Atlantic 10 Quarterfinals: UMass Looks To Cut Temple's Final A10 Tournament Short

Nine days after eight-seeded UMass (21-10, 9-7) and number one Temple (24-6) played an instant overtime classic in Philadelphia, the Minutemen will look to avenge their loss to the Owls and boost their postseason hopes, when the two teams face off in the Atlantic 10 Quarterfinals.

UMass will be making just their second trip to Boardwalk Hall in six years, as the Minutemen have gone through a decade of A10 Tournament woes. But with a new fast-paced system and Chaz Williams leading the Minutemen, they'll look to make their mark in the final tournament to be held in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The Atlantic 10 won't just be saying farewell to the Jersey shore-they'll also be saying goodbye to the Owls. After dominating the league for years, Temple will look to win their record 10th Atlantic 10 Tournament crown, before making their move to the Big East this summer.

UMass Holds Off Duquesne To Reach Atlantic City

After 34 minutes of run-and-gun play, UMass used defense to advance to Alantic City. The Minutemen held Duquesne to just one made field goal over the final six minutes and received 61 points from Chaz Williams, Javorn Farrell and Raphiael Putney to earn just their second Atlantic 10 Tournament win in a decade.

Both teams shot well over 50 percent through the first half and even though they cooled down in the second half, UMass connected on 50.8 percent of their shots and 8-of-17 (47 percent) 3-point attempts to move to 15-1 at home this year. UMass led for most of the game but found themselves in their biggest hole of the night trailing 78-73 with 6:03 to play. Over the final 6:03, the Minutemen went on a 19-5 run behind 17 points from Williams, Farrell and Terrell Vinson.

Farrell was the biggest surprise of the night. After sitting for the full 45 minutes against Temple, the junior forward set a career-high in assists (nine), to go along with his 20 points and seven rebounds. He played a pivotal role in the final run-as Farrell became the point forward, finding Williams on two key layups to secure the victory.

Temple 90, UMass 88 Overtime: Looking Back At Round One

If Umass is able to make a serious run in the Atlantic 10 Tournament or the NCAA/NIT, the Temple game will be used as a clear turning point for this young squad. Four days after losing by a season-high 33 points at Dayton, the Minutemen turned in their best road performance of the year at the Liacouras Center. The Minutemen not only took the #25 Owls to the brink on their home floor, but had two chances to tie Temple in the waning seconds of overtime.

The game was highlighted by a duel between two of the top guards in the league. Williams, a First Team All Conference Member, finished with 26 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds, while senior guard Khalif Wyatt poured in 26 points of his own on 17-of-18 free throw attempts for the Owls. Vinson and Putney added 16 points apiece for the Minutemen, while seniors Michael Eric and Juan Fernandez chipped in with 19 and 18 points respectively for Templs.

UMass held slight advantages or were even with the Owls in every category except for free throw shooting. The Owls knocked down 30-of-40 attempts, while UMass took just 10 trips (6-of-1)) to the free throw line. Temple's huge advantage at the line, neutralized UMass' 12 3-pointers and 15-4 edge in fast break points.

Postseason Bid On The Line

While the Minutemen had a realistic shot at a NCAA Tournament at-large berth at one point, the team's late season slide and bad loss at Rhode Island have left UMass with one option to get to the Big Dance: win the Atlantic 10 Tournament. As good as the Minutemen have been, the idea of three wins in three days with this young group might be a little bit too much to ask, especially considering the strength of the field in Atlantic City.

That doesn't mean that UMass' season will neccessarily end with a loss on Friday. The Minutemen are right in the mix of the NIT pool and while Bracketologists like Joe Lunardi ignore the tournament-there are a few groups that attempt to predict the pool. UMass is currently in the field in every NIT Bracket as a six or seven seed in the 32 team pool, but that position could become a little bit more vicarious as the week goes along. With every team that wins a regular season conference crown eligible for a NIT berth if they fail to get a bid to the Big Dance, the 32 NIT slots are reduced over Championship Week as every number one seed from a conference falls

Already this week number one seeds Drexel, Iona, Bucknell, Middle Tennessee State, Valparaiso, Savannah State, Texas-Arlington all have fallen in their conference tournaments and several other top seeds have difficult roads. With all but one or two of those teams likely to miss out on an NCAA Tournament at-large bid come Sunday, the NIT pool has already been reduced to 24-26 bubble slots, with those teams taking away most of the seven and eight seeds that Umass could have filled.

What does that mean for UMass? Friday's contest becomes a must-win if the Minutemen want to return to the NIT for the first time since 2008, rather than having to settle for a lesser tournament (CBI or CIT).

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