With the end of the basketball season on the horizon, the America East Conference (AE) announced an updated format for its tournament Wednesday afternoon. The AE canceled its final week of games and will begin the playoffs next weekend.
“If this year has taught us anything, it’s the need to be flexible and adapt to new circumstances,” said AE commissioner Amy Huchthausen. “Since setting our basketball playoff formats last month, conditions have changed and we’d be negligent to ignore that fact as we look ahead to the season’s home stretch.”
Of the 10 members of the conference, there are currently nine men’s basketball programs and seven women’s programs still competing. All have reached the required 12 Division I games to qualify for the postseason. With a different number of competitors in the two brackets, the playoff format will vary for each.
In men’s basketball, only Maine has opted out of the season thus far. The AE’s initial plan of the top two seeds earning a bye to the semifinals and having the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds host playoff pods will remain in place. The No. 3 seed will host No. 6 and No. 7, and the No. 4 seed will host No. 5, No. 8 and No. 9. The pods will begin play on Friday, Feb. 26 or Saturday, Feb. 27.
The bracket will be reseeded before the semifinals, which will be hosted at each of the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds’ campuses on Saturday, March 6. The championship game will be hosted by the highest remaining seed on Saturday, March 13.
Binghamton (2-13, 2-10 AE) is currently locked into ninth place, last among the remaining teams. While the team has two games remaining, Stony Brook and NJIT are the teams just ahead of them in the standings and both have 6-8 conference records.
With both having a 9-3 AE record, UMBC and Vermont appear poised to earn the top two seeds in the bracket. The last two conference champions will be playing this weekend to determine which earns the No. 1 seed. The official matchups will be announced Sunday evening.
Three women’s basketball teams have discontinued their season, leaving just seven competitors remaining. As a result, the playoff pod structure has been abandoned and the traditional format of playing quarterfinals at the higher-seeded team will be in place. Due to the uneven number of teams, the No. 1 seed will receive a bye to the semifinals.
The quarterfinals, hosted by the No. 2 through No. 4 seeds, will be played on Sunday, Feb. 28. The semifinals will be hosted by the No. 1 seed and the other highest remaining seed one week later on Sunday, March 7, and the championship will be held on Friday, March 12.
Maine, Stony Brook and UMass Lowell have clinched the top three seeds, but the Bearcats (5-11, 5-9 AE) may be in the mix for the fourth seed and a home quarterfinal. The team is currently in fifth place but has the same number of conference wins as Albany (5-5) and New Hampshire (5-10). With the teams having played an uneven number of games, it remains to be seen how the AE will choose to set the bracket, which will be announced Tuesday night.
“Our student-athletes, coaches and support staffs have endured challenging seasons that have included numerous pauses and schedules changes that have been both physically and emotionally demanding,” Huchthausen said. “Despite those challenges, we’re extremely proud that almost all of our teams have completed full league schedules to date, which is quite an incredible feat.”