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Old 11-03-2010, 10:29 PM
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Per WH of the A10 board:



The key to the Minutemen's success is to get better point guard play (13th in the A-10 in assists); take higher percentage shots and make more of them (40.2% FG, 13th in the A-10; 30.1% 3PG, 11th); make better decisions at every spot on the floor (12th in turnover margin); play better defense, especially on the perimeter (37% 3pg defense was the worst in the league); and find another go-to scorer to replace Ricky Harris.

Quite a list, all right, but not surprising for a struggling second-year coach who was managing a team filled mostly with freshmen and transfers. Some of the problems can be fixed simply through experience. Older players tend to shoot a higher percentage and take better care of the ball, particularly when they've been together for a few years. Defense is about will and effort, however, and there will be no excuses this season if Kellogg can't coax his players to supply more of each.

The jury is still out on Kellogg as a head coach. He has shown an excellent ability to recruit high-level players and this is the year we should start to see some marked progress. Umass has a heralded sophomore class and several potential stars with Terrell Vinson inside and Freddie Riley outside. Javorn Farrell is a classic glue player with toughness and defensive lockdown ability. THe Minutemen has lots of size and athleticism and were one of the best rebounding teams in the league by season's end. A coach like Majerus or Dunphy could squeeze nine or ten wins out of this talent, but Kellogg has yet to show that he's a legit Division 1 coach - big wins over Kansas and Memphis nothwitstanding.

Kellogg is certainly primed to get off to a good start with a "training wheels" schedule. UMass does not leave New England a single time during the nonconference slate.


L - NEW MEXICO STATE (Springfield Tip-off Classic)
W - TCU (Springfield Tip-off Classic)
L - BC (Boston Garden)
L - At Quinipiac
W - At Central Conn. State


The Minutemen should get a decent test to start the season from a less talented but experienced Rider team capable of pulling an upset. Sacred Heart is the next sacrificial lamb.

UMass head to nearby Springfield for a pair of winnable games, but I call for a split. New Mexico State lost a terrific backcourt to graduation, but the team had a summer trip to Canada and there's plenty of talent here. TCU is still in rebuiding mode. Hard for me to see two teams from the West winning both games vs. their New England host.

After dusting off American International, UMass heads to Boston for a clash with BC. The Minutemen clearly have more talent, but BC has the better coach. Should be a win, but I play it safe. Next is a rebuilding Holy Cross, which fired its first-year coach after a losing season. Should be a relatively easy win.

Quinnipiac, which won 20-plus games last season, has one of the best post players no one has heard of in Justin Rutty. UMass is definitely more talented, and fans would hate to lose to coach Tom Moore (a onetime candidate for the UMass job), but it's a road game and the Q faithful will be all fired up.

Umass returns home for four straight games. Maine returns most starters from a 19-win team and cannot be taken lightly. Seton Hall has one of its better teams in recent years, but UMass really needs this game. I just can't imagine this team going through its noncon slate with fewer than three losses, however. It reflects my lack of faith in Kellogg.

Central Florida returns all five starters and hired away's Marshall's fine young coach. This could be an upset, especially if UMass beats Hall the game before, but home cooking prevails. Ditto in a win over a solid BU team. Unfortunately the Terriers will be breaking in new guards, making them susceptible to an athletic UMass attack. The Minutemen head an hour or so south to play a CCSU team that has given UMass trouble every now and then. That shouldnt happen this time. UMass has the advantage at every position on the court.

BONUS A-10 PREDICTION: 6-10 (15-14 overall)

The Minutemen pair up with Rhode Island, LaSalle and St. Joseph's. Last year the team went 3-3 vs. these teams. I see the same record this year. UMass also goes on the road at Xavier, Charlotte, St Bonaventure, St. Louis and Fordham. There might be only one win in that bunch.

At first I pegged UMass for an 8-8 record, but ultimately I lowballed my alma mater because of doubts about Kellogg. He still has a lot to prove - and I hope he proves me wrong.
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