Stony Brook reigned supreme for the second straight season in the America East conference’s preseason poll, earning seven of a possible eight votes for the top spot, since coaches are not allowed to vote for their own team.
|1||Stony Brook (7)||63|
The Seawolves are the first team to receive seven votes since Boston University was picked as the unanimous favorite to win the conference prior to the 2009-10 season. Boston University finished 11-5 that year and was seeded fourth, where they beat top seeded Stony Brook in the America East semifinals, only to fall to second place Vermont in the championship game. Albany was picked as a unanimous favorite prior to the 2006-07 season, finished in second place in league play to Vermont, but won the America East tournament championship over the Catamounts.
Last season Stony Brook earned six of the first-place votes, with Hartford earning two and Albany one, but finished third in conference play. This season the Great Danes are the only other team to receive first-place votes, garnering the remaining two.
“The last couple of years, they’ve been picked like 4th and I picked them first in the America East coaches poll,” one coach said of Albany. “They’ve won it three years in a row. You got to beat them.”
The Great Danes have won the conference’s last three bids to the NCAA tournament and last season’s regular season title. But most of the other coaches in the conference coalesce around the Seawolves, who return every starter from last season’s team.
“They still have that bitter taste in their mouth from the championship game,” another coach said. “I think that’s going to be something that’s in the back of their minds all season long.”
Binghamton was picked fifth for the second straight season after winning six games a year ago and fighting through NCAA sanctions, which restricted the amount of practice time the Bearcats had last season. Those sanctions are gone now, and coaches in the league fear Tommy Dempsey’s program, which showed signs of coming together late in the year.
“I had liked their talent all year,” another coach said. “They were the best six-win team around.”
UMass Lowell was picked eighth in the conference, their highest preseason ranking as they enter the third year of a four year transition to full Division I membership.
|Tanner Leissner||New Hampshire||Soph|
|Jameel Warney||Stony Brook||Sr|
The major surprise for the Seawolves, who are picked to lead the league standings, is that they only received one player on the preseason All-Conference team. Senior Jameel Warney, the likely Player of the Year for a third straight season, headlines this team now filled with four seniors.
Four seniors earned honors on the All-Conference team for the first time since the 2011-12 season. Warney, who has won the Player of the Year award in each of the last two seasons, will have a chance to become the third player in conference history to win the award for a third time.
The surprise could be that New Hampshire sophomore Tanner Leissner, who won the conference’s Rookie of the Year award last season, earned a spot on the league’s best five players. However, over the course of the last few months, the consensus from coaches around the league is this is hardly a surprise.
“I’d put Leissner ahead of Puriefoy just because I thought he was pretty inconsistent,” one coach said. “I didn’t think he had a great year.”
Last season Carson Puriefoy ranked second in the conference with 16.4 ppg, but in conference play only scored 13.4 ppg. He had his worst season in shooting three-pointers, making just 30.2% compared to the career-high 44.2% he made as a sophomore. As a senior he will have a new issue to adjust to, being next to presumed point guard Lucas Woodhouse, who at Longwood posted one of the nation’s best assist rates two seasons ago.
Hooley and Warney are the only players to repeat as All-Conference selections from last season after four juniors were named a year ago. Binghamton’s Jordan Reed transferred out of the program.
Tanner Leissner, when asked earlier in the preseason whether he considers himself one of the top five players in the conference, said he hadn’t considered thinking about it.
“I wouldn’t say I’m one of the top five, but I’d say just from last year, I had some success,” Leissner said. “I don’t think I’m in the top five because there’s so many great players in this league. I’m still young and have a lot of work to do, but I consider myself a pretty good player, but I definitely have a lot of work to do.”
Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2015-16 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference among others for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.