2013-2014 America East Preview: Stony Brook breaks through

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Dave Coley (AP photo)

All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click hereTo see the rest of the Conference Previews we’ve published, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Dating back to 2003, Albany and Vermont have owned the America East — Albany has won the league championship three times and Vermont five times. The Catamounts’ momentum was built by Tom Brennan and continued by Mike Lonergan and now John Becker. Will Brown has championed the effort at Albany taking them from obscurity to respectability at the mid-major level.

For the past few seasons though, Stony Brook has been on the verge of bucking the trend. Steve Pikiell has been tantalizingly close two of the last three seasons losing in the league championship game, but the Seawolves finally get over the hurdle in 2014. Featuring the league’s top player and last year’s Rookie of the Year Jameel Warner in the frontcourt and the veteran presence of Dave Coley and Anthony Jackson in the backcourt, Pikiell has a solid core. Finding a way to replace Tommy Brenton, however, will be an early season challenge.

Vermont is nearly on par with Stony Brook as they have the top senior class in the league consisting of Clancy Rugg, Brian Voelkel, and Sandro Carissimo. The Catamounts Achilles heel will be at point guard, once again, and whether Carissimo is able to effectively run it. While a solid and tough player, he isn’t a true PG, and often times Voelkel becomes the de facto point guard.

One of the youngest teams in the country a season ago, Hartford emerged as an elite team in the America East, and will only be stronger this season as they return virtually everyone from a team that finished 17-14 and 10-6 in the league. The inside – outside play of Mark Nwakamma on the interior and Wes Cole, Nate Sikma, and Yolonzo Moore on the perimeter is deadly.

Relegated to the basement in recent years, Binghamton will be vastly improved in 2013-14. They bring back Robert Mansell (14.0 ppg in 2011-12) who sat out last season injured, Fordham transfer Rayner Moquette is at full-go after missing the second half of last season, and return last year’s Rookie of the Year Jordan Reed. Expect the Bearcats to make a big jump in year two of the Tommy Dempsey era.


In: Massachusetts Lowell (Northeast-10, DII)
Out: Boston University (Patriot League)


Warney (12.4 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.4 bpg), only a sophomore, feasted on America East competition last year, and figures to do the same this season. At 6-foot-8 and 260 pounds, he has the size of a defensive end, but skills of a smooth forward. With Tommy Brenton having graduated, Warney will own the paint this season for the Seawolves.


  • Jordan Reed, Binghamton: Rising sophomore guard Jordan Reed is a bright spot for a Binghamton program that has had plenty of blemishes lately. As a freshman, Reed averaged 16.6 ppg and 9.5 rpg.
  • Mark Nwakamma, Hartford: Under-recruited coming out of high school, Nwakamma has developed into Hartford’s top player and was a unanimous selection for First Team All-League as a sophomore last season.
  • Brian Voelkel, Vermont: The term “glue guy” is one that is thrown around far too often, but Voelkel fits this description aptly — 6.0 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 4.9 apg, 1.4 spg. He fills up a box score better than anyone.
  • Dave Coley, Stony Brook: One of the toughest on-ball defenders in the league and veteran presence for a young Stony Brook team.



1) Stony Brook
2) Vermont
3) Hartford
4) Albany
5) Binghamton
6) New Hampshire
8) Maine
9) UMass Lowell

Loyola-Chicago’s Sister Jean gets her piece of the net

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Loyola-Chicago’s hero — their 98-year old chaplain, Sister Jean — got her reward for being the good-luck charm that got the Ramblers to the Final Four.

Think about this:

  • The Ramblers beat Miami on a game-winning three with 0.3 seconds left
  • They beat Tennessee on a jumper with 3.6 seconds left that bounced off the rim, the backboard and the rim again before going in.
  • They needed a three with 7.6 seconds left to help them hold off Nevada in the Sweet 16.
  • A senior that never averaged more than 8.3 points and that had a season-high of 14 points against something called Eureka this season went for a career-high 23 points to get the Ramblers to the Final Four.

She earned this piece of the net.

The Atlanta Falcons are trying to recruit Sister Jean from Loyola

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The Atlanta Falcons are American sports’ most cursed franchise now that the Chicago Cubs have won a World Series.

Hell, Atlanta sports in general are a minefield of terrible losses, blown seasons and heartbreak.

Which is why the Falcons, who may or may not have blown a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, are trying to get Sister Jean on their payroll:

Stay away, Falcons.

Sister Jean is ours.

Sincerely, College Basketball

No. 11-seed Loyola-Chicago advances past Kansas State, to Final Four

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Sister Jean strikes again!

Ben Richardson, a senior guard who’s never averaged more than 8.3 points in a season, broke double-figures just four times during his senior year and had a season-high of 14 points that came in a game against something called Eureka, scored went 6-for-7 from three and scored a career-high 23 points for No. 11-seed Loyola-Chicago as college basketball’s latest Cinderella finished off their run to the Final Four with a 78-62 win over No. 9-seed Kansas State.

A No. 11-seed is the lowest-seeded team to ever reach a Final Four, and Loyola is just the fourth No. 11-seed to get to the Final Four. LSU did it in 1986, George Mason made it in 2006 and VCU reached the Final Four out of a play-in game in 2011.

Perhaps the most impressive part of this win was that it was never really in doubt. Kansas State led 3-2 for 17 seconds in the first half … and that’s it. The Ramblers opened the game on a 15-5 run, took a 36-24 lead into the break and led by as many as 23 points in the second half.

