It’s the start of Championship Fortnight, so let’s gear up for the next 13 days of games by breaking down each of the Other 26’s conference tournaments as they get under way.
America East Tournament
Dates: March 4, 8, 14
Site: Campus sites (higher-seeded teams host)
What to expect: Albany looks to go dancing for a third straight year after pulling off conference tournament upsets in back-to-back seasons. The only difference this time around is that the Great Danes enter as the top seed, while Vermont and Stony Brook – favorites of seasons past – attempt to play spoiler. The Catamounts are the America East’s best defensive unit and the Seawolves boast its most dominant player, 6’8’’ forward Jameel Warney. Both teams are good enough to threaten for the title. Still, Albany went 8-1 against league opponents in SEFCU Arena this season and won’t have to leave its friendly confines during this event. The regular season champs are in a good spot.
Favorite: Albany. After hosting the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds in both 2013 and 2014 – and taking full advantage – the Great Danes find themselves in similar position this year despite the conference’s format change. The road to Selection Sunday likely travels through Albany, one way or another. That leg-up, along with their veteran head coach and Australian inside-out duo (big man Sam Rowley and guard Peter Hooley) that combines for 28.0 PPG, is enough to make them favorites.
Championship Week reached a crescendo on the eve of Selection Sunday, as thirteen automatic bids were handed out. As each of the 31 automatic qualifiers plays their way into the Dance over the next week, we’ll take some time to give you an analytical snapshot of each team that you can refer back to when you’re picking your brackets this week.
How About A Court Storming On An Opponent’s Home Floor? Completely Legal, Especially If A Trip To The Big Dance Is On The Line. Congratulations Albany.
America East Champion (24-10, 12-7)
RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #143/#152/#172
Adjusted Scoring Margin = +2.0
Likely NCAA Seed: #16
Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.
It’s been a rollercoaster of a year for Albany, but Saturday’s ticket-punching win at Vermont means the ride will roll on to the Big Dance. The America East champs put together an impressive 11-3 non-conference campaign that included a win at Washington, but conference play proved trying for Will Brown’s team, as a 9-7 finish left them as the fourth seed in the America East tournament. Albany lived the familiar March mantra “survive and advance” to the fullest this week, winning three games by a total of eight points to earn the bid.
In a fashion quite typical for these Great Danes, Albany won games this week in which they scored 50, 61 and 53 points, respectively – not exactly “grab some popcorn and take in the show” territory here. The tempo is predictably slow (279th nationally), and with national ranks of 170th offensively and 144th defensively, Albany is very much middle of the road on both ends of the floor. Where the Great Danes do excel is on the glass. They are an above average offensive rebounding team and rank 40th nationally in collecting caroms on the defensive end, aided in part by a relatively big lineup, especially for the America East.
The Albany offensive blueprint is not especially refined, but they rely heavily on a small senior duo of three-point shooters. 6’0” Mike Black leads the Danes in scoring at 15 a contest and towers over his backcourt mate, 5’10” Jacob Iati, who chips in 12.2 PPG. The two have combined to make 139 threes this season, and they would be well served to keep chucking come next week, because unless Albany gets slotted for the First Four in Dayton, it will take a hot shooting night and then some (and then some more, and some more…) to keep the Danes surviving and advancing.
Rulers Of Conference USA For The Final Time, Memphis Is Dancing Again
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 »
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.
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.
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.”
Game #4. RTC Live visits another new school tonight, enjoying the hospitality of upstate New York in a game between two regional rivals looking for answers.
Fresh off its third consecutive Ivy League conference title and a scintillating Sweet 16 run in last year’s March Madness tournament, Cornell’s Big Red takes a trip to the Capital Region to take on UAlbany’s Great Danes. Cornell welcomes new head coach Bill Courtney to the sidelines after the departure of Steve Donahue, the architect of much of Big Red’s recent success, who has since left to fill a vacancy at Boston College. Coach Courtney has his work cut out for him in trying to replicate Big Red’s 29 wins from last year. On the other sideline, UAlbany coach Will Brown hopes to rebound from a dismal 7-25 campaign, the worst season of his career to date. To do so, he will turn to the talents of sophomores Blake Metcalf and Logan Aronholt, who he named captains back in October. The America East Conference’s preseason poll slated the Great Danes to finish eighth in the conference, just ahead of UMBC, so Coach Brown faces a long road ahead of him in rebuilding the UAlbany brand to its 2006 form, which saw the Great Danes earn a trip to the NCAA tournament and a compelling near-upset of No. 1 seed UConn.
Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Mountain West Conferences and an occasional contributor
Predicted Order of Finish
San Diego State(13-3)
Air Force (1-15)
All-Conference Team (key stats from last season in parentheses)
G: Jimmer Fredette, Sr, BYU (22.1 PPG, 4.7 APG)
G: Dairese Gary, Sr, New Mexico (13.1 PPG, 3.9 APG)
G: Tre’Von Willis, Sr, UNLV (17.2 PPG, 3.9 RPG)
F: Afam Muojeke, Jr, Wyoming (16.8 PPG, 3.9 RPG)
F: Kawhi Leonard, Soph, San Diego State (12.7 PPG, 9.9 RPG)
Billy White, Sr, San Diego State (11.1 PPG, 4.3 RPG)
If you aren't already, get used to seeing and hearing about Jimmer Fredette.
Drew Gordon, Jr, New Mexico – Gordon left UCLA midway through the Bruins awful season last year after never meshing with Ben Howland and his system, and as a result, he won’t be eligible for Steve Alford until after the first semester. But Gordon showed enough talent in his years in Westwood that he will be a welcome addition for what was an undersized Lobo team last season. However, Gordon did tear the meniscus in his right knee in mid-October and, although he is not expected to miss any game action, he may miss out on valuable practice time leading up to his expected December 17 debut.
What You Need to Know
Best In The West? Given the Mountain West’s history as a contender for the title of the top non-BCS conference in the nation, and given that the Pac-10 is at its lowest point in memory, it’s quite possible that, at least for 2010-11, the MWC may be the best conference in the West. Last season, four MWC teams advanced to the NCAA Tournament, and in just over a decade of existence, only once has the MWC failed to place more than one team to the Big Dance (2000-01). However, major changes are afoot in the conference, as Utah and BYU, both consistently strong basketball forces, will be leaving for the Pac-10 and WCC, respectively. Boise State, Fresno State and Nevada will join the conference, but while those teams are capable of putting together strong seasons (Nevada, in particular, has recent success on the court), they’ll be hard-pressed to replace the production of the two Utah schools.
Familiar Faces: When you look around the conference this season, there will be a lot of veterans up and down the rosters, as 70% of the players that averaged more than five points per game last season return. Only Utah, of the nine conference teams, will look drastically different, as they lost two starters to graduation, a third starter to transfer, and five additional bench players to transfers as well. Bolstering the general experience around the league is a flood of incoming transfers: Drew Gordon and Emmanuel Negedu at NewMexico, Quintrell Thomas at UNLV, Hank Thorns at TCU, Wes Eikemeier at ColoradoState and James Rahon at SanDiego State. Not only will there be a lot of recognizable players on the court, there continues to be a lot of stability on the sidelines, as for the second consecutive year, every head coach in the MWC returns.
Non-conference Boost: Last season seemed to mark the first year of a new era in non-conference scheduling in the MWC. After earning a reputation as a conference whose teams would play consistently tough games, they slipped out of the top 20 in non-conference strength of schedule for a stretch from the 2006-07 season through the 2008-09 season. However, last year, the MWC addressed this in several ways. First and foremost, their teams were able to go out and get games against Pac-10 and Big 12 competition, but they were also able to get their teams in some good early-season tournaments, and they began the MWC/MVC Challenge, guaranteeing every team in the conference a matchup with a team from the Missouri Valley. That MWC/MVC Challenge will continue (the two conferences signed a four-year agreement), as will the involvement of conference teams in early-season tournaments (for instance, New Mexico plays in the Las Vegas Classic, UNLV in the 76 Classic, Colorado State in the Cancun Governor’s Cup, BYU in the South Padre Island Classic, Utah in the Diamondhead Classic, Wyoming in the Cancun Classic and San Diego State in the CBE Classic – and yes, the people that run these tournaments need to consult a thesaurus for an alternative to “Classic”). Additionally, the tougher non-conference scheduling continues, with conference schools making trips to places like Spokane, Berkeley, Logan, Ann Arbor, El Paso, Dayton, Tulsa, Louisville and Kansas City over the course of the non-conference slate.
