Alvin Abreu, R-Sr., G, New Hampshire (13.7 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 36.7 3FG%): Alvin Abreu has gone out the way that every since player who ever sets foot on a court should hope to conclude their careers: By leaving every last ounce of himself on the floor. A little over a month ago, when we began outlining our All-Conference Teams, Abreu was not on any of them. But Abreu – who perhaps works harder than any other player in the conference – had the February to end all Februarys, going straight BEAST MODE. The heart and soul of the Wildcats, Abreu put the team on his back and carried them from the Play-in Game to the fifth-seed.
Reason omitted from First-Team: Abreu might have been the best player in the AE during the month of February, but there are three other months, too, and those months had too many games where Abreu had more field goal attempts than points. Volume is valuable when it allows other players to thrive in lower-usage roles, but before the calendar hit February 1, the Wildcats weren’t thriving – they were diving, with the play-in game looking like a possible destination before UNH beat Hartford 52-51 in Durham to begin its race to 5th place. As spectacular as Abreu was down the stretch, his first three months of the season essentially locked him out of 1st-team contention.
Bryan Dougher, Sr., G, Stony Brook (13.4 PPG, 37.3 3FG%, 1.3 A/TO): A tireless worker, consummate leader, student-athlete, all-around good guy and flat-out winner, Dougher may be the single most important player to ever set foot at Stony Brook. Quiet and without a hint of ego or arrogance, Dougher is a silent assassin from long-range, and was the leading scorer for the regular season champion Seawolves. Although still susceptible to athletic guards off the dribble, Dougher made tremendous strides on the defensive end, and also showed off some surprising post-up moves. Dougher has started every single game of his career, and during that time has likely never taken a single player, practice, or moment off – or for granted.
Reason omitted from First-Team: Dougher can shoot the basketball, without a doubt. That, by itself, provides a lot of value – we named Four McGlynn Rookie of the Year, and McGlynn’s value is almost entirely provided by his shooting ability. But while Dougher is a great shooter, he’s not a historically great shooter, and in our eyes a top-5 player in the league has to excel in more than one area. That’s not to say Dougher is weak in every other area. He’s not. Dougher’s defensive ability has improved every season, his leadership is unquestioned, and he’s extremely durable. But it can’t be ignored that Dougher is only meaningfully better than average at one tangible aspect of the game.
D.J. Irving, Soph., G, Boston University (11.3 PPG, 5.4 APG, 2.3 A/TO, 108.7 ORtg): The fastest player in the conference, Irving was the engine that made the Terriers go, and made everyone around him much better. According to virtually every coach in the conference, not only was Irving the best Terrier, but teams would regularly structure their entire gameplan around containing him. Irving’s ability to drive the lane and dish to the open man made the Terriers offense run, and his court presence greatly contributed to the monster offensive season of teammate Darryl Partin, as BU’s point guard had a knack for getting the ball to Partin in the perfect position to score. The Terriers were clearly not the same team without Irving, as evidenced by their 0-4 spell when the guard was dealing with a concussion. Irving also excelled on the defensive end as the catalyst of the Terriers’ traps and presses, and applied constant pressure to opposing ball-handlers in the halfcourt.
Reason omitted from First-Team: Prior to Irving’s concussion, he was having a truly outstanding season and may have been the leading candidate for Player of the Year. And it’s clear that BU suffered in his absence. But after the concussion, while Irving was often good and rarely bad, there were too many games where he was essentially invisible. There’s a difference between looking to set up your teammates, which has always been a big part of Irving’s game, and doing so at the expense of your own offense. Irving reached double figures in points in nine of 11 games before the concussion, but was “held” to single-digit point totals in more than half of BU’s conference games, including three of BU’s four conference losses. Some of those low point totals were the result of teams selling out to keep Irving out of the lane, but there were more than a few occasions where we came to conclude that the biggest obstacle between Irving and the basket was himself.
Darryl Partin, R-Sr., G/F, Boston University (19.7 PPG, 160 FTA, 37.2 Shot%): Partin had an absolutely monster offensive season, finishing second in the conference in both overall scoring and scoring in conference games at 19.7 and 19.6 points per game, respectively. Partin excelled as a pick-and pop offensive player, and his lightning-quick release from anywhere on the court was deadly on catch-and-shoots running around screens. When he caught fire, no one on the league could get hotter than Partin, who could put points up by the barrelful. Although far from a good defensive player, Partin made strides on the defensive end of the ball as well.
Reason omitted from First-Team: Remember how we described Dougher as one-dimensional? Copy that for Partin. And while Partin’s ability to create his own shot may be far more robust than Dougher’s ability to do the same, nobody said anything about that created shot for self being a quality look. Partin may have invented the heat check. BU needed someone to absorb volume on offense, but that inevitably led to a predictable problem: Partin, a good shooter when spotting up or coming off screens, ended up taking a lot of contested leaners, long jumpers and 3′s off the dribble. If those sound like low-percentage looks, that’s because they were, which is why one of the most prolific scorers in the league had an effective field goal percentage of just 47.6. And when a player learns to expect that those low-percentage shots are occasionally required, it’s difficult to turn off the faucet and eschew those same types of looks earlier in the shot clock – Partin could be expected to throw up one of those shots early in the possession a few times a game. Did that make him difficult to guard? Yeah, probably, because any spot on the court could turn into a scoring opportunity. But it also meant too many empty possessions to be a first-team player on our list.
Gerardo Suero, Jr., G/F, Albany (21.7 PPG, 37.3 Poss%, 242 FTA, 107.8 ORtg): On the offensive side of the ball, Suero is not only the most physically gifted player in the league, but possibly one of the most gifted players the league has seen in a long time. Suero’s 21.7 points per game not only lead the league, but they are the highest single-season average the America East has seen since Taylor Coppenrath and Jose Juan Barea surpassed it in 2004-2005. In the past decade, only three times (Coppernath in 03-04 and 04-05, and Barea in 04-05) has an America East player scored at a higher clip. Suero’s package of size (6’4” 215), strength, athleticism, and ability and propensity to attack the hoop off the dribble are something the conference has not seen in a very, very long time. He was also a solid rebounder who got teammates involved distributing the ball.
Reason omitted from First-Team: Gerardo Suero averaged 4.2 turnovers per game. If that sounds like a lot, it’s because it is. It’s 4th in the nation. That number jumps to 4.7 in conference play. Gerardo Suero is also, by our reckoning, the worst defender among any current AE rotation player and quite possibly the worst defender we’ve ever seen in this conference. Is his scoring ability otherworldly? Yeah it is. But this is the blueprint for how a player can make more than 200 field goals and more than 200 free throws, lead the entire nation in percentage of possessions used, average almost six rebounds per game as a wing, and still miss out on 1st-team honors. Being benched after giving no effort whatsoever in a key game on national television doesn’t help either.