Stony Brook is the team to beat in Eastern America … for now

America East basketball is back to normal.

The two-game weekend series format, designed for the pandemic, has been removed and each league program is scheduled for a complete list of conferences and non-conferences. The past year and a half has been tough for all of the Division I teams, but America East men’s basketball has been among the hardest hit – Maine couldn’t finish their season and only four of 10 schools have played 20 games.

Starting November 9, mid-size men’s basketball fans in the Northeast will finally be able to turn the page and reclaim this relatively small but still important part of their lives.

Here are the plots to follow.

New faces in the league

Three America East teams have welcomed new coaches this season. Dwayne Killings replaced Will Brown at Albany, Levell Sanders was raised from interim assistant to chief at Binghamton and Ryan Odom left UMBC for Utah State, paving the way for former interim Penn State head coach Jim Ferry.

With the new coaches, America East is full of talented transfers. Albany forward De’Vondre Perry, a good rebounder and career three-point shooter at 33% in four seasons at Temple, should ease the transition to head coach for Killings. The same goes for Sanders at Binghamton with Jacob Falko, a transfer from Gardner-Webb, able to run a certain point for the Bearcats to start the year.

The most popular addition (addition, technically) is Stony Brook winger Elijah Olaniyi, who returns to Long Island after a season in Miami and is set to quickly become one of the best two-way players in the conference again.

“He had all kinds of major options and that’s where he wanted to be, so that was exciting,” head coach Geno Ford said on America East media day. “He wants to try and win at Stony Brook and hang a banner before his career is over.”

Jahlil Jenkins’ shot could be a weapon for the Seawolves; the 6-foot goalie had 49 three-pointers in 24 games (38% 3 PT) at Fairleigh Dickinson last year. Jenkins and Juan Felix Rodriguez will create a fun backcourt.

Matt Faw, the 6’9 transfer from NJIT from Holy Cross, slips in with Souleymane Diakite and Kjell de Graff to give the Highlanders a formidable frontcourt in their first full season in the league. Also keep an eye out for Mekhi Gray, a member of the 2020-21 Conference All-Rookie team.

A few more under-the-radar additions for nerds (like me): La Salle transfer great Jared Kimbrough should help Hartford cover Miroslav Stafl’s transfer. Maks Klanjšček comes to Maine shooting 38.3% deep in his last two seasons at Kansas City and Salt Lake Community College, and the 7’1 Chris Efretuei gives the Black Bears size they don’t have. not had in years – he was an excellent shot-blocker at Louisiana-Monroe. USC Upstate Guard Transfer Everette Hammond can put pressure on the rim and handle the rock for UMass-Lowell.

Pre-season polls and winners of all conferences

Stony Brook received five first-place votes to be named the preseason favorites in Eastern America for the first time since 2015-16, which was also the last time Vermont wasn’t picked first in the preseason. After the Catamounts, New Hampshire, Hartford and UMBC round out the top five.

Vermont is by far the highest program in East America in the KenPom preseason rankings, arriving at 105th out of 185th place from Stony Brook. Hartford, last season’s playoff champion, did not receive a vote for first place but sack Moses Flowers with injury, all of his crucial rotating players except Stafl, and adds 1,500 point scorer Dejuan Clayton of Coppin State.

The All-Conference preseason squad is similar to playoff teams of the year at least, with Ryan Davis of Vermont headlining alongside teammate Ben Shungu. After leading the Hawks to a championship and winning the Playoffs MVP, Austin Williams slips in with New Hampshire’s Nick Guadarrama, Stony Brook’s Jayden Martinez and Olaniyi to complete the roster.

A dark horse to win defensive player of the year is Stéphane Ingo, who placed fourth in the conference in defensive box plus-minus (+2.3), second in block percentage (10.4) and first in defensive rebound percentage (25.1) last season, anchoring Maine’s fourth-ranked defense.

“Steph is fantastic,” said Maine coach Richard Barron. “I think when all is said and done he’s going to be a first-team player … he’s great defensively, he can change … he’s someone who can fill out a stats sheet. . he is definitely the centerpiece of our program in all aspects.

Catch the Catamounts

It’s no secret that Vermont have been the team to beat in the conference for years. Since head coach John Becker took the helm in 2011-12, the Catamounts have won the regular season title five times (plus a co-championship with UMBC in 2021-22) and have represented the East America at the three-time NCAA tournament, rivaled only by Albany’s three-year run from 2012-13 to 2014-15. The last five players of the year have come from Burlington, and five-time Coach of the Year Becker has an astonishing 0.706 winning percentage in 310 games.

“It’s good, I think, not having the expectations of being picked first, but those are just preseason predictions and they don’t mean much,” Becker said. “One thing that I stress here every year is that it’s a new year, and no matter who you come back to and what you may or may not have done in the past year, you have to start with the ground floor and rebuild it. . “

Stony Brook finished 7-9 in conference last season (9-14 overall), but Olaniyi’s return as well as the continued growth of the league’s second best defense (100.5 ADJDE in 20-21 by BartTorvik) launched them in the preseason standings. Ford has the opportunity to lead the Seawolves to their second 20-game season in three years at the helm.

Bill Herrion will likely field one of the best teams Durham, NH has seen in years. Seeking to build on their first top-three ranking in the regular season standings since 2016-17, New Hampshire have two members of the preseason All-Conference squad and dismiss the 2020 Rookie of the Year. -21 Nick Johnson. Guadarrama, Martinez and fifth-year forward Chris Lester join Johnson, transfer Sloan Seymour and Blondeau Tchoukuiegno into what is a deep Wildcats squad.

“We will rely on [Guadarrama and Martinez]”Herrion said.” They are our leaders and we expect them to take another leap this year. “

As it is in October, there is sort of an “A-level” and a “B-level” in the conference. Veteran-laden programs like Hartford, New Hampshire, Stony Brook, UMBC and Vermont will gain the upper hand initially as younger programs try to find their place this winter.

Albany and NJIT each have balanced lists with caveats; Great Danes are bringing back a few key spinning pieces and will rely on transfers and subclasses to level up. The Highlanders lost Zach Cooks, the program’s second-all-time scorer (1,788 points) and all-time steal leader (231) to Hofstra, as well as San Antonio Brinson to Texas A & M-Corpus Christi, leaving slack in Miles Coleman, Faw, Gray and Dylan O’Hearn to recover.

“I think you’ll see a more balanced attack this year,” said NJIT coach Brian Kennedy. “Dylan O’Hearn, Miles Coleman (could) increase their roles from what they had last year.”

None of Binghamton, Maine or UMass-Lowell will rely heavily on experience. Sanders doesn’t come back much in his first season as a head coach, but Tyler Bertram and Dan Petcash showed promise as shooters last season. Barron, who has deployed one of the slowest offensives in the country since becoming head coach, has a bigger and more athletic roster with Black Bear Vilgot Larsson, four, promising sophomores Adefolalrin Adetogun and LeChaun DuHart, and goalkeeper Hofstra transferred Vukasin Masic. The River Hawks have lost the program’s second and third all-time top scorers Obadiah Noel and Christian Lutete in the pro ranks, but Pat Duquette has been working on it for some time now and he will find a way to use the shot. ‘Allin Blunt. , Khalil Thomas and Connor Withers.

Stony Brook may have been picked to win the league, but America East has a chance to be as competitive as ever. Come playoff time, it’s anyone’s game.

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