2001-02 America East Preview
by Lon Samuelson
Just last March the America East Conference was working its way up the Conference RPI ratings by hovering around 17. Unfortunately, all hopes were dashed this past summer when a mass exodus occurred, leaving the conference with 3 newcomers and 4 strong teams departing for greener pastures.
With Hofstra, Delaware, Drexel and Towson St leaving and Albany, Binghamton, and Stony Brook arriving the conference takes on a whole new look but not for the better. Loyalists like Boston University and Maine hope to carry on the tradition created by former A-East champs like Delaware and Hofstra by representing the conference well in the Big Dance.
1. Maine: “Always a brides maid never a bride”. This seems to be the feeling in Orono. The Black Bears have been on the brink of A-East stardom but have always fallen short. Coach John Giannini looks to take advantage of the conference remodeling with Senior guard Huggy Dye leading the attack.
2. Boston University: The Terriers are the last team to make it to the tourney (1997) of the remaining A-East squads. Coach Dennis Wolff looks to keep it that way with 11 letter winners returning. Sophomore forward Ryan Butt, junior guard Billy Collins, and A-East Rookie-of-the-Year sophomore Paul Seymour should form a dominant trio as BU strives to be a contender for the A-East title.
3. Vermont: Life after Tony Orciari (Two time All A-East first teamer) will not be easy in Burlington. Senior forward Trevor Gaines and sophomore guard TJ Sorrentine will be relied upon heavily by coach Tom Brennan to make it a three-way battle for conference supremacy.
4. Northeastern: First year head coach Ron Everhart looks to turn things around in Beantown, where the Huskies went 10-19 last season. The backcourt of Charles Cranford and Jean Bain will be the foundation for a fairly new team, which includes 8 first year Huskies.
5. Stony Brook: After years of wallowing as an anonymous Independent, the Seawolves have finally joined a conference. Coming off a solid 17-11 campaign last season, Coach Nick Macarchuk’s team could a sleeper over the next 2 seasons. One player to watch is junior guard (and St.Joe’s transfer) Larry Jennings. He will be returning from a stress fracture in December.
6. Hartford: The Hawks haven’t been the same since Vin Baker left (and that was quite some time ago). Second year coach Larry Harrison hopes to improve on his first year record of 4-24 with the likes of five newcomers. Freshman guard Shaun Swan (high school stats of 31.7ppg, 8.2apg ) will be asked to score early and often.
7. Albany: The New York state capital has a D-1 team and it’s the . . Great Danes. This is only their third year in D-1 play and their first in the A-East. Second-year head coach Scott Beeten will have some height in 6-10 freshman Jan van den Berg and 6-8 Janis Pipkis. Keep any eye on 5-7 JuCo transfer Earv Opong from Brooklyn (who goes by the street moniker of “I’ll be right back”.)
8. New Hampshire: Coach Phil Rowe’s Wildcats will count on experience as they return a number of upperclassmen from last season’s 7-21 campaign. Senior forward Austin Ganly’s shooting prowess will be the driving force up in Durham.
9. Binghamton: It’s a daily double for the Bearcats as the 2001-02 season will be the maiden voyage in Division 1 and the A-East. Coach Al Walker’s team could be in for a tough transition from the D-2 ranks. 2001 Alaska high school player of the year, 7-0 Nick Billings, may be the lone bright spot.
The conference looks to be a doormat for other teams and a possible play-in team(64 v. 65) for the NCAA selection committee. Expect Huggy Dye and the Black Bears to take advantage of the lackluster talent in what many consider a hockey conference that happens to play basketball.