UMass has not qualified for the NCAA Tournament since 1998 and with aspirations of finally making the Big Dance in sight in 2012-13, a major blow was handed to a team that will be in a dog fight as conference play kicks in.
Junior guard Jesse Morgan, who was averaging 13.4 points per game prior to going down with a knee injury in a Jan. 10 loss to Saint Louis, is now done for the season. News of Morgan’s MRI came forward on Tuesday afternoon and a torn ACL was the diagnosis.
Down their second-leading scorer, UMass is hurt, but certainly not done.
The Atlantic 10 Conference is quickly emerging as one of the tougher non-power six conferences in college basketball and a number of teams will be fighting for spots in the NCAA Tournament come March. The Minutemen were expected to be among them and even despite the loss of Morgan, they should feel the exact same way.
Sure, losing 13.4 points per game is never easy to overcome, but head coach Derek Kellogg does have one of the deeper teams in the A-10 this season. Other players will need to step up in Morgan’s absence, so if that’s the case then not all is lost for the Minutemen.
Even the team’s leading scorer, star guard Chaz Williams will need to look to pick-up and build on his 15.8 points per game. Senior wing Freddie Riley however, may face the most pressure in helping replace Morgan. However, sometimes seniors do crazy things, so keep an eye on Riley as conference play rolls along.
UMass will host Duquesne on Thursday, Jan. 17.
Paul Seaver on Twitter: @PaulSeaverRS