RTC’s 2009-10 Impact Players – Northeast Region

Posted by zhayes9 on September 2nd, 2009

impactplayersYesterday the calendar moved into September and we’re all foaming at the mouth around here to get started on the 2009-10 season preview materials, but we realize it doesn’t make much sense to start really gearing up on that until October.  Nevertheless, one feature we want to start that we’ll be publishing weekly all the way up to the start of the season is our RTC 2009-10 Impact Players series.   Each week we’re going to pick a geographic area of the country and break down the five players who we feel will have the most impact on their teams (and by the transitive property, college basketball) this season.  Our criteria is once again subjective – there are so many good players in every region of the country that it’s difficult to narrow them down to only five  in each – but we feel at the end of this exercise that we’ll have discussed nearly every player of major impact in the nation.  Just to be fair and to make this not too high-major-centric, we’re also going to pick a mid-major impact player in each region as our sixth man.  We welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments where we left players off.  The only request is that you provide an argument – why will your choice be more influential this season than those we chose?

Northeast Region (ME, NH, VT, MA, RI, CT, Upstate NY)

northeast

  • Joe Trapani – Jr, F – Boston College. Al Skinner hit the jackpot when Vermont transfer Joe Trapani elected to join the BC basketball program for the 2008-09 season after a successful debut campaign with the Catamounts, averaging 11.4 points and 4.4 rebounds per game and earning America East all-rookie team honors. Trapani wanted to challenge himself at a higher level of competition, transferring to nearby Chestnut Hill where the 6’8 forward made quite an impression in his sophomore season, upping his scoring average to 13.4 ppg and rebounds to 6.6 per contest. Trapani earned a spot on this list mostly due to his all-around game; in fact, the skilled big man led the Eagles in assists in four games. His best performance may have come against Kyle Singler and Duke at home, an upset win for BC in which Trapani registered 20 points, seven rebounds and five blocks. Not many 6’8 forwards can score, rebound, dish and shoot 36% from deep. His inside-outside game reminded many of the Eagle faithful of the recently departed Jared Dudley and will be even more vital to the Eagles success in 2009-10 without leading scorer Tyrese Rice. While the rest of the roster returns, it is Trapani who must lead the way if BC wants to make a return trip to the NCAA Tournament. Rakim Sanders, Corey Raji, Biko Paris and other Eagles will contribute, but Trapani’s model of consistency and constant leadership makes him indispensable to Skinner and the BC program.
  • Arinze Onuaku – Sr, F/C – Syracuse. The Syracuse behemoth is one of the most puzzling players in all of college basketball. There are two statistics that jump out at you when analyzing Onuaku’s 2008-09 junior season with the Orange: 67% and 30%. Incredibly, that was Onuaku’s field goal and free throw percentage last year… in order. That’s right, Onuaku was an insanely efficient 178-267 from the floor, higher than Blake Griffin, Tyler Hansbrough, Luke Nevill, Patrick Patterson, DeJuan Blair or anyone in college basketball. On the flip side, his free throw shooting (37-124) was abysmal and downright embarrassing, meaning if Onuaku doesn’t improve in this area mightily over the summer and into the upcoming season, Hack-A-Onuaku will be explored greatly by Big East coaches in 2009-10. The big man MUST improve to at least 50% if he doesn’t want to greatly cost the Orange. Onuaku’s impact to Syracuse is mostly positive, though. The field goal percentage speaks for itself, along with 10.3 PPG, 7.3 RPG and a 19/12 double-double against Cole Aldrich and Kansas last season. With Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf and Paul Harris gone to riches (just kidding for two of them), Onuaku will be relied on heavily by coach Jim Boeheim to be a reliable force in the paint by blocking shots, staying out of foul trouble, scoring with efficiency and scooping up rebound after rebound. With Blair and Thabeet departed, nobody can have as much of an impact down low at Onuaku both in the Big East conference and in the entire Northeast region.
