Quick note about UMBC shocker over Virgina: They were extraordinary. They dominated the game. However, Tony Bennett should rethink playing banged up players every day to win some stupid conference tournament. He should have dumped in the first round, got his injured players healthy and made their expected run to the final four. He did not. UMBC became a great story.
What is perhaps more shocking is that the Retrievers held on to their excellent coach Ryan Odom.
UMBC returns three starters. However, the starters lost, Maura and Lyles, were the trigger men behind their wildly successful season. There is no one on this year’s team that can come close to either. Their ability to drive and kick to open three point shooters was extraordinary. Their loss significantly impacts their offense. Outside of freshman Jose Placer, there is no natural point guard on the roster. And Placer is not quite ready to run the show.
In an effort to find some offensive cohesion, Odom has tried many combinations. The results have been erratic. And now there may be more bad news. 6’ 5” guard Arkel Lamar did not play in their last game, a win at Coppin St. He is one of their better players. Odom went with an eight man rotation for that game. He stuck with his four guard offense. The beneficiary of the shortened rotation was Providence transfer Ricky Council, who has started every game, but until last game has played limited minutes. His improvement will help the UMBC immensely. Council played 29 minutes and had an efficient 14 points against Coppin. But even with Council playing well, point guard remains an issue for the Retrivers. Jackson had five assists but also five turnovers. That will not get it done. UMBC did have wins over Air Force and High Point on neutral floors. They have certainly not fallen off the map and they won’t be a pushover in any contest.
UMBC’s 4 guard offense should once again, give the rapidly improving Alihan Demir opportunity. He and Frosh point guard Cam Wynter have been revelations for Drexel this year. Wynter’s beyond his freshman years smarts at the point, and the threat of Demir inside has opened things up for Cal Poly transfer Trevor John. John has shown to be a super smart, catch and shoot guard who rarely takes a bad shot.
What looked like a team that may struggle offensively, is no longer. Defensively, the Dragons still have issues. If Lamar remains out, Council will have to maintain his excellent play to give the Retrievers a chance. However, I doubt they have an answer for Demir, and doubling him will allow others, especially John to get good looks. He does not miss often. Odom does an excellent job, but I’m not sure he has the horses to handle a surprisingly improved Dragon bunch.
Drexel 76 UMBC 72