Season Preview: Men’s Basketball

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2017-18 Record: 13-20 (Overall), 5-13 (Atlantic 10)

 

New Look Minutemen Aiming High in McCall’s Second Year

The UMass Men’s Basketball team is gearing up for their season opener tonight against UMass Lowell at 7:30pm in Mullins Center. Although the team did not perform as well as they had hoped to last year, they come into this season with a refreshed roster. Will the Minutemen be able to change their losing ways this year?

Last year, UMass finished with an overall record of 13-20, and was eliminated in the second round of the A-10 Conference Tournament. Although the team finished as the second-worst team in the conference, they had some big wins throughout the course of the season. UMass defeated Providence about halfway through the season, and had another clutch win against Saint Joe’s, too. The Minutemen also put up a good fight against a ranked URI team, losing their second matchup by only two points.

 

Last Season’s Top Moment: Pipkins Wild Buzzer Beater, Unique’s Ally-oop Dunk Propels UMass over Dayton In Double Overtime, 86-82 (Credit: Stadium)

 

The biggest contributor to UMass last season was none other than sophomore guard Luwane Pipkins. Now a Junior, the Chicago native doubled his scoring average from his Freshman season to an impressive 21 points per game, along with 4 assists and 1.5 steals per game. Not only did Pipkins increase his scoring average, but he did it by shooting 9% better than his freshman season en route to an A-10 Co-Most Improved Player Award. His season was highlighted by an astounding performance against LaSalle, during which he scored a career-high 44 points.

Freshman guard Carl Pierre had an impressive season for the Minutemen last year, as well. Pierre averaged 12 points per game in his first season on the team, which was good for second behind Pipkins. Look for Pierre and Pipkins to become an even more dynamic scoring duo as they further improve their skills and learn to play with one another.

 

Incoming Transfers and Recruits:

Although the team lost former Senior CJ Anderson (who recently signed a contract with the Atlanta Hawks) to graduation, there were no other departures besides him, and the Minutemen have a plethora of recruits and transfers on the way. The two main Freshman recruits are guard Tre Wood and small forward Samba Diallo, who were both ranked as three-star recruits. Both of these players bring a ton of athleticism to UMass, as Wood is extremely fast for his position, while Diallo is an athletic scorer who can rebound well for his size.

The two key transfers for the Minutemen this season will be guard Kieran Hayward and forward Jonathan Laurent, who both scored double-digits in the exhibition against Westfield State last week. Laurent, a Junior coming from Rutgers, should provide a solid scoring and rebounding presence for the Minutemen. Hayward, who is a Sophomore transferring from LSU, will be a solid long-range shooter off the bench, as he shot 38% from deep at LSU.

 

 

Despite a relatively easy schedule with no ranked teams on it, UMass still has some key games to look forward to this year. The team faces URI on January 7 for its first matchup since only losing to them by two last year, and plays them again on March 9 to end the season. Additionally, UMass plays Providence on December 7 and Davidson on February 9, the latter of which received a single vote for the NCAA Men’s Top 25 preseason voting poll.

 

Although the team did not get to .500 last year, there is a lot to look forward to in the coming season. Not only are there plenty of new faces that are ready to contribute to the squad, but last year’s leading scorers in Pipkins and Pierre are also returning with improved skill sets. Under Coach McCall, look for UMass to surge into competitiveness this year and fight for a spot near the top of the A-10. Go UMass!

 

Looking Ahead:

 

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