Monday, March 15, 2010

Buffalo news

Some recruiting sites list Mike Buffalo, a 6-3 guard at South Kent School in Connecticut, as receiving some level of interest from UMaine. Buffalo is a New York native.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Was there ever any doubt?

It's a shame that Marqus Blakely won't have his name listed next to Reggie Lewis and Taylor Coppenrath as the only three-time winners of the Player of the Year in America East.

Any doubt about who has been the best and most dominant player in the league this year and for the past three were erased emphatically last weekend in Hartford and then today in Vermont's championship game victory.

One simple question for America East coaches: If you could draft any player in the league to build a team around, who would you pick? There's not one who wouldn't take Blakely, I guarantee it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Award to Woodward, a website devoted to mid-major basketball, has named Black Bears coach Ted Woodward its America East Coach of the Year.

The Black Bears finished third in America East after being picked to finish eighth in the preseason coaches poll. UMaine finished the season at 19-11 overall and 11-5 in the league.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Point guard picks Canisius

The Buffalo News reported that Jahenns Manigat has given a verbal commitment to attend Canisius College. The BN said the 6-2 guard visited the Buffalo campus last week. Manigat was also considering UMaine.

He played for the same Regional Elite Development Academy team in Canada as Black Bears Mike Allison and Murphy Burnatowski.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

UNH 68, Black Bears 57

A season of great strides for the UMaine basketball program came to a crashing halt Saturday night in the quarterfinals of the America East Tournament.

No. 6-seeded New Hampshire defended better, rebounded better, executed its offense better and pulled away in the second half for the upset of the No. 3 Black Bears.

UNH put the clamps on Gerald McLemore (7 points) throughout the game and UMaine struggled to find a rhythm on offense. At the other end, UNH's Brian Benson had career highs in points (13) and rebounds (9). He hit two 3-pointers in the game, doubling his season total. The Wildcats hit the glass hard, pulling down 14 offensive rebounds, and led by as much as 18 points in the second half.
Those are the kinds of things that win tournament games.

UMaine's tournament losing streak is now six, including five straight one-and-dones. The last UMaine win and semifinal appearance was in 2005 when the Black Bears beat Boston U.

Sean McNally had a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Terrance Mitchell added 11 points. Junior Bernal, in his final appearance in a Maine uniform, had six points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals.

The Black Bears who beat UNH by 14 and 19 during the regular season, finish 19-11.

Black Bears (19-10) vs. UNH (12-16)

Saturday, 8:15 p.m.
Chase Arena, Hartford, Conn.

The intensity will be ratched up a few notches today as the men's tournament gets underway. Unlike the women's field, which for all intents appears to be a two-team party (Hartford and Vermont), the men's field carries a little different aura.

Stony Brook opens with eighth-seeded Albany and needed a last-second Muhammad El-Amin shot to win at Albany. BU has to play Hartford on the Hawks' home floor. Jake O'Brien hit a three in the final seconds to beat Hartford in the teams' last meeting.

Vermont should belt UMBC. UMaine and New Hampshire should be a good one. New Hampshire is a solid team that feeds off of guard Alvin Abreu.

Black Bears left the hotel this morning about 9:45 a.m. for a brief shootaround at Chase Arena. They'll come back to the hotel and make final preparations for tonight's "Late Show."

Meanwhile, we are getting ready. This is the best time of the year and nothing compares to a mid-major conference tourney where everyone is fighting for that one and only NCAA bid.

UMaine is preparing for New Hampshire, a club it has defeated twice this season. The Wildcats will be a dangerous team and unless the Black Bears come out and lock them down on defense, UNH has enough scoring ability to hang with UMaine.

New Hampshire is coming off a win over regular season champ Stony Brook. Black Bears stumbled at BU, having secured the No. 3 seed.

One of the keys for UMaine is keeping Alvin Abreu from getting into a rhythm. Dane DiLiegro can be a physical force for UNH up front, but UMaine has tempered his energy and production in both regular-season contests. This must continue.

