Week in Review: Nov 15-21November 23rd, 2010 by Sam Perkins
The first full week of America East hoops has come to an end. So what did we learn? That the league is still far more of question marks than answers. Can New Hampshire and Stony Brook overcome key injuries on top of inexperience? Is Binghamton going to be the train wreck on the court this season that was predicted last season? Will UMBC be less dreadful than last year? Will this be the year that Albany turns things around? Can Maine make the move from surprising upstart to true contender? Is Hartford going to turn it around? We still don’t know – only time will tell. However, what we do know is that Boston University and Vermont look legit, and Maine could join them in the “contender” bracket. Without further ado, here’s a look back at the previous week in America East hoops.
Game of the Week
UConn 89 Vermont 73
The Catamounts went into the half up by three, and led well into the 2nd half. It took all of Kemba Walkers 42 points for UConn to pull away in the end. The Catamounts played the Huskies as equals, and for most of the game you couldn’t tell the Big East team from the America East squad. Evan Fjeld was brilliant, scoring a career high 26 points to go with 3 big blocks, and was clearly the best post player on the floor for either team.
Player of the Week
Evan Fjeld, F, Vermont
Fjeld averaged 24.5 points on 20-of-31 shooting (64.5 percent) and 3.5 last week. Against a BIG Big East squad in UConn, he scored 26 points, blocked 3 shots and was the best front court player in the game. The following game he led Vermont to a 79-75 road win over Quinnipiac, scoring 23 points to go with 4 blocks.
Rookie of the Week
Chase Plummer, F, UMBC
Plummer averaged 12.5 points and 6.0 rebounds in two games last
week. He also became the first freshman in the Division I history of the Retrievers to score in double figures in each of his first three college games. Plummer brought plenty of physicality and tenacity in the low post for the Retrievers, and currently leads all America East freshmen in scoring at 12.7 points per game.
Albany Great Danes (1-2 for the week, 1-3 on the season)
Last week: Lost vs. American, 57-44, on Monday; Lost at Georgia Tech, 78-51, on Wednesday; Won at Fairleigh Dickinson, 72-46, on Saturday.
This week: Tuesday vs. Iona, Friday at Detroit, Saturday vs. Niagara, Sunday at Bowling Green.
Albany picked up its first win of the season and showed some real flashes during the previous week. The Great Danes showed decent scrap against an American team that now stands at 4-0 and should be at least solid this season. After a 27 point loss to Georgia Tech (the drubbing was expected), Albany picked up it’s first win of the season in convincing fashion, beating the bejesus out of Fairleigh Dickinson on the road. To be sure, Fairleigh Dickinson looks like a bad team, but any road win – let alone one by a young, rebuilding team – is a positive during the non-conference. The Fairleigh Dickinson game served as a coming out party for talented wing Logan Aronhalt,
who had a career high 27 points and 10 rebounds. Aronhalt has long been touted as a high-end talent, but spent his true freshman year red-shirting with a foot injury, and still was not healthy last season. Aronhalt is an explosive leaper who seems to be finding his stroke from long range. More surprising that Aronhalt’s progress has been the play of Tim Ambrose: written off as a bust entering his senior year, Ambrose has been solid if unspectacular, and has scored in double-digits in all four of the Danes games to start the season. If Aronhalt can continue to progress, Ambrose continues to play within himself and starting point guard Mike Black returns from an ankle injury suffered in the Danes season opener, Albany could be a middle of the pack team in the America East.
-Tim Ambrose will never live up to the billing, but if he keeps playing the way he has, he could salvage his senior year. Through four games Ambrose is averaging 15.5 points per game and shooting over 50 percent from the floor.
Binghamton Bearcats (0-2 for the week, 1-2 on the season)
Last week: Lost at Bucknell, 66-38, on Wednesday; Lost vs. St. Bonaventure, 69-44, on Sunday.
This week: Tuesday at Army, Sunday at Drexel.
