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May 17, 2016

Minutemen search for signature road win

The Massachusetts men’s basketball team travels to Dayton on Saturday in search of its first solid road win in nearly two years.

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

It was March 9, 2010 the last time the Minutemen (19-8, 8-5 Atlantic 10) won a road game against a team inside of the RPI Top 100.

UMass defeated Charlotte that day in the first round of the A-10 tournament in Charlotte, N.C. The 49ers ended the season as the 77th ranked team in the nation, according to Real Time RPI.

Since that day, UMass does not have the closest thing to a signature win on the road.

This weekend’s game with Dayton could serve as one of the last chances for the Minutemen to improve their road resume. InsideRPI.com ranks Dayton as the 66th team in the nation as far as RPI is concerned.

The Flyers (17-10, 7-6 A-10) have struggled to find consistency this season, but sport an impressive 11-4 overall record at the UD Center, and a 4-2 home record in conference play.

UMass coach Derek Kellogg said that the UD Center may be one of the toughest venues to play at in the A-10.

“It might be the toughest because they’re a guaranteed 13,000 [people] pretty much every game,” said Kellogg.

Dayton has averaged an attendance of 12,426 per home game this season.

“It’s in a city, but there’s not any pro sports teams,” said Kellogg of Dayton. “It’s a little bit along the lines of how it was at Memphis and how it is at some of those other places that that’s the main attraction,” said Kellogg.

While the Minutemen have undoubtedly had their best season since Kellogg arrived, they still lack a signature road victory this year.

They have defeated Top 100 RPI teams like Saint Louis (21), Xavier (53), Saint Joseph’s (57) and Davidson (71) at the Mullins Center. However the Minutemen only have four road wins all season, all against teams outside of the RPI Top 100.

They crushed Boston College (RPI: 219) in Chestnut Hill, nipped East Carolina (RPI: 179) and George Washington (RPI: 183), but recorded their best road win of the season versus Richmond (125).

The opportunities to claim big wins on the road this season have been there, but UMass failed to rise to the occasion for any of those challenges.

Early in the season, it had a chance to make a statement versus an Atlantic Coast Conference team in Miami (RPI: 48), but fell 83-75. While their game against Florida State was played on a neutral site, it was another chance for the Minutemen to conquer another ACC opponent. UMass lost the game, 73-53.

The Minutemen traveled to La Salle (80), Duquesne (90) and Saint Joseph’s (57) in conference play and lost all three games. Overall, they are just 4-5 overall on the road, and 2-4 in conference play.

UMass faced some of the same troubles last year as it failed to defeat a team on the road with an RPI higher than 100.

The sub-par road play has left little room for error over these next three games, and it is difficult to envision UMass receiving an at-large bid if it doesn’t take its next two road games against Dayton and No. 22 Temple.
However, that task is easier said than done, as the Minutemen will enter an atmosphere they haven’t yet experienced when it arrives in Dayton.

“We’re going into a hostile environment,” said Kellogg. “A packed house on the road, that’s what college basketball is all about.”

Kellogg sees an opportunity for his team to defeat a solid Flyers team, a win that would greatly help their resume.

“It could help us tremendously. I’m hoping we can go there and play well, and at least keep the confidence up,” said Kellogg.

Jackson Alexander can be reached at jtalexan@student.umass.edu and followed on Twitter @MDC_Alexander.

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