The Black Bears are better in the frontcourt and have a deeper roster overall. A wildcard for UNH could be freshman Ferq Myrick. He's a real talent who exploded for 21 points in 19 minutes against Stony Brook.

Black Bears must stay solid defensively and churn out productive offensive sets.

The last time UMaine and UNH met in the tournament was in 2002. UMaine was seeded No. 5 and UNH was No. 4. The Black Bears prevailed in a memorable 54-48 slugfest, then went on to upset No. 1 Vermont in a equally memorable overtime game.

The Vermont game provided a bit of foreshadowing. As Vermont fans bemoaned the fact T.J. Sorrentine was chucking up bombs from all over the place, the Black Bears won. A couple years later, Sorrentine was the poster boy for the NCAA tournament as his 30-footer to launch Vermont past Syracuse became a fixture on tournament highlight reels.

True blue Black Bears fans

Sue, Al, Steve, Doria and Dan: Another America East basketball tournament.

Table for two

If Thursday night and Friday's women's quarterfinals sessions are any indication, tonight's UMaine/New Hampshire matchup should have an intimate setting.

UMaine and New Hampshire, it appears, are the only schools in the entire men's and women's field that didn't send a band and/or cheerleaders and/or dance team. Many of the schools have all three in attendance.

In addition, the Black Bears and New Hampshire play the final game of the evening, long after many of the neutral fans will have left for the day.

Very impressed with Hartford's effort and atmosphere with many different vendors and activities for fans young and old.

Friday, March 5, 2010

G-Mac is first-team All-America East

Gerald McLemore earned first team All-America East honors. The postseason awards were handed out at a Friday afternoon banquet at the University of Hartford, where the men's and women's conference tournament is taking place. McLemore is the first Black Bear to make first team all-conference since Rickey White in 2003.

Joining McLemore on the first team are Muhammad El-Amin (Stony Brook), Marqus Blakely (Vermont), John Holland (Boston U.) and Greer Wright (Binghamton).

In a shocker, El-Amin was selected by league coaches as America East Player of the Year. Vermont's Marqus Blakely had won two straight and was a prohibitive favorite to win a third.

UMaine's Sean McNally was named third team all-conference. Junior Bernal was picked for the all-defense team and Murphy Burnatowski made the all-rookie team.

Binghamton's Dylan Talley beat out Burnatowski for the Rookie of the Year Award.

Stony Brook's Steve Pikiell was named Coach of the Year after leading Stony Brook to its first regular season title.

Second Team All-Conference
Corey Lowe (Boston U.), Alvin Abreu (New Hampshire), Tommy Brenton (Stony Brook), Bryan Dougher (Stony Brook) and Joe Zeglinski (Hartford).

Third Team All-Conference
Sean McNally (Maine), Jake O'Brien (Boston U.), Chauncey Gilliam (UMBC), Evan Fjeld (Vermont) and Maurice Joseph (Vermont).

There's some inconsistency here. League coaches awarded El-Amin for being the most outstanding player on the team that won the regular season championship. That's fine, but Blakely impacts every game in every way possible. On top of that, he's at the top of the league charts in just about every statistical category imaginable. El-Amin is a scorer and that's about it. Don't get me wrong, he's a fine player and I have no problem if the emphasis is going to be on players who lead their teams to wins.

But that's where the inconsistency comes in. How then is Dylan Talley the Rookie of the Year? Sure, he led all rookies in scoring and he rebounds well as a guard. But Murphy Burnatowski has been productive on both ends of the floor and has helped his team to a third-place finish and 19 wins. Talley winning the award is not a surprise, but what worked for El-Amin evidently didn't come into play for Burnatowski.

You could also make a strong case for Stony Brook's Tommy Brenton or Bryan Dougher as first-team worthy. Brenton's the best rebounder in the league and is a ball-hawk on defense. Dougher is one of the top 3-point shooters in the league and, as a guard, only turned the ball over 19 times, yes, that's 19 times during the whole America East schedule. And they led Stony Brook to its first regular season title.

