Boston University and then left for Penn State and Mike Lonergan went from Vermont to the head job at George Washington. Former Columbia head coach JoeJones is replacing Chambers, while the Catamounts decided to promote John Becker. Becker was Lonergan’s assistant for the past five seasons.
Learning The Hard Way: Boston University is one of the league favorites and the Terriers will find out quickly if they’re for real. The non-conference schedule is a very difficult one that includes road games at Texas, Boston College and Villanova. Another way to learn about the conference early in the season is to watch Boston College. The Eagles also play against New Hampshire, a team which could surprise people, and Stony Brook during non-conference play.
The Great Race and Parity: This season’s conference race looks like it’s going to be a three-horse race with Boston University, Vermont and Stony Brook ahead of the pack. That might be good news for the Seawolves as five different teams have won the conference title in the past five seasons. Since the Catamounts won in 2010 and the Terriers in 2011, maybe 2011-12 is the season where Stony Brook breaks through for its first ever NCAA Tournament appearance.
Terrier Fans Should Expect To See Plenty of Darryl Partin This Season. (AP Photo)