|Vermont hoping to shock battle-tested Florida State|
A team from the America East pulled off the biggest upset in NCAA Tournament history last year.
Another squad from the conference hopes to pull off a decent-sized stunner this time around.
No. 13 seed Vermont won't be able to match UMBC's shocking win against Virginia -- the first 16 seed to beat a 1 seed in tourney history -- but it can deliver an attention-grabbing victory if it can dispatch No. 4 seed Florida State in West Region first-round Thursday at Hartford, Conn.
The Catamounts (27-6) have matched the second-most wins in school history and have an impact player in junior forward Anthony Lamb, the American East Player of the Year who averages 21.4 points and 7.8 rebounds per game.
Vermont is 2-6 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, and one of the wins came as a No. 13 seed, when the Catamounts upset Syracuse 60-57 in overtime in 2005.
The way coach John Becker sees it, Vermont's biggest accomplishment was working its way through the conference tournament.
"The pressure is kind of off now," Becker told reporters. "I want to make sure we prepare and we try and stay in this tournament for as long as we can and not just be happy to be here.
"Like I've said for a while, our goal is to be a Sweet 16 caliber program, and we'll have an opportunity this year to see if we can get there."
Florida State (27-7) reached the Elite Eight last season with a solid run that included a 75-60 beating of top-seeded Gonzaga.
The Seminoles are no stranger to the "Big Dance," as they are part of the proceedings for the seventh time in the past 11 seasons.
"We are pleased and we're happy, but we're not quite as emotional," Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton told reporters. "We understand that it's going to be hard, and we understand what it takes to go in and compete in the NCAA Tournament."
The Seminoles are a deep, athletic team with 11 players averaging more than 10 minutes per game.
Sophomore power forward Mfiondu Kabengele (12.9 scoring average) and senior guard Terance Mann (11.2 average, team-best 6.4 rebounds) are the lone two players scoring in double digits. Six others average at least six per game.
The Florida State duo of 7-foot-4 senior center Christ Koumadje (51 blocked shots) and the 6-10 Kabengele (50 rejections) alters a lot of shots as part of a defense that is limiting opponents to 40.9 percent shooting from the field.
Mann feels the Seminoles are capable of equalizing last season's stunning run, as they know the terrain and are toughened up by the demands of Atlantic Coast Conference play.
"(We're not) just happy to be here like it was two years ago," Mann told reporters. "This year, we're going to be more focused and more prepared for what's going on."
Vermont isn't as battle-tested schedule-wise but is well aware that doesn't always matter in a single-game environment.
The Catamounts lost to Kansas and Louisville in November, and their most impressive non-conference victory was an 83-76 double-overtime victory over St. Bonaventure on Dec. 18. Lamb scored a career-best 42 points in that contest as one of his 17 efforts of 20 or more points.
Senior guard Ernie Duncan (13.8) and sophomore guard Stef Smith (12.3) also average in double digits for Vermont.
--Field Level Media