Boston U, Not Reigning Champ Binghamton, the Beast of the America East

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 Boston U, Not Reigning Champ Binghamton, the Beast of the America East

Boston University and Vermont have dominated the America East Conference for much of the past decade, but the two haven't fought each other for a league title since 2005.

In 2010, that will change.

The Terriers return their top six scorers after finishing third last season with an 11-5 record in the league. The Catamounts don't bring back as much talent in 2010, but it's still enough to fight the Terriers for the championship.

Vermont has one of the league's best player, Marqus Blakely, and the conference's best recruiting class. That combination makes the Catamounts, who finished 13-3 last year, a favorite and a better bet to win the league than reigning champion, Binghamton.

But that doesn't mean the Bearcats are slouches.

The conference's most dominant player, DJ Rivera, calls Binghamton home. But the surrounding cast this year is a bit thin, as second-leading scorer Dwayne Jackson is gone, as well as several key role players.

While Boston and Vermont have the most complete teams, Binghamton has enough star power to be considered a serious contender. The Bearcats did win three of four meetings with Vermont and Boston last season.

The rest of the league will be as a whole be better than last year. Hartford, Stony Brook, and Albany will be taking steps forward. The Danes will have the best shot to challenging the top three, as they have two potential All-League players in point guard Tim Ambrose and small forward Will Harris.

New Hampshire and Maine won't be too far behind the middle-tier teams in the league, while Maryland-Baltimore County should be headed for the conference dungeon.

Team by team capsules, projections, and all-league teams after the jump.

1. Boston University

The Terriers have one of the best trios of any mid-major in the country.

Small forward John Holland is an explosive scorer who can change the scoreboard from any spot on the floor. Point guard Corey Lowe does the same in addition to being a reliable distributor. Boston's future lies with sophomore big man Jake O'Brien who, averaged almost 13 points per game as a freshman. As a whole, the trio scored 47 points per game.

Boston also returns its next three leading scorers from last year. On top of all the talent, the Terriers also have one of the best incoming freshmen in the league. Point guard BJ Bailey will allow Lowe to slide over to the two-guard position, as Lowe is a deadly scorer.

 

2. Vermont

The Catamounts have the reigning Conference Player of the Year, as power forward Marqus Blakely can dominate both ends of the floor. Blakely is a double-double waiting to happen each night, as the senior averaged 16 points and nine boards a game last season. Blakely also is one of only a few players that averaged at least two blocks and two steals per game last season.

Blakely's supporting cast isn't as strong as what Holland and Lowe have at BU, but the Catamounts have some nice players returning. Vermont will need Michigan State transfer Maurice Joesph to step up and take on a more prominent role in the offense.

Vermont also has two of the highest-rated freshmen in the conference, and Luke Apfeld and Brendan Bald will have an immediate impact. Apfeld's versatility to guard multiple positions will make Vermont an even better defensive team after the squad led the conference in defensive efficiency last season.

 

3. Binghamton

The only reason Binghamton's best player, DJ Rivera, didn't win the league's Player of the Year award last season was because America East coaches weren't happy with the kind of players coach Kevin Broadus brought in from other schools. He's easily the most explosive talent in the conference, but wasn't awarded for it with any accolades.

Binghamton had five players average double-digit points last year, and three return this season. Gone are guards Malik Alvin and Dwayne Jackson, but returning is one of the league's most valuable players: Emanuel Mayben.

Binghamton's biggest weakness is actually being too small. The Bearcats only have one contributor over 6'5'', and the tallest member of their starting lineup from last year graduated. Coach Broadus's team was killed on the glass last year, and that trend should continue this season.

 

4. Albany

The only tandem in the league better than Tim Ambrose and Will Harris is Boston's John Holland and Corey Lowe. Like Lowe and Holland, Ambrose and Harris are a point guard-small forward duo.

The supporting cast just isn't there for the Great Danes. One other starter returns and a few reserves, but no real impact players.

The Great Danes do have an above-average class for an America East team, which will help build coach Will Brown's team for the future since point guard Ambrose will only be a junior this season.

5. Stony Brook

The league's second-best defensive team returns the majority of its core players from that finished .500 in the league.

There is the potential for the Seawolves to finish much higher than fifth with a roster as complete and experienced as theirs, but Stony Brook struggled significantly at times on offense.

 

6. New Hampshire

The Wildcats somehow finished .500 last year, despite being well below the league average in both offensive and defensive efficiency.

The Wildcats return the majority of their roster, but New Hampshire lacks a star player capable of taking over a game.

 

7. Hartford

The Hawks were anemic offensively last season, ranking 317th in offensive efficiency in the country.

Star player Joe Zeglinski returns after missing most of last season. As a sophomore, Zeglinski was named to the All-League team after averaging over 16 points per game.

 

8. Maine

The Black Bears' leading scorer is gone, but now-sophomore Gerald McLemore was second on the team in scoring as a freshman.

If Maine is going to make a noise in the league, it will be behind McLemore. He's the only bright spot for the Black Bears, as the defense last year was abysmal and there aren't any banner recruits coming in.

 

9. Maryland-Baltimore County

Only two role players remain from UM-BC's 2008 championship winning team, but those two players are going to be thrust into major roles, as just three real contributors return from last year's sixth place team. 

There is hope for the future, as the Retrievers bring in several solid recruits and transfers from Marshall and Siena.

All-America East Team

Boston point guard Corey Lowe

Albany point guard Tim Ambrose

Boston forward John Holland

Binghamton forward DJ Rivera

Vermont forward Marqus Blakely

 

America East Player of the Year

DJ Rivera

 

America East Coach of the Year

Patrick Chambers

 

America East Freshman of the Year

Vermont forward Luke Apfeld

 

Conference Previews:

Dayton is Class of Atlantic 10, but Richmond, Charlotte, and La Salle Could Surprise

Tulsa Will Take an Unrecognizable Conference USA by Storm

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