Has the anticipation been killing you? I’ll bet it has. Eight months since the Minutemen finished off the 2015-16 campaign, it’s nearly time for a brand new season to begin. We’ve been whetting your palate with player previews and the recruiting rumor mill, but there’s nothing quite like that first tip of the year to get us chomping at the bit. Without further ado:
Which freshman will make the most impact?
Adam: Luwane Pipkins is going to make the biggest impact. He might not put up the most numbers but I see him filling the role that Rashaan Holloway took on last season. A year ago, Rashaan came in and immediately became a fan favorite because of his energy on and off the court. Early reports from practice this season are showing Pipkins as a natural leader who will come off the bench and get the crowd fired up.
Alanna: Freshmen always have something to prove, which will make for a really interesting situation since UMass has six of them on the roster. Out of these young bloods, I’m going with the local kid: Chris Baldwin. I like that he was recruited by some other top ball schools but remembered where he came from. “Breadcrumbs” Baldwin as I’ll now lovingly call him.
Dan: DeJon Jarreau. He’s got the size, athleticism, and skill to make an impact on day 1. If he’s even close to as good as he’s been hyped he’ll be the best freshman UMass has seen in a while.
Slim Phil: B(r)ison Gresham. He’s already slotting in the big man rotation because the Minutemen have been on the small side for the past few years. Although I expect Rashaan Holloway will see the bulk of the minutes to start, I get the feeling Bison will quickly surpass Malik Hines and challenge Rashaan for playing time.
Which returning player will have a breakthrough?
Adam: My choice, of course, is Rashaan Holloway. Is it obvious who my favorite player is yet? Rashaan has lost some of his freshman
fifteen fifty and seems to be in good enough shape to play more minutes in what should be a very fast paced offense. With a group of talented guards around him, Rashaan has the opportunity to eat up boards, rebounds and alley-oop passes. I’m excited to see what the big guy is capable of!
Alanna: I’m going with Adam on this one – Holloway has lost some lbs and as a former power forward (yes, it’s true), I’m always going to vote for the big man to make big plays.
Dan: You might think I’m going to say CJ Anderson, but I have to go with Donte Clark. He was a good player last year but has a chance to be great. If he can get a bit more efficient on offense and become a consistent shooter Clark will be unstoppable.
Slim Phil: Some of the crew here will likely say CJ Anderson, but I’m going with Seth Berger. Seth had a huge start to the 2015-16 season and was primed to become a mainstay in the starting lineup. A few nagging injuries and a slow finish to the year dropped him down the chart, but expect Seth to carry his energy through a full season this time around.
What is the most intriguing game on the schedule?
Adam: Year after year, UMass vs. Harvard is one of the most exciting games on the schedule and this season is no different. The past three matchups have brought a UMass win on a game winning three (2012), a Harvard win on a missed game winning three (2014) and another tight UMass win last year. The Crimson feature a team looking to win the Ivy League and head back to the big dance for a fifth consecutive year. Consider this my must-watch game of the non-conference schedule.
Alanna: Is it weird that I’m still agreeing with Adam? For some reason, whenever I attend UMass/Harvard games it’s always a fantastic night. Non-conference rivals in my personal opinion. Plus, who wouldn’t want to see a state school beat an ivy league?
Dan: It’s gotta be UMass vs. URI (any of them). Some pundits are predicting URI to be a top 25 team this year and they are most likely going to be a top team in the A10. But Coach Kellogg and the gang somehow have real estate in Dan Hurley’s brain and it always comes down to the wire. I’m pumped to see the rivalry grow between these two young squads.
Slim Phil: How could it be anything other than UMass vs. Temple? If I’m not mistaken, this is the first time the two schools have met on the court since the Owls left the A10 for the American. This game should put some nostalgic butts in the seats at the Bill, even if the rivalry has quieted. If only John Cheney was here. Speaking of butts…
Average fan attendance at the Mullins Center?
Adam: 1,000,000? I’m not really that great at numbers. The football team sucks, the hockey team is not looking so hot this year…my money is the students coming out in droves assuming the Minutemen can string together a couple of W’s early in the season.
Alanna: Since alcohol is now being sold at Mullins, I think people will be more interested in coming. I’m going with average of 5k.
Dan: Going with the Price is Right strategy and picking 3,751. This squad is going to be a lot of fun to watch and the Mullins is electric when the students pack the place. So here’s to hoping its more like 5,000!
Slim Phil: 3,750 per game. Fan interest will definitely start building as everyone realizes how good this recruiting class is. If the Minutemen can pull off some wins in league play, expect big crowds to show up down the stretch for important games against URI and Davidson.
UMass’ regular season record and postseason prediction?
Adam: 19-12 regular season. I predict a strong (3-4 losses) non-conference schedule but see them finishing middle of the pack during conference play. I’m not much of an optimist so I’ll say they get bounced in the second round of A10s
Alanna: I’ll go with a dark horse theory. 17-14 regular, finals in postseason.
Dan: 20-11. I’m optimistic that the Minutemen will reverse the trend of the last few years by starting slow and building to a well oiled winning machine come postseason. I have a feeling there is a lot more parity in the A10 this season and if the young guys can get up to speed quickly then UMass can string together some nice win streaks. With a change in scenery for the A10 Tournament (Pittsburgh) so will change the Minutemen’s postseason luck. UMass makes a run to the finals and wins in overtime!
Slim Phil: 17-14 regular season, with a top-10 A10 finish. UMass will get a win in the second round of the A10 Tournament in Pittsburgh, then follow that up with an upset in the quarterfinals to reach the semis before bowing out.