With the Harvard men’s basketball team’s season opener less than a month away, The Back Page is breaking down the Crimson’s non-conference opponents. Each week, we will take a look at two new foes. On Thursday we profiled St. Joeseph's. Next up is Vermont.
In its first game following the Thanksgiving break, the Crimson will take on the defending America East tournament champion Vermont. Last season, the two teams tussled in a close battle in Burlington, Vt., with Harvard ultimately pulling away in the final minutes to prevail, 55-48.
Though the Crimson’s roster has seen quite a bit of turnover since the end of last season, things have been relatively stable in Vermont. Building off a conference tournament upset of No. 1 seed Stony Brook and their subsequent NCAA tournament bid last season, the Catamounts were recently picked to take first in America East in a preseason poll.
Vermont has lost its top two scorers from a year ago, Four McGlynn and Matt Glass, but the squad carried a balanced scoring attack throughout the season, with five players averaging at least 7.0 points per game.
When the Catamounts visit Lavietes Pavilion, their two biggest scoring threats will be a pair of junior forwards, Luke Apfeld and Brian Voelkel. Voelkel, a former America East Rookie of the Year, was one of six players named to this year’s preseason America East All-Conference team. Standing at 6’7 and 6’6, respectively, these two will provide a match for Harvard’s similarly sized frontcourt.
But the catalyst to Vermont’s success is its defense. The Catamounts allowed just 60.9 points per game last season and held opponents to 40.6 percent shooting from the field. Vermont’s defense was on display in last year’s matchup, in which it held the Crimson to its fourth lowest point total of the season.
Given their high preseason standing, the Catamounts should come to Cambridge with quite a bit of confidence, especially after their first NCAA tournament win (a first round victory over Lamar) since upsetting Syracuse in 2005. But Harvard will have postseason ambitions of its own, making this an intriguing battle between mid-majors vying for another shot at the Big Dance.