UMass opens play in the Atlantic 10 Championship with a first round game against Rhode Island at 9 p.m. Thursday night. This will mark the third meeting of the season between the New England rivals - UMass won both contests (73-68 in Kingston and 70-67 in Amherst) by a combined eight points. UMass went 10-6 and tied for fifth place with Dayton and is the No. 6 seed, while Rhode Island finished tied for 10th at 5-11 and is the No. 11 seed in the tournament.
WHAT'S AT STAKE
The winner will advance to the quarterfinal round against third-seeded George Washington on Friday night at 9 p.m.
WHERE TO WATCH
Thursday's game will be televised regionally on Comcast SportsNet with Mike Corey and Stan Van Gundy on the call. Comcast clearances include CSN New England, CSN Mid-Atlantic, SNY, CSN Northwest, TCN Philadelphia and TCN Pittsburgh.
Charter Cable on the UMass campus carries the CSN New England on channels 2 and 18-10.
The 2013-14 season marks the sixth for head coach Derek Kellogg ... Kellogg starred as a point guard for the Minutemen from 1992-95, playing for coach John Calipari ... Kellogg spent a year as a graduate assistant with Bruiser Flint at UMass, two years at George Mason with Jim Larranaga and eight at Memphis with Calipari, culminating with the 2008 NCAA Runner-up season ... UMass' win totals under Kellogg have gone 12, 12, 15, 25 and 21 last season with a second-consecutive NIT appearance.
The Minutemen are shooting 46.6 pct. from the field, 35.5 pct. from outside and 67.5 pct. from the free throw line, while averaging 76.4 points per game overall. In A-10 games, those numbers were 46.0 pct., 33.6 pct., 66.2 pct. and 73.3 ppg.
UMass averages 5.5 3-pointers made and 15.4 attempts per game. The Minutemen have 197 steals thus far for 6.6 spg, which ranks 124th in the nation. UMass leads the A-10 and is 19th in blocked shots with 5.7 bpg.
Junior PG Chaz Williams leads the A-10 in assists (7.1, third in NCAA) and double-digit assist performances (5). In A-10 games, he averaged 15.8 points (12th in the A-10), 6.9 assists (1st) and 1.7 steals (2nd).
UMASS' NATIONAL POSTSEASON HISTORY
UMass has an all-time postseason record of 24-22 in 19 combined appearances in both the NCAA and NIT tournaments. The Minutemen have made eight NCAA Tourney showings, with the last in 1998. The first came in 1962 before a string of seven-consecutive from 1992-98 in which it ran its all-time record to 11-8 with an Elite Eight showing in 1995 and the only Final Four appearance in A-10 history in 1996. Last season the Minutemen collected their 12th NIT appearance and ran their record to 13-14, which included Final Fours in 1991 (fourth), 2008 (runner-up) and 2012 (tied for third).
UMASS' ATLANTIC 10 TOURNAMENT HISTORY
UMass has an all-time record of 34-32 in the Atlantic 10 Tournament dating to its inception in 1977. The 34 wins trail only Temple (53-21) and Saint Joseph's (33-28) in terms of wins in the tournament. UMass has captured five titles -- consecutively from 1992-96, only Temple has more with eight. UMass has been to the finals on seven occasions which is third all-time.
UMass is 10-9 all-time in first-round games, 11-17 in the quarterfinals, 8-4 in the semifinals and 5-2 in championship games.
With the format of keeping the A-10 in one division of 16 teams, UMass is the sixth seed for the second-consecutive season. Prior to last year, it marked the first time since 1990, the year it advanced to its first tourney final. All-time, UMass is 4-3 all-time playing as the sixth seed. UMass and Saint Louis are the only two teams to reach the semifinals in each of the last two seasons. The Minutemen are 4-2 over the last two A-10 tourneys and 5-5 under Derek Kellogg. Prior to its first round win over Duquesne two years ago, UMass had gone 1-11 in its previous 12 games.
MORE UMASS & A-10 TOURNEY NUGGETS
Following four seasons where the first round games were held at campus sites, the event enters its second season at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, with the more consolidated format of all rounds in consecutive days at the same location.
