Vermont Tabbed America East Men’s Basketball Preseason Favorite by Coaches
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Returning all five starters from a team that won 21 games a year ago, University of Vermont is America East’s preseason favorite in men’s basketball for the 2013-14 season as the league’s preseason poll was unveiled Wednesday afternoon. The poll results were determined via a vote by the conference’s nine head coaches, who were not permitted to vote for their own team.
Vermont garnered six of a possible eight first-place votes and 64 points to be tabbed the preseason favorite for the second-straight season. Stony Brook University, last year’s regular-season champion, followed in second place, receiving the other three first-place tallies and 58 points. Reigning league champion University at Albany was third with 49 points, followed closely by University of Hartford in fourth with 44 points. University of New Hampshire was fifth with 31 points, followed by UMBC in sixth with 28 points. Binghamton University (24 points), University of Maine (20 points) and UMass Lowell (8) rounded out the nine-team poll.
The 2013-14 season begins on November 8 with full-scale America East play starting on January 4. Conference positioning will prove key for the America East Championship, which the top two seeds have won in 29 of the last 31 years. The tournament, which is combined men and women for the fifth-straight year, will head to SEFCU Arena for quarterfinal and semifinal round action March 8-9 while the title game will be hosted by the highest remaining seed on March 15. The winner will earn an automatic berth into the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship, in which America East teams have won seven games all-time.
Vermont (21-12 in 2012-13), one of five America East teams to appear in the postseason (CBI) last year, returns nine contributors and all five starters from a program that reached the America East title game for the eighth time in 11 seasons in 2012-13. The Catamounts were led by their defense a year ago, holding foes to just 59.2 points per game, which ranked 28th nationally. Senior forward Brian Voelkel was a major reason for that as the preseason all-conference selection earned first-team All-America East and All-Defensive honors after ranking second in rebounds (8.6 rpg) and assists (4.9 apg). Offensively, the Catamounts will rely on senior Clancy Rugg (11.7 ppg in 12-13), a second-team all-leaguer last year, and senior Luke Apfeld (10.7 ppg). UVM opens play vs. St. Joseph’s on Nov. 9.
Stony Brook (25-8) captured its third America East regular-season crown in four years last season and seeks its first-ever league title and NCAA berth this season. The Seawolves bring back eight letterwinners, including four starters, from a squad that beat UMass in the first round of the NIT last year. Leading the way are preseason all-conference selections Jameel Warney, the reigning America East Rookie of the Year, and senior Dave Coley, a third-team All-Conference choice last year. Stony Brook will look to continue its dominance on the defensive end of the floor this season after ranking sixth nationally in field goal percentage defense (.378) and 13th in scoring defense (57.5 papg) last year. The Seawolves begin play at home against Marist on Nov. 8
Albany (24-11) finished fifth in the America East standings last year but ran off three-straight wins in March to become the lowest-seeded team to ever win the league title, its third since 2006. The Great Danes return eight letterwinners and three starters from that team, including junior Sam Rowley, who averaged 9.0 points and 6.5 boards per game and upped those averages to 11.1 and 7.6, respectively, in conference play. Also back is sophomore Peter Hooley, an America East All-Rookie choice last year. The longest tenured head coach in the league, Will Brown, begins his 13th season at Albany, which opens its season at Siena onNov. 8.
Hartford (17-14) is coming off one of its best seasons in its history, finishing one win shy of its Division high-water mark. Junior Mark Nwakamma, a first-team All-America East selection and preseason all-leaguer this year, will lead a team that lost just one contributor from a year ago and returns all five starters. Along with Nwakamma (14.7 ppg), junior Yolonzo Moore (9.2 ppg, 2.6 apg), will be key for the Hawks, who open with Quinnipiac in the Connecticut 6 Classic on Nov. 9.
New Hampshire (9-20) is looking to improve on an eighth-place finish from 2012-13. Six newcomers will join nine returnees, led by senior Patrick Konan, who ranked in league’s top 15 in both scoring (12th – 11.8 ppg) and rebounding (15th – 5.4 rpg) last year. Senior Chris Pelcher (9.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg) teams with Konan to help form one of the better front courts in the conference. Bill Herrion’s squad starts its season at home against Suffolk on Nov. 9.
UMBC (8-23) begins its first full season under Aki Thomas, who served the majority of the 2012-13 season as the acting head coach. Senior Chase Plummer, the league’s active-leading scoring with 1,013 points, leads seven returning letterwinners and three starters after averaging 11.8 points and 6.4 rebounds a year ago, good for 11th and seventh in America East, respectively. The Retrievers kick off their 2013-14 season at Arizona State on Nov. 8.
Binghamton (3-27) is poised to improve this season under second-year head coach Tommy Dempsey. Preseason all-conference choice Jordan Reed will lead the Bearcats after pacing the league in rebounding (9.5 rpg) and ranking second in scoring (16.6 ppg) last year. Among the eight returning letterwinners is junior Robert Mansell, the team’s leading scorer from 2011-12, who missed all of last season with a knee injury. Binghamton opens with Loyola on Nov. 8
Maine (11-19) lost a pair of All-America East performers off last year’s team but returns five letterwinners to go with seven newcomers this season. Junior Xavier Pollard (9.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 4.3 apg) is the top returnee for Ted Woodward’s Black Bears, who start their season at their new facility, the Cross Insurance Center, vs. Fisher on Nov. 10.
UMass Lowell (15-13 Division II) is entering its first season as a Division I program under first-year head coach and former Northeastern and Boston College assistant Pat Duquette. Nine letterwinners return for the River Hawks, who usher in a new era at Michigan on Nov. 8.
2013-14 Preseason Poll
Rank Team (1st-place votes) Points
1. Vermont (6) 64
2. Stony Brook (3) 58
5. New Hampshire 31
9. UMass Lowell 8