  • Jerome Dyson – Sr, G – UConn. When Jerome Dyson knocked knees with an unidentified Syracuse player and crumpled to the floor during a routine win for the 23-1 Huskies on Feb. 11, you could almost hear the collective groan from the UConn faithful throughout the Northeast.  You see, the dirty little secret for UConn was that Dyson at 34.8% was one of the only two players on the roster (AJ Price at 40.2% was the other) who could reliably nail a three-pointer for the Huskies.  UConn was never going to be confused for a team of marksmen, but it’s no coincidence that a team who was shooting a robust 36.4% from deep on the season at the time of injury shot a horrid 29.8% from outside the rest of the way.  It was painfully obvious in the F4 loss to Michigan St. that once the Huskies got in the hole, the three-pointer – a useful offensive weapon in comeback attempts – simply wasn’t available to them (2-6 for the game).  Dyson should be back at 100% this season, as his meniscus injury is completely healed and he has a chip on his shoulder from seasons lost.  With four key contributors gone from last year’s team, Jim Calhoun will be looking at his senior guard to put the team on his back and take the lead in crunch time.   This shouldn’t be much of a problem considering Dyson’s scorer’s mentality and natural abilities.  If UConn is going to avoid a major letdown from its 31-win season, it’ll be largely due to the poise and play of the player who has always seemed just on the cusp of greatness, but due to some bad decisions mixed in with worse luck, has never quite made it there.
  • Kemba Walker – Soph, G – UConn. Kemba Walker is the latest in a long string of NYC-bred point guards who is set for stardom in the Big East.  As a freshman backing up AJ Price in 2008-09, it was easily apparent to anyone watching that Walker was the player with the quicker first step, better touch around the basket, and ultimately, brighter future.  As such, he’s a projected first rounder whenever he decides to come out for the NBA Draft.  However, perhaps typical of many Big Apple products, his outside jumper is still a work in progress (27.1% from deep last year), but he needn’t rely on 22-footers because he can get to the cup and finish with anybody of any size (52% on twos, which is phenomenal for a six-foot guard).  Walker had some ups and downs during his freshman year, but the reason he’s on our Northeast Region squad has a lot to do with his performance in the Elite Eight against Missouri where he sliced and diced the Tiger defense so effectively (23/5/5) that we should be forgiven for thinking he was the best player on the floor.  Several of our braintrust believe that he could double his offensive output this season en route to becoming an all-american playmaker for the Huskies in the mold of former point guards Chris Smith and Khalid El-Amin.  Regardless of postseason accolades, we should expect the UConn backcourt of Jerome Dyson and Kemba Walker to be one of the very best in the nation this year.
  • Ricky Harris – Sr, G – UMass. While the Minutemen may have underachieved in 2008-09, the scoring production provided by Ricky Harris on a game-by-game basis did not go unnoticed.  With point guard Chris Lowe and shot-blocking extraordinaire Tony Gaffney departed, Harris will be the centerpiece for Massachusetts in Chris Kellogg’s second year as the Minutemen head coach. Harris reached the top six in scoring in both his sophomore and junior campaigns at 18.2 ppg, so predicting a 20+ ppg senior season out of Harris is not outside the realm of possibility. He could very well challenge Dayton big man Chris Wright for A-10 POY this year and should be the #1 scoring force and premier outside shooter in the entire conference. Want more proof? This past season Harris became the 40th UMass player to accumulate 1,000 points in his college career and has scored in double-figures in 61 of his last 66 games along with 28 career contests with 20+ points. He lit up ACC foe Boston College for 35 points on 12-19 FG and 6-11 3PT in an overtime loss. While his rebounding and passing game leaves much to be desired, Harris will make or break whether the Minutemen surprise in a weaker Atlantic 10 and reach a postseason tournament this season. Now that Tyrese Rice and A.J. Price are no longer amateurs, nobody in the entire Northeast region can match his scoring potential on any given night. Harris’ ability to catch fire and will the Minutemen to victory earns him a spot on our all-Northeast squad.
  • DJ Rivera (MM) – Sr, G – Binghamton.  Our mid-major “sixth man” for this region shouldn’t be viewed as a slight of any kind.  We recognize that Rivera, the 6’4 do-anything guard from upstate New York can capably play with anyone in the Northeast region.  In fact, the player who was openly snubbed by America East coaches when it came to conference POY votes last season might just be the top mid-major player in the entire country in 2009-10.   You know the story: the nephew of Philly legend Hank Gathers, Rivera transferred from St. Joe’s after his sophomore year, received a hardship waiver from the NCAA, and proceeded to dominate the America East unlike anyone has, um, ever?  Rivera showed his clutch abilities by averaging 25/11 against league rival Vermont in two games last year, and even dropped 20/5 on 9-14 FGs against Duke in Binghamton’s first-round blowout loss to the Devils.  He’s an absolute stud, and we expect that after briefly flirting with the NBA Draft, he’ll be back with an enormous chip on his shoulder this season given the way the rest of his league treated him.  It’s our wager that  Rivera, with a substantial amount of his team returning, will make a run at a national scoring title (#5 returning scorer in the NCAA) and another trip to the NCAA Tournament to solidify his standing. 

Impact Players NE 2

Honorable MentionTim Ambrose, Albany.  Will Harris, Albany.  Rakim Sanders, BC.  John Holland, BU.  Corey Lowe, BU.  Ryan Wittman, Cornell.  Louis Dale, Cornell.  Jeremy Lin, Harvard.  Matt Janning, Northeastern.  Sharaud Curry, Providence.  Ryan Rossiter, Siena.  Alex Franklin, Siena.  Edwin Ubiles, Siena.  Andy Rautins, Syracuse.  Wesley Johnson, Syracuse.  Stanley Robinson, UConn.  Marqus Blakely, Vermont.

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Checking in on the… America East

Posted by rtmsf on February 23rd, 2009

Corey Johns is the RTC correspondent for the America East Conference.

Over the past two weeks Boston U and Albany played their way out of contention for the regular season conference championship.  Albany just went in a free fall down the standings, losing five straight while Boston U needed to win out for hope but most recently lost to Stony Brook, taking them out.  It’s down to Vermont and Binghamton.  If Binghamton wins out they are the champion.  They beat Vermont twice this year and have the tie breaker.  But if they slip at all Vermont is in perfect position to take the title.

Team    Overall Record    Conference Record

  • Vermont    21-7    12-3
  • Binghamton    18-8    11-3
  • Boston U    14-12    9-5
  • Stony Brook    15-12    7-7
  • New Hampshire    11-14    6-7
  • UMBC    12-14    6-8
  • Albany    13-13    5-8
  • Maine    9-17    4-9
  • Hartford    6-22    2-12

Projected Awards

First Team All-Conference

  • D.J. Rivera, G, Binghamton- (20.4ppg, 6.5rpg, 1,7spg, .487 FG%)
  • Darryl Proctor, F, UMBC (20.2ppg, 8.4rpg, 1.3spg, .490 FG%)
  • John Holland, F, Boston U (17.9ppg, 5.5rpg, 1.9spg, .461 FG%)
  • Mike Trimboli, G, Vermont (16.0ppg, 4.8apg, 3.7rpg, .467 FG%)
  • Marqus Blakely, F, Vermont (15.6ppg, 8.9rpg, 2.7bpg, .598FG%)

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Weekly Bracketology – 02.09.09

Posted by zhayes9 on February 8th, 2009

A few notes:

  • As you’ll notice, I included a comment about each and every team in the bracket. I’ll be doing this in each of my final four brackets (2/16, 2/23, 3/2 and 3/7) as we head towards Selection Sunday.
  • Expect a Bubble Watch post from me on Thursday updating the current bubble picture, a feature that will run very similar to ESPN’s weekly bubble watch.
  • As always, any questions/comments/complaints about this week’s bracket, feel free to comment.

Automatic Bids: Boston University, Xavier, North Carolina, East Tennessee State, Oklahoma, Connecticut, Weber State, VMI, Michigan State, Long Beach State, Northeastern, Memphis, Butler, Princeton, Siena, Buffalo, Morgan State, Northern Iowa, San Diego State, Robert Morris, Morehead State, UCLA, Holy Cross, LSU, Davidson, Sam Houston State, Alabama State, North Dakota State, Western Kentucky, Gonzaga, Utah State

Last Four In: Arizona, Miami, Nebraska, Michigan
Last Four Out: Wisconsin, BYU, UNLV, Kansas State
Next Four Out: Mississippi State, Oklahoma State, Providence, Penn State
Also Considered: Georgetown, Texas A&M, Baylor, Creighton, Maryland, Saint Mary’s, Northwestern, Tulsa

020809-bracketology

1 Seeds

  • Connecticut- The #1 overall seed and #1 team in the polls, Connecticut boasts 6 wins against the top 50 and still has two contests against Pittsburgh remaining on the schedule.
  • Oklahoma- The Sooners have the most wins vs. the top 100 (15) of any team, but only 1 of those victories has come vs. the top 25. They’re the #2 overall seed.
  • North Carolina- The projected ACC champion has continued to win while Duke and Wake Forest slipped up multiple times. The showdown with Duke on Wednesday is for a #1 seed.
  • Pittsburgh- Despite two conference losses, Pitt garners the final #1 seed due to their #2 RPI, 4 wins vs. the top 25 and a much stronger non-conference resume than Louisville.

