The Stony Brook men’s basketball team playing against UMBC on Feb. 7. Stony Brook was picked to win the America East for the first time since 2015-16. ETHAN TAM/THE STATESMAN

Championships are not won in October, but the results of the America East preseason poll prove how high the expectations are in Suffolk County for a trophy to be hoisted in March.

On Thursday, Oct. 21, the conference announced that the conference’s 10 head coaches projected Stony Brook to win the America East, with the Seawolves earning five first-place votes and 77 total points. The Vermont Catamounts earned four of the remaining first-place votes and finished in second place with 74 points.

This marks the first time that Vermont has not been named the preseason America East favorite in six years. Stony Brook was picked to win the title before during the 2015-16 season and concluded that campaign with its first trip to the NCAA Tournament in program history. 

New Hampshire, which finished in third, earned the final first-place vote, while last season’s America East champion Hartford was picked to finish in fourth as the school prepares its transition to the Division III level.

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Graduate guard Elijah Olaniyi, making his return to the Seawolves after one season at Miami, was named to the Preseason All-Conference Team. Olaniyi averaged 18.0 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game while shooting 36% from three in the 2019-20 season, his most recent at Stony Brook.

Olaniyi is joined on the Preseason All-Conference Team by Vermont senior forward Ryan Davis and graduate guard Ben Shungu, New Hampshire senior forwards Nick Guadaramma and Jayden Martinez and Hartford graduate guard Austin Williams.

The Seawolves uncharacteristically finished seventh place in the America East last season with a 9-14 (7-9 AE) record. It was the program’s worst record in 13 years and fell far short of the team’s usual baseline of 20 wins and a top-2 finish in the conference.

“Last year was a struggle for everybody,” head coach Geno Ford said on America East Media Day. “It seemed like the only thing I successfully did was stick a Q-tip in my nose three times a week. We had a hard year. A lot of people were frustrated.”

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However, optimism is high surrounding Stony Brook’s incoming transfer class, including Olaniyi, graduate guard Jahlil Jenkins from Fairleigh Dickinson, redshirt junior guard Anthony Roberts from St. Bonaventure and redshirt sophomore guard Tanahj Pettway from Indian River State College.

“A year after the [transfer] portal took us from penthouse to outhouse, the portal brought us back,” Ford said.

The Stony Brook women’s basketball team was also picked to finish first in the preseason poll, marking the first time an America East school has had both its men’s and women’s teams as preseason favorites since Boston University did the same in 2010-11. 

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