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My weekend is officially ruined after the stinker UMass put on the court during their first NCAA Tournament game in 16 years. After Mercer completely emasculated Duke, kicking them out of the tournament in the first round for the second time in the past three seasons, the door was wide open for the Minutemen to work their way into the Sweet 16.
Instead, they lost by 20 and their season is over. To make matters worse I was being trolled by St. Bonaventure fans and AP voter Kevin Gorman from the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.
Look, I love UMass basketball more than you could possibly imagine. This season was awesome. Seeing their name appear on the Selection Sunday show was nothing less than orgasmic. They sold out the Mullins Center three times. They beat teams from every major conference, including Providence, George Washington, VCU, BYU, and St. Joe’s, all of which were in the Tournament. They made basketball relevant again at UMass.
Those are all reasons to celebrate what happened. But what separates Massachusetts sports fans from losers like St. Bonaventure fans, is that we’re not afraid to criticize our teams either. So if you’re the UMass footy pajama type, you might wanna stop reading this blog right now.
First I wanna address some of the people who haven’t been watching this team all season. This might be the first game you’ve seen all season, but they’re SOOO much better than what you witnessed tonight. They’ve put up 105 points against a tournament team (BYU), and looked unstoppable in December. The talent has been there all season, but the problem is that their opponents coach’s figured us out and made adjustments.
It wasn’t that hard to stop us.
I made some disparaging remarks about UMass coach Derek Kellogg during the game and got some responses that seemed to disagree with me. Here was one of them:
“Or, it’s the players underperforming… I thought Turtleboy preaches against the wussification of America.. I’m so confused”
For the record, the players absolutely underperformed. The matchup was awful. Here was my FB status DURING the Tennessee-Iowa game the other night:
I knew it was going to be a mismatch with that monster Stokes down low. But it’s not like the guy is an All-American or anything. He can clearly be stopped, and Kellogg had two days to come up with a plan. Instead Stokes went for 14 rebounds and a career high 26 points. He did whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted to. Sorry, but you can design a game plan for that. Tennessee gave us a GIANT opportunity to win this game by shooting 2 of 14 from downtown. That’s a gift. Just double Stokes, don’t let him get position, and force their guards to win the game. Not exactly brain surgery.
But instead he had the game of his life, scoring a career high. He did exactly what I thought he would do to Cady. So no, it’s not wussifcation of America by blaming the coach instead of the players. The players are who we thought they were. Stokes was better than Cady. It was up to the coaches to get the most out of them. They needed guidance and a clear game plan, but instead they got nothing. Another friend asked me,
“sorry bud, how is this the coaches fault?”
It’s the coach’s fault because it’s his job to come up with a game plan and get his players ready for the matchup. They have the talent, but they come out of the gates slow every single game. You gotta get them ready as coach, or else what are we paying you for? What I witnessed on the court today was a bunch of dudes playing pick up ball at the YMCA.
Need more convincing? Here’s his pre game speech:
“Level 5. Championship level. That’s what we’re going today guys.”
If that doesn’t inspire confidence than what does? Imagine what they’d play like if he said this was a Level 3 or Level 4 game? What did he tell them before the George Mason game? Level 1? How about the New Mexico and VCU games? Level 10? As you can see the players reacted with enthusiasm. They were clearly ready to run through a wall for DK at that moment.
In case you couldn’t tell by watching that video, Kellogg knew he was being taped, so he drew a plane on the industrial sized notepad. It set him up for his perfect one-liner: someone was going home on that plane – UT, or UMass. Let’s make it them.
If that doesn’t get you fired up then nothing will. But seriously, Coach Mulcahy at Doherty High School gave better pep talks than that. He used to tell us when we played St. Peter Marian, “Their parents think their kids are better than you. That’s why they pay all that money to keep them out of public schools and away from you. But tonight you’ve got them for 40 minutes – AND THEIR MOMMY’s and DADDY’s CAN’T SAVE THEM THIS TIME!!!!”
He’s probably given that speech for 20 straight years, but it works every time. Gets the kids fired up. When I see the passion that coaches like Roy Williams, Jim Boeheim, and Bob Huggins bring, and then I see that video, I realize how much better we can do.
