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

Previewing UMass men’s basketball 2022-23 non-conference schedule

Everything to know about the Minutemen’s first opponents
Kayla Wong/Daily Collegian

With the 2022-23 NCAA basketball season fast approaching, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team enters year one of the Frank Martin era. When it comes to UMass basketball, conference play in the Atlantic 10 is usually where most eyes key in on the Minutemen’s successes or failures. But UMass doesn’t open conference play this season until New Year’s Eve.

That leaves 54 days between the Minutemen’s opener on Nov. 7 and its A-10 premiere against St. Bonaventure. The team plays 12 games during that time, and 10 of its opponents are locked in. The other two depend on UMass’ performance in its non-conference Myrtle Beach Invitational.

So who are these 10 teams, and how do each of them match up with the Minutemen?

Note: All season projections are from conference preseason polls.

Central Connecticut State (Nov. 7)

Coach: Patrick Sellers (2nd Season)

Last Season: 8-24, 5-13 Northeast Conference (ninth place)

Season Projection: 6th in NEC

Central Connecticut State is UMass’ first opponent on opening night of the college basketball season. Sellers has an extremely young team for the second year in a row. His one star is senior point guard Nigel Scantlebury, who led the team in scoring last season with 13.4 points per game. Sellers referred to Scantlebury as an “Energizer bunny”, expect the senior to take control of the offense throughout the game and bring a jolt of energy to the Blue Devils on opening night.

Past Scantlebury, there’s a lot of unproven pieces on Central’s roster. Expect the Minutemen to make a statement with a sizable victory on Nov. 7.

“If we play as hard as coach [Frank] Martin’s team, I’ll be very proud,” Sellers said.

Towson (Nov. 10)

Coach: Pat Skerry (12th Season)

Last Season: 25-9, 15-3 Colonial Athletic Association (first place), NIT 1st Round

Season Projection: 1st in CAA

Here is where the Minutemen should receive their first true test. Towson greatly outperformed expectations last season, winning 25 games and the CAA regular season title en route to an NIT berth. Now they return their top four scorers and add Sekou Sylla, last season’s Division-II Player of the Year. The Tigers head into this season widely considered as one of the best mid-major teams in the country.

Nowhere was this expectation more evident than at CAA Media Day, where Towson received 12 of 13 first-place votes in the preseason poll. Skerry’s squad also made up three-fifths of the Preseason All-CAA First Team (guard Cam Holden, guard Nicolas Timberlake and forward Charles Thompson). This is undoubtedly the best home game on UMass’s non-conference schedule, and the Minutemen’s performance on Nov.10 will be the first opportunity to see how where this team stands.

Colorado (Nov. 17) – Myrtle Beach, SC

Coach: Tad Boyle (13th Season)

Last Season: 21-12,12-8 Pac-12 (fourth place), NIT 1st Round

Season Projection: 6th in Pac-12

This is an opening round matchup in the Myrtle Beach Invitational, an eight-team tournament where the Minutemen play three games over four days. First on the docket is Colorado, a Power Five program that’s maintained a solid national identity over Boyle’s tenure. The program expects a slight downswing this season, as the Buffaloes lost all three of last season’s double-digit scorers.

They’ll have to rely on forward Tristan da Silva (9.4 PPG in 2021-22) and hope for a breakout year from sophomore point guard KJ Simpson (7.4 PPG). While this team won’t be a Pac-12 bottom feeder, they’re not a world beater either. With a full week of preparation, it’s conceivable that the Minutemen could hang around in this neutral-site matchup.

At South Florida (Nov. 29)

Coach: Brian Gregory (6th Season)

Last Season: 8-23, 3-15 American (11th place)

Season Projection: 9th in American

After Myrtle Beach, the Minutemen have eight days off before heading down to Tampa to take on South Florida. The Bulls had a rough ride last season as one of the youngest teams in the country, finishing with an 8-23 record, good for last place in the American.

As a result, Gregory attacked the transfer portal, and USF landed three players who each averaged over seven points per game at bigger universities. Between Tyler Harris (Memphis), Selton Miguel (Kansas State) and Keyshawn Bryant (South Carolina), the Bulls are poised for a bounce-back season. In an away environment, this won’t be a walk in the park for UMass.

At Harvard (Dec. 2)

Coach: Tommy Amaker (15th Season)

Last Season: 13-13, 5-9, Ivy (6th place)

Season Projection: 4th in Ivy

UMass starts December in Cambridge, as the 1,600-seat Lavietes Pavilion will be packed for an in-state hoops matchup. The Minutemen won last season’s matchup 87-77 at the Mullins Center, in a game where Noah Fernandes and T.J. Weeks combined for 45 points.

