In a matchup of teams struggling to find their footing early this college basketball season, Maryland-Baltimore County (UMBC) visits Georgetown in an 8:30 p.m. ET tipoff tonight (FS1) at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C.
Just 3-4 on the season, Georgetown is favored to get back on the winning track against the 5-3 Retrievers.
BetMGM installed Georgetown as the -7.5 favorite on the point spread and -350 on the moneyline, with UMBC at +275, but there’s been early movement toward the underdog. As of Wednesday morning, Caesars and FanDuel were dealing -7, with influential Las Vegas book Circa going as low as Hoyas -6.
The total is between 150.5 and 151.
UMBC Retrievers (5-3 ST, 4-3 ATS)
These are not your 2018 Retrievers, a team capable of pulling the biggest upset in NCAA men’s basketball history when they became the first No. 16 seed to knock off a No. 1, much to Virginia’s chagrin.
The current Retrievers are an inconsistent bunch struggling to find a steady course while adapting to first-year coach Jim Ferry, who took over during the offseason after Ryan Odom left for Utah State. UMBC has lost to UMass, Delaware, and Longwood, but has beaten Pitt and American.
UMBC’s up-tempo approach is sparked by guards Keondre Kennedy and Darnell Rogers. The 6-foot-6 Kennedy averages 15.1 points per game and 4.5 rebounds per game, while 5-foot-2 Rogers averages 13 points and 3.9 assists per game. Believed to be the shortest player to earn a Division 1 scholarship, Rogers entered the transfer portal after last season but elected to remain at UMBC.
Forward Yaw Obeng-Mensah (6-foot-7) averages 7.5 ppg and 5.3 rebounds per game, while a pair of 6-foot-3 guards, L.J. Owens (8.4 ppg., 3.6 rpg) and Jacob Boonyasith (6.0 ppg., 4.6 rpg) rounded out the starting lineup in a 70-60 loss as 6-point underdogs to Delaware on Sunday.
At his introductory press conference last April, Ferry described his approach for leading the Retrievers to success in the America East.
“We’re going to be the aggressor in everything we do — the guys are going to love playing this style of basketball. It’s going to be up-tempo. It’s going to be fast. We’re going to be playing with great pace,” he said, according to the Baltimore Sun. “We’re going to defend with toughness and aggressiveness. This league is a great league — great players, great coaches — you have to defend with great toughness to give yourself a chance to win in this basketball league.”
Despite Ferry’s proclamation, UMBC ranks 69th in KenPom’s adjusted tempo metric. The Retrievers are 4-3 to the ‘over’ this season.
Georgetown Hoyas (3-4 ST, 2-5 ATS)
Patrick Ewing said after Sunday’s loss at South Carolina that his Hoyas have the potential to be a great team by the end of the season, according to the Washington Post. Unfortunately for Ewing and his team, the end of the season is three months in the future, meaning there will be more than a few growing pains along the way.
That was evident in the 80-67 loss as 5-point dogs that dropped Georgetown to 3-4 on the season, with the wins coming against Longwood, Siena, and American. The roster boasts plenty of talent, but it has yet to bond in a cohesive fashion as the Hoyas prepare to face Syracuse on Saturday.
Freshman guard Aminu Mohammed leads Georgetown in scoring, averaging 14.3 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. The team has received the bulk of its scoring from its guards, as Dante Harris (14.0 ppg., 4.7 assists per game, and 3.9 rebounds per game), Donald Carey (13.4 ppg., 5.1 rpg., and 3.6 apg.), and Kaiden Rice (11.7 ppg, 3.4 rpg.) also average double figures.
Inside scoring has been challenging in general and with 7-foot center Timothy Ighoefe sidelined by a hand injury, forward Collin Holloway (7.8 ppg., 2.5 rpg.), and 7-foot-2 freshman center Ryan Mutombo (3.6 ppg., 2.9 rpg.) will need to carry more of the load.
“We just have to do a much better job,” Ewing said after South Carolina outscored Georgetown in the paint, 42-30. “… We got to get the ball to Ryan Mutombo when he’s open. That’s something that we talked about. When Timothy Ighoefe comes back, he has to be a force in there, both offensively and defensively.”
Until that happens, though, the Hoyas make take their share of lumps in the rugged Big East. For now, though, Ewing’s focus is on showing improvement and looking toward March.
“I do believe in my guys,” Ewing said, according to the Post. “I do believe that at the end of the year we’re going to have a very good team. But like I always tell people: ‘In life, you’re going to have bumps in the road.’ And tonight was one of those bumps. It’s going to be [dependent] on how we come out of this.”
The Hoyas, who have dropped four straight ATS, get their first chance to start the turnaround against UMBC.