America East Tournament: Preview & Predictions

    
March 6th, 2009

 

This is one in a series of conference tournament previews, in which I run down all the teams involved, give a brief statistical review and present the log5 projections, using in-conference offensive and defensive efficiency. The basic log5 methodology comes from Bill James, and this is an area Ken Pomeroy has looked at in the past as well. I claim nothing new in the application, but obviously with slightly different methodologies, these numbers may differ from others you find.  I don’t claim to be an expert on any particular conference, and I’m sure there are some mis-characterizations on some players I’ve seen sparingly at best, so please add your thoughts in the comments. Anyway, with no further ado, the preview follows below:

 

America East

The first three rounds will be played in Albany’s home court, SECFU Arena, with the final happening on Saturday morning at the higher remaining seed.

 

#

Team

QF

SF

F

W

1

Binghamton

100.00%

85.45%

53.64%

26.52%

2

Vermont

100.00%

87.92%

62.85%

45.92%

3

Boston University

100.00%

86.45%

32.33%

18.97%

4

New Hampshire

100.00%

28.09%

7.94%

0.82%

5

Stony Brook

100.00%

71.91%

34.71%

6.86%

6

UMBC

100.00%

13.55%

1.39%

0.19%

7

Albany

100.00%

12.08%

3.43%

0.47%

8

Maine

75.37%

12.98%

3.54%

0.24%

9

Hartford

24.63%

1.57%

0.18%

0.00%

 

Hometown team Albany got the worst possible opening draw, as the favorite, #2 Vermont will be a tough task. Binghamton and BU should be the main challengers, with Stony Brook a team from outside the top 4 that could cause a big surprise.

 

 

#1 – Binghamton Bearcats (20-8, 13-3) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.072

Last NCAA Tournament bid: None

 

Binghamton is the hottest team in the conference, having won each of its last eight games, but it’s only been the third best team in the league by efficiency margin standards. The Bearcats have been good defenders, holding opponents to a low percentage and forcing a lot of turnovers, but they have had problems with rebounding and commit a lot of fouls. Offensively, they’ve been an average team, not making a lot of mistakes, but not excelling in any area either.

 

Players to watch:

6-4 JR D.J. Rivera, 20.2 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 52.5 eFG% - Rivera is the conference’s leading scorer, and the St. Joe’s transfer is the only America East player to average more than 20 points a game. His long-distance shooting leaves something to be desired, but he’s an efficient player because of his ability to score inside and his remarkable turnover rate, giving the ball up just 46 times on the year.

 

6-6 SR Reggie Fuller, 10.0 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 1.6 BPG, 55.6 eFG% - Fuller is only the 5th ranked scorer on the team, but he’s a good inside shooter who puts up solid rebounding and shot-blocking numbers. He’s also improved his play of late, averaging more than 15 points in  his last six games.

 

 

#2 – Vermont Catamounts (23-7, 13-3) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.1637

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2005 (2nd Round)

 

Vermont has easily been the best team in the conference, except when it came to games against Binghamton, as it was swept in the season series with the Bearcats. The Catamounts have the America East’s best offense, shooting 48% from the floor and getting to the free-throw line very often. They also defend well, dominating the inside while forcing a lot of turnovers. Opponents have successfully shot over them, and they’ll need to be careful against teams with good long-range shooters.

 

Players to watch:

6-5 JR Marqus Blakely, 15.7 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 1.9 SPG, 2.8 BPG, 60.3 eFG% - Blakely is the conference’s best forward, leading the league in rebounds, steals and blocks. He’s a 60% shooter who does a lot of good work inside, with his only real weakness being his 56% free-throw shooting.

 

6-1 SR Mike Trimboli, 16.3 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 4.9 APG, 1.9 SPG, 53.8 eFG% - There are some questions about Trimboli’s health heading into the tournament, and as the team’s best guard, his return will be criticaly important for the Catamounts’ chances. He’s a good three-point shooter who also distributes the ball efficiently.

