The Binghamton Bearcats had an opportunity to be the favorite in the America East Conference heading into the 2009-2010 season, but their downfall in the past month or so has left the door wide open.
Known as one of the smaller conferences in Division I basketball, teams in the America East may not be considered title contenders, but they still have plenty of talent and fight.
It was only a few years ago in which Albany represented the America East in the NCAA Tournament and, as a No.16 seed, nearly shocked the nation and the No. 1 seeded Connecticut Huskies. Although the Great Danes did not pull off the upset that year, it was back in 2005 that Vermont, as a No.13 seed, did beat fourth-seeded Syracuse in the first round.
Heading into the 2009-2010 season, all nine teams will be looking for that shot to make it to the Big Dance, but they’ll need to perform on the court if they hope to do so.
Albany: After a couple seasons of success in the America East, the Great Danes struggled last year, finishing seventh in the conference with a record of 6-10 and a sub .500 overall mark at 15-16. However, with the return of its two leading scorers from a year ago, Albany expects to climb back into the top of the standings. Led by the play of senior Will Harris and junior Tim Ambrose, the Great Danes will look to bounce back in the America East after a lackluster season a year ago.
Binghamton : The Binghamton Bearcasts have been the hot topic in the America East over the past month or so. After what could have been its best season in school history, Binghamton was poised to go after yet another NCAA Tournament bid. However, off-the-court issues have crushed the Bearcats' roster over the last month and a depleted team has lost nearly all of what was expected to carry it back into the tourney. It will be hard for Binghamton to recover very fast, and the Bearcats should find themselves towards the bottom of the conference standings.
Boston University: With Binghamton most likely out of the picture in the America East, the door opens up for Boston University to be the favorite in the conference. Corey Lowe and John Holland were the Terriers' two leading scorers from a year ago and they both return, each with an opportunity to threaten for the conference Player of the Year. Along with Holland and Lowe, the Terriers return much of what landed them in third place in the standings last year. In 2009-2010, Boston U. has to be poised to make a run at an NCAA Tournament bid.
Hartford : It can’t get much worse for Hartford after a 2-14 record in the America East last season and an overall mark of 7-26. Or, maybe it can. Hartford does return its leading scorer from a year ago in Joe Zeglinski, but even the 6’0” senior does not have enough to bring the Hawks out of the basement in the America East conference. It would be nice to see Hartford win more games in 2009-2010 than it did last year, but even if the Hawks do, fans shouldn’t expect much. Hartford will be near the bottom of the conference yet again.
Maine : The Black Bears failed to reach 10 wins last season, and the struggles may be similar in 2009-2010. Second and third-leading scorers Gerald McLemore and Sean McNally, respectively, are back, but it will be tough for Maine to compete with some of the conference's better teams.
New Hampshire: Leading scorer Tyrece Gibbs is gone, but the Wildcats bring back Alvin Abreu and Tyrone Conley, who should help UNH finish somewhere in the middle of the standings. Although they may not have enough to compete with the top teams in the America East, the Wildcats finished 8-8 in conference last year and should be around that mark again this season.
Stony Brook: The Seawolves return four of their top five scorers from last year and should be ready to make a leap in the conference. From an 8-8 mark in America East play last season, Stony Brook looks to improve and should finish in the upper half of the conference. The question heading into conference play later in the season will be whether or not they can compete with the likes of Boston U. and Vermont.
UMBC: Maryland Baltimore County made the Big Dance only two years ago, but despite the 20-point-a-night performances from Darryl Proctor last season, it wasn’t enough to keep the Retrievers from finishing sixth in the conference. Their two leading scorers from the 2008-2009 campaign are gone, so it will be interesting to see how UMBC does. It should have enough to stay out of the cellar in the America East, but probably not enough talent to compete with some of the top teams.
Vermont : The Catamounts have represented the America East in the NCAA Tournament three times, all coming in a row from 2003 through 2005. They were the last team from the America East to win an NCAA Tournament game, and for the Catamounts this season, they would love to get that feeling back.
After finishing in a tie for the regular season championship with Binghamton, they were disappointed to not even make it to the America East Tournament title game. However, with the return of conference Player of the Year candidate Marqus Blakely, the Catamounts should have another shot at a run at an NCAA Tournament bid. Mike Trimboli has moved on and now the success of this Catamounts team might lie heavily on Blakely’s shoulders. He will look to improve on his 16 point, nine rebound a night averages from last season, and if he can do so Vermont will be in a good position come later in the season.
1. Boston University
3. Stony Brook
5. New Hampshire
All-America East First Team:
G- Albany, Jr.- Tim Ambrose
F- Vermont, Sr.- Marqus Blakely
G- Boston, Sr.- Corey Lowe
G- Stony Brook, Sr.- Muhammad El-Amin
F- Boston, Jr.- John Holland
All-America East Second Team:
G- Albany, Sr.- Will Harris
G- New Hampshire, Jr.- Alvin Abreu
G- Maine, So.- Gerald McLemore
F- Boston, So.- Jake O’Brien
G- Hartford, Jr.- Joe Zeglinski
America East Player of the Year:
Guard- Corey Lowe- Sr., Boston University