As we march towards November 8 and the official start of the 2013-14 basketball season, Mid-Major Madness will be bringing you conference previews on a regular basis to get you ready for tip-off. We'll also be highlighting these conferences and speaking with experts and coaches on our weekly podcast. We continue with the America East Conference.
This will be a huge year for America East. A Division II team has joined the conference for the first time since 2001 when Albany, Binghamton and Stony Brook moved up. While stats show UMass Lowell to be pretty good, we won't know for sure until they hit the court. There's a big jump from Division II play, and with some of the top teams in this conference keeping a majority of their key players, this season should prove nothing less than exciting.
Last Year: 17-14 (10-6) 3 Seed in AE Tournament, lost in CIT First Round
I was reluctant to place the Hawks here, trying not to favor my alma mater, but numbers don't lie. It was a hard toss up between the Hawks and the Seawolves. But with Hartford finally having upperclassman, it looks like they're set to dominate this year. After overcoming a depressing 9-22 2011-2012 season, they looked back, saw what they did wrong and improved. Not only do they have upperclassman this year, but 80% of the team will return for next year.
Mark Nwakamma made a name for himself for both Hartford and the America East conference. He scored 883 points in last season alone. He's on mark to break 2,000 points by mid-season. While Yolonzo Moore II may not be the tallest on the team, coming in at 6'2", he's fast and tends to work well with Nwakamma. The Hawks are also gaining a 6'10 redshirt sophomore, Yasin Kolo. Now they have someone to deal with the Seawolves' Anthony Mayo (also 6'10").
They made their first post-conference tournament in the history of the school's Divison I career. Their impressive improvement has caught the eye of many, with their non-conference schedule including three Sweet 16 teams, Florida Gulf Coast University, Yale and the NCAA champs, Louisville.
Last Year: 25-8 (14-2), 1 seed in AE Tournament, lost in NIT Second Round
While the Seawolves lost two players with top free throw percentages, as well as great defensive player Tommy Brenton, they still keep a majority of their top scorers. After their disappointing tournament run, losing in the semi-finals to Albany, crushing Brenton's (an the Seawolves') hopes of an NCAA appearance, they scored a post season bid and put up a good fight in the NIT Tournament, making it to the second round, falling only to the Iowa Hawkeyes (Big10) with a 75-63 final score.
Jameel Warney will be the sole star coming into the 2013-14 season, being only one of two underclassman who are returning key players. Carson Puriefoy being the other. With a big loss to the roster, a majority of their team will be sophomores and freshman; with two freshman, three redshirt freshman and four sophomores. Over half of the team will be underclassman. But they have a lot to fight for. They were the top seeded team and the NCAA prospect by most last season. Losing out to Albany was tough, but Albany did go on to defeat Vermont and pull an impressive performance against Duke in NCAA First Round.
The Seawolves have pulled in two NCAA Sweet 16 teams, La Salle and Indiana, as well as an NCAA third round, VCU.
Last Year: 21-12 (11-5) 2 seed in AE Tournament, lost in CBI First Round
Vermont had a tough break last season. They were ready to make their appearance in the NCAA tournament. The Championship game was home, and the probability of the higher seed winning at home is pretty good. They weren't expecting a loss or even a close game. The 53-49 loss was almost heartbreaking.
This season the Catamounts have a great advantage over the Great Danes to take revenge. They have their top three scorers returning for the 2013-14 season. Rugg, Apfeld and Carissimo are the top 3 respectively. Along with Voelkel, they have a fighting chance.
Vermont scored a match against the Duke Blue Devils, an NCAA Elite 8 team, as well as Sweet 16 team, Yale.
4. Albany Great Danes
Last Year: 24-11 (9-7) 4 seed in AE Tournament, NCAA Second Round
Albany was the Cinderella team of the America East. They were the first 4 seed to ever win the America East Tournament, and there was only a 12 point loss against Duke in the NCAA First Round, an ACC team.
