2023 America East Basketball Tournament Betting Preview, Bracket & Odds
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images. Pictured: The America East Conference logo.
Welcome to my favorite event of the year: the America East Conference Tournament.
As Action Network’s resident America East expert, I’m here to provide far too much information on these teams and how to attack this tournament.
For what it’s worth, you might want to listen. I hit 70% of my America East plays last season and am 25-15-1 betting on or against America East teams this season.
Below, I’ll dive into all my favorite betting angles for the America East Conference Tournament, mainly by weaving a story of how the conference was, how it is, and how I expect it to play out over the next seven days.
For tournament context: Eight of the nine conference teams make the tournament and are sorted into a general eight-team bracket, with the higher seed hosting each game. The conference also re-seeds the teams for the semifinals.
2023 America East Tournament Bracket
2023 America East Tournament Odds
America East Performance Change in Last 30 Days
America East Champ: Vermont or UMass Lowell?
This tournament is a two-team race. I don’t see a viable path for anyone other than Vermont or UMass Lowell.
So, do you take Vermont (-175) or Lowell (+200)?
I was all in on the River Hawks preseason because they returned a lot, including the best frontcourt in the league and certified firecracker Connor Withers. Meanwhile, Vermont was transitioning from dominant frontcourt presences (Anthony Lamb, Ryan Davis) to almost zero interior presence.
Therefore, I expected a veteran-laden River Hawks team to storm through the AmEast while stealing a game or two from the Catamounts’ frontcourt. After the River Hawks beat the Catamounts, 80-65, at home in the early season, I thought I had nailed it.
Two things have changed since.
First, Vermont figured out its frontcourt rotation. The Cats supplanted Robin Duncan at the 4 and started rotating Matt Veretto and Ileri Ayo-Faleye at the 5.
Given John Becker’s reputation for player development, it’s unsurprising the adjustments worked. After getting shredded by opposing post-ups in the first half of the season, the Catamounts slowly built an adept interior defense.
For example, Vermont allowed 14 points on 12 post-up opportunities in the early-season loss to Lowell. The Catamounts then allowed two points on five post-up opportunities in their late-season 93-81 win over the River Hawks.
That Lowell frontcourt advantage I was betting on is gone.
Second, after missing some time in the middle of the season, Withers has been pulled almost entirely from Pat Duquette’s rotation, playing 5.5 minutes per game over the final four.
Suddenly, the player that helped Obadiah Noel carry Lowell to the AmEast title game in 2021 is a non-factor.
That Lowell X-factor I was betting on is gone.
Lowell still finished the year 24-7 with wins in seven of its final eight games, the best season in program history. And after the River Hawks beat Vermont earlier this season, the market and the public should price UMass Lowell with a higher chance to win the conference tournament (2-1) than they had to win the regular-season title (10-1).
But considering the developments surrounding both squads, I’d say Lowell’s true odds have decreased, in turn increasing Vermont’s.
Meanwhile, Becker turned Vermont into a buzzsaw. By using Duncan as the primary distributor and rotating his talented backcourt pieces in a three-guard five-out offense, Vermont led the nation in eFG% (60.7%) over its final 12 games, all wins.
Image via CBB ANALYTICS
Plus, the conference title runs through Burlington, a significant handicapping factor considering the America East had the highest home-winning percentage of any conference this year (68.1%).
So, going further, I’d say Vermont’s -165 odds are way too low. Nobody can beat Vermont at Patrick, including the team everyone thinks could.
Therefore, for the first time in my three-year history of covering the America East Conference for Action Network, I am betting on my Vermont Catamounts to win the America East Tournament.
I also hate Lowell’s draw, specifically the first-round matchup…
Bet Maine ATS vs. Lowell
Of any team Lowell could’ve pulled in the first round, Maine is the team the River Hawks didn’t want.
Maine is the most aggressive defense in the league, spearheaded by Kellen Tynes’ nation-leading 3.3 steals per game. Meanwhile, Lowell’s main issue is ball handling, as the Hawks finished seventh in the conference and sub-300 nationally in turnover rate.
Predictably, Lowell finished with 15 and 17 turnovers in two games against Maine, as the Black Bears lost by two in Lowell and won by five in Orono.
The River Hawks should be shaking in their boots.
Maine is also playing with confidence. The Bears started AmEast play 0-5 but went 7-4 down the stretch, capping off the streak with this incredible double-clutch buzzer-beater against Bryant.
And the zebra with the knockout “COUNT IT” for good measure. pic.twitter.com/bLzUbwDqEx
— The College Basketball Stories Podcast (@theCBBstories) March 1, 2023
Maine’s offense is an issue, but its defense should keep it close.