 

 

#3 – Boston University Terriers (17-12, 11-5) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.095

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2002 (1st Round)

 

Boston University is the 2nd ranked team by EM, but faces a tough path to the title game with a potential semifinal against Vermont. The Terriers are a heavily perimeter-oriented team, taking a lot of their shots from behind the arc, and doing a pretty job of making them. They’ve also been good at defending threes, but poor interior defense and weak offensive rebounding have held them back in overall defensive efficiency.

 

Players to watch:

6-5 SO John Holland, 18.0 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 1.8 SPG, 56.2 eFG% - Holland leads the team in points and rebounds, and has split his shooting almost evenly between twos and threes, putting up a good percentage in both areas.

 

6-2 JR Corey Lowe, 16.6 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 4.1 APG, 53.3 eFG% - Lowe is the other player on the Terriers who puts up a lot of shots, and is another good three-point shooter who also manages to distribute the ball to teammates.

 

 

#4 – New Hampshire Wildcats (13-15, 8-8) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.033

Last NCAA Tournament bid: None

 

With the top three teams separating themselves from the pack, New Hampshire will have a tough time making any progress in Albany, and are actually the only top 4 team not favored to advance to the semis. The problem has been the Wildcat offense, which has been one of the conference’s worst. It uses a slow style, but doesn’t do it very well, putting up one of the country’s worst field goal percentages and giving the ball up often. This has left it to the defense to bail out UNH, something it has occasionally managed to do with excellent rebounding. New Hampshire needs to watch out for fouls, which were a problem in the non-conference, but have improved in America East play.

 

Players to watch:

6-3 SR Tyrece Gibbs, 14.4 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 51.7 eFG% - Gibbs is an excellent three-point shooter, and while his shots from inside the arc aren’t as effective, he takes enough threes to make him a decently efficient player.

 

6-8 SO Dane Diliegro, 5.8 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 54.3 eFG% - Diliegro isn’t much of an offensive threat, but he’s an excellent rebounder who takes his chances well when he gets them.

 

 

#5 – Stony Brook Seawolves (16-13, 8-8) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.045

Last NCAA Tournament bid: None

 

Four of Stony Brook’s eight conference losses have come in overtime (one in quadruple OT), so it’s not really a surprise that they are under-seeded, relative to their EM performance. They should be slight favorites against New Hampshire, mostly because of the conference’s best defense. The Seawolves get opponents to attempt a lot of threes, and manage to hold them to a pretty poor percentage, while also getting their hands on the ball a lot, either through turnovers or rebounds. Offensively, they tend to focus on getting the ball inside, a strategy that has been fairly unsuccessful, when you consider their conference-worst 44% shooting from two.

 

Players to watch:

6-5JR Muhammad El-Amin, 15.4 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 50.4 eFG% - El-Amin is one of the rare three-point threats on the Seawolves, and the Ju-Co transfer has not been afraid to shoot with impunity. He takes nearly a third of the team’s shots when he’s on the floor, and makes just enough to justify it.

 

6-6 SR Demetrius Young, 9.4 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 67.5 eFG% - His season-long numbers haven’t been that impressive, but Young is a guy who has really stepped up his play in recent days, and as the conference’s leader in FG%, will cause a lot of problems for opponents inside. He’s started just 4 games all year, but averaged 14 points a game in the month of February.

 

 

#6 –Maryland Baltimore County (13-16, 7-9) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.069

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2008 (1st Round)

 

The defending champions lost a lot from their 2008 team, and have really felt it on the defensive end of the floor, where they’ve had the worst record in the conference. They force few turnovers, and while they’ve defended the inside shot decently, teams have lit them up from three. One interesting thing about UMBC is its ability to avoid turnovers, as it’s put up one of the country’s lowest rates in that area. It hasn’t been too much of a help to the offense, though, as too many of its possessions have ended with missed shots. The wide majority of these shots have come from inside the arc, as UMBC has taken a lower percentage of threes than all but two other teams in the country.

 

Players to watch:

5-8 SR Jay Greene, 12.7 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 6.0 APG, 52.1 eFG% - Greene is the only Retriever who is a threat from behind the arc, taking the majority of his shots from three. He also leads the conference in assists, and is an excellent outside complement to his team’s inside-oriented attack.

