Sports

Will Kevin Gorman Vote For Undefeated, 10-0 UMass After Domination In Ohio?

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I’m not gonna lie – I was really worried about UMass‘ chances going into tonight’s game against the Ohio Bobcats. I’ve been running my mouth lately all over the world wide internets, praising the Minutemen, and berating poor guys like AP voter Kevin Gorman, who aren’t as familiar with their success as they probably should be. The last time I talked this openly and confidently about a team was the 2010 New England Patriots. Going into their first playoff game that season you couldn’t go on Facebook or Twitter without finding me berating Jets fans for the epic smack down they would soon be receiving. What wasn’t to be confident about? They had just beaten the Jets 45-3.

Well, we all remember how that one turned out. Ever since then I’ve been very careful not to jinx our chances. I didn’t hype up the 2011 Boston Bruins, or the 2013 Boston Red Sox. Just let them go about their business and gloated afterwards.

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But with UMass being 9-0, and not getting the credit they deserve, I just haven’t been able to help myself. So their matchup with a team, who just a couple years ago was in the Sweet 16, on the road, playing as the first ranked team in their building since 1997, kind of scared the crap out of me. They were only 2 point favorites. So I texted super fan Brian Long about this and his response said it all –

“I’m not (worried). This team does not look ahead. They are too grounded.”

I will never doubt him again. By making easy work in another double digit victory, the Minutemen proved to me that I don’t have to worry about them this year. At no point in the game was the out come every even remotely in doubt. As they’ve done all season they have a remarkable ability to take away a team’s momentum right when it’s building. Ohio got within six points in the second half at one point, and that was all she wrote. A Maxie Esho layup took all the wind out of their sail.

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Watching online while trying to tweet proved to be difficult, and the lack of camera angles or HD made it hard to see exactly what was going on. But you didn’t need high definition to see how much better the Minutemen were tonight.

I’ll admit it, I’m the biggest villain on Umasshoops.com because I’ve had the audacity to be skeptical about this team in years past. I hated Derek Kellogg, and I felt like time after time this team would just disappoint you when you were starting to believe in them. This was confirmed of course by brutal losses last year to VCU, Butler, Charlotte, and St. Bonaventure’s. That’s why going into this game, despite how confident I am in them this year, I was just waiting for the other shoe to drop.

But it never did, and it’s looking like it won’t happen at all. Don’t get me wrong, they will lose this season. This isn’t the 1990 Runnin’ Rebs. The Atlantic 10 is intensely competitive every season, and this year will be no different. But a four or five loss season and an Atlantic 10 title is no longer looking out of the question. That’s the kind of resume right there that gets you a two or three seed in the dance. As of right now CBSsports has UMass as a five seed.

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I am now fully on board with this team mentally. I believe this team is built not only to win the Atlantic 10, but to make a push for the Final Four. Obviously a million things could go wrong between now and then, but the nucleus is too strong. Here’s the three major reasons why they are Final Four contenders this year:

  • Age. UMass might sport the only starting lineup in the country that can get into McMurphy’s without a fake ID. This is a really, really old team. UMass rookie Derek Gordon I just realized is somehow 22. So is Chaz Williams. Sampson Carter (every single time I hear his name I think of Dave Chapelle from Half Baked – SAMP-sin), and RAVEL (as the announcers were calling him last night) Putney, are both 23. Cady Lallanne is the baby, and he won’t be 22 until April. Even junior Maxie Esho is 22. This matters. It takes a while for freshmen to gel together, and only an All-Star team of McDonald’s All-Americans (see Kentucky every year), has the ability to compete with experienced teams like UMass. They’re a bunch of old men who aren’t messing around with these young bucks anymore. I’d take them any day of the week over Kansas, Kentucky, or any other team currently being led by a freshman.

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  • Bench. They really only have three bench players, but they all do such an important job. Trey Davis looks so much more confident than last year. Maybe it’s because he got rid of the T-shirt underneath his jersey, but it could be the fact that he realizes he’s really good (even though he shoots like a Frenchman). Tyler Bergantino would probably be the best player on UMass’ football team. He’s never going to be anything special, but in his role with this team he’s a body, and he doesn’t make mistakes. Considering that the big men on this team have a propensity for foul trouble, he’s been invaluable off the pine. And Maxie Esho……..so hot right now. Who the hell was that guy tonight? I had no freaking clue he could do what he did with a basketball this evening. Smooth as a baby’s behind he was. He has limitless potential if he can play like that consistently. Dunk City Amherst.

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  • Derek Kellogg. As I said, if it was up to me he wouldn’t have been the coach this year. Good thing I’m not in charge. Nearly every single player on this team looks so much better than they did last year, and that simply has to go to the coaching staff. The bench guys I’ve already mentioned, but the starters have all improved as well. Chaz went from being a great Atlantic 10 player, to a great NCAA basketball player. He’s going to be an All-American, it’s just a matter of which team he makes. Before this season he was in the ilk of a Chris Lowe or Gary Forbes. Now he’s pushing into Marcus Camby dominance. SAMPson was good before, but now he plays such an important complementary role, and he does it so well. Gordon has been just as good as advertised. And no one has improved as much as Cady and Putney. Cady I was always a fan of. Putney, not so much. I actually hated everything about his game. He’s just so much better at all facets of the game this year. Cady too, he’s become a monster down low. These are the best two professional prospects on the team. If Putney can improve his energy level out there he could be the best on ball defender in the country. DK and his ginormous staff deserve credit for the progress of all of them.

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Maybe this blog will curse them. Maybe they will lose to Florida State this weekend. Maybe this team will fall apart and not even make the tournament. I always like to brace myself for the worst. But with this team, I just can’t see that happening. They’re too good.

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

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1 Comment(s)
  • Blong
    December 19, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    B. You once claimed Putney was an energy guy and should be the 6th man . You lost points off your grade for that.

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