In what was easily the most interesting college basketball game played on Tuesday evening, the Virginia Cavaliers were able to upset the Vermont Catamounts despite a monster performance from Anthony Lamb.
Did you see what I did there? With cleverness as my friend, the lede featured a joke about Virginia “upsetting” a team from the AEC. Jokes aside, the Catamounts are too legit to quit.
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We Don’t Deserve Anthony Lamb
Joseph Nardone (@JosephNardone): Some might say Vermont Catamounts superstar Anthony Lamb is my gimmick. That this aging, washed Internet Scribbler talks so much about the versatile AEC talent, he might have issues.
But, I mean, it’s not like he (me!) is creating bad art ahead of college basketball games to…
— Joseph Nardone (@JosephNardone) November 19, 2019
Oh… never mind.
Lamb finished with 30 of Vermont’s 55 points, hitting half his 14 attempts from beyond the arc. Averaging 20.6 points and 9.2 rebounds per contest, it was the forward’s most efficient game of the season, as he previously struggled a bit while adapting to his new volume-shooting role.
Nevertheless, this will not only get him back on track, certainly improving on his 40% from the floor and 26% from distance percentages, but it solidifies his status as the best mid-major player in the country. In fact, tickle this writer fancy, and let’s maybe start discussing Anthony Lamb, regardless of conference, as one of the very best players in the entire nation.
There are a few guys who fit this bill this season; Anthony Lamb is a must-watch talent each time Vermont is featured on television.
John Becker Can Coach
Blake Lovell (@theblakelovell): Lamb’s excellent should continue to draw more attention to his team, but college basketball fanatics already knew about the Catamounts.
Since taking over as head coach in 2011, John Becker has led Vermont to eight straight seasons of 20 or more wins, including three straight with 27 or more wins.
There have been three NCAA Tournament appearances and two NIT bids during that stretch.
The Catamounts have been a perennial favorite in the AEC since Tom Brennan was still coaching in the early 2000s, and Becker has continued the tradition by always seemingly having his team in position to win a ton of games.
So, when anyone has a discussion about the best mid-major coaches in the country, it’s pretty clear that Becker belongs on that list because of what he’s accomplished at Vermont.
The Virginia Cavaliers Are Good, Not Fun
Joe: I recently wrote about this. To avoid redundancy, I’ll refrain from going too crazy here.
Tony Bennett is an excellent coach. The Virginia Cavaliers are a tremendous program. Another great group of players are trotting about college basketball hardwoods for both this season.
And yet, because magic isn’t (yet!) real, watching the “victorious” team barely score 60 each time they play isn’t fun. It’s just not. No matter how efficient Virginia is, or how gorgeous the sets the Cavs run are, it doesn’t matter how someone tries to dress up this offense.
Basically, stop putting lipstick on a pig and telling me it’s Christina Ricci. Virginia is the pig here, for those confused. Like the creature, it has a value and is objectively good (yes, pigs are good). However, simply because the pig/Virginia has value, it doesn’t mean we need to pretend watching them roll around in mud is fun.
It. Is. Not.
It May Not Be Fun, But It Works
Blake: Joe is correct when talking about Virginia’s style of play. In an era where people love both an up-tempo offense and a zillion points on the scoreboard, the Cavs offer neither.
But guess what? It works. It absolutely works.
The narrative had been that Bennett’s preferred playing style would never allow his team to win a national championship. Well, after cutting down the nets a season ago, a new narrative is needed.
Bennett’s approach is likely never gonna be everyone’s cup of tea. But with Virginia having won at least 29 games in five of the past six seasons, its fans probably don’t care too much about whether people like it or not.
Winning games is fun. And that’s exactly what the Cavs keep doing.
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