Friday, January 22, 2010

Top story (easily)

Don't look now, but the Black Bears are penning the top story of this America East basketball season ... and second place isn't even close.

A team picked to finish eighth, barely above a decimated and scandal-soaked Binghamton program, is in a virtual tie for first place five games into the league season and has held the top RPI spot in the league for several days running.

The reason for the turnaround is clear: defense and a new-found purpose on offense.

Put simply, UMaine is guarding people better, especially on the perimeter. In guard-oriented leagues like America East, being able to defend and be physical with the other teams' guards is a priority. That has been lacking in recent seasons.

Credit Junior Bernal, Gerald McLemore, Andrew Rogers and, especially, Terrance Mitchell. From my viewpoint, Mitchell has brought with him a penchant for getting in peoples' faces and playing the hard-nosed defense we're accustomed to in America East. Mitchell is long enough and big enough to create some problems.

Offensively, the Black Bears are running better sets. The shooting hasn't always been there, but look closely and you can see UMaine getting shots that UMaine wants vs. shots that they settle for or shots the defense wants them to take. That had been a fatal flaw the past few years.

What does all this mean? It means that in one season, the Black Bears have greatly improved their margin for error. In recent years, a dry spell or a few turnovers would doom the club. But when a team is playing with greater consistency on both ends, that margin for error increases and those same miscues become minimized. That's what's happening.

How does the story end? That's up to Messrs. McNally, Barnies, McLemore, et al.

1 comment:

MattT said...

Mitchell has definitely meant a great deal to the defense. He plays tough and with emotion but also plays with a calmness in tense moments. His attitude has really rubbed off on the others. I believe Murphy Burnatowski is also an elite defender. He has the size to bang but also the lateral quickness and athleticism and length to really bother quick wings. Against UNH he stoned Alvin Abreu. Mike Allison is just scratching the surface of what he can become. If he can build up his body a bit he could be a go to player. He can run, jump and has good hands and touch. The coaching staff should be commended for luring these talented players to Orono. I hope the success continues as it will undoubtedly aid in recruiting and hopefully land a few more hidden gems in the future.