Posted on: February 28, 2012 1:14 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2012 11:24 pm

What-to-know tourney previews: America East

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.


  1. Gerardo Suero, Albany
  2. Matt Glass, Vermont
  3. Brian Voelkel, Vermont
  4. Darryl Partin, Boston University
  5. 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

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 12, 2011 5:35 pm
Edited on: March 12, 2011 5:36 pm

Welcome to The Dance, Boston Terriers

Boston basketball is back on the national scene.

And the Terriers lead the charge. While Harvard plays for an Ivy title and Boston College is forced to sweat out one final day on the bubble, the Boston University Terriers are now locked in after John Holland hit two free throws to give his team a 56-54 W over Stony Brook in the America East final Saturday.

The win came with some controversy, as Holland got to the line on a foul call many griped on Twitter never should've been. The officials nailed Dallis Joyner with a hip check on Holland as BU's best player was trying to use a post move to give the Terriers the win. Both fell through, and then Bryan Dougher's prayer from 55 feet smacked the back of the rim, falling carelessly to the ground afterward.

Player to know: Holland. He is everything BU needs to threaten a first-round opponent, whether that's in Dayton for the First Four games, or Thursday/Friday, should the Terriers get the bypass treatment. Other guys, like D.J. Irving and Chris Martin, make BU more than a one-dimensional squad. But if Holland's contained, it'll be a long night for this team.

The Vitals:

  • Record: 21-13, 15-4 America East
  • Team colors: Red and Black
  • We’re thinking: 16 seed
  • KenPom ranking: 168
  • RPI: 132
  • Best win: at Vermont
  • Worst loss: at Maryland-Baltimore County
  • Notable stat: We don't mean to harp on the negative, but BU makes just 43.5 percent of their two-point shot attempts. That's worrisome going forward. Great for the Terriers to get back to The Dance, but if it doesn't shoot halfway decently, it's going to be a quick existence.
Posted by Matt Norlander

Photo: AP

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Category: NCAAB
Tags: AEast
Posted on: March 12, 2011 10:38 am
Edited on: March 12, 2011 10:39 am

Looking at the America East's ultimate game

It's Seawolves vs. Terriers in Boston Saturday afternoon at noon for the chance to dance.

The America East final presents a situation some don't like. Opponents of conference tournaments cold used Saturday's championship game in Boston as an example: an under-.500 team will be playing for a bid. Stony Brook is 15-16, but the fifth-seeded Seawolves got past No. 1 Vermont get to the championship game.

For some, that's enough to earn the right for a chance to play. Others lament the quick second season that gives mediocre teams these opportunities. If it won, Stony Brook would most definitely be a 16 seed playing in Dayton Tuesday or Wednesday night. Coach Steve Pikiell's team upset No. 4 Albany, 67-61, before knocking off UVM, 69-47, last Sunday.

That 22-point margin certainly had to make Boston University pause. The two-seeded Terriers can't claim a beatdown in the style of the Seavwolves'. They defeated New Hampshire, 69-60, in the quarters, then got by Albany, 55-49 last Sunday.

It's safe to assume the pressure is with the No.2 seed, and just appearing in the title game clearly isn't going to be enough for BU. At the start of the year the team was picked as the best in the conference.

If the Terriers want to terrorize their way to a bid, John Holland's going to have to lead his team once again. Boston's best player hasn't cracked 20 points in the America East tournament so far; that could change Saturday. Stony Brook is the second-worst team in the nation (yes, the nation) at shooting two-point shots. And overall, it's a miserable offensive group.

That's why Vermont's loss could be considered one of the most staggering transgressions of the past week and a half in college basketball. The reason this game's not a gimme is because BU isn't a great shooting team.

What to watch: Stony Brook's bench. Chris Martin and Leonard Hayes, two guys who don't gobble up a lot of possessions or having terrific offensive ratings, led the 'Wolves in scoring in the first two games. Stony Brook's starters aren't the most intimidating group. Talk about a bizarre team.

Absolutely there are real unknowns heading in, as Stony Brook seeks its first NCAA tournament appearance, while BU hasn't been in the Big Bracket in nine years.

Posted by Matt Norlander

Photo: AP

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Posted on: March 1, 2011 12:10 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2012 10:53 pm

Conference tourney preview: America East

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.


  1. John Holland, Boston
  2. Tim Ambrose, Albany
  3. 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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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com