The Bears could win outright if Gedi Juozapaitis hits shots (57.5 TS%, 39.4 3P%). Maine should be catching around 10 points in Lowell on Saturday, and I’m happy to bet the Black Bears in that range.
Unfortunately, if an epic upset were to happen, Maine would catch Vermont in the second round due to re-seeding. And there’s no shot the Bears can win up in Burlington.
That begs the question, are there any longshots with a chance?
My Favorite (Only) Longshot: New Hampshire
I’m not that high on UNH.
While the Wildcats won 3-of-4 down the stretch, they also put up duds in massive games against Vermont (80-51 loss) and Lowell (92-55 loss). They also barely hung for a one-point home win against NJIT in the regular season finale.
New Hampshire just isn’t playing that well.
However, New Hampshire is the only team other than Lowell guaranteed to avoid Vermont until the final round. At 34-1, that’s almost worth a flier alone.
There are things to like about New Hampshire. Clarence Daniels is an America East Player of the Year candidate, given his three-level scoring ability (15.2 PPG) and high motor on the boards (10.7 RPG).
Image via CBB Analytics
Daniels also leads a half-decent frontcourt. Specifically, a frontcourt that beat Vermont in Durham before the Cats figured out their frontcourt issues.
But there are also reasons to hate New Hampshire. For one, the Wildcats are far too 3-point reliant for a terrible shot-making team, and there’s zero secondary scoring behind Daniels, especially on the interior.
However, the Wildcats also get Bryant in the first round, so I like their chances slightly more…
Do not fall for the Bryant Bulldogs.
Jared Grasso is the most overrated coach in the low majors. How he took one of the most talented rosters in America East history and turned it into an 8-8 conference squad is beyond me.
Bryant also enters this tournament with the opposite of momentum, finishing the regular season 1-4 straight up and 0-5 against the spread.
Ultimately, this unimpressive season came from a lack of two-way execution.
On offense, Bryant runs the floor as much and as fast as possible, trying to attack the rim or shoot from deep. But the Bulldogs ended up as one of the nation’s least efficient transition teams, turning the ball over too much and boasting insufficient shotmakers.
Bryant was touted as a low-major Iowa. In reality, Bryant is Iowa if the Hawkeyes threw the ball away 20% of the time, couldn’t get open rim looks and shot 30% from deep.
Meanwhile, Bryant boasts one of the most passive zone defenses I’ve ever seen. ShotQuality marks the Bulldogs as the league’s seventh-best rim defense, and anyone can post them up, two things most zone defenses avoid.
And because they play zone, the Bulldogs let opponents shred them from the perimeter, something Vermont did twice.
Ultimately, I’m fading Bryant in the first round against New Hampshire, where the Wildcats should be a short home favorite. The Bulldogs went 5-9 ATS on the road this year, more evidence that Grasso isn’t that guy.
And if the Bulldogs beat the overrated Wildcats, they’ll likely be re-seeded and play Vermont in Burlington, where I will place the biggest bet of my life on the Catamounts. Bryant closed as four-point underdogs the last time they played at Patrick, and I’d bet the Catamounts win by double-digits.
Vermont has one of the nation’s best transition defenses, perfectly built to stop Bryant. And if Bryant can’t beat Vermont at home right after the Catamounts clinched the regular-season title (the sleepiest spot ever), the Bulldogs never will.
Live Bet UMBC in 1st Round Against Binghamton
Binghamton’s had a weird season. Head coach Levell Sanders turned his roster over in the middle of the year.
First, he pulled former No. 2 option John McGriff from the rotation entirely due to his inefficiency and inability to play with lead guard Jacob Falko. Then, he stopped playing his big-man rotation altogether because he liked the switchability provided by playing Christian Hinckson at the 5.
Sanders can coach, but he’s trying to work through awkward roster issues. As a result, he’s essentially playing a six-man rotation without his former second-highest-usage player or his two centers.
This six-man rotation blew late leads in its final three games, getting outscored 20-13 in two overtime periods to close the season. This shorter rotation just gets gassed.
So, if Binghamton jumps ahead early, is leading at halftime, or is leading late, I’d target UMBC’s relatively deep and balanced offensive attack to take over once the Bearcats run low on battery.
UMBC’s home-court advantage should also play a factor late.
America East Conference Tournament Bets
- Outright: Vermont to Win Tournament (-165 at Caesars)
- Outright: New Hampshire to Win Tournament (+3400 at FanDuel)
- First Round: Maine ATS vs. UMass Lowell (Projected +10)
- First Round: New Hampshire ATS vs. Bryant (Projected +2)
- First Round: UMBC Live ML/ATS vs. Binghamton
- Potential Second Round: Vermont ATS vs. Bryant (Projected -4)
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