Saturday, October 1, 2011

Unranked: A Whole New World

After 10 short months, I've decided to retire From the Parking Lot. I will be joining forces with former members of America Least and Purple and Gold Nation to form an America East superblog for The blog will be called "Unranked", and I promise to continue to write homer-inspired entries about our beloved Vermont Catamounts.

It's been fun. Let's cue it up one more time.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Brian Voelkel featured in Slam Online

It's always nice when your players get national attention. According to Slam Online, Brian Voelkel can expect more to come if he continues to be the do-it-all man for the Catamounts.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Non-Conference Schedule Released

When it comes to a mid-major's non-conference schedule, I'm not a huge believer in playing the best to get better. It's undebatable that you don't learn all that much from scrimmaging teams like St. Michael's or Concordia, but it is just as true that you don't learn anything from getting pounded by teams like BYU (that game last year was ugly). This is precisely why I love Vermont's 2011-2012 non-conference schedule: there are almost zero games where the Catamounts will be over their heads, and there aren't many games where they will be heavily favored.

10/29: Saint Michael's (Preseason)
11/5: Concordia (Preseason)
11/12: @South Florida
11/16: @Dartmouth

Hall of Fame Tip-Off (Uncasville, CT)
11/19: Marist
11/20: Long Island/Radford

11/23: @Old Dominion
11/26: Siena
12/1: Harvard
12/3: @Yale
12/7: @Saint Louis
12/11: Quinnipiac
12/17: Iona
12/21: @Fairleigh Dickinson
12/23: @Towson
12/30: Northeastern

I love the Harvard game. Harvard returns every player from last year's team that was tournament bound until Princeton hit a buzzer beater. That will be a tough early season test.
Old Dominion is another game that is no joke. They lose three of their top four scorers, but you can always count on the Monarchs to reload. I look at this game as replacing the George Mason game that was on the schedule for a few years. ODU is still a top-tier CAA team, and that is a good thing to have on your schedule as a mid-major.
Saint Louis is another nice game. They aren't the most formidable A-10 opponent you could hope for, but they are an A-10 team all the same.

Those are the three highlights from this year's non-conference schedule. Sure, it would have been nice to see the defending-champion Huskies on the schedule again, but would that really be productive? What did the Cats learn from that game last year? That they could hang with anyone in the country during one half of a basketball game. The Huskies ended up being a completely different team by the time the NCAA tournament came around. Better to play some competitive basketball and hope you get better as the season gets closer to March.

Three months until the start of the season, ladies and gentlemen. Three months.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Last Season's Highlights

Oh, hell yeah! I was starting to worry that I wouldn't have any material this summer and then the "Vermont Catamounts" Facebook fan site comes through with this video:

My favorite? Voekel's behind the back pass to Fjeld at the :34 second mark.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

John Becker In As Coach

Coach Becker. I can get down with that.

The University of Vermont made John Becker the head coach of the men's basketball program on Friday. The hire was not as juicy as it could have been, but it was a safe and calculated hire. The team will face less of a transition period going into next season, assuming that Becker's style of coaching will not differ dramatically from that of former Coach Mike Lonergan. Also, returning players and recruits who committed to play at Vermont will be less likely to look into playing at another program, which is often a concern when you hire a coach from outside of your program.

Becker has previous head coaching experience at Division III Gallaudet University, a school for the deaf and hearing impaired. He then moved on to being an assistant coach at Catholic University (where Lonergan used to coach) before coming to Vermont to be an assistant under Lonergan. That type of experience had to be what set Becker apart from Lonergan's top assistant at Vermont, Hajj Turner, who will be going to GW with Lonergan.

Apparently, Becker had tears in his eyes while he was being announced as the head coach. Imagine how hard he will be bawling when Vermont wins an NCAA tournament game.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Coaching Search Continues

In the midst of Vermont's search for a new coach, I have been on a four day, 2,300 mile road trip back to Vermont (I took a bizarre route to make sure I saw some old friends). That is the my excuse for the lack of coverage detailing UVM's ongoing coaching search. Sporting Vermont recently ran a great piece covering this subject, and, as that article points out, John Fantino has also done a predictably good job keeping the Catamount faithful up to speed.

So here's what we know: former Lonergan assistant John Becker is the interim head coach -- a great choice because he helped keep recruits committed to UVM, and he has helped keep current players from transferring (so far). Keep in mind how many schools would love to have Brian Voelkel, Luke Apfeld, or Sandro Carissimo and their three years of remaining eligibility. We know that Middlebury coach Jeff Brown is not interested in the job. As our friend Oscar, who writes for America Least, pointed out, Brown has a really good situation at Middlebury. You have to respect coaches who know that good is good enough. Just ask Dan Munson. Or Billy Gillespie. Or Jeff Capel. It's a long list, and those are only a few high profile cases of coaches who sprung for "better" coaching jobs that turned out to be a whole lot worse. We also know that Hajj Turner, Lonergan's top assistant, will be headed down to GW with Lonergan.

Other than that, several names have been thrown around as possible candidates to take over at UVM. Don't count Becker out, but I would personally be surprised if he landed the head coaching job without the "interim" part attached to the title. He was not even Lonergan's top assistant, and though he has legitimate experience coaching at the Division III level, you would think UVM would look for a bigger name. It will be interesting to see how it unfolds.

Sure is nice to be back home in Vermont.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Lonergan Leaves For GW

The Vermont men's basketball team has no head coach. Mike Lonergan announced last night via text message that he will be coaching the George Washington Colonials next season.

During Lonergan's six years at Vermont, the Catamounts enjoyed a record of 126-68 and qualified for one NCAA tournament, a CBI, and two NIT appearances. They won the regular season crown twice during his tenure (and shared it a third time).

The national search for a new head coach to fill the gaping hole at Vermont will begin immediately. The front runner for this job will likely be somebody with no Division I head coaching experience -- remember, Lonergan did not have any when he first came to Burlington. Jeff Brown, who graduated from UVM in 1982, seems to be the people's choice (I know this because of twitter). Brown is considered a great tactician and recruiter at the Division III level, down the road at Middlebury, where he has coached for the past fourteen years. All the Panthers did this past season was go 28-2 en route to the NCAA semifinals.

Another possible candidate would have to be Hajj Turner, Lonergan's former top assistant. Turner was rumored to be going back to his alma mater, Louisville, to become an assistant under Rick Pitino. It seems like that has fallen through.

The dark horse, the crazy-hire, the are-you-out-of-your-mind-candidate is your boy, T.J. Sorrentine, who has been a top assistant at Brown the last two seasons. Lord knows, Sorrentine would be welcomed back to Patrick with arms wide open. If you foolishly clicked that link, I apologize.

So today we say goodbye to Mike Lonergan and wish him the best of luck in the future. I can already picture the odd frequency with which I will find myself on the GW athletics page, quietly hoping that Lonergan can make us proud, and the strange warm feeling that I will get when a GW game is on television and the ESPN announcers are obliged to say, "Lonergan had great success at his previous job, coaching up in Burlington. (Second announcer): He coached at UVM, where he replaced our buddy, Tom Brennan." And UVM basketball will get a little more well-deserved respect. And for that, Coach Lonergan, we thank you.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Hewitt In At George Mason

Former Georgia Tech head coach Paul Hewitt has been hired at George Mason to the same title. Hewitt seemed like he was on the proverbial hot seat for the last three decades in Atlanta, but it was probably more like the last three years. He was finally fired at the end of this season sometime during March (dates in that month don't actually exist due to the NCAA tournament). After reaching the NCAA title game in 2004 (and losing to UConn), Hewitt and the Yellow Jackets were never able to achieve the same level of success: they reached the second round twice in those seven years and missed the tournament four times.

This means that Coach Lonergan remains an obvious candidate at only one school, George Washington. This may have already been established considering that Lonergan never even interviewed at George Mason (to my knowledge), while his interview at George Washington was openly publicized.

It took Mason about a week to hire a coach. Monday will mark a week since George Washington fired Karl Hobbs, so you might anticipate hearing about who will be the new coach at GW early this week.

Buckle up -- the coaching carousel is awhirl.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

GW To Interview Lonergan

According to the Burlington Free Press, UVM head coach Mike Lonergan will interview for the open George Washington coaching job.

Lonergan has rarely shown any interest in interviewing for other jobs, so it would appear that he is definitively attracted to this job. I guess you can take the coach out of Washington D.C., but you can't keep him in Vermont unless you pay him more money. That's the saying, right?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Hobbs Out at GW -- Lonergan a Candidate There, Too?

The plot thickens. George Washington University announced on Monday that head coach Karl Hobbs has been fired. The highlight of Hobbs' ten year run in Washington D.C. was a 27-3 record in 2005-2006. The Colonels made the tournament again the next year before slipping into Atlantic 10 mediocrity the last few seasons.

Why is this significant in terms of UVM Basketball? For two reasons. It means two intriguing coaching jobs have opened up in the Washington D.C. area in the last few days. Coach Lonergan is from there, and has various coaching experience in the area, as my previous post takes note of. Perhaps more importantly, the man who fired Hobbs, Patrick Nero, had just been hired as the new athletic director at GW. His previous position? Commissioner of the America East conference. Nero will lead the search for a new coach to head the Colonels, and you have to believe Mike Lonergan is somewhere on that list.

