Outlook: Stony Brook was a surprise contender in America East in Jeff Boals’ first season at the helm, but will the Seawolves have enough offense to compete in his second time around? Continue reading
Behind the scenes of the NCAA Tournament there was some CIT and NIT action yesterday as well, including a matchup of two programs that like to run and play offense (and haven’t known this type of winning for awhile).
Mount St. Mary’s played an incredible half against Villanova and there was lots of other action around the country on a big day for the college basketball postseason. Continue reading
It was a light night for the conferences we cover, but that all changes tomorrow! A quick look at some excellent CollegeInsider.com Tournament action. Continue reading
The America East has a reputation for being soft at the bottom, and those are not alternative facts or fake news, the bottom three teams that will compete in next week’s conference tournament are 331, 313, and 334 in KenPom, respectively.
The facts also say, however, it was worse last season when the final four seeds in the America East Tournament were 325, 323, 336, and 334. No. 334 and dead last at 3-13 was UMBC, which wasn’t a shock to anyone following the league, the last time they had been above 310 was 2007-08 (a glorious season which saw them 13-3 and in the NCAA Tournament).
This year didn’t portend to be a whole lot better under first-year coach Ryan Odom (who came from Division II Lenoir-Rhyne), but here we were on Saturday afternoon with the Retrievers playing in an actual big game, at 9-6 in America East (and 18-10 overall), proving – at least temporarily – that it was possible to climb out of the depths of the league and make things much more interesting at the top.
After a home loss to NJIT (currently 9-18) on Dec. 28, Stony Brook stood 4-8 and apparently needing at least a season of transition after last year’s run to the America East title, graduating a strong senior class including all-time great Jameel Warney, and seeing the coach the built them basically from scratch (Steve Pikiell) leave to go to Rutgers with his top assistants.
On top of everything else, two of its top returning players – Ahmad Walker and Deshaun Thrower – were arrested in separate incidents and no longer on the team by the time the season started.
But the dreaded “rebuilding” didn’t take as long as most thought. While Stony Brook was surely not as loaded as the last couple of years, it still had plenty of good America East talent, and the result has been winning 12 of 14 since that NJIT defeat, and being 11-2 in conference play with three games remaining (and clinching at least a No. 2 seed) after finally putting away a stubborn Hartford team 66-54 at Chase Family Arena Wednesday night.
Had they been wearing different uniforms, New Hampshire might have been taken a little more seriously this season. The America East coaches knew better, of course, picking the Wildcats second behind Vermont, with three of the eight who were not Bill Herrion putting New Hampshire first.
That, of course, is a long, long way from most of the history of the program, which can’t really be called checkered because there aren’t enough successful data points to offset the 19 (?!?) straight losing seasons from 1995-2014. The Wildcats only had one winning campaign in the previous decade to that as well, so it probably goes without saying they’ve never been to the NCAA Tournament (becoming Division I in 1977).
Maine and Hartford have been in Division I basketball for a combined six decades (Maine joined in 1977, Hartford in 1984), and have a grand total of zero NCAA Tournament appearances between them, so while many coaches and programs talk about “upholding the tradition”, what do you do when there’s not much to work with?
Maine has had just one winning record in its last 12 seasons (2009-10), but there’s a little to talk about there, as Dr. John Giannini – who went to the Sweet 16 with La Salle in 2013 – went 24-7 in 1999-2000 before they lost at Mike Brey and Delaware in the America East semifinals. Giannini had one more 20-win season in Orono, losing at Vermont in the conference final in 2003-04, before heading to Philadelphia.
Roland Nyama, perhaps Stony Brook’s best defender, walked through the bowels of Island Federal Credit Union Arena after Wednesday night’s game where he ran into NJIT’s Damon Lynn. Nyama had spent the better part of 40 minutes trying to chase Lynn all over the court earlier, but could do nothing but flash a big smile afterward while shaking Lynn’s hand.
“They told me to chase you off the three-point line, but man, you’re tough,” Nyama said.
Nyama actually did a good job keeping Lynn from hurting Stony Brook from outside the arc Wednesday, as he hit just a pair three-pointers (both in a 90-second span late in the first half) in 11 attempts. But by night’s end, the final stats showed Lynn with 26 hard-earned points, and NJIT with its seventh win of the season, 64-61.