First, the good.
UMass hockey bounced back nicely last night with a 4-1 win at Providence. They proved a few things in that game; first, they showed they can, in fact, beat good goaltending, as in one of Hockey East’s elite keepers in Alex Beaudry (who single-handedly stole a game from the Minutemen on Halloween). They also showed that they can, in fact, win with Dan Meyers in net; after a couple putrid performances in front of the backup goalie, the Minutemen won with him for the first time since the thriller at Yale. And, lastly, they showed that Providence College is an absolutely atrocious team this season, but we all knew that.
So, thanks to BC’s sleepwalk through the last month or so, UMass is still in position where 2nd place is within reach, especially with two key games against the Eagles coming up in February. This includes next Friday’s monster of a showdown, in front of the NESN cameras and what will almost surely be one of, if not the largest crowd in Mullins Center history. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go camp out in line for a week to get primo seating.
Oh, and ‘grats to Eddie-O for his first career goal. It was nice to see the box score and find names like Olcyzk, Carzo, and Mikey among the goal-scorers, proving that UMass can get scoring from guys other than Casey, Jimmy and Ortiz. (Still, it would be nice to see some more offense; after scoring 5 goals in 3 of their first 4 games, the Minutemen haven’t put up more than 4 since the Wellman hat trick game at Vermont before Thanksgiving!)
More about BC later this week. Now, let’s turn our attention to UMass’s other big sport on campus.
Ugh. Do we have to?
The Minutemen had their chance to turn around a fickle student population with a rare Saturday night home tilt, in front of a national TV audience on ESPNU, hosting Charlotte with the chance to avenge the Valentine’s Day Massacre….and they completely and utterly blew it. I overheard one of the students (yes, we had a legitimate student section, and it only took TV cameras and a big-screen TV giveaway to get them to come!) refer to this as the “make or break game” for UMass’s students. And, for brief flashes, they played like it, especially in a fantastically entertaining stretch to start the second half, where UMass closed a 10-point deficit to one off a couple nice plays by Ricky Harris.
That was the 16:10 remaining mark in the 2nd half. UMass went on to score five points in the next eleven minutes. Raise your hand if any part of that sentence surprises you. Okay, you with the hands up – I’m guessing you only saw the Memphis game? (Did that even happen, by the way? I’m getting less and less sure with each day that the Memphis game wasn’t a pizza-and-beer-induced dream sequence. I could have sworn I saw Hashim Bailey actually playing some semblance of defense…)
Matt and I are at rope’s end with this team. Yeah, it seems uncanny that everyone we play seems to have a guy (in this case, Derrio Green) who can hit contested three-pointers seemingly all day long. But instead of continuing to contest that guy, our defense just gives up (in this case, letting Green take those shots uncontested). Our offense seems content with letting non-shooters (Matt Hill?!) jack up threes, failing to generate anything resembling offensive penetration or ball movement, going on little spurts with runners, floaters, and right-place-at-the-right-time layups. In other words, even when things are going well, it’s still sloppy as hell, and you almost feel embarrassed to cheer. The defense is atrocious, nobody can hit free throws, the guys commit stupid fouls…it just goes on and on.
Yes, I know they’re mostly freshmen or transfers who took a year off (and the guys who we have back are either playing through pain a la Pretty Ricky, not that good to begin with a la Gary Correia, or the frustrating enigma that is David Gibbs). Yeah, Charlotte’s actually a pretty good team. But these guys are starting to make me wonder if they’ll even make the A-10’s this year. That’s setting the bar awfully low, I’m aware, but really – I had no idea that the Memphis game was going to be a turning point in the wrong direction for UMass. If this keeps up, the question for me is not going to be when these guys realize their enormous potential, but if that’ll even happen at all with these guys.
And after all that…I’m still probably going to be there Wednesday for the Xavier game, if I’ve got nothing better to do. Hey, it’s hard to turn down the chance at a free 42″ TV, what can I say? I want these guys to prove me wrong.