Harvard is historically one of the Ivy’s most talented teams, but last season the Crimson ended up with a 13-13 record, missing the Ivy League conference tournament for the first time. With injury woes behind them, Harvard should compete for an Ivy title and a NCAA Tournament berth once again, despite the loss of last season’s best player Noah Kirkwood.

With plenty of depth, Amaker should return to an energetic, pressing style of defense that Harvard so often utilized. This team is no slouch, especially with a physical forward in Chris Ledlum, but the Minutemen’s backcourt should overpower their Bay State brethren.

Albany (Dec. 5)

Coach: Dwayne Killings (2nd Season)

Last Season: 13-18, 9-9 America East, (6th place)

Season Projection: 6th in America East

After a 25-day hiatus, UMass returns to the Mullins Center on Dec. 5 against Albany. The Great Danes had a defensive identity last season, struggling to do much on offense. While Albany lost three double-digit scorers in the offseason, Killings gained some talent from both the transfer portal and the high school ranks.

One player to watch will be sophomore wing Justin Neely, the reigning America East Rookie of the Year who coach Dwayne Killings said “matured a lot” over the offseason. Killings also added freshman center Jonathan Beagle, an interior presence who chose the Great Danes over offers from Pittsburgh, Iona, and Hofstra, among others. Beagle should carve out a solid role for Albany from day one. This is an improving mid-major squad, and if they show strides on offense early on, the Minutemen can’t take this game for granted.

UMass Lowell (Dec. 8)

Coach: Pat Duquette (10th Season)

Last Season: 15-16, 7-11 America East, (8th place)

Season Projection: 3rd in America East

After Albany, the Minutemen host in-state rival UMass Lowell in a battle of Massachusetts public universities. UMass is 5-0 against the Riverhawks since UMass Lowell joined Division-I. Duquette returns his top four scorers this season and adds a couple transfers in Yuri Covington  (seven points per game at William & Mary) and Mikey Watkins (9.7 points at Merrimack) to bolster the backcourt. With this roster, the River Hawks were picked in the America East preseason poll to finish right behind two of the best mid-major teams in the country in Vermont and Bryant. The River Hawks upset two A-10 teams last season (Dayton and George Washington). There’s probably a 10-20 percent chance of them adding UMass to that list.

Hofstra (Dec. 11) – Brooklyn, NY

Coach: Speedy Claxton (2nd Season)

Last Season: 21-11, 13-5 Colonial Athletic Association, (3rd place)

Season Projection: 2nd in CAA

The Minutemen head down to the Barclays Center, home of the Brooklyn Nets, to take on Hofstra as part of a college basketball quadruple-header. Hofstra played quite well last season in Claxton’s first year at the helm, going 13-5 in conference play before falling in the CAA Tournament first round.

They have the CAA Preseason Player of the Year in 6-foot-3 guard Aaron Estrada. The offense likely runs through Estrada (18.5 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 5 APG in 2021-22), who is a force on both sides of the ball. If UMass wants to win this one, shutting down Estrada with either Noah Fernandes or Rahsool Diggins is key.

North Texas (Dec. 17) – Springfield, MA

Coach: Grant McCasland (6th Season)

Last Season: 25-7, 16-2 Conference-USA, (1st place), NIT Round of 16

Season Projection: 3rd in C-USA

North Texas is UMass’ first game in Springfield since December 2015. These teams played each other last season in Fort Worth, which the Mean Green won by holding the Minutemen to a season-low 57 points. North Texas has recently been a mid-major powerhouse, upsetting Purdue in the first round of the NCAA tournament two years ago before going 25-7 and getting some at-large consideration last season.

McCasland is one of the hottest young coaches in college basketball. He runs a slow-paced, grinding offense paired with lockdown defense that turns North Texas into Virginia-lite. Look out for offensive threat Tylor Perry (13.5 PPG in 2021-22), as he’ll be the ringleader on both sides of the ball for the Mean Green. When it’s all said and done, we could very well look back on this game as being one of the Minutemen’s toughest tests.

Dartmouth (Dec. 20)

Coach: David McLaughlin (6th Season)

Last Season: 9-16, 6-8 Ivy, (5th place)

Season Projection: 7th in Ivy

To round out the non-conference slate, UMass gets Dartmouth, an up and down Ivy League school that’s coming off a tumultuous offseason. The Big Green lost their top four scorers and didn’t land anybody in the transfer portal to replace them. Dartmouth will rely on a couple of their players to have breakout seasons, with sophomore guard Ryan Cornish and senior forward Dame Adelekun being two of the main possibilities. This team has steadily performed better under McLaughlin, but this should be a tune-up for the Minutemen before they enter A-10 play.

Dean Wendel can be reached at [email protected]. or followed on Twitter @dmw204. 

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  • J

    Jim WendelNov 6, 2022 at 8:06 pm

    Great job as always.
    The more I read, the more I learn about the opponents.
    I will look forward to watching this season of the Minutemen.