The America East Conference Tournament begins play on Thursday with one game. Check the latest NCAA basketball lines.
The 2011 America East Conference basketball tournament gets underway on Thursday in Hartford with a game featuring two teams who will be fighting to play #1 seed Vermont (22-7, 13-3 America East) on Saturday. The winner between #8 Maryland-Baltimore County (5-24, 4-12) and #9 Binghamton (7-22, 4-12) will get to square off against the defending tournament champion Catamounts, who ended the regular season with consecutive losses following a 10-game winning streak.
Vermont lost at home to #2 Boston University (18-13, 12-4) in overtime 66-64 on Sunday and has some injury concerns heading into the conference tournament, with leading scorer Evan Fjeld (14.9 points per game) and Brendan Bald (11.5 ppg) both nursing ankle injuries. Fjeld missed the regular-season finale while Bald was injured during the game, but both hope to be ready to play with extra rest.
“Heading into the conference tournament, we didn’t want bad momentum – we wanted some good vibes,” Catamounts guard Joe Accaoui said. “But we have to bounce back. We have a week to prepare, a week to get healthy.”
Maryland-Baltimore County and Binghamton were both swept in two games by Vermont, and neither team figures to have much of a shot against the top seed. The Catamounts should be worried about the Terriers though after losing both meetings with them during the regular season.
BU was the preseason favorite to win the America East regular-season title and finished strong, winning eight straight games, capped by the victory against Vermont in the finale. Leading scorer John Holland (19.2 ppg) ironically missed that game with an ankle injury and is listed as day-to-day like Fjeld and Bald. The Terriers had already lost junior forward Jake O’Brien (10.9 ppg) for the season with a foot injury.
“When we defend and rebound, we can beat anybody,” Vermont head coach Patrick Chambers said. “Adversity has struck us with John (Holland) and Jake (O’Brien) both out, so are we going to step up or are we going to feel sorry for ourselves and make excuses? These guys are really showing maturity and saying, ‘You know what? We’re good enough, we can beat anybody any given day if we play hard and defend and rebound.’”
The Terriers will face #7 New Hampshire (12-17, 6-10) on Saturday in the tournament quarterfinals and split two regular-season meetings with the Wildcats. Other Saturday quarterfinal matchups at Hartford include #4 Albany (16-15, 9-7) against #5 Stony Brook (13-16, 8-8) and #3 Maine (15-14, 9-7) against #6 Hartford (10-19, 7-9). The semifinals will take place on Sunday with the championship game slated for Saturday, March 12 at the site of the highest remaining seed.