“On Campus” blog has new address

March 4, 2010 by

So, we’ve enhanced the look of the “On Campus” blog and integrated it with The Burlington Free Press’ web site. Here’s our new address: http://blogs.burlingtonfreepress.com/oncampus/

The links to the blog from our Web site haven’t changed, but you’ll want to update your bookmarks and RSS feed. Our new RSS feed: http://blogs.burlingtonfreepress.com/oncampus/feed/

Make sure to visit the blog often this weekend. I’ll be in Hartford for the America East basketball tournaments. Ted Ryan is heading to Lowell, Mass., to cover UVM’s final regular-season series, and then will join me in Hartford for Sunday’s semifinals. We’ll be blogging throughout.

And remember to follow my updates from the America East tournament on Twitter @ johnfantino

Fans pick Blakely, but will the coaches?

March 2, 2010 by

University of Vermont star Marqus Blakley was voted the America East Men’s Basketbball’s Fans’ Choice Player of the Year, the league announced today. Is that a good thing? Keep reading. Here’s the America East’s release:

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — University of Vermont’s Marqus Blakely and the University of NewHamphire’s Alvin Abreu were recognized by America East on Tuesday for their respective accomplishments this season. Blakely was tabbed this season’s selection as the 2010 America East Men’s Basketball Fans’ Choice Player of the Year while Abreu was named 2010 America East Player of the Game.

Blakely (Metchuen, N.J./Metchuen), who ranked near the top of almost ever statistical category, receives the Fans’ Choice honor after being named America East’s Kevin Roberson Player of the Year in each of the past two seasons. He ranks second in scoring (17.4 ppg), second in rebounding (9.1 rpg), fourth in assists (3.7 apg) and leads the conference in both steals (2.6 spg) and blocks (1.9 bpg). The senior forward received just under 30 percent of over 3,500 votes in the final round. Stony Brook’s Tommy Brenton finished a close second, garnering 29 percent of the final tally.

Abreu (Lynn, Mass./Boys to Men (Ill.)), who ranks seventh among league leaders with 14.6 points per game, received the most Player of the Game honors during the season to garner the end-of-year award. He became the 27th Wildcat to score his 1,000 career point earlier this season, which came against Hartford on Feb. 6.The Player of the Game award was determined by tabulating award winners from the regular season. At the conclusion of each home game, a player was named the Player of the Game. Just one player was tabbed in non-conference games, while a player from each team was recognized during conference games. Hartford’s Joe Zeglinski and Binghamton’s Greer Wright were the other top recipients.

The league’s annual awards, including the all-conference teams, as well as Player, Rookie and Coach of the Year, will be announced at the championship awards banquet on Friday, March 5 at 4 p.m. in Hartford, site of the 2010 of the America East Men’s & Women’s Basketball Championship Presented By Newman’s Own.

It’s a nice accolade for Blakely. Unfortunately for him, it might also mean he will not win his third straight America East Player of the year. Inexplicably, the fans’ choice and Player of the Year have always been different players. I doubt that’s coincidence.

Player of the Year – along with several other all-conference accolades — are voted on by the league’s nine coaches. Well Blakely be the first to snag both awards in the same season. We’ll find out Friday.

Binghamton drops out of AE tourney

March 1, 2010 by

It’s official: The Binghamton University men’s basketball team will not play in the America East Conference tournament, the school announced tonight.

“With the controversy currently surrounding the program it is not appropriate we play in this year’s post-season,” Binhamton president Lois DeFleur said in a news release.

That means second-seeded Vermont will play eighth-place Maryland-Baltimore County — not New Hampshire — in the quarterfinal round Saturday night at 6 p.m. If the Catamounts advance, they will meet the winner of the quarterfinal between No. 3 Maine and No. 6 New Hampshire. Good draw for the Cats.

*****

The UVM women will take on No. 7 Albany in the first quarterfinal Friday, scheduled to tip off at noon. The Catamounts will likely meet No. 3 Boston University in the semifinals, a rematch of last year’s America East championship game.

