Surprises have been the story of the America East this season.
Vermont went undefeated in conference play amid a historic season. UMBC finished with a respectable 9-7 AE record, more than proving it’s a different team than the one that went 3-13 a year ago. And Stony Brook stayed surprisingly strong after losing key players to graduation last year.
The tournament is played at the higher seed’s home venue. That means Vermont, Stony Brook, Albany and New Hampshire have scored home court advantage for the quarterfinals. All teams but UMass Lowell will be participating in the tournament.
How to Watch
All four first round match ups on Wednesday will be streamed live on ESPN3, along with the semifinals on Monday.
(8) Maine at (1) Vermont, 7PM
(7) Binghamton at (2) Stony Brook, 7PM
(6) Hartford at (3) Albany, 7:30 PM
(5) UMBC at (4) New Hampshire, 7:30 PM
3 Things to Watch
1. Can Vermont Stay untouched?
Vermont managed to end the conference season undefeated and on an 18-game win streak. The main event of the #AEPlayoffs is whether or not they can keep that win streak alive and carry it into the Big Dance.
The Catamounts have an impressive roster, including the recently named Player of the Year (Trae Bell-Haynes), Rookie of the Year (Anthony Lamb), Defensive Player of the Year (Dre Wills), and Sixth Man of the Year (Darren Payen). They also boast the Coach of the Year in John Becker.
2. Will the curse of the No. 3 seed prevail?
The curse of the No. 3 seed has been alive and well the past few years, most recently last year when No. 6 seed Hartford defeated No. 3 seed Albany on its home court. This year is a rematch of that game, but will Albany avenge their season-ending loss or will Hartford continue the curse and knock off the higher-seeded foe?
3. Can Stony Brook defend their conference title?
Amid a pretty damn good season after losing one of the most prolific players in recent AE history, Jameel Warney, it was surprising to see Stony Brook push Vermont and earn home court advantage through the semifinals. Being on the opposite side of the bracket from Vermont, it’s very possible that the Championship game with be a No. 1 v. No. 2 match up.
I’d like to be hopeful and think that Vermont can continue its historic run and make its way untouched into the NCAA Tournament. It would be a huge boost to the school and the conference. But as any basketball fan, I’ve got skepticism and doubt that Vermont will be able to win all three games, even with the run the Catamounts have had. As for who would win otherwise? Not a clue. It’s all up in the air.