The college basketball season is a little over a month away. That means it is time for LWOS to begin previewing conferences before the season tips-off. We did not know if we would reach this point, but the excitement of a new season can finally set in. The cancellation of March Madness means anticipation for the season is higher than usual. You can find all 32 conferences previewed alphabetically over the next month right here. The America East basketball preview kicks off the fun.
2020-21 America East Basketball Preview
10. Maine Black Bears
Key Returners: Nedeljko Prijovic, Vilgot Larsson
Key Losses: Sergio El Darwich, Andrew Fleming
Key Newcomers: LeChaun Duhart (JUCO), FoFo Adetogun, Matty Fleming
The Maine Black Bears find themselves in a familiar position once again. Unfortunately, that is the basement of the league. Maine struggled to climb out of that position last year, barely finishing in eighth place. That was a team that had the production of El Darwich and Andrew Fleming. The Black Bears will have to run their offense through their frontcourt, with Prijovic and Larsson leading the way. Experience in the backcourt is lacking, and guard play wins at the mid-major level. Making the America East Tournament would make this season a success.
9. Binghamton Bearcats
Key Returners: George Tinsley, Brenton Mills
Key Losses: Sam Sessoms, Pierre Sarr, Richard Caldwell
Key Newcomers: Hunter Crist (Green Bay)
The Binghamton Bearcats were primed to make a push up the standings this season until Sessoms transferred. The standout guard is taking his talents to Penn State. That leaves behind Tinsley and Mills to lead the way, both finishing on the all-rookie team last season. Crist’s arrival as a graduate transfer will infuse a little experience into the lineup. Binghamton has some pieces to stay competitive, but other players will need to step up to fill roles to make any noise. An America East Tournament berth is possible.
8. NJIT Highlanders
Key Returners: Zach Cooks, San Antonio Brinson, Souleymane Diakite
Key Losses: Shyquan Gibbs
Key Newcomers: Dylan O’Hearn (JUCO), Mekhi Gray
NJIT is one of the programs that made a conference change in the wake of the pandemic. The Highlanders moved to the much more travel-friendly America East from the Atlantic Sun. This team possesses an immediate player of the year candidate in Zach Cooks. There are supporting pieces around him, but this team will still go as far as he can carry them. It is hard to gauge how the Highlanders will adjust to their new league. However, this team has the talent to potentially finish higher than this in year one.
7. Hartford Hawks
Key Returners: Hunter Marks, Moses Flowers, Miroslav Stafl
Key Losses: Malik Ellison, Traci Carter
Key Newcomers: Garrett Kingman (JUCO), Austin Williams (Marist)
Hartford finished in third place a season ago, paced by Ellison’s 18.7 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. The first-teamer is gone, along with third-teamer Traci Carter. That leaves all-rookie Flowers to pick up the slack in the backcourt. The frontcourt looks a little better, with Marks and Stafl returning. Experience after the starters is lacking, which will affect this team’s depth. The Hawks are probably a year away from returning back to the top of the league.
6. Stony Brook Seawolves
Key Returners: Mouhamadou Gueye, Tyler Stephenson-Moore
Key Losses: Makale Foreman, Elijah Olaniyi, Andrew Garcia
Key Newcomers: Juan Felix Rodriguez (JUCO), Leighton Elliott-Sewell (JUCO), Mohamed Diallo (JUCO)
Stony Brook will most likely take a step back with all the talent loss. Makale Foreman was the floor general, while Elijah Olaniyi was the biggest scoring threat. However, Foreman has graduated, and Olaniyi is off to the ACC and Miami. With all of the turnover, the Seawolves will be relying on players like Gueye and Stephenson-Moore to fill those shoes. There are also quite a few junior college transfers coming in to plug holes. This will be a down year.
5. Massachusetts-Lowell Riverhawks
Key Returners: Obadiah Noel, Connor Withers, Ron Mitchell
Key Losses: Christian Lutete, Jordyn Owens
Key Newcomers: Salif Boudie (Arkansas), Richie Greaves, Max Brooks
Massachusetts-Lowell is in a position to take a nice step forward. It all starts with star player Obadiah Noel. He can do a little bit of everything for the Riverhawks. However, one thing to watch is how he handles the graduation of Christian Lutete. For instance, teams could key in on Noel more. Expect Connor Withers to continue to develop on the inside. He will be helped by the addition and size of Arkansas grad transfer Boudie. Keep an eye on the Riverhawks as a team that can exceed expectations this season.