The Great Danes had an impressive run near the end. They were able to pull out the stops when needed. But losing their top two scorers for the 2013-14 season will definitely have an affect. Hooley, Rowely and Puk complete the top 5 scorers on the team, with Black and Iati as the departing top 2 respectively. This season will test whether or not their last minute rise to the top was by chance or talent.
The Danes are gaining Michael Rowely, the younger brother of Sam Rowely. Hopefully talent runs in their family. At 6'8", Michael can quickly become a great asset to the team. The Danes are split almost in half, dividing upperclassman and underclassman. Hopefully this mix will benefit the Danes.
5. Maine Blackbears
Last Season: 11-19 (6-10) 5 seed in AE Tournament, lost in Quarter Finals
Maine's biggest loss is without a doubt Justin Edwards. Being their top scorer and 3rd for rebounds, his transfer to Kansas State will make an impact. The rest of the team is going to have to step up to fill the gap.
Looking back at the 2012-13 season, the Black Bears were pretty much average. They had more losses than wins, being the first team in the ranking to do so. If only they knew what a win against FGCU would mean now. The Black Bears and the Eagles battled it out with an 84-78 victory.
Last Year: 8-23 (5-11) 6 seed in AE Tournament, lost in Semi-Finals
Having their best scorer off the team will definitely hurt the Retrievers. Half of the top 4 have stayed with the team, but after that, the points per game stats drop to 5.8. While it's not terrible, it means the team was riding on those top 4 players. With two of them gone, it's going to mean a lot of pressure on Plummer and Roseboro. About half of the team is upperclassman, which is good for this year, but 4 of the 6 are seniors. Hopefully their drive to win and make their last year count will be the lift they need.
Last Year: 9-20 (5-11) 7 seed in AE Tournament, lost in Quarter Finals
The Wildcats are another case where 2 of the top 4 players have left, and like the others, most of the points are now resting upon a few people. The Wildcats had a 9-20 season for a reason. Most of their points came from the top 4, and with those few people gone, it's going to be tough for the team to bounce back. The only upside to this is that there are a decent amount of underclassman that can be molded to help out.
New Hampshire's schedule includes Top 25 team, Marquette. Their best shot is to use their non-conference to gear up for tournament play. The last time New Hampshire was seeded decently well was in the 08-09 season where they were placed a 4 seed.
Last Year: 3-27 (1-15) 8 seed in AE Tournament, lost in Quarter Finals
Key Returners: Jordan Reed (16.6 ppg, 9.5 rpg) Raynor Moquete (8.1 ppg, 2.4 rpg)
While the Bearcats still have their top scorer, that's just about all they have. Reed and Moquete are the best the team will have as far as returning players. The only thing going for them is freshman Nick Madray. He brings some impressive stats to the table such as the No.7 Canadian prospect by Northpolehoops.com and the No. 55 center in the Nation via ESPN. As impressive as he is, having three good players out of thirteen isn't too promising. However, Binghamton is predicted to be the America East Wild Card. It's quite possible with the energy Madray brings, combined with Reed and Moquete, the Bearcats could see some interesting turns this season, but it's all up in the air for now.
9. UMass Lowell River Hawks
Last Year: 15-13 (10-12)
Departures: Greg DeSantis (6.5 ppg), Romeo Diaz (5.5 ppg), Nomso Emetarom (0.8 ppg), Sam Searcy (0.7 ppg)
Key Returners: Akeem Williams (19.9 ppg) Antonio Bivins (15.5 ppg) Chad Holley (11.2 ppg)
The River Hawks are last simply because they have never played at a Division I level before. Williams and Bivins have impressive PPGs, but will they hold up this season? It's a big jump for them. This year will be a learning year. The players will experience Division I play for a full season. They had a taste of it for their first game, and exhibition against the UConn Huskies, where they were trampled in a 62-100 loss.
According to the River Hawk's roster, Emetarom and Searcy appear in the 2012-13 roster but not this season's. There is no current information on if they transferred and to where.