UMass-VCU Game of The Century Friday In Amherst

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I haven’t looked forward to a regular season basketball game this much in a long, long time. We’ll be up in Amherst bright and early tomorrow to watch the USA show America Jr. (Canada) that we are the only country that matters in the Western Hemisphere. Then, we shall prepare for the facializing of VCU at a magical place called “McMurphy’s.” Our field reporters will be doing interviews with UMass fans before and after the game, and will appear in what will either be a very happy or very sad Saturday afternoon edition of TurtleBoy Sports.

As Umass fans know in the past two seasons their team has had big games like this before late in the season with a postseason birth seemingly on the line. Butler last year ended in disaster. Tomorrow will be slightly different though. In year’s past they have been on the outside of the bubble looking in, needing a big win to lift themselves into the tournament.

This time around the tables have turned. Most experts with degrees in bracketology seem to agree that UMass is currently in line for a 7 seed in the tournament.  A loss wouldn’t ruin their season, but it would still really, really suck. It would mean that Shaka Smart can still take Derek Kellogg out to the woodshed whenever he pleases, and it would be a disastrous blow to the Minutemen’s confidence after a huge road win at George Washington.


So what are the tournament implications for this game? Let’s examine what would happen for either possible outcome….

UMass Wins

  • A win all but puts them in as a lock for their first NCAA tournament birth in 16 years.
  • They would be 21-5 and 8-4 in the Atlantic 10 Conference.
  • They could finish no worse than 8-8 in conference play going into the Atlantic 10 tournament.
  • They’d have have home games against St. Louis and URI, and road games at Duquense and Dayton left. If they lost three out of those four games they’d go into conference play at 22-8, and their conference record would be 9-7. Even if they lost in the first round of the A-10 tournament they’d almost certainly still be in the NCAA tournament. It would almost be impossible for UMass to lose against Duquense AND URI, two of the worst teams in the conference.
  • They would have wins against the following teams which most bracketologists have in their current tournament field: New Mexico, Providence, VCU, George Washington, St. Joe’s, BYU. After that Nebraska, LSU, and Clemson all are on the outside of the bubble, but still can get into the tournament. Beating 6-9 tournament teams is a pretty damn impressive resume.
  • Four of their five losses aren’t bad. The loss at St. Bonaventure sucked, but is forgivable. Richmond is right on the bubble trying to get in. Florida State is probably no longer on the bubble, but they have beaten both UMass and VCU. St. Joe’s is in as of right now. That leaves of course their only real bad loss: George Mason. We shall never speak of that dreadful game ever again.
  • Most likely they will be favored at Duquense, be a slight favorite or pick em’ at Dayton, and be heavily favored against URI. They will be a slight underdog if St. Louis keeps winning. Assuming they win 3 out of 4, which is the most likely outcome, they’d go into the conference tournament 24-6, and would have a first round bye in the tournament. Even a first round loss to a quality opponent would have them in line for no worse than a six seed, but possibly a five. A six seed is preferred to a five, since 12 seeds win more often than 11 seeds, and you avoid the 1 seed for a longer period of time.
  • If UMass wins they will be tied with VCU for the second best record in the conference, and will be in good shape for a bye in the conference tournament.
  • If they win on Friday they will likely start receiving votes for the Top 25, and would be sitting at a 6 seed in the NCAA tournament.


UMass Loses

  • It will be a long and sad ride home from Amherst.
  • They’re still in the tournament, and probably not quite on the bubble. They’d be looking at a nine, ten, or eleven seed.
  • They’d be 20-6 and 7-5 in conference.
  • Derek Kellogg would prove all of my doubts about him to be valid if he can’t get this team up for a sellout game on six days rest.
  • They could probably go 2-2 in their final four regular season games AND lose in the first round of the A-10 tournament and reasonably expect to get in the tournament. Assuming those two losses are to Dayton and St. Louis (both forgivable) they’d still have only one bad loss, and lots of quality wins. They would go into Selection Sunday with a 22-9 record and a winning record in one of the better conferences in the country.
  • Because URI and Duquense are both teams UMass SHOULD easily handle, this would mean a loss to VCU tomorrow wouldn’t make the St. Louis game a must win.
  • If UMass loses they will be two full games behind VCU in the conference, and will be unlikely to receive a first round bye in the conference tournament.
  • A loss to VCU and an upset loss to URI or Duquense could spell disaster. It would make the St. Louis game a must win. The tournament committee puts more value on recent games. The wins against New Mexico, BYU, Providence, and St. Joe’s wouldn’t matter nearly as much as a loss to one of these two teams.


