Sunday, February 27, 2011

Overtime blues

Albany overcame a 10-point halftime deficit and defeated the Black Bears 81-77 in overtime. The Danes and Black Bears finished in a third-place tie in the final America East standings.

UMaine wins the tiebreaker by virtue of its win at Vermont and will enter the America East tournament as the No. 3 seed.

The Black Bears will play tournament host Hartford Saturday in the final quarterfinal round game. The Hawks swept the season series from the Black Bears.

That's the bad news. The good news? The game is on the road.

UMaine was 6-7 (4-4 America East) at home this year in Division 1 games and went 8-7 (5-3) on the road.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Holland hurt

Boston University star John Holland spent the second half of Thursday night's game at Binghamton on the bench with an ice pack on an injured ankle.

Holland was injured with about 2 minutes left in the first half of a 53-51 Terrier victory.

Holland joins a long list of top-shelf America East players that have been injured this season.

The list and their current status:

Sean McNally, Maine: Injured during preseason and missed about a month of games early. Looked like the McNally of old at UNH Tuesday.

Jake O'Brien, Boston U.: Injured in late December. Out for the season.

Tommy Brenton, Stony Brook: Injured before start of season. Out for the year.

Greer Wright, Binghamton: Missed a bunch of games in the middle of the season. Playing again.

Morgan Sabia, Hartford: Missed several games during the season. Playing again.

New Hampshire: Alvin Abreu and Ferg Myrick. Both out for the season.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

BU is No. 2

Boston University held on for a 53-51 win at Binghamton Thursday night, clinching the No. 2 seed for the America East tournament.

The only remaining seeds to be determined are Nos. 6 and 7.

The winner of Sunday's New Hampshire at Hartford contest will claim the No. 6 spot opposite the No. 3 Black Bears. The loser will play No. 2 Boston U.

Tourney slots

Albany and Stony Brook will tangle March 5 in the opening quarterfinal game of the 2011 America East tournament. The Great Danes and Seawolves secured their seeds with victories last night.

Vermont is the other school that has clinched its seed. The No. 1 Catamounts will face the winner of the 8-9 game following the Albany-Stony Brook contest.

Wondering which of the two teams would have the best chance of an upset over Vermont?
Vermont beat Albany by 12 and 9 points. The Catamounts knocked off Stony Brook by 6 and 23 points.

All knowing

For what it's worth, a website called Omni Rankings projects results of college basketball games.

The site gives UMaine a 67 percent chance of reaching the America East semifinals, a 28 percent chance of reaching the title game and a 9 percent chance of winning the championship.

No. 1 seed Vermont's numbers are, 87 percent, 71 percent and 56 percent.

Final home game

Sunday's Alfond date with Albany will give UMaine fans a better indication of whether the club is on the track that led it to an 8-1 start in the America East season.

Tuesday's dusting of New Hampshire down at Durham was a good start toward regaining some momentum, but Albany will visit on a solid roll. The Danes have won 7 of their last 10 games and have moved to fourth place after a rough start.

Watch that Binghamton-Boston U. result tonight. It could set up a scenario Sunday where the Black Bears have a shot at getting to the No. 2 seed.

If BU loses tonight, it'll travel to Vermont for a 1 p.m. game Sunday possibly needing a win to stay in second place. Meanwhile, the UMaine-Albany contest Sunday begins at 2 p.m.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tourney times

No. 1-seeded Vermont will play the winner of Binghamton/UMBC in the second game of the first session on March 5. Game time is approximately 2:15 p.m., following the No. 4 vs. No. 5 game.

For the second straight season, the Black Bears appear headed for the final quarterfinal game as No. 3 meets No. 6 at approximately 8:15 p.m. The March 5 evening session begins with the No. 2 vs. No. 7 game at 6:05 p.m.

Now that's a homestand

When Hartford takes to the floor for its quarterfinal game in the America East tournament, the host-school Hawks should be well rested. The Hawks will have had two full weeks since they traveled to UMBC for a Feb. 19 contest.

The Hawks, currently 6-8 and in sixth-place, close the regular season with home games against Stony Brook and New Hampshire. As of today, UMaine and the Hawks would meet in the quarterfinals.

UMaine is currently No. 3 with a small chance of moving to No. 2. For the Black Bears to move up, Boston University must lose its final two games and both are on the road. The Terriers close with Binghamton and Vermont.