The Nero connection is what UVM fans who hope to see Lonergan stay should be worried about; the GW job is not quite as alluring as the George Mason job. George Mason is coming off a solid season in which they were ranked in the top five of the mid-major poll for upwards of a month. They made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament only to suffer a brutal loss at the hands of Ohio State's shooting display that can only be described as hot fuego (my own words). Mason returns four out of five of their leading scorers from last season. Meanwhile, George Washington showed some signs of life last season, finishing fourth in the Atlantic ten, but they are not nearly as polished a product as the Patriots. That is to say, stepping into the George Mason job would seem to be much more desirable. Also, George Mason's iconic status as a mid-major juggernaut seems to have had some pull in the recruiting world over the last five seasons, something any coach must be attracted to.

With potential options springing up for Lonergan, Catamount country remains on high alert.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Lonergan Leaving?

WPTZ sports reported this evening that UVM Coach Mike Lonergan is a finalist for the coaching vacancy at George Mason. The other finalist, Bill Courtney -- head coach at Cornell -- has stronger ties to George Mason, having helped departing Coach Jim Larranaga build George Mason into a mid-major powerhouse. If you think "mid-major powerhouse" is an oxymoron, you may be right, but if it does in fact exist, George Mason helped that term become a reality with their amazing run to the 2006 Final Four. Larranaga left Mason a couple of days ago to become the head coach at the University of Miami, a decision that must have come down to money. I mean, honestly, who wants to coach the Hurricanes?

Why would Lonergan make sense at George Mason? He was born and raised in the Washington, D.C. area, which happens to be where George Mason is located. He won the NCAA Division III National Championship coaching the Catholic University of America, which is in D.C. He moved on to be an assistant coach at the neighboring University of Maryland in 2004, before joining the coaching staff at UVM shortly thereafter. You would imagine Lonergan and his family like Washington D.C.

The decision on who will fill the coaching vacancy will probably be made within the next couple of days, so we will keep our eyes on that. Some part of me thinks Lonergan really enjoys being at UVM, but I suppose that's what every naive college fan of a small school thinks until their coach up and leaves.

Who would be a good fit to fill Lonergan's shoes if he did leave? Here's my list:

Phil Jackson
Rudy Tomjanovich
John Thompson Jr.


I will create a real list if Lonergan actually does leave. Until then, I will continue to believe our coach is staying.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Houston, We Have a Contract

Marqus Blakely signed a three year, non-guaranteed contract with the Houston Rockets early yesterday morning. Blakely immediately flew into Minneapolis for the Rockets season finale so that he could, well, ride the bench for the evening. What does this all mean? It means at least one NBA team, and probably others, are interested in Blakely's future services. Does it mean we can expect to see him in a Rockets uniform next year? Absolutely not.

Blakely-- who is attempting to become the first UVM alumnus to play in an NBA game -- would need to make the Rocket's fifteen man squad at the end of next season's training camp for his contract to become solidified. This is the same deal that Blakely faced toward the end of training camp last summer, with the Los Angeles Clippers. He was the last man cut by the Clippers and played the 2010-11 season with the Bakersfield Jam and Iowa Energy of the NBDL.

It is significant that the Rockets made this decision just before their season came to a close (they finished ninth in the West at 43-39, so they will not be in the playoffs): it means they want Marqus to be working out with other Houston players this summer. This could help him impress his peers and coaches and give him an advantage over potential summer signees he will be competing against for a spot on the team in preseason camp.

One reason we shouldn't get too excited about seeing Blakely in a Rocket's jersey next season is due to the impending NBA lockout. Personally, I have trouble believing there will not be an NBA season played next year. I have a similar amount of trouble believing there will not be an NFL season next year. But people who know what they're talking about more so I seem to think there will be a lockout, so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.

Meanwhile, Marqus Blakely and his devout followers will await the day we can finally don an NBA jersey with his name on the back. Now that will be some sweet stuff.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Marqus Blakely: Your Neighborhood Glass Cleaner

All Marqus Blakely did in 28 minutes of action last night was pull down 13 boards -- 6 of them offensive -- and score 15 points. Last night was the first game of the playoffs for Marqus' team, the Iowa Energy, who go into the NBDL playoffs as the top seed in the Eastern Conference. I cannot explain why this means they play the fifth seed in the Western Conference (the Utah Flash), but I'm sure there is a (not so) good reason. Trying to figure out the NBDL playoff system is kind of like trying to figure out why VCU made the NCAA tournament this year. Wait... they went to the Final Four? Seriously??!! Okay, bad example. But seriously, the NBDL playoff system makes zero sense. Two teams from the Eastern Conference made the playoffs while six from the Western Conference made it. And then it would appear random seeds play each other. Why have conferences?

Regardless, Blakely's passionate performance helped spark the Energy to a 103-96 road victory over the Flash to take a 1-0 lead in the best of three series. The next two games are Monday and Tuesday (if necessary) in Iowa.

Marqus also converted a nice alley-oop dunk at the start of the second quarter, which is always fun to see. Blakely was on the receiving end of that "didn't-you-learn-how-to-defend-this-backdoor-alley-oop-when-you-were-in-high-school" play which seems to work at every level of basketball for some reason. Let's just say he converted.

You can see highlights of the game here. That link leads to a website, NBA Futurecast, where you can actually watch all of the NBDL's games live and for free. I just found that out for myself this week and have enjoyed keeping up with Marqus via games being broadcast online.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Vermont Hung With The Top Dogs

As Jim Nantz inflicted us with his latest cheesy declaration of the college basketball season coming to a close -- this year it was "UConn is Top Dog in 2011" -- Vermont fans had to be thinking about a game that took place nearly five months ago. On November 17th, the Catamounts led the 2011 national champion Connecticut Huskies 36-33 at the half. They would go on to lose the game 89-73 thanks to Kemba Walker's 42 points (a career high, and likely to remain just that when he enters the draft in the next twelve minutes or so).

Vermont, or any other team from Divisions I-III would have had a good chance at beating Butler tonight, as UConn did. The Bulldogs shot an absurd 12-64 from the field in the national championship game. That is futility that will be remembered for a very long time, unfortunately. Butler was an exciting team to watch throughout the month of March, but tonight was absolutely excruciating. Their big men looked like Muggsy Bogues vs. Manute Bol in the paint. Their guards tried their best to imitate T.J. Sorrentine every time down the floor. It was a disappointing outcome all around. And assuming Butler does not make another crazy run in March anytime soon, it will be a bad way to remember a team that gave inspiration to mid-majors everywhere during two straight NCAA tournaments.

Meanwhile, the Catamounts watched from Burlington, considering the next time they might see a Vermont jersey during the annual version of "One Shining Moment".

For a reminder on what that looks like, we go to the tape:

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Marsalis Bids Team Ado

Simeon Marsalis has cut ties with Vermont's basketball team according to the Burlington Free Press' Sports Blog, "On Campus".

While the news is not extremely damaging to the team's outlook next season -- Marsalis' role with the team became more marginal as this past season progressed -- it is disappointing all the same. I actually would be surprised if his decrease in playing time was a deciding factor for Marsalis leaving the team. Marsalis always appeared to be a class act and a team player in the two seasons he played for the Cats. Sometimes kids get tired of being student-athletes, and if that is how they feel, then who can blame them for leaving their team?

It sounds like Marsalis will continue his education at the University of Vermont, which is good to hear.

We wish you the best of luck, Simeon.

You have to wonder what Coach Lonergan is going to do with that extra scholarship.

Panther Pride

I'm about two weeks late on this update, but I meant to congratulate the 2011 Thetford Academy Panthers on a great season. My proud alma mater came up just short, once again, falling to Winooski in the Division 3 state championship game, 49-43. The fourth-seeded Panthers upset two-time defending champion Hazen -- a longtime Barre foe -- in the semifinals.

This season's campaign marked the eighth time in the last ten years that Thetford advanced to the semifinals, a great run for any school. No team in divisions 2-4 ever takes a trip to the Barre Auditorium (the neutral site of Vermont's semifinal and championship rounds) for granted, and Thetford is definitely no different.

The loss is Thetford's third straight loss in a state championship game. On the heels of state championships in 2002 and 2004, the Panthers were state runners-up in 2006, 2007, and now 2011 is added to that list. Being runner-up is obviously hard to swallow, but it is a proud achievement nonetheless. Someone once told me a little secret about sports: if you make it to the championship, you've got a fifty percent chance to win, no matter who you play. I agree. One of these years the Thetford Academy Panthers will be state champs once again, and the team will parade down Route 113 in firetrucks, and it will be made all the sweeter by those three close calls.

So despite this being a Vermont Catamounts blog -- or, perhaps, because of this being a Vermont Catamounts blog -- we pause to congratulate this year's Panthers.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Looking Forward from March (The March Forward)

What fun it is to look forward to the next season. I already discussed the schedule that the Catamounts are putting together in a previous post, but now it's time to look at what type of team they will be putting forth for that schedule. These projections are, of course, barring injuries, transfers, or players leaving school early for the NBA (I'm kidding... but seriously if Brian Voelkel put his name in the draft admit that you would think for a split second: "hmm....". But no, I'm kidding. Okay, 99% kidding). I'm going to deliver this on three different levels:
A) Things that are set in stone. These things are, ostensibly, unarguable facts about Vermont's depth chart in 2011-2012.
B) Potentialities. Nuff said.
C) Wild Ideas. This is my favorite section, where I get to try and predict crazy things about Vermont's team next year.

