Archive for March, 2010

“On Campus” blog has new address

March 4, 2010

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

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Fans pick Blakely, but will the coaches?

March 2, 2010

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

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

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

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

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 …