The UMass Minutemen have been making waves lately, thanks in large part to signature non-conference wins over Boston College and LSU. In fact, every win the Minutemen have gotten this year has been a good one, forcing experts to perk up and pay attention. Derek Kellogg's bunch has an opportunity to make another statement on Thursday afternoon when they get back on the court for a matchup with the Nebraska Cornhuskers at the 2013 Charleston Classic.
Defending, well, everyone
Nebraska has won each of its three games by at least 15 points this year and have five players averaging double-figure points. Ray Gallegos and Deverell Biggs have only played one game, but scored 18 and 17 points in said game. Shavon Shields leads the every-game players with 17 per game while Terran Petteway and Tai Webster have averaged 11.3 and 10.0, respectively. That type of scoring balance is tough to defend, but the Minutemen will have to find a way keep those five players below their scoring averages.
Shields poses the biggest problem because his 6-foot-7 frame doesn't lend itself to being guarded by Derrick Gordon, leaving the responsibility to Raphiael Putney or Sampson Carter. Both players are extremely important to what UMass does so if they end up defending Shields they will need to take extreme care to stay out of foul trouble.
The experts who have been yammering away about the Minutemen this week pointed to Kellogg's short bench as a point of concern. Besides the five starters, Trey Davis and Maxie Esho have been the only players to get consistent sub minutes. This isn't a terrible thing, but it would be nice if there were some more reliable substitutes to pick from if someone ends up in foul trouble. Tyler Bergantino has been a solid post rotation player, but with Putney's versatility Bergantino hasn't really been able to crack that three-man post rotation.
Demetrius Dyson is the most obvious candidate to step into the rotation, but has only logged 12 minutes this season. While that is more than double what fellow freshmen Clyde Santee and Seth Berger have logged, the Tennessee native has still played seven less minutes than Bergantino and 37 less minutes than Davis.
Ok, I know I said we wouldn't talk about Chaz, but come on. He might be the hottest player in the country right now (besides Frank Kaminski, good lord) and has brought more eyes to the UMass program than it has seen in years. He is fresh off the Atlantic 10 Player of the Week award and could vault himself into another level of mid-major stardom with a solid weekend in Charleston. Will he get 20 points and seven assists in every game all season? Probably not. But he will at least be really fun to watch.