Get your platanos and rice & beans ready Friartown, because the Puerto Rico Tip-Off is about to get underway. Instead of an easy hour and a half drive between the two schools, Providence College and Massachusetts decided it would be way more fun to play somewhere that required a flight to a place with amazing weather. It’s starting to get cold in New England, who wants to be bothered with that? Enter the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, a tournament the Friars participated in its inaugural year in 2007. PC had a solid trip to start that year (which unfortunately ended in a mediocre 15-16 season, Tim Welsh’s last) advancing to the final against Miami after defeating Temple and Arkansas.
This year in the first round, the Friars will face a run and gun UMASS team that has NCAA Tournament aspirations.
WHAT TO: KNOW
Game Time: Thursday, 7:30 PM
Location: San Juan, Puerto Rico
Spread: UMass -9
Ken Pom: Providence: #79, UMass: #58
TeamRankings.com Projection: UMass 72.9, Providence 65.6
WHAT TO: VOTE FOR
Hit up the rest of the preview after the jump.
WHAT TO: LOOK FOR
UMass to Push the Pace: Derek Kellog has his Minutemen playing at a very fast pace. Last season, the team finished third in the nation in adjusted tempo with 73.8 possessions. They like to press a lot (UMass was 6th in the nation in steals in 2010-2011), and despite having to play 4 games in 6 games will surely do all they can to tire out PC’s 7 available players. Bryce Cotton and Josh Fortune especially are going to have to take tremendous care of the ball while still being key contributors offensively with their shooting.
No Jos A. Bank commercial on the bench: Vincent Council will be the only suit wearing player on the bench, as the normal MIB were not allowed to travel with the team since they are not eligible. Don’t worry though, the super practice squad was in fact dutifully practicing while the rest of the team and staff enjoyed perfect weather on their balconies. At least they will get to watch on TV. Can we get a Ricky Ledo live-cam on him while he watches so we can see his reactions to Bancroft three pointers? We can’t be robbed of this.
Chaz Williams leading the way, unimpeded: The Chaz Williams vs. Vincent Council matchup would have been a great one. The two grew up playing with each other in Brooklyn, and now they will likely not be able to face each other in a college game. The junior point guard (ranked #25 by CBS in their Top 50 PG list, Council was #18) in his 2nd season at UMass is a blur on both ends of the court. Since he doesn’t have to keep Council in check, Williams should have no problem racking up assists and generating steals. PC will also have to watch out what he can do from behind the arc, as Williams was one of the four UMass players last year who made at least 50 threes (62-148, 41.9%).
More Signs of leadership from Kadeem Batts: With the guards sure to have their hands full with the pressure and pace, Batts can show he is the true leader right now by following up his dominant performance against Bryant with another aggressive and efficient game. He will be counted on a lot in this tournament, so hopefully his hard work this offseason will allow him to put up big minutes without huffing and puffing.
Louisville Dunk Animated GIF!
Friars Staying Out of Foul Trouble: For PC to have any chance in these games while they have 7 players, Kadeem Batts, Brice Kofane, and Lee Goldsbrough are going to have to avoid their propensity to pick up early fouls in bunches. Thankfully, UMass takes a lot of three pointers (consisting of about a third of their overall shots) and doesn’t get to the line very often as a result. Last season they had a 33.4 free throw rate, ranked #250 in the country.
Beware of the block: UMass had 11 blocks in their first game against Harvard, aligning with their 17th ranked total of 176 last season. Sophomore forward Cady Lalanne had 4, and three other players had 2 each.
WHAT TO: LOOK AT
WHAT TO: READ
Friars.com: Gamenotes [PDF]
Scouting the Minutemen: UMass Head Coach Derek Kellogg returns four of his five starters that finished with a 25-12 mark, including a 9-7 record in the Atlantic 10 (fifth) last season. The Minutemen advanced the the Semii nals of the NIT last season. The squad will be led by Preseason All A-10 First Team selection Chaz Williams (Brooklyn, N.Y.). Williams averaged 16.9 points and 6.2 assists last season for the Minutemen.
UMassAthletics.com: Umass and Providence Renew Rivalry In Puerto Rico Thursday
UMass and Providence will be meeting for the 28th time as the Friars hold a 22-5 series lead. The teams played at least once every year from 1962-80 with the majority of those contests in the Yankee Conference.
ASAP Sports: Puerto Rico Tip-Off Media Conference
Q. Talk about this year’s field.
DAN SHOEMAKER: You hit the nail on the head, NC State, a lot of preseason publicity, Mark Gottfried did an outstanding job there last year and a lot of people picked them as a potential Final Four team and it’s going to be exciting to watch NC State over the course of the year.
Here is a little known trivia piece for you: Mark was the analyst on the Puerto Rico Tip‑Off two years ago for ESPN. So this is Mark’s second trip to Puerto Rico and a very short turnaround and he was very excited to do this event. Similar (audio feedback) his second Puerto Rican ‑‑ just a couple of years just with Boston College, with Fairfield a couple of years ago when they played in the tip off.
Akron, who is a native of Bayamón, played at Bayamón Military Academy, which will be a great side story, as well, particularly this year since the tournament moves to Bayamón, a suburb of San Juan.
