Men's Basketball Conference Play Kicks Off Wednesday
The 2012-13 season starts anew for America East's men's basketball programs Wednesday as conference play begins for eight of the league's nine teams. The 16-game round-robin schedule begins with Albany hosting UMBC, Binghamton visiting Hartford, Boston U. going to Maine and New Hampshire entertaining Vermont. All four games tip at 7 p.m.
America East teams begin league play after combining for 53 wins during the non-conference portion of the schedule, an 18-win improvement from last season. Getting off to a good start has proved crucial over the years as only four times in the conference's 33-year history has a team lost its league opener and gone on to win the league title, although Vermont and Boston U. pulled off the feat the last two seasons. Finishing among the conference's top two as been even more important as just twice has a team finished third or lower in the regular-season standings and gone on to hoist the championship trophy.
Albany (11-3), which enters league play with the best record of any America East squad, has its most non-league wins as a Division I program. Ranked 20th in the latest CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25, the Great Danes have won eight of their last nine games overall and each of their last six meetings with the Retrievers. UMBC (2-11) will try to stop a six-game losing skid Monday and post its first win over the Great Danes since a 2009 America East semifinal victory at SEFCU Arena sent the Retrievers to their second-straight league title game. The game will feature three of the league's top five scorers as UMBC's Ryan Cook (17.0 ppg), Albany's Jacob Iati (16.1 ppg) and Mike Black (16.1 ppg) rank third, fourth and fifth, respectively.
Hartford (7-6) is coming off its most successful non-conference showing in a decade and a half. The Hawks carry a winning record into conference play for the first time in 16 seasons after registering their most non-league wins (7) since the 1989-90 campaign. Hartford, which has won three of its last four meetings with Binghamton including both get togethers last year, has had success in large part due to improvement on the defensive end as it is limiting foes to just 61.6 points per game, which is nearly six points better than last season. Binghamton (2-11) hopes to end its seven-game losing streak in its league opener, which it has won three of the last four seasons. The Bearcats, who have already matched last season's win total, are led by one of the most exciting freshman in the country in Jordan Reed, who is just one of 20 players in the country averaging a double-double (17.3 ppg, 10.3 rpg).
Maine (5-8) and Boston U. (6-7) enter conference play both playing well. The Black Bears, America East's top scoring team (69.1 ppg) have won back-to-back games, posting wins over Florida Gulf Coast and Quinnipiac behind the play of America East's leading scorer Justin Edwards (18.5 ppg), who scored 27 and 26 points, respectively, in the two victories. The Terriers, who begin their conference slate with their most non-league wins (6) since the 2004-05 campaign are trying to stop a six game losing skid in league openers. Winners of six of its last eight games, Boston U.'s success can be tied to defense as the Terriers has held teams to just 56 ppg in its wins this season. Boston U. holds a 58-40 all-time series edge and has won 10 of the last 12 meetings with the Black Bears, whose two wins in that stretch came at Alfond Arena in 2010 and 2011.
New Hampshire (4-8) will try to end a three-game losing streak tonight. The Wildcats, the lone America East team with four players averaging double figures in scoring (Ferg Myrick - 15.8 ppg, Patrick Konan - 11.5 ppg, Chris Pelcher - 11.4 ppg, Chandler Rhoads - 10.8 ppg), the America East and ranks in the top five nationally holding foes to 23.7 percent shooting from three-point range. Vermont (7-5) has won three of its last five games but is coming off a loss to College of Charleston Saturday. The Catamounts, who have had six different leading scorers in their 12 games this season, have won 11 of their last 13 league openers and 22 of their last 26 meetings with the Wildcats. The two teams split last year's meetings with each team winning at home.
The league's only team not in action Wednesday, Stony Brook, picked up a 50-44 win over Manhattan Tuesday. Despite shooting just 32 percent and not placing a player in double figures, the Seawolves (9-4) rode their lockdown defense en route to the win, holding the Jaspers to just 34 percent shooting and forcing 17 turnovers. The victory was Stony Brook's ninth non-league win of the year, its most in its Division I era. It was also the Seawolves' sixth true road win of the season, which is the most in the country.
Upcoming Action - Wednesday, January 2
Binghamton at Hartford, 7 p.m. -- Live Stats | Video | Hartford Radio | Binghamton Radio
Boston U. at Maine, 7 p.m. -- Live Stats | Video | Maine Radio | Boston U. Audio
UMBC at Albany, 7 p.m. -- Live Stats | Video | Albany Radio
Vermont at New Hampshire, 7 p.m. -- Live Stats | Video | UNH Radio | Vermont Radio