Vermont Catamounts

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No. 4 Florida State wears down No. 13 Vermont

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Florida State wore down No. 13 seed Vermont in the second half as the No. 4 seed Seminoles moved on with a 76-69 win on Thursday in a West Region game in Hartford.

The Seminoles (28-7) trailed by nine in the first half before rallying to tie it at halftime. Playing without senior forward Phil Cofer (foot in a walking boot), Florida State took some time to adjust on both ends of the floor. In the second half, the Seminoles made their big push behind strong offensive outings from Mfiondu Kabengale (21 points, nine rebounds) and Terence Mann (19 points). Kabengale and Mann were tough to stop on the interior as both did a nice job of finishing consistently around the rim.

Florida State didn’t have a great game shooting the ball (21-for-55 for 38 percent) on Thursday. To offset the inconsistent shooting, the Seminoles did an effective job of limiting turnovers (seven for the game) and knocking down free throws (31-for-37) to close out the game as Florida State scored 24 of its 49 second-half points from the free-throw line.

Vermont (27-7) stayed in the game thanks to its hot three-point shooting (16-for-32 for 50 percent) but they struggled to get any offense inside of the arc. Florida State’s superior length and athleticism proved to be tough on the Catamounts over the course of a full game as Vermont only had seven field goals that weren’t three-pointers.

Anthony Lamb (16 points) led four Catamount scorers in double-figures as Stef Smith (15 points), Ernie Duncan (15 points) and Ben Shungu (15 points) also contributed on the offensive end. Lamb, the America East Player of the Year, was limited to a 4-for-13 shooting day as he couldn’t get going on offense until late in the game.

This wasn’t the prettiest win for Florida State. But the Seminoles withstood a hot-shooting opponent during a game in which they weren’t playing their best on offense. That’s a very good sign for Florida State going forward, because if they figure things out on offense, then they’re looking like a very dangerous No. 4 seed. The health of Cofer will also be something to monitor for the next round as redshirt freshman Raiquan Gray made his second career start in his place.

Florida State moves on to face the winner of No. 5 seed Marquette and No. 12 seed Murray State on Saturday in Hartford.

NCAA Tournament 2019: Instant Analysis West Region

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The West Region has an intriguing draw with Gonzaga gaining the top seed and Michigan, a Final Four team from last season, getting the No. 2 seed. This region has some potential darkhorse Final Four team and some trendy potential upsets to keep an eye on during the first weekend.

The No. 1 seed is Gonzaga. Despite a loss to Saint Mary’s in the WCC title game, the Bulldogs still earned a No. 1 seed out west as they face the play-in winner between No. 16 seeds Fairleigh Dickinson and Prairie View A&M.

It should be a matchup of a lot of length and athleticism when No. 8 seed Syracuse and No. 9 seed Baylor collide. The health of Orange star guard Tyus Battle (hip) and Bears senior guard Makai Mason (toe) could very well decide who advances in that one.

The best lead-guard matchup of the first round goes down in Hartford with No. 5 seed Marquette and All-American Markus Howard battling OVC champion and No. 12 seed Murray State and Ja Morant. The Golden Eagles struggled down the stretch in Big East play as they went from Final Four darkhorse into a potentially-popular first-round matchup.

ANALYSIS: East | South | West | Midwest

A dangerous No. 4 seed could be Florida State as the Seminoles just knocked off Virginia in the ACC tournament over the weekend. Coming off of an Elite Eight appearance last season, the Seminoles could be a sleeper Final Four team out of this region. The Seminoles collide with No. 13 seed Vermont, a team that shouldn’t be taken lightly. The America East champions had a beatdown of UMBC in the conference tournament title game.

After an impressive season in the MAC in which they became a consistent top-25 team, Buffalo gets a No. 6 seed. The Bulls could get a fascinating first-round matchup as they await the winner of the play-in game between No. 11 seeds Arizona State and St. John’s. If the Sun Devils advance past Dayton, it’ll be a matchup of Bobby Hurley-coached programs as he left Buffalo for Arizona State a few years ago.

Texas Tech earned the No. 3 seed out of the Big 12 following an impressive regular-season title. Although the Red Raiders made the Elite Eight last season, the roster is almost entirely different from last season. But the Red Raiders have a star in Jarrett Culver and the nation’s best defense. Northern Kentucky, the No. 14 seed, draws Texas Tech after winning the Horizon League title.

Following a disappointing regular season, Nevada is a No. 7 seed facing No. 10 seed Florida. The Wolf Pack had preseason top-10 hype but failed to deliver results in the regular season behind a loaded roster that is mostly in-tact from last season’s Sweet 16 team. The Gators needed some late wins this season to get in — most notably over LSU in the SEC tournament. Florida is dangerous but extremely inconsistent.

