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David vs. Goliath in Salt Lake

University of Vermont basketball coach Tom Brennan is calling Thursday's NCAA first-round game with top-ranked and No. 1 seed Arizona a David vs. Goliath match-up.

But in reality it's a little more difficult. It's more like David with a hand tied behind his back vs. Goliath.

"They were the No. 1 team a great deal of the season, so we are excited for the challenge," Brennan said.

The No. 16 seed Catamounts (21-11, 11-5), the America East champions, will make their first NCAA tournament appearance when they tip with the Wildcats at 1:15 p.m. at the Jon M. Huntsman Center.

While the Catamounts enter the tournament with a nothing-to-lose attitude, the exact opposite is true for the well-rested Wildcats.

The Wildcats carry the weight of being the No. 1 seed and No. 2 team in the nation and have been anointed as the team to beat.

Arizona (25-3, 17-1) is coming off a loss to UCLA in the first round of the Pac-10 Tournament last week.

"They look very fresh, spirited and very focused," Arizona coach Lute Olsen told cbssportline.com. "I don't think there is anything hanging around from that loss."

Senior forward Luke Walton agreed.

"We are well rested and very focused," Walton told the Internet site. "Everybody on the team is focused, and I think we are going to play the best basketball of the year the next couple of weeks."

The Wildcats start three seniors — Walton, Jason Gardner and Rick Anderson — and two sophomores — Salim Stoudamire and Channing Frye. All five are averaging in double figures. Gardner leads at 14.4.

The Catamounts, winners of their last four, start four underclassmen (three sophomores) and are led by America East player of the year Taylor Coppenrath, who averages 20.2 points a game. Center Matt Sheftic, who was named the outstanding player in the conference tournament, averages 10.8.

GAME NOTES: The Catamounts have won six of their last seven and nine of their last 11 . . . Arizona is making its 19th consecutive appearance and 21st overall. The 'Cats have been to the Final Four four times and won the national title in 1997 . . . Last year was the first time the Catamounts had won 20 games in their 101-year school history and they followed it up with 21 wins this year . . . Vermont is one of seven schools in the NCAA field for the first time . . . No. 16 seeds are 0-72 against No. 1s.


Vermont Catamounts (21-11, No. 16 seed)

Name Ht. Yr. PPG

22 Taylor Coppenrath F So. 6-9 20.2

52 Matt Sheftic C Jr. 6-8 10.8

42 Grant Anderson G Sr. 6-1 7.8

24 David Hehn G So. 6-5 7.1

32 Germain Njila G So. 6-4 6.4

Arizona Wildcats (25-3, No. 1 seed)

Name Ht. Yr. PPG

20 Salim Stoudamire G So. 6-1 13.2

4 Luke Walton F Sr. 6-8 10.0

22 Jason Gardner G Sr. 5-10 14.4

33 Rick Anderson F Sr. 6-9 10.4

45 Channing Frye C So. 6-8 12.5

Thursday, approximately 1:15 p.m.

Huntsman Center (15,000)

TV: Ch. 2 Radio: None


E-MAIL: jhinton@desnews.com