After watching most of the men’s and women’s NCAA tourney basketball games this season, my belief in the importance of developing big post players for the University of Maine teams was reinforced, a topic I wrote about back in November.
I asked which team would be more successful in developing its big players.
Successful men’s and women’s teams in the NCAA tourney had strong post players and if the UMaine teams want to progress, they should do the same instead of having non-post players play out of position.
The UMaine women’s team finished with a 23-10 record after making it to the NCAA tourney for the eighth time while the UMaine men ended at 6-26 and have yet to make it to the tourney. Both teams are in similar situations in regard to their post players even though they’re on different ends of the success spectrum.
The UMaine teams struggled to be successful against teams with good big post players.
Defensively, lack of big players bothered both UMaine teams the most when their much larger opponents got to them on the offensive boards and in the paint.
Offensively, lack of the big players in the post limited both teams’ inside games to go one-on-one first and to force double-teams allowing inside-outside kick-out passes for open 3-point shots.
There was also more need of offensive sets allowing for wider player floor spacing from the block to go inside easier and quicker. This spacing should allow for more dribble penetration to get to the basket, the foul line or more open 3-point shots.
Both teams struggled early this season to reach 30 percent shooting for 3-pointers with the women finishing at 32.2 percent and the men at 30.2.
When playing against teams with strong, big post players, the UMaine teams didn’t have players who were offensive inside threats, making defenders double down on the post, which would have opened up outside shots.
The UMaine men’s only developing big post players are 6-foot-9 freshman Miks Antoms and 6-8 redshirt sophomore Vincent Eze. Antoms averaged 9.3 minutes a game in 27 games while Eze sat out after hip surgery.
The UMaine women’s returning big players are freshmen Kat Williams (6-5) and Kira Barra (6-3). Williams played an average of 3.2 minutes a game in 11 games while Barra averaged 5.4 in 26 games.
Based on minutes played, the UMaine men’s team had more success in developing its big players as its one big player played 79 more minutes this season than the UMaine women’s two big freshmen.
Those two freshmen didn’t get enough minutes to improve and contribute and lack of a strong inside game was apparent in UMaine’s 83-54 loss to Texas in the NCAA tourney’s first-round game when Texas outrebounded UMaine 43-12.
Texas also outscored UMaine 42-20 in the paint, 13-2 on second-chance points and held the Black Bears to 3-of-19 on 3-pointers (18.2 percent).
The UMaine women’s team did have a fine season this year but to get a better seed in the NCAA tourney and a first-round win, it needs more contributions from its big players.
Again, it will be interesting to see which UMaine coaching staff will try to develop its big players. If they decide they can’t do so with the current players, then they should recruit players to do so and consider junior college players in the mix.
A second consecutive season of not addressing these needs makes adding to the win column more difficult.