2 Seeds

  • Duke- Despite the throttling by Clemson, Duke still owns the top overall RPI and have 7 wins against the RPI top 50. They can reclaim the ACC automatic bid this week.
  • Louisville- A sexy 9-1 Big East record and 4 wins vs. the RPI top 25 keep Louisville a comfortable 2. They should watch out for pesky Notre Dame this week.
  • Michigan State- The projected Big Ten champion has stayed the same all season- Michigan State. A 7 RPI, 6 SOS and comfortable lead over Ohio State and Illinois means they should stay there.
  • Marquette- The final #2 seed goes to the fourth Big East team in the field already- Marquette. They slipped in Tampa but still 9-1 and 20 wins overall is enough to grab the honor.

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Checking in on the… America East

Posted by rtmsf on February 6th, 2009

Corey Johns is the RTC correspondent for the America East Conference.

Two weeks ago the America East Conference looked to be wide open.  Everybody was beating everybody and the bottom team was just two games away from the top of the conference.  But in the past two weeks the conference has started to even out.  Boston U, Vermont and Binghamton have started to separate themselves from the rest of the pack and very surprisingly the two teams in the conference championship last season, UMBC and Hartford, look to be at the bottom for good along with Maine.

Team    Overall Record    Conference Record

  1. Boston U    13-9    8-2
  2. Vermont    16-7    7-3
  3. Binghamton    14-8    7-3
  4. Albany    13-9    5-4
  5. Stony Brook    13-10    5-5
  6. New Hampshire    9-12    4-5
  7. UMBC    9-13    3-7
  8. Maine    8-15    3-7
  9. Hartford    6-18    2-8

Projected Awards

First Team All-Conference

  • D.J. Rivera, G, Binghamton- (20.4ppg, 6.2rpg, 1.6spg, 49.1% FG)
  • Darryl Proctor, F, UMBC- (19.6ppg, 8.6rpg, 1.3spg, 48.9% FG)
  • John Holland, F, Boston U- (18.5ppg, 5.4rpg, 1.9spg, 47.3% FG)
  • Corey Lowe, G, Boston U- (17.9ppg, 4.0rpg, 4.0apg, 44.3% FG))
  • Marques Blakely, F, Vermont- (15.5ppg, 8.6rpg, 3.0bpg, 60.1% FG)

Player of the Year

  • Darryl Proctor, F, UMBC- (19.6 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.3 spg, 22 games in double figures)

Defensive Player of the Year

  • Marqus Blakely, F, Vermont- (8.6rpg, 3.0bpg, 2.1spg)

Freshman of the Year

  • Bryan Dougher, G, Stony Brook- (11.7ppg, 1.8apg, 1.5rpg, 40.6% three pointers)

Coach of the Year

  • Dennis Wolff, Boston U- (13-9, 8-3)

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Checking in on the… America East

Posted by rtmsf on January 25th, 2009

Corey Johns is the RTC correspondent for the America East Conference.

Everybody is beating everybody in the America East this year.  It’s a good thing to show how deep the conference is but it’s a bad thing for the NCAA tournament.  When everybody has multiple conference losses, that 14-15 seed teams in this conference hopes for can drop to a 16-play-in game.  But what it does mean right now is nobody is safe, and everybody has a chance to win, shown by the bottom teams being just two conference wins away from the top at this point.

Standings

  1. Binghamton    12-7 (5-2)
  2. Vermont    13-6 (4-2)
  3. Boston U    9-9 (4-2)
  4. Albany    11-8 (3-3)
  5. Maine    8-11 (3-3)
  6. New Hampshire    10-9 (2-4)
  7. Stony Brook    10-9 (2-4)
  8. UMBC    8-10 (2-4)
  9. Hartford    6-14 (2-4)

The Contenders

Vermont- The Catamounts have hit their stride as of late and definitely look like they are the top team in the conference having now won four straight (three on the road).  Mike Trimboli (15.8ppg, 4.7apg), Marqus Blakely (15.2ppg, 8.5rpg), and Colin McIntosh (13.2ppg, 5.6rpg) are a great trio of scorers that have been consistent all season.  The reason Vermont is hot right now though is Michigan state transfer Maurice Joseph has finally become the scoring threat they expected in Vermont.  In the past four games he’s averaged 10.8ppg.  With four guys scoring in double figures on a team, it’s hard to beat them.  But there biggest strength is their bench.  Vermont has been running a six man bench for significant minutes lately, allowing them to play full court press more often and really shutting down teams offenses.

