By Korbett Koselak
Over the next two weeks, KCOU Sports will release a tournament preview of each one of the 32 NCAA Division I men’s basketball conferences. Here’s the second piece in our series on the America East Conference.
The Vermont Catamounts have been the class of the America East for almost three years.
The Catamounts are 43-3 in conference since 2016-17, including a 15-1 record last year before falling in the conference title game to Lady Madness’ 2018 sponsor, UMBC. The Retrievers entered the conference title game 10-point underdogs, but prevailed 65-62. As we would soon learn, UMBC did not care about their underdog status. Jairus Lyles, KJ Maura and company would complete the biggest upset in NCAA Tournament and maybe sports history just six days later by knocking off number one overall seed Virginia. It is the only round-of-64 win for a 16-seed in the history of the tournament. But with UMBC’s senior-laden group gone, Vermont is again the cream of the crop.
The team to watch out of the America East is definitely Vermont. At the time of publication, ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi has the Catamounts as a 14-seed in the East Region. Lunardi has them playing 3-seed Purdue, which would be a rematch of the Boilermakers 80-70 win in the round-of-64 two years ago.
The Catamounts are No. 33 in the country in average margin-of-victory. Vermont is led by my player to watch, Junior Forward Anthony Lamb. Lamb leads the way with 21 ppg and is one of three double-figure scorers for the Catamounts.
Lamb has already had a very accomplished career. Going into the game against Stony Brook Mar. 2, he is nine rebounds away from becoming the 16th Catamount to post 1,000 career points and 500 career boards. He’s only a junior. Lamb is one of two America East players named to the Lou Henson Award midseason watch list. The award goes to the best mid-major player in the country.
Because Vermont is significantly better than everybody else in the conference, you don’t have to slide very far down the standings to find a sleeper candidate. My tournament sleeper is Stony Brook.
The Seawolves currently sit in second place, but may have the goods to win that heralded automatic bid. Akwasi Yeboah was the other America East player named to the Henson midseason watch list. He is fourth in the conference and leads Stony Brook with 17.1 PPG. They are seventh in the country in rebounding and ninth in defensive field goal percentage. Opponents are scoring on just 38-percent of their field goal attempts.
The America East tournament begins on March 9.
Edited by Garrett Jones | firstname.lastname@example.org