Dollah twenty-five, please. - Adam Sandler
Not exactly a perfect draw for the Orange, but considering the field of land mines that is the Syracuse bracket, a relatively workable region.
Aside: North Carolina, Villanova, Connecticut, Kansas, Florida, Wisconsin, N.C. State, Charlotte... That is one bloddy bracket. If the "Group of Death" tag, often used in reference to an incredibly strong World Cup soccer pool, is to be used in a basketball context, it's certainly applicable here.
Vermont is not a team to be taken lightly. Taylor Coppenrath and T.J. Sorrentine are a dynamite tandem. A poor-man's Warrick/McNamara, if you will. But even clad in rags, their offensive ability is far from deficient.
Coppenrath is a load in the middle to control, combining an effective inside game with a respectable outside presence. He was abysmal last season against Emeka Okafor & Company in the NCAA 1st Round, but that performance is not indicative of what Coppenrath is capable of. He has the size and ability to play in the NBA, and with this being his last go 'round in the Green and Gold, he should put it all out on the floor. Averages over 25 points per game and almost 9 rebounds per outing.
Sorrentine is a prototypical outside bomber holding the America East record for 3-point field goals converted with 340+. This season, he connected on almost 41% of his triple tries. He has the ability to penetrate (120+ assists on the season), but often lurks for jump shots on Coppenrath kick-outs. Was the America East player of the year in 2001-2002 and was able to dump 19 on Connecticut last season.
In all but one game this season (v. Maine), either Sorrentine or Coppenrath has led the squad in scoring. Incidentally, neither Sorrentine nor Coppenrath played in that matchup versus the Black Bears.
What to Watch For
Vermont has seen some quality competition this season giving Kansas a worthy battle in November. With this in mind, playing the Syracuse jerseys should have little effect on this senior laden squad.
The marquee matchup will be Warrick v. Coppenrath. If Warrick can dominate on the offensive end, the game will be the Orange's to lose. In the 2-3 zone, Coppenrath should be smothered with double teams of the size and strength that he hasn't seen in the America East. Watkins and Forth will have to be very aggressive inside, pushing Coppenrath around and making him earn his shots. If Coppenrath can be contained, the head of Brennan's dragon will virtually be detached.
If Coppenrath is neutralized in the middle (which isn't too much of a stretch to consider when referencing the job SU did on Connecticut's front line in NYC this past weekend), a large portion of the scoring load will fall on Sorrentine. And considering how streaky a team relying on the 3 can be (see: West Virginia), Vermont will be fighting an uphill battle.
For SU, the key, as always, is to get Gerry rolling. Nobody plays quite like McNamara when he's focused. Creating offense not only with his shot but also off the dribble will bring confidence to a sometimes enigmatic Orange attack.
The Charlotte pod will be a tough ticket with Duke and North Carolina placed there, but don't discount the difficulty of obtaining a Worcester ticket. With Syracuse, Connecticut and Vermont all within driving distance, it wouldn't be surprising to see the pod sold out with some serious scalping going down.
Is Kyle Cieplicki (Vermont guard - #14) related to Syracuse women's basketball coach Keith Cieplicki? Keith used to coach over in the Green Mountain state....
The tournament committee seems to love potential second round SU matchups. Last year, SU faced off with 2002 champion Maryland. This season, a potential matchup with 2000 champion Michigan State.
Speaking of Michigan State, sweet revenge for the Orange may be in store. The Sweet 16 matchup in 2000 that saw SU and MSU square off took place in Auburn Hills, a short drive from MSU's East Lansing home. Now MSU must come east, to face SU in a decidedly pro-Orange environment.
If you're from out of town, here's a list of things to do in Worcester: Wish that you weren't in Worcester; laugh at people who live in Worcester; smell the odor that is Worcester.