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ATB: Pitt Reasserts Itself and a Look Back to Saturday

Posted by rtmsf on January 19th, 2009

afterbuzzerBig Monday. After a weekend (well, Saturday) of good games, it was probably to be expected that tonight’s games were a couple of dogs.  Does anyone know what happened to the late game that used to be on Big Mondays?  A long time ago it was a Big West game, but in recent years it was the WCC (mostly Gonzaga).  Why did that go away?

  • Pittsburgh 78, Syracuse 60. This game nearly put us and everyone in the arena to sleep – it was vaguely reminiscent of the bad Big East of the 90s.  We guess this sometimes happens, especially considering both of these teams had intense games on Saturday (Pitt losing its #1 ranking to Louisville; Syracuse outshooting ND).  This was a bruiser of a game, and the Syracuse players made sure to spend a good chunk of each possession complaining to the refs.  DeJuan Blair had another dub-dub (20/12) with four offensive rebounds, and Sam Young dropped 19 of his 22 in the 2d half as Pitt pulled away.  Want further proof that this was an ugly game?  Syracuse’s Arinze Onuaku and Pitt’s Levance Fields combined to go 0-9 from the line tonight.
  • Kansas 73, Texas A&M 53. This game was over early and often.  Perhaps we were a little presumptuous in our talk last week about keeping an eye on Texas A&M.  In their last two games, the Aggies have looked spotty and inconsistent.  Granted they were playing Oklahoma and Kansas, but they’re definitely not in the top tier of the Big 12 this year – tonight, not a single Aggie player reached double figures.  KU ran out to a 16-4 lead behind Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich, and never looked back.  Kansas isn’t being discussed very much this year, but Bill Self’s Jayhawks are still playing their trademark defense as they wait on their many freshmen and sophomores to come along.  They have a very good shot at starting the Big 12 slate at 12-0 (avoiding OU and Texas until their last four games), and they could become a trendy pick to make a sleeper run in March as the young players continue to improve.  Great sign, btw….

barack-chalk-jayhawk

Game of the Night. Boston U. 99, Stony Brook 97 (4OT). In a wild America East game tonight, BU and Stony Brook played an extra half of basketball before BU was finally able to get the win behind Corey Lowe’s seven points in the fourth overtime period.  John Holland of BU wins the Ironman award by playing all sixty minutes of the game.

bu-sb

Weekend Review. Here are some of our other thoughts from the weekend games.

  • No Way, Coach K. Coach K made some noise over the weekend in reference to how he believes the ACC is the toughest conference in America (over the Big East).  If you’re talking about the top three teams in each conference, sure, the ACC is probably slightly better.  Top four?  Nope.  Five?  Nope.  Six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve?  Nope.  Of course, where the Big East falters is at its much-maligned bottom (which is why the Big East’s computer rankings aren’t as high as you might think).  Its bottom four teams are absolute garbage, but the bottom line for us is that there are nine teams that are Sweet 16-quality in the Big East, whereas there are four (maybe five) in the ACC.  The Big East is better.  Period.
  • Louisville is Either Really Good or Really Lucky. For the fifth time in the last six games, Louisville was in an all-out war until the very end of a game.  In all but the UNLV game, the Cards managed to hold on and get the win.  Is this a sign of a gritty team that knows how to make winning plays down the stretch; or is it more indicative of a team that plays hard but isn’t good enough to run away from all but the worst teams?  We’re not sure yet, but with upcoming road games at Rutgers and Syracuse this week, we think we’ll have a better idea as to if they’re truly legit or not.
  • We Can’t Wait Until Jan. 28. Wake and Duke are the two teams playing the best basketball in America right now.  Duke is working on all cylinders right now, with their extremely efficient defense conspiring with their multifaceted offensive attack to regularly put down opponents.  Case in point: Georgetown shot 51% in CIS on Saturday, and still never really had a chance to win that game.  We’re still not sure just how well a team of guards and swingmen will translate in March, but for now, it’s working.  Wake’s defense is even stronger than Duke’s, and when you watch their games, there are at least 2-3 times a game where your jaw hits the floor based on their athleticism and size.  The game next Wednesday will probably be #1 vs. #2, and we can’t wait for it.
  • Carolina Got its Mojo Back. If Carolina goes on a run over the next few weeks (and their schedule is favorable for the Heels to do so), everyone will point to the late first half/early second half run that Carolina made (behind Wayne Ellington’s ridiculous eight threes) as the turning point.  Ellington has been maddeningly inconsistent this season, but if the Heels have any plans to play in Detroit this April, he’s going to have to continue with the hot shooting to keep the middle open for Tyler Hansbrough and Deon Thompson.   When he’s shooting well, Carolina is a much different team, one that few, if any, defenses in America can cover.
  • Mike Montgomery Still Welcome at Stanford (so long as he loses). Cal certainly isn’t as good as its record indicated, but the fast start that the Bears had made under Monty was a nice story through the first half of the season, which is why it was compelling when he returned to Maples Pavilion at Stanford as head man at the Cardinals’ archrival.  Stanford seemed to play a little harder, wanted it a little more, and was able to get the win, knocking Cal from the ranks of the Pac-10 unbeatens.  It’s notable that Stanford fans gave Montgomery a nice reception upon his introduction – that wouldn’t happen in the Big 10 or SEC.  No way, no how.
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Checking in on the… America East

