Tuesday , Feb , 28 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

2006 America East Conference Tournament Preview

The Sports Network

By Ralph Lauro, College Basketball Staff Writer

FACTS & STATS: Site: Binghamton University Events Center (5,511) — Vestal,
New York. Championship Game at highest remaining seed. Dates: March 3-11.
Television: America East TV (Semifinals), ESPN2 (Championship Game). Annual
27th. Defending Champion: Vermont.

OUTLOOK: With a 13-3 finish to the regular season, the Albany Great Danes won
their first-ever American East Conference regular season title. Along with the
regular season crown comes the top seed in the AEC Tournament and a first-
round bye. The Binghamton Bearcats, who have the luxury of hosting the first
few rounds of the event, finished one game back of Albany at 12-4, and
therefore landed the second seed. The Boston University Terriers and Hartford
Hawks each posted a 9-7 record in AEC play and were awarded the third and
fourth seeds, respectively. The New Hampshire Wildcats posted a 78-71 overtime
win over Albany in their regular season finale, helping them finish an even
8-8 overall and landing them the fifth seed. Three-time defending champion,
the Vermont Catamounts, fell off a bit this season and wound up under. 500 in
league play at 7-9. The Catamounts tied for sixth place with the Maine Black
Bears, but were given the higher seed because of the tie-breaker. The UMBC
Retrievers claimed the eighth seed at 5-11 in league play and will take on
ninth-seeded Stony Brook (2-14) in the tournament’s lone opening round game.
The winner of this event will receive an automatic invite to the NCAA

The AEC Tournament kicks off on Friday with just one game, as eighth-seeded
UMBC battles ninth-seeded Stony Brook. Neither team fared well down the
stretch, as UMBC enters the tournament riding a four-game losing streak, while
Stony Brook has dropped its last eight games.

Albany earned its first-ever top seed in the AEC Tournament by winning 13 of
its 16 league games. The Great Danes, who are 0-4 all-time in this event, own
the conference’s top offense, averaging 68.2 ppg during the regular season.
Albany will take on the winner of the Stony Brook/UMBC matchup in the
quarterfinal round on Saturday.

The quarterfinals begin with second-seeded Binghamton taking on seventh-seeded
Maine. Binghamton has the luxury of playing this game at home, where it has
posted a 6-2 mark against league foes this season. The Bearcats also swept the
regular season series from Maine, winning both games by double figures. The
Black Bears, however, enter the postseason with a little momentum, as they
have won three straight games.

In one of the more intriguing quarterfinal bouts, third-seeded Boston
University squares off against sixth-seeded Vermont. These are two of the most
successful teams left in the AEC, as they have combined for eight league
titles. Vermont has won the past three tournament championships, including a
56-55 triumph over BU in the 2003 finals. The Terriers closed out the 2005-06
regular season with three straight wins, while the Catamounts dropped their
last four outings.

The final matchup of the quarterfinal round pits fourth-seeded Hartford
against fifth-seeded New Hampshire. The two teams split a pair of games during
the regular season, each winning on its home court. Hartford boasts the top
scorer (20.5 ppg) and rebounder (13.1 ppg) in the league in Kenny Adeleke, who
also shot a conference best 58.5 percent from the floor during the regular

With regard to the AEC Tournament history, Boston University and Vermont are
the only two schools left that have won postseason titles. The Terriers have
won this event five times and own a 36-21 all-time record. Vermont has won the
last three titles, although it is just 16-20 lifetime in the event. Maine has
won the most games in the tournament (17) without a title, but has also lost
more contests (25) than any other current member. Hartford is 11-18 all-time
in the event, while New Hampshire boasts one of the worst marks at 6-23. Stony
Brook has won three of its seven games in the tourney, while Binghamton and
UMBC are just 1-2 all-time.

Albany and Binghamton appeared to be the cream of the crop in the AEC during
the regular season, but will be pushed by Boston University and Hartford in
the tournament. Still, the Great Danes were the top team this year and should
be able to keep things going en route to their first AEC Tournament title.

Sports Network Predicted Champion: Albany