Seawolves are a new brand of power in the America East. (US Presswire)
Boston University was the odds-on favorite to win the league this season -- until the Terriers announced they were heading to the Patriot League a year from now. With the news that Joe Jones' club would be ineligible to compete in the postseason tournament, fifth-year senior Jake O'Brien -- a player of the year candidate -- decided to transfer to Temple.
Thus, Stony Brook moved into the driver's seat in the America East.
Steve Pikiell & Co. will have to find a way to replace all-league guard Bryan Dougher and fellow starters Dallis Joyner and Al Rapier, but the Seawolves still have Tommy Brenton and Dave Coley back -- and Pikiell maintains this is his most talented team since taking the reins seven years ago. Anthony Jackson and freshman Carson Puriefoy should battle for starting point guard duties, but the player to watch is freshman power forward Jameel Warney -- who should be a star in the America East before long.
John Becker, who led Vermont to the NCAA tourney in his first season at the helm, will have a chance to repeat that feat despite losing rookie of the year Four McGlynn to Towson. Three starters -- Brian Voelkel, Luke Apfeld and Sandro Carissimo -- return and that makes the Catamounts legitimate contenders for the league title.
BU can't win the conference tournament, but the Terriers still have enough talent -- even without O'Brien -- to win the regular-season crown. D.J. Irving is as good a guard as there is in the league -- and expect freshman guard Maurice Watson to make an immediate impact.
Albany coach Will Brown prematurely lost his starting backcourt of Gerardo Suero (overseas) and Logan Aronhalt (Maryland), but this year's team will be improved on the defensive end and still boasts one of the league's top guards in Mike Black. Look for Maine, Hartford and New Hampshire to battle for the middle of the league while UMBC -- who just fired its head coach, Randy Monroe -- and Binghamton, under new coach Tommy Dempsey, are likely to struggle again this season.
"I feel bad for Joe Jones. Here's a guy who had a chance to win this season and then bounce to a higher level. He left the Ivy League and got another opportunity at BU, but now he's headed back to the academic ranks in the Patriot League -- and he'll have trouble winning this year without Jake O'Brien and without being able to play in the conference tourney."
The league's best
- Preseason America East Player of the Year: Tommy Brenton, Stony Brook. Not a big-time scorer, but does everything else. Averaged 8.1 rebounds and 3.4 assists last season.
- Mike Black, Albany The Great Danes might have lost Suero and Aronhalt, but Black is coming off a solid season in which he put up 13.4 points and 4.3 assists per contest.
- D.J. Irving, Boston University He'll be the guy for the Terriers after averaging 11.4 points and leading the league in assists (5.4) a year ago.
- Chase Plummer, UMBC Is the leading returning scorer in the league at 15.4 points per game.
- Alasdair Fraser, Maine Averaged 12.9 points and was also among the league leaders in blocks for the Black Bears last season.
Numbers to know
2: The number of games Binghamton won last season under former coach Mark Macon. Tommy Dempsey comes over from Rider and inherits a difficult situation.
7.8: Stony Brook senior forward Tommy Brenton's scoring average. It doesn't begin to tell the story of Brenton's overall impact on the game.
3: The league had three teams go to the postseason last year for the third time in conference history. Vermont went to the NCAA tournament, Stony Brook to the NIT and Albany in the CIT.