Two of the dominant programs in the America East Conference enter Thursday's game in shoddy shape, as the Terriers and Catamounts will duke it out looking for their first conference win.
Event: Boston University (4-10) Vs. Vermont Catamounts (6-9)
Date/Time: Thursday January 4, 2012-7 p.m. EDT.
Location: Patrick Gym (Capacity: 3,266)-Burlington, Vermont.
Broadcast Info: Vermont will be providing a free video stream of the game with audio, on their athletics website (uvmathletics.com). The audio will be provided by ESPN 101.3 FM in Vermont, with Chris Villani on the call. An audio broadcast by BU announcers Doug Brown and Chris Maurer will also be available on 1510AM The Zone.
Last Year's Games: For the first time since 2006, the Terriers dominated their neighbors to the north, with a sweep in conference play. Boston University earned a 74-65 victory against the Catamounts in early January, before earning their first win in Burlington since 2008, with a 66-64 overtime victory on the final day of conference play.
Last Time Out: Things looked promising for a half, but went downhill fast, as the Terriers blew a 13-point lead against Quinnipiac, eventually falling 59-53. Leading scorer Darryl Partin broke out with 19 points and nine rebounds, but the rest of the squad struggled offensively, as the Terriers dropped their sixth straight game.
Despite the return of leading scorer Luke Apfeld, Vermont dropped their America East season opener 65-59 on Monday night. Apfeld led the Catamounts with 18 points in 22 minutes, while sophomore point guard Sandro Carissimo added 16 points and five assists in the loss.
Storylines: Two of the dominant programs in the America East Conference enter Thursday's game in shoddy shape. For the fifth consecutive season, the Terriers were picked as the number one team in the preseason poll, but they have struggled mightily, especially since D.J. Irving suffered a concussion. John Becker had a great start to the first season in Burlington with a 3-2 record and two close losses, but his young squad has dropped seven of their past nine games, including a buzzer-beater loss to Northeastern.
Joe Jones gets his first taste of America East conference play with a volatile Terriers squad, that is still very much a work in progress. Boston University has enough talent to compete and it all starts with Partin, who is averaging 20.1ppg and 4.2rbg, in his second full season in Scarlet and White. The senior transfer has what it takes to dominate a traditionally slower and less athletic Vermont defense. Last season in the two wins, Partin played a back seat to John Holland in the first game, before being the star when Holland sat with an injury. He averaged 23.5 points and 5.5 rebounds against Vermont, as the Catamounts couldn't slow the Terrier guard from slashing to the basket.
The question for the Terriers is will they have enough players step up at one time to compete in any given game? Senior Matt Griffin has done an admirable job in filling in for Irving who is out indefinitely, but Jones needs more production from his big men. Patrick Hazel leads the conference in blocks (1.7bpg) and the Terriers in rebounding (6.3rbg), but has gone silent on the offensive end.
While the Terriers are forced to play younger players in trying to replace Irving and other absentees, the Catamounts are just plain and simply young, at least when it comes to their leaders. Sophomore swingman Luke Apfeld and freshmen guard Four McGlynn lead the team in scoring, while sophomore forward Brian Voelkel leads the team in rebounding and assists for the second year in a row.
Players To Watch: Travis Robinson's skill set is perfect for attacking the Vermont defense. The long, athletic swingman can hit shots from the outside and drive to the hoop with authority, if he can have another game like he did against Delaware, the Terriers could come away with their third straight win against the Catamounts.
Brendan Bald is the best primary defender Vermont has and he'll just need to keep Partin's output to a manageable level, to keep Vermont in the game. The 2010-11 America East Defender of the Year can also shoot the ball from outside, but has struggled this season.
Prediction: Vermont needs this game a lot more than the Terriers do. The Catamounts can't afford to fall to 0-2 in the conference, especially since one of their biggest assets is their home-court advantage. Both programs are down from their usual status-as the teams to beat in the conference, but that doesn't mean it will be that way in March. I think Vermont has too much depth and big men who are playing well, for Boston University to win, especially without Irving and his ability to slice up the slow-footed Vermont defense.
Vermont 68, Boston University 59