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Derek Kellogg creates challenging schedule to gain national exposure

Derek Kellogg will only schedule games that are beneficial to the Massachusetts men’s basketball team.

By the second-year coach’s definition, that means they need to potentially get the Minutemen on national TV. If it isn’t receiving national attention, he wants the game to be somewhere in Massachusetts in order to rebuild the fan base his team once had.

Nearly every non-conference game UMass plays this season will accomplish just that, whether it’s the season opener at the University of Central Florida or going to Texas to play Baylor.

Kellogg has no doubts that his team’s first game will be on national television for a number of reasons. The main one is a partnership the Minutemen have with Conference USA that rewards teams with national television exposure in exchange for playing one of the conference’s teams.

With that game featuring UCF freshman Marcus Jordan (son of Michael Jordan) playing his first game on Friday, Nov. 13, Kellogg feels that the game is sure to get national exposure.

Strategically, the game against the Knights gives UMass another benefit.

“Ironically, it’s an area that has turned into a recruiting base,” Kellogg said referring to the signing of Florida native Freddie Riley.

Kellogg understands that in order to recruit the nation’s best players, the Minutemen will have to compete with the country’s best teams, which is why they have one of their toughest schedules in recent history.

UMass will play in the Legends Classic Championship on Nov. 27-28, competing against Rutgers and either Florida or Michigan State in Atlantic City, N.J. The Minutemen will also play Memphis in Boston on Dec. 19.

“In putting together the schedule, I wanted to have a very challenging non-conference schedule that will get us as many tough opponents as possible,” Kellogg said. “In the end, it’s the kind of schedule that I know the guys want our schedule to be.”

Before the Minutemen return to national prominence, Kellogg acknowledges that he needs to raise the team’s popularity in Massachusetts, which is why he scheduled four games in areas of Massachusetts other than Amherst (Boston, Worchester and Springfield).

With the exception of their game against Holy Cross in Worcester, none of these games will inconvenience the students. They are all during winter break, and after selling over 5,000 seats to the MassMutual Center in Springfield for last year’s game against Dayton, he decided that going back was necessary if it could be played when students aren’t in session.

Planning a schedule with as much diligence as Kellogg has its price. The schedule wasn’t released until Sept. 3 because he had to find a team willing to play at the Mullins Center on Dec. 11, and Kellogg didn’t want to change the date or venue.

Once Grambling State agreed to come to Amherst on that date, UMass could release its schedule.

Even with a complete schedule, the Minutemen are still waiting for the Gazelle Group, which is in charge of the Legends Classic, to find a new opponent to play in Amherst on Nov. 21. The group moved former opponent Toledo to East Lansing to play the Spartans a day earlier.

UMass is currently scheduled to play Cornell on Nov. 18 and Saint Francis on Nov. 24 as part of the tournament.

Adam Miller can be reached at ajmil0@student.umass.edu.

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