Tuesday's UMass Basketball News - UMass Athletics

Tuesday's UMass Basketball News

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Lots of stories on the basketball front on Tuesday including injury updates on both Sean Carter (elbow) and Freddie Riley (foot/ankle) read about in these stories.

Two UMass hoop players questionable for Duquesne game

Photo: 2 UMass players questionable
UMass sophomore guard Freddie Riley, right, drives past Darien Brothers of Richmond in the first half of the Minutemen's 84-68 loss to the Spiders at the Mullins Center on Saturday.

The struggling University of Massachusetts basketball team could be two players short when it tries to snap a three-game losing streak Wednesday against Duquesne. Starting center Sean Carter and reserve guard Freddie Riley are both unlikely to play.

UMass coach Derek Kellogg didn't rule out either player, but characterized both as "questionable to out."

Carter left Sunday's loss to George Washington twice with injuries - one to his elbow and one to his foot or ankle - but returned both times. Kellogg said Carter had a hyperextended right elbow. He's more likely to play than Riley, according to Kellogg. "We'll see if we can find him a brace or something that he could play with," Kellogg said.

Riley had X-rays Monday. They came back negative for a break, but Kellogg said swelling was the issue. "He's got considerable swelling in his ankle and foot," he said.

If Carter can't go, either Hashim "Big City" Bailey or Matt Hill would start at center, and both would see increased minutes. Kellogg said if either gets into foul trouble, he'll likely use a small lineup with sophomore Terrell Vinson or freshman Raphiael Putney at center. The versatile 6-foot-8 Putney also could see some of Riley's minutes. He has played most of his minutes on the wing and can be an effective defender there, especially in a zone. Kellogg said all his wings, especially Sampson Carter, likely would get more playing time. "It's not the ideal situation offensively, but that's the situation we're in," Kellogg said.

All NCAA hoop tourney games will be televised nationally

Photo: TV gets its tourney act together
UMass sophomore guard Freddie Riley, right, drives past Darien Brothers of Richmond in the first half of the Minutemen's 84-68 loss to the Spiders at the Mullins Center on Saturday.

At this time last year, there were legitimate concerns that the NCAA was about to expand to a 96-team men's basketball tournament, watering down one of sports' most perfect events.

Instead, to the delight of most fans, the field added just three teams, going from 65 to 68. But the best news might be the new TV format that will debut this year.

On St. Patrick's Day 2007, college basketball fans in New England were settling in to watch the second half of the second-round NCAA Tournament game between No. 6-seed Louisville and No. 3 Texas A&M when studio host Greg Gumbel popped onto the TV to tell fans that CBS was switching them from the gripping game between the Aggies and Cardinals to the first half of Boston College and Georgetown.

Not a BC fan? Tough luck. You lived too close to Chestnut Hill not to get wire-to-wire coverage of the Eagles. Unless you had a really good computer with high-speed internet, paid for the satellite package or went to a sports bar that had paid for it, you got whatever game CBS gave you throughout the first weekend of the tournament every year.

A&M's Acie Law IV and Louisville's Edgar Sosa delivered a terrific mano-a-mano showdown and the Aggies escaped with a 72-69 win that didn't come back on locally until the final minute.

This is not a unique story, or even an unusual one. The first two days of the tournament were always 16 games on one network. Conflicts were inevitable.

Until now. The best part of the CBS/Turner deal to cover the NCAA Tournament is that every game will be televised nationally.

When four games are going at once, one will be on CBS, one on TBS, one on TNT and one on TruTV, (formerly Court TV), which is a cable network that you probably have and don't realize it (Comcast 40). Fans will be able to watch every game on their own TV. Sports bars no longer need to buy a package to carry every game at the same time.

The NCAA has always staggered start times by a few minutes in hopes that CBS could show the final moments of any and all close games. But it didn't always work out. Overtime games would run into the end of other close regulation games. But unlike CBS, the other three don't have nightly news commitments on weekdays so the start times can be further staggered.

