Conventional wisdom suggested that Vermont's Marqus Blakely would win his third straight America East player of the year award, but lately, Stony Brook has made a habit of knocking conventional wisdom for a loop.
After a stunning season in which the Seawolves won the conference's regular-season men's basketball title, Muhammad El-Amin was named player of the year and Steve Pikiell won coach of the year honors Friday.
"I didn't think I would get the award the way Marqus Blakely's been playing," said El-Amin, whose 16.8 scoring average led Stony Brook and ranked third in the conference. "He's won it two times in a row. When I got it, I was just shocked and amazed.
"That means a lot. Before the season, coach Pikiell asks what our goals are. One of my goals was to be player of the year. Coming down the stretch, we had some tough teams to play - Maine, Vermont, Binghamton - just to stay in first place. I knew I had to turn it up for our team to win."
Guard Bryan Dougher (13.6 points) and forward Tommy Brenton (league-leading 9.6 rebounds) made second team all-conference, and Brenton was named to the all-defensive team. Backup center Andrew Goba earned all-academic team honors. But it was El-Amin who really stepped up at the end.
Stony Brook (21-8, 13-3 America East) put together a 10-game winning streak to clinch the regular-season title and at least an NIT bid. The Seawolves also earned the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, which begins Saturday in Hartford. In the final five wins in that streak, El-Amin averaged 24.6 points and shot 46.3 percent from the field.
"I was being more aggressive," the senior guard said. "We had a tough schedule. I knew my team needed me. It was a matter of me staying in attack mode to help win a championship."
The Seawolves face eighth-seeded Albany (7-24, 2-14) in the tournament opener at noon, and they know they can't take the Great Danes lightly. In the last meeting, El-Amin hit a jumper with 1.8 seconds left for the win.
"It's going to be really tough," El-Amin said. "Albany played us down to the wire in every game. They really match up well with us . . . Everybody wants to knock off the No. 1 team. We're going to come out with the focus and the energy we've been having the last 10 games to come out and win this tournament."