There’s no way around it, the past week for the Bearcats was one of the worst weeks any America East team has endured during the past decade. Binghamton followed up a 28 point loss to a previously winless Bucknell squad with a 25 point home loss to an unimpressive St. Bonaventure’s team. Both losses were equally concerning, but for different reasons. It was thought that Greer Wright
– a projected 1st Team All-Conference player – could single handedly keep the Bearcats respectable. However, the Bucknell game displayed that Binghamton can be beaten by a bad team even when Greer Wright is “on.” Against the Bison – who are 1-3 on the season – Wright went off for 21 points, but the rest of the Bearcats only mustered 17. Following the Bucknell debacle, the Bearcats returned home, where, buoyed by the one true home court advantage in the conference, they have always kept things close. But Sunday the Bearcats were dreadful, and Wright was held to 1-10 shooting, proving that he can be contained. Both loses confirmed that the rest of the roster outside of Wright is bad – plain and simple. Both loses raised more concerns about interim head coach Mark Macon’s in-game abilities, as the Bearcats appeared to lack any real game plan, played 1 on 5 basketball, and once they fell behind by a sizeable margin lost any fight they had and simply chucked every time down the court.
-Last season the wheels fell off for the Bearcats during the second half of the conference slate, when Binghamton lost five out of their final seven. Three of those loses were by 20 or more points. During that stretch, interim head coach Mark Macon spent most games looking disinterested while Greer Wright tried to “just get his.” It will be disastrous for the Bearcats if the same trend occurs this season – which is exactly what happened during Binghamton’s two blowout losses during the past week.
Boston University Terriers (2-1 for the week, 2-2 on the season)
Last week: Won vs. George Washington, 76-67, on Tuesday at The Pavilion (NIT Season Tip-Off); Lost at #6 Villanova, 82-66, on Wednesday (NIT Season Tip-Off second round); Won vs. Marist, 58-37, on Friday.
Next week: Monday vs. Hampton, neutral court (NIT Season Tip-Off Consolation Round); Tuesday vs. Nevada, neutral court (NIT Season Tip-Off Consolation Rounds); Saturday vs. Cornell.
Don’t look now, but the Terriers look to be putting it together. BU opened the NIT Season Tip-Off with arguably the America East’s best win during the early season, knocking off George Washington 76-67. Against GW, John Holland was a man – plain and simple – and looked like the player billed as the clear favorite to P.O.Y. honors. Holland scored 28 on 9 for 13 shooting, including 5 of 8 from behind the arc. The Terriers Über-talent was doubled all game long but simply could not be stopped. Forward Jake O’Brien
also woke up, scoring 20 points and pulling down 10 rebounds. The Terriers fell in the following round of the NIT to a Villanova squad ranked sixth in the nation and playing on its home court. BU’s 16 point loss to one of the nation’s top squads was certainly respectable. Despite a big win over an A-10 squad, and a solid showing versus one of the nation’s best, it was a 21 point win over a winless Marist squad that might be the most positive for BU. Against Marist, O’Brien was limited to only nine minutes due to a severe stomach flu – one that made the rounds on the entire Terriers roster during the week – and Holland held to 7 points on a horrific 2-11 shooting night. Furthermore, freshman spark plug D.J. Irving played only 16 minutes due to foul trouble and swingman Darryl Partin also had a poor night. Yet the Terriers rolled, thanks to a huge performance from reserve guard Matt Griffin, and some key contributions from front court players Dominic Morris and Pat Hazel. Griffin scored a career high 21 points on 7 of 7 shooting, Hazel pulled down a career high 13 rebounds and swatted four shots and Morris keyed the Terriers second half surge with some big buckets, while appearing to be putting it all together early in his freshman season. The thinking entering the season is that the team that can find ways to win when its stars are off is the team that will separate itself from the rest of the pack, and the Terriers are the first team to show the ability to do just that.
-John Holland MUST start taking the ball to the hoop: Holland scored 16 points in the final nine and a half minutes of the Terriers season opener against Northeastern by taking the ball right at the rack. Holland, at a long and very athletic 6’5”, is almost impossible to defend when he goes to the hoop. But far to often he seems tentative on offense, and content to sit on the perimeter and settle for threes.
-Encouraging for BU was the play of freshman Dominic Morris against Marist. A 6’6” 270 pound behemoth, Morris has the talent to be a league player of the year down the road, but has been struggling to adjust to the college game in the early going. Against Marist he showed flashes, bullying his way to the hoop for a couple of key scores while coming up with some big rebounds and a huge block.
Hartford Hawks (0-2 for the week, 0-3 on the season)
Last week: Lost at Quinnipiac, 66-64, on Tuesday; Lost vs. Dartmouth, 71-57 on Friday.
This week: Wednesday vs. St. Francis (PA), Saturday at Fordham.
