1. Stony Brook Seawolves: 23-11 (12-4) Lost First Round CBI
This year is going to be the last very good chance this team will have at clinching an America East title. They're one of three veteran teams in the conference this year and with their two best players as seniors, I don't doubt many people expect a conference title from them come this March.
Last year Stony Brook came the closest to an America East win than they have in the past few years. They proved themselves as a formidable team, dominating their season till the very end, but as always, they choked at the end. Granted, the Hail Mary shot from Peter Hooley that cost them the game wasn't exactly expected.
I could go on and list the titles and honors Jameel Warney's collected over the past 3 years, but it would just take too much time. I'll give you the highlights: two-time America East Player of the Year, leading the conference in scoring, rebounding and blocks, and lead the nation in double-doubles. He's heading into his senior year averaging 16.4 points a game, which is impressive in itself.
Puriefoy is the second leader in scoring behind Warney, at 14.4 points. These two as a duo are almost unstoppable.
With under 1 second left in the title game last season, Puriefoy had the ball and for a moment, Albany's HC Will Brown had a moment of doubt. Puriefoy is quite possibly the quickest player on the court from the America East and with his hands on the ball was only a few milliseconds short of getting a shot off. Out of the 50 points that Stony Brook scored, 7 of those points were scored by players other than Warney and Puriefoy.
Key Players: Carson Puriefoy, Jameel Warney
2. Albany Great Danes: 24-8 (15-1) Lost Second Round NCAA
After grabbing a three-peat conference streak to land themselves at the big dance for the third year in a row, Peter Hooley and the rest of his fellow seniors want to make it a perfect run during their time at the University at Albany.
Last year the Great Danes had a lot to rally behind. With the overwhelming support the team and the fans had for Hooley before and after his mother's passing, it fueled the fire that would make Albany end the season at 15-1 in conference play. Without their leading scorer, they looked towards Sam Rowley, the go-to inside man, to take control of the game. Efforts from Ray Sanders, Evan Singletary and Michael Rowley kept them in the running for the season title.
This year, they no longer have Sam Rowley, who when outside guys can't make a shot, would give him the ball and he'd work his magic to the hoop. Without a sure-fire go-to man when they're in a bit of a jam, it's going to be a big adjustment for everyone. Unless Mike, Sam's younger brother, can follow in his footsteps.
The most senior-laden team in the conference, they also have a good shot at a fourth title. The overwhelming question will be whether or not Albany's upperclassman stand a chance against Stony Brook's dynamic duo.
Key Players: Peter Hooley, Mike Rowley, Evan Singletary
3. Vermont Catamounts: 20-14 (12-4) Lost CBI Semifinals
Vermont has been the third wheel to the Albany-Stony Brook rivalry that's taken over the past few years. They've done well during the season but fall just slightly short of the title. Two years ago they brought the Great Danes to Patrick Gymnasium but walked away with and NIT bid instead. Last season they showed they had the talent to make it all the way to the semifinal game of the CBI tournament, outlasting the conference title runner-up's by two games.
This season there are three names that come to mind if Vermont is going to break this Albany-Stony Brook pattern: Kurt Steidl, Dre Wills and Ethan O`Day. These two juniors and one senior are going to be the key to top the charts.
While O'Day is the only Catamount to average in double digits, the rest of the team is pretty consistent. There are no real stars of the team like Albany and Stony Brook have, they depend on a well-balanced group to be able to keep cool and play on. Though the combination of Steidl, Wills and O'Day will be hard to counter once they get going. O'Day is the big man, leading the team in points and blocks, Wills is a shooting guard and Steidl is the designated three-point man. Add those to the two very promising underclassman, Trae Bell-Haynes and Cam Ward, the Catamounts should be covered on all ends of the court.
Key Players: Kurt Steidl, Ethan O'Day, Dre Wills