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Can Vermont Upset Syracuse Again? TJ Sorrentine Chimes In PDF Print E-mail
Written by Preston Junger   
Friday, 19 March 2010
Tonight, the University of Vermont men's basketball team has the chance to become the first #16 seed to upset a #1 seed. The only problem is the one seed they're up against has a major bone to pick with the Cats. 

You might wonder why Orange Nation has been actively chiming in on Twitter, blogs and other news outlets for the past week with angst towards Vermont. Never before have we seen such excitement over a 16 vs 1 match.  The Syracuse Orange and their fans have been seething since 2005 when Tom Brennan, Taylor Coppenrath and three-point marksman TJ Sorrentine led the Catamounts to a first round upset of Jim Boeheim's Orange.  It was an amazing win for the Vermont program and the entire state, but a Syracuse loss that embarrassed a big-time Big East program and their hall of fame coach. They haven't forgotten that game and neither has Catamount Country. 

To celebrate that upset and provide us with insight on what this Vermont team needs to do to upset again, we caught up with TJ Sorrentine, now a coach with Brown University. 

Preston: First of all, I'd like to congratulate you on your first season as an Assistant Basketball Coach at Brown. How are you enjoying being a coach? 

TJ: Coaching is great! I love the game and to have this opportunity is such a blessing. I am learning so much everyday and continuously try and get better as a coach just like I did as a player. 

Preston: Now to the hot topic. "Sorrentine From The Parking Lot." That was the catch-phrase after you knocked down the incredible 30 foot shot to seal the Vermont (#13) upset against Syracuse (#4) back in 2005. I bet you thought you'd heard the last about that shot and that game... until now. [Laughs]. What was your reaction hearing that Vermont was facing Syracuse again... 5 years later and this time in a #16-#1 matchup? 

TJ: My initial reaction was just to laugh! The NCAA comittee has a funny way about them dont they? [Laughs]. I truly thought we were going to get at least a 15 seed. I was shocked with the seeding but at least we are back dancing and have another chance to shock the world! 

Preston: Take us inside the mind of a team headed to the Big Dance. [No one on the current Vermont team has ever been to the NCAA Tournament.] What are the players thinking? What is the experience like? 

TJ: It's the best experience in the world! I try to explain it to my players now at Brown, but its impossible to explain completely. It's a totally different feel than any other game you have ever played in. To walk out of that tunnel and see all the NCAA signs. It's truly amazing. Every guy on that team will never forget the initial moment of walking out of that tunnel and on to the floor! 

Preston: How can Vermont win this game and pull off not only a major upset but be the first ever 16 seed to dethrone a 1 seed? What does Vermont need to do to be in this game? 

TJ:  In my opinion for Vermont to win, we need to control the tempo. We can't let the Cuse get easy baskets in transition. If we can keep them out of transition and actually make shots then we have a chance. They are a very talented team but that's why we call it the NCAA Tournament because it is a tournament and anything can happen. I watched Robert Morris yesterday here in Providence take Villanova to the brink. So why can't we do the same [against Syracuse]? 

Preston: What is it like facing Syracuse's zone defense? How does a team prepare for and beat the zone? How did you (and team) prepare for that game in 2005? 

TJ: It's impossible to simulate their length in that zone defense. They are so long and force you to take shots deeper than normal. That was part of the reason that with my "Shot" [in 2005] I didn't want to get any closer because there would have been a hand in my face! You really have to get some dribble penetration and try to get the ball into the middle and collapse the zone. It is not as easy as it sounds though. The most important thing is confidence. If you play with conifidence and no fear then you can't go wrong! 

Preston: Will you be at the game tonight [Friday] in Buffalo? If not, where will you be watching it and will you be with any other Catamount alums? 

TJ: I will be watching the game probably with friends at home. I wish I could have made the trip but with my schedule it just wasn't something that I could pull off. I will be there in spirit though for sure! 

Preston: The biggest question we have for you -- did you pick Vermont to upset Syracuse? 

TJ: Pres, as a coach I cannot fill out a bracket. However if I did, of course I would have picked the Cats!! 

Preston: I should have known that! [Laughs].  Anything you'd like to say to all the Catamaniacs out there hoping for an upset (the floor is yours)? 

TJ: The one thing I will tell Catamount Nation is the one thing my great mother always told me and that is "BELIEVE." 

Preston: Thanks TJ! Hope the next time we talk it's about the latest Syracuse upset [Laughs]. 

TJ: Thanks Pres!

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