Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Battle with Boston College presents road game issues

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

After three years of mediocrity on the road, the Massachusetts men’s basketball will have its first opportunity tonight to prove that its struggles in away games are in the past.

The Minutemen (3-0) will hit the road for the first time this season, as they travel to Chestnut Hill to take on Boston College (1-1), a team that has beat UMass three years in a row.

While the Eagles likely won’t compete with the upper echelon of the ACC this season, they’re still a team that resides in a power conference.

“I don’t care if they’re rebuilding [or] refocusing that’s a tough game, and it’s going to be a rough one Monday night,” said UMass coach Derek Kellogg.

The battle for in-state supremacy took a hit on Friday night, when the Eagles suffered an embarrassing 86-64 loss to Holy Cross.

“I guess any time Boston College, an ACC team, loses out of conference in the area people look at it and are surprised a little bit,” said Kellogg.

While their first road game may not meet the hype expected by some, the Minutemen have games outside of the Mullins Center against No. 24 Florida State and Miami. These two games will serve as a barometer for the Minutemen, as they aim to improve their paltry away record from the past three seasons.

Since Kellogg joined the team in 2008, the Minutemen have won 53 percent (24-of-45) of their home games. That figure isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination but the real problem has been their struggles outside of Amherst, where they’ve won just 32 percent (15-of-47) of their games.

There are a number of possible explanations for the struggles away from the Mullins Center and in UMass’ defense; teams struggling away from their home courts was a phenomena that affected most NCAA Division 1 basketball teams last season.

“I think the winning percentage of road games in college basketball is like 30 percent so that’s one reason,” said Kellogg.

The actual percentage of wins by road Division 1 college basketball teams during the 2010-2011 season was just 34.2 percent.

Kellogg offered some reasons why particular teams succeed away from the confines of their own court.

“I think the teams that are really good play a lot of neutral-site games and normally your team is a little older and more mature. Long Beach State beat No. 9 [Pittsburgh] Thursday night and they start four seniors and a junior,” said Kellogg.

The Long Beach State example is particularly similar to UMass’ case. Like LBS, the Minutemen are a mid-major team, facing a host of quality opponents on the road, with each roster predicated on veterans.

Four of the five UMass starters are juniors or seniors, and the fifth starter, Chaz Williams, has taken an evident leadership role early in the season despite this being his first year on the court for the Minutemen.

“I think we’re going to play well on the road this year – our guys are a little more mature and they seem to have a little bit of an edge,” said Kellogg.

Playing well on the road this season would be beneficial to the Minutemen, considering the success some of the best away teams had last season.

Thirteen of the top 15 road teams in Division 1 reached the NCAA Tournament.

It’s been 13 years since the Minutemen made it to the dance. If they expect to break that streak this year, they must become a stronger team on the road. The first test begins tonight against the Eagles.

Jackson Alexander can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MDC_Alexander.


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