Date: Thursday, March 20, 2003
Time: approx. 1:20 p.m. MST
Location: Jon M. Huntsman Center (15,000), Salt Lake City, Utah
Radio: Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Ryan Hansen)
TV: CBS (Dick Enberg/Matt Goukas)
LAST MEETING: This is the two schools' first meeting. The Wildcats are 3-0 against America East foes, including an 85-71 win over Boston University earlier this season.
LAST TIME OUT: The Wildcats were stunned by UCLA, losing in overtime in the first round of the Pac-10 Tournament. Vermont beat Boston University on the Terriers' home floor to win the America East Conference Tournament.
The Catamounts have the conference's top player in Taylor Coppenrath. The 6-9 forward is an inside-outside player who provides mismatches for many defenders. In addition to leading Vermont in scoring, the sophomore is one of the team's top rebounders at over six a game. Lute Olson has indicated that Luke Walton will get the assignment to defend Coppenrath.
Matt Sheftic is a load in the middle. At 6-8, 260, he is the type of player who has given the Wildcats trouble all season long.
"They have a big guy inside who takes up a lot of space, reminds you a little bit of Rob Little of Stanford," Olson said. Not as tall or talented as Little, Sheftic is physical and will try to pound the lighter Wildcats into submission. He is a decent scorer who is not afraid to hit the boards or
Grant Anderson is a versatile player who does a little bit of everything from the small forward spot. He's not a bad scorer and leads the club in rebounding and assists.
The Catamounts miss T.J. Sorrentine, last year's Conference Player of the Year. The talented point guard broke both wrists before the season and had to use his redshirt.
Jason Gardner is coming off one of the worst games of his career, but you can expect him to play better, or at least learn his lesson and not shoot the ball 20 times. In the games Arizona has looked best Gardner has limited his shots and dished out more assists. That formula should work here.
Luke Walton must play steady. With an injured ankle he probably won't need to log a lot of minutes. What he does need to do is fill the stat box, piling up enough points, rebounds and assists to propel the Cats.
Channing Frye must play aggressive and Salim Stoudamire needs to get hot early for the Cats to go far in the tournament.
WHAT TO EXPECT:
The Catamounts aren't afraid to run but will most likely try to play things closer to the vest against the Wildcats. They average less than 70 points a game and would like to keep it in that ballpark against the high-scoring Wildcats.
"They have a medium-type tempo," said Olson. "They will run the break, but if they don't get the opportunity they'll run some good things in the halfcourt. A lot of the things they run are similar to some of our set calls, so it's not going to be a long preparation or a different preparation. They've been a man-to-man team more than a zone team. But in their semifinal game, they played probably 80 percent zone."
Vermont is a very fundamental team with players who know and accept their roles. They are one of the best rebounding teams in the nation, but have a very poor assist-to-turnover ratio.
"They have good balance, very much a team concept as far as roles are concerned," Olson noted. "They play the roles very well. They play man-to-man, they play some 2-3 zone and they do press fullcourt after made free throws and violations."
The key for the Cats will be dictating the pace and hitting the boards. The Cats want to try and get the Catamounts to run with them. Although Vermont is comfortable in an up-tempo setting, it does not have the horses to race with the Wildcats. Arizona needs to limit Vermont's offensive rebounding prowess. The Catamounts could hang with the Cats if they get a lot of second and third opportunities.
OUTLOOK: Vermont appears to be the best of the 16 seeds. That being said, unless Arizona utterly collapses, the UA will win and win in a walk. This one should be over by the half.
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