Massachusetts Minutemen: Important Win vs. Providence Friars Hugely Important

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 24 Massachusetts Minutemen took on the Providence Friars in a game between two teams on the verge of being favored to go to the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Providence led for a majority of the game, but Massachusetts fought back to make it 59-59 at the end of regulation. The game looked destined to go to a second overtime, but Derrick Gordon put the ball back in with just over one second left to give the Minutemen the crucial 69-67 victory.

With the win over the 10 – 3 Friars, UMass is now 11 – 1 with one game remaining on their non-conference schedule, which sets them up for an easy cruise to a 2014 NCAA Tournament berth. Massachusetts was expected to compete for a 2014 NCAA berth, but wasn’t expected to win as many non-conference games as they have already this season.

UMass got unexpected victories over the LSU Tigers and the New Mexico Lobos, and then came out on top in a few tough games against the Clemson Tigers, BYU Cougars and Ohio Bobcats. The No. 24 ranked Minutemen have been one of the biggest surprises of the 2013-14 college basketball season and should continue to have success into Atlantic 10 Conference play.

UMass has a legitimate opportunity to challenge for both the regular season title as well as the A-10 Championship, but will have tough competition from the VCU Rams, the Saint Louis Billikins, the Richmond Spiders, the Dayton Flyers and the George Washington Colonials. Massachusetts was picked to finish fourth in the A-10, but looks like the favorite to win the conference.

It’s too early in the season to say any team is definitely in the 2014 NCAA Tournament, but barring a major collapse, the Minutemen should earn a berth in the Big Dance.

Taylor Sturm is an SEC Basketball Writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @TSturmRS, like him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google

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