Sunday, February 20, 2011

Breaking down the AE tournament: Where BU stands as of 2/20

By Craig Meyer/DFP Staff

Even with just a week passing, a lot has changed with regards to jockeying for seeds for the fast-approaching America East Conference tournament. Much that happens with this new FCP feature was discussed in the first edition of it that appeared last week, but as a refresher course here's how the AE tournament is structured.


No. 1 seed vs. winner of play-in game between No. 8 & No. 9 seeds
No. 2 seed vs. No. 7 seed
No. 3 seed vs. No. 6 seed
No. 4 seed vs. No. 5 seed


1/PIG winner vs. 4/5 winner
2/7 winner vs. 3/6 winner


Semifinal winners square off at the home court of the higher seed. To clarify, the first couple rounds of the tournament will be held at Chase Family Arena in West Hartford, Conn.

No. 1 University of Vermont
Conference Record: 13-2
Remaining Conference Games: vs. BU
Seed and first-round opponent if season ended today: No. 1 vs. winner of play-in game between No. 8 Binghamton and No. 9 UMBC

No need for speculation or pondering here -- Vermont, with a 16-point win at home over the University of Maine, has clinched the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, meaning if things play out as the seeds would intend, the road to the NCAA tournament will go through Patrick Gymnasium, a very imposing thought for any team in this league.

No. 2 Boston University
Conference Record: 10-4
Remaining Conference Games: at Binghamton, at Vermont
Seed and first-round opponent if season ended today: No. 2 vs. No. 7 Hartford

While not set in stone like Vermont's seed, BU's position -- at this late juncture -- appears to be pretty safe. If the Terriers win one of their remaining two games, they clinch the tournament's second seed. Additionally, if Maine loses one of its final two games, BU clinches that second seed. So for those of you doing the math at home, the only way that BU will not capture the No. 2 seed would be if it lost its final two games while Maine won both of its final two, which, given the way the Black Bears have played of recent, doesn't seem all too likely.

That said, BU still has two challenging road games remaining at two of the toughest, most daunting venues in the conference, so it's way too early for the Terriers to get complacent with their current position.

As a side note, a team source informed us yesterday that if BU were to host the tournament championship game, it would be located at Agganis Arena. There was some question as to where it would be held, since Case Gymasium is too small under the AE's requirements and many wondered if it could be at Agganis since there will likely be a Hockey East quarterfinal game there that night (causing some to wonder whether the game would be held at Walter Brown Arena). The hockey game, in that situation, would merely be pushed back to accomodate the 12 noon tip-off.

No. 3 University of Maine
Conference Record: 8-6
Remaining Conference Games: at UNH, vs. Albany
Seed and first-round opponent if the season ended today: No. 3 vs. No. 6 Stony Brook

The Black Bears' recent tailspin has been fairly well-documented, having fallen from the perch of the conference standings down to third place after a series of puzzling losses. They have to win their final two games and have BU lose its final two to move up to the No. 2 seed. It looks like the team has a solid grip on the No. 3 seed, but if it loses its final two games, and Albany wins its final two, including a trip up to Maine, the Black Bears could see themselves fall to the No. 4 spot, though it remains an unlikely prospect.

No. 4 University of Albany
Conference Record: 7-7
Remaining Conference Games: vs. UMBC, at Maine
Seed and first-round opponent if the season ended today: No. 4 vs. No. 5 UNH

For Albany, the objective is clear enough -- win out and you put yourself in a position to be in a tie-breaker with Maine, potentially allowing you to move up to the No. 3 seed. While the difference between a No. 2 and a No. 3 seed (like we're seeing with BU and Maine right now), the difference between a No. 3 and a No. 4 seed is far more pronounced, for Albany wouldn't have to face what will likely be Vermont in the semifinals if it can snag the No. 3 seed. Assuming coach Will Brown and the Great Danes can get a win against cellar-dwelling UMBC, the game against Maine becomes an all-important conclusion to what has been a pleasantly surprising season.

No. 5 University of New Hampshire
Conference Record: 6-8
Remaining Conference Games: vs. Maine, at Hartford
Seed and first-round opponent if the season ended today: No. 5 vs. No. 4 Albany

No. 6 Stony Brook University
Conference Record: 6-8
Remaining Conference Games: at Hartford, vs. Binghamton
Seed and first-round opponent if the season ended today: No. 6 vs. No. 3 Maine

No. 7 University of Hartford
Conference Record: 6-8
Remaining Conference Games: vs. Stony Brook, vs. UNH
Seed and first-round opponent if the season ended today: No. 7 vs. No. 2 BU

Things start to get a little more confusing and convoluted with this cluster of three teams all tied with 6-8 conference records. Each sit in something of enviable positions right now. For UNH, it is the clubhouse leader right now to land the No. 5 seed. For Stony Brook, it has already beaten UNH twice this season and have a victory over Hartford in the teams' only matchup this season. For Hartford, it gets to play both of the teams that are ahead of them in the standings, and they get to do so at home.

There is some stability in this group in that it is unlikely either will be able to get as high as the No. 4 seed, but it is even more unlikely that they would slide into the play-in game. Things should get much clearer with this group after the mid-week games. Very important for BU fans to keep an eye on how things play out amongst these three teams -- who BU went a combined 5-1 against this year -- because the team that finishes in seventh will likely be BU's first round opponent.

No. 8 Binghamton University
Conference Record: 4-10
Remaining Conference Games: vs. BU, at Stony Brook
Seed and first-round opponent if the season ended today: No. 8 vs. No. 9 UMBC for play-in game

Things become a lot clearer with these bottom two teams. Regardless if Binghamton finishes with the bottom seed, it will be literally no different than if they hold on to the No. 8 seed. There remains a very distant chance that it could get a better seed, but it would have to win out in two very tough games and have a lot bounce its way.

No. 9 University of Maryland-Baltimore County
Conference Record: 4-11
Remaining Conference Games: at Albany
Seed and first-round opponent if the season ended today: No. 9 vs. No. 8 Binghamton in play-in game

Not too much to elaborate on here -- with a loss yesterday to Hartford, UMBC has clinched a spot in the play-in game, so even if its climbs to the No. 8 seed, it's nothing more than a small point of pride, with the same quarterfinal opponent awaiting them in the No. 1 Vermont Catamounts.


As far as things relate to BU, barring anything too shocking, it is locked in at the No. 2 seed and will play one of the following three teams in the conference tournament quarterfinals -- UNH, Stony Brook or Hartford.

BU has gone 4-2 against thesese teams, with the losses being a 59-55 defeat on the road against Hartford and a humiliating 60-48 defeat on the road against UNH. For that latter reason alone, given the history, UNH may not be an ideal opponent for the surging Terriers.

Hartford wouldn't exactly be an easy game for this BU team either. Hartford, in addition to having two established stars in guard Joe Zeglinski and forward Morgan Sabia, will be playing the tournament's first two rounds at home and it has already beaten the Terriers there once this year.

Stony Brook, on the other hand, has struggled for much of the season with the graduation of Muhammad El-Amin and the knee injury that has sidelined forward Tommy Brenton for the entire season. Additionally, BU has beaten the Seawolves twice this season.

Again, a lot with regards to the quarterfinal opponent and BU's seed will be clearer come mid-week, so stay tuned for more updates and analysis.

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