Wednesday, October 17, 2007

America East Conference Preview


The America East came down to the two teams that were the projected 1-2 in the preseason—Vermont and Albany. Once Vermont completed the season sweep with a road win at Albany, though, the Catamounts had essentially clinched the title. They finished 15-1, while the Great Danes came in second at 13-3. No other team finished above .500 in America East play. In the conference tournament, Albany got revenge for the regular by knocking off the Catamounts in the title game. The Great Danes then lost to Virginia in the NCAA Tournament. This season will feature several teams in contention at the top.

Favorites: Boston University is led by a quartet of sophomores who were all very solid in their respective debut seasons. Corey Lowe, Tyler Morris, and Carlos Strong form one of the best backcourt trios in the conference, with the Morris and Lowe combining for 27.5 points per game. Strong put up 9.5 per game, and is a very good three-point shooter. Scott Brittain rounds out the sophomore class, and will start inside this year. Ibrahim Konate, a junior, will also start down low. Vermont has been a perennial contender in the conference for the past several years, and will look to get back to the NCAA Tournament this season. Mike Trimboli leads the way for the Catamounts. He is a very good scorer and distributor at the point, and is the favorite for conference Player of the Year honors. Stout defender Kyle Cieplicki will join him in the backcourt. Joe Trapani transferred to Boston College, leaving Vermont with an entire new frontcourt. Colin McIntosh is a solid inside-outside player, while Tim McCrory needs to step up. One of the newcomers will also need to play well.

Contenders: Albany, the defending champions, will need to do a lot of work if it is to defend its title. Three starters return, led by all-conference forward Brent Wilson. He is a good three-point shooter who will need to increase his low-post scoring this year. Jon Iati is a solid point guard, and Brian Lillis was the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year last season. Brian Connolly will move into the starting lineup this year. Brent Gifford and Jimmie Covington will fight for the starting center spot. UMBC is the conference’s most interesting—and potentially most talented—team this year. The Retrievers return one of the best backcourts in the conference in Brian Hodges, an all-conference guard, and Jay Green, a very solid point guard. Justin Fry returns up front. The reason for optimism, though, is the arrival of three transfers: Cavell Johnson and Ray Barbosa from James Madison, and Daryl Proctor from Coppin State. Johnson is a go-to-player in the post, while Proctor was the MEAC Freshman of the Year two seasons ago. Barbosa can shoot the three with efficiency.

Sleepers: Binghamton is led by all-conference guard Mike Gordon, who is a very good all-around player. He can score and distribute, but is also a good shooter and lockdown defender. Richard Forbes was the team’s sixth man last season, but averaged double-figures in points. Lazar Trifunovic is primed for a big season up front, while Giovanni Olomo also started last year. Milos Klimovic and Reggie Fuller lead the newcomers. Stony Brook returns four starters and also might bring in the league’s best group of newcomers besides UMBC. Ricky Lucas and Mitchell Beauford form a very good backcourt, while Eddie Castellanos also started on the perimeter. Juniors Nick Carter, who redshirted last season after transferring, and Michael Tyree, a JC transfer, both will push for time, as will freshman Chris Martin. Emanuel Neto is the leader in the frontcourt.

Rounding out the Pack: Hartford is led by a very solid backcourt of Joe Zeglinski, an all-conference candidate, point guard Jared Von Rosenberg, and Rich Baker. Zeglinski could put up big numbers this season, while Von Rosenberg is one of the league’s top defensive players. Up front, Citadel transfer Warren McLendon will be a top newcomer in the America East. He is legit go-to-guy down low. Michael Turner returns as a starter. New Hampshire went only 6-10 in the conference last season, but returns three starters and brings in some solid newcomers. Mike Christensen is an all-conference candidate at forward, and gives UNH a good inside-outside player. Radar Onguetou joins him front. Tyrece Gibbs is a solid scorer and rebounder who can also shoot the ball. JC transfer Eric Gilchrese will likely start at the point guard spot immediately. Maine loses four starters from last year, but could make an upward move in the standings this year. Junior Bernal and Mark Socoby both return in the backcourt. Bernal could be poised for a break-out season. St. Peter’s transfer Kaimondre Owens provides scoring and decent rebounding on the perimeter. Freshman Troy Barnies will contribute on the wing. Junior Philippe Tchekane will likely start up front, with freshmen Sean Costian and Sean McNally pushing for time.

Prediction: The America East has up to four teams capable of winning the conference this season; it should be an extremely exciting conference race. Boston University has a great perimeter group; Vermont has Mike Trimboli; Albany is solid; UMBC is absolutely loaded with talent; and don’t forget about Stony Brook. I like Boston University to win the conference this year, but I think that UMBC will make plenty of noise in both the regular season and the conference tournament.

Player of the Year:
Mike Trimboli, Vermont

All-Conference Team:
G- Mike Trimboli, Vermont
G- Mike Gordon, Binghamton
G- Corey Lowe, Boston University
G- Brian Hodges, UMBC
F- Brent Wilson, Albany

Second Team:
G- Ricky Lucas, Stony Brook
G- Tyler Morris, Boston University
G- Joe Zeglinksi, Hartford
F- Cavell Johnson, UMBC
F- Mike Christensen, New Hampshire
Photo Credit: America East Basketball

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