The UMass Minutemen rose to prominence in the early 1990s thanks in large part to the once-in-a-generation talent of Marcus Camby. That Final Four has been vacated and John Calipari has managed to reclaim his reputation, but UMass hasn't had quite the same inside punch since Camby left campus for the NBA.
Derek Kellogg has assembled a very good team for the 2013-14 season and much of that can be attributed to Chaz Williams. But lost in all the talk of Williams and stud transfer Derrick Gordon is just how big of an impact the post players will have on this season's edition of the Minutemen. With Williams operating at his best in pick-and-roll scenarios, he needs someone to set the picks, right?
Cady Lalanne, Forward/Center
At 6-foor-10 and 250 lbs., Lalanne is a physical specimen. He has the size and raw athleticism to contribute at a high level but all of the pieces haven't totally fit yet, leaving many to hope that this year will be the season he puts it all together.
The light came on during Atlantic 10 play last season after he took over the starting job, and his numbers fleshed that out, rising to 10.9 points and 8.8 rebounds in 16 league contests (8.4/7.4 for the season), but the consistency wasn't there every game. For every game he would play 28 minutes, score six points and grab seven rebounds; there would be a game where he would be hampered by foul trouble, play 15 minutes, and see his absence have a bigger effect than his presence.
And all of that on a team where the Minutemen could deal with it because of the ultra-flexible Terrell Vinson. Now with Vinson gone, any foul trouble will see a burden thrown on the shoulders of sophomore Tyler Bergantino which is a less-than desirable situation for Kellogg's team.
The difference between UMass snapping their NCAA Tournament drought and returning to the NIT could be as small as the difference between Lalanne's fourth and fifth foul.
2012-13 Stats: 22.1 minutes, 8.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 55.4 percent FG, 71.9 percent FT
Sampson Carter, Forward/Center
If Lalanne is a picture of inconsistency, Carter is a painting of an old ship that made every single voyage before eventually being retired to a cove where tourists could walk around and think "hey, I could still sail this thing." His season-by-season averages have had such little variance, you almost wonder if does anything over the summer besides wait for the next season to start.
- Freshman: 4.3 points, 3.4 rebounds
- Sophomore: 7.0 points, 4.3 rebounds
- Junior (pre-redshirt): 8.6 points, 3.9 rebounds
- Redshirt junior: 6.4 points, 4.3 rebounds.
Kellogg will need the same type of performance, especially on the defensive end, in 13-14 alongside Lalanne and Raphiael Putney in the front court. Carter stays out of foul trouble, only fouling out of two games last season, which will be a big help with many teams likely to try to exploit the lack of depth in the post by getting Carter and Lalanne in foul trouble.
Carter will see most of his minutes at power forward with his 6-foot-8 frame coming in just behind Bergantino and Lalanne for third largest on the team. Likely paired with one of them, the larger option will draw the opposing team's center and the responsibilities of the position.
Chaz Williams will still be the team's best player and the spark behind all the good things the Minutemen do this year. But they will need every bit of muscle Lalanne and Carter can provide to power their way into the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998.
2012-13 Stats: 22.7 minutes, 6.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, 43.3 percent FG