The problem with the game plan is that it didn’t exist on offense, and hasn’t all season. For some reason they just don’t call plays. Every single time it’s an isolation play for whoever has the ball. With UMass down four early on, the tone for the game was firmly established on this sequence:
After that there was no coming back.
Can’t tell you how many times I saw things like this happen:
That’s literally what I look like running point at the YMCA. Kind of just dribble towards the hoop, jump in the air, and turn the ball over.
Did Trey Davis screw up there? Yes and no. He obviously should’ve realized that was a bad idea. But what was he supposed to do without a coach TELLING him what to do? What’s the point of even having a coach? Trey Davis could do that by himself. The players don’t look to the sidelines for guidance ever, because it hasn’t been established that guidance will come in from the sidelines.
Or how about this play?
So who designed that play? Who thought it would be a good idea to have Maxie Esho just run into a brick wall and shoot a fadeaway? Shouldn’t a coach tell him NOT to do that?
And that Derek Gordon layup that everyone wanted goaltending on? Yea that wasn’t goaltending. Gordon had an easy dunk if he wanted to, but for whatever reason he NEVER dunks it. Serious question – can he not dribble with his left hand? Look what he chooses to do on this play…
So for whatever reason he chose to go up with his right hand, which was directly in the path of the TN defender. He could’ve easily used his right, and shielded the ball with his body for the easy bucket. But instead the inevitable happened. As you can see the defender clearly has blocked the shot before it’s over the cylinder.
And for all the other people who doubted whether or not this one should be put on the coaching staff, I give you the least effective press in the history of mankind. Immediately after Sampson Carter nailed a three that put us within 10 points with plenty of time to go, this happened:
Yea sorry, but that’s on the coaching staff. The players obviously have no clue what they’re doing. That’s where the coaches come in. For instance, if you’re gonna press like that then either Cady Lalanne needs to understand that it’s his job as the last line of defense to make sure they don’t get an easy layup, OR (better yet) Cady isn’t in the game when you press and Esho is down low. The fact that they could kill every momentum swing with a quick bucket after beating our swiss cheese press made it nearly impossible to have any fighting chance in this game.
By far the worst coaching moment of the game came with a little over 13 minutes left. UMass was still in it, down 12 with the ball. A TV timeout (because God knows Kellogg hates using his own timeouts) gave them the chance to draw up a play, and get within nine or ten points. This apparently was the play they called:
Apparently they were told, “Give it to Sampson, then have him dribble directly into three giant Volunteers. Then just say f*** it and see what happens.”
If that was not the play, then Sampson should’ve been taken out and reprimanded. But he wasn’t. Because on this team it seems as if players are free to do what they want without repercussions.
UMass needs to get bigger. Our reputation in the conference is we’re the ghetto fabulous team. Streetballers. We need some 6’7″ dudes from Slovenia who can shoot threes. Someone steady, but not flashy who we can count on to hit a three and play fundamental basketball. Maybe even take a charge or two. Anything is better than this type of defense from Cady Lalanne:
And you know those 13 guys in suits on the UMass bench? Does Kellogg really need all of them? Are they there to pull out chairs during time-outs, or do they actually do something during games. I really don’t see what the point of having them is there – other than of course overhearing conversations by TurtleBoy Sports employees and confronting them after the game:
What’s sad about that is that this guys is that he’s strength and conditioning coach. Have you seen Raphiael Putney? How does this guy still have a job when Put could easily slip down the drain during his next shower?
Kellogg has done an amazing job rebuilding the program that Travis Ford blew up. He should be credited for three straight 20 win seasons, and the fact that he is a true UMass fan at his core. He loves Amherst and he’s not going to sell out like Ford and Calipari did. But unfortunately this is likely as good as it gets. If we’re content as fans to say that this is good enough, then so be it. We can be the Atlanta Hawks of college hoops.
But I want more. The goal should be to win a National Championship. That’s not going to happen any time soon, but progress needs to be made toward that every year. Progress was made this year, but if this is the peak, then Kellogg should eventually be released. I feel bad saying that because he’s a nice guy, but this is big time hoops. Go big or go home.
So it’s gonna be a long offseason, and watching Mercer play Tennessee will be doubly as painful. But if you are a UMass fan that needs cheering up, look at the bright side – you could be these people:
So good season, and thanks for the memories Chaz, Putney, and Sampson.
Feel free to share your thoughts to keep the conversation going.
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