As mentioned in the previous bullet, this marks the second year the event is being held at the Barclays Center, following seven seasons in Atlantic City. It is at a neutral site for the 11th year in a row, as it was at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati in 2005 and 2006.
UMass legend Lou Roe (1992-95) is the only player in Atlantic 10 history to be named to four All-Championship teams. Harper Williams (1990-93) is the only player in league history to earn two Most Outstanding Player awards (1992, 1993).
Five former and one current UMass players have earned All-Atlantic 10 Tournament honors more than once in their career. The six players to accomplish the feat are Jim McCoy (1990 & 1992), Harper Williams (1992 & 1993), Lou Roe (1992, 1993, 1994 & 1995), Marcus Camby (1995 & 1996), Monty Mack (2000 & 2001) and Chaz Williams (2012 & 2013).
The longest winning streak in Atlantic 10 Championship play is 16, set by UMass when it was winning five straight titles from 1992-96. The Minutemen won three games a year for five years, as well as their first round match-up with La Salle in 1997 before falling to George Washington in the quarterfinals.
KELLOGG'S A-10 TOURNAMENT SUCCESS
UMass head coach Derek Kellogg never lost a game in the Atlantic 10 Tournament as a player, posting a perfect 12-0 record as a Minuteman from 1992-95. Kellogg and UMass were in the midst of that 16-game tournament win streak in capturing the crowns from 1992-96. He is 5-5 as a coach in the tournament, winning in the first-round at Charlotte in 2010 with a pair of 2-1 semifinal showins each of the past two tourneys.
In his senior year, Kellogg tied for team-high scoring honors in the A-10 title game with 14 points as UMass knocked off Temple for the third year in a row in the final, 63-44 on March 9, 1995. In his last game vs. Duquesne in the A-10 Tournament, Kellogg notched 16 points and handed out five assists in the 1995 A-10 Quarterfinals. His highest scoring game in the A-10 Tournament came in the 1993 Quarterfinals with 19 points in a 75-62 win over St. Bonaventure on March 7, 1993. In that game, Kellogg also set the UMass A-10 Tournament record for assists in a game with 11.
Kellogg has been a part of eight conference tournament winning teams, the four at UMass, George Mason as an assistant coach in 1999 and Memphis in 2006-08. The Tigers were a perfect 9-0 in conference tournament play over his last three years taking home the Conference USA crowns in 2006-2008.
UMASS & NYC HAVE LONG, STORIED HISTORY
With this week's Atlantic 10 Championship return to Brooklyn, its gives us a chance to touch on UMass' history in the New York City area, which includes 23 games at Madison Square Garden.
UMass is 9-14 all-time at MSG, with its most recent visits coming in the 2008 and 2012 NIT Final Fours. The Minutemen are 6-3 in regular-season games at the "Mecca of Basketball" and 2-1 in the Barclays Center.
WILLIAMS NAMED FIRST TEAM ALL-ATLANTIC 10 & FIRST TEAM ALL-DISTRICT
Redshirt senior PG Chaz Williams was named to the First Team All-Atlantic 10 squad as voted on by the 13 head coaches and added USBWA All-District 1 First Team accolades earlier this week. Williams leads UMass in scoring (15.8 ppg), assists (7.1 apg), steals (1.4 spg), FT made (130, 4.3/gm) and minutes (35.1 mpg). He also ranks among the A-10 leaders in scoring (5th), assists (1st), steals (6th) and assist-to-turnover ratio (t-1st, 2.2).
In 16 A-10 games, the Brooklyn, N.Y. native posted the following stats: 12 double-figure scoring games ... 5 games with at least 20 points (third-straight season) ... 3 games with at least 9 assists ... 8 games with at least 7 assists ... 1 double-double.
The Brooklyn, N.Y. native is the 56th first team all-conference selection in school history and just the fifth to earn three-straight, joining Al Skinner, Jim McCoy, Lou Roe and Rashaun Freeman. UMass now has 22 first team honorees since the league's inception prior to the 1976-77 season.
For Williams, it marks the fourth career postseason honor following his selection to the past two year's A-10 All-Conference First Team and the Colonial Athletic Association All-Rookie Team when he played at Hofstra during the 2009-10 campaign.
