America East Champions. Nuff Said.
Final Score: Vermont 82 – UMBC 43
Let’s. Fucking. Go!
At long last, the Vermont Catamounts have returned to the NCAA Tournament! Vermont toppled yet another conference opponent, dismantling UMBC by 39 points en route to the America East conference championship. This was the first time in AE history that a team has won every conference tournament game by 30+ points, proving once again that this Vermont team has been on another level all year and is truly special. Vermont is like Johnny Sins the way they’ve just run a train on the America East conference this year. Best analogy I’ve ever heard.
By now we all know that Vermont will be traveling to Buffalo to take on the #4 seed Arkansas Razorbacks on Thursday night. More on this game later, but on the surface this is exactly the type of draw Vermont needed. Don’t get me wrong, Arkansas is incredibly talented and will be favored, but the Cats match-up very well here and while they’ll still need a few breaks to go their way, this is arguably the best chance Vermont has at pulling off a tournament upset in years.
I will personally be in attendance this Thursday in Buffalo and I implore every Catamount fan who can make the trip to do the same. Wings on me.
This team is an absolute wagon. I don’t think anyone in their right mind, myself included, would’ve ever picked them to win every conference tournament game by 30+ points. Unreal accomplishment. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, from top to bottom this team is loaded. Arguably the best AE team in the past 20 years and that includes the 2016-17 Vermont squad that went undefeated in conference play. Vermont has had some tremendous teams throughout the years, but this feels different. The Boston Celtics just retired Kevin Garnett’s jersey yesterday so in honor of #5 heading to the rafters, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!
From an individual perspective, there’s no one more deserving of this than Ben Shungu. The Burlington native dazzled yet again, finishing with 19 points, 6 rebounds and 3 steals on Saturday. Dude is the heartbeat of Vermont basketball, as he would go on to be named the America East Championship Most Outstanding Player, averaging 19 points and 4 rebounds through Vermont’s dominant conference tournament run. And guess what? He ain’t done yet.
Elsewhere, Ryan Davis led all scores with 20 points and we witnessed the return of sharp-shooting Finn Sullivan as he poured in 14 points going 3-5 from deep. Davis will obviously be a huge part for Vermont when they battle Arkansas, but it’s Sullivan and his hot shooting that could be the ultimate x-factor in that opening round match-up. Also, special shoutout to Mr. Elmer’s glue himself, Isaiah Powell. How incredibly special it must be to not only return to the NCAA Tournament, but also play in your hometown backyard of Buffalo. What an incredible moment that’ll be.
Finally, one last shoutout again to the defense. Vermont surrendered just 48 points on average during their three-game conference tournament run. That’s the lowest they’ve allowed at any three-game stretch all season. Teams typically pick up the intensity and turn it up a notch during the playoffs but this run has been insane. Let’s see if we can turn that dial up another notch come Thursday.
A 39-point conference championship blowout. Three straight 30+ point landslide victories in the AE conference tournament. There is nothing bad. Nada. See you in Buffalo.
The only ugly thing to come from this game was my excruciating hangover on Sunday morning. Easily worth it.
Next Game: Away vs Arkansas (Neutral Site) (NCAA Tournament Opening Round)
Game Time: Thursday, March 17th, 9:20pm (TNT)