By my calculations, it’s been about five years since I wrote about the UVM basketball team.

It’s also been about that long since I could consider myself someone who regularly followed the team – at the time, I was learning how to be a writer while covering the team for a now-defunct (but not wholly forgotten) blog, Unranked, of SB Nation.

So what better time to re-engage, then minutes before the best Vermont team in a decade takes the floor for their chance to grab an automatic bid to the field of 68 in this year’s NCAA Tournament, as owners of the nation’s longest current winning streak, at 20 in a row.

At 11 a.m. this morning, UVM will host Albany in the America East conference championship game, televised on ESPN 2. Here’s some stuff you should know about this year’s team.

(Oh, and editor’s note: the following is from about 20 minutes of watching this team and about 2 hours of reading about them… so it’s just a very brief snapshot that is meant to save you some time searching for the right primer this morning).

How good are these guys? 

Though it might speak more to how bad America East is these days than to how good UVM is, no team in conference history ran the table and went 16-0 in conference play, as the Catamounts have this year.

In two previous meetings with Albany, Vermont won by 11 and 12 points, respectively, and did not allow the Great Danes to score more than 50 points on either occasion.

That was characteristic of this team – they have played good defense all year, and it’s only been getting better. In a second round matchup with New Hampshire, Vermont led 37-18 right before the buzzer sounded for halftime (though a last second layup by the Wildcats made it 37-20). They only gave up 41 points on the night, despite playing many of their (decidedly competent) reserves for much of the second half.

The Catamounts don’t have a ton of size, but they are fast, have some length around the perimeter, and play well together as a unit.

What else does this team do well? 

What makes Vermont so tough is that they have multiple people who can beat you in many different ways.

Their leading scorer is freshman Anthony Lamb, who is a 6’6″ combo forward that can shoot it from outside (40% from three-point land). He is also second on the team in rebounding (5.2 per game), while Tulane-transfer and redshirt junior Payton Henson leads the squad with 5.4 rebounds per game.

Lamb has really been finding his groove of late too – though he only averages 12.6 per game (and still leads the team, which is an indication of how spread out the scoring is, but we’ll get to that in a minute), he is averaging 21 points per game in his last 8 (here I am taking the gratuitous approach of throwing out one clunker against Binghamton during which he appears to have been in foul trouble).

He put up 23 and 24 in first and second round games, respectively.

Of course, the player that makes this team go is Trae Bell-Haynes, an energetic combo guard who stands at just 6’2″ but plays so much bigger. Bell-Haynes leads the team in assists (3.8 per game), and by a wide margin. Just a junior, he has played big minutes since coming in as a freshman, and can jump out of the gym. Though he can shoot it a little bit (35.8% from distance), his game is based around penetration, distributing, and finishing at the rim.

And long range shooting really isn’t an issue – Ernie Duncan strokes it at a 40.5% clip, while tenth-year senior Kurt Steidl is somehow still on this team and shoots it at 38.7%.

Oh, and one more thing – though Vermont has a much-talked about defense – giving up the 12th fewest points in the country, at 61.8 points per game – don’t sleep on this offense. If you use Ken Pomeroy’s adjustment methodologies for pace of play and strength of schedule, the defense ranks 71st in the nation, while the offense actually checks in at 57th.

So how is this going to go? 

Really, I have no idea. Any Catamounts fan will likely let out a groan when the team “Albany” is mentioned, as they always seem to beat our best teams at the least convenient times (read: in the America East tournament). So there are some scars there, but hey, it can’t happen every time, right?

And all history aside, this Vermont team is really, really good, and this Albany team is mediocre as all hell. Because of how well the scoring spreads out for Vermont – all five starters average over 8 points per game, and two bench players average over 6.5 – it will be hard for Albany to key on just one guy defensively. And offensively? Good luck scoring more than 50 today, Great Danes, especially in a packed Patrick Gym that should be as fired up as ever (though my friend Oscar the Geezer would likely want to add that they will all need naps back at the retirement home at about 2 p.m. today).

What happens if Vermont wins? 

Ah, yes, this is ultimately why we are here.

Vermont is currently projected to get a 12 seed by certified crazy person Joe Lunardi, ESPN’s bracket guru. I really don’t see that happening – the 12 line always seems to be reserved for those final at-large bids, and Vermont’s 269 strength of schedule seems to scream 13-seed to me.

The only other time in school history Vermont earned a 13 seed was in 2005, and we all know what happened then.

This team is not that one. It’s a softer conference, and we have little height on the front line that could bang with a guy like Hakim Warrick, or in 2017 terms, Amile Jefferson and the like.

But man… wouldn’t it be cool if they were?