Saturday Stories Before UMass At St. Joe's Hoop Game - UMass Athletics

Saturday Stories Before UMass At St. Joe's Hoop Game

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Here are stories on Saturday about UMass' finale of a two-game road trip as the MInutemen face Saint Joseph's at Hawk Hill.

Be it the NIT, CBI or CIT, UMass basketball team has a shot at postseason play

Published: Friday, February 04, 2011, 3:40 PM     Updated: Friday, February 04, 2011, 5:16 PM
University of Massachusetts defeats Texas Christian University in men's basketball, 67-48, in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament at the MassMutual CenterUniversity of Massachusetts guard Freddie Riley (24) was ejected Wednesday at Saint Louis, but avoided further punishment and will be able to play Saturday at Saint Joseph's,

Hey, University of Massachusettsmen's basketball fans, do the letters "CBI'' or "CIT'' mean anything to you?

They might, soon. Perhaps these are more familiar initials: NIT.

Even after Wednesday's dispiriting 69-53 loss at Saint Louis, the Minutemen remain in the hunt for postseason play. But a victory Saturday night at Saint Joseph's is imperative. and despite rhe comparative records of the teams, no sure thing.

UMass takes a 13-8 record and 5-3Atlantic 10 mark to Philadelphia. It's a massive rebuilding year for Saint Joseph's (5-17, 0-8), which has lost nine straight.

UMass won't reach the expanded, 68-team NCAA tournament unless it wins the Atlantic 10 tourney and an automatic bid. That would be an upset of major proportions.

Three trips to the National Invitation Tournament, including a runner-up showing in 2008, have provided UMass with its only postsason action since 1998. Ranked 95th in the RPI power ratings, the Minutemen are on the outside of the 32-team NIT field, looking in, but a strong finish could alter that.

That leaves the College Basketball Invitational (CBI), and a separate event run known as the CIT. The CBI began in 2008, the CIT in 2009.

Each offers a 16-team field, and each is run independently, but sanctioned by the NCAA

The CBI and CIT are hardly glamorous. More than a few basketball purists have questioned whether the sport needs them at all.

But they do provide postseason experience, potential home games and pretty good competition, almost entirely against mid-majors. The CBI final is a best-of-3 that saw Virginia Commonwealth sweep Saint Louis last year.

For a team like UMass, whose roster is made up predominantly of underclassmen, there are good reasons to play in the CBI or CIT. Right now, the Minutemen would seem like a strong candidate for either.

A loss at Saint Joseph's would damage even those modest hopes. The Hawks' record is bad, but only three of the 17 losses have come by more than 12 points.

UMass is a different story. The Minutemen usually win, but when they don't, they get hammered.

Their last six losses have come by an average of 20 points each. The loss at Saint Louis was the product of 35-percent shooting and an absentee performance from the 3-point line, where UMass was 1-for-9.

UMass received good news Friday when the Atlantic 10 ruled that guard Freddie Riley would not be suspended. The sophomore was ejected for a flagrant foul, but it was determined that the severity of the play did not warrant further punishment.

Saint Joseph's has only two seniors and one junior. From that group, only senior forward Idris Hilliard plays very much.

The rotation otherwise relies on youth. Notable are sophomore guard Carl Jones (18 points, 3.2 assists per game) and freshman guard Langston Galloway (10.8 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.5 steals).

As the losses have mounted, the Hawks have remained competitive. They lost to Rhode Island by five, Dayton by six, Creighton by seven, Richmond and Minnesota by 10, and Villanova by 11. 

UMass will wind up a two-game, six-day road trip. It's a game the Minutemen should win, but one that nonetheless poses problems.

After this one, UMass is off until Sunday, Feb. 13, at home against George Washington.

Riley gets approval from A-10 to play, avoids suspension

PHILADELPHIA - When University of Massachusetts men's basketball coach Derek Kellogg went to bed Thursday, he thought his team was going to be down a man for its game at Saint Joseph's.

Shortly after he woke up Friday, he got good news. Freddie Riley will be available for Saturday's 7 p.m. game after all. Riley elbowed a Saint Louis player in the face at the end of the Minutemen's loss Wednesday at Saint Louis. He was called for a flagrant foul and was ejected from the game.

The Minutemen believed that Riley would be suspended for a game, much the way Javorn Farrell was for throwing a punch in UMass' loss to George Washington last year. But because Riley used his elbow not his fist, he'll escape the one-game sentence.

According to NCAA Rule 4, Section 26: "A fight is a confrontation involving one or more players wherein (but not limited to) a fist, hand knee or leg is used to combatively strike the other individual."

Atlantic 10 associate commissioner Ed Pasque sent UMass the following email Friday explaining the ruling.

"Jim Satalin, our coordinator of officials, has indicated that based on the way the officials called the play (flagrant, but not a closed fist and not a fight), that there is no suspension. That is where it stands at this point."

Riley is averaging 8.5 points in 20.6 minutes per game.

"I'm pleased as much for him as anything," Kellogg said. "He's a good kid. It'll be good for our team to have him playing tomorrow."

Riley was repentant and relieved.

"I'm very excited," Riley said. "I had already put the whole thing behind me I'm just glad and fortunate that things worked out in my favor after doing such a dumb thing in the game the other night."

Kellogg expected his team to shake the frustration from Wednesday's loss.

"I'm confident they'll have a good attitude and play the right way," Kellogg said.

Unless Riley finds his shooting stroke, which has been inconsistent all year, the game will feature the Atlantic 10's two worst 3-point shooting teams. Only UMass (28.4 percent) shoots worse from outside than the Hawks (30.4).

But Saint Joseph's has other problems. The Hawks (5-17, 0-8 Atlantic 10) have lost nine straight and 15 of their last 17.

Sophomore Carl Jones leads St. Joe's in scoring (18.0 points per game) and assists (3.2 per game). Langston Galloway is next with 10.8 points to go with his team-best 5.9 rebounds per game. Freshman forward C.J. Aiken leads the Atlantic 10 in blocked shots with 3.9 per game.

"Watching them on tape, they've improved to where they're a good team," Kellogg said. "They've played everybody really tough and just haven't made those last couple plays to win a game. This is a team that's growing and getting better. Like any league game, it'll be tough."

UMass (13-8, 5-3 A-10) has won three straight games against St. Joe's in three separate locations - the Mullins Center, Hagan Arena at St. Joe's and The Palestra in Philadelphia. Before last year's win over the Hawks in Philly, the Minutemen imitated Rocky Balboa and ran the up the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. They plan to do it again this year.

GURLEY CLIMBING - Currently No. 23 on UMass' career scoring list with 1,198, Gurley needs 14 points to pass Anthony Anderson and Jim Town,who are tied at No. 21 with 1,211. Gurley is 10th on UMass' career 3-pointers list with 135. He needs one to match No. 9 Edgar Padilla and two to match Kellogg, who is eighth with 138.

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