By Jon Rothstein
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1. CHAZ’S CHATTER
Chaz Williams is a like a magnet. The undersized point guard has an infectious personality — and it’s easily noticeable if you’re in the gym with him for even just a matter of moments. The 5-9 Williams was one of the best players in the Atlantic 10 a season ago and figures to be so again thanks to the biggest weapon he has — his heart.
2. CAPTAIN MORGAN
Williams may be the focal point when opponents prepare for the Minutemen but Jesse Morgan shouldn’t be far behind. The sturdy off guard has added tremendous strength and is already a tenacious perimeter defender. UMass coach Derek Kellogg said Morgan is one of the hardest workers he’s ever been around and if the Philadelphia native can emerge as a legitimate two way threat, the Minutemen should possess one of the best back courts in the Atlantic 10.
3. CADY’S PRESENCE
Capable big men are hard to find in college basketball and that’s what makes Cady Lalanne so valuable. UMass wasn’t the same team last season after Lalanne went down in the early part of the year with an injury and his return to the lineup adds a completely dimension. If Lalanne stays healthy, he should average around eight points and eight rebounds each time he takes the floor — and that type of production should put the Minutemen in contention for an NCAA bid.
4. ROLE ALLOCATION
Understanding specific responsibilities is part of what makes a team successful. Other than Williams, UMass may not a possess a sure fire all conference player — but their entire rotation is extremely well defined. There should be no questions about who is filling what roles for this team for the duration of the season.
That’s the phrase the Minutemen recite when they put their hands together in a huddle and watching them for an afternoon illustrates that type of togetherness. There’s no way to predict how UMass will deal with expectations or how they’ll fare against a higher level of competition in the Atlantic 10 — but one thing this team has is chemistry. You can feel it, see it, and most of all, sense the players on this team believe it.
Kellogg has a really solid group of eight guys in his rotation. Williams and Morgan comprise a capable back court and Lalanne, Raphiael Putney, and Terrell Vinson are a versatile trio that should all be able to produce at a regular clip. With Max Esho in place as a quality energy guy off the bench and Sampson Carter and Freddie Riley ready to serve as capable backups, there’s no reason why this team shouldn’t be in the mix with Saint Louis, St. Joseph’s, Temple, and VCU at the top of the ultra-competitive Atlantic 10.
What’s your prediction for UMass? Be heard in the comments below!