Vermont (23-11) will look to earn their second NCAA Tournament win in program history when they take on fellow 16 seed Lamar (23-11) Tuesday night at 6:40 p.m. in Dayton.(TV: TruTV/Radio: 101.3 FM in Burlington-not available online)
Wednesday's winner will take on top-seeded North Carolina Friday at 4:10 p.m. EDT in Greensboro, North Carolina.
The Catamounts won the America East Tournament Championship Saturday to earn the conference's automatic bid, but became the first ever America East team to be sent to Dayton and the play-in game after a down year in the conference. After jumping out to a 17 point lead with 10 minutes to play, host Stony Brook cut the lead to four with with a minute to play but Vermont moved on with a 51-43 victory.
After hitting a rut late in the regular season, Pat Knight's Lamar team has won six in a row including a 70-49 victory over McNeese State Saturday in the Southland Conference Tournament Championship Game. It is the first NCAA Tournament appearance for the Cardinals since 2000, as Knight managed to salvage his first season as head coach with this speech.
First year head coach John Becker has led the Catamounts to 23 wins and fourteen victories in their past 15 games to send the Catamounts back to the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time this decade. While Vermont has made eight overall postseason appearances in the past 10 years, the Catamounts have just two wins to show for it. In 2009 the program defeated Green Bay in the first round of the College Basketball Invitational and in 2005, the (13) Catamounts defeated (4) Syracuse in a first round NCAA Tournament game.
This edition of the Catamounts doesn't have the star power of players like T.J. Sorrentine or Marqus Blakely but has come together by blending all of their pieces into a strong rotation where everyone fills a role. Freshmen guard Four McGlynn leads the team with 12 points per game off the bench and is almost an automatic shooter when left open (39 percent 3-point shooting, 89 percent free throw shooting).
Senior guard Matt Glass (11.9 ppg) and sophomore forward Luke Apfeld (10.2 ppg) join McGlynn in double-figures for the Catamounts, while two other sophomores play key roles for Vermont. America East Tournament Most Outstanding Player Brian Voelkel serves as a point forward for the Catamounts-as he averages a team-high 8.6 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game. Point guard Sandro Carissimo can be a difference maker for the Catamounts with his ability to score off the dribble and his strong court vision.
Lamar is led by a core group of upper classmen (five seniors and one junior) who have scored over 85 percent of the team's points. Senior guard Mike James averages a team-high 17.2 points on 45.7 percent shooting, while senior point guard has chipped in with 14.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and a team-best 4.08 assists per game. Senior guard Devon Lamb (6'2") has pulled down a team-high 7.9 rebounds per game for the Cardinals, while fellow senior Brandon Davis is the team's best outside shooter with 59 3-pointers.
While the two programs have never played, both coaches were able to point out opponents they faced this season that played similar styles. Becker noted that Iona played a similar fast-paced tempo and are led by a very talented group of athletic guards, in the regular season matchup, Iona defeated Vermont 73-72 in Burlington. On the other side, Knight compared Vermont to conference foes Stephen F. Austin and Nicholls State. The two patient squads who shoot the ball well, both split a pair of conference games with the Cardinals and held Lamar well below their season average of 75 points per game.
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