1.UAlbany (23-10, 13-5 AE) 57.1 PPG, 49.6 OPG

After its seventh conference championship and a trip to the NCAA tournament last season, UAlbany is Pipe Dream’s pick to win the America East (AE) conference. The Great Danes finished last year with a 23-10 record, 13-5 in the AE. With many key players returning to the team, including two all-conference team picks, UAlbany will look to improve its record from last season. The team’s two preseason all-conference team selections are junior guard Kayla Cooper and senior forward Helene Haegerstrand. Cooper played all 33 games last season and averaged 11.2 points per game and 7.2 rebounds per game. The junior guard also dropped a season-high 25 points against Union last year. Haegerstrand played and started all 33 games, leading the Great Danes in scoring with 11.8 points per game. As a team, UAlbany finished last season ranked first in the conference in defense. They were the only team to give up less than 50 points per game on average, only allowing 49.6 points per game. Offensively, the Great Danes ranked fifth in the AE, averaging 57.1 points a contest. This season, the team will look to build off of its success on defense, while improving its offense with its key returning players. With 59 poll points and seven first-place votes from the conference, the AE title will likely have to go through UAlbany once again.

2. Maine (20-12, 15-3 AE) 58.3 PPG, 56.8 OPG

Maine is the reigning AE regular-season champion whose season came to an end in the conference championship game against UAlbany. It finished the year with a 15-3 conference record and a 20-12 overall record. The Black Bears will return senior guard Anne Simon, who was selected as AE player of the year and defensive player of the year. She is only the fifth student-athlete in conference history to win both awards simultaneously. Last season, Simon led the AE in scoring with 16.0 points per game and 16.2 points per conference game. She ranked 10th in the nation with 2.9 steals per game and accumulated three double-doubles, all with over 20 points. Simon will look to carry her success from last season into this year as Maine was voted to finish second with 54 poll points. Despite having the second-highest total votes, the Black Bears did not earn a single first-place vote. Last season, Maine ranked third in the conference in scoring, with 58.3 points per game, and ranked fourth in defense, allowing 56.8 points per game. The Black Bears also had the fewest amount of turnovers per game, with only 13.5 a game, and led in assists per game, tallying 14.3 per contest. With Simon leading the charge, Maine will be a formidable contender for the AE championship this season.

3. Vermont (20-11, 13-5 AE) 61.5 PPG, 54.3 OPG

With a trip to the conference semifinal game last season against the eventual champions UAlbany, Vermont is poised to have another successful season. The Catamounts earned 46 poll points, including one first-place vote, and are projected to finish in third place in the AE. Vermont finished in fourth place with a 20-11 record and 13-5 in the conference. They finished second in both offense and defense, averaging 61.5 points per game and only allowing 54.3 points per game. Furthermore, the Catamounts led the AE in field goal percentage. In 31 games they shot 41.7 percent from the field. Vermont’s roster features all-conference team selection senior guard Emma Utterback. Last season, Utterback started in all 31 games and averaged a team-high 13.5 points per game. She also led the team in assists and steals per game with 3.9 and 1.4, respectively. Junior forward Anna Olson was also selected to the all-conference team. Along with Utterback, Olson started in all but one game and averaged 12.3 points per game, 6.5 rebounds per game and 1.3 blocks per game. This dynamic duo will be difficult to contain this season, resulting in Vermont’s third-place ranking.

4. NJIT (15-15, 9-8 AE) 56.7 PPG, 60 OPG

Despite not having a single first-place vote, NJIT tallied 42 poll points to earn a fourth-place projection in the AE. The Highlanders had a middle-of-the-road season, finishing with a 15-15 overall record and 9-8 in the conference. However, they made a run in the AE playoffs, making it to the semifinal round where they lost to the conference runner-up Maine. NJIT ranked sixth in both offense and defense, scoring 56.7 points per game and conceding 60.0 points per game. Nonetheless, the Highlanders had three different players average more than 10 points per game. Two of them will be returning this season, including senior guard Kenna Squier and junior guard Lyzi Litwinko. The duo combined for 21.8 points per game and tied for the lead in assists with 2.1 a game. Litwinko led the team in rebounding last year, averaging 7.1 a game while Squier led the team in steals with 1.5 on average. Although NJIT does not lead the conference in many statistical categories, it leads the AE in blocks and is one of the best rebounding teams. The Highlanders averaged 4.8 blocks per game and 35.9 rebounds per game, good enough for first and second in the AE, respectively. While there are other teams that have more to offer on offense, NJIT’s ability to rebound and block shots may give it a chance to go far this season.