Rounding out the West is No. 2 seed Michigan as the Wolverines attempt to return to the Final Four. Guard Charles Matthews recently returned from injury as Michigan appears to be near full-strength heading into the Big Dance. The Wolverines face No. 15 seed Montana to open things up as the Grizzlies represent the Big Sky.

Bracketology: Kentucky returns to top line

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Kentucky began its bracket journey last October as the projected No. 1 seed in the South Region.  As March nears, the Wildcats return to the top line, holding the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region.  For context, UK has lost just twice since the start of 2019, by a combined four points.

Duke continues as the No. 1 overall seed, followed by Virginia and Gonzaga.  Tennessee, North Carolina, Michigan State and Michigan remain in the top-seed discussion.  All eight have a lot at stake these next three weeks.

The cutline is equally compelling.  Will some early contenders make late runs to regain a look?  Will teams like Texas, Minnesota, and Ohio State hold on?  Will this be the year we see an at-large bid or two granted to deserving mid-majors?  The Madness is about to begin.

BRACKET UPDATE: February 25, 2019

FIRST FOUR – DAYTON
EAST REGION Temple vs. Alabama
MIDWEST REGION UCF vs. Utah State
EAST REGION ST. FRANCIS (PA) vs. NORFOLK ST
WEST REGION PRAIRIE VIEW vs. RIDER

EAST Washington, DC   SOUTH – Louisville                           
Columbia Columbus
1) DUKE 1) Virginia
16) ST. FRANCIS / NORFOLK ST 16) SAM HOUSTON ST
8) Ole Miss 8) St. John’s
9) Oklahoma 9) TCU
Salt Lake City San Jose
5) Iowa 5) Maryland
12) Temple / Alabama 12) BELMONT
4) Kansas 4) KANSAS STATE
13) OLD DOMINION 13) VERMONT
Jacksonville Hartford
6) Louisville 6) Virginia Tech
11) Arizona State 11) Texas
3) LSU 3) Purdue
14) YALE 14) TEXAS STATE
Des Moines Columbia
7) BUFFALO 7) Villanova
10) VCU 10) Ohio State
2) Michigan 2) Tennessee
15) LOYOLA-CHICAGO 15) WRIGHT STATE
MIDWEST – Kansas City WEST – Anaheim
Columbus Salt Lake City
1) KENTUCKY 1) GONZAGA
16) BUCKNELL 16) PR VIEW / RIDER
8) Baylor 8) WOFFORD
9) Syracuse 9) Auburn
San Jose Tulsa
5) Florida State 5) NEVADA
12) UCF / Utah State 12) LIPSCOMB
4) Wisconsin 4) Texas Tech
13) UC-IRVINE 13) NEW MEXICO ST
Hartford Tulsa
6) Iowa State 6) Mississippi State
11) Minnesota 11) Seton Hall
3) MARQUETTE 3) HOUSTON
14) HOFSTRA 14) SOUTH DAKOTA ST
Jacksonville Des Moines
7) Cincinnati 7) WASHINGTON
10) Florida 10) NC State
2) North Carolina 2) MICHIGAN STATE
15) RADFORD 15) MONTANA

BUBBLE NOTES
Last 4 Byes Last 4 IN      First 4 OUT Next 4 OUT
Texas Temple Butler Dayton
Minnesota Alabama Clemson UNC-Greensboro
Arizona State UCF Georgetown Davidson
Seton Hall Utah State Furman Murray State

TOP SEED LINE: Duke is the No. 1 overall seed, followed by Virginia, Gonzaga, and Kentucky

Breakdown by Conference …

ACC (8): DUKE, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Louisville, Syracuse, NC State

Big 10 (8): MICHIGAN STATE, Michigan, Purdue, Wisconsin, Maryland, Iowa, Ohio State, Minnesota

BIG 12 (8): KANSAS STATE, Texas Tech, Kansas, Iowa State, Baylor, TCU, Oklahoma, Texas

SEC (8): KENTUCKY, Tennessee, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Auburn, Florida, Alabama

Big East (4): MARQUETTE, Villanova, St. John’s, Seton Hall

American (4): HOUSTON, Cincinnati, Temple, UCF

Pac 12 (2): WASHINGTON, Arizona State

Mountain West (2): NEVADA, Utah State

Southern (1): WOFFORD

Atlantic 10 (1): VCU

Mid American (1): BUFFALO

West Coast (1): GONZAGA

ONE BID LEAGUES: Loyola-Chicago (MVC), Rider (MAAC), Old Dominion (C-USA), Texas State (SBELT), Yale (IVY), Montana (BSKY), Wright State (HORIZON), Sam Houston State (SLND), UC-Irvine (BWEST), Lipscomb (ASUN), Belmont (OVC), Hofstra (CAA), Radford (BSO), Norfolk State (MEAC), South Dakota State (SUM), New Mexico State (WAC), Vermont (AEAST), Bucknell (PAT), St. Francis (PA) (NEC), Prairie View (SWAC)

Bracketing principles: read them for yourself at http://www.ncaa.com.

