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America East Quarterfinals Preview

March 9, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments




America East Quarterfinals Preview

Preview by Adam Reich

No. 4 Maine vs. No. 5 Binghamton
This game is a battle of two of the best defensive teams in the
conference. The Black Bears have held opponents to only 39% shooting
this season, while the Bearcats have limited the opposition to 41%.
However, aside from its defensive prowess, Maine is also the second
highest scoring team in the league at 68.4 ppg. The Black Bears thrive
in an up-tempo game where they can utilize their speed on the fast
break and in applying full-court pressure. Binghamton, on the other
hand, would prefer to slow down the pace and pound the ball inside.

In the teams’ first match-up this season, a 60-46 Binghamton win, the
Bearcats were able to control the tempo and keep the Black Bears from
getting out on the break. Maine struggled in the half-court offense,
shooting only 33% for the game. Things were quite different in the
second meeting as the Black Bears ran their way to an 84-51 blowout
win. In that contest, the Bearcats shot only 29%, while allowing Maine
easy baskets in transition.

In the Binghamton offense, the first and best option is to get the
ball to center Nick Billings in the post. However, the seven-footer,
who normally benefits from a sizable height advantage, will be guarded
by 6-10 Mark Flavin, one of the league’s best one-on-one defenders.
With the two big men basically canceling each other out on the
offensive and defensive ends, this game will be decided by guard play.
Maine’s backcourt duo of Eric Dobson and Kevin Reed should be able to
penetrate the Binghamton defense and score, or more likely, find
deadly spot-up shooter Ludmil Hadjisotirov. In the tournament, guard
play is usually the difference, and with second-team all-conference
selections Dobson and Reed handling the ball, the Black Bears have the
clear advantage.

Prediction: Maine 72, Binghamton 59

No. 3 Northeastern vs. No. 6 Hartford
If you like tough, hard-nosed defense, you might want to look the
other way for this one. The Hawks and Huskies rank eighth and tenth in
the conference in scoring defense and eighth and ninth in field goal
percentage defense, respectively. Both teams like to play at a fast
place, and each is willing to sacrifice defense in order to outscore
its opponent. Northeastern and Hartford share another common
characteristic: they are both enamored with the three-pointer. The
Huskies hoisted the most three-point attempts in the league (733),
while the Hawks took the third most (504).

The Huskies dominated the two regular-season meetings between them,
winning 76-59 at home and 73-61 at Hartford. In the pair of games, the
Hawks struggled mightily from beyond the arc, shooting a combined
9-of-46 (19.6%). On the flip side, the Huskies, who shoot only 41.8%
as a team, shot a rather lofty 46.7% against a less than stellar
Hartford defense.

For the Huskies, Jose Juan Barea (21.2 ppg), Marcus Barnes (16.3 ppg)
and Javorie Wilson (13.3 ppg) are all legitimate scoring threats. Any
or all of these guys could potentially explode and have a big game.
Coupled with the inside presence of Sylbrin Robinson and the athletic
play of Bennet Davis, coach Ron Everhart has a stockpile of weapons at
his disposal. As good as Aaron Cook and Ryan Stys have been in the
absence of Jerell Parker, the Hawks just don’t have enough firepower
to hang with Northeastern’s potent offense. Hartford’s best chance is
to be physical with the Huskies and limit them on the offensive glass.
But in all likelihood the supreme quickness and athleticism of
Northeastern will make this one a complete mismatch.

Prediction: Northeastern 76, Hartford 62

No. 1 Boston University vs. No. 8 Stony Brook
The best defensive team in the conference, the Terriers are allowing
only 58.7 point per game this season. BU’s full-court press creates
turnovers and forces opponents out of their offensive rhythm. Stony
Brook’s ability to break the press will be the deciding factor in this
game. The Terriers do an excellent job of converting turnovers into
easy points in transition on the other end. The Seawolves need to be
careful they don’t get involved in a track meet with BU. If that is
the case, the Terriers’ superior bench will become an even greater
factor.

Stony Brook played BU tough in their regular season match-ups. In
fact, the Seawolves led at the half in the first game, a 66-56 loss at
home, and only trailed by four at the break in a 75-64 defeat in
Boston. The Terriers’ defense forced 33 turnovers and held the
Seawolves to 28% shooting from beyond the arc (7-of-25) in the two
games combined.

Successfully breaking the BU press will be a difficult task for Stony
Brook. Senior guard D.J. Munir is a tremendously poised player and
should be able to handle the pressure, but backcourt mate, freshman
Mitchell Beauford, will need to provide some help. Reserve guard Bobby
Santiago should see plenty of court time because of his excellent
ballhandling. In the half-court, D.J. Munir (14.7 ppg) will be forced
to contend with Shaun Wynn, the conference’s defensive player of the
year.

BU’s quickness will be also be an issue for the Seawolves on the
defensive end. Guards Chaz Carr, Matt Turner and Wynn are all
explosive off the dribble. And in the paint Rashad Bell is more
athletic than Stony Brook’s big men, Mike Konopka and Cori Spencer.
Add long-range sniper Jason Grochowalski and center Ryan Butt, who can
also shoot the three, and the Terriers can beat you in a number of
ways. In this match-up expect BU’s depth to expose an undermanned
Stony Brook team and advance.

Prediction: Boston University 71, Stony Brook 61

No. 2 Vermont vs. No. 7 New Hampshire
The Catamounts and Wildcats split two games in the regular season. UNH
lost at Vermont, 82-68, in the first meeting, but rebounded by smoking
the Catamounts, 78-57, just two weeks ago. In that game, the Wildcats
outrebounded the Catamounts and committed only five turnovers. Even
though UVM was without Taylor Coppenrath for that game, UNH was very
impressive in the win.

Since that UNH game, the Catamounts have steadily evolved into a
different kind of team. Rather than playing the inside-out game where
the offense runs through Coppenrath, UVM is now mostly a
perimeter-oriented team. T.J. Sorrentine, who has stepped up his game
in Coppenrath’s absence, is the ultimate combo-guard: a lethal shooter
who can also use the dribble-drive to create for others.

UNH will likely play a taller defender one-on-one against Sorrentine
and attempt to double-team him when he drives to the basket. In
addition to Sorrentine, the Wildcats will also have to pay attention
to center Scotty Jones. The senior has posted a double-double in the
team’s last three contests, emerging exactly when needed most.
Although not a low-post threat, Jones uses his tremendous leaping
ability to corral offensive rebounds and get easy put-backs.

Even with a healthy Ben Sturgill, the Wildcats will struggle to keep
the Catamounts off the boards. Normally undersized, and even more so
without Craig Walls, UNH will have to make a concerted effort to
control rebounds on the defensive end. For this reason, expect the
Wildcats to play quite a bit of zone defense. If that’s the case, UVM
snipers Alex Jensen and Corey Sullivan will need to make open looks
from beyond the arc.

Although UNH has obviously proven they can beat Vermont, the size
advantage of the Catamount cannot be ignored. That, coupled with the
recent play of Sorrentine and UNH’s inability to knock down shots,
should equate to a Catamount victory.

Prediction: Vermont 68, UNH 53

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