In 2010, the Boston University men’s basketball team came within one game of earning a trip to the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament. In 2011, the Terriers find themselves in familiar territory, playing in the America East title game for the second time in as many years.
Stony Brook University had never been to a conference championship game before this season. The Seawolves, who finished the year with a sub-.500 record, pulled a shocking upset of No. 1 University of Vermont last Sunday, rocking the Catamounts 69-47 to earn No. 5 SBU its first title game appearance in the history of the school.
BU is seeking its seventh tournament appearance and its first since 2002.
Stony Brook transitioned to Division I in 1999.
But even with different backgrounds and experience, both Boston and Stony Brook will take the court tomorrow afternoon knowing that without a win, there will be no trip to the Big Dance.
Both teams will look to avenge disappointing finishes to the 2009-10 season. The Seawolves finished 13-3 in the America East, earning a regular season title before being upset in the conference tournament by No. 4 Boston. The Terriers went on to the conference championship where they fell to No. 2 Vermont.
This year’s Boston University team is led by senior guard and AE Player of the Year John Holland, whose 19.0 points per game ranks first in the conference. Holland scored a season-high 31 points in a Dec. 29 game against Quinnipiac University. His next-best scoring effort came against Stony Brook, a 29-point performance on Jan. 20 that included five 3-pointers.
Holland and the Terriers are no strangers to big games, playing a 2011 schedule that included trips to Villanova University and the University of Kentucky. BU enters the conference championship riding a 10-game winning streak, its last loss coming against the University of New Hampshire on Jan. 29.
Stony Brook boasts a scoring threat of their own in junior Bryan Dougher, who averages 12.8 points per game. He also leads the team in assists, averaging 2.1 per contest.
The Seawolves also played a tough out-of-conference schedule in 2011, travelling to the University of Connecticut and the University of Notre Dame.
Boston defeated Stony Brook in both regular season meetings, squeaking by the Seawolves in the first meeting before a 13-point win later in the year.
In the first regular season matchup, Holland’s 29 points lifted BU to a five-point win in Boston. With less than 14 minutes remaining in the game the Terriers trailed 46-37, but over the next nine minutes they went on a 21-4 run to take an eight-point lead with 4:50 left on the clock.
In the second meeting, Boston handily knocked off Stony Brook on the road in a 62-49 win behind a balanced scoring attack from Holland and juniors Darryl Partin and Patrick Hazel. Bryan Dougher finished with 17 for SBU, but got little help from his team which shot only 35.8 percent from the floor.
At 65.5 points per game, Boston finished third in the conference in scoring, while Stony Brook’s 61.2 points ranked sixth out of the nine teams.
The Terriers offense is very dependent on Holland’s performance, and without him in the lineup the team has struggled through the season. In a Feb. 24 meeting with Binghamton University, Holland went down with an injury and was unable to return. Though they escaped with a win, the Holland-less Terriers surrendered a 20-7 run to the Bearcats and allowed them to climb back from a 12-point deficit.
Stony Brook’s attack is much more balanced, with Dougher being the only member of the team to average double-digits in scoring. But the Seawolves pride themselves on their stingy defense, with their 60.6 points surrendered per game ranking first in the America East. Stony Brook held opponents to 31.4 percent from behind the arc, also good for first in the conference. The Seawolves have found success through fundamentals, winning the turnover margin by an average of 1.29 per game, finishing second only to the University of Hartford.
While Boston experienced more success in the regular season, the America East tournament marked the beginning of a new campaign for both of these teams.
Tip-off is set for noon tomorrow at Boston University’s Agganis Arena and will be televised nationally on ESPN 2.