Updated: October 22, 2012 8:10 pm (ET)
by America East Communications
ALBANY, N.Y.- After winning its first-ever conference title in program history, the Albany women’s basketball team was picked to finish first in the 2012-13 America East preseason coaches’ poll as determined by the league’s nine head coaches. The conference office unveiled the preseason poll today at the 2012 America East Men’s and Women’s Basketball Media Day at the SEFCU Arena in Albany, host of the 2013 Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championship.
The Great Danes, who made their first trip to the NCAA tournament last year, earned 61 points to top the poll. Boston University, the 2011-12 regular-season champs, followed with 56 points, with Hartford chosen third with 54 points. New Hampshire (37 points) and Vermont (37) tied for the fourth slot, followed by UMBC (34), Maine (17), Binghamton (16) and Stony Brook (12). Head coaches were not permitted to vote for their own teams.
The 2013 America East Championship quarter and semifinal rounds will take place March 8-10 at Albany’s SEFCU Arena. The highest remaining seed will host the title game on March 16, with the winner earning an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament, where America East teams have wins in three of the last seven years.
A record number of America East teams qualified for postseason play a year ago, with Albany making a trip to the NCAA Championship, Hartford and Boston University earning berths to the Women’s National Invitation Tournament, and New Hampshire playing in the third annual Women’s Basketball Invitational.
Albany (23-10, 14-2 America East) returns three of its five starters, including All-Conference selections Ebone Henry (San Diego, Calif./Mater Dei Catholic) and Julie Forster (Hungtington, N.Y./Huntington). Third-year head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson earned 2011-12 America East Coach of the Year accolades, leading the Great Danes to their most America East wins in program history (14) and the team’s highest regular-season finish (2nd). Henry earned her second-straight Defensive Player of the Year honor, helping Albany hold opponents to 53.4 points per game, the best in the America East. She also was named to the All-Conference First Team for the second-straight year, ranking first on the team and second in the conference at 14.3 points per game. Forster, who led the conference in rebounding at 10.3 per game, earned America East All-Conference Second Team accolades for the first time in her career.
Boston University (23-9, 15-1) returns its top-three scorers from a team that claimed its third conference regular-season title in 2011-12. Led by two-time America East Player of the Year Chantell Alford (West Haven, Conn./Wilbur Cross), the Terriers finished last season second in scoring offense (59.6 ppg) and scoring defense (54.0 ppg). Alford led Boston U. with 12.4 points per game, while Mo Moran (Hopewell Junction, N.Y./John Jay) (10.9 ppg) and Rashidat Agboola (Methuen, Mass./Methuen) (10.1) also averaged double figures. Moran was second in the conference in assists, averaging 4.0 per game, and Agboola was second in rebounding at 8.8 per game. The squad reached the WNIT last season, losing to Saint Joseph’s in the first round.
Hartford (19-13, 10-6) has the most returning players in the conference, bringing back 10 of 11 players who saw playing time in 2011-12, including all five starters. The Hawks are looking to keep a streak of eight-straight postseason appearances alive this year, including qualifying for three of the last five NCAA tournaments. Head coach Jen Rizzotti, who will be officially inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame as a player on June 8, 2013, is a three-time America East Coach of the Year and has racked up 255 wins in 13 seasons at the helm. Hartford finished third in the conference last year before being eliminated in the first round of the America East Championship by Binghamton. The Hawks’ season ended in the first round of the WNIT, falling to Syracuse. Ruthanne Doherty, an All-Conference Second Team selection a year ago, led the Hawks with a 12.8 points per game.
New Hampshire (16-14, 9-7) had its best showing in the America East regular-season since finishing third in 2004-05, placing fourth with a 9-7 conference record. The success earned the Wildcats an invitation to the Women’s Basketball Invitational, just the second postseason appreance for the program. Although not qualifying as one of the league-leaders last year since she did not appear in 75 percent of the team’s games, forward Morgan Frame will play an integral part in the Wildcats’ success in 2011-12. The transfer from Saint Anselm’s College did not become eligible until Dec. 18 of last year, but led the team with 16.0 points per game.
Vermont (10-20, 4-12) returns its top-five scorers from last year, including America East All-Rookie Team selections Tierra Shumpert (Lone Tree, Colo./Highlights Ranch) and Niki Taylor (York, Maine/York), along with All-Defensive team performer Shanai Heber (Paterson, N.J./Paterson Kennedy). Another key young talent for the Catamounts is sophomore Kayla Burchill (Portland, Maine/Deering), who led freshmen in scoring last year at 8.3 points per game, hitting 62 3-pointers (second in the America East). Vermont also boasts one of the top post players in the league in senior Lauren Buschmann (St. Catarines, Ontario/Governor Simcoe), who is 17 rebounds shy of 500 for her career entering the season.
The top scoring team in the America East last year, UMBC (17-15, 9-7) made a run to the conference title game before being knocked off by Albany. The Retrievers, who won the America East regular-season title in 2010-11, lost their top-two scorers from last year in Erin Brown and Michelle Kurowski. UMBC will look for bigger contributions from Kristin Coles (Charles Town, W.Va./American) and Lauren Chase (Bowie, Md./Riverdale Baptist), who helped the Retrievers average 60.3 points per game in 2011-12. Chase, the 2011-12 America East Rookie of the Year, led UMBC with 129 assists, the most ever for a freshman in program history.
Maine (8-23, 4-12) welcomes nine freshmen to Orono this season to go along with five returning players. The Black Bears look to build off their 2011-12 season, where they doubled their America East and overall victories from the year before. Maine also won its first postseason game since 2006, beating Stony Brook in the opening round of the America East Championship. Ashleigh Roberts (Wilmington, Del./Concord) is the team’s leading returning scorer, averaging 7.2 points per game in 2011-12.
Binghamton (13-18, 6-10) will need to replace its top-three scorers from a team that made a run to the America East semifinals last year. Jasbriell Swain (Memphis, Tenn./Horn Lake) is the team’s top returning scorer, averaging 6.3 points per game to go with 6.4 rebounds. The Bearcats finished sixth in the conference standings before upsetting No. 3 seed Hartford in the America East quarterfinals.
Second-year head coach Beth O’Boyle returns five seniors for Stony Brook (4-26, 1-15), which had one of the best defenses in the country, ranking 41st out of 336 teams in scoring defense. Jessica Previlon (Brooklyn, N.Y./Midwood) is the team’s top returning scorer, averaging 5.5 points per game.
2012-13 Preseason Poll
1. Albany (5 first-place votes), 61 points
2. Boston University (2), 56
3. Hartford (2), 54
T4. New Hampshire, 37
T4. Vermont, 37
6. UMBC, 34
7. Maine, 17
8. Binghamton, 16
9. Stony Brook, 12