Wednesday, March 20th
HARTFORD, Conn. -- It's a second trip to March Madness in three years for the Hoopcats, and the seventh appearance in program history. Now over the last several years, UVM has been a dominant force in the America East Conference, falling just 4 times in conference play over the past three seasons. But the task Vermont faces on Thursday is a different thing entirely as they get set to face the fourth-seeded Seminoles of Florida State.
The Noles are fresh off a trip to the ACC title game, taking down top-seeded Virginia before falling in a close contest to a Duke team led by a *little-known* forward by the name of Zion Williamson. Florida State enters this tournament as one of the trendy picks to get to the Final Four out of this West Region and are getting the 12th best odds to win the whole thing on Vegas Insider dot com. With that said, the Cats aren't completely new to the challenges of playing against power conference competition. The Cats hung tough in games at both Kansas and Louisville earlier in the year, and they fell like that experience can only help tomorrow.
"Yeah it was a great experience, the stadium, the atmosphere, playing at the YUM! Center.", said sophomore guard Stef Smith. "And you know, that level of basketball, it's different athletic-wise/physical-wise but I think it's good that we got to play that game to prepare us for this game coming up on Thursday."
Louisville is a very good basketball team, but what they don't have is a 7-foot-four starting center. Christ Koumadje probably isn't FSU's best player, but he's one of many that provide some real matchup concerns if you're Vermont. Add to that list Mfiondu Kabengele, FSU's 6' 10" power forward and leading scorer, and the Cats are putting a lot of emphasis on making smart decisions.
"The biggest message from Coach Becker is just don't be wild.", says junior forward Anthony Lamb. "Just make sure you know who's in there and make sure you're attacking the right ways and don't get yourself in bad situations. So if you see a 7' 4" dude in there, try and make a good decision."
"Offensively, we're probably gonna have to make a lot of shots, shoot a lot of threes just because of their size in and around the basket.", said head coach John Becker. "And then defensively, I think rebounding is really important. We're a good defensive team, we're a really good defensive rebounding team, but we haven't played the likes of this size before and so we're gonna have to really clean up the glass and box out and get rebounds. If we can do that, we can get out and play in transition and hopefully attack them early before they can get their defense set."
The game Thursday afternoon between UVM and Florida State will be seen on TBS as part of the NCAA Tournament broadcast partnership between CBS and Turner Sports. WCAX does not have a say on which games air on Channel Three, so Thursday at 2pm, the Hoopcats can be found on TBS. Check our cable or satellite provider for the channel. Or, there is a March Madness app that you can download and watch the game on your mobile device. Once the game ends, tune into the Channel Three News starting at 5pm for full highlights, reaction and analysis of the Catamounts and Seminoles first round matchup