It seemed like such a long time ago that UMass threatened the national college basketball stage. In fact, it was quite a long time ago.
Head coach Derek Kellogg enters his second year in leading the Minutemen with enough talent to compete in the Atlantic-10. However, it is may not look that way.
Rightfully so, UMass has done nothing to earn any hype heading into the 2009-2010 season, and with the losses of Chris Lowe and Tony Gaffney, the Minutemen appear as if they might be in trouble again.
But just how far away is this UMass squad from making some noise in the Atlantic 10 Conference?
Two seasons ago, the Minutemen put together a 10-2 finish down the stretch, including victories over Syracuse and Florida in the NIT Tournament, which in turn raised some expectations in Coach Kellogg’s first season.
Last year proved to be very dismal for the Minutemen though, and heading into this season there is more than enough room for improvement.
Ricky Harris is back to lead the way for UMass after averaging over 18 points a game last season. He will be the first option offensively for Kellogg.
Transfers Hashim Bailey (Memphis), Anthony Gurley (Wake Forest), and Sean Carter (Oregon State) all had very short stints amongst the higher competition. Gurley was once a Top-100 recruit out of high school, as rated by Rivals.com, and although he played last season, Bailey and Carter have only just become eligible this season.
Coach Kellogg has brought in five talented freshmen for this season, including Terrell Vinson and Sampson Carter. Vinson was considered a Top-50 recruit by ESPNU, while Carter was ranked as the No. 27 incoming freshmen small forward in the nation.
Although, the talent may be there for UMass, that only goes so far. The Minutemen certainly have the roster to compete amongst the elite in the A-10, but putting it together on the court is something they have struggled with.
After barely escaping, 80-78, in their lone exhibition matchup of the season against Dowling College; the issues have been raised almost immediately.
UMass will open the season on the road at Central Florida before returning home to play Cornell on November 18th . Two early tests for the Minutemen may just give a peek into where this UMass team may be heading.
*Photo Credit: masslive.com/The Republican/Christopher Evans