Technically the America East Conference Tournament has already started, 2-28 Binghamton held off 4-26 the University of Maryland-Baltimore County Thursday in the Play-in Game, but the real fun starts Saturday.
In a one-bid league like the America East, it all comes down to three days in March and almost anything can happen. Over the past decade, six teams have reached the finals when seeded fourth or below and five different teams have taken home the crown over the past five years. The top two seeds have held serve though, as the number one and two seeds have won 18 consecutive tournaments dating back to when the conference was still the North Atlantic Conference.
Boston University will look to become the first team to reach three consecutive championship games since Vermont reached the the title game between 2005-07. The Terriers earned the dreaded three seed in the America East Tournament, as sixth seeds have advanced six out of the past 10 years. They'll be facing an extremely familiar foe in the Hartford Hawks, a team they've defeated in each of the past two seasons in the tournament.
Here's a look at all eight of the surviving teams with SBNation Boston's Predictions at the end.
(1) Stony Brook Seawolves (20-8, 14-2): For the second time in three years, Stony Brook earned the number one seed in the America East standings as they look for their first ever trip to the Big Dance. Former UConn assistant Steve Pikiell has done a fantastic job building the program and should have his best shot this season with one of the most talented teams and best systems in a down year for the conference. The Seawolves are led by America East First Team selections senior point guard Bryan Dougher and junior forward Tommy Brenton. Dougher leads the team with 13.4 points per game and is the all-time leading 3-pointer shooter in program history. Brenton means even more to Stony Brook, as he was named the Defensive Player of the Year and leads the team in rebounding (7.8 rbg), assists (3.28 apg) and steals (42). With a collection of athletic wings and bruiser Dallis Joyner inside, the Seawolves are the best defensive team (59.1 points per game allowed) and the strongest rebounding squad in the conference.
(2) Vermont Catamounts (20-11, 13-3): The Catamounts are the hottest team in the conference after winning 11 of their past 12, with the team's loss against Binghamton hopefully coming as a wake up call. During that span Vermont earned wins over Stony Brook, Boston University and a sweep of fourth seeded Albany and showed that they were legitimate contenders even without last season's star Evan Fjeld. First year head coach John Becker has led a team with no established stars to their second consecutive 13-3 season and a position as one of the favorites in the conference. Despite coming off the bench in all 31 games, freshmen Four McGlynn earned the America East Rookie of the Year and led the Catamounts with 11.9 points per game. Junior guard Matt Glass earned a spot on the First Team by averaging 13.5 points in conference play and do-everything sophomore forward Brian Voelkel led the team in rebounds and assists.
(3) Boston University Terriers (16-15, 12-4): If postseason tournaments were played on paper rather than on the floor, the Terriers would join John Calipari coached teams and the Canadian National Hockey Team as perennial champions. Boston University is led by one of, if not, the most talented backcourt in the America East with Player e of the Year Darryl Partin and Second Team Member D.J. Irving. While Partin is second in the conference with 19.7 points per game, Irving is widely seen as the more talented player. The sophomore point guard has blazing speed and great court vision that helped him become the first Terrier to lead America East in assists (5.4 apg) since 1990. The real question will be how the rest of the team steps up. Forwards Dom Morris and Patrick Hazel both have the potential to put the Terriers over the top and sophomore small forward Travis Robinson can do almost anything on the floor.
(4) Albany Great Danes (18-13, 9-7): Meet the most banged up team in the conference and the squad that is by far the most difficult to put a finger on. Will Brown has put together the conference's best offense (72.8 points per game) behind three of the top nine scorers in the league. Junior college transfer Gerardo Suero is fifth in the nation with a 21.7 points per game average, while juniors Logan Aronhalt and Mike Black both posted more than 13 points per game during the regular season. But with Aronhalt and forward John Puk suffering from injuries that have reduced their minutes and severely limited their effectiveness, the Great Danes have had to get creative. Brown tried to slow down the pace against Vermont without Aronhalt and it nearly worked (50-47 Vermont win) and they may try to do the same against New Hampshire Saturday.
