American East: Men's Basketball Preview

By Brian Willwerth

March has arrived.  The “madness” is about to begin.

The America East Conference will only send one team to the NCAA tournament again this year.  That’s nothing out of the ordinary, given the history of the conference.  Of the nine teams in the league, five of them are from New England.  All of them have dreams of dancing into the field of 68 in a week and a half.

A preview of what’s to come at Chase Family Arena, the home court of the University of Hartford:

Top-seeded Vermont [13-3] gets the winner of Thursday’s opening-round game between [8] Binghamton and [9] UMBC.  UVM swept the series against both teams.  The Catamounts are led by senior Evan Fjeld [14.9 ppg].  Freshman Brian Voelkel leads the team in assists and rebounds.  The Cats represented the America East in the NCAA tournament a year ago, but lost to Syracuse University.

The hottest team coming into the tournament is [2] Boston University [12-4].  The Terriers have won eight in a row, led by senior John Holland [19.2 ppg].  BU earned a season sweep over Vermont by knocking off the Catamounts in OT on Sunday.  BU faces New Hampshire [7-9] in the quarterfinals Saturday.  Ironically, the Wildcats were last team to beat the Terriers, a 60-48 triumph in Durham on Jan. 29.

[3] Maine [9-7] gets the task of facing [6] Hartford [7-9] on the Hawks’ home court.  The Black Bears may be the higher seed, but the Hawks beat Maine twice during the regular season, including a 74-65 victory at Chase Family Arena on Feb. 10.

The last quarterfinal matchup pits [4] Albany [9-7] against [5] Stony Brook [8-8].

The Great Danes have won four in a row, led by the most recent conference player of the week, sophomore Mike Black.  The Seawolves ended the regular season with a two-game winning streak.  Albany won both meetings during the regular season.

The quarterfinals are Saturday, March 5.  The semifinals are on Sunday.  The championship game will be played the following Saturday, March 12, on the home court of the highest remaining seed.  All signs point to a rematch of last year’s title game between BU and UVM.  But, this is March, so let the madness begin.

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