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Getting to know the Vermont Catamounts

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Heading into tomorrow night's showdown on ESPN U, beginning at 8 p.m. in Stegeman when Georgia and Vermont play in the first round of the NIT, I wanted to get to know a little more about our esteemed opponent in the upcoming. To do so, I reached out to Benjamin Miraski of Mid-Major Madness so he could fill us in on what the 22-10 Catamounts are bringing to Athens.

1) We all see how Vermont played Duke close at Duke, losing by 1 point in late November, but they have a couple of ugly losses it seems and no big name wins. Should we expect the team that gave Duke all they could handle, or a team that otherwise lost 7 of those first 10 to teams like Quinnipiac, Wagner, and Bryant?

I wouldn't call all of their losses ugly. I think that the Bryant loss was certainly something that could have been avoided, although tempo might have played a big part in that. Same with the loss against a very good defensive team in Wagner.

I went back and took a look at that Duke game again, because even at the time, it was a real shock to us at Mid-Major Madness that Vermont was in this. A lot of things went right that day for the Catamounts, which could happen again against anyone, you could say. They caught a really bad game from Rasheed Sulaimon, and Duke was in full "Jabari Parker is the Greatest" mode as a result, leaving Vermont with really one player to really let beat them. Plus Duke's defense isn't the normal Duke defense. A veteran team with decent ball handlers like Vermont is going to be able to hang with them.

All that said, I think you are more likely to see the team that lost to a lot of those nonconference teams. Vermont really needs to control the tempo and look for the open shot. They are not going to be a team that can come back on you with the 3-point basket (even against Duke, they were just 4-for-13). That means that a bigger, stronger team like Georgia should see the less intense version of Vermont.

2) Looking at their roster, they seem to have one true big. Can Georgia expect to be able to dominate the game physically and athletically?

The short answer here is "yes", but the long answer is a little more complicated. Vermont plays bigger than they are, and do it through a big case of want. That is embodied in the 6-6 Brian Voelkel [a senior PF] more than anything. He was the Defensive Player of the Year in the America East conference and plays like he is taller because he just wants the darn ball more than everyone else.

Georgia is going to have to be ready for a team that is going to play really hard against them, and that tries to force the Bulldogs into beating themselves.

Georgia should definitely have the edge in size, but they need to be smart about it because the Catamounts are really good at drawing fouls and getting to the line, despite their smaller size. So while you can say that you will dominate the game physically, it might not be for the best.

3) Looking at their numbers, Vermont appears to be your stereotypical solid mid major foe. 5 of their top 6 scorers are seniors, their top 6 in minutes played are 5 seniors and a junior, and they hit a lot of 3s at a strong rate and spread their scoring out across the board as a team. What should we expect from them style wise both offensively and defensively?

You are really looking here at a team that is going to try and slow you down on the dribble and get the ball to the open man. They really have just two 3-point threats in Candon Rusin [a 6'4 SR G] and Sandro Carissimo [a 6'2 SR G], although other guys will take the shot if they are open. More than likely, they will attempt to dribble drive into the paint and see if they can draw contact and make you beat yourself.

On defense, look for a smart team that is going to push you with man defense, but will certainly sag to help quite a bit against the bigger Bulldogs. The biggest thing here, much like with Georgia, is that Vermont is really foul prone, and they don't have the deep bench to handle situations that start turning ugly in terms of foul trouble. A lot of Vermont's numbers look much better because of how well they played in conference, up until that final game in the America East Tournament, effectively on the road, against Albany.

I would say you are going to get a good game, with a well coached team and one that will be ready for Georgia, but one that will likely not stand up to the talent of the Bulldogs.

Again, a big thanks to Benjamin Miraski of Mid-Major Madness, and ...

Go Dawgs!