Morgan Sabia began the week against Quinnipiac
continuing where he left off the previous weekend against Central Connecticut State. Sabia scored 23 points on 8 for 14 shooting, and played Quinnipiac forward Justin Rutty – a very physical and talented forward – as an equal. Through the first two games Sabia has played like a man reborn and looking like the impact talent he was projected to be as a freshman. If the Hawks can generate some offense around Sabia, and rebound the ball the way they did in their narrow season opening loss to Central Conn., they could be a top-half team in the America East. However, Sabia can’t carry the team alone and has gotten very little help from his supporting cast. As positive as the Hawks first two games of the season were, their home opener against Dartmouth was a disaster. Hartford looked lost, and played beyond poorly. Sabia had an off night – which is going to happen – and none of the Hawks picked up the slack. Very concerning has been the play of fifth year senior Joe Zeglinski during the early going. Zeglinski continues to take the vast majority of his shots from the perimeter, and has yet to effectively get to the hoop. Head coach John Gallagher has stated that, for the Hawks to be competitive, Zeglinski “must live in the paint,” but through three games this hasn’t happened.
-Coach Gallagher has said that forward Anthony Minor is the key to the Hawks season. Minor has always had the talent, but his work ethic and intensity on the court have faltered in the past. Word is that since Gallagher’s hiring, Minor has been one of the hardest workers on the team. Hartford will need him to play like a senior during his final season and rebound and defend in the post, to avoid the conference basement.
Maine Black Bears (1-0 for the week, 2-1 on the season)
Last week: Won vs. DIII UM-Machias , 95-44, on Friday.
This week: Monday at Notre Dame.
It might as well have been a bye week for the Black Bears. With a drubbing of a Division III squad as Maine’s only game, the Black Bears in essence played a glorified exhibition and spent the week preparing for next weeks road match up against Notre Dame. A competitive showing next week against the Fighting Irish would establish the Bears as a legit top-tier America East squad in the early going. The one positive of the week for Maine was the return of senior center Sean McNally from injury. McNally has never been an efficient scorer in the low post, but he is a physical banger who makes a big impact on the glass and should bolster an already strong front court for the Black Bears.
-Gerald McLemore remains the Black Bears best scorer on offense, but Murphy Burnatowski is their
most complete – and arguably best – all around player. The league’s best (healthy) defender, Burnatowski has shown no signs of a sophomore slump, as his offense is now catching up to his “D.” Through three games, Burnatowski is averaging 13.7 points per game while shooting an eye-popping 53 percent from behind the arc.
-Junior Travon Wilcher was supposed to give Maine the shot blocking presence in the low post that the Black Bears haven’t had since Justin Rowe graduate in 2003, and the front court athleticism that school never has. But the 6’7” forward has barely played this season.
New Hampshire Wildcats (2-0 for the week, 3-0 on the season)
Last week: Won at Dartmouth, 55-53, on Tuesday; Won vs. Holy Cross, 55-52, on Saturday.
This week: Tuesday at Sacred Heart, Saturday vs. Brown.
New Hampshire pulled out two ugly, gutsy, wins during the week, but suffered a huge loss with the season ending torn ACL to senior shooting guard Alvin Abreu. Abreu is the heart and soul of the Wildcats, and a huge blow emotionally to the team. However – at least in the early going – the team has responded. As both center Dane DiLiegro and head coach Bill Herrion pointed out, both of New Hampshire’s wins were games the Wildcats would not have come out on top in during previous seasons. After trailing by fifteen at the half against Dartmouth, UNH locked down on defense and came roaring back, capped by a DiLiegro game winning rebound and jumper just before the clock expired (and after the buzzer went off due to a malfunction). Against Holy Cross, the Wildcats appeared in command in the first half, only to lose the lead and momentum in the second half. DiLiegro once again came up huge, diving to make a rebound in a mass of bodies while simultaneously calling a timeout with only seconds remaining. Guard Tyrone Conley promptly hit the game winning 3-pointer out of the
timeout. Abreu’s injury does not extinguish the Wildcats NCAA chances while the season has only begun, as teams have been known to rally around an injury, and, as DiLiegro stated after the game, New Hampshire is “playing the whole season for Alvin Abreu.” Furthermore, Abreu’s injury allows talented sophomore wing Ferg Myrick to move back to his natural position, and the Wildcats to go bigger up front. The loss of Abreu might also force UNH to finally start working the ball into the paint to DiLiegro, who has been close to unstoppable around the hoop on the limited touches he has gotten through the opening three games. UNH can still make a run at the conference title; they defend the HELL out of the ball, but the Wildcats – especially Conley – need to stop chucking 27 foot three’s and work the ball more to DiLiegro and Myrick.
