SCOUTING THE RETRIEVERS
UMBC got a huge boost to its program when Ray Barbosa, Cavell Johnson (both from James Madison) and Darryl Proctor (Coppin State) transferred in a year ago. Following a 12-19 season, after which it lost six players and two starters, a rebuilding process might have appeared in the cards. However, the addition of the three transfers, who sat out last season, has given UMBC title aspirations in the America East conference.
In the backcourt, returning senior star Justin Hodges and point Brian Greene team with Barbosa to give the Retrievers a solid three-guard set. Hodges (6-3, 200 lbs.) leads the team in scoring at 18.1 points per game. He has scored more than half of those from three-point range, and is actually a better shooter from outside the arc than within. He's also a 90% free throw shooter, so West Virginia will have to continue to work on its fundamental defensive skills in order to keep him off the line. Barbosa (6-2, 185 lbs.) is a similar player – he's another three-point threat averaging 16.2 points per game – but has the ability to go inside and contend in the lane as well. He averages 5.4 rebounds per contest. Greene (5-8 , 155 lbs.) is the playmaker of the group, averaging an eye-popping 7.1 assist per game against just 1.9 turnovers. He will always be found on the perimeter – he has taken just five shots from two-point range this year.
Johnson (6-8 , 205 lbs.) teams with Darryl Proctor to provide the Retrievers' interior game. The former averages 14.3 points and 8.6 rebounds per outing, while Proctor ( 6-4, 230 lbs.) matches that with 14.6 points and 7.9 boards per contest.
Almost all of UMBC's productivity comes from its starting five. Sophomores Matt Spadafora and Justin Fry (6-9, 220 lbs.) provide relief off the bench, averaging almost 20 minutes per game, in which they manage a combined 7.6 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. Spadafora (6-5 , 195 lbs.) is a physical player, committing 26 fouls and fouling out twice in UMBC's ten games
This UMBC team bears scant resemblance to the one West Virginia routed two seasons ago.
|Sat Dec 15
WVU 7-1, 0-0
UMBC 7-3, 0-0
Pay Per View
|Sirius Channel: 125|
WVU - 34
UMBC - 89
West Virginia will have to be disciplined defensively against UMBC, which will spread its guards all the way around the three-point arc in an effort to find open spaces. Lapses in attention or poor execution will give the Retrievers time and space to launch those three-pointers, which is their easiest path to staying in the game.
WVU will also again emphasize defensive pressure and tempo in an effort to tire out the visitors. With its short bench, UMBC could be hard-pressed to keep up with WVU for 40 minutes of quick action, so look for them to milk the shot clock during some of their possessions. Although the standard way to force uptempo action is to extend the defense to three-quarter or full court, West Virginia is able to achieve the same thing with its halfcourt man-to-man, which often forces mistakes or hurried shots. Teams which feel the Mountaineers' pressure have done just that on many occasions this year, which has led to a quicker pace.
West Virginia also continues to install more offensively each week, and although this past week was finals week on the WVU campus, it will be interesting to see what new items have been added to West Virginia's offensive repertoire.
WVU: Cam Thoroughman (Knee) Probable
All three of UMBC's losses this year have come on Tuesday night. The Retrievers have dropped decisions to Lafayette, Wichita State and Central Connecticut. On the flip side, UMBC is 3-0 vs. the Atlantic 10 this year, with wins over George Washington, Richmond and LaSalle.
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Of its first 13 games, West Virginia will play just seven on its home court at the WVU Coliseum. Compare that to Syracuse (11 of its first 14 at home, with only one trip out of state) or Pittsburgh (ten of its first 12 at home).
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UMBC is off to its second best start in its 22 seasons in Division I. The Retrievers are 7-3, second only to the 1981-82 team that was 8-2 at the same point in the season.
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All seven of West Virginia's wins this season have been by double digits. WVU's average scoring margin is +30.1, which is first in the Big East conference.