Seton Hall and UMass will square off in the second round of the NIT, I assure you, at some point. It's been 24 hours since the Pirates defeated Stony Brook by a bucket and we still don't know when the Pirates second round of action will take place. While we wait it out, we'll catch you up with all things UMass basketball. I recently sat down with Joe of Sons Of Old Massachusetts to ask him a few questions about his Minutemen, likewise, my answers will be going up on their blog at some point tomorrow. Without further ado, let's get to know the next opponent.
Q) What's the word on your end about the secret closed door scrimmage held at Walsh in November? Obviously, we're in for a different outcome this time around, but do you believe UMass will benefit from having seen Seton Hall earlier this year?
SOM: I've probably heard the same things that you've heard - that SHU put a drubbing on the Minutemen. I don't put a lot of stake in those scrimmages though because you have no idea what was going on in the gym. It probably helps both teams in that they have at least some level of recognition of what the other team looks like so you won't be surprised by the length of Raphiael Putney or the Chaz Williams' speed. It doesn't hurt either team to have spent some time together earlier in the season but I'm sure SHU is different today then they were in November, and UMass is a much different team at this point in the year.
Hit the jump as Joe discusses meeting expectations, former Seton Hall signee Jesse Morgan, traveling with the team, last night's double-OT thriller and more!
Q) Ignoring the drubbing at Dayton, the Minutemen played some good ball to end the year, would you say they've met their expectations set for the season?
SOM: I'd have to say the team exceeded expectations this year. Derek Kellogg and the Minutemen went 12 wins, 12 wins, 15 wins, and then 23 wins (counting Mississippi State). In the pre-season UMass was picked to finish 12th of 14 teams in the A-10. Of course nobody could have predicted the emergence of some of the young nucleus and how hard these guys played throughout the season. After the non-conference schedule I figured they'd go 9-7 or 10-6 in the A-10 and they went 9-7 so the readjusted expectations for this team were met. I think most people if they were being honest would have told you that 18 wins would be a successful year for this team, so yeah I'd say they exceeded expectations.
Q) Help us get familiar with UMass, who is your team's best scorer, rebounder and team leader?
Without a doubt the team leader and player to watch is Chaz Williams, the Hofstra transfer, Brooklyn native sophmore point guard has transformed this team and allows Derek Kellogg to run the fast-break, uptempo offense that he wants to run. Chaz is coming off a game where he scored 28 points, 6 assists and 8 rebounds and this wasn't a one time thing. Against Xavier, Chaz put up 29 points with 9 assists and 5 rebounds. Needless to say Chaz is the engine that drives the Minutemen offense. The other guys you need to watch out for on offense are Jesse Morgan (Editor's Note: You should remember the name, from this), who is probably the best pure shooter on the team (thought he was cold against MSU), and Raphiael Putney who is a freakishly long and rail thin wing player who drives to the hoop with power and can shoot an arcing three like you've never seen before.
As for rebounding - UMass is statistically one of the best rebounding teams in the NCAA and against Mississsippi State they pulled down 51 boards, but I've watched every game this season and I have no idea how they get so many boards. Sean Carter is statistically the best rebounder on the team, but I'd say Raphiael Putney is the guy most likely to pull down boards with his long arms. It's a team-effort type of rebounding team, and frankly with their offense, which is essentially hoist shots quick in the shot clock, there are going to be opportunities to get boards.
Q) How well do the UMass faithful travel? We hate Red in NJ (Rutgers), should we expect some to fill up Walsh when we square off?
I'd love to tell you that there will be a sea of maroon in Walsh for the game but frankly the team just doesn't travel that well. This is the first season under Derek Kellogg that the team has shown some promise and it has taken awhile to get people back to a place where they're even going to the Mullins Center for home games in large numbers. I do think that there will be a contingent of UMass fans in the crowd, but I wouldn't expect the gym to be overrun my UMass fans.
Q) How were the Minutemen able to overcome MissIssippi State's Moultrie and Bost's combined FIFTY FOUR points to pull off the first round W?
Honestly they kinda waited them out. UMass played a high tempo type of game, full court press essentially from the opening tip and by the end of the game Bost and Moultrie were exhausted. Essentially UMass just figured that their team could outscore two players, and they were right. UMass got 48 out of Chaz Williams and Sean Carter and that was essentially enough to neutralize Moultrie and Bost, and the rest of the UMass team was able to outscore the rest of the Mississippi State team.
It was definitely a great win for the program, and really from the opening tip it was obvious that UMass just wanted it more, but because of how well Moultrie and Bost played on offense the Minutemen were never able to pull away enough to feel comfortable. Jalen Steele at the end almost turned a great win into heartache for the Minutemen, but like they've done all year they just kept fighting (except that Dayton game) and when push came to shove, 50 minutes of pressure was too much for the Bulldogs.
Big thanks to Joe and best of luck whenever this game gets played!
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