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Louisville-Vermont preview: Cards face first true test of 2018-19

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One of the premiere mid-major teams in America will look to hand Louisville its first loss of the Chris Mack era.

Louisville Cardinals (2-0) vs. Vermont Catamounts (2-1)

Game Time: 7:01 p.m.

Location: KFC Yum Center: Louisville, Ky.

Television: ACC Network/Watch ESPN app

Announcers: Kent Taylor (play-by-play) and Jody Demling (analyst)

Officials: Ted Valentine, Bill Covington, Jr., Tommy Morrissey

Favorite: Louisville by 7.5

Series: First Meeting

Probable Starting Lineups:

Vermont’s Season to Date:

Won at Boston U (78-72)
Lost at No. 2 Kansas (84-68)
Won vs. Lyndon State College (122-56)

Statistics:

Relevant Videos:

About Vermont:

One of the few programs in Division-I to have won at least 20 games in each of the last 10 seasons, Vermont enters Friday night’s game against Louisville coming off a 122-56 thrashing of Lyndon State College on Wednesday. The 122 points broke a 61-year-old school record for the most points in a single game.

The Catamounts won 27 games last year before being stunned on a last-second three by UMBC in the championship game of the America East tournament. No. 1 seeds still might be undefeated in the first round of the NCAA tournament had the Catamounts been able to face UMBC with a fully healthy Anthony Lamb in that game. The 6’6 power forward missed a healthy chunk of last season because of injuries, and wasn’t himself when he returned to the court at the end of the year.

Lamb is back to 100 percent now, and has been sensational for Vermont in its first three games, averaging 16.7 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. Though he was at an obvious disadvantage against Kansas’ much larger frontcourt, Lamb still managed to notch a team-high 24 points on 8-of-15 shooting. He’s a decent three-point shooter, but his real skill lies in his craftiness from 10-feet in.

If you ever saw Georges Niang play at Iowa State, Lamb will remind you of a smaller but bouncier Niang. He’s gonna square you up, and then he’s either going to pull from 10 feet out or put his head into your chest and then try and finish with either hand. It will be interesting to see if Chris Mack lets his big men try and defend Lamb, or whether he opts to give the assignment to his most capable frontcourt defender, Dwayne Sutton.

Vermont has three brothers on its roster in Ernie, Everett and Robin Duncan. Of the three, the oldest — Ernie — is the one to keep an eye on. He didn’t play in the rout of Lyndon State, but enters Friday night as UVM’s leading scorer at 17.5 ppg. He’s not a tremendous passing guard, but he’s a capable ball-handler and a guy who can go crazy from beyond the arc. Everett Duncan ranked third nationally in offensive rating last season. He’s not player who can create his own shot, but he’s certainly one who can’t be left alone, shooting 46.2 percent from three last year on over 100 attempts. Robin Duncan is a freshman guard who will likely play small minutes against Louisville.

The Duncans are the fifth trio of brothers to play on the same Division-I men’s basketball team in the same season. They join the Plumlee brothers (Miles, Mason, and Marshall) at Duke in 2011-12, the Herron brothers (Larry, Keith, and Reggie) at Villanova in 1976-77, the Brennan brothers (Matthew, Thomas, and William) at Villanova in 1957-58, and the Bockhorn brothers (Bucky, Harold, and Terry) at Dayton in 1957-58.

The other Vermont player to keep an eye on is Stef Smith (16.0 ppg). He’s just 6’1, but he’s the most athletic guard on the roster and really helps the Catamounts out on the glass. He has extreme range, and seems far more willing to pull from deep than he was as a freshman a year ago. He will provide a serious test for Darius Perry and company.

Vermont plays the way you’d expect one of the premiere mid-major programs in the country to play. They take care of the ball, they have lengthy offensive possessions, they have boatloads of capable outside shooters, they’re undersized in the paint, but they never beat themselves. There’s a reason why they were the preseason pick to once again win the America East. This will be a test.

Notable:

—Louisville has won 48 consecutive home games in November, a streak which dates all the way back to a loss to Vanderbilt on November 30, 1972. The Cards are 34-0 in November games played inside the Yum Center.

—Louisville has won 67 of its last 70 non-conference games at the KFC Yum Center.

—Vermont will be Louisville’s 322nd different opponent in men’s basketball. The Cards are 240-81 in first-time meetings, including 51-2 over the past 15 years. The only two losses came against California and Baylor.

—Vermont hasn’t defeated an ACC opponent since a 77-63 win over Boston College in November of 2006. The Catamounts are 4-21 all-time against teams from the ACC.

—Louisville is 4-0 all-time against teams from the America East.

—Despite playing just two games, Louisville has made the third-most free-throws of any team in Division-I (73).

—Since the 2011-12 season, Vermont is 92-9 when holding opponents to 60 points or less.

—Vermont is 112-7 when scoring 80 or more points since the 2000-01 season.

—Vermont finished last season with 12 true road victories, tied for the most of any team in the country.

—This is the first time since 1919-20 that Louisville has opened its season with three first-time opponents.

—A win would make Louisville 3-0 for the 10th straight season, it would also make Chris Mack just the fourth head coach in U of L history to win his first three games.

—Louisville is one of just four schools which have won 20 or more games on the court in each of the last 16 seasons (also Kansas, Duke and Gonzaga).

Ken Pomeroy Prediction: Louisville 78, Vermont 69