Thursday, January 22, 2009

GAMEDAY: University of Maryland-Baltimore County vs. Boston University

John Holland made headlines Monday by playing all 60 minutes of the Terriers' four-overtime win against Stony Brook. Some focused on the will and determination required to play every second of such a long contest, while others questioned the decision to rely so heavily on the starting five (every BU starter logged at least 47 minutes) during the busy conference schedule. With a depleted roster, do you go deeper into your bench to spread out the workload or ride your starters as far as they'll take you?

The Retrievers of Maryland-Baltimore County are an example of a shallow rotation taken to its logical extreme. When his team is healthy, UMBC head coach Randy Monroe opts to use just six of his players: Darryl Proctor, Jay Greene, Matt Spadafora, Justin Fry, Chauncey Gilliam, and Rich Flemming. Jake Wasco is the only other Retriever to play more than 10 percent of available minutes, just making it over the barrier with 10.3 percent. Amazingly, Darryl Proctor and Jay Greene are first and second in percent of minutes played for all of Division-I. Not only that, but Greene ranks as high as he does despite missing Monday's game against Vermont.

Greene, sidelined for Monday's game by a concussion, was joined on the bench that day by Rich Flemming, who had twisted his knee in practice the day before. Missing two players from an already thin squad, the Retrievers had no chance against Vermont in a 76-42 loss. The news got worse for UMBC after the game was over: Flemming's knee needs to be scoped. With the forward out indefinitely, an already thin Retriever front court grows even thinner.

Greene is the heart of the UMBC offense. While it's never safe to assume a player is ready to return from a concussion until he appears on the the court (Monroe considers Greene's injury day-to-day; Greene practiced yesterday), there isn't much to analyze without making that assumption. Ball security is the Retrievers' calling card. Greene's assist-to-turnover ratio exceeds 2.5, and as a team UMBC ranks eighth in the nation in turnover rate, surrendering the ball prematurely on less than 17 percent of its possessions. While much of this stems from Greene's excellence, Darryl Proctor is also a contributor, committing just 32 turnovers despite an extremely high usage rate.

If the Retriever offense starts with Greene, it usually ends with Proctor. The 6-4 senior forward is averaging more than 20 points per game in conference play, second only to John Holland. Proctor also ranks third in the conference in rebounds per game. Greene has had to assume an increased scoring role out of necessity, but Proctor is still the Retrievers' first option every time down the court. This is reflected in his scoring totals game-by-game. Proctor's lowest output for the season is 13 points; he and Binghamton's D.J. Rivera are the only America East players to score in double figures every game this season.

The Terriers have had just two days off to recover from Monday's marathon. UMBC is arguably the team most poorly equipped to take advantage of BU's lack of rest -- with such a thin bench, the Retrievers may be even more concerned than the Terriers about maintaining their energy level -- but fatigue is likely to play a role. The formula for beating Maryland-Baltimore County is relatively simple: slow down UMBC's primary offensive threats and take care of the basketball. The Terriers have the advantage heading into this one, but giving any team extra possessions promises nothing but trouble. Every team in the league has two or more losses, BU included, so this game is an important one.

M. Bball hosts wounded Retrievers tonight
Injuries may contain a silver lining

Projected starting lineups:

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