Here’s the complete schedule for both tournaments, which will both take place at University of Hartford’s Chase Arena.

Cats might play UMBC instead of UNH

March 1, 2010 by

It is assumed the University of Vermont men’s basketball team, as the No. 2 seed, will play No. 7 New Hampshire in the quarterfinal round of the America East Conference tournament.

Not so fast.

There’s a chance the Catamounts’ quarterfinal opponent will be Maryland-Baltimore County, the eighth-place team in the nine-team league. UVM coach Mike Lonergan said before practice today that he was told the tournament bracket is not yet official.

Pete Thamel of the New York Times reported on his Twitter page this afternoon, “the America East and Binghamton are deciding if Bearcats should play in conference tournament.”

If fifth-place Binghamton doesn’t participate, there’s a possibility the tournament’s play-in game would be eliminated and seeds re-organized.

With that scenario, top-seeded Stony Brook would play last-place Albany in the the quarterfinals.

“I don’t think it’s a good situation because we are trying to prepare for whoever we play on  Saturday and we have practice (today),” Lonergan said. “We are just going to work on shooting and work on our offense and different things. Because you don’t want to waste time preparing for UNH and then all of sudden you are playing UMBC. Hopefully that decision will be made in the next couple hours and we can move on and speed up our game preparation.”

The America East has yet to announce the official match-ups of the men’s or women’s basketball tournament on  its Web site.

Gracious farewell

March 1, 2010 by

Photo by Shane Bufano

When Marqus Blakely — UVM’s strong, tough and poised basketball standout — has tears gushing from his eyes, you know it’s a poignant moment.

A week after sending off the UVM women’s star-studded senior class, the Catamount men’s program bade farewell to one of its brightest stars Sunday at Patrick Gym.

Blakely has more than 1,800 points and 1,000 rebounds. He has 156 dunks. And he’s on the brink of win his third consecutive America East Conference player of the year award. No wonder the sold-out crowd of 3,266 belted out a long ovation during a “Senior Day” ceremony to show their appreciation.

The feeling was mutual.

Shane Bufano snapped some great photos of the scene. Here’s the emotional comments from Blakely, some of his teammates and his coach after Vermont wrapped up a  22-win regular season by beating Binghamton at Patrick Gym:

Senior forward Marqus Blakely: “It didn’t really hit me until 10 minutes before the game, and I realized that all my family is here, friends, fans; literally everyone was here to see the seniors. Hopefully we will be able to come back here and play in the championship game here, but if not, it’s really been a great four years here. I wouldn’t change anything about it. Vermont is a great place, especially being a student-athlete. I just want to say thank you to all the fans, my family and friends.”

Senior guard Maurice Joseph: “It was very emotional for me. You think back at your journey, you think about the path that you took to get to this very point. Starting out at Michigan State, you think back at all the lessons coach (Tom) Izzo taught me. You think back at the transfer process, and coach (Mike) Lonergan taking a chance on me and allowing me to come here and do a lot of good things in my career. All these things go through your mind. Your family is here, your friends are here. It’s just an emotional day and I’m just happy we got a win.”

Head coach Mike Lonergan: “We have great fans. I’ve been here five years and we’ve sold out every ‘Senior Day.’ I told our guys that’s really something you should appreciate, it doesn’t happen in many places. No matter what our record is or who the opposing team is, 3,266 (fans) are here. It makes it really fun to coach here and it makes rewarding to be a player at Vermont.

“Those three seniors are special. I’m hard on them because I want to get a lot of them, I really do. I want them to leave here with no regrets.

“We get good kids here in every sport. It’s really fun to coach true student-athletes. This is a special place, so hopefully we can keep this season going.”

Sophomore guard Garvey Young: “I definitely felt a sense of pride and a sense of family with these guys to play my heart out and send them out on a good note. It was definitely motivational just seeing the support from the fans, the emotion, and just the love in the atmosphere.”

It’s simple for Hockey Cats: Just win two

March 1, 2010 by

It was nearly the perfect weekend for the University of Vermont men’s hockey team, a scenario that seemed improbable at best, impossible at worst a mere two weeks ago.

