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Vermont-Wisconsin Preview

Mar 20, 2010 - 10:01 PM By KATE HEDLIN STATS Writer

Vermont (26-6) at Wisconsin (21-10), 12:21 p.m. EDT

Last season, Vermont couldn't have received a tougher matchup in its first NCAA tournament appearance in nine years.

While the team should have a better chance to win this year behind its high-scoring senior guards, standing in the way will be a Wisconsin team that has one of the nation's top defenses.

In the first round of the Kansas City Regional, the 10th-seeded Catamounts look to spoil the seventh-seeded Badgers' first NCAA tournament appearance in eight years Sunday in South Bend.

Making its sixth tournament appearance, Vermont (26-6) is still looking for its first win. The Catamounts were the 16th seed last season when they lost 104-65 to top-seeded Connecticut, the eventual tournament champion.

Courtnay Pilypaitis, who scored 24 points in the loss, and fellow senior guard May Kotsopoulos are hoping to finally get Vermont into the tournament win column this weekend.

"We're coming into this game with a completely different mindset," Kotsopoulos said. "We are looking at (Sunday) as a very winnable matchup for us compared to last year when it was, 'Let's have a good experience. Let's have a good time.'"

The two combined to average 32.1 points, 10.6 rebounds and 7.3 assists this season, and they led the Catamounts to an upset of then-No. 21 Hartford in the America East tournament final. Pilypaitis scored a game-high 20 points.

She had 24 in last year's first-round loss to UConn while Kotsopoulos struggled, scoring eight points on 2-of-18 shooting. She also had only eight points in the conference tournament title game.

Vermont has won 10 of 11 but can expect a challenge from Wisconsin (21-10), which allows 56.0 points per game to rank first in the Big Ten and 24th in Division I.

The Badgers received an NCAA bid for the seventh time in school history and first since 2002 despite losing 82-73 to then-No. 10 Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament semifinals.

Despite being the higher seed Sunday, Wisconsin, which played in the NIT the last two seasons, feels like it's being considered an underdog against Vermont.

"It's really motivated us to this point," guard Teah Gant said.

Junior Alyssa Karel is the only Wisconsin player averaging in double figures with 14.4 points per game, including a career-high 31 in the loss to the Buckeyes.

The Badgers are 2-6 in the NCAA tournament and haven't advanced to the second round since 1996.

This is the first time these teams have faced each other.