Massachusetts rolls into conference play at 6-7 after a pretty tough OOC slate — it ranked 124th nationally according to Kenpom. The Minutemen got off to a 5-0 start, beating the cupcakes they were supposed to beat, but then they failed to get even one win during their tough 6 game stretch. We know a few things about this UMass team — it’s young, not very deep, and it’s going to have some tough games this year when Tre Mitchell and TJ Weeks aren’t playing well. However, this class of freshmen looks like it’s going to be very good in a couple of seasons.
I wouldn’t call any wins that good for Massachusetts, but the team’s best ones were at home against Northeastern and at home against Rider. While the Minutemen haven’t beaten a top 100 team, they played a bunch of them and put up a pretty decent fight, though they were unable to finish. The Minutemen also snagged a true road win over Fairfield 62-20. While none of these wins are great from an NCAA Tournament perspective, they give this team a bit of momentum, and given preseason expectations with this team, I think a lot of fans would take 6-7 heading into conference play.
There aren’t really any terrible losses on this schedule looking back — the Minutemen probably should have beat South Carolina at home, and they also let an opportunity against Yale slip away in overtime, but neither of those are games you dread losing. Massachusetts’ six game stretch of Virginia, St. John’s, Rutgers, South Carolina, Harvard, and Yale resulted in 0-6, and while that’s somewhat expected, you would’ve hoped you could get away with at least one win. Perhaps the worst loss visually was Rutgers, as the team looked somewhat dejected and never stood a chance on the road. Their only other loss is to Kenpom 99 Akron on the road, and the Minutemen also led late in that one — just couldn’t finish.
Looking Ahead to Conference Play
Massachusetts will get better, and I think the fanbase knows that. This year will be frustrating because you have a young group of guys that don’t know how to finish off college basketball games yet, and without a ton of depth (injuries and transfers), guys like Mitchell and East are going to get worked — that’s OK. The Minutemen should be looking to the future, as they’ve got something brewing with this freshman class. They’re playing with house money this year in the sense that they should be able to finish 9th or 10th despite being picked in the basement with little or no expectations surrounding this program.
Non-Conference Grade: B-
The Minutemen did so-so and didn’t drop any games they weren’t supposed to. They also picked up 2 decent wins over Rider and Northeastern, gave Virginia one hell of a fight on a neutral court, and were pretty competitive against some good Mid Major teams. They’ll start league play off on the road against Saint Louis and travel to Dayton two days later to face some tough competition.