There is no real downside, except for the increased incentive to skip work that day.

BRACKETBUSTING - This weekend is the annual BracketBusters event, which pits several of the top mid-major programs against each other. The games get the schools both exposure and the opportunity for a signature win that could help both their RPI and overall NCAA at-large resumes.

The best matchup is Saturday's Utah State at St. Mary's. USU is No. 25 in the poll that came out Monday and the Gaels are second in the also-receiving votes.

ATLANTIC 10 GAME OF THE WEEK - Richmond at Temple, Thursday, 7 p.m. - The Spiders are squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble. A win over the Owls would go a long way toward improving their resume. On top of that, the two teams start the week tied for second in the conference. The result will almost certainly affect the league's postseason tournament seeds.

ATLANTIC 10 IN POLL - For the first time this season, two Atlantic 10 teams are ranked in the Associated Press Top 25. Temple moved up to No. 23, while Xavier checked in at No. 24.

QUOTABLE I - San Diego State coach Steve Fisher took exception to Wyoming firing coach Heath Schroyer with six weeks left in the season and said so on the Mountain West weekly teleconference.

"For a coach to be fired with six weeks to go in the season is inexcusable. We talk to our players about commitment, not cutting and running, and yet when things go south a little bit, often our administrators say, 'What do we do to please our biggest donor or the perception standpoint?'... This is not the NBA. This is not the NFL. Yes, this has happened before and will happen again. That doesn't make it right. It's wrong. It should not have been that way. It should have been done in a professional manner. A six-week jump on the market is not worth it."

QUOTABLE II - First-year Fordham coach Tom Pecora said on Monday's conference call that his team has to stop accepting losing:

"I told them, 'You guys cannot be comfortable with losing. I understand it's been a struggle here the last two seasons and there's been a ton of losses. If they don't tear at your gut, then competing at this level is not where you belong."

Minutemen look to break losing streak

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

As the Massachusetts men's basketball team made its way to the court for practice on Monday, it looked like soldiers returning from battle.

Sophomore guard Freddie Riley stepped onto the court with a stiff limp and then sat down on one of the chairs on the sideline, a result of an ankle injury suffered in Sunday's loss against George Washington. UMass coach Derek Kellogg said that Riley is "going to be out for awhile."

Next onto the court was center Sean Carter, his arm in a sling as the result of a hyper-extended elbow he suffered against GW, according to Kellogg.

Then there was Raphiael Putney who, after waiting on the sideline for one of the UMass trainers to arrive, had his wrist taped up.

The injured Minutemen will join their teammates on Wednesday night at the Mullins Center as UMass hosts Duquesne, which will pit the banged-up Maroon and White (13-10, 5-5 Atlantic 10) against the fourth team in the A-10 conference table.

"It's going to be a tough one because of how good Duquesne is, but at the same token we're going to get back in the gym, try to work even harder than we've been and try and tighten things up on the offensive end," Kellogg said.

The offensive side of the ball was the missing piece in the Minutemen's 59-51 loss to the Colonials on Sunday night, as usual top-scorer Anthony Gurley was held to seven points in the contest. This loss was the UMass' third-straight loss, which is the first streak of losses for the Minutemen in conference play.

"I think our effort has been good, I think our defense has been good, our offensive struggles have been difficult to coach and watch," Kellogg said. "We're going to have to do some things offensively to put some points on the board and get out and run a little bit to make the game more exciting for our team so that they want to play a little bit harder."

The Minutemen will be trying to revamp their offense against a tough Dukes squad who, until Feb. 5, were 8-0 in the conference. They are now 8-2 (16-7 overall) in the conference after two-straight losses to St. Bonaventure and Xavier.

With these pair of consecutive losses by the Dukes and three-straight from UMass, both teams will go to work at the Mullins Center with hopes to snap their losing streaks.

"I'm going to go with UMass [needing the win more]," Kellogg said. "This time of year, every game is paramount and important for spots in the standings and to see if we can get out of a little bit of a rut here. It's one of those ones where I think it's important for both teams. I would say each coach or each team to think it's more important for their squad to come away with the victory."

