America East 2021Men's Basketball Tournament schedule

Adrian Holman

The Hercules Tires America East Conference Men's Basketball Tournament begins on Saturday, February 27. The America East decided to begin March Madness a little bit earlier with a new format for this season. Normally, all of the tournament games are played on the home courts of the higher-seeded team.

In this new concept, the semifinals and the conference championship will still be played at the campus sites of the higher-seeded team. However, the first two rounds will be played at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) in Durham, NH and at the University of Hartford in Hartford, CT. #1 seed University of Maryland-Baltimore County (UMBC) and #2 seed Vermont receive an automatic double bye into the semifinals. #3 seed New Hampshire will also receive a bye into the second round.

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The first two rounds are split up into two different pods due to coronavirus measures. New Hampshire, #6 seed University of Massachusetts-Lowell (UML), and #7 Stony Brook will be in the New Hampshire pod while #4 seed Hartford, #5 seed University of Albany, #8 seed New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), and #9 seed Binghamton will be in the Hartford pod. To take a look at these new pods, you can take a look at the bracket. Maine (2-7) did not play enough games to qualify for the conference tournament due to COVID-19 ravaging their regular season schedule.

Here is a look at the schedule. All times listed are Eastern Standard Time (EST).

Saturday February 27th

First Round

At UNH

#6 UML (8-11) vs #7 Stony Brook (9-13) - 1 PM.

At Hartford

#4 Hartford (11-8) vs #9 Binghamton (4-13) - 2 PM.

#5 Albany (6-8) vs #8 NJIT (7-11) - 5 PM.

Sunday February 28th

Second Round

#3 New Hampshire (10-8) vs winner of UML/Stony Brook - 1 PM.

Hartford/Binghamton winner vs Albany/NJIT winner - 3 PM.

Saturday March 6th

Semifinals

Lowest remaining seed from second round at #1 UMBC (14-5) - 2 PM.

Highest remaining seed from second round at #2 Vermont (10-4) - 4 PM.

Saturday March 13th

America East Conference Championship Game

Lowest remaining seed at Highest remaining seed - 11 AM.

The first round, the second round, and the semifinals will be shown on ESPN+. The America East title game will be aired on ESPN2. In previous years, the America East championship game would be a full week before the announcement of the NCAA Tournament bracket. Plus, the game was shown on ESPN. Moving the title game to the day before the annoucement of the bracket gives the championship game a little less exposure, but allows for the America East champion to not sit almost two weeks before playing in the Big Dance.

Do not sleep on the America East even though basketball pundits underestimate this conference. You should pay some attention to these games because the biggest upset in NCAA Tournament history occurred three years ago when #16 seed UMBC upset #1 Virginia. This victory was the only time in men's college basketball in which a #16 seed defeated a #1 seed.

Another huge upset was when Vermont upset Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament in 2005. The Catamounts were able to shred the vaunted two-three zone defense by making three-pointers throughout the entire game. This upset was so glorious because Jim Boeheim thinks that he invented the 2-3 zone defense.

Ironically, the two favorites are UMBC and Vermont since they both receive an automatic bid into the semifinals. Both teams ended up being America East regular season co-champions with identical 10-4 conference records. UMBC won the tiebreaker due to the Retrievers playing non-conference games while Vermont chose to follow COVID-19 protocols. Choosing to remain healthy during a pandemic should not be penalized.

Nevertheless, UMBC cannot be defeated if they are having a good night. The Retrievers have the best non-conference win in the America East when they defeated George Washington earlier in the season. UMBC only had three games this season in which the defense gave up 70 points. The Retrievers have one of the best inside-outside combos in the conference with G R.J. Eytle-Rock (14.1 ppg, 41.2 3-pt FG%) and F Brandon Horvath (13.3 ppg, 8.7 rpg).

In contrast, Vermont likes to play at a quicker pace as the Catamounts scored less than 70 points in only five of their 14 games. Plus, the Catamounts were able to split with UMBC during the regular season. Every player on their team that plays major minutes are capable of hitting threes as the team had a 34.8% 3-pt FG%. If their shots are falling, then Vermont could end up in the Big Dance behind the leadership of Ryan Davis, the America East Player of the Year. Whichever team can control tempo will be the team that wins the title.

A possible sleeper in this America East conference tournament could be NJIT. NJIT is the only team in conference that was able to defeat both UMBC and Vermont in the regular season. If they are able to remain consistent over the weekend, then they could possibly make some noise and break a few brackets.

One small gripe that I have with the conference is due to the name of the conference. The conference is called America East, but all of the teams are in the Northeast. Technically, the geographic location of the college campuses do not align with the conference name.

Here is a way that the conference could gain even more exposure. The America East could change their conference name to the America North East Conference. Instead of the initials being AE for America East, the new initials would be ANE. Sounding out this new abbreviation sounds just like A&E. Then, the ANE could then possibly secure a deal to have regular season games shown on A&E. Those basketball games would be better to watch than re-runs of their documentaries. Why watch someone die on 'The First 48' when you can watch teams become better players throughout an entire season?

The America East Conference is officially sponsored by Hercules Tires. Hercules Tires became a sponsor last year in the AE. This brand is growing with the tires being available at dealers all throughout the USA.

Tournament schedule is from AmericaEast.com. Image is from Pixabay.com.

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