If you look back over the UMBC Retrievers’ season by season records since they began playing Division I basketball in 1986, you find a lot of downs and couple of ups and not a lot of middle ground. They have five winning seasons to their credit in the last 26 years, but only once did they take place in consecutive seasons. Interestingly, that two year span bought them a ticket out of the Northeast Conference to the Am-East. The program’s high point came in the form of a 24 win season, a conference championship and a trip to the NCAA tournament in 2008. Of course, they haven’t won 24 combined in the last four seasons.
Randy Monroe presided over the NCAA tournament team and four of the losing seasons that followed it before resigning unexpectedly weeks before the last campaign began. Enter Aki Thomas, named interim coach, but the tag dropped without much fanfare. Having served as an assistant for eight years, he doesn’t have a knock out resume as coach, but as a player, he led Howard to an 18 win season after he went from Buffalo to Bison transferring to the DC school from Colorado.
Thomas has ten wins under his belt, eight from last season and two so far this year against D-II Eastern and Mt Saint Mary’s. The Retrievers have played seven total games this season and four, including both wins, went to over time. They have had more success at home than they have on the road losing all four away games by an average of 16.75.
So far, the Retrievers haven’t done much well this season. They’re a good rebounding team averaging 13.7 second chances a game, but they struggle a bit on the defensive glass. They also force quite a few turnovers. Other than that, they’re a bit of a mess. They shoot and defend poorly but yet they’ve managed to stay in games.
Expect the game to be played at a lightning pace with UMBC averaging the 24th most possessions in a game and the Dukes looking to run. The Retrievers will push the ball inside to a trio of small but athletic big men. An all conference selection last year, 6’6” senior Chase Plummer leads the team in rebounding to go with his 12.5 points a game. 6’6” sophomore Malik Garner also has 12.5 points a game. Thomas will employ an undersized center Devarick Houston with a true center and former St Bonaventure players Brett Roseboro off the bench.
Freshman point guard Rodney Elliott leads the UMBC squad in points, assists and unfortunately turnovers and that’s on a team that turns it over a lot. Besides Elliott, guard play doesn’t seem like a strength for the Retrievers though they still have a handful interchangeable players.
UMBC will use a couple of players whose name Duquesne fans might recognize. Bryan Harris reportedly committed to Ron Everhart in the spring of 2012 shortly before his dismissal. Harris moved on to Wofford before transferring to UMBC mid year and he just made his debut. A former Jim Ferry target David Kadiri made his way to the County from DC. He’s played in most games thus far as an option off the bench.
UMBC could make for a tougher than expected match up for the Dukes if Ferry’s squad doesn’t take care of the ball or box out. When I saw this game on the schedule, I hoped for a blow out and an opportunity to gel. Of course, the Dukes won’t be the only team still coming together on Wednesday as Thomas didn’t know much about his team coming into the season.“Last year, the unknown was what were we going to install system ‐ wise that we could feasibly get accomplished in such little time,” he said before the season “This year the unknowns are, so who is going to step up? What kind of team are we going to be once we get the chemistry with six returners and seven new players?”
Here’s keeping my fingers crossed that the Dukes are further along than the Retrievers are.
Tags: Duquesne Dukes