A) Things That Are Set In Stone.
This is interesting, mostly because what in the world is set in stone about Brian Voelkel's role with the team next year? Okay, a few things are: he will be the most important player for Vermont next season, he will rebound like Dennis Rodman on drugs (so, Dennis Rodman), and will make Bob Cousy look like only a decent passer (I'm probably kidding). Basically, what I'm trying to say, is that Voelkel will hopefully not be asked to play much point guard next season because someone will have stepped into that role, so what position will he play? Maybe it just doesn't matter. But it makes it hard to project who will play the other positions. So more on this in "Potentialities".
Brendan Bald is one player I think we can pin down. Bald will play the 2. He will continue to get better on the offensive side while playing stellar defense as the returning DPOY in America East. Bald was the most dependable 3-point shooter for Vermont this past season at 41% (50-122), though that's not exactly high praise on a team that struggled from distance all season long. I expect huge things from Bald during his junior campaign, like first or second team all-conference honors.

It's sad that I have no more in this section... but instead, let's interpret that as exciting.

B) Potentialities.
This is where it gets fun. Bear with me.
Vermont's point guard spot is Sandro Carissimo's to lose. It's a fact. This is partially due to the fact that Vermont is not bringing in any true point guards a season after struggling to find just that. Coach Lonergan tried to spoon feed the position to Carissimo toward the end of the season, and Sandro took little baby bites. Things that need to change: Sandro needs to feel more comfortable shooting the basketball. He was 17-37 from 3 -- 46% -- but he only attempted 37 threes. He turned the ball over 1.2 times a game and dished out 1.4 assists a game. It doesn't matter what level you're playing, a 1.1 A/TO ratio is not good for a point guard. Third graders get called out for that. Yet, Carissimo came on strong toward the end of the season. He proved he could score, but he needs to prove he can do that, dish out assists and turn the ball over less. Then he will secure a spot as the Cats starting point guard.
Matt Glass. The X Factor. Could the 2011-2012 season hinge on Glass' performance? I don't think that's crazy. Look, Brendan Bald is the only established scorer the Catamounts have returning, and even that could be considered a stretch (I personally don't think it is or I wouldn't have written it). Glass needs to shoot the basketball the way he did in the first half of the season, or at least score the way he did in the first half of the season: He dropped double figures (including 24 against UConn on 9-14 shooting) 9 out of his first 16 games. He sat out against UMBC, and then scored in double figures 2 out of the next 15 games. A split like that makes you wonder if the guy was hurt. Regardless of what may have been going on, Glass did a lot of good things for UVM this year. He adds size, defense, and hopefully can begin to be a key contributor on offense next season. He certainly has that potential (as long as we're talking about potentiality, am I right?).
Four McGlynn. When I first read this kids name I thought I was dreaming. And then I watched his highlights. The kid can shoot. I don't know if he can shoot from Antoine Walker's Land Of Fours, but he can shoot from distance. He has some nice steals on Youtube -- whatever that means. He will definitely compete for playing time with Carissimo at the 1 spot (though I honestly have no idea what kind of a ball handler he is), and will be able to spell Bald at the 2. I look forward to McGlynn's presence in Vermont's rotation.
Chris Santo is another incoming recruit, rated a "78" by ESPN's Insider-Recruiting-Something-Something (McGlynn is an 80 by the way). Do you know what that means? Me neither. He is a 6'4'' Small Forward from Cherry Hill, NJ. Apparently, he won a three point shooting contest in the annual North-South New Jersey All Star Game. He also scored 11 points in the actual game. Hopefully this means both Santo and McGlynn will be able to hit some big 3's for the Catamounts this season. More on this in the final section.
So we haven't discussed big men yet. I'm going to go ahead and say Matt Glass is the most likely candidate to be playing the 4 next season. He has that size. He has not shown that he is entirely comfortable in the post on offense, but he can play down there on defense at 6' 8''. Voelkel will be playing the 3/whatever position it is Brian Voelkel plays. Carissimo/McGlynn/and possibly Simeon Marsalis will see time at the point. Bald has the 2 spot locked up. So who steps in to play the 5?
Pat Bergmann. I would never have dreamed of writing that as my answer before the NIT, but that's the answer. Bergmann showed that he can bang with the big boys down low when Vermont took on Cleveland State, putting up 16 points and 8 rebounds.
Ben Crenca will also compete for the starting 5 position. This is the spot at which Vermont has the most work to do in terms of matching up with good big men, particularly during out of conference match ups.

C) Wild Ideas.
We've arrived.
Here's my first wild idea, and it's wild: There is a reason I haven't mentioned Luke Apfeld yet: because I think Apfeld is going to work his way into the starting lineup, and I think Apfeld is going to be a great player for Vermont by the end of next season. Not good- great. I think the potential starting lineup, by the end of the 2011-2012 America East season could be exactly this:
(And let's forget positions for now, who cares about arbitrary numbers)
Sandro Carissimo
Brendan Bald
Brian Voelkel
Matt Glass
Luke Apfeld

Now, I know I'm not exactly going out on a limb with those predictions: Without looking, I can tell you that those five players averaged the most minutes last year out of the players who will return next season (Okay, I just checked and I'm correct). But can the Catamounts compete in America East with Apfeld and Glass down low? Absolutely. Can they compete in the NCAA tournament, NIT, or CBI with those two down low? Maybe? The point here is that Pat Bergmann and Ben Crenca can come off the bench to spell Glass and Apfeld. We don't need a true center if the latter two can mark their territory in the paint, and I really think they can. That said, we will undoubtedly miss Fjeld's post-up presence that seemed to improve with each season. That is why this team will need to shoot the ball better, which brings us to our next wild idea:

Second wild idea: This team will greatly improve its three point shooting. A lot. While UVM finished fifth in three-point shooting percentage in America East, it made and attempted the fewest 3 pointers in the conference. How about this stat: Maine shot the second fewest three-pointers in America East, 539. Vermont attempted 430. Vermont made 4.9 three-pointers per game. UMBC was the only team worse in the conference at 6.1 per game. That's an issue. In the post game news conference after the NIT loss to Cleveland State, Coach Lonergan was asked what the team struggled with this season. He wasted no time citing the team's lackluster three point shooting.
But there is hope in the long range shooting department. McGlynn and Santo will be useful long range shooters off the bench. Glass will shoot the three less often and at a higher percentage. Bald will continue to shoot somewhere around a 42% clip. Hopefully he will feel free to attempt 150+ threes next year. The key here is Carissimo. I think Sandro Carissimo can match that 42% Bald shoots while shooting a similar amount of threes. There is no reason this team shouldn't attempt 600 threes and make 225 of them (which would be 37.5%). Without a steady scoring presence down low, shooting the three can make or break this team, and I think they have adequate artillery to get that mission accomplished.

The Wildest Idea: Pat Bergmann goes absolutely crazy, Glass or Apfeld is moved to sixth man, and the Catamounts have a big man come out of nowhere a la Chris Holm. Okay, Holm didn't come out of nowhere, but the Rhode Island transfer had a modest college basketball career before having a monster senior campaign for the Cats back in 2007. Regardless of the ill-advised comparisons I might make, Bergmann seems like he could be a reliable scorer and rebounder in America East. Is this all based on one game I saw the kid play? Yes. I promise, ESPN analysts sometimes see guys play fewer than one full game before they project them to be a preseason All-American. I am not predicating Bergmann will be an All-American -- if I was, I hope that someone reading this would check me into a psych ward -- but I am predicating a huge senior season from him. Coach Lonergan has a way of squeezing every ounce of potential out of players, and I see Bergmann as a prototype for Lonergan's miracle work.
So here is another potential starting lineup that might be more practical if you're taking into consideration arbitrary positions:
1-Brian Voelkel
2-Brendan Bald
3-Matt Glass
4-Luke Apfeld
5-Pat Bergmann

That is a lot of size. But it is not a ton of offense, at least the way those five players played last season. But these things can change from season to season. All five of those players could potentially have offensive breakthroughs next season. How about this lineup:
1. Carrisimo
2. Bald
3. Voelkel
4. Apfeld
5. Bergmann

Would there be a better sixth man in the conference than Matt Glass? Absolutely not. I still favor the original five I submitted to be the starters for UVM in 2011-2012 (Carissimo, Bald, Voelkel, Apfeld, Glass), but I see all of those lineups I just broke down as potentially viable.

2011-2012 will be another great year for the Cats. Our friends at Purple and Gold Nation, via America Least, have projected that UVM will finish third next season. I can't blame them. But what self-respecting Vermont fan, especially considering this past season, would pick Vermont to finish any lower than first in the conference? However, considering Vermont's record in the America East tournament when they are the top seed -- the only season they advanced to the NCAA tournament when they were the top seed was 2005 -- maybe it's best if they don't finish first. Except in 2012 they will set the record straight: they will win the regular season and postseason America East crowns, and we will be dancing our booties off in March. Write it down.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Won't You Take Me To DunkyTown

Marqus Blakely (15) waits his turn on the bench Wednesday night.