Atlantic 10 Conference: Saint Joseph’s Picked to Finish First in A-10
League newcomer VCU was picked third with 410 points and three first-place votes, followed by Temple (394 points, two first-place votes), NIT Semifinalist Massachusetts (389 points, two first-place votes) and newcomer Butler (347 points, two first-place votes). La Salle was picked seventh with 281 points and Dayton tallied 264 points to earn the eighth place. Xavier (239 points) and Richmond (235 points) completed the top 10, while defending champion St. Bonaventure, Charlotte, George Washington, Fordham, Rhode Island and Duquesne rounded out the 16-team field.
Massachusetts: Derek Kellogg on junior guard Chaz Williams, senior forward Terrell Vinson and junior guard Jesse Morgan
“Chaz’s leadership and energy is a must for us. Terrell is a senior who played his best ball in our NIT run last year and brought maturity and toughness. Jesse is a relentless worker who keeps getting better every day.”
ESPN College Basketball Nation: What I can’t wait to see: Atlantic 10
Is this the breakthrough year UMass fans have been waiting for?
Since Derek Kellogg returned to his alma mater in 2008, folks have been waiting for the glory years he enjoyed as a player to return to Amherst. Of course that would be a rather tall and ridiculous order, considering Kellogg went to the NCAA tournament four years in a row, including the Elite Eight, and won four consecutive Atlantic-10 regular-season and tournament titles as a player.
But this could at least be the year the Minutemen return to NCAA tournament relevance.
UMass rolled to the NIT semifinals last season, riding on the coattails of guard Chaz Williams. The Hofstra transfer averaged 16.4 points and 6.4 assists per game and is exactly the sort of bona fide star you can build something special around.
If Williams picks up where he left off (he upped his scoring numbers through the NIT to 21.8 per game), UMass might see itself on the big ticket for the first time since 1998.
Best-case scenario: Chaz Williams becomes a bonafide star. The 5-foot-11 guard submitted a solid all-around season in 2012-13, but he took his play up a notch in UMass’s run to the NIT semifinals, averaging 21.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists. Meanwhile, though the Minutemen lose leading rebounder Sean Carter, Cady Lalanne posted rebounding rates of 16.0 (offensive) and 23.1 (defensive) before a foot injury ended a promising season. And the Minutemen return the rest of a rotation that won 25 games. There’s a reason this conference is hailed as deep, and it goes beyond the additions of VCU and Butler. UMass will have to be reckoned with, too.
Worst-case scenario: Before we get too excited about Williams’ performance in the NIT, it was just four games. That’s a small sample size; Williams will have to convert his 2-point field goals at a higher clip than 40 percent, and lower his turnover rate, if he wants to improve his overall efficiency. Still, Massachusetts should be a factor near the top of the A-10 table. The only question is how high.
The 5-foot-9-inch, 175-pound junior from Brooklyn, N.Y., helped steer UMass to a semifinal berth in the National Invitation Tournament last season. He led the Minutemen in scoring in eight of their last 11 games of a 25-12 campaign, averaging 21.8 points over that stretch before his team fell to Stanford at Madison Square Garden.
“It was like a perfect-case scenario for Chaz coming in,’’ said Kellogg, who turned to Williams to revamp UMass into more of an uptempo scheme. “There really wasn’t any competition at the point guard spot his first year, so he was like given the keys to the program from Day 1 when he became eligible.
University of Massachusetts point guard Chaz Williams isn’t worried about anyone’s focus wandering onto the beach on the eve of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
“I’m not really a beach guy,” Williams said Wednesday after the team’s practice. “I’m more of a stay in my room kind of guy.”
ESPN College Basketball Nation Blog: Puerto Rico Tip-Off primer
Who else will step up for UMass?
There’s no doubt that guard Chaz Williams is the star of this team, but the Minutemen need to continue to have his teammates to step up in big moments, too. They did just that earlier this week against Harvard, as Jesse Morgan and Sampson Carter bookended a Williams-forced turnover with 3-pointers to win by three points. Who’s next?
Pawtucket Times: McGair: Banged-up PC Friars must band together to succeed
Even though he won’t be suiting up in Puerto Rico, Council will still play a pivotal role – that of helping Bryce Cotton better comprehend the fine line that exists between running the show and contributing from an individual standpoint.
“I’m helping him understand when to take shots and when to give the ball to a teammate when he’s rolling,” said Council about his new mentor role with Cotton. “I have to find ways to help my team when I’m not on the court.”
Added Cooley, “I want Vince to be a voice in Cotton’s ear because sometimes a player sees something that (the coaches) don’t.”
WHAT TO: WATCH
2012 Puerto Rico Tip-Off
UMass Drops Harvard 67-64
UMass Basketball 2012-2013 Season Preview
Chaz Williams of UMass Goes Pound For Pound At 2012 NIKE PRO CITY
Atlantic 10 Preseason All Conference First Team
UMass at Atlantic 10 Basketball Media Day
WHERE TO: FOLLOW
Twitter.com: I’ll be live tweeting @friarblog. You can also follow the #pcbb hashtag as always.
WHERE TO: WATCH
WHERE TO: LISTEN