Cincinnati Bearcats are 5-2 through the first month of the basketball season, but it’s been a bumpy ride to get there. They struggled and grinded through Paradise Jam, going 2-1 with a loss to Bowling Green, playing overtime twice, sustaining multiple injuries, and overcoming several other obstacles. On Saturday, Cincinnati blew a 10 point lead with 70 seconds to go against UNLV, before coming back to win in overtime.
This team is very much a work-in-progress and while some of the early struggles are the result of a new head coach and new system, new players coming in and trying to gel together, a lot of these issues are basic fundamentals (turnovers, free throws, missed shots).
On Tuesday night, the Bearcats do not get an easy opponent to “get right”. They host a pretty good Vermont team as they try to build some momentum heading into Saturday’s game against Xavier.
Vermont Catamounts play in the America East and are 6-3 so far this year. They have wins at St John’s, Stony Brook, and Bucknell, and suffered a 6 point loss at Virginia. The other two losses came to Rider and at Yale.
Cincinnati and Vermont are 2 of 13 programs that have each won 20+ games in each of the last five seasons.
According to the latest KenPom rankings, Vermont comes in at #88 (for comparison’s sake, Cincinnati is #51).
As a team, Vermont scores 67 ppg, while allowing just 58.7 ppg (ranked 22nd in the country)
Senior forward Anthony Lamb is the star of the show. This year, he is averaging 16.9 ppg and 7.9 rpg. He scored 30 points on 47% shooting against Virginia. Last season, Lamb averaged 21 ppg. Cincinnati is going to need a defensive plan that revolves around containing Lamb for 30+ minutes.
Guard Stef Smith is another guy to watch. He is averaging 12 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 3.1 apg, 1.4 steals per game.
Vermont made the NCAA Tournament in 2019, losing as a 13 seed to Florida State, by a score of 76-69. They have made some form of the postseason for 11 consecutive seasons. That includes 4 trips to the NCAA Tournament, 3 NIT appearances, and 4 CBI appearances.
John Becker has been the head coach at Vermont since the 2011-12 season. Including this year, he has compiled a record of 199-87 and is 107-21 in America East play.
Vermont won a play-in game NCAA Tournament game against Lamar in 2012. Their only other NCAA Tournament victory, is quite honestly one of my favorite NCAA Tournament memories of all-time (for one, I hate Syracuse and for two, I picked Vermont in my bracket pool).
Vermont is not a team players or fans should take lightly. Bearcats need momentum and positive vibes heading into Saturday. Lamb and the Catamount will provide a great test for Cincinnati.