But when it came time for first-team honors, there's Binghamton's Greer Wright, who had a fine statistics, but his team was 13-18 and 8-8 for fifth-place in the league. It worked for El-Amin but not Brenton and Dougher. Seems like an awful lot of love for an sub-.500 team.

And then, on the third team is Maryland-Baltimore County's Chauncey Gilliam, the leading scorer on a 4-25 team.

You mean to tell me an all-around performer like Maine's Junior Bernal wouldn't have been a better fit there?

M & M hoopsters

We met the parents of Vermont women's basketball star May Kotsopoulos this morning and had a nice conversation. The Catamounts men and women are staying in the same hotel as the Black Bears and UMaine fans.

Kotsopoulos is from the same hometown, Waterloo, Ontario, as UMaine men's freshman forward Murphy Burnatowski. They went to different high schools, but the Kotsopoulos's are familiar with Burnatowski and were interested in hearing how he is doing.

As the Vermont women's team came down to the lobby and got ready to board their bus over to the arena, Kotsopoulos's parents called their daughter over and introduced her to us.

The Black Bears men are expected to arrive in Hartford this afternoon after a morning practice in Orono. The America East postseason awards announcements will be made this afternoon.

First tourney upset

Kennesaw State, a team the Black Bears defeated early this season, pulled the initial upset of the conference tournament season Wednesday, toppling top-seed Lipscomb in the Atlantic Sun quarterfinals.

Eighth-seeded Kennesaw hit 11 three-pointers in the game. While the seeding says it was an upset, Kennesaw had downed Lipscomb during the regular season. In that game, Kennesaw hit an astounding 19 shots from beyond the arc.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

UMaine women ousted

Attended the America East women's play-in game tonight. A sluggish start at the beginning of both halves doomed the Black Bears in a 65-50 loss to UNH.

The women's quarterfinals take place Friday and the men's quarters are Saturday. Getting ready for three straight days of non-stop hoops.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

America East tournament picks


1. Stony Brook vs. 8. Albany
Last year, as the No. 7 seed, Albany took down No. 2 Vermont in overtime in a memorable performance. Can the Great Danes turn the trick again? Stony Brook is in unfamiliar waters, the top seed, the hunted. Seawolves will be fine; they've got too many bullets for Albany to withstand over 40 minutes.
Stony Brook 74, Albany 61

No. 4 Boston U. vs. No. 5 Hartford
Terriers get the host Hawks because of Bingamton's decision to skip the party. This could be dicey for BU. The Terriers have a recent history of flameouts in the tourney and Hartford has a puncher's chance with "Mighty" Joe Zeglinski, Morgan Sabia and a decent supporting cast. If Joel Barkers has a big game, it could spell trouble for BU. If BU goes cold from deep, lookout below. I don't think BU's John Holland lets it happen again.
Boston U. 67, Hartford 62

No. 2 Vermont vs. No. 7 Maryland-Baltimore County
'Cats cruise here. There's just no way for UMBC. The Retrievers have some nice young players -- Chris De La Rosa, Chauncey Gilliam and Adrian Satchell -- but Vermont has America East's supreme commander in Marqus Blakely. His frontcourt mate, Evan Fjeld, is underrated.
Vermont 79, UMBC 55

No. 3 Maine vs. No. 6 New Hampshire
Black Bears defeated Wildcats by 14 and 19 during the regular season. Don't count on that happening here. After a lapse in the finale at BU, Black Bears need to sharpen their defensive teeth and put the clamps on UNH. Wildcats have speedy Alvin Abreu, banger Dane DiLiegro and talented freshman Ferq Myrick. Like Stony Brook, UMaine finds itself in unfamiliar position of being a favorite to advance. They will, barely.
Maine 67, UNH 66 (overtime)