Back then, UVM had its most disastrous weekend of the Hockey East season at Gutterson Fieldhouse. Twice in two nights, the Catamounts nursed along 2-1 leads against Merrimack heading into the last five minutes of the third period.

They won neither game, settling for a 2-2 tie the first night, then losing 3-2 on two goals in the final two minutes the next evening.

At that point, for anyone other than a UVM coach or a player to describe the Catamounts’ future as anything other than bleak would have been a unwarranted optimism. Look at what remained: road trips to New Hampshire and Lowell sandwiched around a two-game set vs. defending national champion Boston University at The Gut. How could that team, playing as it was, expect much good to happen any of those weekends?

Even when Vermont played very well at UNH, the only tangible reward was a single point that left the Catamounts sitting ninth, taking into account the head-to-head tiebreaker in Massachusetts’ favor, and out of the playoffs had the Hockey East tournament begun this weekend.

Now, optimism has overshadowed pessimism. The Catamounts defeated BU twice inside of 48 hours. They’re tied for fifth place. They have their destiny back in their own hands, not only for securing a playoff berth but for arising from the near-dead to potentially clinching home ice for the Hockey East quarterfinals.

That says volumes about two things: The resilience and character of an emotionally battered band of Catamounts and the parity of the league. Hey, this morning, three points separate the six teams residing in the Nos. 4 through 9 rungs of the standings — three.

Of course, with the standings that packed and six teams going for five playoff positions, someone will lose out, and that could still be Vermont with a no-point trip to Lowell on Friday and Saturday.

While UVM needed plenty of help this past weekend — and got it — the Catamounts can eliminate the need for outside assistance by sweeping the River Hawks; they might even get by with a win and a tie.

So now it’s set up for a fun final weekend of the regular season. UNH and BC will play for the regular-season title and the tournament’s top seed. Maine can eliminate slumping UMass. BU and Northeastern can hurt each other. UVM can overtake Lowell. Of the six 3-through-9 teams, Merrimack appears to have the easiest road with Providence on tap for a home-and-home.

For UVM, here’s the situation with ties in the final standings: the Catamounts will have the head-to-head tie-breaker against Lowell (0-0-1 now, but UVM would have to have at least a win and a tie this weekend just to finish tied with UML), BU (2-0-1) and Northeastern (2-1-0), but loses it to Massachusetts (1-2-0) and Merrimack (0-2-1).

So it’s simple: Win twice at Lowell and come on back to The Gut for the quarterfinals.

Well, it’s that simple on paper. On the ice, however …

Hoop Cats’ fans: Let’s say goodbye again.

February 28, 2010 by

They rose with the united voice of 3,000, saying goodbye to the seniors of the University of Vermont men’s basketball team at Patrick Gym on Sunday afternoon, but they didn’t mean it; at least, not with all their hearts.

Oh, they appreciated all the wins and spectacular moments, the effort and the hard work this UVM threesome has given them, but, really, the 3,000 were expressing their love with just a bit something held back.

Like the hope this wasn’t the last time Marqus Blakely, Maurice Joseph and Nick Vier tormented opposing teams at Patrick Gym.

It was an emotional few minutes as Vier, Joseph and finally Blakely were called to center court, parents in tow, to receive the adulation of the 3,000 one more time. Joseph tapped his heart, waving to the fans in appreciation, and Vier acknowledged the moment with a salute to both sets of bleachers, but the most touching scene was Blakely’s mother gently reaching up to wipe the tears from her son’s face.

Still, as much as the 3,000 genuinely bid thank you, everyone present knew everyone was thinking , “One more time!”

Such as in the championship game of the America East tournament.

That’s not entirely in Vermont’s hands, but neither is it impossible. Stony Brook has the top seed and home court for the finals if it advances. That’s something UVM can’t control; as the No. 2 seed, the Catamounts will be in the opposite bracket for the quarterfinals and the semifinals, assuming they advance, and Stony Brook cannot be one of those opponents.

