The TD Garden has been kind to the UMass Minutemen throughout its history, even dating back to its days as the Boston Garden. Of all the venues in which the Minutemen and Boston College have met in their 45-game history, the Gardens are the only ones where UMass has an advantage. That record will be tested Sunday when the two teams face off in the Coaches vs. Cancer Tip Off Classic.
UMass holds a slight 6-4 advantage over the Eagles when playing in the Commonwealth's capital, but trail the overall series 26-19. The last time these two teams met was in 2011 and the Minutemen won in blowout fashion, 82-46, as BC began its road back to respectability in the second year of the post-Al Skinner era.
This is not that BC team. Instead, this is a team with NCAA Tournament aspirations with a pair of legitimate All-ACC caliber players in Olivier Hanlan and Ryan Anderson. This is also a team already in a desperate situation after falling in its season opener to Providence on Friday night. The Eagles need this game, and I expect them to come out looking like it.
For UMass, this game represents an opportunity to make a statement about its NCAA Tournament viability in the first game of the season. Mixed results in a scrimmage against AIC last week showed how good this team can be, while also showcasing ways they could come up short. Derrick Gordon is a stud, and I'm pretty sure Raphiael Putney is still in foul trouble.
Season opener's don't get much more important, in terms of resume and team morale, than this game. The winner gets a quality win, while the loser will be left wondering how this loss will feel come March.
This one is really close to call, but if I have to call it I'm giving it to the Minutemen. Anderson and Hanlan will be a handful, but I think Derek Kellogg will have the right guys handling them.
UMass wins, 75-68.
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