Wait. The dude from Creed went to FSU? That explains so much.
As is New England tradition, angrily rooting against a team is as fundamental to our fandom as rooting for one — also usually angrily. Any good reasons to dislike FSU?
So, just how good is FSU?
In a word: very.
The Associated Press ranks FSU as the 10th best team in the country, and most sportsbooks peg them as 10.5-point favorites over UVM, which is a lot. They finished the season hot, losing only twice in roughly the last two months. Those losses were against Duke and North Carolina, elite, blue-blood teams you'll find at the very top of your office March Madness bracket. FSU also beat four top 20 teams in that stretch, including second-ranked Virginia.
While FSU is not an offensive powerhouse, it should be able to cause problems defensively for UVM with its size. The team has length and athleticism that UVM has rarely encountered this season — specifically 6-foot-10-inch forward Mfiondu Kabengele and 7-foot-4-inch center Christ Koumadje.
In other words, the Cats don't have a snowball's chance in Tallahassee of winning, do they?
Actually, they might. Stay with me here.
One sneaky advantage for UVM is that the game is in Hartford. So the atmosphere should be something close to a home game for the Catamounts. When UVM upset Syracuse in 2005 — yet another 4 vs. 13 matchup, BTW — the game was played close to home in Worcester, Mass., which made it easier for Cats fans to travel. Crowd energy matters in March. Expect a strong, vocal Vermont contingent in the stands on Thursday afternoon.
But as the motivational slogan emblazoned across the white T-shirts of nearly every Cats fans at Patrick Gym on Saturday read: "Everything Is Earned." To beat FSU, UVM will indeed have to earn it.
(Side note: ESPN's awestruck broadcasters continually referencing the "whitewash" in the stands at Patrick Gym on Saturday might have been the greatest moment of unintentional comedy in the history of Vermont sports. They were of course referring to the T-shirts but … well, you know.)
FSU will undoubtedly do everything it can to slow down America East Player of the Year Anthony Lamb. But that's way easier said than done. There's a reason NBA scouts from teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder and Boston Celtics have reportedly been showing up at UVM games of late. Just ask Kansas coach Bill Self.
Lamb dropped 24 points against 17th ranked Kansas earlier this season. UVM lost, but Self came away a true believer in the junior forward.
"[Lamb] just toyed with us all night long," said Self. "He got the best of everyone who was guarding him."
Lamb is a lethal and multitalented scorer. He is not, as one enthusiastic sign waving Catamounts fan suggested at Saturday's game, better than Duke super-phenom/second coming Zion Williamson. But Lamb is already one of the finest players UVM has ever had and might well end up as the best before his career is over.
Still, for Vermont to win, they'll likely need to get something out of their second and third scoring options. If UVM wins Thursday, it probably means that guard Stef Smith or one of the team's 17 Duncan brothers had big games. That's a joke, but only slightly: UVM has three of the five Evansville, Ind., Duncan brothers on its roster: Robin, Everett and Ernie, the last of whom is the best bet of the trio for heroics.
As previously mentioned, FSU is a talented defensive team. But do you know who else is also good on D? UVM. A time-honored ingredient in the recipe for a classic March Madness upset is a squad that plays strong team defense and can keep the score close, especially against an offensively limited team — like, for example, FSU. Because that's when crazy shit like this happens.