Cats aim for championship

In 2005, the Catamount men’s basketball team did what all mid-major college basketball teams dream of doing: They won their conference tournament, earning them a bid in the NCAA Tournament.

Not only did they reach the NCAA tournament, they upset the Syracuse Orange, who has one of the most storied basketball programs in the history of college basketball.

It was the kind of win that, for the victors, will never be forgotten.

As the 2009 season tips off this week, the  goal of making the NCAA tournament seems very tangible for the Cats who are accustomed to finishing near the top of the conference.

The numbers have been there but the end results haven’t been what the Cats desire most.

“We have won more games than any America East team the last four years, but the one goal that has eluded us is winning the conference tournament and making the NCAA tournament,” head coach Mike Lonergan said.

 “It is one of our goals this year but it won’t be easy.”

While the road will certainly not be an easy one, the Catamounts ranked second in the America East preseason polls, picked only behind Boston University.

Despite  not being chosen first in the polls, the team is not concerned.

“Being ranked second in the preseason polls is nice but it really doesn’t do anything for our confidence as a team,” senior point guard Nick Vier said. “I think every year since I’ve been here we’ve been ranked in the top two or three, so rankings don’t really mean anything to us.”

Regardless of where they rank, there is a sense of urgency this year to reach the NCAA tournament, as the window of opportunity has begun to slide shut for the seniors.

“We have guys who have been here for four years and haven’t won a conference tournament. It would be nice to win one for them,” senior Maurice Joseph said.

Another looming question is whether or not they can be as good as, or exceed the achievement of, the memorable 2005 team that beat Syracuse in the first round of the tournament.

“The 2005 Vermont basketball team was the best team in program history, so right now there is no comparison between [us],” Lonergan said.

“We have the chance to be a very good team this year, but we have to prove that on the court.”