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The Other Top 25 preseason rankings: No. 7 Vermont Catamounts

The Catamounts are the runaway favorites in the America East, led by one of the best players in the country

NCAA BASKETBALL: MAR 21 Div I Men’s Championship - First Round - Florida St v Vermont Photo by M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

2018-2019 Record: 27-7, First Round of NCAA Tournament
Key Returning Players: Anthony Lamb (F/C - SR), Everett Duncan (F- JR), Stef Smith (G - JR) Key Losses: Ernie Duncan
Key newcomers: Aaron Deloney, Daniel Giddens (Grad Transfer, Alabama), Duncan Demuth (Transfer, Oklahoma State)

As we get ready for the 2019-20 season, Vermont looks to maintain its stranglehold on the America East conference. This is a Catamounts team that has lost four games combined over the past three seasons in conference play and has shown it can hang with some of the best in the game. This year’s Vermont team brings back a wealth of talent from last year, including America East Player of the Year and NBA prospect Anthony Lamb. The addition of two Power 5 transfers should give Vermont an even better mixture of talent that will focus on making some noise come March.

Key non-conference games:

Vermont opens its season with a duo of road games against some tough mid-major opponents in St. Bonaventure and Bucknell. From there, it’ll face the new-look Mike Anderson Johnnies and defending national champion Virginia. Those two are part of the non-bracketed games of the 2019 Air Force Reserve Tip-Off Tournament. As part of the tournament itself, Vermont will open with a game against Central Connecticut and face one of Rider or Columbia in the next round at Mohegan Sun. Road games at Yale and Cincinnati are also on tap for Vermont, so come conference play, this team will truly be road tested.

Nov 8 at St. Bonaventure
Nov 10 at Bucknell
Nov 16 at St. John’s
Nov 19 at Virginia
Dec 1 at Yale
Dec 3 at Cincinnati

3 things to watch:

Anthony Lamb Works on Improving His NBA Draft Prospects

One of the biggest offseason wins for Vermont came when junior Anthony Lamb decided to return to school after testing the NBA Draft waters. After working out with the Celtics, Cavaliers and Hawks. Lamb told Mid-Major Madness that NBA coaches instructed him to work on handling the ball, shooting from the NBA three-point line, making plays off the dribble and making quick decisions. Seeing how Lamb goes about meeting expectations based on last year’s play, while working on improving the areas of his game that he received feedback on will be interesting to follow this season.

The infusion of Power 5 talent

As the transfer numbers continue to grow, Vermont is taking full advantage of the rules and bringing in two new P5 transfers to bolster this year’s team. Lamb is already an imposing frontcourt player, but the addition of grad transfer Daniel Giddens will certainly bolster this strength. Giddens, the 6’11”, 247-pound forward, has transferred into Vermont from Alabama (had started his career at Ohio State) and will be eligible immediately. On the America East’s preseason conference call, coach John Becker said Giddens can be a difference maker on both ends, and will see more playing time as his conditioning improves. Joining Giddens will be Oklahoma State transfer Duncan Demuth. It was expected that Demuth would have to sit out this year, but the NCAA granted him a waiver allowing him immediate eligibility. While Demuth may not have had the most robust stats (averaged 0.9 points and 1.3 rebounds per game in 8.8 minutes) the 3-star recruit will look to bounce back at Vermont.

Can Vermont take down a major program?

While Vermont has dominated America East play the past few years, it hasn’t been able to defeat a Power 5 school. Last year, we saw the Catamounts lose to Florida State by seven in the NCAA Tournament and by eight to Louisville. Back in 2017-18 season, they came up just four points short to Kentucky. With a team that brings plenty of experienced talent and adds some key transfers, can the 2019-20 season the year the Catamounts finally do it? They’ll certainly have plenty of opportunities in the non-conference.

X Factor

Lamb’s star power

By the time you’ve gotten to this part, I think you know the answer to this question. Vermont’s success begins and ends with Anthony Lamb. While there is plenty of talent around Lamb, having the returning conference Player of the Year and conference tournament Most Outstanding Player is huge. When you factor in the feedback that NBA coaches gave Lamb, watch out for a player that can not only score with his back to the basket but a player who is working on his extending his range all the way out past the NBA three-point line. Becker hinted this week that Lamb could see more time on the wing this season.