Buy, Sell, Buy, Sell, Buy, Sell
We’re officially past the half-way mark of the conference season and while there are definitely some leading front-runners (*cough Ryan Davis cough*), there is still plenty of time for those other dark-horse contenders to make a push into contention for the America East Player of the Year. Hartford’s Austin Williams and UMBC’s Brandon Horvath will certainly be looking to make their case to take home the hardware, as will UMass-Lowell’s Obadiah Noel, who can stuff a stat sheet, but still needs to find a way to capture a few more wins before he can really assert himself into contention.
The award has typically been awarded to the best player on the best team, so a stat-filled season serves no real purpose other than that it looks good on paper. With five teams currently within one game of first place (UMBC, Vermont, Stony Brook, UNH and Hartford), the prestigious award could end up anywhere at the moment.
Despite four of the five conference match-ups being sweeps (the most all season), there wasn’t any singular dominant performance from a particular player. There were a lot of good and borderline great performances, but no real out-of-this-world exceptional performances. Vermont’s Ryan Davis is still likely at or near the top of the AE PoY list, but after him it gets quite muddled. Here’s who saw their stock rise and those who unfortunately saw theirs take a hit.
America East Player of the Year – Stock Up
Nick Guadarrama | New Hampshire Wildcats
After dropping two games to UMBC last week, UNH desperately needed to find a way back into the win column against Stony Brook. The Seawolves were undefeated (4-0) heading into this one, but were still a bit of an enigma. At 3-3 UNH was underwhelming and needed some sort of spark to help keep their America East title hopes alive. Enter Nick Guadarrama.
The Wildcats would go on to take both games over the Seawolves in large part due to Guadarrama’s presence. Now, if you want to play devil’s advocate and cast your vote for Guadarrama’s teammate, Qon Murphy who went off for a career high 24 points in their game two victory I won’t stop you. Murphy was great, but the true centerpiece of UNH’s offense is Guadarrama and the America East “chonk” king deserves some recognition.
In both games Guadarrama finished with 14 points, but he also added 6 assists, 2 rebounds and 2 steals in game one, along with 6 rebounds and 1 assist in game two, showing off his versatility across the floor. Likewise, over the last three games, Guadarrama is averaging 20.7 points a game. If UNH has legitimately turned their season around and Guadarrama can keep up this level of play, he’ll make it very interesting come voting time.
Obadiah Noel – UMass-Lowell River Hawks
*Cris Collinsworth voice* Now here’s a guy who could make this list every week if he wanted to. In all likelihood Obadiah Noel could make this list every week, but as previously mentioned, winning is the most important stat and frankly UML has been unable to produce where it matters most. That could soon be changing however. Don’t look now, but the River Hawks have won four out of their last five and you best believe Noel was the driving force behind those victories.
Noel’s statline is without a doubt one of, if not the best in the America East. For the year Noel is currently averaging 21.2 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.4 steals a game. The only thing holding Noel back has been his supporting cast, which until recently has been the team’s achilles heel. Yet now we’re finally starting to see a more complete UML team, as the likes of Connor Withers and Salif Boudie have stepped their game up as reliable threats next to Noel.
Much like the case with Guadarrama and Murphy, Withers could have just as easily earned this stock up over Noel. If Withers continues to play at this type of level there’s no doubt he’ll find his stock on the rise, but as the heart and soul of the River Hawks, Noel deserved to be recognized for all his hard-work and dedication that he’s poured into this team.
Jarvis Doles – Albany Great Danes
Again, if you wanted to give the stock up nod to Dole’s teammate Antonio Rizzuto that’s completely fine, as both had a pair of great games to help Albany get a much needed sweep of NJIT this past weekend. We’ll give the tie-breaker to Doles for his defense and post presence in helping the Great Danes stay out of the America East basement.
Will Brown and Albany have to love what Doles has been able to do in recent weeks. It’s not spectacular, but Doles has now broken the double-figure mark in four out of the last five games and has helped to solidify Albany’s frontcourt. Doles also proved he can be a playmaker on both ends of the court with 15 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocks in the Great Danes game two victory over NJIT.
In all likelihood there isn’t much of a chance that you hear Doles name in AE PoY consideration at the end of the year. Not only would Albany would need to go on quite the run, but Doles would have to play absolute lights out. Nonetheless, we’ll give the man props for the time being. He might not be AE PoY, but if he keeps up this level of play, Doles could find himself on a America East All-Conference selection team.
Ok, I admit this is definitely a cop out and even with my *ahem* 100% non basis reporting this is iffy at best. But, hear me out – after starting off a bit slower than normal, the Cats have suddenly found their rhythm and look like the most dangerous team in the America East (*possibly all of college basketball). They have a five game win streak (longest in the America East) and have won their last four games by an average of 29.8 points despite their leading scorer in those games averaging just 19 points. This team is incredibly well-balanced and is now firing on all cylinders.
I could’ve easily added someone like Ryan Davis, Isaiah Powell, Justin Mazzulla, Ben Shungu or even Tomas Murphy in this spot, but the team is a better reflection of their success than any individual player. These blowout victories also bode incredibly well for not just Davis and his AE PoY campaign, but for the entire team. It should come as no surprise to see another laundry list of Catamounts filled in the America East All-Conference selection teams.
Now, feel free to argue that these wins came against the bottom-dwellers of Binghamton and Maine, but I have yet to see any other team completely dominate another like Vermont has. A 40 point victory over Binghamton and a 35 point victory over Maine is no small feat. Nonetheless, Vermont’s schedule gets much tougher in the coming weeks so we’ll find out firsthand if these Cats are actually as dangerous as they appear.
