Meet the Atlantic 10: UMass Preview

Posted In The Reading List - By Alan Kelly On Tuesday, January 14th, 2014 With 2 Comments

The Patriots will face one of their toughest tests in years tomorrow, as the #16 Massachusetts Minutemen (14-1, 2-0) roll into Fairfax. Wednesday night’s 7pm tipoff will be the first even meeting between the two programs.  For those out of town, the game can be found televised on MASN, SNY, or Campus Insiders.

A key issue to watch will be the health of UMass starting point guard Chaz Williams. The Hofstra transfer injured his left ankle in Saturday’s win over St. Bonaventure, although he is apparently expected to play Wednesday night after an MRI came back negative. The diminutive fifth-year senior is a favorite for A-10 Player of the Year.

The visit of a ranked team to the Patriot Center naturally raises the question of when was the last time Mason hosted a nationally ranked team? I haven’t conducted an exhaustive search, but after a pretty thorough reading of every schedule since 1985-86 for likely suspects and checking those dates against archived AP polls, I have only found three confirmed games.  There have been some close misses (for example, Virginia and Colorado were both ranked immediately after beating Mason in the fall of 1996), but I haven’t been able to locate a single case since the Patriot Center’s first season in 1985-86. If you find another one, please let me know in the comments below or on the message boards.

Date Score Comment
Nov. 27, 1985 #17 Maryland 81, Mason 80 Patriot Center opener
Dec. 3, 1985 #6 Georgetown 75, Mason 63 2nd Patriot Center DI game
Mar. 4, 1986 #18 Navy 72, Mason 61 CAA Tournament final

An interesting connection for the Patriots is that Derek Kellogg began his college coaching career assistant at Mason under Jim Larranaga from 1997-99.

Yesterday, I asked Adam Stein of (@theumbr) to answer some questions about the Minutemen: Assuming Chaz Williams is able to play, who’s in the likely starting lineup for UMass, and can you give us a brief description of each player?

Adam: The starting lineup consists of 3 seniors, a junior and a sophomore.

Chaz Williams, PG – Chaz is the star of the team. He is the leading scorer and is second in the nation in assists. Despite being only 5’9” and usually the shortest guy on the floor, he can defend any player. Last week he blocked 7’0” Ndoye from St. Bonaventure. A testament to his skill is that he is on the watch list for the Bob Cousy Award, which recognizes the best point guards in college basketball, and the Naismith Award. He returned to UMass for his senior year despite being offered a contract to play in Turkey.

Derrick Gordon, SG – Gordon, a redshirt sophomore, is a transfer from Western Kentucky. He led that team in scoring, rebounds, free throws and minutes played (as a freshman) as they won the Sun Belt Conference and an NCAA first round game. So far at UMass, Gordon has been impressive, including a game winning overtime bucket against Providence. He is not much of a shooter, but gets most of his points off of floaters and layups.

Raphiael Putney, SF – Putney, a senior, is a very versatile player. He has the length and athleticism to score in the paint, but also likes to shoot high arching three pointers. He can also throw down spectacular dunks. As a sophomore, he showed the potential to be a very good player, but since then has struggled with consistency. However, against St. Bonaventure, he notched his first double-double of the season.

Sampson Carter, PF – Sampson does the little things that makes this team successful. He is a big body and a good three point shooter. Like Putney, he is streaky, but when he is playing well he is hard to defend. On the defensive end, he is always willing to sacrifice his body to take a charge.

Cady Lalanne, C – Cady is another one of the stars of the team. He is one of the best big men in the Atlantic 10 and has been said to be the best NBA talent on this Minuteman roster. He is a double-double machine and is a very good offensive rebounder. Who are the key bench players and what do they contribute to the team? Who would take Chaz Williams’ minutes if he can’t go?

Adam: Derek Kellogg usually plays an 8 man rotation, but will occasionally play a ninth man. The three most reliable bench players are:

Maxie Esho, F – Esho is the spark plug of the team. He comes off of the bench and brings energy and enthusiasm. He is a great rebounder and defender and is on the receiving end of many of Chaz Williams’ alley-oops. He has come up with some huge plays this season and is a key reason for the Minutemen’s success.

Trey Davis, G – Trey Davis is the backup point guard. He is very good at keeping the tempo of the offense up when Chaz is on the bench. He is the best free throw shooter on the team and has been clutch in must-make situations. He is also a good jump shooter; after scoring the go-ahead three pointer against St. Bonaventure, fans have begun to call him UMass’s own Trigger Trey. Davis is just a sophomore, so he still struggles with turnovers and decision making, but has improved exponentially since his freshman season.

Tyler Bergantino, C – T-Berg is the backup center. He plays a few minutes a game to give the big men a rest. He rarely produces offense, but can hold his own on defense. He is also a sophomore and tends to get into foul trouble.

If Chaz doesn’t play, another bench player will probably see some minutes at the two guard spot. I don’t think Coach Kellogg would have confidence in anybody but Trey Davis or Derrick Gordon to play point guard. I suspect that he would play Clyde Santee or Demetrius Dyson. Both are freshman who have seen limited minutes this season. I can’t say too much about them because they have hardly played, but I think they both have high potential. What are the strengths of this year’s team?

Adam: UMass’ biggest strength is offensive balance. Most games, there are 4 or 5 players averaging in double figures and that doesn’t just apply to the starters. All five starters have the ability to score and Maxie Esho and Trey Davis are consistently scoring off the bench. Chaz Williams is a master distributor and he makes sure that opposing teams have to defend every player on the floor equally.