If Binghamton were to knock off the Terriers Thursday, it would set up some scoreboard monitoring Sunday at Alfond Arena (where the Black Bears host Albany) and Patrick Gym (where BU and Vermont tangle).

UMaine split with BU, but holds the tiebreak advantage because of the win at Vermont.

Remaining games:

BU: at Binghamton, at Vermont
Maine: Albany
Albany: at Maine
Stony Brook: at Hartford, Binghamton
Hartford: Stony Brook, New Hampshire
New Hampshire: at Hartford

We're No. 3

UMaine clinched no worse than the No. 3 seed for the upcoming America East tournament with its 70-53 thrashing of New Hampshire in Durham last night.

The win snapped a six-game slide (five of them AE games) that saw the Black Bears tumble from solo first place.

UMaine seemed to regain its defensive bearings a little last night and never trailed the Wildcats in front of the largest crowd I've ever seen at Lundholm Gym. And I've been going to games in Durham for quite a few years now.

After a couple early tie scores, 10-10 and 12-12 if I recall correctly, UMaine took the big crowd out of the game and sent many of the Wildcat faithful home early.

There's a chance the Black Bears could climb to No. 2 spot in the conference standings. For that to happen, Boston U. would have to lose its final two games. Right now, it appears as if it'll be the No. 3 seed for the second consecutive year.

If the tournament started today, UMaine would open with host school Hartford. The Black Bears were swept by the Hawks in the regular season.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Seed wars

Just to be clear, the Black Bears could finish third, fourth or, even, fifth in the final America East standings.

Third place
Black Bears defeat UNH and/or Albany.
Albany loses to UMBC.
Fourth place
Black Bears lose at UNH
Albany defeats UMBC and Black Bears.
Fifth place
UMaine loses at UNH.
Albany defeats UMBC and UMaine.
Hartford defeats Stony Brook and UNH.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Danes inch closer

Albany moved a step closer to setting up a third-place showdown with the Black Bears in the regular-season finale Feb. 27 at Alfond Arena.

The Danes won 57-54 at Binghamton Sunday to move to 7-7 in America East, one game behind UMaine (8-6).

Albany must finish 9-7 to claim the the No. 3 seed.

The Black Bears travel to New Hampshire Tuesday with the knowledge a win secures third place. Albany hosts UMBC on Wednesday, Feb. 23.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Bracket busted

Another defensive meltdown and UMaine dropped its sixth straight game, losing to Siena 71-60 in a Bracket Buster game at Albany, N.Y.

The Black Bears led by five at halftime, but gave up 43 points in the second half to the Saints.

Siena entered the game on a four-game losing streak and was 10-16 overall.

UMaine returns to America East play Tuesday at New Hampshire. UMaine needs one win in its final two games to secure the No. 3 seed in the upcoming conference tournament.

Forward Murphy Burnatowski did not play against Siena.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Treble trouble

If history serves as teacher, the lesson plan for America East is clear: You must be a top three seed to have any hope of winning three games in the conference tournament.

With this in mind, the Black Bears embark on the final two-games of the America East season. Having played their way out of the the No. 1 or No. 2 spot, the Bears must reach deep and hold on to third place.

UMaine is now part of a five-team scramble for the 3 through 7 slots. One victory by UMaine would make it impossible for Hartford to overtake the Black Bears ... crucial because the Hawks are the only team that holds the first tie-breaker advantage, having swept UMaine. If UMaine ties with Albany, Stony Brook or New Hampshire, the win over Vermont gives the Bears the tiebreaker.

Analysis: One win in final two games and Bears will be No. 3. Can't be passed by anyone even if Albany finishes 9-7. ... Even if Bears finish in an 8-8 tie with Stony, Albany and UNH, they hold the tiebreaker over them. ... Hartford's loss to Binghamton was big for Black Bears. A tie with Hartford looks highly unlikely at this point and that's the one they would have lost. ... So, No. 3 is likely, No. 4 at worst. They need to fight to stay at No. 3.

Here's a look at the teams fighting for those five seed positions in order of predicted finish:

No. 3

Albany (6-7)

Remaining schedule: at Binghamton, UMBC, at Maine.
Best AE win: Stony Brook.
Prediction: 3-0 to finish 9-7.

No. 4

UMaine (8-6)

Remaining schedule: at UNH, Albany.
Best AE win: Vermont.
Prediction: 0-2 to finish 8-8.
Tiebreaker: Victory over Vermont gives Bears tiebreaker over everyone except Hartford.

No. 5

Stony Brook (6-8)

Remaining schedule: at Hartford, Binghamton.
Best AE win: UNH.
Prediction: 2-0 to finish 8-8.

No. 6

UNH (6-8)

Remaining schedule: Maine, at Hartford.
Best AE win: Boston U.
Prediction: 2-0 to finish 8-8.

No. 7

Hartford (5-8)

Remaining schedule: at UMBC, Stony Brook, UNH.
Best AE win: Boston U.
Prediction: 1-2 to finish 6-10.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Skid grows to 5

UMaine's 16-point loss to Vermont Wednesday puts the Black Bears on the brink of falling to fourth or fifth place. The Bears were 8-1 and in first place in America East one game into the second half of the league season.

America East statisticians must be scrambling to find the last time a first place team, that late in the season, fell to fourth or fifth by the time the conference tournament rolled around. UMaine is on the brink of pulling it off.

Albany and Hartford are challenging UMaine for the third spot. Albany is one game behind UMaine in the loss column and Hartford two. The Black Bears would lose the tiebreaker with Hartford.

The regular-season finale at home against Albany may decide who finishes in third place.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

3 to get 2

OK, well, now it's down to trying to hang on to the No. 3 seed for the Black Bears. Saturday's overtime loss at Stony Brook dropped UMaine to third in the league standings with Hartford sneaking up in the rearview mirror.

The Black Bears must win two of their final three games to ensure holding on to the No. 3 spot; critical for any hopes of winning the conference tournament. The odds of winning the conference tourney begin and end at No. 3.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Bears need wins

The Black Bears now must turn their sights to protecting the No. 2 seed for the conference tournament. There is no overstating the importance of finishing as high as possible in the league standings.

Here's a rundown of what's left for the contenders at the top of the America East standings:

Vermont (11-2)
Thanks in large part to UMaine's free fall, all the Catamounts must do is go 2-1 in their final three games to secure first place and the top seed for the tournament.
Remaining schedule:
at Maine
Boston University
Prediction: 3-0 for a 14-2 AE mark. Regular season champions.

Maine (8-4)
The Black Bears' defensive swoon couldn't have come at a worse time as they have moved from the driver's seat to shotgun in record time. UMaine must turn it around or face the prospect of becoming a backseat driver. BU and Hartford are ready to pounce on the wounded and limping Bears. The only way for the Black Bears to win the title and the top seed is to win their final four games and hope Vermont stumbles against either Binghamton or Boston U. Going 3-1 in the final four would most likely secure the No. 2 seed. An even 2-2 gets a little dicier and 1-3 pratfall makes No. 4 a possibility.
Remaining schedule:
at Stony Brook
at UNH
Prediction: 1-3 for a 9-7 AE mark; No. 4 seed.

Boston University (8-4)
The Terriers moved into a tie for second place with UMaine, but the Black Bears hold the tiebreaker right now by virture of their win over first-place Vermont. BU, however, ends the season with a game at Vermont that could decide UMaine's tourney seed. If the Terriers sweep their final four games, book them as the No. 2 seed; 3-1 might still get the job done for BU as it tries to overtake the Black Bears for second place.
Remaining schedule:
at Binghamton
at Vermont
Prediction: 3-1 for an 11-5 AE mark; No. 2 seed.

Hartford (5-6)
The Hawks have a chance to get to the No. 3 seed for the tournament, which they will host at Chase Family Arena in West Hartford. If UMaine stumbles to a 2-2 or 1-3 finish, that brings a possible tie for third with the Hawks into play. And UHart holds the tiebreaker as it swept the season series from UMaine.
Remaining schedule:
at Boston U.
Stony Brook
Prediction: 4-1 for a 9-7 AE mark; No. 3 seed.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Slip, slidin' away

Hartford, the lowest scoring team in America East, sent the Black Bears to their third straight loss tonight.

UMaine is now in second place and has dropped two games behind Vermont in the loss column. Boston U. moved into a second-place tie with the Black Bears with a win over Albany last night. Next week's home game against Vermont, which loomed large a few days ago, has now been rendered virtually meaningless.

The Black Bears once stout defense was carved up for the fourth-straight game. Unless there's a dramatic turnaround and sequence of events, UMaine's hopes for a regular season league title have evaporated in the span of little over a week.

For the Black Bears to reach first place again, Vermont needs to lose two games (the best chances would be to the Black Bears and at home against Boston U.) and UMaine would have to win its final four games.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Ouch, that hurts

Sunday's loss at home to eighth-place UMBC hurts. Real bad.

Only a week ago, the Black Bears were riding high, a game up on Vermont, in first place with a win over the Catamounts in hand.

After Sunday's meltdown in which UMaine gave up a 17-point lead and surrendered 51 points in the second half, the Black Bears are a game behind Vermont in the loss column. Quite simply, UMaine cannot afford a stumble prior to the Feb. 16 home date with Vermont.

If the Black Bears don't take care of business against Hartford and Stony Brook on the road this week, the Vermont game becames irrelevant. Wow, how fast the outlook can change.

More worrisome than the standings, however, is UMaine's once stout defense. In three straight games, the Black Bears have given up 74, 88 and 84 points. And two of those games were agaist the eighth- and ninth-place teams in America East.

Maine needs to rediscover its defensive mindset. Preferably Thursday at Hartford.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Hyland leaves Burlington

The Keegan Hyland train has left Burlington. After spending the fall semester at Gonzaga, the South Portland native sought his release from the Zags.

He apparently considered Maine and Vermont before choosing Phish over baked potatoes. For two weeks he practiced with the Catamounts before deciding the chance to "do something special" in the Green Mountain State wasn't so special after all.

There's speculation that he was recruited as a walk-on by both Maine and Vermont.

Warner to be honored

Former Black Bear great Bob Warner will have his No. 52 retired in pregame ceremonies Sunday when UMaine hosts Maryland-Baltimore County.

Warner is the school's all-time leading rebounder and second on the all-time scoring chart. For his career, Warner averaged 18.3 points and 13.6 rebounds.

He will join Skip Chappelle (34), Keith Mahaney (24) and Rufus Harris (20) as the only UMaine players with their numbers retired.

All four of them played their careers at Memorial Gym, aka, The Pit.

Here's an idea for the university: When the renovation of The Pit is finally begun and completed, the school can invite all four of them to return for an encore ceremony in the proper setting in front of a packed house. That would be fun.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Home stretch

America East history is clear on the importance of the regular season standings. The higher you finish, the better the chances of getting through the league tournament.

That makes this year's stretch run like no other in recent Black Bears memory.

Tied for first place with six games left in the regular season, UMaine has a chance to tighten its grip on a top seed (maybe even the No. 1 slot) for the upcoming tournament. And there's no downplaying the significance of achieving that high seed.

Beginning with Sunday's home tilt against Maryland-Baltimore County and the two-game road trip that immediately follows, the Black Bears are in the desired position of playing in big games every time out.

America East injuries

Is there another league in America that has as many top-level players out with injuries? Bumps, bruises and injuries are as much a part of the landscape of athletics as the games themselves, but this year in America East is off the charts.

All-conference M*A*S*H team

A pretty good all-conference team could be put together with the players on the league injured list.

Jake O'Brien, Boston U. -- The 6-8 forward recently was declared out for the season after a foot injury sustained against UMass in late-December. A definite all-conference candidate.
Greer Wright, Binghamton -- A classic big guard at the America East level, Wright was a Player of the Year candidate coming into the season. He's been out for several weeks.
Alvin Abreu, New Hampshire -- Another all-conference certainty at the guard position.
Ferq Myrick, New Hampshire -- One of the top freshman in the league last year. A talented wing player.
Tommy Brenton, Stony Brook -- Brenton is the best rebounder in America East. on last year's Although he's not a big-time scorer, the defending regular-season champ Seawolves aren't the same without him. He's an instigator.
And finally, a guy who is battling through a foot injury and is back on the floor:
Sean McNally of the Black Bears. The senior frontcourter is providing inspiration with his presence and persistence to contribute whatever he can although it's obvious the injury is limiting his stamina and mobility.

So, that's a league champion-type roster right there.

Wright and Abreu in the backcourt.
Brenton, McNally and O'Brien in the frontcourt.
Myrick coming off the bench.