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Men’s basketball shooting for 3rd straight win, exit from AE cellar

When Albany visits the Events Center tonight, the Binghamton men’s basketball team will play to extend its two-game winning streak. But the Bearcats have a broader goal in mind as they enter the last four-game stretch of 2013-14.

“We just don’t want to be last right now,” said senior forward Roland Brown, who averaged 10.7 points and seven rebounds in Binghamton’s last three games. “At this point we are, and we’re trying to get as many wins as possible before we get to the [America East] tournament to have a better seeding.”

The Bearcats (6-19, 3-9 America East), who have already eclipsed their combined win totals of 2011-12 and 2012-13, actually hold a half-game lead over last-place Maine. A win over the fourth-place Great Danes (13-13, 7-6 AE) would pit Binghamton in eighth place with a realistic opportunity to secure a seed as high as No. 5 in the America East tournament next month.

Vermont has won 13 of its last 14 games, including a 72-39 thrashing of Binghamton on Jan. 26. The Bearcats would prefer a first-round matchup with anyone but the Catamounts (17-9, 11-1 AE) — and probably Stony Brook, despite the encouraging 58-53 loss to the Seawolves (18-8, 10-2 AE) on Feb. 4. Those two teams have all but secured the top-two seeds, meaning Binghamton can postpone a potential tournament clash with the Catamounts or Seawolves until the semifinals by snatching the No. 6 seed or higher.

Beating Albany, which has won just one of its six America East road games, would go a long way toward achieving that goal.

When the teams met on Jan. 20, BU freshman forward Nick Madray missed a 3-pointer that would have put Binghamton ahead with 13 seconds left. The Great Danes held on to win, 66-60.

Sidelined by a hip injury, Madray will not have a shot at redemption. Instead, sophomore guard Jordan Reed (coach’s decision) and freshman forward Magnus Richards (personal), neither of whom suited up for the first meeting, will give Binghamton a different look.

“We’re a little bit faster. We’re a little more versatile defensively,” Dempsey said. “They’re probably our two best athletes, so they do allow us to play a little bit more man-to-man if that’s what we choose to do.”

Reed and Richards also crash the glass more effectively than any other Bearcat, a crucial factor given Albany’s 38-24 rebounding advantage on Jan. 20. Reed, in particular, has been on a torrid streak with averages of 19.7 points and 12.3 rebounds in Binghamton’s last three games.

“He’s been playing phenomenal,” freshman guard Yosef Yacob said of Reed. “He’s going to help a lot with the boards … because I felt that was our biggest downfall when we played [Albany] up at their place.”

Not only would a win improve Binghamton’s record, but it could also aid the Bearcats in a tiebreaker scenario (see the rules below) with UMBC, which split its season series with the Great Danes.

Dempsey said he is focused on playing well down the stretch, as external factors are beyond his team’s control.

“Other teams are jockeying for position as well,” he said, “so if we can do our job in the next two weeks and let the seeds fall where they fall, hopefully we’ll have a chance to compete.”

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. tonight at the Events Center.

Other America East games tonight and implications for Binghamton’s tournament seeding

Hartford (13-14, 7-5 AE) at UMass Lowell (8-17, 6-7 AE), 7 p.m. — Hartford currently holds the No. 3 seed. Given Albany hosts the first two rounds of the tournament, the Bearcats would probably prefer a quarterfinals bout with the Hawks.

Vermont at New Hampshire (6-19, 4-8 AE), 7 p.m. — This one’s simple. Binghamton, which sits one game behind the Wildcats for the No. 6 seed, needs a Vermont win.

UMBC (9-17, 5-8 AE) at Stony Brook, 7 p.m. — A UMBC win would severely hamper Binghamton’s chances of earning the No. 5 seed. Not only would it at least maintain the Retrievers’ 1.5-game lead over the Bearcats, but it would also grant UMBC the tiebreaker over Binghamton if the teams split the season series.

Championship Tie-breaking Procedure

Teams tied for first place will be deemed “co-champions.” Ties for championship seeding will be broken from the top of the standings down. In the event of a tie between two or more teams, the tie shall be broken using the following criteria in order:

a. Winning percentage in conference games versus the other teams with which it is tied (i.e. head-to-head-competition.

b. Winning percentage in conference games versus the other conference opponents in descending

rank order. In the event of arriving at another group of tied teams when comparing records, each team’s record (winning percentage) versus the tied teams is used rather than the performance versus the individual tied teams.

c. Winning percentage in conference road games. In the event a conference game was played on a neutral court, the team awarded the home game by the conference office when the schedule was issued is considered the home team.

d. RPI ranking as determined by the College RPI Report through the end of regular-season conference games.

e. Draw conducted by the Commissioner or his/her designee.

Once a tie is broken among two of more teams, immediately return to (a) to break the tie between the remaining teams.

For live updates of tonight’s game, follow @BingBBallBlog on Twitter.