On Wednesday morning, we continued conference previews with the America East. Every week on Twitter, we will do two conferences streaming live from the Mid-Major Madness account (@mid_madness), speaking with media members and coaches throughout the selected league.
For the full Twitter Space, hit the link below:
To open the conversation, we recapped what happened in the America East last season and so far this offseason. First, was the departure of Hartford and Stony Brook, two of the better programs in the league over the last couple of seasons. Filling in for them was an NCAA Tournament team last season, Bryant. On the court, Vermont dominated once again. The Catamounts went 17-1 in the regular season, making the NCAA Tournament after winning their conference tournament games by an average of 36.7 points. Both Bryant and Vermont would drop their first game in the big dance but made their presence known.
Following that, Nick and Sam previewed every team in the league that they would not later talk to their coach about. To hear about your team, advance the recording to each time stamp.
11:00 New Hampshire
18:15 UMass Lowell
Bryant head coach Jared Grasso (23:10) then hopped on to talk about his program’s first year in the America East. Grasso completely rebuilt the Bryant program as the Bulldogs dominated the NEC last season.
“I’ve been blessed to have an unbelievable staff the last four years and we’ve been able to bring in some student-athletes who have been part of turning the trajectory of this program around,” Grasso said. “It hasn’t been this fluid straight-line process. But we’ve had some guys with some toughness and some grit who have bought into how hard we work and getting better and wanting to come here to win championships and become pros along with first and foremost getting a degree from a great school.
The Bulldogs bring in some big-time transfers in St.Peter’s legend Doug Edert and former four-start recruit Earl Timberlake. They should immediately contend for a title in the league.
Following him, Vermont head coach John Becker (50:35) joined to talk about the dynasty that he has continued to grow in Burlington. The Catamounts won both the America East regular season and conference tournament titles last season, making the big dance for the eighth time in program history.
“It’s somewhere where basketball really matters,” Becker said on Burlington. “I think our guys feel that and feel the responsibility to continue our success, continue to give our fans a good product.”
Vermont should once again be picked as the preseason favorite in the America East.
Closing out the conversation, we talked to new Maine head coach Chris Markwood (1:18:10). Markwood is the first head coach of UMO since 1988 to be from the state of Maine.
“Obviously it’s a dream come true. This state means the world to me. This university, obviously I go way back with it. It’s my alma mater. My wife played here, was a good player here. It’s great to be back,” Markwood said.
The Black Bears have a completely new roster from a year ago but are in good hands. Maine should be someone to keep an eye on over the next couple of seasons.
We finished out the conversations with Player of the Year and Title Predictions (1:35:30).
Along with the Twitter Space, we also talked to UMBC head coach Jim Ferry about his program heading into the season. The Retrievers made the America East title game in his first season and did so with an impressive offense, ranking seventh in three-point percentage and 12th in free throw percentage.
“Expectations here are pretty high, right? I had expectations to try and keep this program at that level and try to take it to a higher level,” Ferry said. “We kept plugging and finished in second place by ourselves. Got to that championship game which is always hard to do. To do that, you have to give these guys credit.”
To listen to our full conversation with Ferry, click the link: Jim Ferry Interview
Along with the America East, Mid-Major Madness previewed the Big South this week. Stay tuned for next week’s previews on the ASUN and Summit League.