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?
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:
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 »
John Templon is the RTC correspondent for America East. You can also find his musings online at NYC Buckets (http://www.nycbuckets.com) or on Twitter @nybuckets.
The Week That Was
Close Calls: The teams of America East have found themselves on the wrong end of close scores early in the season. The nine teams are a combined 1-8 in games decided by five points or fewer or in overtime. That includes Vermont’s two-point loss against South Florida, which would’ve been a big scalp for the league. The Catamounts also got the league’s first close victory with an overtime defeat of Old Dominion, 77-75 in overtime, on Tuesday.
New High Scorers: Two of the leading scorers in America East this season weren’t here in 2010-11. Albany’s Gerardo Suero has given the Great Danes a go-to guy and freshman Justin Edwards is leading the way for Maine. See Albany’s section below for much more about Suero. What’s impressive about Edwards, a Canadian import, is that he’s also leading the conference in steals in the early going with 3.5 per game. Edwards was named the America East Rookie of the Week for his efforts last week.
Slow Starts at the Top: Vermont, Boston University and Stony Brook were supposed to be the class of America East coming into this season. The Catamounts won two games they should’ve but lost to Long Island in their final game of Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament. The Seawolves suffered a tough loss to Sacred Heart and the Terriers fell to Northeastern and Cornell. Those are the types of 50/50 games that the top third of the league needs to win in order for America East to get some more respect moving forward.
Albany's Gerardo Suero Diced Up Syracuse's Zone, But The Great Danes Came Up Short. (Kevin Rivoli/AP)
Matt McKillip is the RTC correspondent for the America East Conference.
A Look Back
Stony Brook for Breakfast: Those not heroic enough to last the full 24 hours had a chance to wake up to Stony Brook’s 6 am game, or the last half for those who couldn’t quite get out of bed at six. The Seawolves won a sloppy but exciting game, 51-49, over Monmouth.
Road Warriors:Vermont notched the top win so far of the season when they snapped Siena’s 38-game home winning streak, and followed it up by scaring UConn, leading 36-33 at half in that one.
Down With The Generals:Boston University defeated George Washington to set up a match up with Villanova, where coach Patrick Chambers was formerly an assistant, but the Terriers could not hang with the #7 team in the country.
Vermont (1-1): The Catamounts defeated Siena behind senior Evan Fjeld, his incredible mustache and the astonishingly steady hand of freshman Brian Voelkel who nearly notched a triple-double in his first ever game with 9/10/9 assts. For an encore, they dominated Connecticut in the first half before a career night from Kemba Walker pushed the Huskies ahead. UVM’s point guard issues are not settled, but the freshman do not show their age and the team executes excellently in the half court offense. After returning only one starter, Coach Lonergan again has made Vermont the team to beat in the America East.
Boston University (1-2): The Terriers lost a close decision to a crosstown rival Northeastern, followed it up with a nice win over George Washington, but then were no match for Villanova the following night. Freshman guard D.J. Irving has earned a starting spot and, boy, is he quick out there — and that means something when you’re watching him on the same floor as Villanova’s guards. He’ll need to improve his jump shot, though — opponents sag well off him around the perimeter. Dom Morris and Patrick Hazel have shown flashes inside but will have to grow into their roles. John Holland continues to pour in the points, but one warning sign could be how tight of a rotation coach Patrick Chambers is keeping, as he is only going seven deep.
Maine (1-1): Maine has received an early boost from senior forward Troy Barnies while preseason all-conference pick Gerald McLemore has been ice cold (5-24 FG). Transfer Raheem Singleton is fitting in nicely at point guard, but it is hard to get a read on this team. The first four games alternate between easy opponents and unwinnable games: Utah Valley State, Maryland, Maine Machias (a D-II school) and Notre Dame.
New Hampshire (1-0): UNH has been the least active team in the America East, only playing one game so far, and they had to overcome a sluggish start to clip Dartmouth in their first game. Tyrone Conley had 18 points and led a balanced attack that included a double-double from big man Dane Diliegro. The lead story, though is that last year’s leading scorer and second team all-conference player Alvin Abreu (14.4 PPG) was hurt in the team’s lone game and there are rumors that he is out for the season.
Stony Brook (3-1): After getting drubbed by UConn, Stony Brook has cruised through a schedule of powder puff teams. This seemed foolish when the Seawolves were conference favorites, but now that Tommy Brenton is lost for the season, easing into the year is prudent. Chris Martin has been a consistent player, but it appears this team will live and die by the three point shooting of Bryan Dougher. Forward Al Rapier received no attention coming into the season, but the 6’7 JuCo transfer has become the primary beneficiary ofBrenton’s injury — he’s turned into a nice role player (8.5 PPG, 7 RPG).
Hartford (0-2):Morgan Sabia has been the surprise of the season so far; he is thriving under first year coach John Gallagher. The 6’8 forward scored 23 points in each game (he averaged 11 last season) while shooting over 50% and grabbing 9.5 RPG. The Hawks are struggling to get over the hump though, losing each of their first two games by two points.
Binghamton (1-1): Talk about a one man show. Greer Wright has scored 48% of the Bearcats’ points so far. He led them to a two point victory of Colgate in the opener, but on Wednesday night, Binghamton took an 18-15 lead over Bucknell with 8:50 left in the first on Wednesday night… and then didn’t score for the rest of the half. The final score was 66-38. Thirty eight! It looks like it’s going to be an up-and-down season for Binghamton until they need to find a reliable second scorer.
UMBC (0-2): The pieces are starting to take shape, but the Retrievers have not put together a complete effort yet. Transfer Travis King is establishing himself as the teams deep threat, scoring 22 points in a loss to Loyola (MD). Freshman Chase Plummer is off to a fast start after scoring in double figures in the first two games. This team has been able to put up points and if they learn how to close out games, they will be a sleeper in the America East this year.
Albany (0-3): After taking a nine point lead on Cornell early in the first half, starting point guard Mike Black went down with an ankle sprain and it’s been a downward spiral since then. Since he’s been off the court, no Great Dane can hang onto the ball or find anything but iron on jump shots. It has felt at times that senior Tim Ambrose is the only thing standing between the Danes and a shutout. Australian freshman Luke Devlin has been a bright spot, putting in a lot of minutes and posting 10 points and 9 rebounds in his first game. Logan Aronhalt has been in double figures for all three games, but he has been wildly inaccurate. Coach Will Brown hopes to build on a solid second half against Georgia Tech as the team looks forward to Black’s return.
A Look Ahead
Central Connecticut State already has an America East scalp with a two point win over Hartford, but a talented though still disjointed UMBC team will try to hand them their first loss of the season. (11/20)
New Hampshire plays! They play their second game Saturday while multiple teams in the league play their fourth. How will the Wildcats respond to losing Abreu? (11/20)
As a consolation from the good people of the NIT, Boston University plays back-to-back games in DC against Hampton and Nevada. (11/22 & 11/23)
Loyola (MD) beat UMBC at home, how will they fare when travel to Burlington to play a Vermont team that has leapt to #1 in the America East power rankings. (11/24)
Albany’s winnable games just got a lot tougher; Iona and Yale upset Richmond and Boston College, respectively, on Thursday night. (11/23 & 12/6)
Caught On Film
Vermont snaps Siena’s 38 game home winning streak.
The ESPN tagline for this game should have read “Kemba Walker needed to score 42 points for UConn to beat Vermont.”