Posted by rtmsf on January 11th, 2009

Corey Johns is the RTC correspondent for the America East Conference.

Standings

  1. Binghamton    10-4 (3-0)
  2. New Hampshire    5-7 (1-0)
  3. Albany    9-6 (1-1)
  4. UMBC    7-7 (1-1)
  5. Hartford    5-11 (1-1)
  6. Stony Brook    8-7 (1-2)
  7. Maine    6-10 (1-2)
  8. Vermont    9-5 (0-1)
  9. Boston U    5-8 (0-1)

The Contenders

Binghamton- At the beginning of the season nobody knew what Binghamton was going to do.  They are loaded with talent but they were mostly transfers coming together for the first year.  They are definitely answering any questions people had about them as they are 6-1 in their last seven games with three conference wins.  D.J. Rivera (21.6ppg, 7.0rpg) and Malik Alvin (12.2ppg, 4.3apg) were a questionable backcourt coming into the season as Rivera is a transfer from St. Joseph’s who did not have to sit out a transfer year and Alvin is a junior college transfer.  Nobody knew how well they would play together but they complement each other greatly and are the reason Binghamton is top the conference right now.

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Checking in on the… America East

Posted by rtmsf on December 29th, 2008

Corey Johns is the RTC correspondent for the America East Conference.

Last time the America East week had two average weeks, this time the America East went 8-10 overall but UMBC had an amazing upset at Nebraska and Albany and Vermont are starting to separate themselves by winning all of their games the past two weeks.  Chauncey Gilliam, Danny Carter, Anthony Raffa, Jake O’Brien and Gerald McLemore are all freshmen that are getting better every day, and the future is looking bright for the conference.

Standings:

  1. Albany    8-4
  2. Vermont    6-3
  3. Binghamton    5-4
  4. UMBC    6-5
  5. Boston U    5-5
  6. Stony Brook    5-5
  7. Maine    5-7
  8. Hartford    4-8
  9. New Hampshire    3-6

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Checking in on the… America East

Posted by rtmsf on December 1st, 2008

Corey Johns is the RTC correspondent for the America East Conference.

If it was anything it was an average week for the America East.  They did go a combined 24-20 and play close against some top teams, but they only beat the teams they were supposed to beat and didn’t have many really impressive wins.  So far the conference is going as expected with just one surprise: Hartford is at the bottom.  Last year the Hawks were in the conference finals and returned all but one key player but have been struggling inside the paint and coming up short in close games.

Standings:

  1. Boston U  (3-1)
  2. UMBC  (3-2)
  3. Albany  (3-2)
  4. Maine  (3-2)
  5. Vermont  (2-2)
  6. New Hampshire  (1-2)
  7. Binghamton  (1-2)
  8. Stony Brook  (1-3)
  9. Hartford  (1-4)

The Contenders:

Boston U: As expected forward John Holland and guard Corey Lowe have been the catalyst for success this year.  Last year Holland won the America East Rookie of the Year and now leads his team with 19.2 ppg with highs of 27 against St. Peter’s and 22 against George Washington.  As for Lowe, he was second in the conference last year in points and is off to a great start with 17.5 ppg to go with his 4.2 apg.  The big surprise for the Terriers is freshman forward Jake O’Brien who is averaging 13.0 points.  Their lone loss was against George Washington in the season opener, but since then they’ve won three straight highlighted by an 83-75 win at Northeastern who is currently second in the CAA.

