In order for a team to win a championship in America East there are a lot of qualities a team should possess. A team should be able to handle elite opponents, it should be have an top-notch front court player and a crunch time scorer. It should also have an efficient offense and a defense that can get big stops. There are five contenders for the AE title. Which one is best suited to make a title run?
Let’s start though with a definition. An “elite” team here is in the context of America East. That’s a team around 160-180ish in Pomeroy. That’s the record you’ll see. I’ll also note any wins over teams better than that range. The others are a little more fungible, but as you’ll see there are some bare minimums that should be met. Offenses should be scoring at least a point per possession in conference. Defenses should give up fewer than a point per possession.
Teams are listed in the current standings order.
1. Stony Brook
- Record vs. Elite: 4-0 (Columbia, Cornell, Vermont, Albany)
- Offense: 1.13 points per possession
- Defense: 0.99 points per possession
- Big Man: Al Rapier
- Go-to Guy: Bryan Dougher
The Seawolves have two additional ingredients that make them particularly dangerous. They’ve got experience, having gone to the title game last season and they’ve got Tommy Brenton. While he’s not typically a go-to offensive force in the paint, he passes and rebounds as well as any big guy in the conference. The weakness here is senior Rapier, but that’s being picky. He’s averaging 9.3 points per game this season.
- Record vs. Elite: 0-0
- Offense: 1.21 ppp
- Defense: 0.96 ppp
- Big Man: Alsadair Fraser
- Go-to Guy: Gerald McLemore
Maine has quite the offense. I put McLemore as the go-to guy because I assume down the stretch in crunch time they’ll go to the senior instead of the outstanding freshman Justin Edwards. But Edwards’ presence and Raheem Singleton give the offense a bunch of options. The worrisome part of this resume? The fact that Maine hasn’t played a single game this season against a team in the range of the elite America East teams. The Black Bears lost to three teams (Eastern Illinois, San Diego and Florida Gulf Coast) worse than the ones they’ll need to beat to win a title too.
- Record vs. Elite: 0-2 (but beat Old Dominion)
- Offense: 1.13 ppp
- Defense: 1.02 ppp
- Big Man: Brian Voelkel
- Go-to Guy: Luke Apfeld
This team is a case of the whole being better than the sum of its individual parts and thus it makes it difficult to pick out the guy that would take over a game if it was close down the stretch. Vermont’s defense has also struggled in three conference games, but they were against Stony Brook, Boston University and Hartford. That win over Old Dominion is awfully impressive, as is the one-point loss to Iona.
- Record vs. Elite: 0-3
- Offense: 1.19
- Defense: 1.07
- Big Man: Blake Metcalf
- Go-to Guy: Gerardo Suero
There are some serious holes in the Great Danes’ resume as a potential title challenger. Albany’s best win this season is over St. Francis (NY). The non-conference schedule was awfully light, so the 10-7 record might be a bit inflated. The big question is the defense. Part of that is because Stony Brook lit Albany up for 81 points in 60 possessions in their meeting on Sunday, but UMBC scored 72 points in 71 possessions too. The last issue? Where is the big guy that can control the game? There are great perimeter players in Suero, Mike Black and Logan Aronhalt, but the front court isn’t ready to bang against some of the league’s big scorers. Dallis Joyner scored 15 points on seven shots for SBU in that loss.
5. Boston University
- Record vs. Elite: 2-2 (wins over Hofstra, Delaware)
- Offense: 1.12 ppp
- Defense: 1.06 ppp
- Big Man: Patrick Hazel
- Go-to Guy: Darryl Partin
The reason BU is still considered a contender is because the Terriers have a lot of talent. Partin has attempted to carry this team (7th in the nation in possession percentage) while D.J. Irving returned from a concussion. Hazel is the team’s third leading scorer at 7.3 points per game and fellow forward Dom Morris is at 6.8. Those two combine to make one decent front court option, but make no mistake this team will only go as far as their two talented backcourt guys take them. This team (well, along with one big piece in John Holland) won the title last season. So the experience is there.