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 is fifth in Atlantic 10 seeding with loss to St. Louis

Saint Joseph’s and Dayton wins help finalize tournament seeding
Parker Peters/ Daily Collegian

A double bye was not earned by the Massachusetts men’s basketball team Monday night, losing 78-57 to Saint Louis.

The Minutemen (7-6, 6-4 Atlantic 10) had a chance to climb all the way up to the three seed with a win over the Billikens (13-5, 6-4 A-10). Saint Joseph’s win over Richmond held UMass as the five seed, where a Richmond win would’ve dropped them to six.

Now the Minutemen must watch No. 12-seeded La Salle go up against No. 13-seeded Saint Joseph’s to see who they will face on Thursday. The two teams split the season series against one another this year, the Explorers winning 90-83 on Jan. 18 and the Hawks winning 91-82 in overtime on Feb. 20.

In the meantime, UMass has a lot of kinks to smooth out in order to realize any sort of success in the A-10 postseason.

“Understanding… offensively what we’re looking for, what we need to run and execute,” said Minutemen head coach Matt McCall ahead of Thursday’s tournament game. “I thought we had some good possessions on offense, I thought we had some really bad possessions on offense.”

“Defensively, pick and roll coverage; what are we doing? How are we guarding certain actions? Just different things like that.”

UMass has played in two games in the past 23 days, coming no closer to its opponent’s final score than 14 points in either game.

In these two games, the Minutemen have compiled 24 total assists in comparison to 30 turnovers. In the previous 11 games UMass totaled 173 assists and 135 turnovers. Rust is prevalent throughout this entire team and being able to turn that around in a three-day span is the tall task ahead for McCall and the Minutemen.

If you only look at the fact that UMass is the fifth seed in the A-10 tournament, the easy error of thinking that this team has shown competitiveness with the top tier teams in the conference can be made. Looking a little further will show that the Minutemen have defeated one team all year that has a winning record (Northeastern is 9-8).

UMass’ A-10 resume isn’t the most impressive, claiming wins over Rhode Island, La Salle and Fordham, none of which have a winning record or fall in the top nine of conference seeding. Conference losses have now come from George Mason, Davidson, Richmond and Saint Louis.

George Mason defeated the Minutemen in double overtime and overcame an eight-point deficit in the final 1:20 of regulation. While UMass had a lead on the now third-seeded Wildcats, Davidson outscored the Minutemen 42-28 in the second half off the back of Kellan Grady’s 20-point half.

Though March is infamous for seeing the unthinkable become a reality, it feels far-fetched to consider this young, quarantine-ridden UMass team likely to make a legitimate run at the A-10 title. The lack of flow and impressive wins this season makes it difficult to visualize a path through this conference tournament when teams such as Saint Bonaventure, Saint Louis, Davidson and VCU are the hurdles the Minutemen would have to jump in order to make it deep into the bracket.

Having an uber-talented player such as Tre Mitchell at the helm of your roster is obviously helpful, but he will need to be playing his best basketball if this team is able to sniff any sort of success. UMass is 3-1 when Mitchell scores 20-plus points.

“[There’s an] airplane waiting on us tomorrow morning, we got to get on that airplane with the right mentality, put this one behind us and believe we can win,” McCall said.

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

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