There is no reason that UMass shouldn’t win this game tomorrow. They will likely be favored by 1-3 points (as of know Vegas hasn’t put out a spread). Here’s what needs to happen:

  • Cady Lalanne simply has to dominate this game. His legacy will be defined by how he plays against this team. VCU doesn’t start a center, and has one starter over 6’5″.
  • VCU leads the A-10 in offensive rebounding, but yet they are dead last in the A-10 in defensive rebounding. Obviously this means that when they attack the hoop, everyone goes towards the glass. UMass has to use its size to box out and deny them the glass. Then they have to take advantage of the fact that they’re not getting back on defense and score in transition. Cady should have no less than 12 rebounds this game, most of them defensive rebounds. Esho and Sampson likewise have to use their size to control the glass and force them to shoot threes.
  • UMass HAS to beat the havoc press. It’s extremely beatable, but it can kill you if you play scared. Last year UMass dribbled itself into corners over and over again, which plays right into their plans. I’m not a basketball genius, but the plan should be as follows: get the ball to Putney, use his length to pass over the havoc defenders, get the ball to Chaz, push the ball up court, score.


  • UMass has to limit their turnovers. VCU is the scavenger of the A-10. They prey on the weak by forcing turnovers. They lead the conference with 11.69 steals per game. Second is St. Louis at 7.77. UMass is third from the bottom in turnovers per game, behind only George Mason and URI. This would seem to be a recipe for disaster, and it is where the game will be won or lost.
  • UMass needs to block at least seven shots. The Minutemen lead the Atlantic 10 in blocks per game (5.76), and second place isn’t even close (URI 4.67). VCU doesn’t have height. When they bring it to the hoop Cady and Putney need to send the message that this is just not acceptable. It will force them to shoot the three.
  • VCU averages the most 3 point attempts per game in the conference. It makes sense since they’re not very big. Whether they connect or not is largely an element of luck, but Trey Davis and Derek Gordon must defend the perimeter.
  • Lead by at least five at halftime. DK’s specialty is not half-time adjustments. They were beating VCU at the half last year and ended up losing by double digits. All season long they haven’t got out to good starts in the first half. That needs to end tomorrow.
  • The referees will have a huge influence on the outcome of this game. VCU SHOULD lead the Atlantic 10 in fouls per game. There is simply no way they should have that many more steals than everyone else without having more fouls. They take chances and are aggressive. It’s simply inexcusable that they are sixth in the conference in fouls per game. Their steal to foul ratio is 0.58, far ahead of second place St. Louis at 0.45, and UMass at 0.33. If the refs call a fair game it will be harder for the havoc to be effective.

Cady Lalanne, Juvonte Reddic, Darius Theus

With that being said, VCU has an obnoxious following. I expect a lot of yellow and black in the house tomorrow, and hopefully they will get an Amherst greeting from Southwest’s finest. To me, VCU is the new Temple. Here are some thoughts from their fans on their message board:

Screen Shot 2014-02-20 at 12.23.39 PM Screen Shot 2014-02-20 at 12.35.16 PM Screen Shot 2014-02-20 at 12.38.26 PM Screen Shot 2014-02-20 at 12.38.46 PM

Newsflash: Massachusetts is by far the greatest state in the country. We started the revolution because you were too scared to. We kicked your Nancy Boy asses in the Civil War. Chaz Williams is the new Sam Adams, and the new revolution begins tomorrow.

Beat them. Please.

Feel free to share your thoughts to keep the conversation going.

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6 Comment(s)
  • suckysochi
    February 22, 2014 at 12:42 am


  • Blong
    February 20, 2014 at 9:57 pm

    So you made a comment about how if Umass lost, it would basically prove that Kellogg sucks and Smart holds his jockstrap…. What happens if it is a crazy close game and they lose or even win by 1? Or OT and lose or win by 1 or something like that? Do we see another fire DK blog of they lose in some sort of dramatic fashion like that or only if they lose by 10 or 20 or 49?

  • 69MG
    February 20, 2014 at 1:51 pm

    Reddic is 6’9, 250, roughly the same size as Cady. They can call him a forward, but he really plays center.

  • matt
    February 20, 2014 at 1:45 pm

    This match will determine once and for all which college basketball team is the greatest on Earth, Umass or VCU!

    • CPN
      February 20, 2014 at 10:02 pm

      Or that Virginia State Police are better than Massachusetts State Police.

    • Joey G
      February 21, 2014 at 1:15 am

      Will all of our favorite stars be signing autographs??

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