Perhaps this is what says it all — The Ramblers emptied their bench to let the walk-ons get some run.

In the Elite Eight.

Their bench players dribbled out the clock to send them to the Final Four.

For a team that needed game-winning jumpers in the final 10 seconds in the first three rounds of the tournament, Kansas State was the lowest seeded team that the Ramblers played in the tournament. I guess it’s fitting that they were the game they finally won comfortably.

And to be frank, this is the postseason run that we all needed this year.

Let’s start with the basics: Nobody wants to see Kansas State in the Final Four. I’m sorry Kansas State fans, but that’s the truth. This run has been fun, it might have saved Bruce Weber’s job and I’ve gained a whole new level of respect for the fight and the grit that guys like Barry Brown Jr., Cartier Diarra and Xavier Sneed play with.

But if you are going to give me the choice between seeing a miracle mid-major run to the final weekend of the college basketball season or a middling power conference program that happened to get hot against a lucky draw in the NCAA tournament, I’m taking the mid-major.

Every. Single. Time.

And I guarantee that I’m not the only one.

If we’re not going to get a blueblood, give me the little guy.

Especially when they are being led to glory by a 98-year old nun named Sister Jean.

That is the other part of this: Everything about this Loyola-Chicago team is good. They are what makes college basketball so special. They are why this event is the best sporting event in America. And they are making this run in the tournament in a year where the sport has been marred by scandal after scandal.

There was the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball that resulted in assistant coaches at four programs getting arrested. There was the arrest of the three UCLA players that turned into an international incident covered by TMZ, CNN and FOX News when LaVar Ball stood up for his son and got into a war of words with Donald Trump. There were the accusations that were levied at Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo that he covered up sexual assaults committed by players within his program. There were the reports that leaked before the start of the NCAA tournament that tied players at myriad programs with taking impermissible from a disgraced NCAA agent, and then the controversy surrounding a report that Sean Miller was caught on a wiretap discussing a payment of $100,000 for Deandre Ayton.

Anyone paying attention to college basketball from afar would think that the sport is an absolute cesspool, and whether the fact that it is may or may not be true depending the way that you view amateurism and the ability of college athletes to earn money off of their likeness, the bottom-line is this: College basketball’s public image has never been worse.

Until now.

Now we have a team from the Missouri Valley — a league that Wichita State and Creighton left because it wasn’t good enough — heading to the Final Four. We have a mid-major program whose most famous member is their 98-year old chaplain. We have a program with a head coach that is so far from the glitz and glamour of $3,000 suits that he wears outfits that look like this.

This is why college basketball is the best.

Because things like this can happen.

Tonight, we are all Ramblers.

Report: Gonzaga will decide on conference future in next few weeks

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Now that Gonzaga has been eliminated from the 2018 NCAA tournament, the school has some important decisions to make regarding its basketball future.

A report at the end of February from Mark Zeigler of the San Diego Union-Tribune said that the Bulldogs were among two teams targeted by the Mountain West Conference for future expansion. The Mountain West talks are becoming more of a reality since the Zags were ousted by Florida State in the Sweet 16 on Thursday night.

Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com is reporting that Gonzaga will make a conference decision in the next few weeks as the school is exploring the possibility of leaving the West Coast Conference.

Gonzaga athletic director Mike Roth confirmed to Dodd that the Mountain West and Gonzaga are talking while also noting that rumors of BYU and Gonzaga being a package deal are false. Since the window is quickly closing to try to get new teams into leagues for the 2018-19 season the Gonzaga/Mountain West talks should be figured out within the next few weeks.

“I think we’re into that crunch period for sure if we’re going to try to get it done for the fall of 2018. At the same time, we’re not going to rush the decision because of timing,” Roth said to Dodd.

“In a perfect world, we’re going to be making a decision in the next couple of weeks here. But there is no such thing as perfect worlds in the crazy world of college athletics.”

While Gonzaga has dominated the WCC over the last 20 years, the conference hasn’t provided enough quality competition for the perennial top-25 program. That’s why the jump to the Mountain West would be intriguing. The Bulldogs would get a better yearly strength of schedule to help its tournament profile. The Mountain West would add a stable NCAA tournament contender that would also boost the national profile of the league.

“Our conference doesn’t get the national respect, and the Mountain West has better respect,” Roth said to Dodd. “Whether it’s significant enough for us to make that move, we’re trying to figure [that] out.”

As Dodd noted in his report, this move would have little to do with revenue for Gonzaga. This move would be made strictly for competitive purposes:

Such a move would seemingly have little to do with revenue, at least for Gonzaga. The Mountain West TV contract is worth approximately $18 million (about $1.5 million per school). Gonzaga’s current league, the West Coast Conference, gets a tiny fraction compared to that amount.

Based on an industry standard that basketball is worth only 25 percent of any media rights contract, jumping to the MWC would net Gonzaga only $375,000 per season.

Based on Roth’s quotes about the WCC and the level of national respect, it will be fascinating to see if this move happens in the next few weeks. It makes sense for both Gonzaga and the Mountain West to make this move. But a lot of other things also have to be figured out for such a move to take place. Once the college basketball season is over, this will be one of the biggest storylines to follow heading into next season.

PHOTO: Loyola-Chicago’s Sister Jean has her signature Nikes on

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Not only does Sister Jean have her own bobblehead, she has her own pair of signature Nikes as well: