Nestled snugly in New England, the America East has been rockin’ micro-major ball since ’79. Of the current members, Vermont has had the most success in conference tournaments but, last year were upset (at home, no less) in the finals, grinding their 27-win season to a screeching halt. Who were the plucky underdogs that took them down? Just ask Virginia.
When and Where: March 9-16, games hosted by higher seeds
Defending Champ: UMBC Retrievers
Who’s Good: Vermont, Stony Brook
Who’s Sneaky: UMBC, Hartford
Who Stinks Out Loud: New Hampshire. Maine is pretty bad too, but the tiebreakers say that NH isn’t even good enough for this tournament.
Coolest Team Nickname: UMass Lowell River Hawks. Not sure why I love it but, it has a real Arena League Football vibe to it.
Seeding and rules: Only the top eight teams get in (Sorry, New Hampshire). Teams are reseeded after each round with highest remaining seeds receiving home court advantage. One of the more spread out tournaments, as its only 3 rounds but, still takes 8 days to complete.
Multi-Bid League: Doubt it very much. Possible that Vermont could get an at-large if they run the table and are upset in the final, but that would probably require a bunch of bubble teams screwing up down the stretch as well.
Breakdown: The Catamounts should be favorites, they’ve done nothing to give up that distinction. Led by Junior Forward Anthony Lamb, it’s been another year of Vermont as a presumptive March representative throughout the season. They have several nice wins over Yale, Harvard and Stony Brook while also keeping it respectable with Louisville. Losses to Kansas as well as Patriot and ASun leaders Bucknell and Lipscomb aren’t huge blemishes on a pretty good season but, the multiples losses to UMBC could be a harbinger of another possible tournament let down.
My Pick(s): Vermont is too expensive for my tastes, and Stony Brook is a bit of an undeserving #2 in my opinion. They have a 1-3 record vs Vermont and UMBC this year and my model dislikes their efficiency numbers. Truthfully, Hartford and UMBC’s numbers should probably be a little bigger but, based on my model numbers’ love of Hartford and UMBC having handed Vermont its only two conference losses, I’m going to have to take a couple small stabs fading the favorite.
Hartford +1100 (0.25x)
UMBC +1400 (0.2x)