Number eight UMass (20-10, 9-7) has advanced to the second round of the Atlantic 10 10 Tournament just twice in the past 10 years, but they hope their new system coupled with Chaz Williams will be enough Tuesday at 7 p.m. when they host ninth-seed Duquesne (16-14, 7-9) at the Mullins Center. (TV: Online Stream/Radio: UMass Sports Network)
After falling in the first round in two of the past three years, Kellogg will look to lead his alma mater back to the Atlantic 10 Championship Game for the first time since 1998. The Minutemen haven't won a title since John Calipari's last season on campus in 1996, when UMass won their fifth and final A10 tournament crown.
Their quarterfinal opponent poses a difficult matchup, as the Dukes earned an 80-60 victory in Pittsburgh back in mid-January. The Dukes four-guard lineup forced 29 Minutemen turnovers and struggled with foul trouble as Duquesne used a late 8-0 run to hand UMass their second conference loss of the year. Sophomore guards Jesse Morgan and Williams especially struggled in the contest as they combined for 15 giveaways against just seven assists.
Morgan led the team with 14 points on 5-of-13 shooting and senior center Sean Carter posted a double-double (12 points and 14 rebounds) against the much smaller Duquesne front line. Senior swingman B.J. Monteiro poured in a game-high 23 points for the Dukes, while 6'2" guard Sean Johnson recorded a double-double of his own with 20 points and 10 rebounds. While the Minutemen had the advantage shooting the ball and on the glass, Duquesne came away the victory behind a wide free throw margin, 27-9 attempts advantage, and by holding UMass to just 25 percent from behind the arc.
Chaz Williams: The First Team All Atlantic 10 point guard was the only non-senior selected to the team and deserved the honor. He led the conference with 6.4 assists per game and finished in the top 10 in the A10 while leading UMass with 16.2 pppg, 2.3 spg, and a 1.8 assists-to-turnover ratio. Needless to say Williams has been the sparkplug for this team all season long and unfortunately when he doesn't play well the team struggles mightily. Teams that employ four-guard systems such as Duquesne and LaSalle have given Williams huge problems.While the Dukes don't have the size to compete with Carter down low, they have long, athletic guards that are capable of slowing down Williams.
T.J. McConnell: The sophomore point guard from Pittsburgh has not only been fantastic this season but also one of the most consistent players in the league. McConnell has not only started all 30 games this season but leads the team with 5.5 assists per game, 85 steals and the Dukes in all three shooting categories. Add in the fact that he's third on the team in scoring 11.4 ppg and chips in with 4.3 rebounds per game and you've got the glue guy for the Dukes.
Key To The Game
Quick Start: UMass' biggest advantage in this own is their home court advantage and the Minutemen have been able to get off to fast starts at the Mullins Center all year long. Duquesne is an older and more veteran team comparatively and if UMass lets the Dukes hold a late lead in the game, they're not likely to give it up.
Prediction: Duquesne was the only of the four teams in the bottom four that UMass failed to beat this season but the Minutemen have grown up quite a bit since then. If Carter and freshmen center Maxie Esho can own the paint like they're capable of, the Minutemen should overcome these pesky Dukes.
UMass 77, Duquesne 72