Listen, just because we’re doing a preview for every conference tournament doesn’t mean it has to be nothing but roses, rainbows and sweetmeats. The America East is one of the worst leagues in basketball. Its winner is going to be seeded 16th and could very well go to Dayton for the First Four.
Am I getting you down? Sorry, it’s just … this league has a 6-32 record in the NCAAs, and it’s looking like a good chance that will become 6-33 by March 17. As for the league tournament, there comes some better news. There's unpredictability! There is a good chance the top seed doesn’t win it all. That top seed is Stony Brook, and it’s only the No. 1 because Vermont fell at Binghamton, giving the Bearcats their only win of the season. The Seawolves haven’t been to the NCAAs since ... ever. Nearly half the league can, unfortunately, say the same.
Before I get to the key parts to this conference bracket, let's talk about the bracket itself. In order to get its title game on television, the America East has one of the quirkier setups. It has its first three rounds of play in back-to-back-to-back days, and then it's nearly a week wait for the title game. I love the fact that the higher seed always hosts the title game -- something that I think I want for most small-major leagues -- but the long layoff is out of rhythm with the rest of the season. Oh, well. At least both teams can get healthy and the coaching staff can truly prepare for the game. It's because of this that we've often had very compelling America East championship games.
Let's hit on the four best teams. Stony Brook and Vermont, the top two, split the series in the regular season. I've got a soft spot for the Catamounts, seeing as I grew up 10 minutes from the UVM campus. But I always love seeing programs who've never made the NCAAs earn their first trip. Stony Brook has a great chance so long as it gets to March 9's title game. The Seawolves are led by senior guard Bryan Dougher, who led the team in scoring. Vermont has a couple of nice pieces -- and the overall better collection of talent -- and it's guided by first-year coach John Becker. The Cats beat league foes by an average of 11.5 points per game.
|Al Rapier (right) and the Stony Brook Seawolves are chasing their first NCAA berth. (AP)|
Boston University, who repped the league in last year's field, reigned over the AE for so long. It finished third this year, but despite that it's got this Butler-like clasp on the league. You can never count out the Terriers, who are very good and not fouling and not turning the ball over.
Fourth-place Albany actually has the best offense in the league, putting up 1.07 points per possession. The Great Danes (supremely underrated moniker in all of hoops), unfortunately, have the third-worst defense in the league; that's why they finished fourth.
Schedule: March 1-3, 9
Title game: Friday, March 9, ESPN2.
- Gerardo Suero, Albany
- Matt Glass, Vermont
- Brian Voelkel, Vermont
- Darryl Partin, Boston University
- Brian Benson, New Hampshire
Conference RPI: 29
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: 2011, 16 seed, a 72-53 loss to Kansas
- 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: 2010, 16 seed, a 79-56 loss to Syracuse in the first round
By Matt Norlander