The only thing on the mind of the UMBC Women’s Basketball team heading into the upcoming season is making the NCAA tournament by winning the America East. This is no simple task. The America East is a tough conference with nine teams that are deep with talent. Last season, five of the teams finished with a conference record of .500 or better ranking the conference at No. 22 in RPI, according to Real Time Sports Rankings. If the Retrievers want to dominate all of their rivals up North, there is a number of obstacles they are going to have to get around. Here is a step-by-step guide describing exactly what this year’s team must do in order to get over their 10 year conference title drought.
1. Get the freshmen involved.
This is a young Retriever team. After graduating a number of key contributors, Coach Stern went out and recruited 6 talented athletes that he believes can make an immediate impact on the program. The key to utilizing this young talent will revolve around getting them involved early and often. The quicker these rookies become comfortable on the court, the better off they will be in key moments come conference time.
2. Strong Start = Strong Season.
The Retrievers play 13 games before their schedule flips over into America East play. During this 13 game stretch, 11 of their opponents had losing records last year. This gives the team ample opportunity to waltz into conference contests with a fantastic win to loss ratio. If this team can get through December with a winning record, it will give them the swagger they need to make the necessary stride towards Conference Champions.
3. Capitalize in the conference early.
The first five America East games this UMBC team has to play feature four of the weaker conference programs. They start off with New Hampshire, who finished last year with a conference record of 15–1, and with a total record of 26–6, so it will be a tough battle for the Retrievers early. However, after this contest, they will face off against the likes of Vermont, Maine, UMass Lowell, and Harford, four teams that all finished below the Retrievers in the conference standings a year ago. Three of these five games also will be home games in Baltimore, giving them the opportunity to jump out early for a lead atop the standings.
4. Peak at the right time.
You want to be playing your best basketball at the end of the year, it is as simple as that. Whenever it is time to head up North for the Conference playoffs, whichever team is the hottest will have the best chance to be crowned Champions.This is a problem that UMBC handled perfectly last year by winning 6 of their last 9 games. If they can mimic these actions in 2017–18, they will put themselves in a great position to accomplish their goal.
5. Dethrone Albany.
Lastly, for the Retrievers to bring the conference title back to Baltimore, they will need to take down the powerhouse that is Albany Women’s Basketball. The Great Danes have made the NCAA tournament in all of the last five seasons. Coach Abrahamsson-Henderson, has reloaded her roster with talent every year, and no one has been able to stop them. For the Retrievers to succeed in their ultimate goal they will need to dethrone the five-time reigning champs.
This UMBC team can achieve this goal. This is the most devoted, athletic, and promising team this program has had in a long time. If they stick to their system, and buy in to Coach Stern’s process, the possibilities are endless.