-The Wildcats need to get the ball in to Dane DiLiegro in the post. No player on the roster is more of a culprit ignoring the big man than guard Tyrone Conley. New Hampshire runs dozens of plays a game in which DiLiegro sets high screens for Conley and then rolls to the hoop. However, Conley ignores DiLiegro so much that teams are beginning to completely ignore the Wildcats center and let him cut to the basket unimpeded while doubling Conley.
-I like New Hampshire guard/forward/baller DeAndray Buckley. A Lot. Buckley is in the 6’4” – 6’5” range and doesn’t have a clear position, but gets the job done. Players in his mold – men “without a position” – have carved out some pretty solid careers in the America East; Brian Lillis, Jason Grochowalski, Levi Levine, Tommy Brenton and Darryl Proctor all come to mind. Herrion largely credited Buckley’s defense for winning the game against Dartmouth. Against Holy Cross Buckley again shined, chasing down a Crusader from half court and pinning what appeared to be an easy fast break dunk against the glass.
Stony Brook Seawolves (2-1 for the week, 3-2 on the season)
Last week: Won at Monmouth, 51-49, on Tuesday; Won at Fairleigh Dickinson, 66-59 on Thursday; Lost vs. Wagner, 58-54, on Sunday.
Next week: No games.
It’s not quite time to hit the panic button, but the Seawolves certainly don’t look like a conference contender right now. After ‘eeking out wins over Monmouth and Fairleigh Dickinson – both far from powerhouses – the Seawolves suffered a very bad loss at home to lowly Wagner. Stony Brook is dealing with the (likely) season ending injury to the team’s best player and heart and soul – and the leagues best rebounder, defender, and overall badass – Tommy Brenton. The Seawolves are also without the services of shooter Marcus Rouse – who was expected to take a big step this season – to a meniscus tear. Starting center Dallis Joyner has also been badly hobbled by a
sprained ankle. But Rouse’s return won’t cure the Seawolves glaring weakness without Brenton: an almost total reliance on guard play and three-point shooting. Stony Brook must develop some sort of an offensive game plan where they are at least marginally effective inside the three-point arc, as outside of guard Bryan Dougher (who can be quite streaky in his own right) Stony Brook, quite frankly, isn’t a very good shooting team. The one positive in the Seawolves loss was the play of junior forward Danny Carter, who had a 14 point 11 rebound double-double. The Seawolves are young, learning to play together, and should be much better at the seasons end than right now, but if they don’t come up with an offensive game plan other than “first one over half court shoots,” they aren’t going to be able to win this league.
-Stony Brook needs an offensive game-plan. 2010 conference Player of the Year Muhammad El-Amin is gone, and even when he was around, the game plan of chucking three’s and staying out of El-Amin’s way while he went 1 on 5 driving to the hoop was unsuccessful in the long run. Chris Martin needs to get to the hoop more, as at almost 220 pounds of muscle, he’s a load for any America East guard to try to contain.
UMBC Retrievers (0-2 for the week, 0-3 on the season)
Last week: Lost at Loyola, 83-72, on Wednesday; Lost vs. Central Connecticut State, 82-74, on Saturday.
This week: Tuesday at Coppin State, Saturday at Duquesne.
UMBC is 0-for the season so far, but there may be light at the end of the tunnel – although the Retrievers might not reach that light until next season. The Retrievers can flat out score: Chris De La Rosa is straight balling after a 30 point, 11 rebound, 6 assist effort in the loss to Central Connecticut State. Freshman Chase Plummer appears as advertised, leading all
America East freshmen in scoring in the early season, averaging almost 12.7 points per game while shooting better than fifty-percent from the floor. Post-grad transfers Travis King and Laurence Jolicoeur have also been pleasant surprises. The problem is that, while the Retrievers certainly appear to be better than last years four win squad, they still don’t defend anyone. UMBC is giving up over 86 points per game, and they aren’t playing against offensive juggernauts. Unless they start coming up with stops on defense, it is going to be another long season.
