Monday, January 31, 2011

Bracket black out

Second-place Vermont will get a televised game at College of Charleston as part of the Bracket Buster games coming up in a couple weeks.

When the announcement was made, even ESPN's Vermont-loving Andy Katz said, "that should be Maine." The first-place Black Bears were passed over in favor of the Catamounts despite having a win over Penn State and a double-digit victory at Vermont to its credit. Not to mention a first-place standing in America East.

Apparently, the Black Bears will be paired with Siena, a former America East foe that now plays in the MAAC.

I suppose it makes sense for ESPN. They won't have to do any homework for Vermont. Just drag out Tom Brennan for a few corny bromides and play the T.J. Sorrentine clip ad nauseum.

What do you expect from the network that gives us round-the-clock Brett Favre and Duke updates. ESPN has a formula and sticks to it. And it trickles all the way down to the little guys.

Big MAAC or Big MAC?

Andy Katz of ESPN is projecting the America East-leading Black Bears will play either Fairfield or Buffalo in the network's annual BracketBuster series of mid-major games.

According to Katz, the game featuring UMaine has a chance at being one of the 11 televised on the ESPN family (ESPN, ESPN2 or ESNPU).

Fairfield is leading the MAAC. The Stags are 16-4 overall, 9-1 in conference play. Buffalo is tied for first place in the East Division of the MAC. The Bulls are 13-6 overall. They are tied with Bowling Green and Kent State at 5-2.

We're pulling for a Buffalo matchup here. Buffalo's starting backcourt features Zach Filzen, son of a former high school (Northfield, Minn.) and college (St. Olaf) classmate of mine. Filzen leads the Bulls in scoring at 15.1 a game.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Halfway to a title

The halfway pole of the America East season has arrived with the Black Bears in front by one game. There's quite a bit of ground to cover on the regular season track, but UMaine has worked its way to the pole position.

The Black Bears have done it with sterling (and stirring) play from forward Troy Barnies and contributions all up and down the roster. The defense displayed last season has once again come to the forefront and has become the program's calling card.

During a pre-game interview Tuesday, New Hampshire coach Bill Herrion said if the Player of the Year vote were held right now, Barnies would have his vote. It would take a bit of research, but it seems like a safe bet it's been a while since a senior who hadn't been selected to any post-season honors previously, went on to win Player of the Year in his final go-round.

If you are wondering, only two Maine players have ever won the league's top individual honor and you have to go back to the first and fourth years of the conference's 31-year existence to find them:

Rufus Harris in 1980 (he shared the award with Holy Cross' Ron Perry); and Jeff Cross in 1983.

The second half of the America East race begins with a pair of treacherous roadies (Binghamton and BU). The Black Bears can solidify their grip on the top spot with a couple wins.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Black Bears 70, Stony Brook 59

UMaine had four players in double figures and won its fifth straight.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tourney watch time

We're nearly the halfway mark of the America East season so it's time to begin the tourney watch. Each time there are AE games played, we'll update the "If the tournament started today" feature.

For the second straight season, Hartford will host a combined men's an women's America East Tournament. The tournament begins with two play-in games on Thursday, March 3. The women's quarterfinals are Friday, March 4 and the men's quarterfinals on Saturday, March 5. Both men's and women's semifinals will be played Sunday, March 6.

If the America East Conference tournament started today:

Play-in Game
8. New Hampshire vs. 9. UMBC

1. BLACK BEARS vs. 8/9 winner
4. Vermont vs. 5. Binghamton

3. Boston University vs. 6. Stony Brook
2. Hartford vs. 7. Albany

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Black Bears 72, Vermont 58

UMaine led wire-to-wire at Vermont, led by 14 points each from Troy Barnies, Raheem Singleton and Gerald McLemore.

The Black Bears solidified their hold on first place in America East and sent the Catamounts to their first home loss of the season. Vermont was 8-0 at home prior to Tuesday night. Vermont was held to 38 percent shooting from the floor.

Stony Brook visits Orono Saturday.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Black Bears 77, Binghamton 51

UMaine took over sole possession of first place Saturday with a thorough beat-down of Binghamton at Alfond Arena. After trailing early in the game, the Black Bears surged to a 15-point halftime advantage and continued the trouncing in the second half.

Troy Barnies had another in a string of sterling performances to lead UMaine. Gerald McLemore seems to be finding his stroke and Mike Allison and Alasdair Fraser came off the bench to provide some inside punch.

The Black Bears travel to Vermont Tuesday for a second straight first-place showdown with the Catamounts. Vermont drilled UMBC Saturday to move to 3-1 in America East. UMaine is 4-1.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Black Bears 66, Albany 64

Raheem Singleton hit two free throws with 4 seconds left in the game as UMaine won at Albany. The victory sets up an early-season first-place showdown with Binghamton Saturday at Alfond Arena.

UMaine is 3-1 in America East. Binghamton is off to a 3-0 start, including a nine-point win over UMBC Wednesday.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Black Bears 82, UMBC 67

Troy Barnies led UMaine to the win in Baltimore with 25 points and 13 rebounds. Four Black Bears were in double figures. Barnies was joined by Gerald McLemore (16), Terrance Mitchell (15) and Raheem Singleton (14).

Murphy Burnatowski only played one minute, leaving with an injury.

The Black Bears play at Albany Wednesday and then host Binghamton Jan. 15.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Hartford 61, Black Bears 59

Solid wins followed by lackluster losses. That is quickly becoming the M.O. of the 2010-11 Black Bears.

Three days after opening the America East season with a wire-to-wire performance and victory over pre-season favorite Boston U., the Black Bears dropped the ball and lost to a Hartford team that was 3-10 when its bus pulled up to the Alfond Arena doors.

A few hours later, and the Hawks had the upset thanks to 48 percent shooting from the 3-point arc.

UMaine is now 3-4 at home on the season, 7-7 overall. The good news is the Black Bears head out on the road for a game Saturday in Baltimore against UMBC.

The Retrievers won their first game of the season (after an 0-12 start) last week.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Black Bears 65, Boston U. 52

The Black Bears opened the America East season with a win over pre-season favorite Boston University at Alfond Arena.

UMaine held the Terriers to 32 percent shooting. Murphy Burnatowski helped limit John Holland, the league's top scorer, to only eight points. Holland was in early foul trouble and was held 10 points under his average.

Boston U. was playing without Jake O'Brien, who was injured in the Terriers previous game against UMass.

Gerald McLemore paced the Black Bears with 16 points. Terrance Mitchell had 15 and Troy Barnies 14.

UMaine hosts Hartford Thursday before heading down to Baltimore for a date with UMBC.