It is one-and-done time for America East men’s and women’s basketball teams at this weekend’s tourney in Albany, N.Y., where the University of Maine teams could surprise some teams and advance if they adopt some smart strategies.
The Maine women, 16-13 overall and 10-6 in the conference, are the No. 4 seed and take on a Hartford team that finished fifth at 12-17 and 9-7, respectively.
Maine and Hartford split during the regular season, with both teams winning on the road. Hartford in Bangor, 66-56 and Maine in Hartford, 60-56.
The Black Bears match up evenly with Hartford and really should have won their home game in December.
Statistically, both teams are about even in conference play, with Maine shooting better from the floor and Hartford a better 3-point shooting team. Both teams are shooting just under 70 percent from the foul line and both commit the same amount of turnovers per game.
Maine must cut down on turnovers as it committed 27 in the loss to Hartford.
Both teams shot poorly from 3-point range in the two regular season games.
Maine must get off to a good start offensively and hold the Hawks to under 60 points to guarantee a shot at the semifinals.
With the one-and-done situation, Maine should increase playing minutes instead of using more substitutes.
Sigi Koizar should get more than her 20.9 minutes per game at the point, as it seems Maine is a more settled offensive team when she is on the floor. She is a good scorer if left alone and can create for others off the dribble. She is the one player who definitely makes her teammates better when she is at the point as she thinks pass first and shot second.
The Maine men have a much harder road to win its first conference tourney game in 10 consecutive seasons as the Black Bears take their 6-22 overall record and a seventh-place 4-12 conference mark into a quarterfinal against second-place Stony Brook .
Stony Brook swept Maine in the two regular season games. However, in the game last week in Bangor, Maine only lost 83-79 and gave Stony Brook all it could handle.
Potentially losing Zarko Valjarevic to injury creates a problem for the Black Bears as he is their best 3-point scorer. Maine has excellent offensive statistics this season as the Bears have shot better from the floor, the line and 3-point land than last season while averaging 72 points per game.
The problem for the Bears has been defense where they have given up an average of 83 points per game, along with too many offensive rebounds for scores.
A bright spot for the Bears lately has been the inside scoring of sophomore Till Gloger who has hit the 20-point mark in two of the last 3 games. He has been 22 for 30 from the floor in the last three games. Tim Mackey and Marko Pirovic also help give Maine a much improved inside presence.
Maine will need to go inside-outside more to force double teams on Gloger and Mackey and if they are doubled down, then other players should get good open 3-point looks.
Maine should not take 3-pointers without going inside first. The Black Bears must be more patient on offense, make excellent basketball decisions, work the shot clock down and have excellent shot selection to reduce the number of offensive possessions for Stony Brook. That will reduce the time Maine has to be on defense, which is its biggest weakness.
How well both the Maine men’s and women’s teams respond to pressure could also determine their tourney fates. The women face more pressure because of their four seed while the men should be more relaxed.