With the start of the 2020-21 college basketball season just two weeks away, the America East Conference (AE) released its preseason polls earlier this week. The Bearcats were voted to finish tied for fifth in the women’s basketball poll, and the men’s team was tabbed to finish tied for last.
The polls were voted on by the conference’s 10 head coaches, who were not allowed to vote for their own team.
At the top of the men’s poll, Vermont was picked to win the AE for the fifth consecutive season, joining SEC-member Kentucky as the only other team to earn that distinction in each of the last five years. Despite losing two-time AE Player of the Year forward Anthony Lamb to graduation, the Catamounts remain a resounding favorite, receiving eight of nine possible first-place votes.
UMBC, the 2018 AE champion and the team that has posed the greatest threat to Vermont in recent years, was picked second in the poll, followed by New Hampshire, Albany and Stony Brook, rounding out the top five.
After a disappointing showing last season, Binghamton’s men’s basketball team finished the season in last place for the second time in three years. Last year’s finish, combined with the offseason departure of star guard Sam Sessoms, is likely what led to the Bearcats being voted into last place along with Maine.
On the women’s side, Maine was voted as the favorite to win the conference, earning six first-place votes. The Black Bears had won two consecutive championships heading into last season but were plagued with injuries, including the loss of the reigning AE Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, senior guard Blanca Millan. The Black Bears still managed to reach the title game without her, and Millan qualified for a medical redshirt season and returned to the team this year.
Stony Brook was set to host Maine in the AE championship game last season prior to its cancellation, and it received four first-place votes, placing second in the poll. UMass Lowell and Albany were picked to finish third and fourth, respectively.
The BU women’s team had a strong showing last season, going 10-6 in regular-season conference play and reaching the AE semifinals, but saw three starters graduate and two starters transfer in the offseason. Without last season’s starting five on the team, the Bearcats tied with UMBC in the poll for fifth place.
NJIT, the newest member of the AE after joining last summer, was picked to finish eighth in the men’s poll and last in the women’s poll.