 

6-4 SR Darryl Proctor, 20.0 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.4 SPG, 47.6 eFG% - No player in the nation has played more minutes than Proctor, who averages 39.6 per game, and had his biggest night off when he played 33 against Pitt. He’s not just a guy who plays a lot, though, as he takes a huge role in the offense, and is a very good rebounder. He’s also committed just 64 turnovers all season, which is a very impressive number when you consider how much he plays.

 

 

#7 – Albany Great Danes (14-15, 6-10) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.069

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2007 (1st Round)

 

Albany isn’t the kind of team you’d look at for an upset run, seventh in the league in offense and defense, but the fact that the tournament will be on its home floor at SEFCU Arena means that they will have a shot at causing some trouble. The Great Danes got the worst possible draw in Vermont, however, and could easily find themselves drummed out fast. They are spectacular rebounders, putting up one of the best rates in the entire country. They get a lot of chances to practice, as they are pretty bad shooters, especially from behind the arc. They also find themselves on the wrong side of turnover margin more often than not, and don’t force a lot of misses from opponents.

 

Players to watch:

6-0 SO Tim Ambrose, 14.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.1 SPG, 49.1 eFG% - Ambrose leads the team in scoring, despite playing just 24 minutes a game, mostly because he has really struggled with foul trouble. He’s a solid shooter and has a very good assist rate, but just can’t stay on the court enough to really put up big averages.

 

6-6 JR Will Harris, 12.7 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 47.7 eFG% - Harris had a strong run at the start of the conference season, but has really cooled off towards the end of the year. He’s a decent percentage player, but not overly notable.

 

 

#8 – Maine Black Bears (9-20, 4-12) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.065

Last NCAA Tournament bid: None

 

A 4-12 record in conference play is a little harsh for a team that has been about the same as the two teams ahead of them, and the Black Bears will be a little unfortunate to have to play an opening round game against Hartford. Defensively, they struggle inside, but manage to get opponents to shoot mostly three-pointers, where they are pretty effective. However, they’re also terrible defensive rebounders, so forcing a stop isn’t necessarily good enough to help them out.

 

Players to watch:

6-7 SO Sean McNally, 9.5 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 44.5 eFG% - McNally doesn’t play a big role in the offense, but is the Bears’ most effective offensive player, due to his ability to pick up offensive rebounds. He’s a decent shooter, but takes a few too many fruitless threes.

 

6-5 JR Mark Socoby, 12.5 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 45.7 eFG% - Socoby leads the team in scoring, but he’s a bit of a liability for Maine, as most of his shots come from behind the arc, where he barely cracks 30%.

 

 

#9 – Hartford Hawks (6-25, 2-14) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.154

Last NCAA Tournament bid: None

 

Hartford’s last win came on January 14th, and it looks likely that it’ll finish the season on a 15-game losing streak. The Hawks’ offense has been simply terrible, one of the worst in the nation in getting to the free throw line and rebounding, and putting up a lot of threes, while hitting just 29% as a team from behind the arc. The Hartford defense has actually been decent, forcing teams to the outside and getting a lot of turnovers, but only having half a decent team isn’t good enough.

 

Players to watch:

6-2 SR Jaret Von Rosenberg, 12.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3.7 APG, 45.7 eFG% - Von Rosenberg averages more than 38 minutes a game, and while he does a good job getting the ball to teammates, and is a good scorer inside the arc, his 27% three-point shooting really limits his effectiveness.

 

6-5 SR Michael Turner, 11.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 50.4 eFG% - Turner is a key player to any potential Hartford success, the only player who hits a solid percentage of long-distance shots and the team’s best rebounder.

 

 

My statistical all-America East team:

UMBC SR G Jay Greene, 12.7 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 6.0 APG, 52.1 eFG%

Vermont SR G Mike Trimboli, 16.3 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 4.9 APG, 1.9 SPG, 53.8 eFG%

Boston University SO G/F John Holland, 18.0 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 1.8 SPG, 56.2 eFG%

Binghamton JR F D.J. Rivera, 20.2 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 52.5 eFG%

Vermont JR F Marqus Blakely, 15.7 PPG, 9.0 RPG,1.9 SPG, 2.8 BPG, 60.3 eFG%