Massachusetts certainly didn’t have the easiest schedule in non-conference play. The Minutemen would end up facing 5 Kenpom top 100 teams and 2 more ranked between 100 and 200. All things considered, Massachusetts entering league play with a 7-6 record was unexpected, especially considering some of the gutsy wins it picked up. Matt McCall did more than just impress the fanbase in the months of November and December.
Massachusetts’ best win had to be at home over Georgia. The Minutemen led from tip to finish and looked like the better team for all 40 minutes. Even after establishing a double digit lead and having the Bulldogs start to chip away, Massachusetts finished the game with poise and secured a really encouraging home win.
The win over Georgia was of course proceeded by a big victory over Providence in Amherst as well. LuWane Pipkins went off for 30 points and proved that he should be in the running for A-10 Player of the Year this season, depending on how the Minutemen play in the Atlantic 10. Though UMass won’t make the tournament this year, these two wins were the morale boost this program needed; next season is going to be a lot of fun.
Massachusetts slipped up on the road against Quinnipiac in a game I’m sure the entire team would like to get back. The Minutemen were outscored 22-3 at the free throw line, and LuWane Pipkins was just 2/13 from the field. Massachusetts can be in deep trouble if its star sophomore has an off night, and we can see that’s the case considering the Minutemen lost to a team that now ranks 291st in Kenpom.
I’m also going to throw the BYU loss in the mix here, because it was a game that Massachusetts really should have won. A second half meltdown came after an incredible first 20 minutes of basketball. Holding an 8 point lead with less than 5 minutes to play, Kenpom showed that Massachusetts had almost a 95% chance of winning. That was just a display from a young team being unable to close a pivotal game; UMass will improve with time.
Non-Conference Grade: B+
It certainly would have gotten an A- if it weren’t for that loss against Quinnipiac. If anyone is confused as to why a team like Massachusetts at 7-6 is getting a B+, it’s because the Minutemen were expected to finish 12th in the league and now look like a contender in the top-half of the conference. Matt McCall picked up two wins that were definitely unexpected and really had the chance to grab a few more. Don’t forget that Massachusetts almost beat BYU, South Carolina, and Georgia St. as well, all teams that were expected to crush UMass at the start of the season.