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.
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.
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)
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:
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:
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.