By Kevin Sweeney
With so much roster turnover for some of the league’s top teams, the America East looks to be one of the most wide-open conferences in college basketball this season. Last season’s top squads, Stony Brook and Albany, each lose their top 3 scorers from a season ago. Combine that with some of the league’s top talent transferring, such as Maine’s Issac Vann and Hartford’s Pancake Thomas, and the result is a league with a lot of questions to be answered.
- New Hampshire
- Stony Brook
- UMass Lowell
Champions: Vermont- The Catamounts return 85% of their scoring from last season’s team, which reached the America East Championship Game and the CBI semi-finals. Vermont should have the best guard tandem in the conference, with Trae Bell-Haynes and Ernie Duncan combining to average nearly 24 points per game last season. The Catamounts, who in years past have been known for their defensive prowess, showed the ability to light up the scoreboard towards the end of last season. Combine some offensive firepower with steady defense, and Vermont should be in excellent position to go dancing in March.
Dark Horse: Binghamton- While they may not have the talent to win the regular season championship, the Bearcats should improve drastically from a season ago. They return their top 5 scorers from a season ago, as well as introduce transfer J.C. Show from Bucknell, a former Pennsylvania “Mr. Basketball” who averaged 6.7 points per game as a freshman at Bucknell. If the young players who played last year take the next step, Binghamton could open some eyes in the America East.
Preseason First Team:
- F: Tanner Leissner-New Hampshire
- F: Willie Rodriguez-Binghamton
- G: Jairus Lyles-UMBC
- G: Trae Bell-Haynes- Vermont
- G: Joe Cremo-Albany
Player of the Year: Tanner Leissner- The versatile junior forward is expected to carry the load for New Hampshire as they look to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever. Leissner averaged 15.9 points and 7.3 rebounds last season, numbers which each ranked in the top 5 of the conference. The scariest part for the rest of the America East is that he’s far from done improving. He show signs of a developing 3-point shot a season ago, and as center Iba Camara improves, Leissner will have more and more room in the post, as he will no longer be able to face double-teams. He may not be a household name right now, but by March, we will all know Leissner’s name. .
Newcomer of the Year: Wesley Myers (Maine)- Myers, who sat out last season after transferring from Niagara, could be a difference-maker right away for the Black Bears. In his sophomore season at Niagara, he averaged over 9 points per game and was lights out from beyond the arc, shooting 42% from distance. If Myers has further developed his game during his redshirt year, he could be an all-conference level player, helping to soften the blow of losing Kevin Little and Issac Vann to transfers.