Stony Brook vs. Boston U.
Can't wait to see this one. Best firepower in the league will be featured. Seawolves wield Muhammad El-Amin, Chris Martin, Bryan Dougher and irrepressible Tommy Brenton. Terriers counter with Holland, Corey Lowe, Jake O'Brien and Carlos Strong. I've got a feeling, it's going to be a good, good night ... for the Terriers.
Boston U. 74, Stony Brook 69

Vermont vs. Maine
Black Bears lost a close one at home to the Catamounts way back in early January. In Burlington, Bears dozed early, fought back, then faded. This game's in Hartford and will be tight all the way. Black Bears have something to prove to their northern neighbors. Blakely has had some huge games against Black Bears. Can UMaine keep Blakely and Fjeld from dominating the paint? UMaine will host its first America East championship game.
Maine 64, Vermont 63 (overtime)

All-America East Awards


Marqus Blakely - Vermont
6-5 - Senior - Forward
The most dominant player in the league and is a near lock to become the third player in America East history to win three straight player of the year awards. Second in points per game (17.4), second in rebounding (9.1), fourth in assists (3.7), first in steals (2.6), first in blocks (1.9) and second in field goal percentage (.541).
John Holland - Boston U.
6-5 - Junior - Forward
If not for Blakely, Holland would most likely have a couple POYs. He could do it this year. He led the league in scoring at 19.9. He shoots 47 percent from the floor and also pulls down 6.2 rebounds. He's also second in the league in steals (1.6).
Tommy Brenton - Stony Brook
6-5 - Sophomore - Forward
He's relentless on the boards, leading the league at 9.6 a game. He's second in steals and scores 7.7. He always seems to be around the ball.
Gerald McLemore - Maine
6-3 - Sophomore - Guard
He leads the country with 100 three-pointers, shoots 40 percent on the bombs despite being the top assignment for the opposition. He averages 14.9 a game and has led the Black Bears resurgence. He's also become and underrated defender.
Muhammad El-Amin - Stony Brook
6-5 - Senior - Guard
Checks in at 16.8 points a game. He's an explosive scorer who tore it up down the stretch as Stony Brook surged to its first regular season crown.

Steve's selections:
Bryan Dougher, Stony Brook


Joe Zeglinski, Jr., guard, Hartford ... 16.7 points
Bryan Dougher, So., guard, Stony Brook ... 13.6 points, 42% 3s
Evan Fjeld, Jr., forward, Vermont ... 10.6 points, 5.9 rebounds, 55% FGs
Sean McNally, Jr., center, Maine ... 10.1 points, 7.3 rebounds
Jake O'Brien, So., forward, Boston U. ... 13.0 points, 6.6 rebounds

Steve's Selections
Alvin Abreu, New Hampshire
Greer Wright, Binghamton


Greer Wright, Jr., guard, Binghamton ... 15.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists
Maurice Joseph, Sr., guard, Vermont ... 14.3 points
Morgan Sabia, So., forward, Hartford ... 11.9 points, 6.1 rebounds
Junior Bernal, Sr., guard, Maine ... 8.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.2 steals
Corey Lowe, Sr., guard, Boston U. ... 14.1 points, 4.3 assists

Steve's selections
Chris DeLaRosa, UMBC


Marqus Blakely, Vermont ... unanimous pick from Dan and Steve. Quite simply there isn't anybody in the league who does more, game-in and game-out, to help his team win.


Dan: Steve Pikiell, Stony Brook
Steve: Ted Woodward, Maine


* Dan: Marqus Blakely, Tommy Brenton, Junior Bernal, Evan Fjeld, Terrance Mitchell, Maine.
* Steve: Marqus Blakely, Terrance Mitchell, Tommy Brenton, Murphy Burnatowski, Maine, Dane DiLiegro, New Hampshire.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

More Bing problems?

Rumors are swirling around that part of the reason Binghamton backed out of the America East tournament is that there are additional disciplinary problems over and above what has already been divulged.

