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

UMass basketball prepares for three games in four days at Charleston Classic

Nicole Evangelista/Daily Collegian

Coming off the heels of three straight wins to start the season, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team must now prepare for its most daunting challenge to date.

On Thursday, UMass will open up play in the Charleston Classic against Nebraska in a tournament that features other high-level opponents.

While an early-season tournament like this is an opportunity for the Minutemen to play in South Carolina, where they don’t visit too often, coach Derek Kellogg wants to make sure his team still stays focused.

“I think we’re gonna try to take this more on a business trip approach,” he said. “We’re going down there to play basketball: we’re just in a different place.”

The early-season test of three games in four days in a tournament like this also poses an opportunity for Kellogg to evaluate where his team’s stamina levels are. It also presents an opportunity for more playing time for freshmen Demetrius Dyson, Seth Berger and Clyde Santee, all players who Kellogg is hoping to get into the rotation more often.

But this weekend could also be a bit of a learning tool for the Minutemen, who will have to play multiple games in consecutive days if they want to advance far into the Atlantic 10 Tournament later this season.

While UMass has fared well recently in postseason tournaments – reaching the Atlantic 10 semifinals twice as well as the National Invitation Tournament semifinals two years ago – it hasn’t had the same success in regular-season tournaments. The Minutemen put together just a 1-2 record in both the Battle 4 Atlantis in 2011 and Puerto Rico Tip-Off in 2012.

“I’m hoping that our guys, being more mature and a little older now and having been through tournaments – whether it’s Battle of Atlantis two years ago and then Puerto Rico last year – have learned some positives and negatives from both of them,” Kellogg said.

This year’s field is made up of many top-tier teams, including Clemson, Davidson, New Mexico, Temple and the Minutemen’s first round matchup, Nebraska.

“I watched (Nebraska) on TV and that new 15,000-seat building that sold out is a great site to watch on national television,” Kellogg said of the Cornhuskers. “They’re playing with a lot of energy and fire, and I think, because of where they were picked in the league, they definitely have something to prove.”

The Cornhuskers were picked to finish last in the Big Ten preseason poll, but Kellogg still sees them as a challenge. They haven’t made the NCAA Tournament since 1998, but second-year coach Tim Miles is slowly trying to guide his team back to national prominence.
“I’d say they’re much better than where they were picked in the preseason in the conference,” Kellogg said. “They’re a scary team. They remind me a little bit of ourselves, actually, the way they play (with) kind of a couple hybrids, two guards and a bigger guy. The bigger guy actually steps away from the rim. It’s little bit eerily similar watching them play and watching us play.”

Aside from getting an idea of what it takes to play multiple games in a short period of time, this is also a chance for the Minutemen to prove their maturity to Kellogg and the rest of the coaching staff. They will be forced to gameplan for one team and then have less than 24 hours to prepare for the next team.

Kellogg doesn’t believe that preparation should be a problem for a more mature team than in past years.

“I just kind of give them a quick game plan and get them ready to play,” he said.

Patrick Strohecker can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @P_Strohecker.

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