Football season is over for the UMass Minutemen, but the basketball season has only just begun. After winning just one MAC game on the gridiron, the eastern-most MAC affiliate will have a chance to equal that on the hardwood as they take on the eastern-most MAC team from Michigan on the hardwood on Tuesday night. It is the first of four basketball games UMass will play against MAC competition as part of its affiliate agreement with the conference.
UMass avoided a matchup with the Eastern Michigan Eagles this fall -- which is really too bad because both teams were pretty awful -- and in doing so avoided having each of its basketball games mean something to the athletic department as a whole. The rest of the MAC slate for UMass includes Miami, Northern Illinois and Ohio with each carrying some football memories.
Perhaps it is best that this is where UMass and EMU get to tangle, however. Both teams have gotten off to great starts this winter thanks to impact transfers (Derrick Gordon for UMass, Karrington Ward for EMU), senior leadership (Chaz Williams, Glenn Bryant), and impact big men (Cady Lalanne, Da'Shonte Riley). The levels of competition have been quite different, but both teams have proven that they can win games and will push each other for 40 minutes at the Convocation Center.
The rest of UMass' MAC slate will likely bring sweet, sweet revenge for the Minutemen as Miami and NIU have stumbled out of the gate and while Ohio is one of the better teams in the MAC, UMass is one of the better teams in the country. A 4-0 run through MAC basketball teams would feel very nice after limping through a 1-7 football season.
No MAC teams are prepared to let that happen though. Nobody wants to lose to their obnoxious cousin from New England, even if they are a top-25 team. There will be MAC-family support for each team as they battle the Minutemen over the next few weeks and with the "prove 'em wrong" mentality UMass has adopted this season, I'm sure they will welcome the hate.
So get your Charley Molnar big-head signs ready and prepare for some "Let's Play Football" chants -- UMass is ready for some #MACsketball.
UMass MAC Redemption Tour Stops
- Dec. 3 at Eastern Michigan, 7:00 p.m.
- Dev. 14 vs. Northern Illinois, 3:00 p.m.
- Dec. 18 at Ohio, 7:00 p.m.
- Jan. 4 vs. Miami, 7:00 p.m.