For the past two seasons, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team has made it to the Atlantic 10 conference semifinals as a middle-of-the-pack team.
On Tuesday, the league’s 13 head coaches and media representatives took notice of its recent success and rewarded the Minutemen.
UMass was picked to finish fourth in the preseason A-10 poll at the league’s media day, behind only top vote-getter Virginia Commonwealth, Saint Louis and La Salle. Saint Joseph’s was picked fifth, rounding out the top five teams.
The Minutemen have one of the most experienced rosters in the league, returning seven members from last year’s National Invitational Tournament team. In addition to the starters, UMass is adding redshirt sophomore guard Derrick Gordon, who sat out last year due to NCAA transfer rules. Gordon led Western Kentucky to the second round of the NCAA Tournament as a freshman in 2012.
The Minutemen are looking to get back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998.
UMass will host each of the top five teams in the league at the Mullins Center this year, starting with the Hawks in the conference opener on Jan. 8. Then, as the season winds down, the Minutemen will host both the Rams and the Billikens in two of their final three home games.
Over the past two seasons, UMass is a combined 18-14 in conference play, going 9-7 each of the previous two years.
Williams named to first team
Senior guard Chaz Williams earned his own conference recognition on Tuesday when he was named to the preseason first team all-conference and all-defensive teams.
This is the second straight season that Williams was named to the all-conference first team and the first Minuteman to earn repeat honors since Rashaun Freeman was named to three straight preseason first teams from 2005-07.
The senior led the Minutemen in points (15.5 per game), assists (7.3 per game), steals (2.0 per game) and minutes played (35.3 per game) during the 2012-13 season. He joins Saint Louis’ Dwayne Evans, La Salle’s Tyreek Duren and VCU’s Treveon Graham and Juvonte Reddic on the first team.
Patrick Strohecker can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MDC_Strohecker.