At one point or another, most games this week looked like blowouts. Some of them were. Others featured the Terriers.
But we’ll try to keep a lid on the snark just long enough to pump out another edition of the America East Power Rankings. Why are you not excited? There’s a new team at the top!
1. Maine Black Bears (12-7, 6-1 AE)
Last week: Won at Vermont, 72-58, on Tuesday; Won vs. Stony Brook, 70-59, on Saturday
This week: Tuesday vs. New Hampshire, Saturday at Binghamton
The Black Bears caught Vermont at an opportune moment after the Catamounts were felled by the Terriers, and Maine did not waste its chance. In victory, the Black Bears displayed how their formula for victory works when Maine is at its best. Balanced scoring is a good place to start – nobody scored more than 14 points, because nobody had to – but more importantly, Maine did not waste possessions and made Vermont work for everything. When the Black Bears are in form, it takes a superlative effort to beat them.
2. Vermont Catamounts (14-5, 5-2 AE)
Last week: Lost vs. Maine, 72-58, on Tuesday; Won at New Hampshire, 61-53, on Thursday; Won at Binghamton, 70-52, on Sunday
This week: Tuesday vs. Hartford, Saturday at Albany
After getting punched square in the face last Tuesday, the Catamounts did a good job of recovering later in the week. Playing the Bearcats and a depleted New Hampshire team will do that. There are still some things to work on, though. Evan Fjeld has remained effective, but conference foes have a much better idea of how to defend him than previous opponents did – after scoring 20+ points in five early-season games, the senior forward has yet to reach that mark during America East play. The offense has still been fairly reliable, but this represents a step backwards after the explosive performances from earlier this season. And against the other contenders, Vermont will likely need at least one very strong offensive showing to return to the NCAA tournament: both Maine and BU had very efficient offensive nights against the Catamount defense.
3. Boston University Terriers (9-12, 4-3 AE)
Last week: Lost at UMBC, 71-67, on Monday; Won vs. Stony Brook, 67-62, on Thursday; Lost at Hartford, 59-55, on Saturday
This week: Wednesday vs. Binghamton, Saturday at New Hampshire
BU has now lost seven games by four points or less. Sometimes losing lots of close games means a team is on the verge of breaking through that last barrier and becoming something great. Considering how many of those losses were due to late-game collapses, though, hope is somewhat hard to come by. This is a young team whose best player and only senior is quite possibly the most erratic player in America East. Is this level of up-and-down play, not just from game to game, but from media timeout to media timeout, really so surprising?
4. Hartford Hawks (7-12, 4-2 AE)
Last week: Won at Binghamton, 72-61, on Monday; Lost vs. UMBC, 74-70 (2OT), on Thursday; Won vs. Boston University, 59-55, on Saturday
This week: Tuesday at Vermont, Saturday at Stony Brook
Speaking of late-game collapses, Hartford has suffered several of those this season, and the Hawks’ home loss to the Retrievers might qualify as a full-game collapse. With that in mind, how great must it have felt for John Gallagher’s team to come roaring back in front of its home crowd on Saturday, putting together a 22-4 run to close out the game and surpass the Terriers? Last year’s Hawks would have laid down after a 16-point deficit. Not this season.
5. Albany Great Danes (10-12, 3-4 AE)
Last week: Won at Stony Brook, 52-50, on Monday; Won vs. Binghamton, 76-37, on Thursday
This week: Wednesday at UMBC, Saturday vs. Vermont
Congratulations to the Great Danes for winning one of the ugliest games in the history of basketball last Monday. It’s hard to score just four points in the last 13:41 and still win, but Albany somehow managed the feat. As for the Binghamton “contest,” if it’s possible for a 39-point victory to be even less competitive than the score suggests, then Thursday’s game qualifies.
6. Stony Brook Seawolves (7-12, 2-5 AE)
Last week: Lost vs. Albany, 52-50, on Monday; Lost at Boston University, 67-62, on Thursday; Lost at Maine, 70-59, on Sunday
This week: Saturday vs. Hartford
Here’s your weekly update on Stony Brook’s offense: The Seawolves’ adjusted offensive efficiency of 87.2 still leaves Stony Brook as the worst AE offense since 2003-04 Albany. If this sounds repetitive from week to week, well, it is – but that’s Stony Brook in a nutshell. Good defense, but the Seawolves couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat. If only Tommy Brenton wasn’t in dry dock…
7. New Hampshire Wildcats (8-11, 2-5 AE)
Last week: Lost vs. Vermont, 61-53, on Thursday; Won vs. UMBC, 80-60, on Sunday
This week: Tuesday at Maine, Saturday vs. Boston University
So are the Wildcats the team that scored 53 points on Thursday? Or are they the team that exploded on 80 points on Sunday? As much as everyone would like to choose door number two, the odds of 50 percent shooting from 3-point land becoming standard performance are, um, low. At least UNH managed to avenge it’s previous loss to a three-win UMBC team. Remember 79-50? That was the New Hampshire regular season finale last year. Yesterday’s result was preferable.
8. UMBC Retrievers (3-17, 2-5 AE)
Last week: Won vs. Boston University, 71-67, on Monday; Won vs. Hartford, 74-70 (2OT), on Thursday; Lost at New Hampshire, 80-60, on Sunday
This week: Wednesday vs. Albany
In honor of the Retrievers’ first winning streak since March 2009, there will be nothing negative written about the Retrievers in this blurb.
9. Binghamton Bearcats (6-14, 3-4 AE)
Last week: Lost vs. Hartford, 72-61, on Monday; Lost at Albany, 76-37, on Thursday; Lost vs. Vermont, 70-52, on Sunday
This week: Wednesday at Boston University, Saturday vs. Maine
Yes, Binghamton is still technically tied for fifth in the conference standings, but the bottom has clearly fallen out of this team. At this point, having BU and Maine coming up on the schedule is almost cruel. The Maine game is at home, but after watching Hartford and Vermont invoke the mercy rule at the Events Center, it’s questionable whether home court even matters for Binghamton this year. Last year it took a whole month of conference play before opponents figured the Bearcats out, but Mark Macon’s maneuverings are a bit more familiar to AE coaches this season, and teams have been quicker to recognize and exploit Binghamton’s myriad weaknesses.
Player of the Week
Tyrone Conley, G, New Hampshire
Conley was one of the main reasons UNH kept its game against Vermont so close, as he and Chandler Rhoads combined for 74 percent of the Wildcat offense. Then Conley exploded against UMBC, stuffing the stat sheet in his best game of the season to snap a two-game losing streak. The senior guard had 22 points on 8-of-15 shooting, six rebounds, three steals and two blocks. He also handed out seven assists without committing a single turnover.
Rookie of the Week
Brian Voelkel, F, Vermont
It’s the same old deal for Voelkel, who didn’t put up double-figures in any of his three games this week but made an impact nonetheless. Voelkel ripped down 10 rebounds per game, had a 10/6 A/TO, and hit 13-of-16 free throws.
Game of the Week
Maine 72, Vermont 58
It’s been a long time since the Black Bears were in first place this late in the season. A long time.