Every story has an ending and the UVM men’s basketball team will try to add a few chapters to this season’s book in the upcoming America East tournament.
The team is hard at work and gearing up for tournament play, which will be held in Albany over the weekend of March 6. Vermont is currently in a tie for first place with rival
Binghamton, with both teams carrying 13-3 conference records. Binghamton holds the edge after beating Vermont in both conference games this season.
The Cats have been dominant for a majority of the conference schedule and have won 15 of the last 16 games by an average margin of almost almost 15 points per game.
After defeating Maine 93-81 on Sunday, the Cats earned a share of the America East regular season championship with Binghamton.
But come tournament time, where one loss is all it takes to be knocked out of contention, anything can happen.
What to watch for
The key matchup to look for is the possible showdown with Binghamton, a team Vermont matches up well with, but there are other teams that also pose major threats.
Two other teams that have played the Cats tough are Stony Brook and Albany. UVM got the best of Stony Brook in both matchups this season, but strong second half surges in both games by Stony Brook prove that they can do damage.
Albany is the only other America East team to carve a notch in the loss column for Vermont. During the loss, Albany shot over 70 percent from 3-point land, which could cause problems for Vermont’s guards.
Offensively, junior Marqus Blakely – the reigning America East player of the year – has been hit with waves of double teams in just about every game this season and fans should expect more of the same come tournament time.
Defensively, the Cats are anchored by freshman Garvey Young, who usually covers the opposing teams’ best guard.
Young and others conclude that defense and rebounding are what the Cats will need to do in order to achieve their goal of a championship.
The X-factor in Vermont’s run for the America East tournament may be the team’s chemistry and depth.
Blakely emphasized the importance of the bench and the underclassmen.
“The bench is a lot deeper, the underclassmen are helping a lot this year with Garvey coming in and starting,” he said. “There is all-around experience between upper-classmen and the lowerclassmen.”
Sophomore Evan Fjeld brings size, defensive intensity and offensive efficiency off the bench, while sophomore Joey Accaoui and junior Maurice Joseph bring solid defense and sharp shooting from deep – both hit over 43 percent of their threes.
The end of one legacy
For the seniors, the tournament is the final chapter of a long volume of stories.
For the senior captain Mike Trimboli, there is one piece that is missing that would solidify his legacy – an America East championship.
“I think for me, the main goal is showing everyone that we can win,” Trimboli said. “I’ve always prided myself on winning and, with two 20-win seasons, I think we’ve proved that a little bit, but I think it comes down to the end and how you pull it out in the end.”
Trimboli will leave the program as Vermont’s all-time assist leader. He leads the team in scoring and assists this year, but the one thing he has yet to do is eclipse the conference tournament hump and make it into the NCAA’s.
“To get to the NCAA tournament is something I’ve always dreamed about doing and this is the year to do it,” Trimboli said. UVM won the America East championship in each of the previous three seasons before he arrived on campus but have yet to do so with Trimboli as a Catamount.
But Trimboli said the team has gelled and is very confident heading into the tournament.
“With every team we’ve been up at least 10 and we have to keep that in mind,” he said. “We have a lot of confidence right now in our ability, we need to bring it out every game.”
So what now?
Given Vermont’s success in their last 15 games, Young believes that the team is now ready.
“I feel like the whole season has prepared us for this tournament and I think that we’re ready,” Young said. “We have momentum, we just need to keep it up.”