The America East picked up a grand total of three wins over the season’s first four days. However, that doesn’t mean there haven’t been positive signs from some of the league’s best teams. Providence currently leads the conference standings with victories over Albany and Binghamton, if only they played in the league full time. Meanwhile, Vermont is 1-1 in the MAAC. Here is the first edition of the America East Stock Watch on who is up, down and what numbers to worry about heading into this week.
Stock Up: Albany – After adding nine new players this season, the Great Danes were expected to be a work in progress. However, they played like a team that had been together all the way to March the way they played at Providence on Saturday night. Junior Evan Singletary, making his debut, led the way with 18 points and became the instant answer to D.J. Evans replacement. The other junior college transfer making his debut for Albany, Ray Sanders, showed why he could be an athletic wing in the league.
Senior Sam Rowley was not picked to the All-America East team in the preseason, the major reason he might have missed the pick is because of situations like Saturday – where he drew too many fouls and had to sit on the bench for almost half the game.
“If you had told me we’d had been in the game with [Sam] Rowley sitting next to me most of the time, I thought the game could have been ugly,” Albany head coach Will Brown said after the game. “We got good production from a lot of guys.”
While the Great Danes have some capable depth, they are still figuring out their rotation and going through some growing pains. Almost every one of sophomore Mike Rowley’s turnovers was a traveling call, once he slows down a beat when he gets a touch the 6’8″ younger brother of Sam should be a lethal force in the league. All of this didn’t mention that junior Peter Hooley is playing like a poised Player of the Year candidate.
Stock Up: Jahad Thomas & Lance Crawford, UMass Lowell – Pat Duquette was optimistic about Thomas’ future as a River Hawk before the freshman tore his ACL just over a year ago and was forced to redshirt. He thought Thomas would fit in and be one of the team’s more talented players on last year’s team. Now that the 6’2″ guard is fully healthy and almost a year removed from the surgery, he scored 35 points in two games against Ohio State and Rhode Island. Thomas will have an easy inside track to be one of the conference’s top rookies should he continue to play at this level. He and 5’10” freshman Lance Crawford are the only two players to score double digit points in both UMass Lowell’s games. Crawford’s lines have been even more impressive, earning plenty of opportunities to get fouled and convert at the line, where he’s made all but two free throws.
Stock Down: Hartford – Head coach John Gallagher made it clear that he thought the difference between a great season and a good season would line the Hawks turnover rate. Through two games, it hasn’t been pretty as Hartford turned the ball over 19 times on Friday. On Sunday, they had a 1:1 assist to turnover ratio and pulled out a victory despite senior Mark Nwakamma’s 6 turnovers thanks to Taylor Dyson’s five three-pointers. The team picked for second in the preseason has Moore and Nwakamma as options, but they need to solidify options three through five if they are going to contend as they want to this season. Part of that will have to involve John Carroll, but also Dyson and Corban Wroe. The Hawks could easily by 3-1 or 1-3 by the week’s end with a home date against Dartmouth followed by a road trip to Niagara.
Question Mark: Ernie Duncan, Vermont – After the Catamounts season opener against Canisius, John Becker said that the 6’3″ freshman Duncan looked “like an 80 year-old man” on the court as he struggles with back issues and it appeared he had another setback on Monday, playing just 11 minutes at Siena and missing the entire second half. There have been plenty of setbacks as the freshman point guard got ready for the season; he was held out of the team’s foreign trip to Canada, played in their first exhibition, but missed the second – all the time being held out for issues related to his back. However, Becker and Vermont have Duncan as a key part of their plans and they will hope to manage the situation and have him manage the pain throughout the season in hopes that it won’t impact his performance too much. It was clear that in the one exhibition, the Evansville native point guard makes his teammates better on the floor and has a vision almost unmatched for the freshman class. In the meantime Trae Bell-Haynes, who Becker said he was surprised has played as strongly as he has, will have to shoulder the load with his playmaking ability. He did that on Monday night, when he scored 16 points and single-handedly beat Siena’s press at times to produce an 84-76 victory.
Small Sample Size Overreaction Theatre: While Hartford freshman John Carroll struggled in his first game, practically everyone on the Hawks laid an egg against Sacred Heart on Friday. However on Sunday, the 6’8″ Carroll scored 9 points, grabbed 2 rebounds in 12 minutes of play which were key because senior Mark Nwakamma turned the ball over 6 times on his own. Binghamton had 9 more turnovers than field goals made on Saturday, but that will not continue after they begin playing non power conference teams. The Bearcats have capable weapons and will play plenty of freshmen. Expect fewer turnovers and more three-pointers made as Tommy Dempsey’s team works to turn the corner in year three. UMBC received a waiver for junior Cody Joyce and he did not waste any time contributing, scoring a team-high 13 points in the Retrievers season opening loss to Akron. Aki Thomas acknowledges that having Joyce’s presence was a big get and great news for 48 hours prior to the season starting. Expect the 6’8″ Houston Baptist transfer to help solidify UMBC’s front line and take pressure off senior Devarick Houston.
Prior to the Vermont-Siena game, I talked with the AJ & Rich Show on 101.3 ESPN Radio in Burlington/Plattsburgh to break down the matchup, the MAAC, America East and more.
Number to know: 8.8% were the Stony Brook Seawolves chances of winning the game, according to Ken Pomeroy’s statistics, after Maodo Lo drove the lane and converted a layup with 1:27 left. From there the Seawolves made up 80% of win probability over less than 80 seconds of game time. While Stony Brook’s improbable comeback made for great theatre, it also exposed a very young group to adversity. They will be challenged and, while they may have found some capable pieces in freshman Bryan Sekunda and Deshaun Thrower after game one, they will be challenged to become consistent pieces should the Seawolves want to play for a championship.
Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2014-15 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.