Tough Outing for the America East
College basketball continues to chug along. Although Vermont basketball is still on pause and has yet to officially commence the start of their season, plenty of their America East conference rivals continue to work through their non-conference slate.
It’s been a mixed bag for the America East thus far. After a solid first week of action which included UMass-Lowell recording their first ever win over a top 100 ranked team (76) in San Francisco, the America East fell flat in their follow-up performance. As a whole, America East teams finished 3-8 in this past week of action. By no means is the America East considered a mid-major powerhouse, but a 3-8 record is a poor reflection for any conference.
Hartford, New Hampshire, Stony Brook, UMass-Lowell and Binghamton all suited up this past week. None of these teams looked particularly good, but it’s still early and glass half full – at least they’re all getting the chance to play these games. Here’s a closer look at how Vermont’s foes fared this past week.
Out of all the America East teams, Hartford was the only one to actually manage a winning record this past week (2-1). They began the week by getting crushed by Villanova, but responded well by picking up wins against Fairfield and Central Connecticut. Fairfield and Central Connecticut aren’t exactly the most feared, but a win is a win and Hartford did their part to take care of business.
Having already been on the wrong side of college basketball anarchy already, Villanova put the clamps on Hartford early and never looked back. Traci Carter led the Hawks with 13 – a nice response after finishing 1-12 against a UConn earlier. Hartford was easily outmatched and sometimes that just the way she goes bubs.
After getting throttled by Villanova, the Hawks did show signs of life with back-to-back wins. With two losses in their first two appearances, Hartford needed a get right game and luckily they got a pair with Fairfield and Central Connecticut. Sophomore guard Moses Flowers continued to play well, leading the team in score in both affairs. Flowers is now averaging 15.5 points and 6.5 rebounds on the year.
New Hampshire Wildcats
Overreaction Monday – the New Hampshire Wildcats are frauds. UNH had a tough week, finishing 0-2 against opponents that they should’ve been able to beat (Bryant and Quinnipiac). This has got to be incredibly frustrating for UNH fans, as just when it seems the Wildcats are moving the right direction they somehow find a way to take two steps backwards. UNH was considered a sleeper to knock off Vermont and win the America East this year, but losses like these only further the point that the Wildcats just aren’t ready to compete for that top spot yet.
Both these losses sting, but neither really matter in the grand scheme of things. Freshman guard K.J. McClurg dropped a career high 18 points against Bryant and preseason America East First Team All-Conference selection, Nick Guadarrama had 16 points and 15 rebounds.
Guadarrama and guard Josh Hopkins would both miss the following game against Quinnipiac. Forward Jayden Martinez had 17 points and 12 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough as UNH would fall once again. It’s still early, but for UNH to be considered a real threat in the America East this year they’ll have to tighten up quite a bit.
Stony Brook Seawolves
The Seawolves officially began their season this past week, but it was clear that this team has some serious work to do. SBU finished 1-2 against the likes of Saint Peter’s, Fairfield and St. John’s. If it wasn’t going to be obvious already, this is a far, far, far different team from what we saw a year ago with Elijah Olaniyi, Makale Foreman and Andrew Garcia no longer at the helm.
The Seawolves had arguably one of the worst offseasons in program history, as they went from America East preseason favorites to middle of the pack at best due to the massive transfers of Olaniyi, Foreman and Garcia. There’s a severe lack of talent on this roster and it shows.
With that being said, there are still some positives and silver linings to take away from these games. JUCO transfer Jaun Felix Rodriguez looks like a solid addition and currently leads the team in scoring (13.7) and assists (3.7). Likewise, sophomore forward Frankie Policelli looks much improved and is averaging 13 points and 7 rebounds a game. Alright Frankie.
UMass-Lowell River Hawks
Every year there’s always at least one upset early on that gets everyone talking. Last year, Evansville took down Kentucky and the media quickly dubbed Evansville one of the best mid-majors and a clear lock to make the NCAA Tournament. Well it didn’t quite work out like that. Evansville came crashing back down to earth, going 7-23 since that win and includes an 0-18 conference record and multiple coaching changes.
UMass-Lowell likely won’t fall that far, but it’s clear that this team is still a work in progress. They only had one game this past week against North Carolina State, but the River Hawks have now dropped three straight games by double-digits since their upset win over San Francisco.
Not a whole lot to take away from this game. Clearly outmatched and with no consistent threat outside of Obadiah Noel, the River Hawks are about as one-dimensional as it gets. The good news? Noel is off to a blazing start, leading the River Hawks in nearly every statistical category. The bad news? Outside of Noel, no one on the River Hawks is averaging over 8 points or 5 rebounds. Sheesh.
The Bearcats were another America East team to officially tip-off their season this past week. They took an interesting approach, scheduling back-to-back games similar to what we’ll see for the America East conference slate. These games came against Marist and while both highly contested games, Binghamton found themselves on the losing end in both affairs.
Sophomore guard Brenton Mills paced the Bearcats in both contests and currently leads the team with 19.5 points per game. Last year’s America East Rookie of the Year, George Tinsley has struggled initially with only 6 ppg and UNC-Charlotte transfer Tyler Bertram has yet to make much of an impact other than hitting a three-pointer to send the first game into overtime.
This is a very young team that also lost their best player, Sam Sessoms to Penn State this past year. There’s going to be growing pains. Binghamton might be frisky at times, but they still have a ways to go before they’ll be competing for America East contender status.