By Seth Orensky, Contributor.
UMass hosts Elon in the season opener at Curry Hicks Cage in Amherst, MA.
Event: UMass Minutemen vs. Elon University Phoenix.
Date/Time: Friday, November 11, 2011-9p.m. EDT.
Location: Curry Hicks Cage (Capacity: 5,000+), Amherst, MA.
Broadcast Info: The season opener for these teams will be broadcast live on WBIN-TV Boston with JoshMaurer and Tim Kenney on the call. A radio broadcast of the game will also be available from Adam Frenier and Tim Collins on 1510 AM The Zone in Eastern Massachusetts.
All Time Series: This is the first ever matchup between UMass and Elon University a member of theSouthern Conference. Both teams are entering their 103rd season of play.
Storyline: Eager to forget a disappointing finish to the 2010-11 season, UMass and their new looksquad will look to return to their roots when they host Elon University at the historic Curry Hicks Cage.Sophomore point guard Chaz Williams will lead the Minutemen into Curry Hicks Cage for just the secondtime since 1993 when the team moved to the Mullins Center.
A year after opening the season 7-0, head coach Derek Kellogg looks to prove his remodeled roster and new style of play will be enough to help the squad to their first winning season in four years. The experiment begins tonight as the Minutemen look to win their eight season opener in nine years andextend their winning streak at their former home to 16 games.
With red-shirt senior Anthony Gurley the team's leading scorer from a year ago graduating, Kellogg hopes that a faster pace will open up more opportunities for his offense and not put pressure on anyone player to try to take on the scoring load.
Hofstra transfer and former Colonial Athletic Association Rookie of the Year Chaz Williams will beresponsible for leading Kellogg's new fast paced style of offense that is in stark contrast to past season'slooks. After going years without a true point guard in Amherst, Williams will lead a squad that returns allbut two players.
Things could be looking up for Elon after finishing with a losing record for the 11th season in 12 years.Despite being selected to finish fifth in the North Division of the Southern Conference Preseason Poll, everyone but leading scorer Chris Long is back from a team that finished last year with a 0 pointdifferential (2301-2301).
Expect the Phoenix to try to keep the game close on the strength of their 3-point shooting. Last seasonthey were fourth in the nation in 3-point shooting averaging 9.2 made threes per game. Guards Drew Spradlin and Jack Isenbarger, the team's leading returning scorers from a year ago, combined to hit 117of the team's 285 threes.
Ironically the last season opener held at the Curry Hicks Cage also involved head coach Derek Kellogg.The junior guard scored the first basket of the game in a win over Louisiana-Lafayette. He also led theteam back to the cage for the first time since 1993 with a comeback win over Rider last season. UMass played all of their home games at the venue from 1931-32 to January of 1993 excluding the 1984-85season.
Players to Watch: Chaz Williams is the player everyone has talked about all offseason when speakingabout UMass. After spending a year practicing with the squad, Williams will be inserted into the starting lineup and easily will be the team's most valuable if not best overall player.
Freshmen Cady LaLanne was named to the All-Rookie team in the Atlantic 10 after sitting out lastseason. Listed at 6-9, 250, LaLanne is the biggest player on the roster and will look to have his way with a much smaller Elon squad.
Drew Spradlin is the lone senior on the Elon roster and was named to the Southern ConferencePreseason Team for the second consecutive season. He's not only the team's leading returning scorer but ranked among the top four in assists and rebounds and will be expected to do even more this year.
Prediction: With so much anticipation for this season and the venue, UMass will breeze by Elon with the game potentially getting out of hand early, if the Phoenix are unable to hit their 3-point shots. Final Score: UMass 80, Elon 61.