-6’10” fifth year senior center Justin Fry continues to be a head-scratcher. Fry began the season with a 15 point 11 rebound doube-double, but has had only 11 points and 7 rebounds combined in the two following games. Fry has always been a player high on talent and low on confidence. A solid athlete and shot-blocker, he has very good range and a soft touch around the hoop, but has never “put it together” over a prolonged period of time. If he ever asserted himself he could be an All-Conference player, and could be the key piece to get the Retrievers out of the play-in game this season.
Vermont Catamounts (1-1 for the week, 2-1 on the season)
Last week: Lost at UConn, 89-73, on Wednesday; Won at Quinnipiac, 79-75 on Saturday.
This week: Wednesday vs. Loyola (MD), Saturday vs. N.J.I.T.
Vermont has been the surprise of the conference during the early going. After graduating do-everything superstar Marqus Blakely, as well as several other solid seniors from last years class, the Catamounts began the season with no known quantities. But the ‘Cats have responded by roaring out of the gate, playing as well as anyone in the America East – if not better. After an impressive road win at Siena to begin the season, the Catamounts had perhaps the league’s most impressive showing. On the road against UConn, they gave the Huskies everything they could handle. Vermont led by three at the half, before finally running out of gas late in the second. Evan Fjeld has stepped into the impossible to fill shoes of Blakely and, well, filled them – at least a big part of them. Fjeld isn’t Blakely – he doesn’t provide the highlight reel dunks, monster rejections and dominance on the glass – but he is a much more complete (and arguably better) offensive player. Against UConn he was the best front court player on the floor, scoring a career high 26 points against the Huskies. Fjeld followed up that performance by scoring 23 points while carrying the Catamounts over Loyola on the road. Umass transfer Matt Glass has also shown flashes of brilliance, knocking down 6 of 7 from behind the arc against UConn. The Catamounts one glaring weakness during the early going has been point guard play, where senior Joey Accaoui and sophomore Simeon Marsalis simply aren’t getting the job done. At times the duo has struggled to simply get the ball across half-court.
-Granted, it’s a minuscule sample-size over the course of the season, but through three games Evan Fjeld has been the best player in the America East. Fjeld has simply taken over games on the offensive end, and is also turning into a very nice shot blocker.
-Freshman forward Brian Voelkel is quickly becoming
a favorite of mine. Although only averaging 6 points per game, he is averaging a whopping 8.3 rebounds and 6 assists and only 1.7 turnovers per game. Voelkel is build like a Mack Truck, came within a smidgen of a triple-double in his first college game, and really mixes it up on defense and under the glass. Comparisons to Tommy Brenton are sure to follow, as both are do-everything point/power forwards who can win a game without scoring a point. However, I think the comparisons are a bit off: Voelkel isn’t the athlete that Brenton is, and doesn’t have the mean streak. However, he might be an even better passer. To me, Voelkel is almost the T1000 version of former BU forward Stijn Dhondt - and then some.
-Before fans hit the panic button and give up on New Hampshire and Stony Brook because of injuries to key players Alvin Abreu and Tommy Brenton, respectively, they should take a look at America East history. In 2002, Boston University suffered a huge loss, as Matt Turner, the pre-season Player of the Year and Terriers most explosive scorer, was lost for the season six games in due to a broken shoulder. The Terriers responded by growing together as a team and winning the America East tournament and punching their ticket to the Big Dance. A year later, Vermont lost reigning Player of the Year T.J. Sorrentine for the season to two broken wrists. The Catamounts subsequently won the America East tournament and earned the first NCAA bid in school history. It is worth noting that the 2002 BU squad was much deeper and more talented than either Stony Brook of New Hampshire, and that the 2003 UVM team had a player named Taylor Coppenrath, however, the America East is much weaker today than it was almost a decade ago.
-Albany starting point guard Mike Black injured his ankle in the Great Danes opening game and is out indefinitely.
-Boston University center Jeff Pelage has what is being reported as a high-ankle sprain (but has been rumored to be torn ligaments) he is reportedly out for up to four weeks
-Hartford senior center Kevin Estes had his knee scoped to clean out cartilage and fluid. He will be out for a few weeks.
-New Hampshire starting shooting guard Alvin Abreu suffered a torn ACL against Dartmouth and is out for the season.
-Stony Brook sophomore guard Marcus Rouse had successful surgery on a torn meniscus and will be out for several weeks. Junior forward Dallis Joyner has been playing with a bad ankle-sprain and is day-to-day.
-Vermont center Ben Crenca is still recovering from a torn ACL suffered last season. No timetable has been set, but he is expected back around the beginning of the conference slate.