NOTE: Results of Sunday 12/4 games will not be reflected in this article
The first frosts are beginning to descend upon Orono, Maine as we near the end of the fall semester, and basketball season is well underway. Today we’ll take a look at our men’s and women’s basketball teams and check in on their progress as we get closer to the start of conference play.
It’s been an encouraging start to the season for the Black Bear men’s team, as they’ve jumped out to a 4-3 record despite being picked last in the America East preseason poll. After dropping their first game to Big 10 school Nebraska, Maine picked up four consecutive wins, including one against a powerful ACC school in Boston College. They then lost their next two, both in close fashion, against Brown and Fordham. Maine will be looking to bounce back on Sunday, Dec. 4 against Marist in a neutral-site game in London at the O2 Arena. Maine will then have five more games to tweak their approach before conference play begins on Jan. 5.
For a team with such a poor pre-season outlook, the Black Bears have done a good job surpassing expectations thanks to a couple of key factors. Firstly, the addition of Chris Markwood as head coach has been the perfect fit for the Black Bears. A Maine native, University of Maine graduate and former captain of the team, Markwood has returned home to bring life back to this program. Previously, Markwood made significant contributions to coaching staffs at Northeastern, University of Vermont and Boston College. He is also a former assistant coach at UMaine. His addition has brought a spark to a lethargic lineup.
In terms of on-court talent, the Black Bears have found an elite floor general and undersized slasher in second-year point guard Kellen Tynes. Tynes has an unparalleled ability to beat bigger defenders down low and is currently fourth in the nation in steals per game, showing his ability as a defensive spark plug.
It’s a long road ahead for this young program, but when conference play opens up, we’ll get a better feel for how this team will fare in the standings.
It’s a little too early to sort out the women’s team, as they have gotten off to a lukewarm 3-5 start. Four-time America East coach of the year Amy Vachon has had a few tough setbacks, as Maine is currently without all of last year’s top three scorers. No. 2 and No. 3 left the program, and last year’s top scorer Anne Simon has played only three of eight games this season. This could all explain why Maine has struggled out of the gate despite being picked to finish second in the America East conference.
It’s been a tough start for some of Maine’s top in-state recruits; however, things are looking up for high-scoring first-years Jaycie Christopher and Sarah Talon. Christopher was immediately given a spot in the starting lineup after her electric senior season with Skowhegan High School last year. She’s had a cold start, shooting only 28%, and has been relocated to a bench role. Talon, from Windham High School, was given fewer minutes off the bat but registered a 13-point night in a loss to Gonzaga.
It’s certainly going to be a bumpy road ahead for the Black Bears, who look to get their situation figured out before the start of conference play, where they will try to defend their two-year streak of regular-season championships. If they can motivate the young players and fill in the gaps in scoring, success looks to be a strong possibility.