KELLOGG NAMED USBWA DISTRICT COACH OF THE YEAR
Massachusetts head basketball coach Derek Kellogg was named the District I Coach of the Year, as announced by the U.S. Basketball Writers of America (USBWA) on Tuesday. District I is currently comprised of Division I players form the six New England states.
Kellogg is in his sixth season at his alma mater with a 23-7 record this year. He has led the team to three-consecutive 20-win seasons for the first time since 1994-96. The Minutemen opened the year with ten-straight victories - including the Charleston Classic crown - and returned to the national rankings for the first time since the 1998-99 campaign.
Earlier this season he picked up his 100th career victory - all at UMass - with a thrilling 88-87 come-from-behind victory at George Mason on Jan. 15.
With 108 victories entering the A-10 Championship, Kellogg is in third place on the school's career victories list. Jack Leaman won 217 over 13 seasons and John Calipari is second with 193 over eight years in Amherst.
UMASS SECURES THIRD-CONSECUTIVE 20-WIN SEASON
With its win at George Washington three weeks ago, the 2013-14 team earned its 20th victory, becoming the 17th 20-win team in school history. All 17 have come in the past 43 seasons dating back to Jack Leaman's 1970-71 team that went 23-4 and participated in its second-straight NIT.
It also marks the third-consecutive 20-win season for the Minutemen, marking the first time that has happened in Amherst since the end of John Calipari's eight-year run in Western Mass. which concluded with six 20-plus win campaigns and the 1996 NCAA Final Four.
SERIES HISTORY WITH URI
The Last Meeting
February 26, 2014
Thursday's game against Rhode Island will be the 143rd between the schools, the most played series in UMass' history. UMass has faced UConn 108 times, the only other series with more than 100 meetings. The Minutemen also have more wins over Rhode Island than any other program, holding an 84-58 advantage dating to the first game on Jan. 11, 1908.
UMass has won 40 of the last 54 games in the series. That includes season sweeps by UMass in 2000, 2001, 2005, 2008, 2011, 2013 and 2014; and URI in 1999 and 2003. The Minutemen's two longest win streaks also came during the stretch, collecting eight-straight from 1990-93 and 10-straight form 1993-98.
Overall, for games played in Amherst, the Minutemen lead the series 52-20, with a 15-4 mark at the Mullins Center. UMass is 31-36 in the Ocean State and has won seven of the 12 meetings in the Ryan Center.
The teams have met six times in conference tournament play, with the Minutemen owning a 4-2 edge dating back to the 1981 Eastern 8 Tournament.
UMass coach Derek Kellogg is 8-3 as a coach against the Rams. As a player at UMass from 1992-95, the Minutemen were 9-1 vs. Rhode Island, losing once in 1993 in Providence.
MINUTEMEN MILESTONE WATCH
Chaz Williams is in eighth place on the UMass career scoring list with 1,611 points. He is now 32 away from seventh, held by Tony Barbee with 1,643. On Sunday he broke a tie with Chris Lowe (2005-08) and became the school all-time assist leader in just 100 games. For his college career, Williams has 825 assists, which ranks 26th in NCAA Division I history.
Raphiael Putney became the 46th player to reach the 1,000 point mark at UMass last Wednesday at Duquesne. He is one of just 21 players to record 1,000 points and grab at least 600 rebounds in school history.
Sampson Carter is also looking to add his name to the 1,000 Point Club at UMass, although he has a fair amount of work to get there. He enters the Rhode Island game with 942 points and is averaging 10.7 ppg this year, meaning the Baton Rouge, La. native would need just over four games at that pace to achieve the mark.
Putney and Carter are also climbing the games played list at UMass. Carter is fifth with 132 and Putney is eighth with 128.
UMASS IMPROVING AT THE CHARITY STRIPE
After a big midseason struggle UMass has turned it around at the FT line in the past couopke of weeks. Over the last 5 games they team is shoot 72% at the stripe (86-120), with Chaz Williams leading the way at 22-for-26 (.846) in that span. In the previous 17 games, the team shot only 63 percent (237-375).