5. Binghamton

6.UMass Lowell (11-16, 8-9 AE) 55.8 PPG, 60.9 OPG

One spot below Binghamton is UMass Lowell, another team that finished toward the middle of the pack last season. The River Hawks accumulated an 11-16 overall record while managing to go 8-9 in the AE, leaving them with 27 poll points from the conference projecting a sixth-place finish. Their numbers from last year fall in the bottom half of the most important statistical categories. They ranked seventh in offense with 55.8 points per game and eighth in defense, allowing 60.9 points per game. However, UMass Lowell led the conference in three-point field goal percentage at 33.9 percent, which ranked 55th in the country. Last season, the River Hawks lost senior guard Jaliena Sanchez to an injury. She played in only three games but scored 14 points per game in that brief amount of time. She shot 45.5 percent from the field and 50 percent from three-point range. With Sanchez hoping to play a full season, UMass Lowell will look to make the AE playoffs for the fourth straight year.

T7. New Hampshire (7-21, 4-12 AE) 53 PPG, 60.9 OPG

Last season, UNH finished the season with a 7-21 record and a 4-12 record in AE play. With 21 poll points, the Wildcats earned a tied seventh-place ranking with Bryant for this upcoming season. Statistically, the Wildcats were not impressive as they ranked last in offense in the AE. They managed only 53 points per game, however, their defense managed to rank eighth, as they gave up 60.9 points per game. Additionally, UNH was dead last in field goal percentage and three-point field goal percentage, shooting 36.3 percent and 23.4 percent, respectively. Despite the team’s poor shooting numbers, the Wildcats led the AE in steals per game with 8.75 and were second in offensive rebounding with 12.1 a game. Additionally, senior guard Amanda Torres will return for her final year. Last season, Torres was the only Wildcat to average double-digit points. She averaged 10.5 points per game and led the team in assists per game, with 2.6, and steals per game, with 1.8. Prior to last year, UNH earned two straight trips to the AE playoffs. This season, the Wildcats will look to get back to their winning ways, with Torres likely leading the charge.

T7. Bryant (10-22, 6-12 NEC) 56.5 PPG, 63.3 OPG

Bryant is a brand new addition to the conference, with this upcoming season being its induction into the AE. With Stony Brook and Hartford now departing from the conference, the Bulldogs will look to fill the hole that the Seawolves and Hawks leave behind. The Bulldogs tallied a 10-22 overall record, going 6-12 in the Northeast Conference (NEC). They scored 56.5 points per game and allowed 63.3 points per game. Bryant will lose its main offensive contributor from last season in graduate student center Brooke Bjelko. Bjelko started all 32 games for the Bulldogs and averaged a team-high 13.1 points per game. Even though she will not return this season, Bryant has a number of key contributors returning. Junior center Mariona Planes Fortuny averaged 9.4 points per game, senior guard Alana Perkins averaged eight points per game and senior guard Nicole Gallagher, who averaged 7.4 points per game, are all returning for the Bulldogs this season. Because Bryant is brand new to the conference, it is difficult to predict how they will adjust to the competition. They earned 21 poll points from the conference to leave them tied for seventh with UNH.

9. UMBC (3-23, 2-14 AE) 54.1 PPG, 65.3 OPG

UMBC finds itself dead last on the preseason poll, only managing 15 points. After a last-place finish in the conference standings last season, this season is also not looking promising for the Retrievers. Last year, the Retrievers had a 3-23 overall record and managed only two wins in the AE. The Retrievers found themselves toward the bottom of the rankings in most stat categories. They finished eighth in points per game and ninth in opponent’s points per game, with 54.1 and 65.3, respectively. Most of UMBC’s issues last season can be attributed to the defense. It gave up the highest opponent field goal percentage in the AE, as it allowed opposing teams to shoot 45.3 percent from the field. On top of that, the Retrievers ranked dead last in rebounds per game, only managing 32.1 a game. Moreover, three of the four leading scorers for UMBC last season will not be returning to the team. Graduate student guard Keelah Dixon, who averaged 9.1 points per game last season, will have to lead the team offensively. With a depleted squad that seems to have little direction for the future, the Retrievers do not look like a team that will be in contention this season, thus earning the last-place prediction in this year’s poll.