The final regular-season games have arrived. Three of the four home spots for the America East playoff have been secured. The last one to be decided will happen on Tuesday night in Durham, N.H. as New Hampshire plays host to UMass Lowell. A win by the Wildcats gives them the fourth and final home slot. However, a loss by UNH and it’s possible that either UAlbany or Maryland-Baltimore County can get the last home spot. The only quarterfinal match up that is set for Saturday is Maine (4-12) as the #8 seed heading to Burlington, VT. to play the regular season champs and #1 seed Vermont (13-2). Here is some other news from the league.
Vermont has now won twenty games for the 12th straight year, a model of consistency. They also picked up their fourth-straight America East regular-season championship and 10th all-time last Wednesday night. They become the first team in the league to win four straight outright regular-season titles. They are the only school to have earned a home game in the playoffs in each of the last six seasons. They are ranked at #15 in the latest Mid-Major Top 25 poll and are the highest-ranked team in the league in the NCAA NET ranking at #87. Vermont is one of the best defensive teams in the league and in the country. They rank fifth in the nation in scoring defense allowing 58.6 points per ballgame and third in field goal percentage at (.374). In America East play, they have held their league rivals to 60 points or fewer eight times. That’s the most in the conference. UVA has now won 62 of their last 67 conference games dating back to the end of the 2015-16 season. Vermont is a perfect 8-0 in conference road games this year.
If there is a team heading in the wrong direction at the wrong time, it would be the Albany Great Danes (7-8). Heading into their final game of the season on the road at Vermont, the Great Danes have lost four in a row. It’s their longest losing streak of the season. When the streak began, the Great Danes were in the third spot in the league standings. But losses to UMBC, UNH, UMass Lowell and Stony Brook have all but assured them of a first-round game on the road for the playoff. Senior guard, Ahmad Clark, has been the one bright spot during this tough stretch averaging 16 points a game with five rebounds.
Maryland-Baltimore County (7-8) has also received some votes in the Mid-Major Top 25 Poll. However, losing back-to-back games will change that in a hurry. A bad loss on the road this past Saturday at Maine is a bit of a puzzler. The 74-48 loss at the hands of the Black Bears is the reason why Maine is in and Binghamton is out. The 48 points scored is the lowest output in league play this season. Strange for a team that is second in the league in field goal percentage at 44% and is second in turnover margin at 0.45 a game. (378 for team, 391 for opp.).
Congrats go out to Graduate Senior Josh Gantz of the River Hawks. On Saturday, in the Senior Day loss at home to Vermont, Gantz scored the 1,000th point of his career. It came in the first half of their loss to Vermont. He becomes the third member of the current roster to surpass one thousand points for their career. The other two are Christian Lutete and Obadiah Noel. Josh is fourth in free throw shooting at 88% (29-of-33).
For the second time in three weeks, Malik Ellison of Hartford is the America East Player of the Week. In their victory over Stony Brook last week, Ellison had 29 points, eight rebounds, and three assists. Twenty of the twenty-nine points came in the second half. He shot 55% from the field in that game (11-of-20). You will not find his name on the league stats sheet, but make no mistake Ellison is having a late-season impact on the Hawks.
The Rookie of the Week is Vermont’s, Aaron Deloney. In their blowout win on the road at Lowell on Saturday, Aaron had a solid game off the bench. He scored 17 points in 22 minutes knocking down 7-of-9 shots, 2-of-3 from 3-point land. He was also 1-of-2 from the foul line, had two assists and two rebounds. The big thing was no turnovers in the game. A key for any player coming off the bench if you want to stay on the court. Deloney’s point total contributed to an overall bench total of 46 on Saturday vs the River Hawks.
That’s all for the America East regular-season notes. Next week, we will look ahead to the semi-final matchups.