UMBC: All-conference point guard Jay Greene is showing he is more than just the game manager he was last year when he averaged 7.2 apg.  This year he’s not only passing the ball (7.8apg), he is scoring (14.2 ppg).  Helping Greene is Darryl Proctor, who was also a first team all-conference player last year.  He has been, well, Darryl Proctor, leading the team with 19.4 ppg, 9.0 rpg, and 1.8 spg.  Sophomore transfer from Fairfield Richard Flemming has burst onto the scene as a much needed big man on a team with just one big bench player who is just a freshman.  Flemming has scored double figures each time he’s been on the floor and has been getting key rebounds, but the problem with him, as well as center Justin Fry, is that they are getting into foul trouble.  On multiple occasions either one of both had three fouls or more on them early in the second half, which really takes away the depth, despite UMBC using a six man rotation for the most part.

Vermont: Two teams may be ahead of them in the standings but Vermont’s losses were a one point loss to George Mason and a 15 point loss in overtime against Maryland.  Reigning player of the year and defensive player of the year Marquis Blakely is off to a very strong start averaging a team high 17.8 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.2 steals, and 3.0 blocks.  Against Maryland he carried the team with 23 points and 11 rebounds and was the only reason the game went into overtime.  As expected Mike Trimboli has been a solid offensive threat for the team getting 15.2 ppg with his 6.0 assists, but Colin McIntosh was a semi-question mark coming into the season even after starting last year.  He’s been a delight for the Catamounts and has helped to make one of the best groups of forwards with Blakely.  He’s improved his numbers from last year in just about every area.  He’s shooting 13% better from the floor (63.6%), though that number will definitely fall, while averaging 16.8 points and 6 rebounds, both doubling last year’s averages.  Vermont has a very good chance of winning the conference this year if he can stay at the level he is at and the highly touted Michigan State transfer, Maurice Joseph, can increase his offensive output.  He’s averaging 9.5 ppg which isn’t bad but the rest of his numbers are average at best.

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2008-09 Season Primers: #27 – America East

Posted by rtmsf on October 14th, 2008

Corey Johns is the RTC correspondent for the America East conference.

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Boston U (13-3)
  2. Vermont (12-4)
  3. UMBC (12-4)
  4. Hartford (9-7)
  5. Binghamton (8-8)
  6. Albany (8-8)
  7. New Hampshire (5-11)
  8. Maine (2-14)
  9. Stony Brook (2-14)

What You Need to Know (WYN2K).  Last year nobody could predict what happened in this conference.  One of the pre-season favorites, Vermont, had a new star in Marquis Blakely but still couldn’t crack the top two in the league, while the other preseason favorite, Boston U., didn’t even finish in the top half of the league.  UMBC and Hartford shocked everybody by being the two top teams.  Both built their team in different ways: UMBC through transfers, Hartford through the tremendous improvement of returning players (along with a freshman and one transfer).  But this year don’t expect Vermont and Boston U. to disappoint – they should be ready to regain their spots on top of the conference.

Predicted Champion.  Boston U. (NCAA #15 Seed) This is truly a toss up between Boston U. and Vermont.  Both teams are similar – Vermont has one of the top forward/guard tandems in the conference in Marquis Blakely and Mike Trimboli, and BU has John Holland and Corey Lowe.  Last year BU’s Holland won the freshman of the year award and was a major reason for their turnaround at the end.  After a horrid 5-14 start to the season, the Terriers put it together and finished 9-3 to advance to the semifinals of the conference tournament.  BU returns every significant player from last year’s team, including second team all conference point guard Corey Lowe (Am East #2 scorer – 18.8 ppg).  But what truly sets Boston U. above Vermont is that head coach Dennis Wolff runs a very good defense on his team.  They gave up the least amount of points per game in the conference last year (64.8 ppg) and if the offense picks up they should win the title.

Others Considered.  Vermont has a lot of talent on their team and can certainly put together a run for another conference championship (three titles from 2003-05).  Marquis Blakely and Mike Trimboli are a great one-two punch but the Catamounts added another factor with Maurice Joseph, a transfer from Michigan State who averaged 6.2 ppg there as a freshman.  The only thing that might hurt them is they lose two starters including Kyle Cieplicki, the lone member on the team last year who was on the 2005 team that upset #4 seed Syracuse in the NCAA tournament.

