Jesse Allen: We are on the cusp of A-10 play, so I guess we should get to it. I'm finding this season hard to watch so far. Yes, our schedule was brutal, but our play has been so inconsistent. I guess I was kind of annoyed at the team from the start of the season when they questioned (and subsequently backtracked) Chaz Williams leadership. I've soured on Cady Lalanne despite him averaging nearly a double double because he disappears for at least 10 minutes if not more every game. I've read about Trey Davis having his breakout game three times now only for him to follow it up with a dud. We have at least four players getting significant minutes that don't seem to be able to contribute offensively at all. Maybe its because I'm always very negative about UMass basketball, but I have a bad feeling about A-10 play coming up. Fun Fact: We're 15-14 since January 22nd of last year, and during that time we lost our best player.
Max Moore: There's no question the Massachusetts Minutemen could use some Chaz Williams energy and leadership right about now. A lot of people (me included) thought that he was kind of a ball stopper which isn't exactly what you're looking for at point. But now I think that he had to have the ball so much because the guys around him couldn't score consistently themselves. Trey Davis has to be the disappointment of the year so far. Preseason I touted him UMass' most important player and I totally stand by that. When Davis is good the Minutemen can roll over most teams (see Iona). The problem is that Davis has shot the ball from outside about as well as the football team kicks field goals. I'm scared for A-10 play because there doesn't really seem to be a real on the court leader. Cady Lalanne in the preseason said he was going to fulfill that role but like you mentioned the guy disappears for half the game. What do you think UMass needs to do, if anything, to start playing at the high level that was expected preseason?
JA: They need to find some consistency and find someone who can take over games, when necessary. The team relied on Chaz to turn the tide when things were getting out of hand. Now we don't have that player. As much as Cady talks about stepping up and being the leader, he's the exact same player as last year, and not in a good way. When he gets the ball on offense, the defense has seen enough tape to know they can collapse without fear. Cady never learned to pass out of the post, and as a result the ball stops when it gets to him. When Trey Davis is hot he can help the team rally, but those moments are few and far between, and in those in-between moments the team is 311th in the nation in 3 point shooting. There's just so much this team does badly that you wonder how they got to seven wins. Give me something to look forward to come A-10 play.
MM: Well there's Derek Kellogg bobble head night on Saturday to mark the beginning of A-10 play. I think once conference play picks up Lalanne and Esho should have an easier time on both sides of the court since the size of the opponents should match more evenly. Thank god we won't have to face Providence again and the skyscrapers they had in the front court. Other than that I really don't know what there is to be excited about. Other than hoping the A-10 competition is much easier than the non-conference I'm not sure what else UMass fans have to hope for. Teams have shredded our press for the most part and we give up way too many easy baskets. The good news is the A-10 may be down from last year, although with all the upsets happening in every conference who knows.
Preseason UMass was picked by most to make it back into the NCAAs. Now they don't even make it on the next four out. Is there any chance of the Minutemen making it the Tournament without winning the A-10's automatic bid?
JA: Unless Derek Kellogg finds a bottle of Michael's Special Stuff, I can't see UMass doing anything to turn around their season into an NCAA bid right now. We're looking, at best, a NIT bid. Worst is a CBI or missing completely (which I value equally). There's a lot of talk about the A-10 having a down year, and while that may help us win a few more games, that perception will kill any hopes of an at large bid for the Minutemen. What's your hope for the rest of the season?
MM: My irrational fan hope is that we win the A-10 tournament and crush Harvard in the first round of the NCAAs. My realistic hopes? I still think we have the talent to finish in the top five of the conference. The only problem is there is no way the A-10 receives more than 3 bids (Joe Lunardi's latest seedlings) and I'm not sure UMass will have the third best resume in the conference. It really wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to be a top seed in the NIT. At least the fans would get a few more home games and we wouldn't get embarrassed on national TV again like last year with Tennessee. I really want to see Cady get his game together and become the dominant player he flirts with being. He has the talent to be first team A-10 and I would love to see him do it.
JA: I'll keep my fingers and toes crossed, but I'm not holding my breath. Go UMass. Sigh.
UMass plays the St. Bonaventure Bonnies on Saturday and tip-off is at 4. Here's a quick rundown of the Bonnies.
St. Bonaventure comes into the game touting a 7-4 record. They currently are on a two game losing streak after close losses to the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks and the Delaware Blue Hens. The Bonnies have two wins over the MAC as Ohio and Buffalo fell victim. Both teams share two common oppenants with Sienna and Canisius. Both teams beat Canisius but the Bonnies lost by three to Sienna while UMass won by eight.
Five players average in double figures in scoring for St. Bonaventure. Two players to keep your eye on are Marcus Posley and Youssou Ndoye. Posley is the leading scorer with 17.7 points per game and shoots 37 percent from deep. Ndoye averages a double-double with 10.6 points and 11.4 rebounds per game. He's a 7 foot senior who dominates the paint and shows that with his 3 blocks per game.