What a Wild Week itâ€™s Been for Vermont Basketball
We were so close. So. Freaking. Close. On Sunday November 15th, it was officially announced that all of Vermontâ€™s winter sport athletics will be shut down effective immediately, as the state tries to rectify the latest Covid-19 outbreak. The Catamounts were scheduled to begin play on November 30th against Buffalo, but will now have to wait until mid December (18th) before their season can officially commence.
With Governor Scott mandating new and highly restrictive guidelines – essentially putting Vermont back in full-lockdown mode, it seemed all but inevitable that college sports would be the next shoe to drop. As of this moment, Vermont is planning on playing just their America East conference schedule, yet even that possibility remains uncertain with fluidity of the situation at hand.
In the brief time since news broke on Vermont delaying their season, there has already been an outcry from the majority of the Catamount faithful. The state of Vermont has set a tremendous example of how to effectively prepare and prevent the spread of Covid-19 thus far, as theyâ€™ve exceedingly led the country in lowest case totals. Itâ€™s because of these statistics that Catamount fans are disconcerted with the new state enforced guidelines.
â€œWhy should we completely shut down while states like Florida and Texas, who both have massive caseloads, continue to operate under an overwhelming lack of restrictions?â€
As a quick reminder, this is a sports blog and not a political blog. Itâ€™s easy to emphasize with the Vermont supporters who are visibly upset with Governor Scottâ€™s new mandates, along with the administrative decision to put a pause on winter sports. While Vermont continues to do quite well in the prevention of spreading Covid-19, there has been a recent spike and Governor Scott ultimately made his decision based off the health and safety of Vermonters in general. The players and coaches might be equally as upset, however, the health and safety of not just the players, but the community as a whole far outweighs the risk of a college basketball season.
When the Ivy league became the first conference to withdraw from the NCAA Tournament a season ago there was immediate backlash. Vermontâ€™s decision to cancel the non-conference portion of their schedule might seem bold, but they likely wonâ€™t be the last to adhere to these measures. Two of Vermontâ€™s non-conference opponents (Siena and Iona) arenâ€™t even able to practice currently, as Ionaâ€™s head coach Rick Pitino has already made his intentions clear that he hopes the season is pushed back to the spring.
Bernie Andre Leaves Vermont
Just before word broke of Vermont pushing back their season, there was another story that had made headlines. Bernie Andre, the 6â€™6â€ forward who had just transferred to Vermont from NAU, had left the team due to personal reasons. At this point in time there isnâ€™t a reason to speculate or delve into the specifics as to why Andre has left the program and until otherwise it will remain as such. Personal issues are just that and as to whether it was Andreâ€™s decision or the teamâ€™s, that information will remain confidential.
Andreâ€™s sudden departure all but adds another layer of craziness to this already unpredictable year. Projected to be a starter for the Cats, Andre was viewed as a key role/potential impact player on the wing. A capable two-way player, his absence will now leave the Cats thin on the wing and potentially weak on the glass, as his 7.5 career rebounds per game average will be greatly missed.
With Andre now gone, Vermont does have another open scholarship to offer should they look to fill their hole on the wing. However, at this point in time that option seems rather unlikely, but in a season defined by the word unpredictable – anything is possible. Should the conference schedule actually come to fruition (knocks on wood), it will be centered around back-to-back weekend games. With 15 eligible players, head coach John Becker will likely tinker with different line-ups to keep his players fresh, meaning there might not be a firm starting five for every game.
Itâ€™s unclear where Andre is headed now. His cross-country career thus far has brought him to New York, North Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Arizona and for a brief moment, Vermont. The Catamounts have had a tremendous amount of success in getting players to buy-in to the system and culture at Vermont, as only a small handful have transferred away. Itâ€™s unclear if the system and role had any effect on Andreâ€™s decision to leave the team, but regardless we wish Andre the best and hope he can continue to find a way to keep playing the game he loves.