America East Conference Tournament Preview and Predictions
Dec 1, 2016; Columbia, SC, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks guard PJ Dozier (15) and Vermont Catamounts guard Dre Wills (24) battle for a loose ball in the first half at Colonial Life Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
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If you are a fan of college basketball, then you know what time of year it is. It is conference tournament season of course! With the smaller conferences now done with their regular seasons, they are officially underway with the games that will lead to automatic bids into the NCAA Tournament. For the teams of the America East Conference, that journey is about to begin.
While this may be a small conference that most fans do not pay much attention to, this is certainly a tournament worth watching. It is home to Vermont, who is a very legitimate sleeper contender in the Big Dance. But they are going to have to make it there first. In order for any team to secure the America East automatic bid, they will need to win three games.
Things will tip-off on Wednesday, March 1st. The semi-finals will then occur five days later on March 6th, before another five-day wait. We will not know who wins this tournament until Saturday, March 11th, when the championship game starts at 11:00 am EST. You can check out the seedings and bracket below.
(1) Vermont(2) Stony Brook
(3) Albany(4) New Hampshire
(5) UMBC(6) Hartford
(7) Binghamton(8) Maine
We start off with the big favorites, the Vermont Catamounts taking on the eight seeded Maine. This is going to be a complete mismatch of talent. Vermont should have no issues dominating this game, especially considering Maine is pretty bad on defense. Vermont will take this one, 78-62.
For the right to play the Catamounts, we will have UMBC and New Hampshire going up against one another. This one promises to be fairly competitive. While UMBC will have the edge offensively, New Hampshire is better on the defensive side of the ball. The key differences will come in the form of New Hampshire creating more possessions while also committing fewer fouls. They will come out on top 76-74.
On the flip side, we will see the second-seeded Stony Brook, who will face off with Binghamton. Now, for a two seed, I really am not a fan of Stony Brook. They aren’t very effective with the ball, they don’t shoot the ball well at all and they commit a decent amount of fouls. But luckily for them, they take enough shots per game to overcome these deficiencies against a team like Binghamton. Give me the two seed, 74-68.
Next up we have Albany and Hartford. If you are looking for this conference’s sleeper team, you have found them. Albany is a team I am very high on, as they do everything at an average or better level. They do not really have many flaws overall. And they happen to be taking on a team that allows their opponents to have nearly nine extra possessions a game. This is an easy call. Give me Albany 82-68.
Semi-final time! The tournament’s favorites, the Vermont Catamounts are looking right in the face of New Hampshire. This one will be a lot more competitive than Vermont’s first game. New Hampshire is a going to bring their strong defensive game to this one in an effort to make it to the championship game. But unfortunately for them, Vermont will simply have too much offensive power. Give me the Catamounts, 68-67.
Well, I have already established the fact that I do not like Stony Brook, but I am a fan of Albany. So I will give you one guess where I am going on this one. Statistically, Albany beats out Stony Brook in every important metric. They can outshoot and out defend the two seed, which will lead to a 72-69 Albany win.
So for a chance at earning a bid in the NCAA Tournament via the America East Conference Tournament, we have Albany taking on Vermont. Now as much as I like Albany, I like Vermont that much more. As I said earlier, Vermont is a team that could do a little damage in the Big Dance. So I can’t pick against them, as I see them in the mix for March Madness. Give me Vermont 69-65.
So what do you think? Who do you see winning the America East Conference Tournament? Can anyone take down Vermont? Is Stony Brook overrated? Tell us what you think in the comments!