For the first time in their respective careers, the players on the Boston University Terriers men's basketball team will take part in the most meaningful regular-season game to date.
When BU visits the University of Vermont tonight (7:30 p.m./NESN) first place in the America East will be on the line. Not only that, but the Terriers have Bingahmton University looming in the distance on Saturday.
While BU hasn't had success recently against UVM (dropping five of its last six), the Terriers were able to squeeze out a one-point victory at Patrick Gymnasium last season. In the teams' first meeting this year, however, UVM used a 25-10 game-ended run to eliminate an early lead by the Terriers at Agganis Arena.
In the game, it was UVM so-termed "Full White Press" -- a version of their full court press -- that game BU the most trouble, forcing the Terriers to turn the ball over 14 times, leading to a number of fastbreak opportunities for the Catamounts. The Terriers had trouble, despite working on beating the press in practice, and they should be better prepared when UVM (most likely) attempts the same thing tonight.
Perhaps the biggest factor contributing to this game is the matchup issues Marqus Blakely and Colin McIntosh present for the Terriers. While Scott Brittain and Jake O'Brien have been excellent over the course of BU's eight-game winning streak, Brittain's not as physical as Blakely and O'Brien isn't as experienced as McIntosh. BU does, however, have two perimeter scorers who can dominate a game, while Vermont really only boasts one (in Mike Trimboli), but Blakely makes such a big difference in the interior (with not only his scoring, but defense and passing as well) that the game will be a tough one for the Terriers, even if they continue to play as well as they've been over the course of the streak.
A win tonight would go a long way to attaining a first-place finish in America East for BU, but the Terriers are going to need to slow down the highest-scoring offense in the conference on their own floor. A bad start might spell doom for BU, as -- despite what an prolific road team they've been against America East opponents -- a massive comeback will be much harder against a team that learned its lesson against Binghamton a week prior, when they relinquished a 53-30 halftime lead.
Also, UVM freshman Jordan Clarke will sit tonight's game out as part of a three-game suspension for violating the Catamounts' student athlete code of conduct.
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Projected starting lineups: