In this unprecedented season, the American East Tournament format looks a little different this season as the field is split up into pods with games kicking off this afternoon at 1:00 p.m. After the first round, the teams that survive in the pods will go on to face either UMBC or Vermont in the semifinals
Let's look at the draws for both pods
Bye to Semifinals
New Hampshire Pod
6. UMass Lowell Vs. #7 Stony Brook 1:00 p.m. ESPN+
4. Hartford Vs. 9. Binghamton 2:00 p.m. ESPN+
5. UAlbany Vs. 8. NJIT 5:00 p.m. ESPN+
New Hampshire Pod
3. UNH Vs. Winner of UMass Lowell/Stony Brook 1:00 p.m.
Winner of 4. Hartford/9. Binghamton Vs. Winner of 5. UAlbany/8. NJIT 3:00 p.m.
I believe that both UMBC and Vermont will be the favorites in this conference tournament. These two schools faced off against each other in the final two games of the season which featured two very good games. Vermont won the first game of the two-game set 80-71 last week and the retrievers took Saturday's game-winning it 66-55 which secured the one seed for UMBC.
The Retrievers have played very well during this pandemic season as they started off the conference schedule by winning five of their first six games sweeping Albany and New Hampshire and splitting the series versus Binghamton. UMBC split their next series versus Hartford and NJIT before sweeping Stony Brook to set up the matchup against Vermont to end the regular season. According to teamrankings.com, they give UMBC a 70 percent chance to advance to the Championship game and a 30 percent chance to win the title.
Junior guard R.J. Eytle-Rock leads the Retrievers in points averaging 14 points per game and will be an important piece of the puzzle if the Retrievers want to make it back to the big dance for the first time since 2018.
The Catamounts had a bumpy start to the season as they did not play their first game until December 21st due to Covid-19 problems inside the program. The team struggled as the team was holding a 2-3 record coming in their first five games. But after their 63-62 loss to Albany on January 2nd, there was no turning back for Vermont as they rattled off eight straight wins until their final game of the season against UMBC. The Catamounts have an 83 percent chance to make it to the championship round and a 56 percent chance to win it all.
Ryan Davis is leading the charge for Vermont as he is logging 18 points and six rebounds per game, shooting 57 percent from the field and 41 percent from beyond the arc. Even though they have been competitive in the top half of the conference for a large part of the past few seasons the Catamounts are looking to punch their ticket to March Madness for the first time since 2017.
The Great Danes of Albany are the dark horse of this tournament. They have a favorable matchup in the first pod matchup against NJIT as they swept the Highlanders with ease winning the two matchups 83-75 and 83-71. If they win that game they would be matched up against Hartford or Binghamton. Right now Albany has the third-best odds to advance to the championship round in the American East tournament.
CJ Kelly leads the team in scoring with 13 points per game on the season and against the Highlanders he put up nine and 14 points respectively.
The Semifinal round will be played on March 6th and the Championship game will be played on March 13th at 11:00 a.m. on ESPN2