Vermont Catamounts Basketball Preview: #133
Overall Rank: #133
Conference Rank: #2 America East
2008-09: 24-9, 13-3
2008-09 postseason: CBI
Coach: Mike Longergan (78-49 at Vermont, 329-137 overall)
Vermont only lost nine games last year. Five of those were in overtime and two others were by two points or less in regulation. That is how close this group was to dominating the conference. Instead, the Catamounts did not even win the America East regular season crown or the conference tournament. That relegated the team down to the CBI. And without Mike Trimboli leading the way, the CBI would not be a bad place to end up this year.
Key Losses: F Colin McIntosh, G Mike Trimboli
Coach Mike Longergan needs some more size on this team, especially since forward Colin McIntosh exhausted his eligibility. That is where Luke Apfeld and Ben Crenca step in. Neither is likely to step up immediately and become starters, but both are capable players who could make a much needed impact off of the bench. The backcourt has more talent returning, but Simeon Marsalis and Brendan Bald could work their way into the regular rotation as freshmen.
It seems like Mike Trimboli has been the heart and soul of this team for four years. During his senior campaign he averaged 16.0 points and 4.8 assists per game. He was even a solid defender. Nick Vier will likely do most of the ball handling this year after dishing out 2.9 assists per game last year. The wings are in good hands with former Michigan State transfer Maurice Joseph and Garvey Young. Joseph was a slight disappointment last year, averaging 8.1 points per game, but his best games were late in the year. Young had a superb freshman campaign and should be even better as a sophomore.
The frontcourt does have a superstar in Marqus Blakely, but who is going to replace McIntosh under the basket? McIntosh really stepped up during his senior campaign and ended up averaging 12.6 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.2 blocks. His presence made it so the opposition had to occasionally avert their focus away from Blakely. Junior Evan Fjeld is the most experienced option, but he only averaged 14.3 minutes per game last year. During those minutes, Fjeld proved that he could be a capable scorer and a decent shot blocker, but he has to stay out of foul trouble. If Fjeld is not up for the job, it will fall to one of the newcomers and that is not good news for Blakely or Vermont.
Who to Watch:
Blakely might only be 6-5, but he plays like he is a seven-footer. As a junior last year he led the team with 16.1 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game. Few players in the nation are as tough and persistent as Blakely under the basket. And due to his size he has to be tough to compete against bigger forwards in the league. However, it remains to be seen if Blakely will be as effective without McIntosh by his side. The Catamounts really need to find a larger presence under the basket to do the dirty work and free up space for Blakely.
Vermont was kept out of the NCAA and NIT at the hands of Binghamton, although the team lost in their first game of the conference tournament before even getting the opportunity to take revenge on the Bearcats. There are quite a few issues that need to be addressed, but this is a group that has enough talent to knock Binghamton off the top of the conference and reclaim their usual spot atop the America East standings.
Projected Post-season Tournament: none
Projected Starting Five:
Nick Vier, Senior, Guard, 6.6 points per game
Maurice Joseph, Senior, Guard, 8.1 points per game
Garvey Young, Sophomore, Guard, 6.0 points per game
Marqus Blakely, Senior, Forward, 16.1 points per game
Evan Fjeld, Junior, Forward, 4.6 points per game