The Massachusetts Minutemen have plenty of reasons to be wary of their opponents in the first round of the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament. No, not the No.11-seeded George Washington Colonials, so much as the No.6-seed Minutemen should fear getting in their own way of getting back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 15 seasons.
GW beat UMass, 79-76, in the only regular-season match-up between the two teams this season. It’s not exactly clear which was the bigger shock, the Minutemen falling into a 16-point hole or UMass erasing 15 points of the deficit after halftime alone. Yet, the Colonials also shot 31 free-throws and shot nearly 50-percent from the field.
George Washington leading-scorer Isaiah Armwood was held to just eight points but Lasan Kromah and Dwayne Smith combined for points off the bench. Joe McDonald finished with 18 points, 10 assists, while shooting 10-for-13 at the line.
Chaz Williams led UMass with 18 points, six assists in that game but he’s another prime example of a dynamic player forced to do too much because his teammates rarely know what they’re doing.
It’s not as if Freddie Riley can’t be one of the best spot-up 3-point shooters in the A-10 or Maxie Esho can’t be a dominant force on the offensive glass but they need to learn to stick to their roles. Williams is a great floor general and has above-average court vision, so he’ll get them the ball but they can’t break away from the game-plan.
The Minutemen have one of the best young coaches in the country in Derek Kellogg, who learned under John Calipari at Memphis — the man knows a thing or-two about basketball.
UMass can do damage in the A-10 Tournament as a unit but the Minutemen have proved that may be asking a hell of a lot.
Mike Gillmeister can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter:@mgillmeiRantCBB. Like his Facebook page here for updates on Big 12/A-10 men’s basketball.