As we count down the days to the start of the 2018-19 season, A10 Talk will be bringing you its preseason power rankings, as voted on by its team of writers. We continue the countdown with #6 Massechusetts Minutemen.
Returnees to Watch
Although last season was a nightmare for the Minutemen, a few stars shined, making the statement “there’s always next season” something to believe in. Luwane Pipkins demonstrated that he can be a star for this team and carry the load when they need him most. Averaging 21 points per game last season in a year where he essentially had to do it all, he should return with the offensive security around him, giving him more opportunities to be a more well-rounded offensive player. Carl Pierre also was a nice surprise that should take an even bigger step this season and vie for one of the top spots on the team. Rashaan Holloway also returns as a solid option down low who should see an increase in both playing time and scoring improvement.
Newcomers to Watch
Although he was a low-end player at Vanderbilt, grad transfer, Djery Baptiste, comes in to provide depth at center behind Rashaan Holloway along with much needed size. He should see improvement across the board as he brings leadership to a team with three promising incoming freshman in Tre Wood, Samba Diallo and Sy Chatman. Wood, a 3-star recruit and number 5 point guard in the Washington D.C. area, provides upside learning from Pipkins and depth for the future. Diallo a 4-star recruit originally from Senegal had offers from three other A-10 schools before selecting UMass as Coach Matt McCall’s first 2018 signing. The Minutemen bring in 4 transfers off a “sit out” season in Keon Clergeot, Curtis Cobb, Kieran Hayward, and Jonathan Laurent who are all expected to be impact players. Sy Chatman rounds out the newcomers hailing from St. Paul, MN bringing an exciting, game as one of Minnesota’s best players in his senior season. Fans should have their cameras ready when he steps on the floor as he is a human highlight reel. Overall, the new class brings depth that the Minutemen lacked as of late.
Games to Watch
Luckily for UMass, their non-conference schedule provides them with an opportunity at redemption. They face a much easier schedule this season with Providence and Georgia being the only teams that truly stand in their way during non-conference play. The real fun will come during conference play as the improved Minutemen will be put to the true test facing Saint Louis on the road. The match up of Luwane Pipkins vs. SLU’s Javon Bess or Tremaine Isabell will be entertaining from start to finish. Also, the battle down low between Holloway and SLU’s Hasahn French/Carte’Are Gordon will be intense. Look for UMass to get their lineup settled throughout their light non-conference schedule and then lock in for conference play.
The Minutemen really only have one direction to go this season, and that is up. How high they go will come down to how Matt McCall uses the depth of his team and how each of UMass’ talented stars gel together after a mess of a season a year ago. There will definitely be fun times in Massachusetts this season, but the Minutemen carry plenty of doubt with chemistry that has yet to be seen. UMass has the talent to make a run in the A-10, but that is the same narrative almost every A-10 team carries into this season. The ball is in their court so to speak, and it is up to them to prove they can get rid of the individualism and compete with the best together.