Introducing Cinderella: Vermont is headed back to the Big Dance

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At the very least, now Virginia knows that they won’t have to get matched up with UMBC again in this year’s NCAA tournament.

The Retrievers had their bid to make a second straight NCAA tournament ended on Saturday afternoon as top seed Vermont ended Ryan Odom’s run, 66-49. Anthony Lamb, who is one of the best mid-major players in the country, scored 24 of the first 34 points for the Catamounts, finishing with 28 as John Becker reached his third NCAA tournament in eight seasons at the helm.

And with that, another potential upset comes into play. Vermont is a very, very solid and well-coached team that has a star than can go and get 30 against the biggest teams in college hoops. They can defend, they can shoot, they are old and, most importantly, they’ve had a taste of March success.

Vermont has won a tournament game before, and with the Cats seemingly headed for a No. 13 seed, there is a chance that this is the year they can win again.

Let’s get to know the Vermont Catamounts.

CONFERENCE: America East

COACH: John Becker

RECORD: 26-6

RATINGS

  • KENPOM: 84
  • NET: 75

PROJECTED SEED: According to the latest NBC Sports bracket projection, Vermont is a No. 13 seed. That’s relevant, because the most famous moment in the history of Vermont basketball came as a No. 13 seed.

NAMES YOU NEED TO KNOW: Anthony Lamb. He is one of the best mid-major players in the country, averaging 21.8 points, 7.8 boards and 2.2 assists while shooting 36.4 percent from three at a 6-foot-6 combo-forward. He’s the second-coming of Georges Niang. He had 24 at Kansas, 25 at Louisville, 37 against Harvard and 42 against St. Bonaventure.

BIG WINS, BAD LOSSES: The Catamounts didn’t pick off any high major programs this season, but they did land a couple wins over good programs in New England. They knocked off Northeastern and Yale in Burlington and won at George Mason and George Washington.

STATS YOU NEED TO KNOW: Vermont is the best defensive team in the America East. They dominate the defensive glass. They don’t let anyone get a clean look at the rim inside the arc. They make threes, they get fouled, they now how to executed offensively. To be frank, there really isn’t a single stat that you need to know about this group beyond their 26 wins. They are a good, well-coached basketball team.

HOW DO I KNOW YOU?: This:

FINAL THOUGHT: I really think that this is a year that Vermont can go out and win a game in the tournament. The four seeds in this year’s tournament — Kansas State who may be without Dean Wade, Wisconsin, Purdue — are not exactly world-beaters, and this is a Vermont team that is old, well-coached and stocked with really, really good mid-major players.

But the bigger question for me is whether or not this is the year that John Becker ends up getting a bigger job. He has been a star in Burlington for eight years now, and while there have been offers coming in, he has not yet jumped at one of them. At some point he is going to, and there may be no better time than to find a job after a season where he wins both America East title and a game or two in the tournament.