The culmination of a season

The gap between games from Vermont’s BracketBuster victory against Buffalo last Saturday and their regular season finale against Maine on March 1 is like the calm before the storm.That storm is the America East tournament, which holds the future of the men’s basketball team. Vermont has positioned itself well going into the tournament. After dropping their first two conference games, the Cats have reeled off 13 wins in 14 tries, their only loss coming to rival Binghamton. “I am very proud of our guys,” head coach Mike Lonergan said. “They have won 12 of the last 13 games after a tough 0-2 start. They have really focused on team defense, rebounding and cutting down our turnovers.”Looking ahead toward the tournament, Vermont needs Binghamton to stumble in one of its final two games in order secure the top seed and title of regular season champions.If UVM and Binghamton win out, they will both finish 13-3 in the conference, with Binghamton holding the edge because they beat Vermont in both tries this season. Whoever holds the higher seed in the conference tournament gets to play the championship game at their home court. Even the slight advantage with the home court could prove to be vital in a conference with such an even playing field.”I really think the toughest thing about the upcoming tournament is that there will be no easy games,” Lonergan said. “Every team in our conference is capable of beating any other team. That rarely is the case in any conference.”The tournament isn’t simply about bragging rights for the conferences top team; it is the portal to the NCAA tournament, being that the tournament champion gets an automatic bid to the big dance. But dancing into March requires getting passed the thunderous cloud that Binghamton presents. “I think Binghamton has an extremely athletic and talented team but I wouldn’t mind meeting them in the championship game,” Lonergan said. “I just hope we can get that far.” In both games against the Bearcats this season, UVM has gotten out to early leads, but has let its rival claw back into the game by giving up open 3-pointers which leads to their slashing guards to be able to get into the paint. “The problem we have had with Binghamton is that their guards have been able to drive right by our guards and that really causes problems for us,” Lonergan said. “We cannot allow them to get to the rim so easily.”But the Cats intend to remain in the present and close out the season in a strong fashion against Maine while resisting the temptation to look too far ahead. “We are going to just focus on the team we play in the first round as we have taken it one game at a time all season,” Lonergan said. After a nationally-televised win on Saturday, the future is bright for the Cats – but anything can happen when the America East teams jump into the storm.