America East Championship Game (WUSB)
Vermont Catamounts (22-11) at Stony Brook Seawolves (22-8)
Stony Brook F Al Rapier vs. Vermont F Brian Voelkel
Vermont coach John Becker believes it's vital to limit the low-post scoring opportunities of 6-7, 275-pound Seawolves center Dallis Joyner, so, he often will double-team Joyner with 6-7 forward Luke Apfeld and the 6-6 Voelkel. Catamounts wingman Brendan Bald, who was America East defensive player of the year in 2010-11, will have his hands full with Stony Brook small forward Tommy Brenton, who won the same award this season. That means the 6-8 Rapier, who has a knack for getting to the rim easily but doesn't always finish, might have ample scoring opportunities inside if Voelkel's attentions are divided. In a game between two grind-it-out, defense-oriented teams, the one that gets the most easy baskets inside figures to have the best chance of winning.
KEEP AN EYE ON . . .
Stony Brook -- Guard Dave Coley plays in the shadow of senior point guard Bryan Dougher, who needs two points to set the Seawolves' Division I career scoring record, but coach Steve Pikiell gave him the last shot against Albany in the semifinals because of his ability to create his own shot and break down a defense, which could be key with the Catamounts trying to control Dougher's three-point ability.
Vermont -- Freshman guard Four McGlynn, who is the Catamounts' second-leading scorer at 11.9 points per game, but he comes off the bench and gets fewer minutes than all-conference guard Matt Glass (12.1) and starting point guard Sandro Carissimo. McGlynn's 24 points killed SBU in a 19-point loss in Burlington.
THE "X FACTORS"
Stony Brook -- Although there will be a homecourt crowd approaching 5,000 in Stony Brook Arena, the comfort level won't be the same as 1,630-seat Pritchard Gym, where they went 13-0. Another "X factor" is the play of a deep bench, especially the offensive abilities of guards Anthony Jackson and Marcus Rouse and forward Lenny Hayes to light a spark.
Vermont -- Free throw differential worries Seawolves coach Steve Pikiell the most. Vermont averages 20.3 free throw attempts per game and makes .744 percent compared to 18.2 attempts per game for Stony Brook and a .690 percentage. "We've got to make sure they don't get to the free throw line, but that doesn't depend on your players sometimes," Pikiell said. "It depends on the referees. That's out of your control."
Prediction: Seawolves, 62-57
Vermont is a program that has been to the NCAA Tournament as recently as two years ago, and the Catamounts can draw on their 19-point homecourt win over Stony Brook on Feb. 12 for confidence. But Stony Brook has the best defensive and rebounding team in America East and has won 20 of 22 to reach this point, including a 9-2 mark away from home.