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3 Things: What we learned as the America East tipped off

UMCB has a new groove, UMass Lowell upset Albany, and the conference keeps getting better

NCAA Basketball: Massachusetts Lowell at Indiana Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Through the preseason, it looked like the America East would be Vermont, then everyone else. That may still be the case, but with conference play finally tipping off, we get to learn for sure. All but one America East team played on Thursday, and here’s what we learned in the first night of action.

UMBC’s New Grove

New coach, new style, and new attitude. UMBC is off to its best start in school history at 9-4. Despite two of those wins coming from non-D-I schools, the Retrievers actually look pretty darn good. They have three players averaging double figures: Jairus Lyles leads the way with 22 points, followed by Joe Sherburne at 14.6, and Will Darley at 12.8. But it’s not just that.

Ryan Odom has pulled some kind of magic trick getting UMBC to where it is now. Last season, the Retrievers won just seven games — a mark they’ve already eclipsed this season. UMBC beat Binghamton Thursday, 75-61, behind 17 points each from Lyles and Darley.

UMass Lowell can play spoiler

UMass Lowell is technically still in its transition period as it moves up to Division I, making the Riverhawks ineligible for postseason play. Though their standings won’t matter to the America East playoff seeding, they can still play spoiler and cause a lot of trouble in the next two months.

They boast four players in double figures, including Jahad Thomas, who averages 16.8 points and was recently named the America East Player of the Week. They only have one senior in Tyler Livingston, who scored a team high 20 points in their conference opener against Albany. Oh, and that was Albany’s first lost to start the conference season since 2010.

America East, but better

The America East has grown over the years, and it seems that it might be starting to show. Though Vermont is still the clear best team, the conference has become significantly better overall, making the next few spots in the standings tough to project. Sure, some teams have less than desired results so far, but some have made noise in the non-conference season. Hartford knocked off its first ACC team in Boston College earlier in the season, and Albany upset Big Ten foe Penn State.

Teams are playing better. And with the conference season meaning far more in the long run, it’s going to get tough. Buckle up for some buzzer beaters, tight games, and upsets in the near future of #AEhoops.

Opening Night’s Scores:

Albany 79 UMass Lowell 85
Binghamton 71 UMBC 85
New Hampshire 56 Stony Brook 59
Vermont 90 Maine 77