Coming away with a victory is easier said than done for UMass, as the Dukes sit first in the A-10 in scoring offense and second in both 3-point percentage and field goal percentage.

These high-scoring numbers come from the quartet of double-digit scorers on the Dukes side, including guard Bill Clark, who leads the team with 17.2 points per game, good for seventh in the A-10.

On the defensive front, Duquesne is first in the conference with steals and second with blocked shots. Both of these categories are a specialty of forward Damian Saunders, who leads the team in blocked shots (59) and is second in steals (47). Guard T.J. McConnell leads the team and the A-10 in steals with 67 robberies.

As the defensively and offensively strong Dukes head into the Mullins Center, UMass holds a .500 record for the first time since its first A-10 loss to the Musketeers. The result following the loss at XU was a 74-71 win against La Salle. Kellogg and UMass will be looking for a repeat situation this time around as the A-10 schedule starts to close down.

Correia shouldering bulk of point guard role

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

The point guard position is widely considered to be one of most important, if not the most significant, position in college basketball. Even with a senior at the helm of its offense, the Massachusetts men's basketball team is thin at the position for the remainder of the season.

Following the departure of freshman Daryl Traynham, the Minutemen (13-10, 5-5 Atlantic 10) are left with senior Gary Correia as the only true point guard on the roster. While Correia entered the season as the starter and is the primary ball-handler for UMass, he isn't receiving the benefit of being relieved by Traynham anymore.

"I mean I think it's very difficult, but this is the hand we're dealt right now and [Gary] is the only point guard really in the program," UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. "As a senior and a guy who has been around the program for four years, I think he can take on a little more responsibility and have the ability to play more minutes. Is it asking a lot? Yeah, it is, but this is the situation we're in right now."

Prior to Traynham's departure, Correia was averaging 4.3 points per game and 2.4 assists per contest. Since playing his first game without Traynham against Dayton on Jan. 9, Correia's scoring has relatively stayed the same with his current 4.2 points per game average.

What has changed, however, has been UMass' need for Correia to distribute the ball. In Traynham's absence, the point guard has increased his assists tally to 3.5 per game, which is higher than any of his season-long averages in his time with the Minutemen.

What's more is that Correia has had little opportunity to earn breathers on the bench during games. In games which Traynham played, Correia never exceeded 30 minutes on the floor. Since then, Correia has played 30 or more minutes on six occasions, including the past five contests.

"I don't think it's too much for him, but I mean he can get overwhelmed at times, but it's not too much," UMass guard Javorn Farrell said of Correia. "I guess coming into the season he didn't expect to be playing 32 minutes a game, I mean it's just something he had to take with him. I think he's doing a pretty good job though."

Farrell, along with sophomore guard Freddie Riley and senior guard Anthony Gurley, have filled in at times for the ball-handling duties this year following Traynham's exit.

Nevertheless, Farrell is currently the primary backup point guard and has been working all season to improve his playmaking skills. To do that, Farrell has been going against point guard Chaz Williams in practice this season.

The 5-foot, 9-inch sophomore transfer from Hofstra will have three years of eligibility for the Minutemen after sitting out this season because of NCAA transfer rules.

Even as a practice player though, Williams is helping Farrell prepare for smaller opposing point guards.

"We don't play the same way, like [Chaz] is more of an explosive, quick guy, I've got to use my size to my advantage," Farrell said. "Most of the guards, most of the other point guards that I'll play against are smaller. So having Chaz check me at practice, I know how to use my body to do different things against smaller guards."

Farrell's transition into playing the point guard position hasn't been easy but his assists numbers show that he's looking to be more of a distributor. Farrell's 51 (2.4 average) assists trail only Correia's total of 57 on the team and already surpass his total of 42 for all of his freshman season.

While the point guard position might not to be the strength of UMass this year, the adversity of losing a significant player in the middle of the season has been if nothing else, a learning experience.

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