It’s been 43 years since the last time Florida State and Vermont met on the hardwood.
The Seminoles prevailed 76-67 in 1976 and will be looking to take home the victory once again Thursday.
The No. 4 seed Seminoles take on the No. 13 seed Catamounts at 2 p.m. The game will be on TBS.
Since FSU and Vermont haven’t played in such a long time, we brought in Vermont beat writer Alex Abrami from the Burlington Free Press to give some insight on the Catamounts.
Q: Vermont has already played one ACC team this season with its 76-68 loss to Louisville in November. How did the Catamounts handle the Cardinals’ length and athleticism in that game?
A: You want me to remember back to November? Kidding, of course, but that first week of the Catamounts’ season was memorable, albeit in two losing efforts. Vermont first hung tough with then-No. 1 Kansas and did the same with Louisville four nights later until Anthony Lamb got into foul trouble. When that happened, the Cardinals’ size and athleticism was too much during an impressive spurt to build a commanding halftime lead. The Cats made a late surge and Lamb did finish with a game-high 25 points, but that crucial stretch late in the first half did them in more than anything. It also showed Lamb needs to be on the court for more than 23 minutes in matchups against bigger schools like Louisville.
Q: Florida State loves to get out in transition. Will Vermont try to run with FSU or are they capable of slowing the pace down?
A: No, UVM can’t get into an uptempo game with FSU if it wants any chance of pulling off the upset. The Catamounts will want to run their ball-screen motion offense and get quality looks for their shooters and, of course, go through Lamb as much as possible. They will prefer to slow it down to a half-court game.
Q: Vermont Forward Anthony Lamb seems to do everything well. What makes him a special player?
A: Lamb, a junior, does nearly everything well – that’s what makes him a special player. He can score at all three levels, he’s grown into a leader on and off the court since last season’s foot injury cost him half his sophomore campaign and he’s shown the desire and will to take over games when needed. The 6-foot-6, 227-pound Lamb is asked to do a lot for UVM – accounting for 29 percent of his team’s scoring – and he doesn’t shy away from the challenge.
Q: FSU has two excellent rim protectors in 7-foot-4 Christ Koumadje and 6-foot-10 Mfiondu Kabengele. How much of Vermont’s offense comes from driving to the basket and scoring in the paint?
A: Outside of Lamb, UVM doesn’t really have a paint presence when it comes to scoring (Samuel Dingba, who starts in the frontcourt with Lamb, is a lanky, stout defender first and foremost). So UVM has relied on a two-man game with Lamb and Ernie Duncan, the program’s all-time leader in 3-point percentage, who rolls off screens and creates off the bounce at times. Stef Smith and Benny Shungu are strong ballhandlers who can get into the lane and kick out, something the duo did quite effectively in the America East championship game.
Q: What would it take for Vermont to pull off the upset?
A: Plenty. UVM faces a tall order against an athletic and imposing Seminoles squad that reached the Elite 8 a year ago. There’s a reason UVM is the 13 seed and FSU has a 4-spot. But for them to pull off the upset, the Catamounts will have to take care of the ball (they are 28th in the country with just 10.9 turnovers a game), relay on their bedrock philosophy, team defense (62.6 ppg is 13th stingiest in the nation), and count on Lamb to have a monster game (he does seem to shine on bigger stages). If the game is close, UVM can hit its foul lines, hitting 75 percent of its free throws as a team, a mark just a shade better than FSU.