Last season, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team gained the experience of playing a competitive schedule against some of the nation’s top teams. If there’s anything UMass coach Derek Kellogg learned from those games, it’s that his team still has some work to do before it can compete with some of the teams from last year’s schedule.
The Minutemen labored through their rigorous non-conference slate through most of last year, with the exception of their buzzer-beating one-point win against Memphis at TD Garden.
This season, the focus for UMass’ schedule is more about exposing itself to fans around the area than getting national attention. It will play 21 games within 90 miles of Amherst and will play teams from across the state.
However, this year should feature some familiar teams during the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament in Springfield, Mass.
Kellogg and Co. will begin the tournament at home with games against Rider on Nov. 12 and Sacred Heart on Nov. 17.
On Nov. 20, the Minutemen will then square off against New Mexico State, who nearly defeated Michigan State in the NCAA tournament while Southern California will play Bradley. The winners will play in the championship game while the losers will play a consolation game on Nov. 21.
UMass will play another game at the Garden against cross-state rival Boston College on Dec. 4. The Battle of the Commonwealth previously alternated between the Mullins Center and the Conte Forum.
The Minutemen will be the beneficiary of two home-and-home deals with Seton Hall (Dec. 11) and Central Florida (Dec. 22).
UMass’ last game of 2010 is going to be at home against Boston University. The Minutemen faced the Terriers last year during a closed-door scrimmage at the beginning of last season.
UMass’ Atlantic 10 play kicks off on Jan. 9 at home against Dayton. After a road game against Xavier on Jan. 12, the Maroon and White play at the MassMutual Center in Springfield against La Salle.
The Minutemen get a rematch against Richmond, who beat them in the A-10 quarterfinals at home, on Jan. 22.
From there, UMass will hit the road to New York to face St. Bonaventure before returning home for a rematch of the last regular season game against Rhode Island on Jan. 30. The last time the two teams met, former standout guard Ricky Harris hit a last-second shot to put the Minutemen in the A-10 tournament.
The team eventually heads to URI three weeks later after a four-game stretch, which features Rick Majerus’s Saint Louis squad (Feb. 2), which was nearly good enough to make the NCAA tournament had inexperience not gotten in their way.
SLU will look to be more of a serious threat this season, with a year of additional experience.
The final game at the Mullins Center will be against Temple (March 2), who should once again contend for the A-10 title. The regular season will conclude March 5 when UMass takes a trip to the Bronx to face Fordham.
The Rams went 0-16 in A-10 play, but now have a new coach in Tom Pecora.
The At-10 tournament starts March 8, where the Minutemen hope to build on their performance from last year. The First Round winners will qualify to play in Atlantic City, N.J.
Adam Miller can be reached at email@example.com.