Over the past few years, the top three teams in the America East have taken over the league and been able to fight amongst themselves for the title and a trip to the NCAA Tournament. This year, it won’t be so clear-cut.
In an uncharacteristically deep league, teams as low as fifth and sixth in our preseason rankings have the potential to cause major damage during the regular season and maybe make a run in the conference tournament.
2016-17 America East Preseason Power Rankings:
Vermont returns four of its five starters from last year, only losing Ethan O’Day, who graduated last May.
While other teams were ravaged by losses, the Catamounts have the talent and the depth to win the conference title.
2. New Hampshire
Another team with most of its roster returning, the Wildcats have the potential to dominate some of the lesser teams in the conference and to give Vermont a run for its money up top.
With all the familiar names from years past now juniors and seniors, New Hampshire is going to be tough to beat. If the Wildcats can stay consistent throughout the season and stay healthy, we might just have a new rivalry between the top two teams.
While I believe Albany has the talent to stay afloat in the America East race, the Great Danes don’t have the standouts like they’ve had in previous years. With Peter Hooley, Sam Rowley, Richard Peters, DJ Evans and Ray Sanders all gone, the Danes are in the process of building up a new team. Yes, they have the likes of Mike Rowley and Joe Cremo, but to stay ahead this year, it’s going to take a lot more than a couple good players.
4. Stony Brook
Stony Brook will be good again in 2016-17, but don’t expect another run to the NCAA Tournament. After all, it’s not easy to replace a guy like Jameel Warney, whose numbers don’t lie (19.8 points per game, 10.8 rebounds per game).
In the 2016 conference title game against Vermont, the only times the Catamounts were able to pull ahead is when Warney was on the bench. He scored more than half of the Seawolves’ total points, and was an impact player offensively and defensively. Losing such a powerhouse, as well as bringing on a new head coach, signifies some likely growing pains for the Seawolves this season.
Hartford would have been higher up in the rankings if Cleveland “Pancake” Thomas had not transferred to Western Kentucky. Just like Stony Brook, the loss of such an integral part of the team is going to leave a void. But with incoming freshmen, transfers, and the return of John Carroll, who tore his ACL last year, there is hope for the Hawks. They have the potential, it’s just whether or not they can find the right combination to get going.
As a program still transitioning to Division I, the River Hawks are a year away from postseason eligibility, but have quietly put the pieces in place to contend come 2017-18.
They have a young team, led by rising junior Jahad Thomas and sophomore Isaac White. This year, they’ll play the role of spoiler as they get set to make a run when eligible.
Binghamton has been no stranger to adversity over the last few years. It seemed that every time the Bearcats caught a break, it backfired on them. They hope this is the year they can move past that to improve their program and maybe surprise some people.
The Black Bears have one of the most rigorous schedules in the America East. With non-conference games against Virginia Tech, Boston University, Northeastern, Duke, and Providence, they might have the experience to upset some America East teams once conference play begins. A team can only be pushed so far without coming out on top.
The Retrievers have nowhere to go but up. With a new head coach and a lot of new faces on the roster, they have all the pieces to get the ball rolling. Will they become some incredible powerhouse in the America East conference? Not right now. But they can lay the foundation for future success in 2016-17.