Matt McKillip is the RTC correspondent for the America East Conference.
Around The America East:
A Carousel for Two:Hartford coach Dan Leibovitz jumped ship after his program took a sharp decline following a 2008 run to the AE title; he will join Penn as an assistant coach. Taking the reins is former Hartford assistant John Gallagher…who served last season as a Penn assistant.
Just a Fling:Binghamton‘s All-America East performer Greer Wright filed for a transfer waiver and flirted with the idea of attending Connecticut or Cincinnati before deciding to return to Binghamton for his senior season.
The Departed: Binghamton was less fortunate with last season’s AE Rookie of the Year, Dylan Talley, who decided to take his services elsewhere. Other notable transfers are Vermont’s All-Defensive team player Garvey Young and UMBC leading scorer Chauncey Gilliam, who packed his bags for Akron.
Big Haul: After having only three players left on Boston University‘s roster at the end of last season’s AE runner-up finish, second-year head coach Patrick Chambers hauled in a seven-man recruiting class to surround the league’s premier player, John Holland.
Break Out the Vegemite: Coach Will Brown and his Albany Great Danes have welcomed freshman Luke Devlin from Australia to campus. The 6’8 Aussie has three-point range and should quickly become a favorite among a fan base eager for something to cheer about.
Catching On With the Clippers:Vermont standout Marqus Blakely received a two-year, partially guaranteed contract with the LA Clippers and has angled himself towards a spot on the roster.
Star swingman John Holland is a powerful weapon for BU, but will he be able to power the Terriers into the Big Dance?
Boston University: The Terriers’ hopes revolve around two-time all-conference star John Holland, the heir apparent to the AE POY title. An NCAA trip is hardly guaranteed – an exodus of senior guards leaves BU with only three returning players (none of whom are guards) and many question marks. The loss of Corey Lowe especially hurts; the four-year starter carried the Terriers to last year’s title game when teams cued in on Holland, the league leader in scoring. During the AE tournament, Holland was held to an eFG of 38% and 10.3 PPG, well below his season averages of 52% and 19.9, respectively. Alongside Holland, BU returns 2009 AE ROY Jake O’Brien, who can score in volume, and hard-nosed center Jeff Pelage, who is a banger inside. Former Marquette swingman Patrick Hazel should make his presence felt immediately, but the most pressing question is which of the four incoming freshman and two transfer guards will land the role of primary ball handler.
Maine: Maine’s defense propelled them to a surprising 11-5 conference record last year, but the Black Bears were promptly upset by New Hampshire in the first round of the conference tournament. Despite the setback, they are well-positioned to build on last year’s success. They graduated Junior Bernal, an all-league defender, but the core of their lineup returns. Central to the offense is all-league guard Gerald McLemore, the league leader in three-point field goals. Last season, the offense exhibited a tendency to stall if opponents could take McLemore’s shot away (as UNH did in the tournament). Help could be on the way for the offense in the form of juco transfer Raheem Singleton, a point guard whose game and appearance is eerily reminiscent of former Pittsburgh floor general Levance Fields. Maine fans are also excited about incoming forward Alasdair Fraser, who has had a stellar summer playing for Scotland in the European under-18 championships, and could form a formidable frontcourt alongside Sean McNally.
Stony Brook: Stony Brook won the conference regular season title, but will have to defend that title without conference POY Muhammed El-Amin, who graduated in the spring. What was a very effective supporting cast will be forced into a starring role. The identity of the team will likely flow from Tommy Brenton, the best defensive big man in the league at only 6’5. Brenton personifies hustle and is a rebounding machine – he averaged nearly ten boards per game last season. The x-factor for the Seawolves is speedy guard Chris Martin. He was one of the best in the nation in drawing fouls and should continue to frustrate opposing guards, especially if he can improve his jump shot (44% from the floor last year). The emergence of Martin is essential to keeping the defense from focusing on marksman Bryan Dougher, who led the AE in three-point shooting percentage. Read the rest of this entry »