Experience is another strong point. With three redshirt seniors (Chaz Williams, Raphiael Putney and Sampson Carter) this team knows how to win. Derek Kellogg rarely takes timeouts because he trusts his team. What are the weaknesses of this year’s team?

Adam: One glaring weakness is vulnerability to foul trouble. Cady Lalanne and Chaz Williams are so valuable, that when they are on the bench for extensive minutes, the offense suffers. While Tyler Bergantino and Trey Davis are great backups, they are no match for their two all star teammates. Are there are particular statistics or trends for which fans could watch, that might indicate whether the game is going well or poorly for the Minutemen?

Adam: Turnovers and fouls are important to watch. UMass plays a high tempo offense which sometimes results in turnovers. When they are playing sloppily, the Minutemen have a tendency to pile up turnovers. As I mentioned in question 4, fouls are also a problem, which can add up quickly and expose UMass’ frighteningly short bench.

Another important stat is Chaz Williams’ assist to turnover ratio. When he is distributing the ball efficiently, the UMass offense is nearly unstoppable. In the game against BYU, when Chaz had 15 assists and 1 turnover, the Minutemen scored 105 points. In the loss to Florida State he finished with only 3 assists and 4 turnovers. UMass went 12-1 in out of conference play (with one game remaining, at Elon on Saturday), is ranked #16 in the AP poll, and won their first two league games. What have the first 15 games revealed about this year’s team? Are there trends emerging?

Adam: I think that what UMass has shown so far is that they play with the intensity of a “March Madness or Bust” mentality. The last two seasons, they were one or two wins away from punching their ticket and that has bothered them, especially the older guys.

Their ability to close out close games has also become apparent. These guys fight to the last second of every game. Nothing shows that more than the wins against Providence (overtime win), St. Joseph’s (comeback win from down 9) and St. Bonaventure (comeback win from down 13). UMass was picked fourth in the A-10 preseason poll, but seems to have exceeded those expectations. Given what you’ve seen so far, do the Minutemen have what they need to win the Atlantic 10 regular season and tournament titles and return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1998?

Adam: I think UMass is absolutely a contender for winning both the A-10 titles. Continuing to work on the fundamentals like solid defense, free throw shooting and taking care of the basketball is essential. Also, it is imperative that they stay healthy. Last season we saw our starting guard, Jesse Morgan, go down with a torn ACL which demoralized the team and the fans. A similar injury to any of this season’s players would be devastating. In UMass’s first two conference games, the team has struggled to slow starts, coming back from a late nine-point deficit against St. Joseph’s and a late 13-point deficit against St. Bonaventure. What’s behind those slow starts, and is it anything UMass should be concerned about moving forward?

Adam: I think those scores show as much as anything the parity within the Atlantic 10. There are no easy wins in the league this year. St. Joe’s and St. Bonaventure are both very good teams and UMass had to fight hard to grind out wins. That being said, the slow starts are disconcerting. After amazing performances against New Mexico, LSU, BYU, etc it is frustrating to see them play below their proven capability. I have faith in Derek Kellogg’s coaching and Chaz Williams’ leadership. Neither of them will be satisfied until the team is playing perfectly. I think with time, they will return to form. Can you tell us something interesting that most Mason fans wouldn’t know about UMass?

Adam: Something interesting that I have learned this season is that there are many family connections on the basketball team. Zach Coleman, one of the freshman on the team, is cousins with Trey Davis. Also, Sampson Carter is the brother of assistant coach Shyrone Chatman.

Also, Derek Kellogg, who coaches the Minutemen, was a UMass player himself. He grew up in Springfield, MA which is only 30 minutes from UMass and played point guard for the Minutemen from 1991-1995. Thanks for your time, Adam. 

Founded: 1863
Type: Public
Endowment: $231M
Location: Amherst, Massachusetts
Campus: Urban/Suburban
Students: 21,373 undergraduates
Men’s Basketball Program
Athletics Budget: $27.2M (2012)
Men’s Basketball Budget: $3.2M (2012)
Began Play: 1900
Joined A-10: 1976
A-10 Championships: 5
NCAA Appearances: 8 (Most recent: 1998)
NCAA Record: 11-8 (.579)
NIT Appearances: 13 (Most recent: 2013)
Head Coach: Derek Kellogg
Coaching Tenure: 6th season
Coaching Record: 99-78 (.559)
Arena: William D. Mullins Memorial Center
Arena Nickname: “The Bill”
Arena Opened: 1993
Arena Capacity: 9,493
Colors: Maroon and White
Student Section: Mullins Militia
2013-14 Season
Preseason A-10: Picked 4th
Current Record: 14-1 (2-0)
RPI: 4
Pomeroy: 32
Top wins: vs New Mexico, vs BYU, at E. Michigan, at Ohio
Bad losses: None
George Mason Series History
Meetings: None
Record: N/A
Current Streak: N/A
Most Recently: N/A

Meet the Atlantic 10: An introduction to each team in George Mason’s new conference
VCUSt. Joe’s – UMass – URI – Fordham – GW – SLU – Dayton – Duq. – St. Bona – Rich. – La Salle

About - Alan Kelly is a 2010 and 2013 graduate of George Mason University and a former member of the Patriot Platoon. He had the memorable experience of being in the middle of the college decision process as George Mason's Final Four run unfolded. He currently resides in Northern Virginia.

Displaying 2 Comments
Have Your Say

  1. […] about the George Mason Patri­ots I urge you to read While there, you can read my Q and A with Allen about UMass or check out his great arti­cles about the other Atlantic […]

  2. […] hasn’t hosted a ranked opponent since 1986 according to this guy here who knows way more about George Mason than I do, so to say this is a big game for the Patriots may be an […]

Leave a comment

You must be Logged in to post comment.