The Massachusetts Minutemen kick off their three game home stand with a tilt against the Saint Josephs Hawks on Wednesday. UMass is desperate for a win but will they fall victim to the Hawks for a second time this season?
Records and Rankings:
Saint Joe's: 11-15 (5-9)
RPI: 188 BPI: 167
Saint Joes has fallen on hard times after their January 21 upset of the Minutemen. They are just 3-6 since that win but do boast impressive wins over Davidson and Rhode Island (two teams that have frustrated the Minutemen). More recently they have suffered a three game losing streak, falling to Fordham, Dayton and St. Bonaventure.
UMass 16-11 (9-5)
RPI: 39 BPI: 95
What's at stake:
For UMass this game could officially bump UMass off the NCAA tournament bubble. A loss against a team with a 188 RPI at home would probably be the final nail in the coffin. In terms of the A-10 tournament, UMass sits in the fifth seed which gives them a first round bye. They are just one game back from the 3/4 seed which would grant them a two round bye.
Saint Joes sits in the 10th spot which would pit them against George Washington. Being two games back of the ninth seed makes moving up very tough so this looks to be their ceiling.
Players to watch:
DeAndre Bembry: Bembry is widely considered one of the best players in the A-10 and shows it with his conference leading 17.8 PPG. The 6-6 forward plays virtually every minute as he gets about 1.4 minutes of rest per game. Not only is he the Hawks' leading scorer but also is the leading rebounder and leading steals man. He gashed UMass last time for 25 points, eight boards, seven assists, five steals and three blocks. Needless to say, if Bembry puts up those numbers again it will be over fast.
Chris Wilson: The 6-3 floor operator is second on the team in assists (behind Bembry) with 2.8 and is on the court for almost the entirety of the game. For the season he is just a 27.8 percent three point shooter but over the last five games he is hitting at a 36 percent rate and has a three in each of the games. He's coming off an impressive 20 point outing against the Bonnies.
Cady Lalanne: It's been a few games since any Minutemen fan has had a reason to chant "who's your Cady" and UMass needs that to change. Lalanne is such a big part of the Minutemen on both sides of the court and in that loss to VCU he looked lost on both ends. Saint Joes doesn't have an imposing big man so he should get back to form.
Jabarie Hinds: UMass as a team might have gone cold but Hinds didn't get that message. He has scored in double figures in his last three games and really has his pull-up jumper firing on all cylinders. He's been invaluable off the bench and seems to have finally found his grove.
There is little doubt that UMass is the better team, albeit Saint Joseph's has the better player. It would be very surprising if the Hawks are able to upset UMass twice, especially with the urgency that the Minutemen now have. While UMass has no real defense option to stop Bembry short of triple teaming him, if Bembry is allowed to get his and UMass focuses on shutting down the other four players on the floor then they should be fine. Prediction: UMass wins 74-62 over the Hawks.