Coming off its second consecutive America East (AE) semi-finals appearance during the 2022-23 season, the Binghamton men’s basketball team looks to pick up where they left off as the season tips off in November. With a regular season record of 13-18, going 8-8 in AE play, the Bearcats entered the AE playoffs as the fifth seed where they beat UMBC in overtime to advance to the semi-finals before falling to the eventual AE champions in Vermont. Entering year three at the helm is Binghamton head coach Levell Sanders.

“I think everybody’s just excited,” Sanders said. “We feel that we have a good team. We feel that we got some really good players and some really good people. So we’re just excited to be able to actually go out there and put a product out there that I think people will be excited to come and watch and support.”

Binghamton revamped its roster through the transfer portal and was picked to finish fourth in the preseason coaches poll for the second year in a row. Binghamton’s roster features just five returning players. This group includes the guard duo of senior guard Armon Harried and graduate student guard Dan Petcash, who led the returning Bearcats in scoring with a combined 591 points last year. Sanders emphasized, however, that in the Bearcat’s system this year there isn’t a true number one option — rather, Sanders’ main focus is on team basketball and playmaking.

“If you have one guy scoring all the points, it is usually easy to stop one guy,” Sanders said. “But if you have a bunch of guys that can go out on any given night and get you points, then that’s a team that is gonna be hard to stop. And then for us, it’s just a matter of trying to get out and play the right way … if you play the right way the ball is gonna find you.”

One of the main areas that the Bearcats will look to improve upon this coming season is three-point shooting. Binghamton trailed the AE in both team three-point FG percentage, at .323, and total three-pointers made with 172. Turnovers are another area Sanders emphasized for the squad over the offseason, as the Bearcats were the only team in the AE with a turnover margin below negative two at -2.26.

“We wanted to improve on our ability to make shots,” Sanders said. “So we’ve been taking a lot of shots this past summer and now into the fall. We need to be a better offensive team than we were. We were [329th] in made three-pointers per game last year in division one basketball, so we got to be better with that.”

Projected to be one of the main contributors to the Bearcats offense is a new face to the team — graduate student guard Symir Torrence. Torrence comes to BU after two years at Marquette and Syracuse, respectively, and brings with him an FG percentage of .453 in 11.2 minutes a game for the Orange last year. Torrence is part of a trio of new transfers to BU this season that also includes sophomore guard Chris Walker out of Arkansas-Little Rock as well as junior guard Tymu Chenery from Quinnipiac. Walker is also projected to be an immediate impact contributor, having shot .360 from the three-point line coming off the bench for the Trojans.

“We needed to add depth,” Sanders said. “We finished the season last year playing seven guys. We have some guys injured, and we had some guys going through some things personally. So for our last game against Vermont, we had two point guards on the bench who were injured, and not able to play. So I think from a depth standpoint, that was one thing that we needed to improve and get better with. I think we did that.”

This year’s Bearcats squad also features one of the largest first-year recruiting classes in recent memory for BU with four freshman players coming in. Joining BU out of IMG Academy is freshman forward Gavin Walsh and freshman guard Max Sims, while freshman guard Evan Ashe joins Binghamton coming out of Charlotte, North Carolina. Rounding out the group is freshman forward Stephan Snagg, a NYC native from Queens, New York. With the freshman class, Sanders says his main goal is to convince them that Binghamton is the place they should spend their entire college ball career.

“We have to sell them on that they can become the cornerstones of the program instead of going somewhere else and transferring and having to start over new,” Sanders said. “So that’s important for us. When those guys are gonna have some success, and they’re gonna play and play meaningful minutes and be out on the floor. I think it’ll give them the opportunity to see that and I think feel that.”

With the first game on the horizon, Sanders promises fans a team that will play hard in their quest for an AE Championship.

“I think we have a team that is going to go out and compete every night,” Sanders said. “Win, lose or draw, we’re going to compete and be competitive. So that’s going to put us in a position to win every night and then … we’re gonna play a brand of basketball that’s going to be exciting and that’s going to make people want to come and watch. So I would just say get your popcorn ready.”

BU opens its regular season with non-conference play, as AE play won’t begin until Thursday, Jan. 11 on the road against Bryant. The Bearcats will kick off its season with an exhibition game against D‘Youville University on Wednesday, Nov. 1. Tip-off is set for 6:07 p.m. at the Dr. Bai Lee Court at the Events Center in Vestal, New York.