Honorable Mention – Austin Williams (Hartford), Qon Murphy (New Hampshire), Connor Withers (UMass-Lowell), Antonio Rizzuto (Albany), Ryan Davis (Vermont)
America East Player of the Year – Stock Down
Stephane Ingo – Maine Black Bears
“Sh*t was all good just a week ago” – Kanye West – Stephane Ingo. Seriously, Ingo’s stock was soaring at an all-time just a week ago, but came crashing back down after Maine’s latest series against Vermont. Even for how talented Vermont is, there’s no way Ingo and the Black Bears should’ve been embarrassed like that over the weekend. A 35 and 28 point drubbing at the hands of the Catamounts must’ve made for a brutally slow and agonizing bus ride back up to Orono.
As for Ingo himself, he was a complete non-factor. Before the Vermont series he had recorded a double-double in four straight games and was coming off a six block performance as well. In game one, Ingo dropped a goose egg with zero points and just 5 rebounds and 2 blocks. Vermont won by 35 in that one and how he can’t even find the back of the net once is unbelievable. Game two was a bit better, as Ingo managed to score 15 points, but had just 4 rebounds and zero blocks for the first time all season. Oh, and the Black Bears also lost in another landslide.
The good news for Ingo and the Black Bears is that next up on the docket is the only team sitting below them in the America East standings, Binghamton. Before the Vermont series Ingo and the Black Bears were absolutely shutting teams down with their stout defense. Time to see if that sliver of success was legit or if these Black Bears will soon return to being the Bleak Bears.
D.J. Mitchell – Hartford Hawks
D.J. Mitchell is more of a role player for the Hawks and likely their fourth or even fifth option on offense, so his stock down isn’t a major hit. However, with the way Hartford is built (no true go-to scorer) they are incredibly dependent on the success of their role players and Mitchell’s performance this past weekend (especially in game two) cost them a very important game against UMBC.
Mitchell’s best trait is his shooting and he’s been quite efficient thus far, taking smart shots and putting up around 6-8 shots a game. In the four games prior to this weekend, Mitchell was averaging 11.8 points a game for the Hawks and had become another reliable option for them. Game one was a pretty standard 7 point outing, shooting 3-6 from the field, as Hartford was able to steal a win over UMBC. Unfortunately, game two was a complete disaster for Mitchell and the Hawks, as he shot an abysmal 2-12 from the field, including 1-10 from deep, finishing with just 5 points in an 8 point loss.
Hartford and Mitchell are both hoping that game two was just a wild outlier and not a sign of things to come. An easy get-right game would be ideal for Mitchell, but sadly the Hawks are scheduled to take on the red-hot Catamounts next. Coach Gal should look to get Mitchell some easy looks to help build his confidence back up, though getting past Ben Shungu and the Cats defense will be quite the assignment.
Brenton Mills – Binghamton Bearcats
Ok, this is the last time I can in good conscience add Brenton Mills to the stock down side. In all honesty he’s not playing terrible, but the team as a whole is a complete mess and sadly he has to fall on that sword as their leader. Those were pretty much my exact words a week ago when Mills made the stock down list yet again. Here is my call to action for Binghamton’s athletic director, Patrick Elliot. Fire Tommy Dempsey. Seriously.
Back to Mills. This past weekend, Binghamton dropped another pair to UMass-Lowell by double-digits in each contest. It takes a special kind of bad to make UMass-Lowell’s supporting cast look like top America East players. Mills gave some offense to the Bearcats with 15 and 16 points respectively in each game, but didn’t add any contributions elsewhere with just a total of 5 rebounds and 2 assists over the weekend. Likewise, his shooting was pretty poor as he shot just 10-27 (37%) in those two games.
I don’t know of a college coach getting the boot mid-season outside of some serious allegations, but if Binghamton gets blown-out by Maine next weekend that should all but seal Tommy Dempsey’s fate as the Bearcats head coach. Every game there’s so much talk about Binghamton’s young core, yet they could very likely follow in Sam Sessoms footsteps out the door unless a change is soon made. You never want to talk about another man’s job, but god damn this team is in need of a serious overhaul.
Dylan O’Hearn – NJIT Highlanders
Poor NJIT. They started conference play 2-1 and had one of the most memorable finishes in college basketball this year as they upset Vermont in double-overtime. Since their 2-1 start, the Highlanders have gone 1-4 and appear headed for a bottom-third conference finish in their inaugural first season in the America East. Star point guard Zach Cooks had been struggling as of late for the Highlanders, but he finally appeared to have regained his footing to a degree. But, if it’s not one thing, it’s another and now Dylan O’Hearn is front and center of NJIT’s struggle-bus.
Early on it looked as if NJIT had found a diamond in the rough with their JUCO transfer, O’Hearn. Yet, now the wheels are starting the come off. For the season O’Hearn is averaging 12.1 points a game, but in his last three the JUCO transfer sits at a pathetic 2.6 points a game. Over that same three-game span, O’Hearn has just as many turnovers (8) as he does points. His shooting has also gone down tremendously over those three games, as he was just 3-18 (16%) in those contests.
The Highlanders host Stony Brook next and with the Seawolves looking mighty rusty in their last affair there’s still time for NJIT to right the ship. Even if Cooks plays well, the Highlanders will need a reliable threat next to him. If O’Hearn can’t replicate his early season magic he could quickly fall down NJIT’s bench. The rise and fall of Dylan O’Hearn: the next great America East tragedy.
Dishonorable Mention – Darnell Rogers (UMBC), Juan Felix Rodriguez (Stony Brook), LeChuan DuHart (Maine)