So some other team must take out the Seawolves on the first weekend, opening the door for one final reunion of Blakely, Joseph and Vier with the adoring Patrick denizens. Message to the 3,000: root as hard for whoever plays Stony Brook as you root for UVM.

Sunday, against Binghamton, first Vier, then Joseph departed late in UVM’s win to standing ovations. Blakely was the last to leave the floor, and he stooped to kiss the Catamount logo at mid-court.

It was a genuine gesture, but believe this: He would love to have the opportunity to do that one more time, just as the 3,000 sincerely hope Sunday wasn’t the Patrick farewell for him, Joseph or Vier.

The Milo cause-and-effect: Is it real?

February 27, 2010 by

The play of the University of Vermont men’s hockey team in its last three games certainly begs the question of whether there is a cause-and-effect relationship regarding the recent dismissal of forward Justin Milo from the team.

There is no way to be certain that Milo’s absence has resulted in three of UVM’s more consistent and better games, including Friday’s 7-3 victory over Boston University, and no one connected with the Catamounts is going to say that on the record even if he agreed.

Rumors, opinions and theories still abound as to why Milo was cut so late in the season and seemingly trustworthy sources have given credence to some of the speculation, but it’s all off-the-record. Still, 11 days after the announcement by head coach Kevin Sneddon, there’s growing evidence that the Catamounts have finally grown together as a team after laboring for team leadership off the ice and results on it.

UVM played valiantly in a 5-4 overtime loss at UNH, a game the Catamounts deserved to win. The next night, they stormed back from a 2-0 deficit in Durham, N.H., for a 3-2 lead, settling for a 3-3 tie. Friday, they simply outplayed a very talented BU team.

The results aside, Vermont had not had a three-game stretch of such energy, effort and consistency all season; hence, the question of cause-and-effect. Clearly, had the players been upset by Milo’s dismissal, it hardly seems likely that it would be manifested by some of their best play of the season.

Quite frankly, at UNH and Friday vs. BU, the Catamounts looked like a team no longer playing with a burden on their backs. The fun appeared to be back in the game for them and don’t underestimate the value of fun in determining how a team plays.

Earlier this week, coach Kevin Sneddon would not comment on the effect of Milo’s dismissal on team morale, but after Friday’s win, he said, “Right now, the strength of our character is really shining. The guys through adversity — and we haven’t had a lot of bounces go our way this year — and I think they’re getting stronger as a unit, pulling together and trying to get it done. It’s a good a sign that we’re doing it at this point of the season and hope to be playing out best hockey moving forward.”

That is not a direct comment on Milo or his effect on the team, but his situation was certainly part of the adversity this team has endured and is now trying to use as a positive.

Josh Burrows, the defenseman-turned-wing who scored twice Friday, was not directly addressing the Milo affair but rather the team’s belated melding as a unit when he said, “We just know this is a stretch where we know we needed to do what we can do and we’ve kind of struggled with that at times during the year.

“I think everyone’s on the same page now and we’ve got the effort that we need and with that kind of effort, we’re going to get the results that we want.”

If the Catamounts continue to play today as they have for the past three games, the cause-and-effect question will grow in validity.

America East tourney coming into focus

February 27, 2010 by

Crash course: The University of Vermont men’s basketball team will lock up the No. 2 seed for the America East tournament with a win over Binghamton on Sunday. A loss Sunday and a Maine win over Boston U on  would drop the Catamounts to the third seed.

With one game remaining in the regular season, here’s what the America East tournament, which kicks off next week in Hartford, looks like:


Men’s Bracket
First Round – Thursday, March 4 (Free Live Video at http://www.AmericaEast.tv)
Game 1 - ^No. 8 seed vs. %No. 9 seed, 30 minutes following conclusion of prior game (approx. 8:15 p.m.)

