Their nail-biting win over Albany in the books, and with it their sixth America East championship, the University of Vermont men's basketball team found out yesterday they'll be facing the Purdue Boilermakers in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
UVM garnered a 13 seed in the midwest regional by the selection committee, Purdue is ranked number four, and if you're looking for an upset, why not? The last time UVM was ranked a 13-seed in the Big Dance was 2005 when the Catamounts shocked Syracuse in the first round, and carrying the nation's longest winning streak at 21 games and counting into the tournament when they tip off against Purdue Thursday, there's every reason to believe John Becker's charges can force another bracket-breaking upset.
On Saturday the team played its closest game in some time, trailing Albany by nine points on the second half before clawing back for the win. Payton Henson's drive to the bucket, getting fouled to complete a 3-point play with just 39 seconds left broke a tie and sent UVM to a 56-53 victory on Saturday, and freshman Anthony Lamb finished with a double double of 12 points and ten rebounds, while also picking up the tournament's MVP honor. UVM finished the regular season undefeated against America East opponents, but now they're looking for an even bigger win on a bigger stage when they take on Purdue.
Patrick Gym will be the site for another championship crown tonight as top-seeded CVU takes on number two Rutland for the division one boy's high school basketball title. Game time is 7pm.
In other high school playoff action tonight there are two games at Barre auditorium. The late game will feature the Girl's division two semifinal with the number one seed Mill River taking on number 5 U-32, and the early game will be a battle to see who moves on for the championship round in division n four with top-seeded Mount St. Joseph tipping off against number 4 Cabot at 6:30.
In the NHL, the Montreal Canadiens got two goals apiece from Paul Byron and Max Pacioretty and beat the Edmonton Oilers 4-1 in Alberta last night. The Habs have been on a four game road trip, and picked up wins in three of those contests while also battling a flu bug that swept through then locker room. The Habs are still atop the Atlantic division, enjoying life under new-slash-old coach Claude Julien, and are two points ahead of the surging Ottawa Senators in the Atlantic.
The NY Rangers are still on a roll, and took advantage of skating against the Detroit Red Wings, who will be missing the playoffs this season for the first time in 25 years. The Rangers beat the Wings 4-1 in Motor City last night, getting two goals from captain and defenseman Ryan McDonagh along the way. The biggest challenge for the Blueshirts over the next couple of weeks will be playing without their starting goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who's out with a lower body injury. Back-up Antti Raanta made 23 to get the win in net last night.
In the NBA, you know it's an easy night for the home team when your star player spends most of the fourth quarter on the bench because the team is ahead by so much they don't need his offense in crunch time. It's an even easier night when that same player has time to take part in the wave as it circles around the arena. That's what Isaiah Thomas did in Boston last night while the rest of the Celtics were putting the finishing touches on a 100-80 rout of the Chicago Bulls. Thomas finished the night with 22 points, a modest tally for a player averaging 29 per game. Avery Bradley had 17. As for the wave, Thomas said it was fun to join in with the fans, but that he felt the wave went on for too long. That's true, when you realize it should never have started in the first place. But please don't go by me. I'm a curmudgeon when it comes to the wave, as I don't even like it in baseball.
Speaking of baseball, the World Baseball Classic is proving to be very entertaining, especially if you're a fan of the Dominican Republic or Israel, the Cinderella team of the tournament so far. On Sunday the DR exploded for 7 runs in the 11th inning to break a tie and earn a 10-3 victory over Colombia. and Israel, a team not expected to compete for much of anything in the WBC, in fact the team was ranked 41st in the world, and bookmakers said it was a 200-to-1 shot to win the tournament. But team Israel has yet to lose in four games played, and with a win today against the Netherlands they will be looking at a shot at making it into the semi-finals.