Plenty of oddities floating around the conference this week. After UD laid an egg on the road at St. Joe’s, Richmond followed suit by serving up an absolute season-killer against George Mason. Then, last night, Saint Louis gets taken down by the mighty Dukes of Duquesne. It’s the Atlantic Ten, no one is safe and the children are understandably nervous.
We’ve all had ample time to digest last Tuesday’s debacle and the sour taste should be out of everyone’s mouths by now. Dayton certainly didn’t do itself any favors by getting dismantled by St. Joe’s, but the Flyers aren’t quite cooked yet. The good news for UD? The bubble is absolutely horrendous. The Flyers have gone out of their way to play themselves out of contention, but the rest of the country refuses to take the hint.
UD still has ample opportunities to make a statement. With three noteworthy opponents remaining, the Flyers are not quite out of it yet. This is both depressing and distressing. I miss college basketball.
The UMass Minutemen, who haven’t won in the Arena since January 2008, come calling this Saturday at…ELEVEN A.M. That’s Amish prime-time, ya’ll.
UMass did most of its damage during its non-conference slate, where the Minutemen put up a 12-1 record, beating some fairly decent competition in the process. Derek Kellogg’s club has be uneven during A10 play however, taking down the likes of St. Joe’s and VCU while suffering defeats to also-rans Saint Bonaventure and George Mason. UMass has had a fairly easy go of it schedule-wise, with just four games against the league’s top five teams thus far (UMass will travel to Duquesne before closing out the season at home with Saint Louis). Regardless, Massachusetts has clearly done enough to earn an NCAA tournament bid. With an RPI hovering around fifteen, and a 5-1 record against Top 50 RPI squads, the Minutemen will make their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1998.
Massachusetts leads the A-10 in scoring (76.8 ppg), assists (15.9) and blocks per game (5.7) and rebounding. They possess the league’s biggest frontcourt and allow less than a point per possession. The Minutemen do have a tendency to turn the ball over and have one of the shallowest benches in the conference. Like Duquesne, UMass is more concerned with scoring points than getting stops on defense, the Minutemen allow just over seventy points per contest.
Meet and Greet
Everyone is probably familiar with UMass’ diminutive point-guard, Chaz Williams (15.6 ppg/7.1 apg/2.9 rpg). The Minutemen are only as good as their 5’9″ senior leader allows them to be. Although Williams never did develop a consistent jump shot, the Hofstra transfer does more than enough with the ball in his hand to contribute. He leads the conference in assists per game, has the highest assist rate in the league (37.1) and is currently carrying a 2.2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Sophomore Derrick Gordon (9.0 ppg/3.5 rpg/2.3 apg), a transfer from Western Kentucky, will start alongside Williams.
UMass gets most of its production from a balanced frontcourt, which is something Dayton never wants to hear. 6’10” center Cady Lalanne (12.7 ppg/8.4 rpg/2.4 bpg) has been effective all season, completely shaking off the rust from last year’s foot injury. The junior put up a 22/14 performance against UD a season ago, and will certainly be a matchup issue for the Flyers this weekend. 6’9″ Raphiael Putney (9.7 ppg/5.4 rpg), finally a senior, remains an athletic freak who simply could not put on the requisite weight to battle down low with the big boys. Putney is an excellent shot-blocker and very active around the perimeter. 6’8″ Sampson Carter, also a senior, rounds out the starting lineup up front. Carter battled injuries throughout his career and is the Minutemen’s most versatile player.
Trey Davis (8.9 ppg/2.7 rpg) and Max Esho (8.1 ppg/4.8 rpg) are UMass’ two main contributors off the bench. The 6’8″ Esho gives Kellogg another big body to throw at the opposition and Davis has greatly improved on his freshman season.
I know what you are thinking, this is exactly the kind of game Dayton wins. With their backs against the wall, a game they must win to keep the natives engaged, the Flyers usually eek out a victory at the Arena. I just don’t have a good feeling about this one. UMass’ frontcourt poses all types of problems for UD, and there isn’t a Flyer who can stay with Williams. The Minutemen win, 82-74, and we get on with whatever is left of our lives.