Over the last eight games the Minutemen have made 69.7% (136-for-195) of their attempts.
UMass was 23-of-32 (.719) from the free throw line at Dayton three games ago, marking the third-consecutive game with at least 20 makes. The Minutemen also made more freebies than their opponents (UD was 21-of-33) for the third-straight game and 15th this season.
Last Wednesday at Duquesne, the Minutemen made 77.8% (14-of-18) and made their final four in the last minute to secure the vctory.
23-7 MARK AFTER 30 GAMES EQUALS THE FIFTH-BEST RECORD IN SCHOOL HISTORY
With a 23-7 record entering the URI game, the 2013-14 UMass team has posted the fifth-best record after 30 games in school history. The record is held by the 1995-96 Final Four team which won its first 26 games before going 35-2. That team was one of 27 in NCAA history to start a season with at least 20 victories.
UMASS SHARING THE BALL AS WELL AS AT ANY POINT IN KELLOGG'S SIX SEASONS
Paced by one of the best point guards in the country in Chaz Williams, UMass ranks 25th nationally in assists per game at 15.6. Individually, Williams ranks third at 7.1 apg.
Further evidence of the team's ability to distribute across the court is that it has assisted on 56.7 pct. of its field goals this season. That is the highest since the 2005-06 squad assisted on 57.8 pct. of made baskets.
UMASS & THE POLLS
As a result of losing three of four games four weeks ago, UMass fell out of the national rankings following a 10-week run of being ranked. The Minutemen have now won six of their last nine and are receving votes in the Coaches polls for the third-straight week.
When the Minutemen debuted in the rankings this season, it ended a drought that dated back to Nov. 1998 in each poll. Last month's initial No. 19 ranking marked the first foray in the Top 20 in both polls since Feb. 24, 1998.
UMass has now appeared in the AP Poll 87 times and is 126-33 all-time as a ranked team. The Minutemen have been ranked in the top 10 48 times, the top five 31 times and No. 1 15 times (32-4).
UMass was ranked for 63-consceutive weeks during the mid-1990s.
In eight of UMass' 10 Atlantic 10 victories, it trailed in the final five minutes of the game before coming back to win (1/8 vs. Saint Joseph's, 1/11 vs. St. Bona, 1/15 at George Mason, 2/9 at URI, 2/15 at GW, 2/21 vs. VCU, 2/26 vs. URI, 3/5 at Duquesne). The Minutemen were behind in the final 95 seconds in three of those (Saint Joseph's, St. Bona and GMU). You can read more about those comebacks in the next note.
REFUSE TO LOSE
With the style of play and mentality that Derek Kellogg has implemented at UMass, just about any deficit can be overcome. The Minutemen have pulled off some late-game heroics in three of their nine A-10 wins.
UMass trailed at George Mason by eight in the second half and 86-81 with 41.3 seconds left. But a pair of lightning-quick layups by Chaz Williams, three forced turnovers and a Derrick Gordon putback with 8.1 left helped the Minutemen remain unbeaten in Atlantic 10 play.
Against St. Bonaventure the game prior, they erased a 13-point deficit with nine minutes remaining and outscored the Bonnies 21-8 to close the game. That marked the first time this season and the seventh time in the last three seasons a UMass club has overcome a double-digit hole to win a game.
Three days earlier against Saint Joseph's, UMass trailed by nine seven minutes into the game and again with six minutes to play. More full court pressure and timely shooting saw the Minutemen close the game on an 18-5 run.
DEFENDING THE THREE
UMass has done a solid job with its three-point field goal defense this season, holding opponents to 30.7% from outside and 5.0 makes per game. That percentage ranks fifth in the Atlantic 10 and 28th nationally.
DEFENDING THE RIM
With an arsenal of long, athletic players who can defend the rim, UMass has been among the nation's blocked shot leaders all season long, entering the URI game with 5.5 blocks per game, good for 19th in the NCAA and first in the Atlantic 10.
They have been particularly unkind over the past 12 games, altering 77 shots for a 6.4 bpg average. UMass has blocked at least nine shots four times in the last 11 contests.