Bovada oddsmakers don’t have a lot of faith in Vermont making what would be a historic NCAA Tournament run as the Catamounts are tied for the longest odds on the board at 500-1 to cut down the nets next month in New Orleans.
The Catamounts weren’t highly regarded by the NCAA Selection Committee, either, as they were designated as a 16 seed and will play in the First Four on Wednesday in Dayton against Southland Conference champion Lamar, which is a 3-point favorite for the game at Bovada. The winner of that matchup faces ACC regular-season champion and Midwest Region top seed North Carolina in what will essentially be a home game for the Tar Heels in Greensboro, N.C.
A No. 16 seed has never beaten a No. 1 in 108 tries. Only 11 times has a No. 1 beaten a No. 16 by single digits, with the last time being in 1997. In the past five years, not only have all but one of the 20 meetings been decided by 16 points or more, but the average margin of victory for the No. 1s has been 29.6 points.
Vermont is 225-1 to win the Midwest Region, the longest odds of that group. The other teams as the 500-1 longest shots to win the tournament are Lamar, LIU-Brooklyn, Loyola (Maryland), Mississippi Valley State, UNC-Asheville, and Western Kentucky — all are either No. 15 or 16 seeds.
North Carolina and Kansas lead the pack of favorites to win this year's NCAA tournament.
North Carolina: 3-2
NC State: 20-1
San Diego State: 30-1
St. Mary’s: 30-1
South Florida: 100-1
Vermont (23-11) likely would have been NIT-bound after finishing second to Stony Brook in the America East standings. But the Catamounts pulled a 51-43 upset of Stony Brook in the conference tournament championship game despite scoring only five points (none from the field) in the final 10 minutes of the game. John Becker became just the second first-year coach to win the conference title, joining Karl Fogel of Northeastern in 1986. Sophomore Brian Voelkel was named the tournament's Reggie Lewis Most Outstanding Player.
The Catamounts have lost only once in their past 15 games but it was a doozy. The loss came by way of a 57-53 at Binghamton on Feb. 21 when the Bearcats were the nation’s only winless team. Binghamton had not won a game since March 3, 2011, a 91-65 win over Maryland-Baltimore County in the first round of the America East tournament. Binghamton lost to Vermont 57-46 in the next round — the Bearcats' final game of the season — and the 27-game losing streak began. Binghamton did win once more this season.
Vermont's bench is its biggest asset. In America East play, the second unit outscored opponents' reserves by almost 300 points. That group is led by Four McGlynn, the America East Rookie of the Year who averaged 12.0 points this season. But Vermont doesn’t come from behind well. In nine of its 11 losses, Vermont could not overcome a halftime deficit.
This is the fifth NCAA Tournament trip for Vermont and first since 2010. The school has one win in the Big Dance, a 60-57 upset of No. 4 seed Syracuse in 2005.
Lamar (23-11) is in the NCAA Tournament also for the fifth time but first since 2000. The Cardinals, who are coached by Bobby Knight’s son Pat, won the Southland East Division regular-season title and crushed McNeese State 70-49 in the tournament final. Three weeks ago after a loss, Pat Knight memorably called his seniors the worst he's coached during his career and the clip was a viral sensation. The Cardinals haven’t lost since, winning six straight.
The key to Lamar’s team is senior guard Mike James, the Southland Tournament MVP. He averages 17.2 points per game. When he’s off, Lamar is as well. In the Cardinals' past three losses, James was 15-for-47 from the field.
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