Checking In On… the America East ConferencePosted by Brian Goodman on November 25th, 2011
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.
- Vermont (3-2) – Note only does Four McGlynn have a cool name, he’s been the offensive leader for the Catamounts early in the season. He’s 18-21 from the free throw line during the young season and has been strong from the field. Brian Voelkel had struggled from the field early in the season, but against Long Island on Sunday he scored 13 points on 4-5 shooting to go along with nine rebounds. Unfortunately, Vermont couldn’t pull out the win. Losing to the Big East’s South Florida by two points and the defending NEC champs isn’t a bad start, but neither win is that impressive either. Still, three wins are more than any other America East team can currently claim.
- Albany (2-3) – Welcome to America East, Gerardo Suero. Not many recruits live up to the hype of the fan bases that obsess about their arrival, but Suero has been the real deal. The junior college transfer from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic is averaging 20.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. He’s a 6’4” guard who dropped 31 points on the Orange. The combination of Suero, Logan Aronhalt and Mike Black has Albany looking like a title contender in America East.
- Boston University (0-3) – The preseason conference favorites haven’t managed to win a game yet for new head coach Joe Jones. The opponents have been difficult though. First was a rivalry game loss to Northeastern, then a no-win game against Texas and finally a tight, 71-66, loss at Cornell. Darryl Partin is taking on a huge load on offense and scored 29 points, including 10-10 from the free throw line, against the Big Red. 6’7” sophomore Dom Morris is the guy providing the inside presence for BU. He’s averaged 9.3 rebounds per game, including 14 against Cornell. The schedule doesn’t lighten up for the Terriers, so they’re going to have to really buckle down.
- Stony Brook (2-2) – If the Seawolves want to be taken seriously as a championship contender in America East they’re going to need to figure out a way to win difficult road games, like the one at Sacred Heart last Tuesday. Unfortunately, they fell 74-63 in that game. The offense, which was supposed to improve with the return of Tommy Brenton, hasn’t been very good, but through four games what’s more surprising is that the defense just hasn’t performed up to expectations. No one is scoring in double-figures, but Dallis Joyner has been efficient on the offensive end, shooting 53.1 percent. Brenton is averaged 8.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game as he continues to show his value as a glue guy. The Seawolves beat Columbia 67-53 on Tuesday thanks to 21 offensive rebounds and just 11 turnovers
- Maine (1-1) – The Black Bears have played only two games this season against Maine Machias and Connecticut. That’s obviously two very different levels of competition and it also gives almost nothing to go off of in terms of how this team will perform moving forward. Their next two games, against Holy Cross and Eastern Illinois, should provide better tests. Freshman Justin Edwards has been impressive thus far averaging 22 points and seven rebounds per game. Maine’s best player, Gerald McLemore, didn’t play in the Black Bears’ game against Connecticut because he tweaked his knee in practice. He’ll have had 10 more days to recover when they play the Crusaders on Sunday.
- New Hampshire (1-2) – Chandler Rhoades is moving from a defensive standout to a more all-around player for the Wildcats this season and it’s working thus far. He must be exhausted though considering all the minutes this high-motor player is logging. Still, Rhoades has scored at least 14 points in every UNH game this season. Bill Herrion has also gotten Alvin Abreu back from the injury that cost him most of 2010-11. The fact that Abreu has already played more minutes than he did all of last season and is averaging 15.7 points per game has to be seen as a positive. New Hampshire has another good chance to get a win on Wednesday against Dartmouth.
- UMBC (0-5) – Not having Chris De La Rosa for their first three games of the season really hurt the Retrievers’ chances to get an early-season victory. Still, they only lost by five on Saturday against VMI when he returned and things appear to be on the upswing. De La Rosa scored 17 points and handed out 10 assists in that game as the Retrievers had their best offensive showing of the season by a long shot. Of course he didn’t play in a tough loss to Central Connecticut on Tuesday. While De La Rosa has been out much of the offensive burden has fallen on Chase Plummer, who is averaging 13.4 points and 7.8 rebounds per game through the first five games.
- Binghamton (0-4) – With Jimmy Gray the leading returning scorer at 6.5 points per game, it was obvious that the Bearcats were going to have to find some more offense. Thus far it’s been Ben Dickinson who has been happy to take shots. He’s attempted at least 12 shots in each of Binghamton’s first four games. The problem is that the freshman forward is shooting just 34.7 percent from the field. The Bearcats have a chance to get a win against Army on December 3, but first they’ve got to go play what will probably be an ugly guarantee game at Missouri.
- Hartford (0-5) – The Hawks have quickly proven that it is going to be a long rebuilding season. Hartford got rocked in each of its first three games. It’s been more offensive struggles that have held the team back. The Hawks are shooting way too many threes for a team shooting 23.4 percent from beyond the arc. No one on the team is scoring more than nine points per game, as Andres Torres leads the team at 8.4 points per game. Hartford could still be winless when it takes on Marist on December21; maybe the Hawks will get an early Christmas present.
- Albany vs. Navy – Friday, Nov. 25 – This should be a fun home game for the Great Danes against a Patriot League team that Albany needs to beat in order to help the America East gain some credibility. It won’t be easy, but it’s certainly a winnable game.
- Boston University vs. Cleveland State, Rhode Island and Hofstra at the TicketCity Legends Classic Kingston Regional on Nov. 25-27 – BU will be playing three talented teams in this sub-regional. All three are going to be difficult games, but should provide good tests for the Terriers. If they can at least get one win they should be right on track.
- Vermont vs. Siena – Saturday, Nov. 26 – The Saints are dealing with a bunch of injuries, but have still managed to continue playing competitive basketball. The Catamounts need to pound them inside in order to get the victory.
Spotlight on: Early offensive efficiency – While tempo-free stats typically get more valuable as competition evens out and more games are played, there are some interesting things to be gleamed from the early results of the nine America East squads. For one, it appears that the majority of the conference is struggling with offense early in the season. Only Vermont is above the point-per-possession mark thus far. A few teams, are well below that standard for average efficiency, with Binghamton and Hartford even below 0.80 points per possession. The worst game overall came in Hartford’s opener against Sacred Heart in which the Hawks scored 50 points in 83 possessions, an efficiency of 0.605 points per possession. As the competition decreases in quality and America East plays fewer games against major conference opponents it’ll be interesting to see if the team’s continue to struggle on the offensive end.