After being established in 1979, The America East (AE) has struggled with creating big TV numbers and obtaining a strong base of loyal fans. Especially when it comes to competing against larger conferences like the ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) or the Big East. It’s hard to build a bigger brand name team in order to survive in the harsh jungle of college basketball conferences; unless your name is Lavar Ball, of course. But don’t give up on the America East just yet.
Yes, the schools that participate in the AE conference are not the biggest schools in reference to their popularity. Teams like UAlbany and Vermont, despite having some NCAA tournament appearances and for being the two leading teams in the conference, have not given the conference the attention that it needs in order to compete for more consideration of having a competitive atmosphere.
Having a national TV presence is the most important factor for conferences in order to achieve a competitive image. Not be blunt, but these “unpopular teams”, need to prove that they are worth the time and money of major broadcasting outlets (ESPN, CBS, NBC). These outlets love to present college teams that can turn a profit for them. Then after graduation, they hope that one of these teams can offer a future NBA player who can dazzle the crowd, and in turn make more money during the NBA season.
For example, the ACC has a reputation for having fast-paced basketball games and possessing a national TV presence that can offer any young student-athlete the opportunity for fame and glory, or even the possibility of being an NBA player. Teams like Duke, the current leader in national polls for the number one spot, is just one of the great schools inside this legendary basketball conference. They have pumped out numerous NBA stars like Kyrie Irving and J.J Redick, and that right there is the reason why they are so well-known.
Teams out of the AE conference in the past five seasons have not offered any spectacular NBA stars to help show off the power of the conference. Every time you see an NBA player on TV, the broadcast team always shows what college they attended and talk about how much of a great college baller that player once was. America East teams lack this certain kind of “NBA stardom.” That kind of recognition, being as simple as it may be, can give any university the attention it needs so that more fans come flocking towards them. Which is what UAlbany and Vermont need to start achieving.
However, players like Joe Cremo (UAlbany, SG), David Nicholas (UAlbany, PG), and Trae Bell-Haynes (Vermont, PG), are starting to prove that an America East player could be drafted into the NBA in the near future. They all have the skills and athleticism needed for the professional level. Every single one of these players has their own certain brands, which is what some NBA scouts are looking for.
If these AE stars do eventually get drafted, ESPN will start putting this smaller conference on the bigger stage instead of being stuck in the ESPN 3 slot, which is strictly online and is only offered to certain providers (Verizon, Spectrum, and so on). It receives way fewer viewers compared to the other main stations of the ESPN empire.
So, once the America East can start producing more competitive teams to take down the goliath teams of college basketball, they will start seeing more of the limelight on the big stage.