When UMBC released its schedule for the 2017 campaign, the first entry was not a mistake or an illusion. The team will open the season on Saturday, Feb. 4 at 2016 NCAA champion North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C.

If new coach Ryan Moran was seeking to make a splash in the infancy of his coaching career, he certainly made an impression. But what would possess a program that went 4-10 last year and made a coaching change to challenge a school that had upended four ranked opponents in the NCAA tournament to capture its first title since 1991?


As William Shakespeare would say, there's a method to Moran's madness. Moran pointed out there are two ways to secure a berth in the NCAA postseason, and one route involves earning a win-loss record and an RPI rating that will impress the selection committee.

"The only way to get an at-large is by playing teams that can beef up your RPI," he said. "And if history has shown anything, it's that Carolina didn't have the strongest February or the strongest March last year [5-4 record with losses with Hofstra and Massachusetts]. So hopefully, we can maybe out-prepare them to get a chance where we can compete. We added Michigan, which is a Big Ten team and plays one of the tougher schedules in that conference. … We'll see how we compete against them. But it enables us to open up another avenue to the tournament by hopefully generating some big victories and pumping up our RPI."

So how did the Retrievers get a shot at the Tar Heels in their first regular-season matchup since 2011? UMBC had been scheduled to scrimmage Duke on Feb. 4, but the Blue Devils opted instead to play a regular-season game against Air Force the next day. North Carolina had an opening, and the game was set.

Said Moran: "I figured, all things considered, if we really wanted to generate buzz about the program, what better way than scheduling the national champion from the previous year?"

The more obvious path is winning the America East tournament crown and locking up the automatic bid to the NCAA playoffs. Since this will mark his first run through the conference, Moran has eliminated all midweek games in the thick of the team's league schedule.

"This is my first year of playing teams that I have not regularly played against," he said. "I want to make sure I have a whole week to watch as much film as I can get and know who they are and clearly and accurately ascertain what their strengths and weaknesses are. I think they had two midweek games inside of their conference schedule last year, and that's a bear. You've got to win your conference games, and you've got to really prepare. You've got to put your players in the best position possible to win those conference games."

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