4. UMBC Retrievers
Key Returners: Brandon Horvath, LJ Owens, RJ Eytle-Rock
Key Losses: KJ Jackson
Key Newcomers: Szymon Wojcik (JUCO), Rico Quinton (JUCO)
UMBC was as average as it got last season. Last season shifted when Darnell Rogers went down with a season-ending injury seven games into the year. Certainly, a healthy Rogers along with a plethora of experienced returning starters gives the Retrievers a chance this season. However, this team has a hole with its depth. Role-players will need to prove themselves coming off the bench. Regardless, Ryan Odom has a squad that can compete towards the top of the league once again.
3. New Hampshire Wildcats
Key Returners: Nick Guadarrama, Sean Sutherlin, Jayden Martinez
Key Losses: Chris Lester
Key Newcomers: KJ McClurg
New Hampshire enters the season with five players returning who logged at least 20 starts from a year ago. Guadarrama and Sutherlin were third-teamers last season and are capable of making the first-team this time. Behind them will be a struggle, as depth is lacking. The Wildcats were a top 50 team in defensive rating. The key to improvement this season will be offensive consistency. New Hampshire is good enough to finish this high but is probably a step behind the next level of the America East.
2. Albany Great Danes
Key Returners: Trey Hutcheson, Cam Healy, Antonio Rizzuto
Key Losses: Ahmad Clark, Romani Hansen, Malachi De Sousa
Key Newcomers: CJ Kelly (JUCO), Jarvis Doles (Drexel)
Historically, Albany has been competitive in this league for the past few decades. Last year’s sixth-place was a bit of a disappointment. Junior Cam Healy is the guy who can step up and replace Ahmad Clark’s scoring production. However, rebounding production will need to be replaced, with the top three rebounders from a season ago all gone. Grad transfer Doles will be part of that as well as Duquesne transfer Kellon Taylor. In conclusion, if the pieces fall into place around Healy and Trey Hutcheson, the Great Danes can push for a league title.
1. Vermont Catamounts
Key Returners: Stef Smith, Ryan Davis, Ben Shungu
Key Losses: Anthony Lamb, Everett Duncan
Key Newcomers: Georges Lefebvre, Jonathan Andre (Northern Arizona), Tomas Murphy (Northeastern)
Vermont has had a stranglehold on this league for the last few years. However, the Catamounts will need to replace America East legend, Anthony Lamb. Stef Smith looks to be the guy to step into that role, though he will be supported by Davis and Shungu. Freshman Georges Lefebvre should get good minutes and may be in line to be the next great Catamount. Vermont is still the class of this league, though the gap may have shrunk between them and their competition for the 2020-21 season.
America East Basketball Preview Awards Predictions
Player of the Year: Obadiah Noel, Massachusetts-Lowell
Noel is truly an all-around player. He averaged a little over 18 points per game last year. He filled out the stat sheet with 5.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.7 steals per game. In short, his ability as a two-way player as well as an expected increase in production makes him the favorite heading into the season.
Defensive Player of the Year: Ben Shungu, Vermont
Shungu is looking to repeat this season in taking home the league’s highest defensive award. He is the type of guard who goes in and fights on the defensive glass. He is also the guy that Vermont can put on their opponent’s best player and lock them down. Therefore, this is Shungu’s to lose this year.
Sixth Man of the Year: Jarvis Doles, Albany
The addition of Doles is one of the reasons why Albany can finish near the top of the league this season. While his numbers from his days at Drexel are not great, he did not get many opportunities to showcase his abilities. Doles can come off the bench and have a bigger role for the Great Danes, providing much-needed size.
Rookie of the Year: Georges Lefebvre, Vermont
As mentioned above, Lefebvre has the chance to be the next star player in time at Vermont. Meanwhile, there is a good chance he is plugged into the starting lineup immediately. That will provide him with plenty of opportunities to showcase his skills and improve at the same time.
Coach of the Year: Bill Herrion, New Hampshire
Certainly, the safe pick would be John Becker at Vermont. However, Herrion has a chance to push New Hampshire to the 20-win threshold. That would be a five-win improvement from last year and a 15-win improvement from two years ago. That deserves some credit.
America East Basketball Preview 1st-Team Projection: Obadiah Noel, Stef Smith, Zach Cooks, Nick Guadarrama, Cam Healy