My friend and I were fortunate enough to go to DunkyTown, USA last night, population: Marqus Blakely. Having followed the stats that Blakely put up all year, I was finally able to see how he had been shooting 70% from the field: dunking the basketball. All the time.

We rolled up to the Cedar Park Event Center just in time for tip off at 7:30 CT. There were about 200 people in attendance (that might be a bit generous) in a stadium that has over 6,000 seats. Naturally, I demanded to my friend that we sit directly behind the Iowa Energy's bench (he's a push-over, it wasn't hard to talk him into it). The first time the music stopped bumping from the PA I jumped at the opportunity to say what up to Marqus, the man of the night.

"What up, Marqus!" I screamed like an asshole. To my surprise, he actually shot me a glance. Unfortunately, the only piece of clothing I wore that had anything to do with Vermont (and this was very poor planning on my part) was a Vermont Lake Monsters hat. I pointed to the hat and said, "VT, baby!". He smiled. I love that dude.

Anyway, Marqus came off the bench about five minutes into the game. I get the impression that's generally his role, sixth man. He certainly plays a lot of minutes for the Energy, a lot more than some of the guys who were starting. The first time he touched the ball, he caught it in full stride at the foul line, took a step or two inside it and threw down a thunderous two handed dunk that got at least one person out of their seat (me). The gym was introduced to the screaming dude who was randomly cheering for the Iowa Energy. It was awesome. Some family members of Kenny Taylor (another Energy player who also played with Blakely in Bakersfield earlier this season) asked me if I was from Iowa. No, I said, and explained how I was from Vermont. To their credit, they didn't have to ask me where that was. They were very friendly for the rest of the game, despite my various outbursts, so thank you Taylor family. But I digress.

That dunk would begin a theme for the night. Blakely ended the game with 22 points on 9-14 shooting -- five of those nine made field goals were dunks. In addition to the aforementioned dunk on the first touch of the game, two dunks were off nice alley-oops, there was a showtime-one-handed dunk on the break just before the end of the first half, and in the second half he drove baseline, rose through traffic and jammed it. With each dunk, my outbursts got more outrageous, and the crowd began to habituate to the shrieks that would come from the general area behind the Energy's bench when Blakely did his thing.

Marqus played a lot. I think he entered about five minutes into each half, and I don't think he sat for the rest of the half each time. I wasn't taking notes or anything, so I can't fill in all those details. I can tell you, as I hope I illustrated, Marqus was absolutely a human highlight reel on the offense end. I can also tell you the things that might keep him from advancing to the next level: he hit one shot outside of 12 feet (and attempted three or four) and had a few defensive lapses on the other end. Two or three times he got caught gambling, leading to open lay ups for the man he was guarding. There was also miscommunication on a switch, causing Blakely to leave a Toros player alone with a clear path to the hoop. As we know, Marqus is a terrific post defender, particularly for his size. But a post defender he will not be at the next level, and his general discomfort guarding the perimeter was clear last night. It may be that I'm working with a small sample size, but he definitely seemed to be lost defending guards. The good thing is that the defensive issues can be improved through experience. The jump shot woes are not as easy a fix. I'm sure he has shot an enormous amount of jumpers during the offseason for a few years running, so how much better can we expect him to get at shooting the basketball? It's hard to tell.

Regardless, Marqus Blakely is a ton of fun to watch play basketball, and that has to count for something. His numbers continue to be mind boggling -- consider: he went 9-14 from the field last night and it lowered his field goal percentage with the Energy. There is definitely hope that he will one day don an NBA jersey that we can all wear replicas of.

Good luck, Marqus.

From The Parking Lot would like to thank former UMass and West Virginia player Luke Bonner and Austin Toros Assistant Coach Alex Lloyd (a fellow Vermonter!) for the free tickets.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

More From MB23 (Except now he's number 15)

In my March 12th entry I discussed how our old buddy Marqus Blakely has been faring in the NBDL. He was faring quite well. In that entry, I broke down Blakely's NBDL numbers to date and of late (this rhyme scheme needs to stop), spotlighting the previous three games Marqus had played. Seeing as I'm going to see Marqus play the Austin Toros tomorrow, it's time for another update.

These are the key stats for Marqus in his most recent three games:
vs. Erie: 18 pts, 8-14 FG, 5 Rebs, 0 TO's
This is an AWFUL game for him, as you are about to see.
vs. SXF (which, without looking, I think is Sioux Falls?): 31 pts, 14-18 FG, 13 Rebs (SIX of them ORebs), 4 Blks.
@FWN (which, without looking, I think is... Fort Wayne. Wow, that took me a second): 28 pts, 10-11 FG, 10 Rebs.

So for those three games Marqus averaged 9.3 rebounds and 22.3 points on 32-43 shooting (74.4%). Oh, and his EFF rating jumped from 16.34 to 17.32. Since I didn't mention this in the last post, a player's efficiency rating is calculated like so:
{(Points+Rebounds+Assists+Steals+Blocks) - ((field goals attempted - field goals made) + (free throws attempted-free throws made) + Turnovers))}. Get it? Me neither. But I do know that 17.32 is a good efficiency rating.

Can someone sign this kid to an NBA deal already? I'm trying to wear that customized jersey.

Friday, March 18, 2011

UVM End-of-Season Awards

I saw our friends over at Purple and Gold Nation did some postseason-awards for the 2010-2011 Albany Great Danes. I thought it was a cool idea, so I'm busting out my own version in order to celebrate this past season's Vermont Catamount squad. Enjoy...

The TJ Sorrentine Award:
This year's Sorrentine award, given to a player who exudes guts and senior leadership, goes to Evan Fjeld. It could be a long season without Fjeld next year. He was the backbone of this Vermont team. When he was not 100% in the conference tournament, it was reflected by the team's play. It was not just due to the gaping hole he left in the middle of the floor, but also the leadership he contributed on and off the floor. I hope that mustache is(n't) cut by now, Evan. I really do(n't).

The David Hehn award:
Given to the most integral role player for the Catamounts, this year's winner is Matt Glass. While some have posited that Glass has not lived up to the hype since his transfer from UMass, Glass played his share of effective minutes for the Cats. Glass is the type of player whose contributions don't necessarily show up on the stat sheet, so it is easy for people who don't watch Glass night in and night out to assume he was not as big of a threat as it had been initially imagined. I expect Glass to have a bigger role in the offense next season, as well as continue to defend and do some of the dirty work for the Catamounts.

The Joe Trapani Award:
Keegan Hyland wins the Trapani award, given to the player who wastes no time in transferring away from UVM. You know... this award is going to be called the Keegan Hyland award from now on. Trapani actually stayed an entire season. Hyland? Two weeks? 10 days?

The Marqus Blakely Award:
Joey Accaoui wins this award. It's a joke. Nobody will win the Marqus Blakely award until they serve up facials to every team in the league. And then do it to Syracuse in the tournament.

The Germain Mopa-Njila Award:
Pat Bergmann. See where I'm going with this one? Yeah, this award is for the player who has the "where in the world did that just come from" postseason performance. Bergmann exploded for 16 and 8. His previous season highs were 6 and 4 -- achieved in separate games. His previous career highs were 6 and 5. Say it with me now: Offensive EXPLOSION.

The Taylor Coppenrath Award:
Brian Voelkel wins the team's MVP/MOP award, which could just as easily be called the Eddie Benton Award. Obviously, Fjeld was also in contention for this award. But what Brian Voelkel did this season makes absolutely no sense. Voelkel averaged 9.6 RPG, 4.5 APG, 7 PPG, and 1.6 SPG. And that doesn't sum up what Voelkel meant to this team. Voelkel did actually everything: he defended guards and bigs, he ran the point, he played the 3, sometimes he played the "oh, there are assigned positions in basketball usually?" position. The passes he makes don't translate well into writing or talking -- you really have to seem him pass the basketball to believe it. If this kid doesn't take home the America East POY award at least once in the next three years, it's because Austin Rivers rescinded his commitment to Duke in order to play for the UMBC Retrievers.

And that about does it for From the Parking Lot's first post-season awards.

Enjoy the offseason (I never can, it's always way too sunny in Vermont). November will be here before we know it.

On To The Next One

When you're sitting on the couch for the second day of first round tournament games, it is really difficult to imagine the beginning of the next college basketball season, let alone the next round of the tournament. But that's exactly what I'm trying to do here on From the Parking Lot, because Vermont has beefed up its non-conference schedule for next season. It was announced Wednesday that Vermont will play in the 2011 Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament the week before Thanksgiving. Other entrants include Old Dominion, South Florida, Penn State, Kentucky, Long Island, Marist, and Radford. Four of those teams were part of this year's NCAA tournament (though two of them have already been knocked out).

