Unless the NIT comes calling, UMass likely done for the season

By Mark Chiarelli

Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian
Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian

NEW YORK — Entering the season, it’d be difficult to believe the Massachusetts men’s basketball team’s final game of the season would come at the Barclays Center.

But a 76-69 loss to La Salle in Atlantic 10 tournament eliminated UMass from conference play Thursday and, at 17-15, the Minutemen won’t receive an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. The next best option is the National Invitation Tournament (NIT), which offers bids to the 32 best teams which don’t make the NCAA tournament’s field of 64.

Once considered a sure bet to at least make the NIT, the Minutemen are suddenly on the bubble for that as well.

“I think obviously if the NIT invites us, we would go to that,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. “But I think if not, we’ll call it a year and get those other guys ready for the future and let Cady (Lalanne) and Maxie (Esho) get on with their careers.”

Kellogg said he doesn’t plan on accepting a bid to any other postseason tournament. Notably, there’s the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) and CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT), but neither Kellogg nor the players were very receptive to either following the game.

UMass entered the season with significant postseason aspirations following an NCAA tournament appearance last season but didn’t live up to the expectations. Kellogg said certain teams benefit from playing in a tournament such as the CBI, but the Minutemen don’t fit that description.

“I think you do that when you have a team that’s in a certain sport or you’re not where you want to be,” Kellogg said.

“I wanted to be an NCAA tournament team or an NIT team this year. And that’s what we were shooting for … There are particular years where you say ‘Maybe we’ll do something different.’ This is not that particular year for me. I think Cady and Maxie have played their last game and are ready to move on unless the NCAA tournament or NIT comes calling.”

UMass guard Trey Davis also said he didn’t want to play in the CBI.

“I don’t want to play in it and I’m pretty sure my teammates don’t want to either,” he said.

The Minutemen played a strong schedule this season, but Kellogg wasn’t sure whether a bid to the NIT was likely. He acknowledged that a number of other bubble teams throughout the country have already lost in their respective conference tournaments, creating competition for a select number of bids.

Kellogg addressed his team following the game and said it had likely played its final game.

“I just told them it was our last game,” Kellogg said. “It isn’t up for debate, to be honest with you. It seems to be our last game, but if the NIT came calling, we’d be ready to go.”

Mark Chiarelli can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Mark_Chiarelli.