Checking in on… the America East

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 14th, 2011

Matt McKillip is the RTC correspondent for the America East conference.

A Look Back

  • Believe It or Not: Ripley’s should consider sponsoring the America East this season, because the standing are mind-boggling. Hartford (6th in the preseason coaches poll, 3-10 OOC) went into the week on top of the league, before being overtaken by the undefeated Binghamton Bears (who were tabbed 7th, and were also 3-10 outside the America East)
  • Don’t Play for New Hampshire, Kids: After Alvin Abreu, the Wildcats’ leading scorer, from last year went down with a season ending injury, sophomore Ferg Myrick stepped into the lead scoring role and showed promise of being one of the better players in the league, that is until he ruptured a patella tendon. There’s been about five similar cases in the last half decade… are the Wildcats turning into the Clippers?
  • Who’s On Top?: Vermont handled upstart Albany, while Boston University dropped a game to Maine on the road. Then Maine lost to Hartford at home. Then BU beat Vermont in Boston. Then Hartford lost on the road to a hobbled New Hampshire squad after blowing a huge early lead. If you figure out who is going to win the league, let me know.

Power Rankings

1) Vermont (11-4, 2-1): Vermont stumbled away at Boston University and were actually down at halftime to Albany. The Catamounts are the still the most consistent team in the league because they play harder, make smart plays and control the boards. But leader Evan Fjeld has been slowed for a couple of games, and it will be interesting to see if he picks up his production during conference play.

2) Maine (9-7, 3-1): Maine dropped a two-point decision on their home floor to a then-streaking Hartford team. It was a tough loss after a banner victory over Boston University to open the season. Forward Troy Barnies has worked himself into an All-Conference player, out of nowhere. The senior big man leads the team in points (13.3 PPG) and rebounds (7.3 RPG).

3) Boston University (7-10, 2-1): Boston Univesity received forward Jeff Pelage back from injury and his return has been a boon to the team. He is still well off 100%, but coach Pat Chambers is clearly pleased to have his muscular rebounding specialist back- played him significant minutes. Keep an eye out for rookie point guard DJ Irving after he abused Vermont’s weak defense guard play for many open layups. The talent on the team is starting to come together- if it does, the rest of the America East could be in trouble

4) Hartford (5-11, 2-1): Hartford embarrassed Albany to take first place in the AE standings, but then blew an enormous lead to a weak New Hampshire team. Morgan Sabia has been putting up the numbers for this team, but Milton Burton has been exceptional in the middle of a 1-3-1 zone. The 6’5 senior has wrecked havoc for opposing teams and leads the league in steals (2.2 SPG).

5) Binghamton (6-10, 3-0): Kudos to the Bearcats for the hot start to the conference and especially for doing it without leading scorer Greer Wright, who has been sidelined with an injury, but we still have no proof this team will compete in the America East. Their wins are over the three worst teams in the league, but, if Mahamoud Jabbi keeps playing like a all-league player (17 points, 14 rebounds in a win over UMBC) who knows…

6) Albany (8-11, 1-3): Albany had a very tough opening schedule, but just hasn’t been able to spring the upsets. Against Maine at home, they had the ball in a tie game with 40 seconds left, and both a seven-foot floater and a mid-range jump shot didn’t fall. Tim Ambrose has been slipping, so Albany will need more aggression from point guard Mike Black and the oft-quiet bench and bigs.

7) Stony Brook (6-9, 1-2): Stony Brook sandwiched a loss to Cornell in between similar outcomes to Vermont and Binghamton. The talent on this team is young, but they do no look ready to compete. Marcus Rouse stepped up on offense, but there hasn’t been much else. A lot of youth and talent on this team that might have come together under the insane effort of Tommy Brenton, but for now, the season appears lost.

8) New Hampshire (7-9, 1-3): Yes, they beat Hartford and yes, they still have two of the more talented players in the league, Dane DiLiegro and Tyrone Conley. But even their comeback might have a drawback – Conley is well known for shunning his athleticism to pop from deep and a 6-10 game from three against Hartford will likely encourage him to keep chucking the ball.

9) UMBC (1-15, 0-3): Free hugs! If you’re team is on a skid, there might be a leftover Christmas surprise if UMBC is waiting on your schedule.

A Look Ahead

Are You For Real?

  • Perhaps we’ll find out when Binghamton travels to Maine. If Binghamton holds onto the top spot in the league after that road trip, time to start giving credit to Bearcats. (January 15)
  • Boston University at Albany: The Danes gave Maine fits in Albany but let the game slip through their fingers- will they have more luck against the Terriers? (January 15)
  • Maine at Vermont: Two of the best teams in the league go head to head, don’t be shocked if this is an AE Championship preview. (January 18)
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Checking in on… the America East

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 12th, 2011

Matthew McKillip is the RTC correspondent for the America East Conference.