Before we get too excited about having a shot at Kentucky or Penn State, the tournament works like this: Vermont plays Marist while Long Island plays Radford, and the next day the winners play each other and the losers play each other. The other four teams -- the ones that would do wonders for Vermont's RPI -- play the same format. Then the tournament ends without the teams in Vermont's bracket having a shot at the teams in Kentucky's bracket. However -- and I hope you aren't confused already, because here's the kicker -- ODU, Kentucky, South Florida, and Penn State will each host two additional games on their own campus. Vermont will get to travel to South Florida on on November 12th and to Old Dominion on November 23rd. The games sandwich the tip-off tournament.

The games will be a good early season test for the 2011-2012 Catamounts, who should have a lot of holdover players from this year's squad, but will be without key contributors Evan Fjeld, Joey Accaoui, and Garrett Kissel. Hopefully they can get games with UConn and BYU again, and then we'll really be talking.

Expect to see my own projections of next year's starting lineup for Vermont by the end of the week.

Oh, and if you haven't seen the highlights of Vermont's NIT showdown with Cleveland State, that's a must-see. I listened on the radio. The last two shots from the Catamounts could not be done justice over the radio, even by our great play-by-play man, Rob Ryan.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Vermont Goes Down Swinging

Matt Glass' 3 pointer to force overtime took an eternity to come down. When it did, the Vermont Catamounts season came down with it. The shot barely missed, and Vermont suffered an admirable 60-63 loss at the hands of the Cleveland State Vikings. Vermont fans could not have asked for a better ending to this season (after we were out of the running for the NCAA tournament, of course), nor could they have asked for a better preview of next season.

Tonight's starting lineup for the Catamounts was one we might see for some time to come:
Sandro Carissimo (Freshman)
Brendan Bald (Sophomore)
Ben Crenca (Sophomore)
Brian Voelkel (Freshman)
Luke Apfeld (Freshman)

The biggest game of the night came from Junior Pat Bergmann, who had 16 points in 16 minutes of playing time. Bergmann averaged 1.1 points a game in 3.4 minutes of play this season.

Evan Fjeld was out for tonight's game, presumably due to the injuries he was wrestling with the weekend of the America East tournament. He was unable to complete the game against Stony Brook, and unable to go tonight.

So if tonight marked the beginning of life without Evan Fjeld, that life is not looking as bad as we might have expected. The Cats played the Vikings tight for the entire game -- holding a lead as late as 57-55 inside the last four minutes -- and never seemed to be playing afraid, despite not having their senior leader on the floor.

The future looks bright, and the present does not hurt so much.

When They Kick Out Your Front Door, How You Gonna Come?

It's been a long time since Vermont played a game that impressed this fan. Tomorrow would make it a month. Yes, it was actually February 16th when Vermont clinched the America East regular season championship in Orono, ME -- that title, of course, is the reason Vermont is playing in the first round of the NIT tonight at 7 ET against Cleveland State. Their subsequent slide following that game in Maine is why they are not playing in the NCAA tournament on Thursday. Vermont has lost three of their last four games and their lone victory was against lowly Binghamton.

Tonight is a chance for Vermont to go down swinging. It is sad that seniors Evan Fjeld, Joey Accaoui, and Garrett Kissel won't have the send off they deserve -- an NCAA tournament bid -- but at least they can say they made it last year. This team proved everyone wrong this year by winning the regular season title after losing 4 out of their 5 starters from last year's NCAA tournament team (Fjeld being the only returning starter). After struggling mightily down the stretch, you can bet that the Cats are eager to win a game or two in the NIT, which is no easy feat.

The Cats take on a good Cleveland State team and do-everything-man Norris Cole (21.6 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 5.6 APG). He averages 6 rebounds a game -- as a 6'1'' guard. Hopefully Brendan Bald's ankle is feeling better than it has been, because the Cats will need his defense.

It's time for these Catamounts to show some resiliency and start playing basketball like we know they can. Because when they kick out your front door, how you gonna come? With your hands on your head, or on the trigger of your gun?

You can make your own sense out of that one.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Vermont Draws Cleveland State

On a day dominated by the NCAA selection show, it is easy to forget that the NIT gets picked shortly afterword. Most teams are probably disappointed to be in the NIT -- it will never be mistaken for the NCAA tournament. Vermont has to feel fortunate that it is playing in any postseason tournament after being picked to finish fifth in America East.

Anyways, Vermont drew a 7 seed in the NIT and got matched up with 2nd seeded Cleveland State. The game will be "broadcast" on, formerly ESPN360. The reason I have "broadcast" in quotes is because I don't get ESPN3 and I know very few people who do. Regardless, I'll be trying hard to watch the game instead of the alluring First Four that will be shown on TruTV at the same time.

Congratulations to Boston University for getting an invitation to get absolutely shellacked by Kansas on national television. It could have happened to anyone from America East, boys.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

...In Other News: A Marqus Blakely Update

So Boston University won the America East title game in one of the ugliest games that has ever been on television. I woke up from a crazy first night of Austin's annual SXSW festival at 11:30 CT this morning and flicked on the television. To my dismay (or delight, not quite sure how I felt about it), BU had scored 2 points in the first TEN minutes of this morning's championship. 2. Apparently, John Holland lit it up in the second half and the Terriers held on to the nail-biter, 56-54. So I guess Holland and the Terriers had the last laugh, but they were still being laughed at. Congratulations to BU, 2002 was only getting further away.

In other news, Marqus Blakely is coming to Austin on March 23rd. I've had the date on my calendar since he was traded to the Iowa Energy in January. I can't wait to watch Marqus play basketball again. He has had a terrific season in the NBDL so far. His efficiency rating of 16.34 is off the chain and must be attracting the notice of NBA scouts. He is actually shooting -- I'm not making this up -- 68.2% from the field in his 16 games with the Energy this season. 68.2% from the field. His season field goal percentage (from the time he spent with the Bakersfield Jam) is 60%, which is still pretty unbelievable. Nene Hilario is the only NBA player who has a higher field goal percentage than 60%.

This is what Marqus' stats look like in his last three games:
vs. Idaho: 17 points, 5 rebounds, 6-6 FG, 0 TO in 27 minutes.
@Maine: 20 points, 8 rebounds, 5 steals, 8-13 FG in 41 minutes.
@Springfield: 23 points, 10 rebounds, 10-11 FG in 43 minutes.

For those scoring at home, that's an average of 20 points and 7.7 rebounds in 37 minutes while shooting 80% from the field.

The knocks on Marqus have always been clear: He's a 6'5'' power forward with a lack of a jump shot. The favorable things about Marqus have always been even more obvious: He has freakish athleticism, a great work ethic, and just finds a way to play good defense and simultaneously put points on the board. You can't tell me an NBA team is not going to use Marqus as a third or fourth guy off the bench in the future. And when they do, look out dunk contest!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Averting My Eyes

I love the America East conference. I can get behind even Vermont's truest foes if it is for the benefit of the conference. I always watch the America East championship, no matter what teams are playing. But there is something about this upcoming Saturday's championship between BU and Ver... I mean, Stony Brook, that I just can't bear to watch.

Stony Brook making the tournament would be a good story: they can overcome all of the injuries and the disappointment of last year to make the tournament as the underdog this year. Hell, BU making the tournament would be a good story for America East -- the team picked to win the conference finally proves people right, finally (yes, that is a potshot). Even this homer can admit that Vermont winning the tournament every year (and that only seems to be the perception, it's certainly not the reality), a la Gonzaga, is not in the best interest of America East. Parity is a good thing, so we are told.

But I took Saturday, March 12th off from work over a month ago in anticipation of seeing UVM play in a rocking Patrick Gym while I get drunk off of life (and alcohol) at 11 am CT. I planned on wearing my foam UVM Catamount paw on one hand, wearing a Magic Hat bottle in the other (there is no Long Trail or Rock Art in Texas), and screaming at the top of my lungs at an unapologetic television. I planned on being perfectly comfortable with tears streaming down my cheeks when Vermont's starters check out of the game with under a minute to go, whether they were headed to the NIT or the Big Dance. I planned on staying up all night Saturday comparing Vermont's resume with other 13-16 seeds, pointlessly convincing myself that Vermont might land a 13 or 14 seed. I planned on being okay with Vermont getting blown out the following Thursday or Friday by the Kansas Jayhawks, or the San Diego State Aztecs, or the Purdue Boilermakers.

I did not plan on watching Stony Brook play Boston University. And I still don't.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

NIT: Here We Come

It seems as though the Vermont Catamounts peaked at the wrong time this season. When they put together 10 straight conference wins in January and February, they were one of the hottest teams in the nation. Unfortunately, in the world of mid-majors, NCAA tournament bids are not decided in January of February (see: Why the Conference Tournament System Sucks). They are decided in March. Fortunately, NIT bids are decided in the first two months of the calendar year.

After getting absolutely pummeled by Stony Brook, 69-47, the Cats get their consolation prize of heading to the NIT. It's not the NCAA tournament, but it sure isn't the CBI either (with all due respect to college basketball's newest postseason tournament). Maybe they can even string together a couple of wins in the NIT to make some waves across the country.

That would be unlikely considering how poorly the Cats have played in the last few games, particularly today against Stony Brook (and even more unlikely considering nobody watches or cares about the NIT). Vermont made Stony Brook look like the best team they played all season (aside from maybe BYU). When they cut the game to 34-40 midway through the second half, it felt like it was inevitable that UVM would climb all the way back. Instead, Stony Brook continued to show a great deal of composure, particularly on the defensive end, and was able to build a comfortable lead down the stretch.

