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America East First Round Preview

March 5, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments




America East First Round Preview

Preview by Adam Reich

No. 8 Stony Brook vs. No. 9 UMBC
The Seawolves and Retrievers split the season series, with rebounding being the key to victory on both occasions. These two teams, who rank seventh and eighth in the conference in rebounding respectively, both lack a dominant inside presence and generally like to play up-tempo basketball. Whichever team can secure the ball on the defensive boards will be able to get out and run.

And in the open court is where Stony Brook’s D.J. Munir is at his best. The conference’s fourth leading scorer (15.7 ppg) and fifth leading assist man (3 apg), Munir always seems to make the right decision with the ball. He’ll knock down the open shot when its available and he’s an excellent passer on the break. The more often the ball is in his hands, the better off Stony Brook will be, especially in the half-court offense. The next best option for the Seawolves is reserve forward Cori Spencer. Off the bench, Spencer is the team’s second-leading scorer and best post presence. For a big guy, Spencer has a good touch and can cause match-up problems with his ability to score away from the basket. If UMBC decides to double-team Spencer inside, the pressure will be on Hendrik Feist and Mike Popoko to knock down open looks.

For the Retrievers, who knows where the points are going to come from? The last four games have seen four different players lead the team in points. Guards Kareem Washington (11.7 ppg) and Rob Gogerty (10.2 ppg) are each capable of having a big night offensively, especially if UMBC can get out on the fast break. Forward John Zito has had his share of breakout games, while off the bench Cory McJimson and Andrew Feeley have at times provided instant offense. Expect Stony Brook to play quite a bit of zone defense against the Retrievers. UMBC, who is last in the conference in three-point shooting, will have to prove they can knock down shots from the perimeter, or else it will be a long game.

UMBC has lost ten of its last eleven contests, but the lone win was a 72-53 blowout of Stony Brook. Will the Retrievers be able to duplicate that feat? The answer is: probably not. Stony Brook has better post play and a proven leader in D.J. Munir. And in the tournament, those are the types of intangibles needed to win.

Prediction: Stony Brook 68, UMBC 60

No. 7 New Hampshire vs. No. 10 Albany
The Wildcats and Great Danes are heading in opposite directions at this point in the season. UNH has won three of its last four contests, while Albany has dropped six of seven and thirteen of its last fifteen games. Neither team scores the ball too well, so expect a low scoring, grind it out kind of game. Both teams lack a significant low post threat, so whichever team manages to knock down shots from the perimeter will likely advance.

When it comes to converting open three-point shots, there is no better team in the America East than UNH. The Wildcats shoot 35% from beyond the arc, with Marcus Bullock (63 treys) being the team’s leading long-range sniper. Ben Sturgill, who has averaged over thirteen points per game in limited action, leads UNH in scoring. He and forward Craig Walls (7.1 rpg) should be able to score in the paint against an undersized Albany front line. Perhaps the biggest concern for the Wildcats is their ability to take care of the basketball. UNH finished last in the conference in turnover margin (-3.21).

For the Great Danes, the offense runs through freshman point guard Jon Iati. Averaging an astounding 40.1 minutes per game, Iati has been asked to do a lot this season. And he has responded by scoring over fourteen points per contest and leading the team in assists and three-pointers made. The only other legitimate scoring option for Albany is forward Levi Levine, who is leading the team in points (14.6 ppg). Between the two of them, Iati and Levine have taken 53% of Albany’s shots this season. On the boards, Aquawasi St. Hillaire and Chris Wyatt do a respectable job considering they often play against bigger opponents. They will need to keep the Wildcats off the glass in order for Albany to have a chance.

UNH is playing its best basketball of the season right now. And although Albany has proven they can beat the Wildcats, winning 57-52 on the road in Durham back in January, UNH has all the momentum heading into this game.

Prediction: UNH 70, Albany 59

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