This March, the UMBC men’s basketball team experienced their first taste of postseason basketball since 2008. The Retrievers participated in the College Insider Tournament, reaching the semifinals before falling to the Texas A&M University-Corpus Cristi Islanders. In victory as well as defeat, the Retrievers showed what made them a such a good team this season, and what they need to work on moving forward.
UMBC entered this tournament as one of the best offensive teams in the nation, overwhelming opponents with their three-point shooting. In their victories over Fairfield University, Saint Francis University (PA), and Liberty University, the Retrievers scored over 80 points, extending their record to 16-1 in such games. Those three games showed the Retrievers attack at their best, moving the ball around swiftly and finding the open shooter for threes.
In all three wins in the CIT, the Retrievers shot no lower than 38 percent from three-point range. When the Retrievers offense is at it’s best, few teams have hung with them. The problems arise when the shooting runs cold and the scoring slows down.
UMBC shot just 41 percent from the field and 26 percent from downtown in their loss to the Islanders. Their best three-point shooters, senior forward Will Darley and sophomore forward Joe Sherburne shot just 5-for-17 from deep. Their anemic shooting led to just 61 points from the Retrievers. When they scored fewer than 70 point this season, they went 2-5. When the Retrievers struggle to score, they have to rely on their defense to win games, a questionable proposition at best.
During the regular season, the Retrievers ranked near the bottom half of the country in points allowed per 100 possessions, opponents field goal percentage and opponents three-point percentage. Even if they do not face some of the better offenses in the country, they still give up extended runs and keep teams around in games.
Take the game against the Islanders for instance. The Retrievers went into halftime with a five point lead. Texas A&M Corpus Cristi proceeded to outscore the Retrievers 50-27 after the break to secure the victory. They shot 48 percent from the field and 43 percent from long distance. The Islanders are far from a great team (140th in offensive rating, 117th in defensive rating) but they still exploited the Retrievers greatest weakness.
Needless to say, the Retrievers still have room for improvement. That said, they gained valuable experience taking part in a postseason tournament and advancing to the semifinals. Even though they did not reach the finals, this is something they can build on heading into next season. With most of their players returning in 2018, they are set up to be a contender in the America East next season.