UMBC is the only team that hasn’t opened up America East play, but before the Retrievers do tomorrow at UMass Lowell, here is a breakdown of whose stock is up and down after the holiday break.
Stock Up: Albany – Cough. The Great Danes have won four of their last five, their only loss coming at Niagara without Peter Hooley who was sick and did not make the trip. Since the holiday break, UAlbany has had to battle an epidemic that almost ruled out senior Sam Rowley from two games (he played), but freshman Wheeler Baker missed Saturday’s win over Maine and didn’t travel to New Hampshire.
Just found out one of our supposedly healthy guys has lost 10 lbs the last 3 days with a stomach virus but has kept it quiet. What is next?
— will brown (@UAHOOPSWB) January 2, 2015
Now they head out on the road to face the Wildcats and UMass Lowell to see if they can keep their place amongst the America East favorites. Though health will probably be the most important factor going for UAlbany this week.
Stock Down (but hardly for long): New Hampshire – Sure they are on a four-game skid, but that won’t be for long. They played like one of the four best teams in the conference in their loss at Stony Brook. The fourth seed is possibly up for grabs in the America East tournament and if the Wildcats turn it around a home game will not be far off. Freshman Tanner Leissner, who got a lesson from Stony Brook’s big men Saturday, is a dynamic talent that the Wildcats need in the front court. Head coach Bill Herrion knows he wants to get more consistent scoring from Daniel Dion, who showed off his best game in awhile Saturday, and get sophomores Jacoby Armstrong and Jaleen Smith to play to their potential. Wright State transfer Joe Bramanti is their leader, vocally and defensively, and once he gets healthier, the Wildcats should be in good shape.
Burning Question: Trae Bell-Haynes – The Vermont freshman point guard took a tough fall, and had to be helped up by his teammates on Friday night at UCSB. He did not return to the game, but he is expected to play on Wednesday at Maine.
After losing Ernie Duncan for the season, any time lost for Bell-Haynes will mean that the Catamounts are down to their third point guard in Cam Ward (5.5 ppg), which just underscores how great of a job Vermont head coach John Becker has done with a relatively inexperienced team. Bell-Haynes, in place of Duncan at the point guard spot, has averaged 9.5 ppg and is just under a 1:1 assist to turnover rate. That rate, which currently has two more turnovers to assists, should change in conference play and he should be a lock for the All-Rookie team.
The Catamounts competed in their California road trip – dropping both at USC and UCSB – but they still look to be a contender in the America East this season.
Tweet of the Week: This comes from Maine head coach Bob Walsh, who took to Twitter after their 80-56 loss to UAlbany to reflect on their defensive performance to date.
The level we defend at is beyond unacceptable. It’s cutting me to the core right now. My responsibility to change it. We will do that. — Bob Walsh (@CoachBobWalsh) January 4, 2015
The Black Bears defense has given up 1.09 points per possession, the worst defensive rate in the conference to date. Their defense on both three-pointers (41.9%) and two-pointers (57.2%) are in the bottom five in the country. They will need to turn that around to post some wins in conference play.
Number to Know – 13: That is the number of the Binghamton Bearcats’ losing streak as they head to Hartford for their first road conference game. Tommy Dempsey expected more of his group, but he also didn’t anticipate junior Jordan Reed transferring at the start of practice. Binghamton is talented and everyone wants to see wins as progress, but talent can also be progress. The Bearcats have a rotation of mostly freshmen and sophomores that will improve with the added playing time. Dempsey admitted last month he probably over-scheduled, not only in tough matchups but tougher travel for a group that has one fewer practice each week. We shall see if scheduling up pays off in conference play.
Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2014-15 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.