2007-08 UMASS Basketball Preview
Overall Rank: #97
Conference Rank: #8 A-10
2006-07: 24-9, 13-3, 1st (t)
2006-07 postseason: NIT
Massachusetts has lost a ton of talent, most notably in the frontcourt. And that means the star is now on the perimeter. Chris Lowe has quietly done a great job running the point for the Minutemen. The junior averaged 4.2 assists last year and added 7.0 points per game. The days of Lowe flying under the radar are over and he will have to step up his game and become a leader. Lowe might not add much to his scoring, but Ricky Harris sure will. The 6-2 shooting guard only averaged 4.5 points coming off the bench last year and was anything but consistent from long range, but he has the potential to take over much of the departed scoring load.
Losing the frontcourt duo of Rashaun Freeman and Stephane Lasme is huge. The duo combined for 29.2 points and 17.8 rebounds and Lasme was a monster on the defensive end. Backcourt starter James Life has also run out of eligibility after averaging 11.5 points during his senior season. Life was easily the most dangerous shooter on the team last year. Brandon Thomas was a decent shooter off the bench as a senior and Tiki Mayben has opted to transfer after garnering 12 starts.
Barring a surprise breakthrough player, the newcomers will be asked to provide some depth off the bench. The best chance for earning a starting job is at the shooting guard position and Max Groebe and Matt Glass will be in the mix. Groebe has international experience and is a great shooter. If he can harness his talent at the next level, the 6-4 wing will make an impact right away. Glass has some nice size for a guard at 6-7 and is a decent shooter, but will likely be relegated to a ‘sharpshooter off the bench’ role. Point guard Gary Correia, who played with Glass last year at Northfield Mount Hermon in Massachusetts, is a decent ballhandler and floor leader, but also has the ability to do some scoring. Trey Lang, Matt Hill and Papa Ousmane Lo will add depth up front. Lang will not do too much scoring early in his career, but he is already a great shot blocker and defender. Ousmane Lo has some quality defensive abilities of his own. The 6-8 forward from Senegal has a surprisingly developed offensive game and will at least provide another big man that can run the floor. This group of newcomers is laying the foundation for future success. There is a lot of talent, but how much they can contribute this year remains a question. Yet, with safety in numbers, Umass will find the newcomers that are ready to contribute off the bench as freshmen.
Who to Watch:
Replacing Freeman and Lasme will be the job of Etienne Brower, Luke Bonner and Dante Milligan. Yet, having a small forward like Gary Forbes will certainly help. Forbes is a great scorer and, by the numbers, his rebounding will only get better without Freeman and Lasme on the floor. Brower is not a traditional big man, and ideally would be at the three instead of the four, but he can play every position on the floor. After seeing limited minutes as a junior, the team will need Brower’s ability to do the dirty work under the basket and stretch out the defense. Bonner has some outside shooting skills as well and the 7-1 center is expected to be a force this year. Like Brower and Bonner, Milligan has seen limited playing time due to the talent that was in front of him. The trio definitely has more talent than their numbers would indicate, but how well they can go from ten minutes a game to major contributors remain to be seen.
The roster looks a lot worse than it really is. The team will not be bad without Freeman and Lasme, it will just be different and run a lot more. Lowe and Forbes have enough talent to become the leaders of the team and the new frontcourt has enough experience and potential to do a solid job. Finding a shooter in the backcourt will be very important, but at least there are options with Harris and a couple freshmen. Coach Travis Ford will have a more difficult task of getting his team to the postseason this year, but reaching the NIT and making some noise in the A-10 is not out of the question this year and quite probable in the near future.
Projected Post-season Tournament: none
Projected Starting Five:
Chris Lowe, Junior, Guard, 7.0 points per game
Ricky Harris, Sophomore, Guard, 4.5 points per game
Gary Forbes, Senior, Forward, 13.0 points per game
Etienne Brower, Senior, Forward, 2.7 points per game
Luke Bonner, Junior, Center, 1.6 points per game