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St. John's/ UMBC preview: 5 questions with Rally Monkey

Before we post the St. John's/ UMBC game thread for comments, there's one more pregame post - the 5 questions with a writer/ blogger with detail on the opposing team.

This week's guest is Neil from the UMBC Rally Monkey blog. He answers questions about Coach Randy Monroe's "motivational" style, the Retrievers' shooting woes, excitement around the program, and how UMBC could (possibly) defeat St. John's.

Other pregame postsGame 3: St. John's vs UMBC Retrievers (preview) | St. John's defensive learning curve | Red Storm looks to eradicate first half woes vs. UMBC on Sunday

Let's begin... below the fold.

Q. So last year, exactly what was the game plan for UMBC? How were they planning to win games, and what went wrong along the way? And what's coach Randy Monroe's style?

Neil: The game plan last year for UMBC, one could joke, was to just chuck the basketball up and pray.  In all seriousness, since the America East is not a large-player oriented league, many teams' game-plan revolve around the jumpshot or three-pointer.  UMBC is no exception.  The entire offense was put around Chris De La Rosa, and even though he was among the top 50 point guards in the league, the shots just did not fall.  It seemed like that was the same problem Friday night as well against Penn.  

Randy Monroe's coaching style includes motivational intensity on the court.  Let's just say, be prepared to be entertained by watching him on Sunday.

Q. I see that Chris DeLaRosa was out for the opener against U Penn. What are the Retrievers' strengths without him? 2a. How good can they be with DeLaRosa?

Neil: Simply put, we still don't know at this point, since his two replacements are freshmen.  

Joey Getz, who was primarily brought in to be a shooting guard, was put in that position.  Even though he showed tremendous hustle, he still looked like a freshmen out of his element.  

The true freshman point guard, Jarell Lane, isn't yet ready for Division 1 basketball, despite being high school teammates of sophomore Chase Plummer, as well as Kentucky star Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and NBA draft pick Kyrie Irving.  

De La Rosa, even though he is practicing with the team, should be ready to play by early December.

Q. The way to upset the Red Storm seems like it would be either with excellent post defense and outside shooting or great ball movement and outside shooting. Can UMBC do either of that and pull off the road win?

Neil: As I mentioned earlier, the league revolves around outside shooting, and every player brought into UMBC was brought in for that ability.

 No other player symbolizes how shocking the lack of success the squad has had in that department more than Brian Neller.  Neller is a player who shot 1.000 in high school, the majority of shots from beyond the arc.  At the college level, that is an unreasonable request for anyone, however, .309 career-wise one game into his junior year is a large disappointment.  If he can get his confidence on the bus ride to Queens, then the Retrievers can probably pull something off.

Q. Is there any excitement around UMBC basketball? When was the last time UMBC came into the season with excitement?

Neil: There can be.  Keep in mind, Maryland, especially the Baltimore region, is a hotbed of basketball.  Although UMBC can still draw a few thousand fans to a game, a bad season can always be remedied by a good season.  However, its permanent problem is the fact there is an ACC school 30 minutes south, and Baltimore is home to five Division 1 schools.  

The peak of the UMBC program was the 2007-2008 season, when UMBC won 24 games, sold out the last eight games of the season in a 3800-seat arena, had a home game attended by ESPN's Tony Kornheiser against his alma-mater Binghamton Bearcats, won the America East Conference Championship on ESPN2 at home while allowing nearly 4800 people in with temporary bleachers before falling to Georgetown in the first round of the NCAA tournament.  

There are plans to have a new arena being built after cost-cutting for over ten years.  The fans are there, but they haven't had anything to be excited about since March, 2009, when the Retrievers fell in the AEC Finals to scandal-plagued Binghamton.


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