2008-09 UMASS Basketball Preview: #57
Overall Rank: #57
Conference Rank: #4 Atlantic 10
2007-08: 25-11, 10-6, 3rd
2007-08 postseason: NIT
Coach Travis Ford left Massachusetts for Oklahoma State, but it did not take long for the Minutemen to find a replacement. Former Umass star Derek Kellogg, who was learning underneath John Calipari at Memphis, is taking over the reigns. What Coach Kellogg brings with him is a new offense. The Tigers version of the ‘dribble-drive motion’ offense has obviously been successful and the folks in Amherst hope that success can find its way to Massachusetts.
The new offense will take some getting used to, but so will life without Gary Forbes, Etienne Brower and Dante Milligan. Forbes was never a consistent shooter, but he was a consistent scorer…and then some. Forbes led the team with 19.4 points and 7.5 rebounds per contest and added 3.0 assists and 1.1 steals. Brower was a decent scorer and rebounder as well. The forward spent most of his time on the offensive end knocking down three-pointers, but that does not mean he did do his part on the glass. Milligan was the more traditional big man and developed into a solid scorer and rebounder. Matt Pennie and Nana Ampim have wrapped up their collegiate careers after seeing virtually no playing time as seniors. Papa Lo, Trey Lang and Max Groebe all had the potential to play a bigger role on this year’s team, but the trio opted to transfer after their freshmen campaigns.
There are not a lot of newcomers heading in, but the three they have will make an impact. Tyrell Lynch, a 6-9 power forward, redshirted last season. Lynch is a good athlete for his size and should fit well in the new system and due to a lack of frontcourt depth, Lynch is expected to play quite a few minutes. Two years ago at Wake Forest Anthony Gurley averaged 6.4 points per game. Most of those points came from beyond the arc and Gurley will do a fine job adding another shooter to the roster. David Gibbs is the lone incoming freshman. The 6-4 guard can handle the ball, play solid defense and score a bunch of points in a hurry. Gibbs is also extremely quick and knows how to use his speed to his advantage. For now he will likely provide a spark off the bench, but Gibbs has the potential to do much more sooner or later.
Who to Watch:
Even without Forbes, the Minutemen have a dynamic, high scoring backcourt. Chris Lowe is more than just a steady point guard who dished out 6.3 assists per game last season, he also is a great scorer. Lowe will not simply hoist up long balls like some other point guards, but he does a great job finishing around the basket. But the new top scorer on the team will be Ricky Harris. As a sophomore, Harris was second to only Forbes with 18.2 points per game. Harris will do a majority of the long range shooting for Umass, but he will score around the basket as well. Now that he is an upperclassman, Harris will also join Lowe as a leader of the team. Gary Correia and Matt Glass did not play too much as freshmen, but will be in the mix with Gibbs for minutes off the bench.
The group on the perimeter will fit well into Coach Kellogg’s system, but the same might not be able to be said about the frontcourt. Tony Gaffney is a versatile player who can run the floor and hit the mid-range jumper, but Luke Bonner, a 7-1 center, does not have the athleticism that this style of play usually warrants. Bonner is still an experienced player, a good shooter and a big body who can battle in the paint; however, it remains to be seen if he will flourish under the new coach. Umass will need a little time to get things going and the frontcourt is certainly a concern, but there is too much talent for this team not to make another run at the postseason.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Chris Lowe, Senior, Guard, 11.8 points per game
Ricky Harris, Junior, Guard, 18.2 points per game
Anthony Gurley, Sophomore, Guard, DNP last season
Tony Gaffney, Senior, Forward, 3.2 points per game
Luke Bonner, Senior, Center, 3.5 points per game