Depth back to full strength heading into the final game of regular season for the Minutemen

Tre Mitchell and Noah Fernandes will have no limitations

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Parker Peters/Daily Collegian

By Joey Aliberti, Assistant Sports Editor

Tre Mitchell and Noah Fernandes were both limited in Tuesday night’s loss to Richmond, playing only 22 and 19 minutes respectively.

With both players expected to be full-go on Monday, it will be the first game in which Mitchell and Fernandes will be fully healthy with freshmen Cairo McCrory and Dyondre Dominguez available to play since Jan. 9 against La Salle.

“Having everybody all hands-on deck minus Dibaji [Walker] in practice is big for us and is something that we really haven’t had a ton of all year,” head coach Matt McCall said.

With all four healthy and available, that leaves the Massachusetts men’s basketball team likely to roll with a nine-man rotation.

The rotation will not be one that is solidified, due to the lack of flow of games in which to find a consistent rotation, along with McCall incentivizing minutes to players that are playing well.

Dominguez is a prime example of this. He logged his career-high in minutes against Richmond (18) and it not-so coincidentally correlated with his career-high in points (15). Before Richmond, Dominguez had only logged a high of nine minutes and four points.

The game before against Rhode Island saw McCrory have a career night, totaling 11 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks and steals apiece. He also had a career-high 29 minutes, his previous high being 18.

“If someone’s playing well and impacting the game, whether it’s on the offensive or defensive end of the floor then we got to roll with that guy,” McCall said. “… Dyondre went in the game, he was playing well, and we stuck with him. That’s what we’re going to do.”

The loss of Dibaji Walker draws question to who McCall will fill in as the fifth starter against Saint Louis on Monday. With Fernandes, Carl Pierre, Ronnie DeGray III and Mitchell solidified as starters, TJ Weeks is the likely candidate to step into that wing spot.

Though the redshirt freshman does not possess the same defensive prowess as Walker, he is one of the Minutemen’s (7-5, 6-3 Atlantic 10) better rebounders and holds the ability to be the deadliest shooter on the roster. After shooting 20 percent from three through the first six games, Weeks has shot the long ball at a 35 percent clip through the six most recent games.

Javohn Garcia could be considered another candidate — as he has started multiple games – but McCall has talked about preferring Garcia to come off of the bench to make sure he doesn’t get into foul trouble early.

Every player within McCall’s nine-man rotation has now scored in double figures at least once, proving that one of the youngest teams in college basketball does boast a riches of talent. Though the lack of games and experience will likely be a major crutch for this UMass team.

Experienced teams such as Saint Louis (12-5, 5-4 A-10) have much more familiarity with each other that long breaks between games are not as much of a burden on its success.

Jordan Goodwin, Javonte Perkins and Hasahn French are all talented seniors that are going to cause the Minutemen a multitude of problems, meaning that depth and production of the bench is necessary to beat one of the best teams the A-10 has to offer.

Joey Aliberti can be reached via email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @JosephAliberti1