BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Wednesday was UVM basketball media day at Patrick Gym, as the Hoopcats get set to tip off what may be their most anticipated season ever. The Vermont men's team, coming off its second trip to the NCAA tournament in the last three years, is once again the unanimous pick to win America East.
The Cats did lose second leading scorer Ernie Duncan among others, but they bring back a ton of talent from last year's team: Stef Smith and Benny Shungu in the backcourt, both Everett and Robin Duncan, and of course a guy you may have heard of by the name of Anthony Lamb.
Lamb is once again on the preseason all-conference team and was recently named to the Julius Erving Award watchlist as one of the best small forwards in the country. Add those veterans to a group of newcomers that includes a pair of power conference transfers in Daniel Giddens and Duncan Demuth, and it's understandable why expectations are high...but experience has taught the Cats to stay humble.
"Being in a midmajor league, if you don't win your league, you're not going anywhere," Lamb said. "So it really doesn't matter what anyone else says unless we're able to capitalize on the America East. That really keeps me humble, just having that experience my sophomore year (of losing in the conference title game."
"I mean that's the goal, right? To keep pushing this thing forward," added head coach John Becker. "I feel like it's a good thing you know, but certainly you want to keep expectations in check and as long as its not affecting our guys, it's something we've gotten used to here and it's a good thing."
The UVM women open their regular season at Dartmouth on November 5th. The Cats saw a big improvement in the first year of the Alisa Kresge era, posting double digit wins for the first time since 2012-13.
Vermont loses three of its top six scorers, but returns three starters in Josie Larkins, Rose Caverly, and preseason All-America East selection Hannah Crymble at forward. The Cats are hoping that this year they can take another step toward resuming their place as a contender.
"I mean we have a lot of potential to grow," Crymble said. "I'm really excited to see us blast through that (predicted sixth place finish). I have full confidence in us to surprise some people."
"We're trying to get our system in place every single day and the big things will happen when we take care of the little things," Kresge added. "It's not gonna happen overnight but I'm really really excited about the steps we've taken this offseason."