- Ky McKeon
3MW’s All Conference Team:
1. Vermont Goes Undefeated
The Catamounts finished conference play 16-0, which as far as I can tell is the first time this has ever happened in America East history. Vermont is led by Conference Player of the Year Trae Bell-Haynes and star freshman Anthony Lamb. I've been particularly impressed by Lamb all season. His counting stats don’t jump off the page (11.9ppg 5.2rpg), but he does literally everything on the floor for this squad. Lamb ranks #1 in the America East in usage, #3 in offensive rebounding percentage, #2 in block percentage, #3 in fouls drawn per 40 minutes, and #17 in field goal percentage. The Catamounts are one the deepest, most experienced teams in the country, and promise to be a problem in the First Round.
2. Stony Brook Stands Strong
When Jameel Warney, perhaps the greatest player ever to step foot on hardwood in the America East, graduated last season, and Head Coach Steve Pikiell jumped ship to Rutgers, most everyone thought the Seawolves were due for some major regression. Stony Brook was picked #7 in the preseason conference polls, but rattled off a 12-4 performance this year to secure the #2 seed in the tournament. Senior point guard Lucas Woodhouse and junior forward Tyrell Sturdivant have been incredible, and burgeoning freshman Akwasi Yeboah has been a godsend on defense. Also, major credit is due to new coach Jeff Boals. Kudos.
3. Great Danes’ Great Duo
Albany performed as expected this season, finishing 10-6, tied for third place in the conference. But, I’d be remiss not discussing how great the Danes’ sophomore guard duo performed this year. Joe Cremo and David Nichols formed a high scoring dual point guard system that vaulted the Great Danes to America East success. Cremo was a bit of a known entity coming into the year, having won the America East Rookie of the Year award last season, but Nichols came out of nowhere. Nichols ranked 5th in the conference in scoring this season (17.3ppg); Cremo ranked 7th (16.3ppg). Cremo ranked 6th in the conference in assists (3.7apg); Nichols ranked 8th (3.2apg). Keep an eye on these two the next two years.
4. Maine’s Locker Room Antics
As if finishing 7-24 (3-13) wasn’t bad enough, five of Maine’s basketball players got into a fight recently in their locker room over music being played. Leading scorer (and former Niagara Purple Eagle) Wes Myers punched fellow teammate Marko Pirovic, breaking his jaw in the process. That is all.
The tournament tips off Wednesday, March 1st and concludes on March 11th. Top seeds host each round. The bracket is reseeded after each round (e.g. the lowest remaining seed plays at the highest remaining seed). One little tidbit – UMass Lowell is not eligible for postseason play yet (Division 1 transition period), so they are not in the tournament bracket.
Best Team and Projected NCAA Tournament Seed
Vermont. Part of what makes March so fun is the unpredictability and the run of out-of-nowhere underdogs. But, sometimes, I’d rather the best team in the mid to low-major conference win the tournament. Vermont absolutely needs to be in the Big Dance. The Catamounts are one of the best mid-majors in the country, but receive little to no respect from major media outlets (heck even Vegas doesn’t line the America East most of the time). Vermont’s current RPI is #49, and they rank #68 in KenPom with wins over Yale, Eastern Michigan, Harvard, and at Siena. Given this resume, coupled with the gaudy 16-0 conference record, the Catamounts should earn a 13-seed in the Dance. If every 1-seed in every auto-bid conference wins their respective championships, then maaayyybee Vermont gets a 14, but I’d bet several million dollars (which I totally have) that they end up a 13.
Dark Horse Team
If Jacoby Armstrong played for New Hampshire this season, this would be an easy choice. With him, the Wildcats would have had the best starting five in the conference this year (and probably would’ve finished 2nd). Since he’s gone (suspended all year), I’ll go with UMBC as my dark horse. I choose UMBC for two reasons, 1) Jairus Lyles, 2) Will Darley. The backcourt duo led the Retrievers to their best season since 2002, and was the main reason behind UMBC’s 3rd-ranked (conference) offense. Lyles could win Player of the Year this season, averaging 19.1ppg, 6.6rpg, 2.4apg, and 1.7spg. UMBC played Vermont tough this year; it wouldn’t be shocking to see them crush Ky’s dream of a Catamount postseason appearance.
(1) Vermont defeats (8) Maine
(5) UMBC defeats (4) New Hampshire
(2) Stony Brook defeats (7) Binghamton
(3) Albany defeats (6) Hartford
(1) Vermont defeats (5) UMBC
(3) Albany defeats (2) Stony Brook
(1) Vermont defeats (3) Albany
The Catamounts are awesome, and shouldn’t have any trouble dispensing the competition (Vermont won 12 of its 16 games in America East play by double digits).
Like I said above, UMBC has the best shot at upending the Catamounts, but they have to get by a tough New Hampshire squad first, led by All-League forward Tanner Leissner.
Stony Brook is 2-0 against Albany this season, but I think the Danes exact revenge in the rubber match. Neither team should have an issue with their first round tilts (Hartford and Binghamton aren’t very good).
Albany’s zone defense may cause a few issues for Vermont in theory, but the Catamounts have defeated them easily in two games this season.