FTS Tourney Time: Women’s Basketball

In the world of collegiate athletics, the month of March is synonymous with just one word…MADNESS!!!  This weekend, the madness begins in earnest, as the “big three” UMaine winter sports teams embark on their quest to conquer their conference foes and earn automatic qualification into their respective NCAA tournaments by winning their conference championship.

Today, we kick off our official “FTS Tourney Time” preview series by examining the first match-up on this weekend’s slate of games, the UMaine women’s hoops team’s Friday night showdown in Albany with the Hartford Hawks:

The 2013-14 UMaine women’s basketball campaign can fairly be summed up in one word: turnaround.  After a 2012-13 season that saw the Lady Black Bears go 4-24 overall, 3-12 in America East, and fall victim to a horrifying bus crash, there was no place to go but up this season. 

And up they went.  Coach Richard Barron’s squad improved its win total by 12, to finish with an overall record of 16-13.  More importantly, the team became more competitive as the season went along and finished with a very respectable 10-6 record in conference, a record which earned them the #4 seed in the America East tournament.

With that seeding, Maine has been paired off with the #5 seed Hawks of Hartford, a team with whom the Black Bears split their season series, with each team winning on the other’s home court.  The good news about that “split” is that it’s a split that seems to favor our heroes.

Maine’s loss to Hartford was an overtime defeat way back on December 11, while their victory against the Hawks came just three weeks ago.  The more recent result is clearly much more indicative of how both teams are playing.  Since February 1, the Black Bears are an impressive 6-2, while the Hawks are just 4-4 during that same stretch.

The way we see it at Fill The Steins, Coach Barron has instilled a new level of passion, enthusiasm, and tenacity in our Lady Black Bears.  Those attributes are starting to show themselves on the court at exactly the right time of the season, and there’s no reason for Maine to be considered anything but the favorite on Friday night.

Should the Bears make us look smart and advance to the semifinals, they’ll likely face a much tougher challenge.  Barring a major upset in the quarterfinal round by America East cellar-dwellers Binghamton, Maine’s semifinal opponent on Sunday would be none other than the tournament hosts, the Albany Great Danes, a team that finished the season 15-1 in conference and 25-4 overall.  Albany also swept the season series against Maine, including a 28 point thumping on the very court on which the teams would play a semifinal showdown.

Even though the Black Bears’ odds of advancing all the way to the conference championship game look dim, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.  The immediate future looks bright: we think it’s Maine 65, Hartford 59 on Friday night.  Regardless of the outcome, however, we fill the steins to the Lady Black Bears on a tremendous season, a tremendous turnaround, and what appears to be a sort of rebirth of women’s basketball at the University of Maine.

Cheers, ladies!!!

Share your thoughts on the Lady Black Bears’ chances in Albany this weekend.  Make your predictions in the comments section below and join the conversation on Twitter using #FTSTourneyTime!!!

Photo courtesy: www.goblackbears.com

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