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UMass Minutemen basketball season recap: UMass took a step back in 2014-2015 after making the NCAA tourney a year ago

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The two resident Minutemen of Hustle Belt tried to make sense of what the heck happened to this year's squad in a Gmail chain.

UMass will need pick themselves back up after their 2014-2015 campaign
UMass will need pick themselves back up after their 2014-2015 campaign
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Note: Part of this Gmail chain was conducted before Derrick Gordon announced his transfer and to keep it one hundred 100 we decided not to edit it and leave as is. At the end when the news broke it is discussed.

Max Moore: Watching the NCAA tourney has given me the feels about this Massachusetts Minutemen season that wasn't. So what better time to reflect on this painful season then during the best time of the basketball year.

So this has to be one of the most disappointing seasons in recent memory right? After last year's NCAA tournament berth (even though UMass lost their last two games in subpar showings) there was a lot of expectations put on this year's squad and boy did they not live up to it. The non-conference schedule was pretty daunting but there will a lot of winnable games that the Minutemen gave away. I'm looking at you Harvard, BYU and even Notre Dame. However, those games were probably more of a positive than a negative. My bet is that UMass will scale back a bit on the scheduling moving forward.

Before we get to the negatives (there's a lot) I'm gonna go positive for a second. UMass is losing a lot of size up front but I really like the young guys like Donte Clark and C.J. Anderson. Clark showed he can carry an offense against La Salle in the A-10 and I'm excited to see what he does next year. He improved the most over the course of the season for me.

Do you have any positives on this season?

Jesse Allen: First positive: I can switch gears back to football, which has its first shot to make a bowl since coming to the FBS. Okay, that's just me being my usual Debbie Downer self. Some things to enjoy included Cady Lalanne almost averaged a double double, Donte Clark averaging almost double figures for points in his freshman year, and that 6 game win streak that included a win over tournament bound Dayton. On the non-basketball side of things, Derrick Gordon was welcome with open arms at every road game he played, which restores my faith in humanity (especially considering how dumb and vicious fandom can make people).

Its much more fun to talk about the negatives though. CJ Anderson failing to score a point in conference play until the next to last A-10 game. Trey Davis finishing the season on an 0-14 streak from downtown. Asking twice a game where did Cady Lalanne go?

What happened to this team. Its a team that came out swinging, going 5-1. Then a 5-8 swoon. Then the 6 game win streak to bring back hope. Finally the 1-6 finish. Why was this team so swingy and why can't Derek Kellogg win come February and March?

MM: Well basketball is a game of runs but really I think it is just how the schedule worked out. Other than Iona they didn't really have a good non-conference win. And in the A-10 the only two wins against good teams were Dayton and URI. The rest were against mediocre teams at best. So I think that the swings were more because of how the schedule was set up rather than how they played.

Ah, Derek Kellogg. You're right that he can't seem to win when it matters. I'm sure I could look up his all-time record and see the actual numbers but the constant disappointment around this time tells me that I don't need to. To me it comes down to his schemes. His up and down style of play doesn't work later in the season when teams tend to get tighter and lock in down. I also don't think he has the players he needs to run the systems he wants but that's a whole other article in itself. When UMass can't run a fast break they look more lost than a puppy. They just freeze up and pass the ball around the perimeter until someone takes a contested jumper that clangs off the rim. Or they turn it over. Did you know they had a 17.5% turnover per play. That is really bad apparently. I thought Chaz Williams was a bit of a ball stopper last year but now I think he was doing it because there was no other choice. If he didn't take over than it was just complete and utter ciaos.

With the old AD gone, is Kellogg on the hot seat? He has only been to one NCAA tourney in seven years and hasn't elevated UMass to that next level.

JA: I've never been a huge Kellogg supporter. If not for Chaz Williams I'd say he'd be gone already. His recruiting classes have never stood out in the A-10 (Full Disclosure: I'm still very very bitter that UMass did not land E.C. Matthews). His offense is 1) hope for fast break 2) If no fast break, ??? 3) profit. He runs the same offense regardless if he has the personnel to run it. He refuses to call time outs at the end of close games, which just lends to the aura that he doesn't know how to call plays.

I think that last point is what gets me most. I was watching the Big Ten Championship, and both Bo Ryan and Tom Izzo were using their time outs liberally at the end of a tight game, and the plays that were drawn up were *gasp* successful. Meanwhile we're stuck with a coach who thinks the best play is to let his players wing it. What does it say when your coach thinks that players winging it would be more successful than himself drawing up a play?

But, I don't think I answered your question there. Kellogg will be safe until his contract runs out in 2019 (can you double check this date?). He should send a muffin basket to Chaz Williams every month as a thank you.

MM: The only reason I can think of why he doesn't use his TOs at the end is that I think Calipari doesn't either and he's from that coaching tree.

