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America East announces new format for conference tournament

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One of the bigger upsets during conference tournament play last season was Albany’s win over regular season champion Stony Brook in the semifinals of the America East tournament. That contest drew added attention due to the fact that the Great Danes, who went on to represent the league in the NCAA tournament, hosted the first two rounds of the tournament. Even though the setup was known going into the season, the fact that a lower-seeded team could host a tournament game against a higher-seeded team didn’t sit well with many.

On Thursday the conference announced a change in its tournament format for the 2015 and 2016 editions, going to a model in which the higher-seeded team will host each game of the America East tournament. The tournament will also be re-seeded after the quarterfinal round, meaning that the highest remaining seed would host the lowest remaining seed in one semifinal game and the other two semifinalists playing in the other.

The last time the conference used this particular format was back in 1995.

“This is great for our league,” Stony Brook head coach Steve Pikiell said in the release. “We have great home court venues and enthusiastic fan bases across the conference. To be rewarded for a great regular season and have an opportunity to play in front our fans and bring a piece of March Madness to multiple campuses is really exciting.”

While most would prefer a neutral site for conference tournaments, the fact of the matter is that not all leagues can do thanks to issues such as fan attendance. Playing a tournament on campus, in theory, addresses that issue but other problems can arise like the one Stony Brook faced last season. The new format does add weight to the regular season, rewarding the teams that perform well throughout the season with home-court advantage.

“Moving to this high-seed format and re-seeding the bracket enables us to protect our best teams, the teams that have shown their mettle over the course of a 16-game schedule,” Vermont director of athletics Robert Corran noted in the release. “This will put the conference in a better position to send its best representative forward to the NCAA tournament and obtain its best possible seed. We felt that was very important for the health of men’s basketball in our conference both in the short and long term.”

Last season Albany, seeded fourth, became the first team since the 1993 Delaware (now in the CAA) squad to win the league’s automatic bid despite not being one of the top two seeds in the event. Was this enough to change the way in which the conference determines its NCAA tournament representative? Apparently so.

Illinois State will spend Thanksgiving weekend in San Francisco

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Originally scheduled to play in a tournament that included a pair of games in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico over Thanksgiving weekend, the Illinois State basketball program needed to adjust their plans due to the tournament organizer’s inability to fill out the event. On Wednesday the school announced that they’d found a new event to play in that weekend, as the Redbirds will be one of four teams playing in the USF Battle in the Bay.

The games, which will be hosted by the University of San Francisco, will be played on November 27, 29 and 30. The event will be of the round-robin variety, with the host Dons, Illinois State and Vermont currently committed to play. The fourth team will be announced at a later date.

“After a long and frustrating process, I am thrilled about our games in San Francisco,” Illinois State head coach Muller said in the release. “The opportunity to play three quality teams in four days will be very valuable for my team.

“Trips and experiences like these can help bring teams together, and we certainly hope the Battle in the Bay can do that for us.”

Illinois State finished the 2012-13 season with an 18-15 record, going 8-10 in Missouri Valley Conference play in Muller’s debut campaign at the helm. The Redbirds lost their top four scorers from last season, including guard Tyler Brown (18.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg) and power forward Jackie Carmichael (17.4, 9.3).

Of the three teams committed to the event Vermont looks to be the one most capable of going on to win their conference title (America East) in 2013-14. Six of John Becker’s top seven scorers from last season return, including forwards Clancy Rugg (11.4 ppg, 5.7 rpg) and Luke Apfeld (10.7, 4.4). And while he isn’t much of a scorer, forward Brian Voelkel led UVM in both rebounding (8.6 rpg) and assists (4.9 apg) in 2012-13.

2013 America East Conference Tournament Preview

Tommy Brenton
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Stony Brook has separated itself from the rest of the pack in the America East, but can they power through the conference tournament and grab the automatic bid? Check out the preview below:

(CLICK HERE to browse through all of our conference tournament previews)

The Bracket

Where: Quarterfinals and Semifinals at SEFCU Arena, University at Albany | Championship game at higher seed

When: March 8-10, 16

Final: March 16, 11:30 a.m. (ESPN2)

Favorite: Stony Brook
Led by freshman Jameel Warney and do-it-all forward Tommy Brenton, the Seawolves are looking to finally break through and earn a spot in the NCAA tournament. Stony Brook has won the last three regular season titles, but has lost in the America East tournament and missed out on the NCAAs.

And if they lose? Vermont

Boston University would have been another team to keep an eye on, but the Terriers are barred from the tournament because they will be moving to the Patriot League for the start of the 2013-14 season. For that reason, Vermont and its defense effort are likely to win if Stony Brook falls.

