Posted: 1:25 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013
By Jimmy Kelley
When it comes to predicting things, most experts take total stabs in the dark only to either back away from them after they are wrong or praise their prescience should they come true. I am not one of those experts. I have rarely been right, and if you need more proof you can check out my ACC predictions from last year (spoiler alert: I whiffed).
So instead of making my own and, in all likelihood, incorrect predictions for this season, I will defer to those who do these types of things for a living. In my world, there are four places I go for college basketball news and they -- along with the Atlantic 10 coaches -- will be those weighing in on the UMass Minutemen and their outlook for the 2013-14 season.
Perhaps the best prediction you will find is from the coaches in the conference. These guys spend their days preparing to face their fellow A-10 opponents and know more about other teams' players than any of us fans. Between film, experience and stats, these guys can paint a pretty clear picture.
The coaches voted on Atlantic 10 Media Day and voted the Minutemen as the fourth-best team in the league behind VCU, St. Louis and LaSalle -- all expected as they were NCAA Tournament teams last year. That said, the coaches voted Chaz Williams onto both the All-Conference first team and All-Defense team with Shaka Smart dubbing him the best player in the league.
The fine folks at ESPN were kind enough to place their team-by-team previews of nearly every squad in college basketball behind a pay wall, so if you have not yet seen this one, I will fill you in on the gory details. The World WIde Leader also picked the Minutemen to finish fourth behind VCU, St. Louis and LaSalle.
With Chaz Williams, UMass always has a chance. The 5-foot-9 senior is back for one more season after his sterling play (15.5 points, 7.3 assists, 4.2 rebounds per game) earned him all-conference honors in 2012-13. "He's done a real good job solidifying our program," coach Derek Kellogg says.
Here is where things get fun. CBS Sports' experts all weighed in on the conference and while the Minutemen got two third-place votes and three fourth-place votes, the man who wrote the preview, Matt Norlander, picked the Minutemen to win the conference.
UMass was one of the fastest teams in the country last year, playing out to 71 possessions per game, a top-10 rate. Jesse Morgan has left this group, and he was an impact player, but it could be additoin by subtraction. Look for junior center Cady Lalanne to have a big year, and for Western Kentucky transfer Derrick Gordon to complement Williams in the backcourt.
College Basketball Talk really found a voice last year with their exhaustive coverage of the game and brining news from around the country to one place for public consumption. Their Atlantic-10 preview, while not as optimistic as Norlander's, is also quite fond of UMass as they picked them to finish second behind VCU and Williams to take home Player of the Year honors.
Five A-10 teams received bids to the tournament last March, but the Minutemen were on the outside looking in. This season UMass has a favorable conference schedule — home games against La Salle, Saint Louis and VCU — which could help them finishing higher in the conference standings.
Now we get to the real experts. Our friends from Mid-Major Madness have been running through conference previews for awhile now and have been doing a great job. Many have begun to consider the A-10 a power conference in recent years, but MMM has stuck with them.
VCU, St. Louis and LaSalle once again come in ahead of the Minutemen, but they are also very high on Williams. In their Atlantic 10 top-10, they named the UMass floor general the No. 2 player in the league behind St. Louis guard Dwayne Evans.
Did you really think I wasn't going to weigh in? Of course I'm going to weigh in. I have to agree with most of the pundits, however I believe the Minutemen will finish third in the A-10 in 2013-14.
WIlliams has done nothing but improve under Derek Kellogg and after turning down European pro contracts to return, he will be a man on a mission in his last year. He is talented enough to bring the rest of the team along for the ride and if Gordon is everything he is supposed to be, the Minutemen will have one of the best backcourts in the conference.
VCU will win the league, St. Louis will be second and then the Minutemen will finish third. Boom goes the UMassimite.