Alright, so as I hinted, I’m guilty of getting caught up in the moment. The Memphis win doesn’t suddenly make this team A-10 title contenders. Being on Top Plays and the Ultimate Highlight are great for the program, but the following things are still true about UMass basketball:
1) This same team has lost to Cornell at home, UCF on the road, a pair of bottom-rung Big East teams (Rutgers and Seton Hall), got positively smoked by a probably-overrated Michigan State team, and our wins include a nailbiter against Quinnipiac (!!) and one against a Division 2 team that was, for a while, closer than any D1-vs-D2 game should ever be.
2) 99 out of 100 times, we lose that game to Memphis. They’re basically in a rebuilding year, still recovering from losing Calipari, yet even that ragtag lineup of guys like Mack, Witherspoon and Henderson-Niles was clearly the more talented team; they had an awful shooting night, weren’t helped by some of the worst officials I’ve ever seen (the kind that makes mistakes on both ends but ends up getting influenced by the home crowd in the end), got outhustled by a fired-up UMass team wearing the Dr. J throwbacks, and STILL only lost on a fluke play that might never happen in a million years.
3) …wow, that last one was harsh, I think I’ll stop there.
But I reiterate, the win does some things for this team. One, it shows us what kind of potential next year holds. Terrell Vinson was an absolute STUD in this game. Gary Correia, at least in the second half, showed that he just might be able to run the point for the rest of the year and next. Ricky Harris, our best player, was pretty clearly affected by his injury and we won despite his mediocre performance, showing that his absence next year miiiight not be a huge deal (especially if Riley continues to improve when he comes back). Carter? Bailey? Starting to get back into the thick of things and give us size. Imagine this team next year with all the freshmen being juuust a little better, and with the additions of Esho and a hopefully non-anorexic Putney. Kellogg still isn’t there yet either, but he looks so much better and more comfortable coaching than he did a year ago today.
Additionally, it could, I repeat, could, be a springboard for the rest of the year. Let’s see how things go tomorrow in Boston College, where we won’t have a “home crowd” but we’ll still probably outnumber BC’s joke of a fanbase. (Sadly I won’t be able to make it, as I’m going to the Bruins game…wait, that’s not really that sad at all!) If we get smoked by the Eagles, I’ll be a lot less optimistic. If we at least look competitive in our next two (at BC and at Davidson), I think we suddenly become serious contenders in the conference. Remember, we began this season looking up at schools like La Salle and Richmond. If we can beat BC and Memphis, shouldn’t we be able to at least compete in a mid-major conference? I think so.
Meanwhile, less than a week until our boys return to the ice. I’ll get to that season recap within a few days (consider it my Christmas present to y’all). In the meantime, I’ll point you to the midseason grades for the players that Rocks has posted on Fear the Triangle. He’s pretty much spot on with them.
Also, my buddy Walsh has joined the blog, he’ll be contributing a little more sporadically than me but he brings a lot of hockey knowledge to the table. Again guys, if you wanna be a contributor, please let me know; you don’t need to write anywhere near as much as I do!
EDIT: We have two contributors now, Matt is joining the party as well. He’s more of a basketball guy but he likes hockey too, kind of a reverse Walsh. I repeat that this is first and foremost a hockey blog, but I welcome the different perspectives and I hope that, as we gain readers (i.e. hockey starts back up again, and we start spreading the word at games), more of you guys (or gals) jump on board. For now the three of us will have admin privileges, but contributors are more than welcome.