As the month of February nears its midway point, the pressure to win certainly increases, especially for teams that may find themselves hoping and praying to hear their names called on Selection Sunday.
For the UMass Minutemen, the effort to stake their own personal claim has reached a point of pivotal status. At 16-6 overall and 6-3 within the Atlantic 10 Conference, the Minutemen currently sit just a game out of first place in the league. That’s impressive for a team that lost second-leading scorer Jesse Morgan earlier in the year.
When UMass lost Morgan for the season due to a torn ACL, it remained unclear how the Minutemen would replace his production on the offensive end. Well, others have stepped up alongside star guard Chaz Williams, most notably Terrell Vinson.
UMass has won four of their last five games overall and are 6-2 in their past eight. That hot stretch within the Atlantic 10 Conference is enough to warrant the attention that it deserves. However, the Minutemen need to survive one more hump stretch in order to get into the conversation.
That comes this week, as a trip to VCU is scheduled for Thursday before a quick turnaround back in Amherst against Temple on Saturday. A split in those two games would not be all that bad for UMass, in fact it’s probably their best and most needed scenario. The Minutemen cannot afford to drop both of these contests and a win over either squad would certainly help their resume to some extent.
However, should UMass be able to go on the road at VCU and pull out a victory, things atop the A-10 could certainly shake up a bit considering the Rams are one of three teams who currently hold a game advantage on UMass.
It’s do or die in the coming weeks for this UMass squad.
Follow Paul Seaver on Twitter: @PaulSeaverRS