The UMass Minutemen find themselves with head at home in Amherst tonight after being defeated by George Washington for the 9th straight time. UMass now has sole possession of 10th place and 3-7 in conference. The Minutemen’s A10 play has been much worse than anyone would have expected at this point, despite 5 of their 7 losses coming against Top 120 NET teams and being the betting underdog in five losses.
“Trying to get this team to still embrace, celebrate each other’s success, (when they do) they can be really good. When they try and do it by themselves, we’re just very very very ok.” (2/2)
— Michael Bergman (@MLBergman_) February 10, 2022
After each loss this season, the messages feel all too similar to each other. The terms “effort” and “motivation” come up from Head Coach Matt McCall during press conferences time and time again as the biggest reasons for losing games most feel UMass probably should have won. When taking an honest reflection of the current roster and coaching staff, the results may not seem as surprising given the background of many players are coming to UMass after one or several stops at other schools. McCall and his staff’s inability to instill his messages to his players on a consistent basis may come from lack of experience, more notably amongst his support staff from his assistants and core leadership team.
Playing Down to the Competition
According to KenPom, The Minutemen now boast the nation’s 33rd ranked offense while also having the 341st ranked defense. This is the third largest difference in the nation between offensive and defensive efficiency rankings. Looking back on the season to date, several of their wins have been as a result of shooting themselves out double digit deficits. The bottom line is UMass simply does not have the personnel to compete with effort and competitiveness on a consistent basis, and relies on a wealth of shooting talent to overcome their inability to guard defensively.
Looking at the resume on paper UMass has been absolutely dreadful against lower rated teams. Accumulating 8 losses against the bottom 2 quadrians is completely unacceptable for a team with this much offensive firepower and higher expectations.
Quad 3: 4-4, Notable losses: *vs Weber State (134), @ Yale (164).
Quad 4: 4-4, Notable losses: *vs Ball State (253), vs Duquesne (242), vs GW (250).
Road Woes & Lows
Now 10-39 overall on the road under McCall
— Michael Bergman (@MLBergman_) February 5, 2022
It’s no secret UMass has fallen short of expectations at this point of the Matt McCall era in the eyes of many. During his first season in Amherst, McCall’s team, composed of many holdovers from the previous coach Derek Kellogg, was able to achieve more success than expected and immediately earned faith among the fanbase that the program was headed in the right direction. Marquee wins against Providence, Georgia, and a pair of victories against Dayton earned McCall a contract extension after his first season (2017-18), the only one he has received in his tenure in Amherst. His contract is currently set to expire after the end of next season (2022-23), making this season extremely important in determining his future at UMass.
The kryptonite of the McCall era has been his inability to win on the road. UMass is a dreadful 10-39 in pure road games under McCall, including 8-28 in conference play. Whether it’s inexperience as a 40-year old Head Coach, or the type of roster/coaching staff he’s assembled, the results speak for themselves and is undoubtedly a huge concern for McCall’s hopes of staying in Amherst beyond this season.
|Against The Spread|
With zero incoming commitments from the class of 2022 currently, two things have become absolutely clear. First, McCall and his staff will be relying solely on the transfer portal to replenish the roster, again. This could mark the second straight off season without an incoming freshman out of high/prep school.
Maybe it’s the 18 or so transfers out of the program in 5 seasons under McCall that have him abandoning his patience to develop young talent, combined with immense pressure to win now in order to keep his job. Either way you slice it, long term sustainability with the roster as currently constructed seems highly improbable.
Eligibility Years Remaining:
- 3: G Garcia , G McCrory, G Weeks*, F Dominguez
- 2: G Fernandes, G CJ Kelly, F Santos, F Jones, G Mitchell
- 1: F Walker*
- 0: G Rich Kelly, F Buttrick, F Steadman
* Redshirt waiver pending
UMass (10-12, 3-7) takes on Saint Joseph’s (10-12, 4-7) Saturday afternoon at home. Minutemen legend Marcus Camby will be in attendance, and it couldn’t have come at a more important time. His presence should be a reminder to the fan base and administration that national levels of success is possible at this school. Everyone should hold this university to a higher standard and welcoming Camby can serve as a symbol of the best UMass can have to offer.
With 8 games remaining, UMass fans and stakeholders need to do a deep internal reflection of what they want this program to be, both on and off the court. Saturday should be a celebration of the past, and an important case study of how to build a successful program at the The University of Massachusetts Amherst.