If this is true, the problems at Binghamton run deeper than anybody could possibly have imagined and it makes the reasons for the withdrawal a little easier to understand.

Quite a statement on your program when you feel you have pull it out of a conference tournament just two days before the teams begin arriving in Hartford.

Going to be interesting to see just how hard the hammer falls on Binghamton.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Playoff shuffle

With Binghamton pulling out of the America East Conference tournament, the playoff pairings have been shuffled. The play-in game scheduled for Thursday between UMBC and Albany has been cancelled. The No. 6 through 9 seeds each moved up one slot. The new pairings look like this:

1. Stony Brook vs. 8. Albany
4. Boston U. vs. 5. Hartford
2. Vermont vs. 7. UMBC
3. Maine vs. 6. New Hampshire

The big loser appears to be Boston U., which goes from playing Binghamton to having to play Hartford on its home floor. The Terriers will be a prohibitive favorite, but the prospect of playing a lower seed on its home court is never attractive.

The big winners would be Albany and UMBC. Instead of one of those schools having to win a game just to get into the quarterfinal round, they are both in ... and rested to boot.

Bearcats out

The Press & Sun Bulletin in Binghamton just reported that Binghamton University has withdrawn its men's basketball team from the America East Tournament.

Citing the "controversy currently surrounding the program" and the "possible distractions that may occur this weekend," Binghamton President Lois DeFleur made the announcement.

Two questions that need to be asked: Why now (and not, say, a few months ago)? What distractions?

My guess is that this is a "granstanding" move by an administration that is melting in the face of pressure. As for the distractions, well, I would presume she is referring to the prospect of Binghamton possibly winning a game or two and having the past indescretions brought up anew.

On both counts, the Binghamton administration has taken two big swings and missed badly. This decision does not make them look good in any sense of the word. It only makes them look desperate. They have now effectively punished the rest of the schools, their students and fans, for their own wrongdoings.

After careful consideration, the league needs to severely penalize Binghamton.

Binghamton pulling out?

In quite possibly the most bizarre twist in the sorry Binghamton University basketball saga, there are reports circulating that the Bearcats may not take part in this weekend's America East Tournament.

Yes, only two days before all the teams congregate in Hartford, it appears there is some question about the attendance of the fifth-seeded team. Binghamton is scheduled to play Boston U. Saturday afternoon in the tourney's second quarterfinal matchup.

The New York Times reported that Binghamton University and the conference are "trying to decide if the Bearcats will play in the tourney."

Of course, this has a major impact on every team in the field because if Binghamton is out, then all the matchups change and the play-in game on Thursday (UMBC and Albany) would be canceled.

Hartford would move up to No. 5 (and play Boston U.), New Hampshire would slide to No. 6 (UMaine), UMBC would move to No. 7 (Vermont) and Albany takes the No. 8 spot (Stony Brook).

This not acceptable on many different fronts.

First, the notion that Binghamton and the league are trying to decide is laughable. The league, if it was going to make a decision to exclude Binghamton for its transgressions, would have done so long ago; or, at minimum, shortly after the results of a State of New York System investigation were released a month ago.

The fact that Binghamton's participation is in question at this late stage clearly indicates that the school is getting wet feet about taking part in the tournament and possibly bringing more attention and spotlight on its recent misdeeds.

The league spoke loud and clear by selling tickets and promoting a tournament that includes nine schools. In fact, the league's website extolls the excitement of 18 teams (men's and women's) playing for their respective NCAA bids. If America East had plans to exclude Binghamton's men's team it would have been done long before now.

In no uncertain terms, the league should move fast to quash any Binghamton attempt to exit the tournament. This is a joke.

Binghamton needs to get its house in order -- that much is clear -- but not at the expense of the other eight schools in the league. If Binghamton pulls out of the tournament, they should be told, "Don't show up next year, either. In fact, make it two years. We'll see you in 2013."