There really isn't a lot more to say about the game. The Catamounts got outplayed, plain and simple.

At least we get to see Joey Accaoui, Garrett Kissel, and Evan Fjeld throw the jerseys on for at least one more game. Fjeld dealt with a mysterious but nagging hip injury throughout the game. Hopefully that won't keep him from playing in his last collegiate game(s) in the NIT. I guess Rick Barnes shouldn't be all that worried about getting matched up with Vermont after all.

Worst Half Ever.

After the first half in Hartford, Stony Brook leads Vermont 27-20. And quite frankly, that is the worst half of basketball I've ever seen. The Cats made absolutely no attempt to penetrate into the lane, they were careless with the basketball, and look 100% scared.

6-21 from the field. 6-21. I'm scared.

Fair Warning

As the semifinal game in Hartford tips off, it seems necessary that I share an anecdote about my day today:

I was working at the 24 Diner here in Austin, TX today, minding my own business, when my co-worker came into the kitchen and exclaimed, "Dude, Rick Barnes is here." Rick Barnes, of course, is the head coach of the Texas Longhorns basketball team. He was enjoying a Sunday brunch with his family -- no doubt they were coming straight from church (as if to prove this point, they were talking about God every time I walked by their table. Texas!)

I'm not one to be star struck, but the college hoops world is my Hollywood: I was sweating. Buckets. It didn't take me long to figure out what I was going to say to Mr. Barnes, and I quote:

"Coach, big win last night (at Baylor), but watch out if you get paired with my Vermont Catamounts in the tournament."

He chuckled. It wasn't funny.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Vermont Gets It Done, Moves on to Semis

The Vermont Catamounts will head to the America East Conference Semifinals for the eighth time in the last nine years after beating Binghamton 57-46. Binghamton, the ninth and final seed, did not make things easy for Vermont. With just over 7 minutes remaining in the second half, Vermont led 44-41. Vermont then used a 7-0, driven by seniors Evan Fjeld and Joey Accaoui, to make the game more comfortable for Vermont down the stretch.

Fjeld was able to bounce back from the ankle injury he suffered in the game against Boston University six days before. He was a game-time decision for the Cats, but was able to play and play like his usual self: he finished with 14 points and 8 rebounds in 33 minutes of play. Sophomore Brendan Bald was expected to play, but he was also bouncing back from an ankle injury of his own. He chipped in 9 points and 5 boards despite a poor shooting night, going 4-13 from the field. Bald can definitely be a streaky shooter, so we probably shouldn't read into that too much. He was able to play 30 minutes, and that is what counts. Both of those guys playing at all is a good sign for Vermont heading into tomorrow's semifinal game. Brian Voelkel added 10 points 9 rebounds and 3 asssits, which really shouldn't surprise anyone at this point. Or maybe we should be surprised: he didn't get 10 boards and only had 3 assists.

Vermont will play Stony Brook tomorrow in a game that tips at 5:04 ET. Stony Brook won the morning game against Albany, 67-61, using a season-high 18 points from senior Chris Martin, who averages less than six points a game. Stony Brook must be hungry, having been the top seed in last year's tournament, only to be upset by BU in the semis. It is safe to say they would love to be on the other side of that type of upset this season.

Personally, I love Vermont's chances to host the championship game next Saturday. But you can't look past the Seawolves, and Vermont surely is not.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Vermont Draws Binghamton

BInghamton pounded UMBC 91-65 on Thursday night, meaning the Bearcats move on to play Vermont in the quarterfinals on Saturday. The game should tip off around 2:15 ET in Hartford.

The matchup is slightly scary for the banged-up Cats: they beat Binghamton by 18 on the road earlier in the year, but later in the season, Binghamton played them tight in Burlington before falling 60-51. Brendan Bald is a go for Saturday's game, while Evan Fjeld is a game-time decision. Both players suffered ankle injuries toward the end of last week. Basically, this means that Vermont can't go on cruise control versus BInghamton. They need to show up and play as hard as they have played all year.

Vermont will be hoping that they can defend the perimeter better than UMBC was able to against the Bearcats: Binghamton shot a scorching 17-32 from three-point range. And that's not a typo. Greer Wright had 31 points for Binghamton on 5-10 shooting from distance. Not to be outdone, fellow senior Moussa Camara went 8-14 from deep, totaling 30 points in all. While Bald is probably UVM's best perimeter defender, you wonder how much mobility he will have coming back from the aforementioned ankle injury. Vermont will have to find some way to stymie the hot-hands of Camara and Wright.

If Fjeld is unable to play, freshman Luke Apfeld might step into the starting lineup, or perhaps senior Garrett Kissel. Either way, Vermont is going to need a big night from the big men who are matched up down low with Mahamoud Jabbi. And when you're potentially replacing Evan Fjeld, those are some big shoes to fill.

So it begins, the America East Championship. One game at a time.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Injury Updates

Thanks to the Burlington Free Press sports blog, "On Campus," for giving updates on Fjeld and Bald's ankle injuries. I still can't get over the fact that the official UVM Men's Basketball web page -- a great website in its own right -- somehow failed to mention both of these injuries. A similar thing occurred when Joey Accaoui injured his hand earlier in the year, the website acted as though the injury never happened.

In other news, it's March. Hell yeah.

A little get well-soon gift for Evan and Brendan. The clips you're looking for happen at 1:19 and 1:49. Cheers

Monday, February 28, 2011

Beat-Up Cats Drop Regular Season Finale to Beat-Up Terriers

Boston University beat Vermont 66-64 in overtime on Sunday. The Terriers played without likely America East Player of the Year, John Holland. The Catamounts were without Brandon Bald, and senior leading-scorer Evan Fjeld left 10 minutes into the game with an apparent injury. Having missed the radio call of the game due to work, I cannot tell you anything about these two injuries. The UVM Athletics website somehow did not address Fjeld's injury whatsoever, and merely mentioned that Bald is banged up. It also did not address that Holland was out for the game. All of this I find very confusing.

In the postgame news conference, both Coach Lonergan and Joey Accaoui allude to not being at full strength, but they do not say what injuries Fjeld and Bald actually have. I am completely frustrated trying to figure out if Fjeld and Bald will be ready for the tournament. Without those two, every potential game in the America East tournament becomes a lot scarier. With those two, Vermont has to like their chances of advancing to the championship game in Burlington.

Which brings us back to the game yesterday. About the only bright spots for Vermont were Sandro Carissimo, who had a career high 17 points, and Brian Voelkel generally did his thing -- he had 12 points, 6 rebound, and 5 assists. Two freshmen led the way on senior day. The Cats were out-rebounded, out-hustled, and out-scored, and that is the bottom line.

This game may not be a preview of the America East championship at all. The two teams who seemed most likely to advance to that championship game, BU and UVM, are banged up. They will have to get healthy to have the mental and physical edge in the quarterfinals and semifinals. (On a side note, if I am a Maine fan, I'm liking my chances right now). I'm not discounting the fact that the Terriers beat the Catamounts twice this season, but I have a feeling if they play for a third time in Burlington, it will be a much different game. It's possible that it could be a tougher game, considering that Holland would probably be back in the lineup.

But Vermont has a lot of work to do before they get that far. They have lost two games in a row for the first time all season. They have not resembled the team that won 10 straight conference games from January 20-February 16. They are not playing lock down defense, and they are not rebounding the way they are capable of. Is this a team that peaked too soon? Have we already seen the best of the 2011 Catamounts? The conference tournament will shed light on those questions.

Vermont plays the winner of Binghamton and UMBC on Saturday afternoon, around 2:15. It's do-or-die time: here is to doing.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Why Tomorrow Sorta Matters

It's easy to look at tomorrow's game at home against Boston University as a throw away game: it will have no effect on the conference tournament. Or will it?

Vermont regular season finale cannot change the seeding of BU or UVM heading into the tournament -- BU is the 2 seed and Vermont is the 1 seed. But this game is important for two reasons:
1) This is Vermont's only game over a 13 day span, and it is also their only tune up for the conference tournament. The things that went wrong against Charleston will need to be addressed in tomorrow's game.
2) BU could gain a major mental edge over the Cats if they win at Patrick tomorrow and prove once and for all that they can win on the road (and more specifically, in Burlington). Of course, Vermont is 12-1 in home games this season. BU is currently 3-10 in road games (3-4 in conference). The Terriers have won 7 games in a row overall, however, including two straight on the road. There is something really strange about BU's road woes: I have never attended a game at Case gym, but from what I have heard, it is a soft place to play. People hardly show up, and if they do, they are not very loud. So why do they play better at home? I guess it just beats playing on the road -- the traveling, the fans actually showing up and cheering against you, etc. I digress.

Tomorrow is also a very special day for the three Catamount seniors: Evan Fjeld, Joey Accaoui, and Garrett Kissel. The three seniors are determined to be playing their second to last home game tomorrow, and the fans are likewise looking forward to the opportunity to send the off the right way, the way last year's seniors ended their careers in Burlington: by clinching a birth to the NCAA tournament.

