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Counting Down the Most Important UMass Minuteman: Part One

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UMass basketball is almost back baby! As the season opener draws near we will look at the most important players for the Minutemen squad this year.

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Coming off of an impressive 24-9 (10-6) season and finally making it back to  the NCAA tournament, last year was the best season in a long time for the Massachusetts Minutemen. Gone are beloved seniors Raphiael Putney, Sampson Carter, and most notably Chaz Williams all of whom were key to that run to the big dance. This means there are many players who will need to step up and take on bigger roles. We will miss you Chaz.

Note: This is not a straight ranking of the best players on the team. This is ranking includes three pieces of criteria: impact a player will have on the team, how important it is for the player to play at a high level, and finally how important it is that the player improves his game from last year.

The Ineligibles

13. Rashaan Holloway: C. 6-10, 280 lb. Freshman

12. Malik Hines: SF. 6-7 Freshman

Both of these players are part of the 2014 recruiting class. Holloway is a 6-10, 280 lb. center out of New Jersey. Holloway was the highest rated player in the class, listed as a 3 star and the number 38 center in the country. He won't be eligible this year due to academics. Hines is a 6-7 winger out of Jackson Missouri. He is still waiting to hear whether he will be eligible this season but I'm sticking him here for now. Both of these players will be important as soon as next season, Holloway especially, but for now they are irrelevant.

First Two Freshman Off the Bench

11. C.J. Anderson: G. 6-5, 175 lb. Freshman #23

Anderson is a freshman from the class of 2014 from Memphis Tennessee who chose to come to Amherst over the Auburn Tigers. He has preformed well during preseason practice but Kellogg has a reluctance to use true freshman so he may be taking notes from Trey Davis this season.

10. Zach Coleman: F. 6-7, 200 lb. Freshman (RS) #13

Coleman is a redshirt freshman who had previously committed to Missouri before changing his mind to UMass. He's a 6-7 forward and could see a small role in the rotation, especially early in the season, as Kellogg works to fight his A-10 conference lineups.

The Wild Cards

9. Donte Clark: G. 6-4, 180 lb. Freshman #0

Both Clark and Berger are vying for that fifth starting spot in the rotation and both guys are relatively unknown quantities. Clark finally becoming eligible after not being accepted to Virginia Tech and having to sit out all of last year due to NCAA transfer rules. He has the prestige and promise of coming from a big time conference but he is not a very good defender which could hurt his chances for playing time. He is an explosive scorer and could see minutes as a heat check guy.

8. Seth Berger: F. 6-7, 210 lb. Sophomore #24

Berger rode the bench last season, only appeared in 18 games last year and out up an impressive 14 trillion (that is a term for a game where the only stat you accumulate is minutes played, meaning that if you weren't on the court the game would not have been effected) and had a high of six minutes played. However he is a decent defender and at 6-7 he provides some length on the perimeter which is always important for mid-majors. Berger will start the scrimmage against AIC and possibly the season opener so he may end up being the surprise player of the year but I'm still skeptical.

The Sniper

7. Demetrius Dyson: G. 6-5, 200 lb. Sophomore #22

Dyson is UMass' best spot up three point shooter and that is a very good skill to have as perimeter shooting was streaky last year. While he didn't many significant minutes last year he should be able to spread the floor with his range and knock down a couple threes a game. At 6-5 he helps to add length to the guard spots which is a problem for UMass with starters Gordon and Davis both being under 6-3. If he can play passable defense and shoot 40% from behind the arc he could see real minutes for UMass.

Putting the Hustle in Hustle Belt

6. Derrick Gordon: G. 6-3, 205 lb. Junior (RS) #2

Huh? Why is a sure starter and the most well-known player only at six? Well simply put, we know what Gordon can do and UMass doesn't need him to anymore than that. He's  the best perimeter defender and is tenacious on both sides of the ball. Talent wise he probably ranks in the top three on the team. No one in the country hustles and plays with all of his heart more than Gordon and he is my favorite player to watch on this squad by far. Exhibit A:

However he is a nightmare shooter outside of the paint with 53% from the FT line and missing all four of the three pointers he took. Yes he did shoot 48% from the floor overall, but that is because he gets to the rack at will and is a very good finisher. Gordon can play out of control at times with 1.7 turnovers and his free throw shooting makes him a tremendous liability being on the floor during crunch time.

Gordon will be one of the more visible players on the team being the first openly gay active college basketball player. Fellow SB Nation blog Outsports has covered the story very well. This will thrust him into the spotlight and he seems to be a player where that won't faze him. While Gordon could be much improved from last year, UMass will be fine if he puts up the same line of 9.4 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2 assists and 1.5 steals.

Stay tuned for part 2 where we will unveil the top 5 players.