Coach Derek Kellogg guided this highly skilled Massachusetts Minutemen squad to an impressive 24-9 overall record in 2013-2014, while going 10-6 in the A-10; good for 6th place. The Minutemen also earned a NCAA tournament berth, getting a 6 seed from the selection committee.
It will be hard not to make this section 5,000 words as there were so many good things about this season for UMass. First and foremost was Chaz Williams' point guard play, and his leadership this season. As a first-team all-conference player he was the heart and soul of this UMass team. Whether it was him doing circles around opposing defenses, or taking the rock coast-to-coast, he always energized this team and kept them playing at high levels.
Even though Williams was a transfer into this program, he played a significant role in bringing UMass back into the conversation of being a Northeast basketball school to be reckoned with. It was only fitting that in his last year in Amherst, that he brought this team to an NCAA tournament berth, which was the goal at the beginning of the season. Now that we're done with the Williams' love fest, let's look at the other high points.
The regular season as a whole was impressive, with out of conference wins over big time schools such as Clemson, BYU, Boston College, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Providence. Not only did the Minutemen beat big time programs but they also spent some time in the Top-25 this year, getting as high as No. 13.
Along with their success was the overall style of play that was so much fun to watch. UMass played fast and loose that lead to many high scoring affairs. The' biggest game of the season though may have been the win over VCU on February 21st that was televised on ESPN2. The Mullins Center was rocking as loud as it had been since the Calipari days, and put it on display to a national audience. And obviously making the NCAA tournament was a high point in the season as well.
Postseason play was definitely a disappointment for the Minutemen. The A-10 tournament didn't go as planned. After UMass won its first game against Rhode Island, it fell to George Washington by eight in a game that was never really close. Even though UMass did make the NCAA tournament, its stay was short lived. The Tennessee Volunteers sent UMass packing in the "second round" after a 86-67 thrashing that was painful to watch.
Cady Lalanne's play down the stretch of the season declined significantly. Over most of the regular season he was a double-double machine. After about mid-February though he stopped putting up his dominating numbers and saw his playing time decrease in some games in favor for Maxie Esho. Hopefully Lalanne will forget his late season slump and return to his dominating self for his senior season.
UMass is only losing three players, but they are three starters. Seniors Chaz Williams, Sampson Carter, and Raphiael Putney are graduating, which will leave a significant void in the starting lineup. We've already talked about Williams, so let's look at his classmates.
Putney was a long and lanky forward who was a pretty decent rebounder ,who could also hit the occasional three. Carter finished his senior year averaging 10.4 points per game and was very good from behind the arc. This senior class will always be remembered for leading UMass back to the NCAA tournament, which is a pretty good legacy.
UMass brings back a lot of people, but many of those players didn't see much floor time. Derrick Gordon and Trey Davis will most likely start in the backcourt, as they both had pretty good seasons. Maxie Esho will finally see himself in a starring role alongside Lalanne. Those two should be a force to handle inside for opposing teams.
Tyler Bergantino saw limited action, but will likely see his playing time increased dramatically as he will be the first big man off the bench. Sharp-shooter Demetrius Dyson could sneak into the fifth starting spot as he can stroke the ball from anywhere on the court and has good size for a soon to be sophomore at 6-5, 200, and will only continue to mature physically with another summer to grow. Three star recruit Rashaan Armstead-Holloway could be a factor next season as well. At 6-10, 280 he can really clog the lane defensively and has very soft hands and can score inside.
Considering UMass went to the tournament for the first time in sixteen years this grade may seem a tad low. While it is true UMass met their preseason expectations, and maybe even exceeded them, when they reached 13th in the AP Top 25, they were blown out in a pair of postseason games against Tennessee and GW. This was probably Kellogg's best chance at making a deep run into the NCAA tournament, so a first-round knockout was disappointing. Overall though, it was a great season filled with exciting play. As a UMass fan you really can't ask much more than that.