Hey, let’s start with the good news! Lacrosse downed Providence 17-3. Now for something a little darker…
Dick Baker reports (it’s too depressing of a story, so I won’t even worry you with a link) that Jimmy’s going pro, too, although where has yet to be determined.
You heard that right: he gone. (Or as good as gone. But you know how agent-speak works, since I presume you are a Red Sox fan. By the way, you should be a Red Sox fan if you’re a UMass fan. I make no exceptions to that rule unless your weird cross-dressing uncle happens to be A-Rod.)
I’ll get this all out of the way now: James Marcou is the best hockey player I’ve had the privilege of watching (aside from the two Bruins games I’ve attended). His creativity, passing skills, and heart have been unmatched, and he’s been a joy to watch since my second-favorite player, Quick, left early after my freshman year at UMass.
So where do we go from here? Well, I hate to say it, and I will have a lot more to say in the near future, but the words “rebuilding year” keep popping into my head right now. It’s one thing to lose a pure scorer like Wellman, but he was the beneficiary of so, so many of the brilliant setups of Jimmy’s. That is a hell of a lot harder to replace.
From the “glass-half-full-but-still-sort-of-empty” department: where, exactly, did James Marcou get the team? In Jon Quick’s triumphant year (sans-Marcou/Wellman), UMass went to the Elite Eight. In Jimmy’s three years? Three straight second-half collapses, three straight first-round exits in the HEA tournament.
Simply put, the offense last year was far too reliant on Jimmy and Casey, to the extent that, at one point, someone (Lecomte I believe) said in the Collegian that they were just waiting for the top line to get it going. Did anyone else notice a recurring theme for the teams that are playing at the Garden right now? They don’t rely on one line for all their offense. Even with two of NCAA’s leading scorers, the Minutemen were 8th in Hockey East in goals scored. That’s not getting it done. (Don’t even get me started on the defense, because damnit, I’m tryin’ to be optimistic here!)
Now, in no way am I saying I expect the Minutemen to be better at the start of next season. They just lost their top 5 scorers…duh. But I could see a team with a lot of young talent and some promising freshmen that will improve as the year goes on, and maybe surprise people in the Hockey East Tournament while setting up for a run the following year. And yes, it has been extraordinarily painful to write that last sentence, especially considering that it reminds me of the basketball situation. (So, basically,
I don’t mean to cut-and-run, but I’m not exactly devastated that this is all happening after my final season as a UMass student. Rebuilding sucks, especially if your head coach isn’t named Jack Parker, Jerry York or Dick Umile. Just remember, when Marcou and Wellman came in, like any touted recruits, nobody knew they’d immediately become contributors. Now it’s up to this year’s freshman class to step up and fill the void. Could it get ugly? That’s always a possibility, especially if the injury bug bites what’s left of the team, or a good number of the prospects don’t pan out. But this team’s still got plenty of unsung talent and guys who underperformed or battled injuries last year.
It might not be immediate, but life moves on without #7 and #19. We could wallow in self-pity…but optimism’s a lot more fun. Now I don’t know about you, but I intend to get out there today and let Guinness and Irish car bombs wash away the sting.
Oh, and godspeed, Mr. Marcou. As with Wellman, we will support you wherever you go. (Hopefully, if you DO make it in the NHL, you and Casey will end up with Boston somewhere down the line. …Please?)
Yes, Virginia, the UMass Minutemen basketball team just won a game in the Atlantic 10 tournament. I’m going to repeat that: the Minutemen won an A-10 tourney game. In what top scientists are describing as “by a wide margin the least likely thing that has ever happened,” UMass, which managed in consecutive years to suffer a shocking upset in the first round of said tournament that ultimate cost Travi$ Fraud’s teams a pair of NCAA Tournament bids, second-year (and, for some reason, already-embattled) head coach Derek Kellogg took a 10-19 team that very nearly 0-3 against the Atlantic 10’s two worst teams, snuck into the conference tournament on a last-day victory, and proceeded to do what Ford’s teams, featuring the likes of Forbes, Harris, Brower, Milligan, Lasme, and Freeman never did. The Derek Kellogg statue is to be placed in between the Mullins and the practice arena, and will feature lifelike hair to be re-jelled on a daily basis. Oh, and let’s name the Champions Center after him too.
Okay, so dramatic hyperbole aside, the Minutemen were playing a Charlotte team tail-diving in a way that makes the Cahoon Swoon look tame by comparison. They also didn’t have to play in UMass’s personal house of horrors, Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. (No, really, I was so excited when I realized this game would be on Charlotte’s home court. I hate Boardwalk Hall; it’s right there with Safeco Field and Lawler Arena in the “places my favorite team should win but never seems to” pantheon, and it’s not even anyone’s home arena.)
Did UMass deserve to win this game? The defense in the first half and down the stretch was fantastic, though the lapse in the middle there nearly did them in. Derrio Green (and, really, the whole Charlotte offense) didn’t exactly set the world on fire from the field. And certainly, they got some help from the most hilarious thing I’ve ever seen, a too many men technical foul. I’ve never seen that in a basketball game (that’s roughly seven full seasons of Celtics, four full years of UMass and countless pro and college games on TV in between). and I can guarantee you the crazies calling for DK’s firing would be louder than ever if such a thing happened with his team.
On the other hand, UMass, as if to continue the A-10 First Game tradition, tried their darnedest to lose this game. The team continues to struggle to hit open shots, although at least they’re getting more of them. Anthony Gurley, as the UMassHoops chat room can attest, had one of those frustrating games that has really epitomized his time here in Amherst. Bailey got lots of minutes. And yet they still pulled it off, thanks to the continued stellar rebounding effort and Ricky continuing to go out with a bang here.
So what’s next? A Richmond squad that UMass took to overtime on its own court, and could have beaten if Ricky hadn’t dribbled down the clock to about 1 on the final possession before heaving a terrible shot. On one hand, UMass doesn’t have to play them in Richmond this time. On the other hand…right. Atlantic City. Fuck. Well, that was fun. No, but seriously, this is two great wins in a row for DK and for this team going forward, regardless of how central Ricky was to them. If the guys can’t pull the victory and bring a 19-loss team into the NCAA tournament this year (which is like saying “if I can’t go try out for the Red Sox and make the starting rotation”), at least it’s nice to have not just A-10 Tournament experience for the kids, but also Boardwalk Hall experience going forward.
But hey, anything is possibbblllleeeee! (Except, again, that Red Sox scenario.)
Oh, other things to note…I caught the first half of UMass-Albany today, my first-ever men’s lax game at Garber Field. (I know, I’m a slacker, though in my defense, the home games always seem to be either a) during class or b) too far away for my hungover ass to walk on a weekend.) UMass came back from down 4-1 to win 11-6. I’m not even going to pretend to be a lacrosse expert, but I’ll do my best to keep an eye on Cannella’s talented young squad.
Last but not least (but certainly most obvious): the new layout is finally here! After finally getting some free time to mess around with GIMPshop (my new laptop, unlike my old PC, does not have the real Photoshop, and I’m not made of money), I was able to put something together with a shot Walsh took a few weeks back before a game. Accordingly, I switched up the blog template, and I think this one looks better; plus, I enjoy having the tags and author stuff BEFORE the post, so you guys know whose work you’re reading right away. We’d love to hear any input you might have on the layout; notably, we’d love to change the color scheme but WordPress only gives you so many templates, so we’ll just deal with what we’re given. Enjoy!
One more thing…we will most definitely on hand for this weekend’s festivities at Chestnut Hill University. Is it Friday yet?