(5) New Hampshire Wildcats (13-15, 7-9): Bill Herrion's squad has consistently been a threat in the America East Tournament and this season they're the dark horse for the lower seed most likely to crash the title game. While New Hampshire has consistently used defense and rebounding to stay competitive, the Wildcats offense has added another dimension since inserting junior guard Ferg Myrick to the starting lineup. Myrick has averaged 12 points and 4.4 rebounds and helped New Hampshire in their 6-2 run to end the regular season. Senior guard Alvin Abreu is one of the best pure scorers in the conference and point guard Chandler Rhoads has stepped up his game immensely as a junior. Add in the conference's best rebounder (Brian Benson) and a prolific 3-point shooter in Patrick Konan and the Wildcats could be prone for a big run.
(6) Hartford Hawks (8-21, 7-9): The host team will look for their second consecutive 6-3 upset Saturday with a completely different team. Outside of speedy point guard Andres Torres and seniors Clayton Brothers and Genesis Maciel, the Hawks main players are all underclassmen who have plenty to prove. Freshmen forward Mark Nwakamma may be the key to defeating the Terriers. The big man averaged 8.9 points and 3.3 rebounds per game and proved himself capable of consistently beating the Terriers in the post in the team's regular season finale last Saturday. Nate Sikma (8.6 ppg, 4.3 rbg) and Nwakamma both earned spots on the America East Rookie Team Friday and freshmen Yolonzo Moore II and Wes Cole weren't far behind.
(7) Maine Black Bears (12-16, 6-10): One of the most talented but underachieving teams in New England, the Maine Black Bears sport three of the conference's best players but just six conference wins, with all of them coming against teams in the bottom half of the standings. Freshmen forward Justin Edwards should have been the America East Rookie of the Year but was hurt by his team's poor showing in the standings. The Canadian native averaged 14.1 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game for the Black Bears. Senior guard Gerald McLemore, a Second Team Selection, averaged 17 points per game and Scottish import posted 7.8 rebounds per game to go along with 13 points.
(9) Binghamton Bearcats (2-28, 1-15): Mark Macon's squad showed some fight in the team's 73-67 overtime over UMBC Thursday but don't expect their ride to continue much further. Robert Mansell and Ben Dickinson have been the stars of the show for the Bearcats all year long for a team that has been lacking it with Muhamoud Jabbi graduating last May. Mansell has averaged 14 points and 3.3 rebounds per game, while Dickinson earned a spot on the Rookie Team behind his 13 points and 6.1 rebounds.
Saturday March 3rd Quarterfinal Round
(1) Stony Brook Over (9) Binghamton: After beating UMBC in the Play-in Game last season, the Bearcats put up a real fight against (1) Vermont but they won't have Jabbi this time around. Expect Stony Brook to win easily behind their veteran stars and Binghamton's extreme youth.
(2) Vermont Over (7) Maine: I love upsets as much as the next guy, but Vermont beat the Black Bears by double-digits in both contests this year and Maine has lost six of their past seven and their first America East Tournament game six years running.
(3) Boston University Over (6) Hartford: This should be one of the most entertaining games of the weekend with Hartford enjoying the home-court advantage and the support of all the other fan bases. I just think the Terriers non-conference schedule has prepared them enough to overcome the Hawks especially if Hazel is fully healthy.
(5) New Hampshire (4) Albany: If Albany was fully healthy I'd be taking them, but a depleted Great Danes squad will have their hands full against New Hampshire.
Sunday March 4th Semifinals
(1) Stony Brook Over New Hampshire: Stony Brook's deeper bench and ability to score inside will prove to be too much for the red hot Wildcats.
(3) Boston University Over (2) Vermont: Vermont won both games during the regular season but D.J. Irving wasn't himself in the first meeting and the Terriers showed resilience in the second meeting after a terrible first 35 minutes. If Boston University's press can achieve any kind of results and Partin can put together a semi-economical performance, the Terriers will skate by Vermont.
Saturday March 10 Championship Game
(1) Stony Brook Over (3) Boston University: In a rematch of last season's championship game, Stony Brook gets their revenge in front of their home crowd (even if it won't be on campus). The Seawolves length and toughness are two areas this year's version of the Terriers just don't have enough of.