Yahoo! Sports is breaking down each league for the upcoming college basketball season working backward from No. 31 to No. 1. Here's a look at our No. 29 league, the America East.
Four McGlynn, rookie of the year in the league at Vermont last season, left for Towson University to play in a more high-profile league. Jake O'Brien, Boston University's all-league big man, bolted for Temple once the Terriers learned they would be ineligible for postseason play. Albany lost two of its top three players within days of one-another when first team all-league guard Gerardo Suero left early to pursue a pro career and backcourt mate Logan Aronhalt transferred to Maryland. And already-woeful Binghamton got even worse when three of its top five scorers last season left in April.
As a result of that talent drain, the America East appears headed for a down season even by the standards of a league that finished 28th and 29th in the RPI the past two seasons. Every team has holes to fill, including those unaffected by the transfer epidemic.
Defending regular season champ Stony Brook graduated three of its top four scorers and conference tournament winner Vermont lost its two top scorers, but the Seawolves and Catamounts may be the class of the league again anyway.
For Stony Brook to finally make the NCAA tournament after falling in the America East title game three straight years, do-it-all forward Tommy Brenton must look more for his own shot, speedy point guard Dave Coley needs to make better decisions with the ball in his hands and a talented freshman class has to contribute immediately. For Vermont to topple the Seawolves, the Catamounts need underclassmen who played complementary roles last season to shoulder a greater load this season.
It's a narrow enough gap between last year's two best teams and the rest of the league that it wouldn't be a surprise to see other contenders emerge. Hartford hopes to build on a strong finish last season. Albany needs the rest of its backcourt to collectively make up for the loss of Suero and Aronhalt. And Boston University has a potent backcourt but must somehow find the motivation to challenge for a league title in a year when the Patriot League-bound Terriers are ineligible for the conference tournament.
MAKING A LIST
Best shooter: Jayson Guerrier, Albany
Best playmaker: D.J. Irving, Boston University
Best defender: Tommy Brenton, Stony Brook
Coach on the rise: Steve Pikiell, Stony Brook
Coach on the hot seat: Randy Monroe, UMBC
Three must-see games: 1. Stony Brook at Vermont, Jan. 18 (First rematch of last year's America East title game); 2. Stony Brook at Boston University, Feb. 28 (The Terriers' final America East game) 3. Vermont at Harvard, Nov. 27 (Early barometer for the Catamounts against a team that beat them a year ago)
FACTS AND FIGURES
New coaches: Tommy Dempsey, Binghamton (Formerly the head coach at Rider)
Regular-season winner last season: Stony Brook
Tourney winner last season: Vermont
League RPI rank in each of past 3 seasons: 2011-12: 29th; 2010-11: 28th, 2009-10: 24th
Last NCAA tourney win by a league team: 2005, Vermont as a No. 13 seed
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