Saturday, March 13, 2010

halftime at the America East

The America East championship game is underway and Vermont has an 11 point lead at halftime. This game is one of several being played today that will determine which teams will be invited to dance starting Thursday. Unlike the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Conference USA, and Big East tournaments--all in their final stages this weekend-- the America East and other leagues' championships are winner take all.

The loser of the game today between Vermont and Boston University will not go anywhere. Neither team is likely to receive an NIT birth. The NIT is a second tier tournament which promises to award an invitation to the regular season champions of every conference. However, neither BU or Vermont won the conference. That designation belongs to Stony Brook a crew that is no doubt stewing today because they would have liked to have earned the right to play in this game, but were upset last week in the championship semifinals.

The America East championship is being played in Vermont and so, not only does BU have eleven points at halftime to make up, but they have to do it with a screaming crowd in a small gym that is making it difficult for the BU players to think let alone dribble.

There are some demons in this gym for Vermont however. Three years ago Vermont played my alma mater, Albany, in this very space for the right to go to the NCAA and despite the home court advantage lost the game in the last seconds. In 2006 Vermont also lost a championship game to Albany--but that year the game was played in Albany. If Vermont prevails today this will be the first trip to the NCAA for the coach, Mike Lonergan, who replaced legendary Vermont mentor Tom Brennan in 2006. Snippets from the pregame speech by Lonergan suggest he is calm, but he may jump as high as his athletes if the buzzer sounds and Vermont gets to dance.

ESPN2 is televising this game, and after it is televising the MEAC championship, and after that the Southland final, and after that the MAC final, and after that the Big West final, and after that the WAC final. Six games in a row for basketball junkies, each game will end with one team dancing like they won the lottery while another squad mopes. It's raining in Boston today. I won't be parked in front of the set for 14 hours, but I'll bet (and ESPN2 bets) that many will be.

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