America East tournament preview

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Dates: March 3, 5-6, 12
Site: Hartford’s Chase Arena; championship at highest remaining seed 
Championship game: March 12, 12:02 p.m. on ESPN

Here’s another conference tournament that looks to be a two-team race, so let’s cover the longshots first.

Maine (15-14, 9-7) was once atop the conferencd, but lost seven of its last eight. Albany (16-15, 9-7) and Stony Brook (13-16, 8-8) both turned in average seasons, while host Hartford (10-19, 7-9) could pull off the upset just by playing at home.

But this is about. Boston (18-13, 12-4) and Vermont (22-7, 13-3), the two tops seeds. Boston features a game-changer in senior John Holland, the team’s leading scorer the last three seasons. The Terriers closed the season with eight straight wins and possess perhaps the best offense.

Vermont (22-7, 13-3) is trying to repeat as tournament champs, a tribute to the job coach Mike Lonergan’s done in replacing local legend Tom Brennan. The Catamounts enter as the team to beat, though they did drop their last two games of the season, including a home loss to Boston.  The biggest concern will be if Evan Fjeld and Brendan Bald still haven’t recovered from recent injuries.

Player to watch: Evan Fjeld, Vermont
Holland will probably be the league’s player of the year. Heck, Catamounts freshman Brian Voelkel may even be the team’s best player. But I like watching Fjeld, he of the killer ‘stache and old-school post game. Maybe it’s because the 6-8 senior reminds me of Taylor Coppenrath, one half of the duo that stunned Syracuse in the 2005 tournament.

Champion: Vermont
The Catamounts played with UConn early in the season, a sign of the team’s depth and size. And while Boston’s won eight straight, Vermont ripped off 10 straight wins from Jan. 20 to Feb. 16. This isn’t a team overwhelms you with defense or knocks down a ton of threes. It’s just a solid group mixed with experience and talented underclassmen. That should be enough.

America East tourney bracket

Tournament standings, stats, more

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