NCAA Conference Previews and Tournament Predictions: America East Conference

Like a lot of other mid-major conferences, the America East has seen a shake up of schools within the conference. Hartford, the 2021 America East Conference tournament winner, is moving its athletics to Division III and is now considered an independent. Stony Brook, who finished third in the conference last season, moved to the Colonial Athletic Conference and was actually banned from the postseason for any sport by the America East last season. They were quick to find one of the school’s replacements by adding 2022 NEC basketball champions, Bryant University. In prior years it appeared that there was a for-sure top school in the conference, but it does not appear that way this season. Here is my breakdown of all of the teams in the conference and my prediction for the seeding of the conference tournament. Note: All stats and records for each team are as of 1/11. 


1) UMass Lowell (15-3 Overall, 3-1 Conference)

ATS: 9-6-1

O/U: 9-7

Overview: The River Hawks are a squad that had chemistry going into this season, and it has shown thus far this season. The top four scorers from last season return to the team, and they got a big pickup this season in former St. Bonaventure forward, Abdoul Karim Coulibaly, who has made an immediate impact on the team. On the season, Coulibaly leads the team with 8.1 rebounds per game (also third in the America East) and is second on the team with 12.3 ppg. Outside of Coulibaly, the River Hawks are a well balanced offensive team with four other players averaging more than 8 points per game. This balanced attack has proven well for them thus far as they are averaging 74.4 ppg, the third-best in the conference and the 74th best in the country. Outside of a poor shooting performance against Albany, UMass Lowell has lost to Rutgers by 8 and Rhode Island by 2. If they can play their best basketball that they played at the beginning of the season down the stretch, they are going to very well run away with the auto bid. 


2) Bryant (11-6 Overall, 2-2 Conference)

ATS: 7-8

O/U: 7-8

Overview: There are teams that I have below Bryant that have a better record in the conference and overall. However, the Bear’s offense is as talented as they come, and it has shown thus far this season. With an average of 77.7 points per game, they are the top scoring team in the America East and the 39th best offense in the NCAA. The Bears have four starters averaging over 13 ppg, and each of them has a case for making all conference teams at the end of the year. Their current leading scorer, Sherif Gross-Bullock is averaging 16.2 ppg along with 4.8 rpg. The other starters are being just as productive as well with Charles Pride (15.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg),  Earl Timberlake (14.6 ppg, 8.2 rpg), and Antwuan Walker (14.4 ppg, 7.5 rpg). I also did not mention the March Madness hero from St. Peters last season, Doug Edert, is the 6th man on the bench this season. Although they have had some low points this season, Head Coach Jared Grasso will turn this team around. They are super talented and are my pick to win the conference. 


3) New Hampshire (8-8 Overall, 3-1 Conference)

ATS: 7-7

O/U: 5-9

Overview: Things did not start off very well for the Wildcats this season. After winning their first two games, they lost 6 of their next seven games. They appear to have bounced back and have won five of their last seven games, including a big home win against Vermont last week. They have a dominant big man who is making his case on being the conference player of the year in junior Clarence O. Daniells II. The big man is averaging a double-double thus far this season, scoring 15.1 ppg (leads team and fourth in the conference) and is hauling in 10.5 rebounds per game (leads team and conference). He gets a little pressure taken off of him however, as the Wildcats have two guards averaging double figures in Nick Johnson and Kyree Brown, averaging 13.1 and 10.1 ppg respectively. However, they win their games on the defensive end of the ball, allowing only 65.5 ppg, the lowest of any team in the conference and 72nd in NCAA. If they can hold their own defensively in an offense-heavy conference, they could very well prove me wrong and win the conference in March. 


4) UMBC (11-6 Overall, 2-1 Conference)

ATS: 9-7

O/U: 8-8

Overview: After starting the season 3-4, the Retrievers have been absolutely rolling, winning 8 out of their last 10 games. Like many teams in the American East, the success of UMBC has come on the offensive end of the basketball, as they are averaging 75.5 ppg (2nd in conference, 54th in NCAA). This is a dangerous offensive team with three guards in Colton Lawrence, Jacob Boonyasith, and Matteo Picarelli averaging double digits with 14.1, 12.3, and 10.9 ppg respectively. These three are also incredibly dangerous behind the arc shooting 36%, 37.5% and 43.6% respectfully from 3. However, as good as they are offensively, they have been very poor defensively, giving up 74.5 ppg (277th in NCAA). The Retrievers have the offense to go a very long ways in the conference tournament, but they simply will not have success if they do not clean things up on the defensive end. 