Well let's talk people who are actually leaving. On paper Cady Lalanne had a fantastic season but like you said there were too many times this season where you forgot UMass' best player was on the floor. I don't understand why the offense didn't run through him on every possession. When he gets the ball on the block he's money. It's hard to have an issue with a guy who was a double double machine but I feel like he had the potential to be the A-10 player of the year.

Maxie Esho definitely had a more disappointing season. I've used that disappointing way to much already but what else sums up this season? Esho was a highlight reel but he seemed to really struggle in the starting spot and being relied on to contribute consistently night in and night out. That being said he was still super fun to watch and it'll be sad to see him go.

How is UMass going to replace these two. Or can they? There isn't a whole lotta big man depth on the team especially at center. Also, how will Lalanne and Esho be remembered?

Preseason rankings of the UMass Minutemen players

JA: Unfortunately for both players, my guess is gone and quickly forgotten, through no fault of their own. The 2014 tournament team will forever be Chaz Williams' team. Cady produced more during his tenure, but always seemed like a guy who never reached his full potential (and never learned to pass out of the post), and his name will pale in comparison Marcus Camby and Stephan Lasme. Maxie Esho had a better shot of being remembered if he hung up his sneakers after last year, if only as a what-if he got more minutes. Last year he was a human highlight real off the bench, this year, he constantly battled foul trouble and failed to make the next step. Despite this, losing both is an issue. You're looking to replace both 20 points per game and length. On the current roster, I expect Donte Clark and Jabarie Hinds to step up on production and be able to provide a boost to points. On the recruiting side, incoming freshman Luwane Pipkins was named 1st team all-state in Illinois, is a 4 star recruit per ESPN, and looks to contribute immediately. On people I'm not counting on, I'm low on Trey Davis being anything more than a streaky shooter at this point.

The length will be tougher to replace. Tyler Bergentino is nowhere close to making the jump to usefulness. Malik Hines has yet to play a minute of basketball for the Minutemen, but was a highly touted recruit, is 6'9", and athletic. Zach Coleman is still raw but has a lot of upside. Given the options here, would you be surprised to see 4 guards on the floor a lot for the Minutemen this season? How do you feel about the recruit? Do you expect to see anyone added?

MM: To be honest, I really don't keep tabs on the basketball recruiting trail very much but I expect Pipkins to be a factor next year. Being one of the best players in Illinois means you can ball. One guy that people may have forgotten about is Rashaan Armstead-Holloway. He was a three star center in last year's recruiting class but was ruled ineligible for this season. He's 6-10 and 280 lbs and very well could be starting at center next year. In terms of adding anyone else to the 2015 class I think that it is unlikely. Maybe a JUCO over the summer or a player who got overlooked but by now almost anyone with a shot at playing D1 has committed by now,

I do hope Kellogg shakes things up for next season lineup wise. I would bench Trey Davis and replace him with Jabarie Hinds. Hinds may make some careless mistakes but he can get to the basket, shoot the ball, and just make plays. These are all things that Davis really struggled to do last season. I would bring him off the bench in a role similar to what he did in 2014. I would also reduce Gordon's minutes slightly. Unless he learns to shoot he's just too much of an offensive liability out there. You just can't win if your 2 guard's shooting range in eight feet. He can get to the basket though but too many times he goes east and west (kind of like our running backs) and doesn't attack the basket. Hopefully he shoots 500 jumpers a day in the off-season.

Somethings will definitely need to be different after this season. Do you see any drastic changes for next year in either the lineup or Kellogg's style of play?

JA: After the season ended in anti-climatic fashion for the Minutemen, Kellogg said he'd need to sit down and re-evaluate everything about this team from top to bottom. Unfortunately, I feel we're going to find out that Kellogg is a one trick pony, and we'll be back to more ineffective presses and bland half-court sets. Kellogg is still relatively young in his head coach life, but he hasn't shown the ability to make adjustments when necessary.

Any final thoughts about the future? How about a prediction for our finish next season. I will 100% hold you to this prediction come next March.

JA: And this just in, Derrick Gordon is transferring...

MM: Wow just saw that. Just to throw my two cents in about that. I think this is probably good for UMass. Gordon was an offensive liability and his defense, while good, didn't justify his lack of shooting for me. I did love his hustle and that will be sorely missed on a UMass team that can seem lackadaisical at times but ultimately a move that was best for both sides. From what he said when he came out last year it didn't seem like he really fit in at UMass. He is eligible next season and I hope he finds the right situation for himself to be successful on and off the court.

With that bombshell I think UMass will surprise people next year. Hinds should be a starter now and combined with Clark, UMass will have scoring threat from the guard positions that they lacked this year. My heart is telling me that they will win over 20 games and make the NCAAs but my head is saying that 15 wins is more likely and another missed postseason. So I will split the difference and say 19 wins for UMass (12-6 in conference) and a 3 seed in the NIT.

JA: I personally will predict a tournament appearance. Mainly, the MGM Grand Main Event, right before Thanksgiving. Ba-zing. As always, its been a pleasure and onto football!