If anybody thinks about the America East’s 2017-2018 season, the biggest story is the UMBC Retrievers. They became the first 16 seed to upset a 1 seed by defeating Virginia. What’s scariest about this, is that UMBC was not even the best team in the conference. Vermont had a 15-1 conference record and came very close to defeating Kentucky at Rupp early in the season. Vermont has been a powerhouse as of late. Will they be the team to beat in 2018-2019? Let’s find out!
America East Conference Preview
Maine is a difficult program to find success in. Not many noteworthy recruits want to travel to the northeast corner of the United States to play basketball. The Black Bears are losing their top scorer from last season, Aaron Calixte. The good news, is that their second leading scorer, Isaiah White, is only a sophomore. Maine is still a fairly young team, and has the opportunity to improve over the next few seasons. Unfortunately, I see this one ending up as another sub 10 win struggle.
The Bearcats only won two conference games a season ago. They had a much better out of conference record than Maine, but really struggled when it came down to playing the conference teams. This team probably won’t be too much better than last season, but they are certainly better than last place. Their top two minute getters, and scorers, J.C Show and Thomas Bruce, are entering their senior season. Their success is crucial to the Bearcats success.
- Umass Lowell
When one player leads your team in points, rebounds, and assists, that person is going to be tough to replace. The River Hawks are facing that issue this season with the graduation of Jahad Thomas. Ryan Jones is the top returning scorer at 11.9 points per game, which is still greater than the teams that Umass Lowell is ranked ahead of. This year may be among the toughest for them since transitioning to Division 1.
- New Hampshire
The Wildcats are losing two of their best players from last season. They do have some youth that will attempt to fill the void, but 18.6 pts, and a near double double 9pts, 10reb statline are tough to replace. New Hampshire may under perform this 6th spot, but I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt.
- Stony Brook
Stony Brook is led by Junior, Akwasi Yeboah, who scored 15.3ppg a season ago. He will also have a decent amount of help, as two of the next 3 higher scorers return. Stony Brook is the first team here with any shot at winning the conference tournament come March. It is worthy to note that this shot I am giving them, is very very slim. Don’t get your hopes up Seawolves fans.
The Great Danes will look a bit different heading into this season. For one, they are losing all 3 of their top scorers. Joe Cremo is now at Villanova, and David Nichols is at Florida St. Albany will have a bunch of young players to work with this season. They have proven to be one of the best teams in the conference over the past 10 seasons, so I expect that any down time for this team will be minimal.
The team that took America’s hearts back in March will have a difficult time getting back to the big dance. For one, they lose their star player, Jarius Lyles. They also lose PG KJ Maura. They still have some pieces to work with, with a large senior class led by Ricky Council. UMBC may not make the tournament again this year, but they could return to the conference championship game.
Hartford is coming off their best season in a long time, and are poised to be even better this season. They are led by the 3 headed monster of John Carroll, Jason Dunne, and J.R Lynch. Hartford lacks the depth to make them the top team in the conference. All of the big three will be seniors so this could be Hartford’s only shot at making an NCAA Tournament appearance.
The answer is yes. Vermont is once again the team to beat. With Trae Bell-Haynes graduating, Junior Anthony Lamb will become the Catamounts top player. Vermont has a bunch of great young talent that should quickly patch up any losses they take from a large senior class. This team may not go 16-0 in conference play, but a 13 or 14 win season is definitely achievable for this team.
Up next will be the American Conference!