The America East Conference is a one-bid league and that bid will be decided in the championship game on March 14. This is one of the most spread out conference tournaments. Play actually begins on March 7 with four quarterfinal matchups and then the semifinals are held on March 10. The championship game is the day before Selection Sunday.
Games are held on campus sites, but with a pretty regional conference, it is a little bit of a surprise that it takes so long to declare a winner. In any event, the winner of this conference will go into the NCAA Tournament. If it is Vermont, the Catamounts are projected to be a 13 seed. Stony Brook looks like a 15 seed. Any other team that won this would be a 16. Vermont is probably the only team capable of making March Madness noise, though Stony Brook has a very solid defensive squad.
Vermont is the odds-on favorite to win this and will have home court advantage throughout the tournament.
Here are the teams, records, seeds, and the odds from Circa Sports for the 2020 America East Conference Tournament:
- Vermont 24-7 (14-2) -500
- Stony Brook 19-12 (10-6) +580
- Hartford 16-15 (9-7) +3000
- UMBC 15-16 (8-8) (record vs. Vermont) +4000
- New Hampshire 15-14 (8-8) +4500
- UMass Lowell 13-18 (7-9) (record vs. Hartford) +8000
- Albany 14-17 (7-9) +12500
- Maine 9-21 (5-11) +50000
Binghamton fell short of qualifying for the conference tournament, so eight of the nine teams in the AEC are in the field. There aren’t any byes, but this conference tournament does re-seed, so Vermont will always be playing the worst team left in the field if there are some upsets. If the chalk holds up, then it means a crash course between Vermont and Stony Brook on March 14.
Vermont lost to Stony Brook at home and UMBC at home, but won the other 14 conference games. Stony Brook was 13-of-27 from 3 in that game and UMBC was 10-of-18 from distance.
Are the Catamounts unbeatable? No. Does it seem unlikely?
Here is the schedule for the 2020 AEC Tournament:
Saturday March 7
1 p.m. ET: 5 New Hampshire at 4 UMBC
5 p.m. ET: 6 UMass Lowell at 3 Hartford
7 p.m. ET: 7 Albany at 2 Stony Brook
7 p.m. ET: 8 Maine at 1 Vermont
Tuesday March 10
TBD: Lowest remaining seed at 1 Vermont
TBD: Second lowest remaining seed at Second highest remaining seed
Saturday March 14
11 a.m. ET: Championship Game at higher seed
This is an offensively-challenged conference. Vermont ranks 104th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency. UMass Lowell is 145th. Nobody else in the field is higher than 285th. Binghamton was actually 233rd, but had a bottom-six defense and failed to qualify.
Vermont also has the best defense in this league, but Stony Brook and Hartford aren’t bad defensively. All in all, this is one of the weakest conferences in college basketball. Vermont’s two losses are honestly surprising, especially because they both happened at home. I guess it just speaks to how hard it is for college basketball players to be focused and on top of each and every game.
With the re-seeding element, it becomes a tad tougher to stay away from Vermont because you don’t know if a team like UMBC will have to play the Catamounts or might get lucky with a 6 over 3 upset and get Stony Brook instead.
UMass Lowell vs. Hartford is actually a really interesting game. Hartford in second in the nation in 3P% against, but UMass Lowell excels two points at a time on offense. Hartford is a terrible offensive team. That one could be a potential upset, which would send UMass Lowell to Vermont in all likelihood for the semifinals.
This conference isn’t as slow and sluggish as it used to be. Vermont and Maine still play slow, but the other teams are closer to average than they used to be. UMass Lowell actually moves at a top-70 tempo, so they could present some problems for some teams in this conference tournament.
They probably won’t cause a problem for Vermont, though, who beat UMass Lowell by 30 at home and by 17 on the road. Unfortunately, with re-seeding, it looks like the River Hawks aren’t worthy of consideration.
Hartford was +6.5 at Stony Brook in the second-to-last game of the regular season and won by 11, so that line should be a little bit shorter should those two meet again. Hartford could very well win again, too.
UMBC already beat Vermont, but may not get a second crack if we get that early upset.
There aren’t a lot of great ways to bet this conference tournament. Vermont probably wins it and would be a big favorite. The home game that Vermont lost to Stony Brook had a line of -9. The rematch was -7.5 on the road. Vermont was -13 on the road at Hartford and -17 at home. When Vermont lost to UMBC, the line was -16.
Quite frankly, the futures price on Vermont is about what we’d get against Stony Brook and better than what we’d get against anybody else. Because of that, you could make a case that laying the Vermont number has some value.
Pick: Vermont -500