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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Looking Ahead

Everyone still recovering from their weekend? It's amazing what four days letting loose in NYC will do the human body. Yes, we lost both games, and yes they were heartbreaking, but that didn't stop Tall-boy and I from making the most of an extended weekend in a city that doesn't completely shut down at 2 o'clock in the AM.

Even though I'm still recovering, I don't mind finding a few minutes to explore what we can expect for this season's conference play, when things start heating up and the games get interesting.

Some teams look to have improved since last year. Some lost leadership, others retained it, and some were lucky enough to have brought in an invaluable freshman class. Had to throw that in there.

Here's a quick look at the teams in the America East tournament:


It's clear, despite losing Lucious Jordan and that goofy bastard of a German, that Albany will be a powerhouse once again, and have their eyes set on another conference championship. We all rememeber the shellacking they gave to the Catamounts last year, which, while amusing, proved that Albany played at a completely different level than the rest of the league. Will it happen again this year? With Jamar Wilson at the helm of the offense and his brother from another mother Brent Wilson causing damage from the outside (he already has 29 three-pointers), Albany will make it deep into the playoffs. Beating them in Albany will be considered a major accomplishment for any team that can manage to pull it off.


Picked to finish sixth in the preseason coaches poll, the Bearcats have turned some heads with a 7-5 record, thanks in part to the leadership of veterans Mike Gordon and Duane James, best known for not playing high school ball. That, or his uncanny ability to "accidentally" lock arms with the nearest oppenant and drag them away from the ball whenever it's up for grabs. Of course, their best win was against Miami. Still, don't let up on these guys, especially in Binghamton. Their security somehow allows/encourges crowds of fans to line up on the end line with pizza boxes in hand to distract visiting players during their free throws. If you were at the tournament last year, then you know how friggin' annoying that can be.


They kept it close against Penn State and Georgetown earlier this year, but the departures of hired gun Kenny Adeleke and shooting threat Aaron Cook left a large hole in Hartford's offense. The thing with Hartford is that those two outshadowed everyone else on the team last year, so I don't even know who their returning stars are. Who will step up and emerge as their key player this year? My money's on Rich Baker to be their new shooting threat.


The preseason coaches poll had Maine finishing second, but they don't seem to be playing to their full potential as of yet. If Kevin Reed can stay healthy, the Black Bears just may finish in the top half of the conference this year. Personally, I think they'll be the disappointment of the season.


Now this is a team that I love to root for, and not just because of their dance team and their band that make it to the tournament every year. They play with a lot of heart and refuse to quit. Everyone will look to Brian Hodges to lead the Retrievers, but UMBC is team-oriented. Everyone needs to know their role and they'll have a productive season. If they don't, well, 3rd year coach Randy Monroe just might lock them out of their locker room again.

New Hampshire:

Aussie Blagov Janev will once again be carrying a good portion of the weight this year, but he's got a fairly good team to play along with, and a fairly good coach with a fairly good head on his shoulders, so it would appear that UNH will have a fairly decent season. So far, it's been pretty unfulfilling. Not to be harsh in any way, but when your best win is against Elon University, that doesn't bode well for you once conference play begins.

Stony Brook:

Ah, the perennial underdog. To be honest, I don't think that their conference play is going to go as smoothly as they'd hoped, but come tournament time, anything is possible. We all remember how a certain Stony Brook team ruined a certain blogger's spring break a few years back. It's a bummer about Beauford being red-shirted this year, but they still got Popokooooooooooo!


Last, not least, obviously. It was a thrill, as I mentioned earlier, to watch them get pounded by Albany last year, but we will see a different team this year. Klimes and Triboli are another year older and another year wiser, and the Catamounts have a coach who runs his games as a collective effort rather than an alcoholic cheerleader who can only remember only two players from his coaching days. They drew a lot of attention to themselves with a big upset over BC already, and that's not all they'll do this year. Not by a long shot. Watch out for them, like always.

Conference play starts Wednesday night, although BU will be hosting Holy Cross. I encourage anyone unlucky enough not to go somewhere for Christmas vacation to show up, the Terriers will need our support. My attendence estimate: 230.

See you there.


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