The Xavier win on Tuesday evening was massive. A relatively large crowd for a Tuesday night in Amherst (including Victor Cruz) witnessed one of the bigger wins for the program under DK.
Now that we have absorbed that happiness, unfortunately it’s time to look at the big picture.
Last Saturday’s loss at home to La Salle was a painful one. However, it wasn’t on par with the game before that at St. Joes. And both weren’t nearly as devastating as losing to URI. That’s always a crappy feeling. But, this year, it was extra awful. If UMass’ loss at the Ryan Center to URI didn’t do it, losing at St. Joe’s and La Salle (again) were the finals daggers for the Minutemen’s legitimate at-large bid hopes.
Looking at the team’s seven losses, I can only think about what could have been.
I want to go through the exercise of labeling them as acceptable, borderline and bad losses.
Florida State — November 24th
The Seminoles have lived up to their initial hype. They are a very good ACC team. No shame here. ACCeptable.
Charleston — November 25th
The Minutemen were disappointed and out of gas. The team got blindsided by a hot CofC team. Disappointing? Yes. Shameful? No. It’s a borderline loss.
@ Miami — December 3rd
Here is our first “should’ve won” game. It’s not because Miami is a bad ACC team. They aren’t — they are middle of the pack and respectable. The bad part of this one is that the Minutemen were in the game. They were right there, even down to the end. Yet they just couldn’t seize the moment. Beating an ACC team on ESPN would have been a nice boost.
Instead, the loss was a preview of things to come. I’ll call this one borderline.
@ La Salle — January 8th
No shame here. The Explorers are solid. I mean, just a tremendously solid team up and down the roster. I’d hate to draw them in Atlantic City. Moreover, UMass had to go down to Philly and play in their gym. This was an acceptable A10 loss after a great December run. Acceptable.
@ Duquesne — January 18th
The Dukes are the UMass of the last couple years. They are terribly inconsistent. Still, this loss doesn’t pain me as much one like the game at Miami. This teeters on the brink of a bad loss, but I’ll give the team the benefit of the doubt. They got out played. It’s a borderline bad loss.
@ URI — Februrary 1st
No excuse. URI and UMass often play close games. That’s great. What a fabulous rivalry! Horse crap. URI is bad this year. They are in shambles. If the Minutemen are a post-season team, they need to win a game like this. Label this one as a heartbreaking, bad, bad loss.
@ St. Joe’s — February 11
St. Joe’s is a mediocre A10 team. Put this in a similar category to Duquesne. Not a good loss, but you can’t win them all. Borderline.
La Salle — February 18
The Explorers have this teams number. And, as I said, it’s not that surprising. La Salle has a very good team. To let a team that beat you the previous month come into Amherst and do it again — that’s where this gets disappointing. Still, La Salle is good so I will label this a borderline loss.
I don’t think I’ve been very harsh in those assessments. I’ve only called one loss plain BAD.
If only the Minutemen just won three of those games above, say, Miami, URI and St. Joes — things would be far different.
The team would be 22 – 5 overall. Their in conference record would be 10 – 3. What a world of difference that would be. That is the record of an Atlantic 10 bubble team with the non-conference schedule which UMass had in 2012. Unfortunately this 19-8 (8-5 in conference) stuff isn’t going to cut it.
Here’s a reality check.
The Minutemen must win out. That will include games at Dayton, at Temple and against URI. Not an easy schedule ahead.
Winning out likely won’t be enough to do any dancing, still. Yet again — and stop me if you’ve heard this in the last several years — UMass will need to win some games in Atlantic City.
This, amazingly, is something the team has never done.
So, everyone strap in, the playoffs start Saturday in Dayton. How fitting — that’s where the NCAA had been hosting that “play-in game” for years.