Defending Champion Vermont Tabbed Men's Basketball Preseason Favorite
ALBANY, N.Y. -- Coming off a season in which it won its fifth America East men’s basketball since 2003, University of Vermont is the coaches’ preseason choice to top the standings again in 2012-13. The selections were announced today as part of America East’s Basketball Media Day held at University at Albany’s SEFCU Arena, the site of the 2013 America East Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championship.
The Catamounts received five of eight possible first-place votes (coaches were not allowed to vote for their team) and 60 points, followed by last year’s runner-up and regular-season champion Stony Brook University, which received the other four first-place votes and 58 points. Boston University came in third with 49 points, followed by Albany in fourth with 38 points and University of Maine in fifth with 35 points. University of New Hampshire (34 points) was next followed by University of Hartford (26), UMBC (15) and Binghamton University (9).
The 2012-13 season begins on November 9 with America East play starting on January 2. Conference positioning will prove key for the America East Championship, which the top two seeds have won in 29 of the last 30 years. The tournament, which is combined men and women for the fourth straight year, will head to SEFCU Arena for quarterfinal and semifinal round action March 8-10 while the title game will be hosted by the highest remaining seed on March 16. The winner will earn an automatic berth into the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship, where Vermont picked up the conference’s seventh win all time in 2012.
Vermont (24-12 overall, 13-3 AE in 2011-12) will have six players, including three starters, back from its 2012 America East championship-winning squad. The Catamounts, who recorded their ninth 20-win season in their last 11 in 2011-12, beat Stony Brook on the road to claim the conference crown and went on to defeat Lamar in the first round of the NCAA tournament for their second-ever NCAA win. UVM ranked among the top defensive teams in the league last year, finishing second and 31st nationally in scoring defense (60.9 ppg) and first in field goal percentage defense (.406). Junior Brian Voelkel, the Most Outstanding Player of the America East Championship, led that charge, earning All-Defensive and third-team All-America East honors last year after pacing the league in rebounding (8.6 rpg), ranking second in assists (5.1 apg) and finishing third in steals (1.7 spg). Second-year head coach John Becker and his team open their title defense at Siena on Nov. 9.
Stony Brook (22-10, 14-2) is coming off its best season in its Division I history and brings back eight letterwinners from a team that won the America East regular-season crown, reached the league title game for the second-straight year and made its second NIT appearance in three years last season. The Seawolves had success because of their lock down defense last year, ranking among the best defensive teams in the country as they were fourth in rebound margin (plus-8.3) and 13th in points allowed (59.1 ppg). Senior forward Tommy Brenton (7.9 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 3.4 apg), the league’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year, is the conference’s lone returning first-team all-conference performer and will again lead the defensive effort. Junior Dave Coley, Stony Brook’s top returning scorer, will be looked at to carry the offensive load after averaging 10.0 points per game as a sophomore. Reigning Coach of the Year Steve Pikiell leads SBU against Marist in its opener on Nov. 9.
Boston U. (16-16, 12-4) welcomes back six letterwinners and three starters from a team that won 12 America East games and finished third in the regular-season standings, the 10th time in the last 11 it has finished third or higher. Junior D.J. Irving (11.4 ppg, 5.4 apg) is the team’s top returnee after earning second-team All-America East honors last season. Boston U., which allowed under 64 points per game (63.6 ppg) for the second straight season last year, will need to replace reigning America East Player of the Year Darryl Partin, who accounted for 31 percent of the team’s scoring output last year. Joe Jones, who will begin his second season as the Terriers’ head coach, welcomes five newcomers to this year’s team, including guard Maurice Watson, a Parade All-American last season as well as an ESPN Top-100 recruit.
Albany (19-15, 9-7) returns eight letterwinners and three starters from a team that won 19 games last year, its most since the 2006-07 season. Senior Mike Black (13.4 ppg, 4.3 apg in 2011-12), the conference’s active leading scorer (1,024 points) and assist man (299 assists), will be the catalyst for the Great Danes after earning second-team all-conference honors last year. Albany will need to replace the scoring output of all-league performers Gerardo Suero (21.5 ppg) and Logan Aronhalt (13.8 ppg), who accounted for 45 percent of its points in 2011-12. Senior Jayson Guerrier will assume a more active role in the team’s plans this year after posting a league-best .423 three-point shooting percentage last year. Will Brown, the longest tenured head coach in America East, begins his 12th season at Albany against Duquesne on Nov. 9.
Maine (12-17, 6-10) welcomes back six lettermen and three starters from its 2011-12 squad and is the league’s only team to bring back an all-conference, all-rookie and all-defensive selection. The Black Bears, which ranked second in America East averaging 68.6 points per game last year, will lean on junior Alasdair Fraser, a preseason all-conference selection, who ranked 12th in scoring (12.9 ppg) and fourth in rebounding (7.8 rpg) last year en route to earning third-team All-America East honors. Sophomore Justin Edwards, an All-Rookie selection, and senior Mike Allison, will also be keys for Ted Woodward’s team, which begins play at Dartmouth on Nov. 9.
New Hampshire (13-16, 7-9) will have nine letterwinners and three starters back from its 2011-12 squad, which tied for fifth in the conference standings, the program’s best finish since 2009. The Wildcats ranked in the 80th percentile nationally in scoring defense last season, holding foes to just 62.8 points per game. Senior Chandler Rhoads, the team’s top returning scorer (11.2 ppg in 2011-12), earned America East All-Defensive honors for the second straight year for Bill Herrion’s squad, which opens up its season Nov. 10 against Suffolk.
Hartford (9-22, 7-9) has seven letterwinners, including three starters, back from a team that was the youngest in the league last year as freshmen accounted for 60.4 percent of the team’s scoring output. Mark Nwakamma (9.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg, .552 FG%) and Nate Sikma (8.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg) return as sophomores after becoming the first Hartford tandem to each earn America East All-Rookie honors in the same year last season. John Gallagher, who begins his third season as Hartford’s head coach, leads his squad against Quinnipiac in its 2012-13 opener Nov. 9.
UMBC (4-26, 3-13) brings back more letterwinners (11) and scoring output (82.8 percent) from last year than any other America East squad. Junior Chase Plummer, one of four returning UMBC starters, is the league’s top returning scorer (15.4 ppg in 2011-12) and fourth-leading rebounder (7.9 rpg). A second-team All-America East standout last year, Plummer was the lone player to rank in the league’s top five in both scoring (4th) and rebounding (5th) in 2011-12. Aki Thomas takes over as acting head coach and will make his debut when UMBC meets Penn in its opener Nov. 9.
Binghamton (2-29, 1-15) begins its first season under Tommy Dempsey and returns nine letterwinners and three starters from last year’s team. Dempsey comes to Binghamton after spending seven years as the head coach at Rider, where he went 119-105, made three postseason appearances and earned 2008 MAAC Coach of the Year honors. Senior Jimmy Gray will direct the Bearcats after averaging 8.3 points, 3.6 assists and 3.6 rebounds last year. Binghamton opens its season at Loyola on Nov. 9.
2012-13 Preseason Poll
Rank Team (1st-place votes) Pts.
1. Vermont (5) 60
2. Stony Brook (4) 58
3. Boston U. 49
4. Albany 38
5. Maine 35
6 New Hampshire 34
7. Hartford 26
8. UMBC 15
9. Binghamton 9