Folks, in my four years at the University of Massachusetts, I’ve seen some crazy finishes. I’ve seen the highs: Chris Lowe driving coast-to-coast to completely ruin Rhody’s season, the David Boehm OT game-winner, the Alabama NIT game, beating Kansas on the road, erasing a massive deficit right in the face of thousands of orange-clad douchebags. But this has to be up there at the top of the list, especially since I got to be there in person. Just an all-around fantastic win for Derek Kellogg and his program. When we were within 1 at halftime, I said I was proud of the way the team played. When we built the 7-point lead in the second half, I said “even if we blow this, I’m proud of these guys.” And I would’ve been proud even if Memphis had managed to corral that ball in the final seconds before it miraculously snuck through to Ricky and then to a wide-open Vinson in the lane. The atmosphere at the Garden was unreal, like MSG for the NIT but with (obviously) a far greater percentage of UMass fans. Special props to the bartender upstairs at the Fours before the game; she put on quite the show dealing with the mob of maroon-wearers.
negativity alert, It sucked that a few loose cannons almost ruined the ending; these dumbass freshmen were so intent on storming the court that they felt obliged to fight against TD Garden security. It’s those one or two clowns that are way more visible than the 99.99% of us UMass kids who can control ourselves, and that’s where the misguided reputation comes from. We’re not storming the court (in an arena that isn’t even ours) over a win over the #26 team in the country.
resume positivity That said, I finally saw a team on the floor that I’m pretty confident will be competing with the best in the country in the next year or two (and when we beat a ranked team at the Mullins Center, then we’ll storm the court – hell, I certainly would). And, dare I say (excess optimism alert) one that might just have enough sheer talent to make a surprise run in conference play. No, I don’t think they’re quite ready to compete on a national level – not just yet. However, I’m blinded by sleep deprivation, a busy day of moving out of the dorm for break, and travel to and from Boston for a wire-to-wire thriller of a basketball game. And as such, I will go ahead and say these guys might be closer than we thought.
(Meanwhile, I have a bone to pick with ESPN. Great that they covered the game, but I can’t believe an upset like this doesn’t even manage to make the front page of the basketball section, let alone the front page. If Vinson’s not a SportsCenter Top Play, heads will roll.)
EDIT: #1 play on Top Plays. Alright, SportsCenter, I owe you an apology, you guys are on the ball.
All-in-all, an amazing day for the program. Let’s see if they go on a roll now. Who knows, maybe we’ll actually have a student section next game!