The Rest of the Conference.  UMBC took major losses by graduating three all-conference players from last season, but they return and add plenty to remain competitive.  Jay Greene and Darryl Proctor were both first team all-conference players last year and possibly the best at their positions.  Greene was second in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio and was fourth in the nation with 7.2 assist per game.  One thing about Greene is he can be one of the best scorers in the conference if he chooses to shot the ball.  He only averaged 8.8 ppg but when he needed to score had games of 26, 21, and 17. Hartford is another team that still has enough to make an impact with four starters back, led by Joe Zeglinski and Jaret Von Rosenberg. The big issue that could keep the Hawks out of the conference championship game is their lack of rebounding.  Last season they were last in the conference in that category and lost their best rebounder and major inside presence.  If they can develop another big body to take control of the paint then they may still have hope.  Binghamton and Albany will be relying on the development of transfers, combining for eight between the two teams.  Transfers did wonders for UMBC last season but it is always a gamble in terms of team chemistry.  Both teams lost three of their top players but if the transfers can have an impact right away then both teams can be dangerous.  New Hampshire has been one of the bottom dwellers for a while but can move up if Dane DiLiegro steps up at center and inproves the team’s rebounding.  With a lack of quality big men they might end up starting four guards including Tyrece Gibbs, who is one of the premier scorers in the conference, and Alvin Abreu, who was the top freshman guard a year ago. As for Maine and Stony Brook they will likely finish in the bottom two spots again.

Games to Watch.  As a one-bid league, only one game will matter to most people.

  • America East Championship Game (03.14.09) ESPN2.

RPI Boosters.  The America East in one of the conferences where if you don’t win it, you don’t get in the NCAA Tournament.  Two years ago Vermont went 15-1 in conference play but lost in the conference finals and took a nice consolation trip to the NIT.  With the win-or-go-home aspect of the conference the teams also know they have to do everything they can in OOC games to get higher than a #15 or #16 seed, which is tough to do.  UMBC won 24 games last year, beating American and almost beating Ohio State but still ended up with a 15th seed.  This year four of the top Am East schools all scheduled games against big-time opponents where an upset wouldn’t be out of the question and they all could have a major bearing on where the winner of the conference is seeded.

  • Albany @ DePaul (11.17.08)
  • Hartford @ Penn State (11.20.08)
  • Vermont @ Maryland (11.21.08)
  • Boston U. @ Notre Dame (12.13.08)
  • UMBC @ Nebraska (12.13.08)
  • Hartford @ Baylor (12.22.08)
  • Boston U. @ Cornell (12.29.08)

Impact Transfers. The America East might soon get the nickname “The Conference of Transfers.”  Between the nine teams in the conference there are 17 eligible transfers either cleared from sitting their transfer year or coming from junior college.  Last year transfers did wonders for UMBC and other teams hope for the same this year.  This year the transfer list is headlined by Vermont’s Maurice Joseph, a transfer from Michigan State who averaged 5.9 ppg in 16.8 minutes per game as a sophomore (get a look at Joseph in HS below).  Other key guys include Binghamton’s quartet of transfers, Tiki Mayben, Malik Alvin, Sean Watson, and Theo Davis (eligible in the second semester), Albany’s Louis Barraza (20.1ppg at the JuCo level), and UMBC’s 6’7” Ricky Flemming, a transfer from Fairfield.

Neat-o-Stat.  Since 1980 when the conference started, the champion has repeated 44% of the time while the regular season champion has won the conference championship 75% of the time.  The lowest seed to ever win the conference tournament was a #3 seed which happened once in 1993 when Delaware beat the #1 seed Drexel (67-64).

65-Team Era. The America East is 3-23 (.115) since the field moved up to 65, with three first-round victories from 1989 (#14 Siena over #3 Stanford), 1996 (#12 Drexel over #5 Memphis), and 2005 (#13 Vermont over #4 Syracuse). But the America East is surprisingly the only mid-major conference in the northeast that has never been apart of the play-in game. 

Final Thought. Usually two or three teams have a chokehold on the top of the conference, but this year the conference remains top heavy but it is still anybody’s league.  Vermont and Boston U. are projected to be the top teams this year but Hartford, UMBC, Albany, and Binghamton all can make some noise and should make the year very interesting.

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