The first month of the college basketball season is in the books. Non- conference hoops are heating up. That means teams are trying to establish themselves early before league battles begin.
One team that is continuing to do that is the pre-season front-runner, the Vermont Catamounts. Off to a 7-1 start in the young year, it does appear that this team is built to do some major damage barring any unforeseen mishaps.
As of December 1, Vermont’s RPI stands at 45. They have moved up one position in the collegeinsider.com poll and sit at number two. Last week they received one vote in the AP Top 25 poll and have started what some are saying is a difficult five-game road trip at 2 -0. Having already beaten both Yale and Richmond. Senior Guard Trae Bell-Haines is leading the conference in assists at 5.3 a game, while the team ranks first in scoring defense (65.8 a game) and is second in rebounding defense at an average of 30.7 per contest.
Junior Joe Cremo, of Albany, surpassed the 1,000 point mark last Saturday at Holy Cross when he dropped 35 points at the Hart Center. He becomes the 10th player in school history to reach that milestone. For his efforts last week, he was named Co-Player of the Week in the league. He is the best free throw shooter in the America East at the moment. Through seven games, he is shooting .926 pct (25 for 27) at the charity stripe. Albany is riding a four-game win streak heading into the weekend and part of the reason for their success may lie in the fact that they are the best defensive rebounding team in the league. Through seven games, they are averaging 27.4 a game. They are also shooting the rock at a very good rate at .508 (216 for 425) through those seven games.
Cremo shared Co-Player honors with Mr. Everything at UMass Lowell Jahad Thomas, who for the second straight week wins this award. Thomas is averaging 19.8 points per game, 12.3 rebounds, and 4.5 assists as well. Where would the River Hawks be without him is a fair question to ask.
The Rookie of the Week in America East is Stony Brook’s Elijah Olaniyi, who despite not being in the top 10 in any individual categories is contributing for a team that has struggled out of the gate. A good reason for that tough start might be found in the teams they have played in the first month. Programs like Maryland, UConn, and Michigan State can put you in a hole real quick.
Senior James Lyle’s of UMBC is off to a good start. He leads the conference in scoring at 19.7 a game and is also first in steals at 2.5 a contest. He is fast becoming a player that Maryland-Baltimore County needs to have on the floor as much as possible. He is second in minutes played at 36 a game. Wear and tear on the body could be a concern before league play evens begins.
The UNH Wildcats have gotten off to a bit of a rough start themselves. However, their big men are doing what they can to help turn this around for the team. Senior big man Tanner Leissner is at the top of the leaderboard in offensive rebounding at 3.0. game through the team’s first six. He is third overall at 7.8 boards a game. His fellow big, Senior Iba Camera, leads in rebounding at 9.8 and is number one in offensive board work at 8.2. The Wildcats are also first in field goal pct. defense at .402, and in 3-point FG Pct. defense at .297. Their defense has been good, but their offense has not. They rank near the bottom in most of those rankings.