Sleeper: Albany

Playing at home in the quartfinal and semifinal rounds could prove to be helpful for the Great Danes. They will be leaning heavily in the senior backcourt combo of Mike Black and Jacob Iati, who combine to average over 27 points per game.

Studs:

– Tommy Brenton, Stony Brook: Brenton fills up the box score for the Seawolves with 8.9 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 4.9 assists per game. He is one of the versatile players at the mid-major level.

– Mark Nwakamma, Hartford: The native Texan is the conference’s leading scorer during conference play and the player at the center of Hartford’s offensive attack. He is averaging 14.7 points and 5.5 rebounds per game

– Justin Edwards, Maine: The sophomore is averaging 16.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game. He is a volume shooter, but can score in bunches when he gets hot.

CBT Prediction: Warney and Brenton will be too much and the Seawolves will march through the tournament to earn an NCAA berth.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Guard Four McGlynn reportedly requests release from Vermont, seeks transfer

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Vermont freshman standout Four McGlynn has requested a release from the school and will likely seek to transfer to another institution, according to the Twitter account of the York Ballers, McGlynn’s former AAU team.

McGlynn led the Catamounts to an America East title this past season, averaging 12.6 points per game.

He made his way into the national spotlight in the postseason, when he had 14 points in a nationally televised Vermont win over Stony Brook to win the conference title, and another 18 points in a First Four win over Lamar in the NCAA tournament.

The Catamounts finished with an overall record of 24-12, including 13-3 in the America East. Their season ended with a 77-58 loss to North Carolina in the Round of 64.

McGlynn is a native of Dallastown, Penn., which is about two and a half hours southeast of Penn State.

He is solid shooter who can score the basketball, and may perhaps be looking  to play at a higher level.

He was a two-star prospect, coming out of high school.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Vermont beats Lamar in First Four, moves on to play UNC

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Considering the two thrilling comebacks that ended Tuesday night’s First Four games in Dayton, Ohio, I was hesitant to write this lede too soon.

Luckily, it worked out.

Vermont led for the final 32 minutes of regulation and never allowed Lamar to get back within eight points in the second half, moving on to the Round of 64 with a 71-59 victory on Wednesday night.

Four McGlynn, the only player in Division I to lead his team in scoring without starting a game this season, had 18 points on 5-for-9 shooting to lead the Catamounts.

“It’s unbelievable. Our kids played so well tonight,” Vermont coach John Becker said after the game. “We’ve been really playing well of late and executing on both ends of the floor.”

This contest stands in stark contrast to the First Four game in Dayton on Tuesday night between Western Kentucky and Mississippi Valley State.

Whereas the Hilltoppers moved onto the Round of 64 despite turning the ball over 27 times, Vermont was efficient with the basketball, committing just five turnovers and shooting an even 50% from the floor.

Vermont now moves on to play North Carolina, the No. 1 seed in the Midwest region.

The Catamounts sneaked into the NCAA tournament after beating conference favorite Stony Brook on the Seawolves’ home floor in the America East championship game on Sunday.

Wednesday night’s win is the second NCAA tournament victory in the history of the Vermont program and the first since 2005, when the Catamounts upset Syracuse in the first round of the tournament.

Tip against No. 1 North Carolina is set for 4:10 p.m. ET on Friday.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Vermont wins America East, denies Stony Brook bid

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It’s not the biggest game in the state of New York this weekend, considering the Big East title game in Manhattan coming up on Saturday night, but the end result is the same: someone is going to the NCAA tournament.

Vermont held off a strong push from Stony Brook over the last nine minutes of regulation and have clinched their spot in the Big Dance, winning the America East title, 51-43.

Freshman Four McGlynn was the only Catamount in double figures, scoring 14 points, including 4-of-7 shooting from three.

For Vermont, this is their fifth trip to the NCAA tournament in the last decade and the first for first-year head coach John Becker.

On Saturday afternoon, it was all about defense for Vermont.

They held Stony Brook to just 29% shooting from the floor, most importantly a four-minute stretch down to the one-minute mark in the second half where the Catamounts put the brakes on a big Stony Brook run by holding them scoreless and preserving the win.

Stony Brook was previously 13-0 at home, and their NCAA hopes end with a 22-9 overall record, 14-2 in the America East. The Sea Wolves were denied their first-ever NCAA tournament berth.

Check out our latest NCAA tournament projections, which would likely place Vermont in the First Four games.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_