February 6, 2008 12:00 pm ET by Kyle Whelliston
Vermont at Binghamton (America East)
Mid-Majority Events Center - Vestal, NY
7:00 PM EST
It's a noticeable slight that we've only been to one America East game all year (we'll be fixing that soon enough). If we weren't at this battle between MAC conference leaders, the MMEC is where we'd want to be. Tonight in the Mid-Majority Events Center (a building we've long claimed naming rights to since they haven't been sold), we have the two 6-3 teams currently chasing 7-2 UMBC for the conference's top spot. And admittedly, the prize in this league could very well be a trip to Dayton to play one of the historically black conference champions in the play-in game. The conference's RPI is 27, the non-conference record is 38-72, and only two teams (UMBC and Vermont) have overall winning records. The highest ceiling available for the champion right now seems to be a regular bottom seed and a date with a No. 1, which is rarer than you might think for this once-proud league. Since 1980, it's been slotted at No. 16 just five times.
Vermont was racked hard by bad luck in the nonconference portion of the schedule, having to work around a list of injuries that could have filled out a Star Wars opening title sequence: Tim McCrory (foot), Evan Fjeld (hand), Joey Accaoui (groin) and Marqus Blakely (foot). Left with mostly guards, the Catamounts stumbled to a 3-7 mark before the roster started to reform. Since Dec. 22, they're 8-3, and have developed as the premier defensive team in the conference. Vermont allows just 40.2 percent shooting and .948 points per possession, and it's still a young team. Only two senior contributors will graduate, which is bad news for everyone else. Blakely, a sophomore, scores 19.2 points and grabs 9.6 rebounds a game, and is only getting better.
Oh, alright, let's look at that dunk one more time.
Binghamton, in its first year under Kevin Broadus, was our original league pick but suffered from a schedule that was just too hard for a retooling program. The team was in a 1-7 hole by exams, and have turned things around to the tune of 9-4. A five-game win streak just went by the boards against Hartford on Saturday. The Bearcats are the best 3-point shooting team in league games at 43.5 percent, but the man who has the name most conducive to the 3, Lazar Trifunovic, hasn't made a single one. He's a 6-8 sophomore who leads the team in points (16.0) and rebounds (7.9), and he leaves the tri fun to the others.
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