#91 Vermont Men's Basketball 2016-2017 Preview

Vermont Catamounts
2016-2017 Overall Rank: #91
Conference Rank: #1 America East
Vermont was playing very good basketball at the end of last season. Starting in mid-February, the Catamounts won their last five regular season games to finish the regular season with an 11-5 mark in America East play. They managed to beat Maine and New Hampshire in the conference tournament, but fell to a destined Stony Brook squad in the final and had to settle for a trip to the CBI. The Catamounts made the most of that trip though, beating Western Carolina and Seattle before falling to Nevada in Reno. This year the Catamounts should be eyeing a trip to the NCAA Tournament behind junior guard Trae Bell-Haynes. Last season he led the team with 12.2 points and 3.5 assists and is the catalyst behind a very efficient offense.
2015-16 Record: 23-14, 11-5
2015-16 Postseason: CBI
Coach: John Becker
Coach Record: 110-63 at Vermont, 110-63 overall
Who’s Out:
Ethan O’Day is a big loss though. The forward averaged 11.5 points per game and added a team high 6.3 rebounds and 2.0 blocks. His presence in the paint will be very tough to replace. The only other loss is Dylan Sinnickson, who played in fewer than half the team’s games and averaged a mere 4.2 minutes per game.
Who’s In:
This group of newcomers propels Vermont to the top of the America East pecking order. The frontcourt adds Josh Spedil, Anthony Lamb and Tulane transfer Payton Henson. Lamb is a big time recruit by Vermont standards and the 6-6 forward is a very good scorer and a very tough rebounder. He may seem undersized, but he does not play like it. Henson spent two years with the Green Wave and by his sophomore season he was an important player off of the bench. He can score in the paint and will help keep Vermont one of the better rebounding teams in the conference. The newcomers on the perimeter are incoming freshmen Ben Sungu, Kian Dalyrimple and another Tulane transfer, Josh Hearlihy. Hearlihy is an interesting 6-8 guard, but he barely saw the floor for Tulane. His versatility should earn him more minutes for Vermont.
Who to Watch:
There is plenty of backcourt talent returning besides Trae Bell-Haynes. Ernie Duncan had a superb freshman campaign, averaging 11.5 points per game and knocking down 44.2 percent of his 190 three-pointers. Duncan is simply brimming with potential. It could be argued that he already had his breakout campaign, but this could be the year the rest of the America East learns more than they would like about the 6-3 shooting guard. For the most part Dre Wills was relegated to the bench last season, but he still played nearly 23 minutes per game. Wills is a great defender and can do a little bit of everything else too. He averaged 7.9 points. 4.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists and is a great glue guy for the Catamounts. Kurt Steidl will start on the wing beside Duncan. Steidl is another double digit scorer who can shoot three-balls with ease. He was not nearly as consistent from beyond the arc as Duncan last season, but he can use his 6-6 frame to attack the basket as well. Cam Ward will be Bell-Haynes’ backup at the point and should see some time off of the ball as well.
Final Projection:
The key for Vermont will be in the paint. Darren Payen started 25 games last season and the 6-8 senior is a big body in the paint. Last season he averaged 6.9 points and 4.4 rebounds and was second on the team in blocked shots behind O’Day. Drew Urguhart, a 6-8 junior, has some starting experience too. However, Vermont’s newcomers in the frontcourt are pretty good too and do not be surprised if they take over the starting jobs. Either way, as long as Lamb and Henson stay healthy and come close to living up to their potential, the Catamounts have the frontcourt depth they need to grind through the America East and reach the NCAA Tournament.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Trae Bell-Haynes, Junior, Guard, 12.2 points per game
Ernie Duncan, Sophomore, Guard, 11.5 points per game
Kurt Steidl, Senior, Guard, 11.2 points per game
Anthony Lamb, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season
Payton Henson, Junior, Forward, DNP last season
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 75.0 (133rd in nation, 4th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 70.6 (142, 5)
Field-Goal Percentage: 48.1 (20, 1)
Field-Goal Defense: 42.5 (120, 3)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.9 (182, 3)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 38.3 (30, 1)
Free-Throw Percentage: 70.9 (136, 4)
Rebound Margin: 2.7 (88, 4)
Assists Per Game: 13.4 (167, 3)
Turnovers Per Game: 13.2 (233, 6)