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 men’s basketball opens season against Albany

Home tilt marks beginning of Frank Martin’s second season as coach
Dylan Nguyen
Daily Collegian (2022)

The Massachusetts men’s basketball team kicks off its 2023-24 campaign with a home contest against Albany. Both teams underwent drastic changes over the offseason and as a result, Tuesday’s game should serve as a measuring stick, providing a baseline that both teams’ head coaches can build off over the following four months.

These two teams faced off last season in early December, meeting each other in the Mullins Center when both squads had different sets of expectations. At the time they played, UMass was 6-1 and coming off a Myrtle Beach Invitational title, thought of as a sleeper team in the Atlantic 10. Meanwhile, the Great Danes were picked by most to be near the bottom of the America East; the team was 3-6 at the time with only one Division-I win.

UMass walked away with an 87-73 win that night, but the game was a story of two halves. The Minutemen led by 25 after the first 20 minutes of play, but Albany took the second half 52-41. With that past momentum in hand, head coach Dwayne Killings and the Great Danes are looking to pick up where they left off in Tuesday’s season opener.

This season, the vibes around the two programs are different. Both find themselves somewhat closer to one another in college basketball’s pecking order. UMass moved down a little in A-10 projections, while Albany moved up a little in the America East. Last year, there was a 201-team gap in KenPom between UMass and Albany when they faced played. This season, that number’s been cut in half and then some, as there are only 92 teams separating the Minutemen (209th) and Great Danes (301st) at time of writing according to Ken Pomeroy’s team-sorting formula.

After an 8-23 (3-13 America East) record last season, Albany lost a couple of key pieces. The toughest pill to swallow for Great Dane fans over the offseason was Gerald Drumgoole’s portal entry, as the Rochester, New York native led the team in 2022-23 with 15.7 points per game. Drumgoole departed to Delaware and three other rotation players graduated, but the rest of the roster remains intact.

The focal point of Albany’s offense will likely be Jonathan Beagle. The 6-foot-10 sophomore opted to stay home and commit to the Great Danes last season over offers from Pittsburgh, Hofstra, Iona and others. After a successful freshman campaign that saw Beagle win Albany’s second consecutive America East Rookie of the Year award, the sophomore took his name out of the transfer portal and opted to run it back with the Great Danes.

In addition to Beagle, Killings was able to secure the services of three transfers who should all have sizable roles for Albany throughout the season. Speedy point guard Sebastian Thomas comes over from Rhode Island, where he started 16 games over two seasons and averaged 4.3 points and 2.4 assists per game. Amar’e Marshall arrives via Hofstra as a 6-foot-4 redshirt sophomore guard who shot nearly 41 percent from deep. The third piece, Tyler Bertram, provides backcourt depth: the Cooperstown, New York native decided to return home after spending the past four seasons at three different schools, with the latest being the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

For UMass, winning this game depends on two different factors: how quickly the Minutemen offense can gel and how “big” their frontcourt can play against Beagle. With eight newcomers on this season’s roster, it may take a while for UMass’ offensive sets to be executed to the fullest.

To win tomorrow, the Minutemen don’t need to be firing on all cylinders – the Great Danes were 317th in the country last season in effective field goal percentage – but UMass needs at least some form of consistent scoring to match a motivated Albany roster.

Additionally, Josh Cohen and the Minutemen’s other bigs will be keyed in on Beagle. With Cohen playing his first regular season minutes Tuesday, there will be plenty of eyeballs on the highly touted transfer, and his first defensive matchup is anything but a cakewalk. Beagle and Cohen share a similar post-oriented game on offense, one that relies upon finding creases and out-muscling defenses.

If UMass holds its ground, keeps a strong presence in the paint and stays out of foul trouble, it’ll make a Minutemen victory much easier to come by.

Tuesday’s matchup tips off at 7:00 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+.

Dean Wendel can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @DeanWende1.

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