Go Vermont Go Vermont Go!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Business Time

The America East tournament seeding is close to being cemented. While BU and Maine continue to duke it out for the 2 seed, UNH and Hartford play on Sunday to determine who gets the 6 seed. Regardless of what occurs in those games, BU and Maine will get matched up with either UNH or Hartford, and if they win they will play each other in the semis. However, that is all on the opposite side of the bracket that Vermont finds itself on as the 1 seed. Let's take a look at that side of the bracket, where matchups are already determined:

1. Vermont
to play the winner of
8. BInghamton/9. UMBC (though it seems like these seeds could switch if Binghamton loses its next two, but that is completely insignificant)
The winner of Vermont vs. Binghamton/UMBC plays the winner of:
4. Albany/5. Stony Brook

Is this all too confusing? Then find a bracket online. It's not difficult to understand.

Vermont has beaten every one of those teams twice. They have to like their chances to move on and host the championship game on March 12. Of course, as they say, the toughest thing to do in sports is beat a team 3 times. And that's exactly why they have to play the games, because anyone can win.

My humble predictions: Vermont gets a tough game from Binghamton, who beats UMBC in the play-in game. The Bearcats lose by somewhere around 10. I think Albany should handle Stony Brook without too much trouble, setting up a game that no Vermont fan wants to see on a neutral court (or any court for that matter): Vermont vs. Albany. While Vermont beat Albany by 12 at home and 9 on the road, neither game was all that close. But I hope I do not have to bring up the awful 2007 tournament, when Albany took down Vermont after losing to them twice in the regular season. In spite of that, Vermont will morph into "Business-Time" mode against Albany in Hartford, and move on to face Boston University in Burlington, for a chance to get to the NCAA tournament. And for that game, I offer no predictions. Just this video:

If you are a BU fan who actually reads this blog for some reason: expect me to stop posting this video when basketball no longer exists or I am no longer alive, whichever happens first. Wagers, anyone?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Be Careful What You Wish For

So the Catamounts got their national TV game for ESPN's Bracketbusters bonanza. And they got absolutely shellacked by the College of Charleston, 85-70. 85-70, you say, that cannot be so bad, right? Oh no, it wasn't even close -- this was an absolute drubbing. Charleston used a 25-0 run en route to a 52-24 halftime lead. The Cats couldn't do anything right. Their defense looked completely lost, they could hardly get the ball across half court, and they burned through three timeouts well before the first half was over. One thing that the Catamounts should get credit for from their faithful is that they never gave up.

It was quite remarkable really. The Cats never put their heads down, they never got on one another about making bad plays; they stuck together and fought like they do when they're going on 25-0 runs. Okay, so maybe they haven't been on any of those, but you know what I mean. The Catamounts, as usual, are a classy team to get excited for. And that's about all you can ask for.

I'll spare you the gory details about how Andrew Goudelock somehow only managed 24 points, despite knocking down shot after shot in the huge first half spurt. I'll even ignore the fact that Vermont shot 32% from the floor, while Charleston shot 58% (they really did not execute a solid defensive gameplan at all). The fact is, aside from the horrid 25-0 run (I couldn't decide whether to turn the game off, pretend it wasn't happening, or cry), Vermont actually outscored the Cougars by 10. But, for some reason, you gotta count all the points in this silly game called basketball. Blasphemy.

Regardless, Vermont gets a bunch of time off before they play Boston University next Sunday. It's senior day for Evan Fjeld, Joey Accaoui, and Garrett Kissel, three guys who the program will miss dearly. Then the real season begins.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Vermont-Charleston Clash Saturday on ESPN U

Vermont will play the College of Charleston on national television tomorrow at 5 PM ET. I personally cannot wait.

Charleston is led by Andrew Goudelock, who averages 23.4 PPG, 4.6 APG, and 3.9 RPG, and shoots an impressive 41.8% from 3-point range. Expect to see Brendan Bald matching up with Goudelock. Bald was mighty impressive in the win against Maine, limiting Gerald McLemore to 2 points and 0 field goals. Hopefully he can contribute that type of effort to Saturday's game, but it seems like Goudelock is not the type of player one defender can stop on his own. The whole team will have to be watching out for him all over the floor.

All in all, Saturday should be a lot of fun. ESPN was criticized when the pairings for tomorrow were released about a month ago -- Maine was soundly in first place and had already beaten Vermont. People wondered why Vermont should have gotten the nationally televised matchup against Charleston. The Catamounts have proven the critics wrong and made ESPN look like a bunch of geniuses (which they surely are not) by winning the past 10 games. Hopefully they can show the country the types of things they have been doing so well during that run.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Cats Look Ahead to Last Two Games

As Coach Lonergan noted in his post game interview after beating Maine, the Cats can now enjoy their trip down to Charleston.

ESPN's Bracketbusters is a great thing for college basketball fans across the country. It can also be very helpful for mid-majors to have some agency in where they get seeded, should they be fortunate enough to play in the postseason (we'll get to that in a minute). But for some teams in the wrong circumstances, as the season is winding down, it can be a downright waste of time and energy when they have more important things to worry about. If Vermont had not clinched the America East title, they would have undoubtedly had their February 27th date with Boston University in the back of their minds heading into the matchup with Charleston. But now they can relax and focus on playing a good Charleston team on the road before they refocus on winning the America East tournament.

In terms of seeding for any postseason tournament the Catamounts find themselves in (the regular season title clinches an NIT birth if they do not go to the NCAA tournament), this Charleston game is a big one. Since it is on the road and Charleston is rated slightly higher in most bracket projections, it will not hurt Vermont that much if they lose a tight one. It will, however, help them out a lot if they can win this game. A win could move Vermont up to a coveted 14 seed should they go to the NCAA tournament. I'm about to get way ahead of ourselves, but bear with me: if Vermont runs the table and wins the next five games, including the three in the America East tournament, they would sit at 27-5, their RPI would likely be in the 60's and UVM could find themselves back on the 13 line in the NCAA tournament. Now that is a LONG ways away. But one can dream.

For now, I guess we just gotta enjoy playing on ESPNU this Saturday in Charleston.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

10th Straight Win Clinches Title Outright

My favorite part of this photo: "Maine Pride" in the top right hand corner.

The Catamounts did it. They did it on the road. They did it in style. They wrapped up their first outright regular season conference title since the 2006-2007 season.

Vermont got their revenge on the Black Bears, the only team to beat them at home this year, by taking control in the second half and winning, 73-57. The Black Bears, of course, had beaten Vermont in Burlington, 72-58. So the Cats turned the tables, and then some. Top performers were Evan Fjeld (19 points on 9-13 shooting), Brendan Bald (17 points on 6-8 shooting), and Brian Voelkel added a signature Voelkel night, with 8 rebounds and 6 assists. Matt Glass scored 11 and did a great job watching Troy Barnies for most of the night. Sandro Carissimo added 5 assists to Vermont's 22 total assists, the team's season-high. The Cats managed to shoot 59.6% from the field, also a season-high.

It's been a truly amazing season for the Catamounts. It's hard to say enough about how unselfish, hard-working, and exciting this team really is. They have now won 10 straight games and have a chance to be even better than last year's team. Really, this team has a chance to be as good as the 2004-2005 team. I know that last sentence sounds crazy, but it is true. The work is certainly not over, not in the least. They need to take care of business in their last two regular season games, and then in the conference tournament. That is no small task. But there is something very special about the way this team clicks. No player is bigger than the team, and that has turned Vermont into one of the three hottest teams in Division I right now.

According to my humble calculations, Vermont now owns the third longest win streak in the country at 10 straight wins. George Mason has 12 straight, Texas has 11, and Vermont has 10. Not bad company. The win against Maine also tied Vermont with Belmont for the second most road wins this year (also standing at 10 in a row).

So enjoy this one tonight Catamounts and Catamount fans. Tomorrow, we all go back to work.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

UVM Travels to Maine Eyeing Top Seed

When you're playing the way the Catamounts are, it might be difficult to remember the last time you lost. Or maybe not. It was less than a month ago (January 18th) that Maine came to Burlington and pounded Vermont, 72-58. Since that game, Maine is 3-4. Since that game, Vermont is 9-0.

Maine did a number of things that game that they haven't been doing much of lately -- namely, they played defense. Over their four game losing streak, the Black Bears have given up nearly 80 points a game. The Cats have to like their chances against this deflated Maine team; they are playing a lot better, while Maine is playing a lot worse. Vermont has the outright conference title to play for, while Maine must be feeling pressure to not drop even more spots in the standings (they are currently sitting in third place).

Is there anyone better than Coach Lonergan to explain what went wrong the last time these two teams matched up? Nope, so here that is:

So there you have it. They didn't do much right. Carissimo has grown up a lot since that game and Voelkel has emerged as an even more reliable distributor. Fjeld missed some bunnies that he will hopefully make this time around. Another thing Coach Lonergan did not mention is that Luke Apfeld did a heck of a job guarding Troy Barnies, but fouled out in only 15 minutes of playing time. With Apfeld out of the game, Barnies easily put up the numbers that Maine fans are accustomed to (14 points, 9 rebounds). Expect to see Apfeld on the interior being physical with Barnies. Hopefully the touch fouls are not being called this time around.