Vermont star takes senior with rare disorder to her senior ball

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Vermont star forward Anthony Lamb returned home to his alma mater, Greece Athena High in Rochester, New York over the weekend.

Lamb was Alexandra Hammell’s date to the school’s senior ball. Hammell suffers from Rett syndrome, a rare genetic neurological disorder that is more often found to affect females than males. The disorder keeps her from speaking and bounds her to a wheelchair.

“When you have a daughter who is non-verbal, non-ambulatory, needs nursing care, I never even thought this was a possibility,” said Hammell’s mother, Colleen told Jeff DiVeronica of the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.

Lamb, the 6-foot-6 forward, in scoring, rebounds, and blocks in his first season in Burlington, averaging 12.8 points, 5.5 boards and 1.2 blocks per game. He helped Catamounts run off 21 straight victories en route to an appearance in the 2017 NCAA Tournament. This fall, the rising sophomore will be in the discussion for top mid-major players.

Introducing Cinderella: The Vermont Catamounts are headed to the NCAA tournament

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Conference: American East

Coach: John Becker

Record: 29-5 (16-0 1st)

Ratings and Rankings:

Kenpom: 60
RPI: 49
AP/USA Today: N/A

Seeding: The Catamounts have won 21-straight game, but are likely headed for something around a 13-seed.

Names you need to know: Vermont gets it done with a balanced approach, with five players averaging at least eight points and none more than 12.6. Anthony Lamb (12.6), Payton Hansen (11.2) and Trae Bell-Haynes (11.2) are the leading scorers with Lamb and Hansen also the team’s top rebounders.

Stats you need to know: Vermont almost doesn’t miss near the basket. The Catamounts are eighth in the country in 2-point shooting percentage at 56.3 percent. They do it with a methodical offense that ranks 311th in tempo, per KenPom.

Big wins, bad losses: They knocked off American East third-place team Albany three times and second-place Stony Brook twice to go undefeated in conference play and clear the league by four games. A home lost to Northeastern is the only blemish on the resume.

How’d they get here?: Only five games of Vermont’s 21-game winning streak have been decided by single digits. In the American East tournament, the Catamounts blasted Maine by 45 and New Hampshire by 33 before outlasting the Great Danes, 56-53, in the title game.

Outlook: Vermont hasn’t been tested much during its conference season, but the Catamounts’ dominance can’t be totally overlooked. Their lack of 3-point shooting means they’ll need their defense to come up big when matched up with a superior team – they can’t count on a hot shooting night propelling them to an upset. They’ll have to do it by locking down and being efficient on offense.

How do I know you?: The Catamounts’ lone NCAA tournament victory came in 2005 when they knocked off fourth-seeded Syracuse in overtime.

VIDEO: Vermont’s Josh Speidel honored at Purdue

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When Josh Speidel made his commitment to play for John Becker at Vermont, he was expected to be a significant contributor upon his arrival. However tragedy struck in February, as Speidel suffered a major head injury in a car accident. While the rehabilitation process has been a difficult one for Speidel, he has remained a part of the program he committed to joining while in high school.

And that commitment goes both ways with Vermont doing everything they can to make sure Josh is part of the program, from weekly phone calls to even sending him film to study. And thanks to a waiver granted by the NCAA, Vermont was allowed to have Speidel on the bench with them as they took on No. 23 Purdue at Mackey Arena.

Speidel, who played at Columbus North (Indiana) HS and was an AAU teammate of Purdue’s Ryan Cline and Grant Weatherford, was honored prior to the game by Purdue. Per a source, Vermont did not know of Purdue’s plans to honor Speidel before the game until about an hour before tip when Purdue coach Matt Painter informed the team.

Cline and Weatherford led their teammates over to greet Speidel on the court, and the student section chanted Josh’s name.

Vermont’s Ernie Duncan discussed the opportunity to have Speidel on the bench, as well as his emotions as Purdue’s players greeted Speidel before the game, with Nathan Baird of the Lafayette Journal & Courier.

“It’s been an amazing experience,” said Ernie Duncan, who scored 18 points in the 107-79 Purdue victory. “To have him around the guys and feel like he’s a part of our team is a great thing. When I saw what Purdue did to come over and hug him — it brought tears to my eyes.”

Vermont has and will continue to honor Josh’s scholarship. With Speidel continuing to make progress in his recovery, hopefully it won’t be long before he’s able to make the trip to Burlington to watch his teammates play a home game.

Video credit: RTV6 The Indy Channel