Quarterfinals – Saturday, March 6
Game 2 – No. 1 Stony Brook vs. Winner Game 1, 12:05 p.m.
Game 3 – No. 4 Boston U. vs. No. 5 Binghamton, 30 minutes following conclusion of prior game
Game 4 – !No. 2 seed vs. #No. 7 seed, 6:05 p.m.
Game 5 – *No. 3 seed vs. $No. 6 seed, 30 minutes following conclusion of prior game

Semifinals – Sunday, March 7
Game 6 - Winner Game 2 vs Winner Game 3, 5:04 p.m. (TV TBA, Free Live Video at http://www.AmericaEast.tv)
Game 7 - Winner Game 4 vs Winner Game 5, 7:34 p.m. (TV TBA, Free Live Video at http://www.AmericaEast.tv)

Final – Saturday, March 13
Game 8 – Winner Game 6 vs Winner Game 7, 12:02 p.m. (ESPN 2)

^ Albany will be No. 8 seed with win at Hartford,
UMBC will be No. 8 seed with Albany loss at Hartford
% Albany will be No 9 seed with a loss at Hartford
UMBC will be No. 9 seed with an Albany win at Hartford
! Vermont will be No. 2 seed with win vs. Binghamton
Maine will be No. 2 seed with win at Boston U. AND a Vermont loss to Binghamton
# UNH will be No. 7 seed with loss vs. Stony Brook Sunday OR a Hartford win vs. Albany
Hartford will be No. 7 seed with loss vs. Albany AND a New Hampshire win vs. Stony Brook
* Maine will be No. 3 seed with loss at Boston U. Saturday OR a Vermont win vs. Binghamton
Vermont will be No. 3 seed with loss vs. Binghamton AND a Maine win at Boston U.
$ Hartford will be No. 6 seed with win vs. Albany
UNH will be No. 6 seed with win vs. Stony Brook AND a Hartford loss to Albany.

Will Hockey Cats gain from adversity?

February 25, 2010 by

The last couple of weeks have been tumultuous for the University of Vermont hockey team.

Included in the emotional rollercoaster were:

 The benching and eventual dismissal of No. 2 scorer Justin Milo;

 A weekend series with Merrimack in which UVM lost third-period leads in the final five minutes (tie) and final two minutes (loss) of regulation;

 The one-game suspension of freshman forward Chris McCarthy for a match penalty vs. Merrimack;

 The addition of Jay Anctil to an injury list that included one of UVM’s top scorers, Wahsontiio Stacey, and No. 2 goaltender, Mike Spillane;

 The shifting of defenseman Josh Burrows to forward to bolster the depleted front ranks;

 A valiant but one-point weekend at New Hampshire;

 Finally, a plunge into ninth place in the Hockey East standings, one position out of a playoff berth.

Despite all this, plus five overtime games in seven games and a 1-3-4 record over the last eight games, the Catamounts say they are optimistic and feeling good going into this weekend’s series against Boston University at Gutterson Fieldhouse.

Asked last week how the Milo affair, as well as the injury toll, might be affecting team morale, head coach Kevin Sneddon said he wouldn’t respond directly.

However, he said, “I can just say right now that right now the energy on the team is very positive. Our guys understand that injuries are part of the game. Everybody’s gone through it in the league … That’s part of the cards that you’re dealt,” Sneddon said. “Our guys did a great job of playing through it last weekend; we had a suspension in Chris McCarthy the first night, a bunch of injuries, the dismissal of a player, a defenseman playing forward.

“Our guys did a great job of doing whatever they possibly could to help the team,” Sneddon said. “To me, that’s a good sign of character; that’s a good sign of moving forward. Now as we try to get some of these guys back, hopefully in the near future, we can set ourselves up for some good hockey down the stretch.”

Throughout the year, the Catamounts have had difficulty all getting on the same page at the same time. Perhaps the adversity of recent weeks has finally coalesced UVM into a team.

“You see it a lot with teams with injuries, with other things that are going on, guys kind of pull together,” captain Brian Roloff said. “I think you really could see that (Friday vs. UNH) with the fact that we gave up a goal 20 seconds, you think it could have crushed us, and we turned around and played a pretty solid week.”

Perhaps in a couple of weeks, if UVM does take five or six of the remaining eight points and gets to postseason, this will be remembered as the time when adversity forged a Catamount team.


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