Experts’ forecasts bleak for UMass
What are the analysts saying about UMass? Expectations for the Minutemen’s tournament potential are low.
Matt Martucci, ESPN
Best-case scenario: Sweet 16
The Minutemen have the right combination of depth and experience to win a game or two in the tournament, although none of its players have played in an NCAA tournament game. (Chaz) Williams can be a game-changer and his ability to affect the box score in so many ways could prove a valuable asset in a field that historically rewards teams with solid guard play.
Worst-case scenario: Second-round exit
Massachusetts has yet to make the tournament under (Derek) Kellogg, and their Jekyll-and-Hyde nature indicates you could get one of two teams — the one that had been so impressive in building its nonconference resume, or the squad that sputtered down the stretch and finished sixth in the A-10. Its history the last few seasons suggests it could be the latter.
Mike DeCourcey, Sporting News
Seeded too high: No. 6 Massachusetts. The Minutemen did not defeat an opponent seeded on the top four lines. Know what? All four First Four at-large teams are in this region, and all of them got at least one. Think it doesn’t matter? Tell that to Kentucky, which is stuck in an 8/9 game for the right to play the No. 1 seed Shockers. UMass built its case mostly against teams that are in the middle or the back of the field. The Minutemen would have looked just fine in an 8/9 game.
Upset special: Iowa over UMass. Obviously the Hawkeyes have to get through Tennessee in the First Four, and it won’t be easy because the Hawkeyes haven’t found a way to guard anyone lately, not even a team as offensively limited as the Vols. But if they do, they’ve got enough talent that UMass might be even less trouble. Neither the Hawkeyes nor the Minutemen have been worth a darn lately, but at its peak Iowa is a far more capable team.
Jay Bilas, ESPN
Iowa over UMass: The Hawkeyes should advance from Dayton and face the Minutemen. Iowa underachieved in the regular season, but remains capable. With great depth and very good talent, Iowa will be able to get past UMass and its great guard, Chaz Williams.
Chip Patterson, CBS
The biggest Round of 64 upset (in the Midwest Region) will be ... Tennessee over UMass. The Volunteers turned around the season — and cooled Cuonzo Martin’s hot seat — with a strong finish to the regular season and respectable showing the SEC tournament. With senior Jordan McRae leading the way, the Vols should be able to keep get out of Dayton and keep the momentum rolling against a UMass team that lost three of its last five games.
UMass rocketed off to a 16-1 start in (Derek) Kellogg’s sixth season, helping propel the Minutemen back to the tournament after a 16-year absence. UMass relies on energy but doesn’t have a deep bench.
Peter Keating and Jordan Brenner, ESPN
This year, it’s just as confident that whichever middling power-conference team advances Wednesday night will take out UMass on Friday.
Of its 10 experts’ brackets, only two had UMass winning in the first round — Gregg Doyel and Wally Szczerbiak. Doyel had UMass beating Duke to reach the Sweet Sixteen.
FoxSports’ Reid Forgrave on why Tennessee will upset UMass:
A high seed that I think has a chance to make a run is Tennessee. Why? Tennessee has three big-time talents in Jordan McRae, Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon. And Tennessee is mighty close to that top 25 in offensive and defensive efficiency barrier: 29th in offensive efficiency, 16th in defensive.
NBC’s Rab Dauster: No. 11 Tennessee over No. 6 UMass: I’m just not a huge fan of the Minutemen this season, and Tennessee is a tough, veteran team playing their best basketball of the season right now. I’d make the same pick if Iowa beats Tennessee in the play-in game.
Yahoo Sports Pat Forde’s best and worst case scenario:
No. 6 UMass
Best Case: Bailed out by a selection committee that apparently thinks the first 16 games of the year are far more important than the second 16, the team that finished sixth in the Atlantic 10 was given a No. 6 seed in the NCAAs. Then they’re bailed out a second time when Tennessee takes out Iowa, giving the Minutemen a better matchup. Next up: Mercer, which shocks Duke. Just like that, tiny Chaz Williams is a media sensation and UMass is back in the Sweet 16 for the first time since the John Calipari days. Fans dig out their 20-year-old “Refuse To Lose” shirts and descend upon Indianapolis to see the Minutemen lose honorably to Michigan in the Sweet 16. As an added bonus, Connecticut loses early and the Celtics stink, so UMass is New England’s Team for two weeks.
Worst Case: The wine and roses Derek Kellogg sent to the committee helped with the seeding but couldn’t mask UMass’ problems — especially when matched against Iowa in the round of 64. The Minutemen commit too many turnovers and miss too many three-point shots against Iowa’s zone looks, and are dismissed in their first game. Chaz Williams is just another short point guard, gone before he can be appreciated. New England finds another team to back while waiting for Red Sox Opening Day.