This is obviously a very important game for Vermont. You have to anticipate Boston University will win its next two games, meaning if Vermont loses, the BU matchup at the end of the season will be for all the marbles. And though it is in Burlington, it would be nice to wrap up the top seed before February 27th.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Catamounts Climb to #19 in Mid-Major Top 25

Vermont has gone from unranked two weeks ago, to #23 a week ago, and today they rose to #19 in's Mid Major Top 25. Fairfield, who the Cats lost to before conference play started, occupies the spot above Vermont. The College of Charleston, who Vermont plays on Saturday, is #15. Topping the poll for the second straight week is St. Mary's, with 29 of the possible 31 first-place votes.

It's funny that two or three weeks ago a Maine fan was bragging about being in the Mid Major Top 25; I told him all that stuff is worthless and what matters is who wins the conference tournament. While this is true, I think I forgot how good it feels to be ranked in this poll, especially considering it is the only poll Vermont can really hope to be ranked in.

So for now, we will cherish being one of the 19 best mid-major programs in the country, hope to ascend higher this week with wins over Maine and Charleston, and wait for the inevitable do-or-die nature of March to make it all moot.

America East Spotlights Fjeld, Accaoui

The America East All-Access website posted an "On Campus at the U" special highlighting the contributions of UVM seniors Joey Accaoui and Evan Fjeld to the Catamount's basketball program.

The two seniors discuss the past, the present, and, of course, Fjeld's well-publicized mustache.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Cats Keep Rolling, Clinch Share of America East

The Cats clinched at least a share of the America East regular season crown on Sunday in Burlington. Vermont took down Binghamton 60-51 in front of the hometown faithful. If BU loses in its next three games, or Vermont wins one of its two remaining games (@Maine, and vs. BU), then Vermont claims the title outright. It is the fifth time since 2002 that the Catamounts have clinched at least a share of first place in the conference. Ironically, in only one season in which they have finished in first place have they gone on to win the conference tournament, doing so in 2005. Here is hoping that they can rewrite that trend on March 12.

Brian Voelkel turned in another outstanding performance, scoring 12 points, pulling down 13 rebounds and dishing out 5 assists. Vermont's ridiculous freshman gets a little more ridiculous each time he plays.

Evan Fjeld scored 14 points and Brendan Bald added 12. Vermont got Joey Accaoui back from his hand injury and he was able to score 5 points in 20 minutes of play.

The boys in green and gold again rode their defense to the victory, holding Binghamton to under 35% from the field, including 25.9% in the second half. Ouch. Perhaps more remarkably, other than a garbage-time field goal for the Bearcats, they did not score in the last 9 minutes of the game. The game was tied at 49 with 8:42 seconds to go. The Cats shut it down after that, outscoring Binghamton 11-0 over the next 8:39. That is some good defense.

The Catamounts have proven time and time again that they can beat the teams they should beat. Every one of their losses can be defended. But at the same time, they have not yet beaten a team that makes you think: now, that's a great win. They will get their chance in the last three games of the regular season, taking on third place Maine, the Southern Conference's College of Charleston, and then second place Boston University. The next three games will really tell us a lot about this team that is now 21-5 and ranked 78th in RPI. It's finally time to see what these Cats are made of.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Is America East a Two-Horse Race?

That odor you may smell is Maine's season going up in smoke. The Black Bears lost their fourth straight at Stony Brook, 81-79 in OT, dropping to third place in America East. While Maine is not even technically out of contention for first place, they have absolutely no momentum, and you have to wonder if they could end up falling even farther. It would be unlikely. As Dan King points out, Maine needs to win 2 out of 3 and fourth place Stony Brook will remain in fourth place even if they win out.

Coupled with Maine's struggles, Boston University's stellar play of late begs the question: Is America East a two-horse race between BU and UVM? BU has won four of five (and they are playing now against Hartford at home), the last three of which were in dominant fashion. If Vermont loses either against Binghamton tomorrow at home, or against Maine Wednesday on the road, the final game of the year between BU and Vermont could be for the regular season championship. It would require BU winning its next three games, but it seems like it could happen. If Vermont takes care of business against Binghamton and Maine, they win the regular season title outright.

It's starting to feel like the rematch of last year's America East Conference Championship is inevitable. It will be played exactly a month from today. Seems way too far away, doesn't it?

Friday, February 11, 2011

America East All-Conference Picks

As America East conference play winds down, we are starting to get a better picture of who might be honored at the end of the season.

These are my personal picks:

First Team
Evan Fjeld, UVM
John Holland, BU
Chris De La Rosa, UMBC (pictured)
Troy Barnies, Maine
Tim Ambrose, UAlbany

I'm tempted to take Barnies off the First Team list based on his recent performance against Hartford, but that's probably not fair. He's still 7th in scoring (14.2), 4th in rebounding (7.7), and 2nd in FG% (.531). De La Rosa jumps out at me as the player of the year so far, leading the conference in assists (6.7, a full TWO assists more a game than the second-place Brian Voelkel), he's also second in points (16.8), and he even found his way onto the rebounding top 20 (at 19th, with 4.4 boards a game) despite being 5'10". Holland (19.0 ppg, 5.6 RPG) and Ambrose (16.4 PPG, 5.3 RPG, and 3.4 APG) should also get a number of first place votes for player of the year.

Second Team
Brian Voelkel, UVM
Logan Aronhalt, UAlbany
Mahamoud Jabbi, Binghamton
Tyrone Conley, UNH
Morgan Sabia, Hartford

Maybe part of the reason I left Barnies on the First Team is because I have no idea who would move up. It would probably be Voelkel, but I'm self-conscious about doing that on a UVM blog. Voelkel is leading the league in Rebounding (9.8), he's second in both steals (1.7) and assists (4.7), and every Vermont fan (and most America East fans by now) knows his overall impact to the team is immeasurable. Aronhalt has been great as Ambrose's sidekick (14.7 PPG), and Sabia is a do-everything guy for Hartford who has very similar numbers to Barnies (14.1 PPG, 7.2 RPG). Maybe Sabia will work his way onto the First Team. I'm guessing Voelkel probably won't.

Did I snub anyone? Arguments could be made for Joe Zeglinski (Hartford), Milton Burton (Hartford), Bryan Dougher (Stony Brook), Gerald McLemore (Maine), and Dane DiLiegro (UNH), among others. But I feel pretty comfortable with these ten guys. So I guess we'll consider those last five "honorable mention," or the Third Team All-Conference.

We will see how my picks match up with those that matter at the end of the season.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Maine Loses Third In a Row

Even as a Vermont fan, this is hard to watch. Joe Zeglinski went off for 33 points in Maine's rough visit to Hartford on Thursday night. The same Joe Zeglinski that Vermont limited to 5 points on 1-11 shooting from the field last week. No other Hartford player had over 8 points.

The problem for Maine may not have been their defense. Zeglinski is streaky, so his torrid shooting from outside (7-14 from 3-point range) can be explained away. The fact that Troy Barnies only shot the ball 5 times is a problem for the Black Bears. Maine also seemed to lack passion on the floor, as they have the past three games. They are falling fast and will be under a lot of pressure to beat Vermont if they want to win the America East regular season crown (something they have never done).

The America East standings now look as follows:

Vermont 11-2
Maine 8-4
Boston U 8-4
Albany 5-7
Hartford 5-6
Stony Brook 5-7
New Hampshire 5-8
UMBC 4-8
Binghamton 3-8

If Vermont beats Binghamton at home on Sunday, the game against Maine next Wednesday will be for the America East title outright. Let's get it done, Cats.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Catamounts Get 8th Straight Win

Vermont downed UMBC 80-67 Wednesday night.

Brandon Bald and Brian Voelkel each had 19 points for the Catamounts, who improved to 11-2 in America East play with the win. The Cats improved to 20-5 overall, the first time they have started a season with a record like that since the 2004-2005 season. I think they had a pretty good team that year. Just ask Gerry McNamara.

The 67 points UMBC scored were the most Vermont has given up since losing to Maine at home (when Maine scored 72 points). The Cats had held their opponents to the following point totals over the previous seven games: 53, 52, 51, 54, 49, 47, 42. So needless to say, the 67 points put up by the Retrievers were somewhat surprising.

In fact, UMBC outscored Vermont 44-35 in the second half; Vermont held a 45-23 lead at the half. This was the first time in recent memory that Vermont played a better first half than second half. But you simply gotta love getting W's.

UVM went back to pounding the glass -- they out-rebounded UMBC 41-30. Voelkel had 10 of those, while Evan Fjeld and Matt Glass pulled down 7 boards.

All five UVM starters were in double figures: Bald and Voelkel with 19, Fjeld with 11, Glass with 13, and Sandro Carissimo with 10. Eight players checked into the game off the bench for UVM, and this happened early and often. Josh Elbaum and Garrett Kissel checked into the game within the first five minutes. Simeon Marsalis checked into the game seemingly at the first possible opportunity. Coach Lonergan is reinforcing the fact that this team is at least ten players deep, but possibly even eleven or twelve players can expect minutes for this Catamount squad down the stretch.

One more down, three conference games to go.