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Vermont (23-8) at Cleveland State (26-8)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Tuesday, March 15th, 7:00 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Wolstein Center (13,610) -- Cleveland, Ohio. Television: ESPN3.com. NIT Record: Vermont 0-1, Cleveland State 2-3. Series Record: Cleveland State leads, 2-0.
GAME NOTES: The seventh-seeded Vermont Catamounts and the second-seeded Cleveland State Vikings look to keep their seasons rolling tonight, as they meet in a first-round matchup of the National Invitational Tournament from the Wolstein Center.
On February 16th, Vermont downed Maine, 73-57, to clinch the outright American East Conference Regular Season Championship. The Viking finished the regular season with a 23-8 overall record. They have now won five regular season championships in the past 10 years. Vermont will be making its seventh postseason appearance in the last nine years. Two seasons ago, the Catamounts recorded an opening round victory over Green Bay in the College Basketball Initiation, marking just the second postseason win in the program's history. The team is making just its second appearance in this event.
Cleveland State will be making its sixth postseason appearance in program history. It also marks the fourth trip to the NIT for the Vikings, who are 2-3 in this event. They finished the regular season campaign at 26-8 and captured their first Horizon League regular season title since joining the conference for the 1994-95 season.
Tonight's matchup marks the third all-time meeting between the two teams. The Vikings hold a 2-0 lead after earning a win in 2000-01 and in 2001-02.
Vermont rides a balanced attack to success in the relatively low scoring American East. The Catamounts rank second in the league in scoring offense (67.3 ppg) and third in scoring defense (61.6 ppg). Nationally, the Catamounts hold some weight as well, ranking 12th in field goal percentage defense (39.3) and 18th in rebounding margin (plus-6.3). The efficient Evan Fjeld, who led the league in field goal percentage for the second straight season (54.3), paces the offensive output at 14.5 ppg. Joey Accaoui (11.6 ppg) and Brendan Bald (11.3 ppg) add support. Vermont's dominance on the glass is enabled mainly by the versatile Brian Voelkel, who not only leads the league in rebounding (9.6 rpg), but also ranks second in assists (4.5 apg) and steals (1.5 spg). Fjeld, who is tied for the league lead in blocks, (1.9 bpg), brings a defensive presence to the paint.
Cleveland State is driven forward largely by the exploits of Horizon League Player of the Year Norris Cole, who paces the conference is scoring (21.5 ppg), steals (2.2 spg) and free throw percentage (84.8), while ranking second in assists (5.4 apg), third in assist to turnover ratio (1.9/1) and minutes played (35.3 mpg), fourth in defensive rebounds (5.2) and seventh in rebounding (6 rpg). He has recorded 18 20-point games this season. Cole and Horizon League All-Defensive Team member Trey Harmon combine to form one of the more formidable defensive backcourts in the league and lead the Vikings to the second-best scoring defense in the conference (63.7 ppg). Offensively, Cole is supported by Harmon, who ranks second on the squad at 13.5 ppg and Jeremy Montgomery, who ranks third at 12 ppg. In all, the Vikings score 71.7 ppg, good for fourth in the Horizon League.
Both Vermont and Cleveland State compete hard at the defensive end. The Vikings though, field a more explosive offense and the most talented player on the floor in Cole. Throw in their 16-2 home record and the edge goes the Vikings.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Cleveland State 70, Vermont 62
03/15 10:31:03 ET
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