The America East tournament format is certainly unique. While many conference tournaments have different ways of rewarding higher seeds and/or deciding how its respective bracket is formed, the America East chooses to have a neutral site — this year, it’s Hartford, as it was in 2010 — for its first round, quarterfinals and semis, then has the highest remaining seed host the title game.
It’s a system that puts everyone on a level playing field until the title game. Make it that far, and your regular-season play is rewarded. I’m a big fan, even if it’s not perfect. Only the Horizon, with its double-bye into the conference semifinals for the high seeds, is a better format. The America East also has the largest layoff between semifinals and finals — six days. Play begins on Thursday and wraps up Saturday night. The two remaining teams will play for a 16 seed (no doubt this conference is getting a 16; the power numbers have, well, no power) on March 13. Is that a good thing? I don’t know, but it’s done for television purposes, clearly.
So what are we looking at this year? Well, at 13-3, Vermont (22-7) won the league. Boston University, which for so long stood tall over the AE, finished second with a 12-4 record. Vermont wasn’t supposed to be this good, but behind Evan Fjeld, he of the epic mustache, and Brian Voelkel, coach Mike Lonergan has UVM on the verge of getting back to The Tournament for the first time since this happened. And how awesome that was.
Boston (18-13) is considered the team with the best play as of late, though, and it’s led by John Holland (right), who is the conference’s best player. It does seem like a two-team race. Maine (9-7), Albany (9-7) and Stony Brook (8-8) are lumped into that mediocre category, and Hartford (7-9) will have to fuel playing on its home court into an upset or two.
The team with the best chance to keep a game close is Vermont, as the Catamounts played well with UConn early and have solid size and quickness for a program at this level. Fjeld is sneaky good and a very efficient shooter because he's crafty in how he scores close to the hoop. And I do not veil it at all: I grew up 10 minutes from the UVM campus, and when the Cats do well, I’m happy. Would love to see them win this thing.
Title game: Sunday, March 12, ESPN2.
- John Holland, Boston
- Tim Ambrose, Albany
- Brian Voelkel, Vermont
Conference RPI: 28
KenPom.com rating: 29
Sagarin rating: 29
NCAA Tournament Locks: None
NCAA Tournament Bubble Teams: None
Last NCAA Tournament Appearance:
Albany Great Danes: 2007, 13 seed, an 84-57 loss to Virginia
Binghamton Bearcats: 2009, 15 seed, an 86-62 loss to Duke
Boston University Terriers: 2002, 16 seed, a 90-52 loss to Cincinnati
Hartford Hawks: N/A
Maine Black Bears: N/A
Maryland-Baltimore County Retrievers: 2008, 15 seed, a 66-47 loss to Georgetown
New Hampshire Wildcats: N/A
Stony Brook Seawolves: N/A
Vermont Catamounts: 2005, 13 seed, a 60-57 win over Syracuse in the first round followed by a 72-61 loss to Michigan State in the second round
Photo: US Presswire
Posted by Matt Norlander
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