The 2012-13 America East men's basketball season is starting out much like the last one ended with Vermont beating out Stony Brook as the favorite in the preseason coaches poll released Tuesday. It was the Catamounts who upset the regular-season champion Seawolves (22-10, 14-2 America East) in the conference tournament final in March to win the NCAA bid, and those two figure to slug it out again.
"Preseason polls don't mean a lot, but it's exciting to be picked in the top few because I've been at the other end of the spectrum," SBU coach Steve Pikiell said. "Until someone knocks Vermont off, they're the champs."
Latest college sports stories
Stony Brook women's basketball coach Beth O'Boyle, whose team finished last in America East (4-26, 1-15) in her first season, is at the other end of the spectrum in the poll after being voted ninth. But she brought in her first real recruiting class and is hoping to emulate the kind of turnaround Pikiell made with the men's program.
Although the SBU men lost all-time leading scorer Bryan Dougher and veteran center Dallis Joyner, they return senior forward Tommy Brenton, who was voted to the preseason All-America East team and was last season's defensive player of the year, and junior guard Dave Coley. Pikiell added his best recruiting class, led by two freshmen who figure to see a lot of playing time, center Jameel Warney and point guard Carson Puriefoy.
Pikiell generally has relied on experienced players, but this team definitely will have a youthful component. "I'm anxious and nervous, but I'm excited with the talent," Pikiell said. "I don't sleep the way I did last year. That's why Tommy and Dave are so important. They've got to be the pillars because we've kind of shifted. Tommy has player of the year potential, and I think Coley is an all-league guard. He's improved as much as anyone in practice."
A year ago, Pikiell knew who four of his five starters were. This season, Warney, Brenton and Coley will start, but Puriefoy and junior Anthony Jackson are battling at point guard. Senior guards Lenny Hayes and Marcus Rouse should see time along with returning big men Eric McAlister, Anthony Mayo and forward Ron Bracey. Freshmen Scott King, Ahmad Walker and Ryan Burnett will scrap for minutes.
On the women's side, forward Jessica Previlon and guards Dani Klupenger and Sam Landers return. Sophomore transfer Sabre Proctor should add scoring; junior transfer Chikilra Goodman adds point-guard skills, and freshman forward Brittany Snow, who was the South Jersey player of the year, adds rebounding and toughness.
"We're very young," O'Boyle said, "but we're more athletic, which is a big help."
Huntington's Julie Forster, last season's league-leading rebounder from Albany, was named to the preseason all-conference team.