A Look Back

  • Maine Smacks Penn St.: The Maine Black Bears have been heating up and Penn State figured out the hard way, losing by 10 points in their home arena.

  • Holiday Spirit: Will Brown and the Albany Great Danes made headlines throughout the basketball community when they lent a ride to one of their upcoming opponents, Xavier’s Mark Lyons, after the brutal northeastern weather left Lyons stranded in New York. The feel good story for the Danes ended there, as Lyons snapped out of a shooting slump and buried them with a barrage of early threes.
  • Split to be Proud of: Vermont finished an impressive, even shocking OOC schedule  with a road tumble with MAAC favorites Fairfield and Iona (the Catamounts beat Siena on the road earlier this season). UVM lost at Fairfield, but bounced back for a convincing victory over Mike Glover and the Gaels.
  • John Holland…back? At last update, POY favorite John Holland of Boston University was in the doghouse and coming off the bench. He is back in the starting lineup and his play has steadily improved but the Terriers still aren’t trustworthy with a lead late in the game: they have five losses of three points or less this season.
  • Thanks, Colgate: The 0-11 Raiders have dropped three straight games to the America East (Maine, Albany, Stonybrook) since the last check-in and five throughout the year.
  • Fan Shot: If you’re interested in a more in-depth look at the America East, fans, bloggers and writers from around the league chipped in for a conference roundtable.

Power Rankings

1) Vermont (9-3): Vermont nearly had a letdown at home against Mount St. Mary’s after the Iona victory, but they prevailed in overtime. Brian Voelkel cemented his value as point forward- when he had an off night against Fairfield (6 turnovers), the offense struggled mightily. A positive sign in recent weeks has been the improvement of guard Brendan Bald.

2) Maine (6-5): Maine is the hottest team in the league with four straight wins and they’ve had contributions from all over the map. It’s impossible to game plan against their leading scorer because I don’t think coach Ted Woodward has any idea who will come out hot for him tonight. They’re defined by their defense, led by the efforts of Murphy Burnatowski, but if the offense comes around, the Black Bears could be the top team in the America East.

3) Albany (7-7): Tim Ambrose, the compact and burly guard, can play with the best of them right now. The six-foot wrecking ball has upped his assist-turnover ratio to 1.2, averaging 18 points per game and shooting 53% from the field and almost 50% from three. He’s going to need continued improvement from his sophomore backcourt mate Mike Black if the Great Danes are truly going to challenge for an NCAA bid.

4) New Hampshire (6-5): The Wildcats had the most perplexing loss of the season when they got destroyed by CCSU… while the coach’s son, Ryan Herrion, played 22 minutes and leading scorers Dane Diliegro and Ferg Myrick played 14 and 10 respectively. UNH bounced back with a victory over Cornell on a neutral floor and has seen improvement from rookies Kazadi Nyanguila and DeAndray Buckley. The Wildcats remain puzzling team that searching for leadership.

5) Boston University (5-8): During this pre-season we’ve learned that Coach Chambers has as much talent as we thought, but also been forced to realize how young this team is. The Terriers’ have played the toughest schedule in the league and they’ve left a lot of close games on the table. This team could very well will the title, but they have no business heading into the regular season as favorite. Rebounding forward Jeff Pelage is back from an off-season injury, so his experience and muscle should help bolster a talented and deep front line.

6) Stony Brook (5-6): The Seahawks lost on national TV to a very good Notre Dame squad by a lot, but Stony Brook’s young and fearless backcourt showed it’s potential. Freshman Dave Coley plays aggressively with  a loose handle that belies his New York City background and he has some success getting to the basket. Fellow freshman Anthony Jackson and sophomore Marcus Rouse also took turns taking swings (figuratively) at the Big East power. They may not develop this season, but Coach Pikiell has a strong basing moving forward.

7) Binghamton (3-8): If only a game was two second halves, the Bearcats would be incredible. They erased a 13-point halftime lead to storm back and clip Cornell in the final minutes with heroics from Mahamoud Jabbi. This team is wildly unpredictably, but if they happen to be on and putting in the effort, Binghamton could beat any team in the league.

8)Hartford (2-9): Hartford took a long holiday break and their only action has been a drubbing at the hands of Cal. A game against St. Mary’s doesn’t figure improve the Hawks’ confidence moving into conference play.

9) UMBC (0-12): Recruit Jarrel Lane hit a game winner for St. Patrick (NJ). He has not yet decommitted. And that’s where positives end.

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