5) Vermont (8-10 Overall, 2-2 Conference)

ATS: 9-9

O/U: 10-8

Overview: The Catamounts lost their top 3 scorers to graduation from last season, and they were also the most productive players on the team, leading Vermont in all major statistical categories. Having to start fresh has been strugglesome for them thus far thai season, but they have had some quality wins over Bryant and UMBC. The backcourt for the Catamounts has been solid this season. Returning senior Aaron Deloney is leading the charge for Vermont this season with 12.3 ppg and is shooting an impressive 40.7% from behind the arc. He has a solid backcourt mate in senior Dylan Penn, who is averaging 11.7 ppg and 3.1 rpg. The good news for the Catamounts is they are playing the bottom half of the American East for the next few weeks before they go on to play some of the top teams in the conference. We all will be able to tell how the remainder of their season is going to go in these next few weeks. If they can pull together some wins, they may have the momentum to be contenders, but if they cannot, their season will be over very quickly. 


6) Binghamton (6-10 Overall, 2-1 Conference)

ATS: 6-8

O/U: 8-6

Overview: Outside of their 18 point win against New Hampshire, the Bearcats really have not had an impressive win this season. Half of their wins have come by double digits, and a good chunk of their losses have come by double digits. If they want to have any success for the remainder of the season, senior guard Jacob Falco is going to have to have a great game every single game. Falco is the team leader in points per game (14.4), assists per game (3.5), and steals per game (1.3). He does have other capable scorers in guard Armon Harried (12.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg) and forward Miles Gibson (10.7 ppg, 5.1 rpg). The Bearcats have shown already that if they can get things going through Falco and can play good on both sides of the court, they can beat anyone in this conference. With the tougher part of their schedule coming up, we will see if they can pull off any upsets or if they will falter. 


7) Albany (6-13 Overall, 1-3 Conference)

ATS: 8-9

O/U: 11-6

Overview: The bottom three of the America East was tougher to determine the order of where I think they will be seeded. However, I think the Great Danes can pull off enough wins this season to gain the seven seed. A good chunk of the teams in the America East are guard-oriented and get their points from behind the arc. However, Albany gets a lot of their scoring production from their front court. The Great Danes have two very solid forwards in Gerald Drugroole Jr. and freshman big man Jonathan Beagle. The duo is scoring 14.5 and 11.8 ppg respectively, while also hauling down 5.2 and 6.7 rebounds per game. One thing they are arguably the worst at in the conference is defense, as they are giving up 75.9 ppg (303rd in CBB). Albany’s only win in conference this season has come to the top ranked America East team currently, UMass Lowell. They have not seemed to have found consistency offensively following that game. If they can play as they did against UMass Lowell, they could very well make their way into the conference tournament as a much higher seed. 


8) Maine (6-10 Overall, 0-3 Conference)

ATS: 8-5-1

O/U: 7-6-1

Overview: Coming in as the last seed, we got the Black Bears of Maine. I predict they will find a way into the conference tournament because their record does not do them justice for the season they have had. Six of Maine’s losses have come by 8 points or less, with half of those being a one possession loss. They also have a solid Power 5 win this season on the road against Boston College by 5 points. The Black Bears have a backcourt that has the potential to win them games this season. Sophomore guard Kellen Tynes is leading the team with 15.4 ppg, but the big story line for him is how he has been doing on the defensive end. Tynes his averaging 3.1 steals per game which is not only the best on the team and conference but also the second best in the entire country. Maine should find a way to close out the very close games, win a few more games down the stretch, and squeak in as a low seed come conference tournament time. 


Missing the Cut:

9) NJIT (4-12 Overall, 1-2 Conference): The only win in conference for the Highlanders has come to Maine. Almost all of their losses this season have come by blowouts. They only have one player scoring more than 10+ ppg this season. They may give teams a run for their money in the conference this year, but I don’t foresee them many, if any, games this season. 


The America East may have lost a couple of teams this season, but that is not going to stop this conference from producing good basketball games. The guard play is going to determine that team that wins the conference, as all but one team’s success is going to rely on their guards. However, teams that have really talented guards that can score from anywhere and make plays make it far in the conference tournament. I reiterate, as I have done on every blog thus far, if you have a free evening, take some time to watch teams in this conference. The winner of the America East is going to be a force come March time and very well could upset a top team in the big dance.

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