Okay, I lied about this being up in a timely fashion, but in my defense…
1) Writing season postmortems sucks, it’s always sad to think that the next season is so far away,
2) I actually DID write this all up, was in the middle of doing some post-writing editing when my laptop monitor inexplicably shit the bed and I lost everything (I’m back up and running with my TV serving as a monitor now, it’s totally ghetto fabulous),
3) I just started a new job, the studying for which is going to occupy a great deal of my free time in the next month or two, and
4) When have I ever written anything in a timely fashion?
Basketball season’s been a wrap for about a month now, and there’ve been some developments that my putting this post off will enable me to cover now. Let’s start by just revisiting the NIT loss: Matt and I had an absolute blast. Seriously, if you’ve never been to NYC, make a trip down there this summer and just see the sights and sounds for yourself. We hit up NBC, toured the NHL Store, hung out in Times Square…good times everywhere you look. Obviously, our experience was a little different than hopping on a student bus like Derek and I did back in ’08, breaking out some, uh, tasty non-alcoholic beverages as we got into the city, and taking over Joe O’s and chanting “let’s go UMass” all the way into the Garden. Doing it from the outsider’s perspective felt a bit different, but still fun. We hope all of you who got to do the bus trip had a similar good time. I’m glad UMass will be coming back here a lot more in the coming years, hopefully just for the A-10 tourney in Brooklyn though. (Or the Big East tourney? Ahem, getting way ahead of myself here.)
We also got to meet Charley Molnar at the pregame festivities at Stout NYC (pretty solid bar, by the way). With all respect for Toot, who is actually quite friendly if you ever run into him outside of the Bill, Charley has more of that Derek Kellogg feel, recruiting fans and supporters just as he would recruit for his own team. Hairgel aside, there is nothing that felt forced or fake about his excitement and confidence. It’d be cool if he finds success faster than Kellogg, but I have no doubt in my mind that the football program is in good hands, if not right away then definitely within a couple years. But we have all summer to talk about them.
The game itself was a bit of a letdown, and not just because UMass lost. Minutemen-Cardinal was one of the worst-played basketball games I’ve ever seen in person. Both teams shot like shit in the first half, in one of those “first team to even start hitting just a FEW of their shots is going to win this” contests. And wouldn’t you know it, Stanford was that team.
1) It was ludicrous that the UMass student section (which, to be fair, we technically shouldn’t have been in, but hey look a distraction!) was separated the way that it was, with a large expanse of empty “reserved” seats that half of the students weren’t allowed to occupy because a half-empty arena was enforcing ticket rules as if it were a Knicks game. Even though the sections were, you know, all student tickets and thus the same price. You can’t blame the ushers for doing their jobs. You CAN blame MSG, though. Actually, let’s just all agree to disagree and blame John Lackey. That usually works.
2) That caveman guy on Stanford literally hurt his team every time he touched the ball. I mean EVERY. Any time he touched the ball, he either turned it over or fired a brick. Really, UMass has no excuse for losing to that.
3) We totally would have clobbered Minnesota in the finals. But at least we get a banner.
So that’s it and that’s all. A team picked to finish 12th out of 14 ends up tied for 5th and with a world of upside. It’s officially time to talk about the future. We’re not here to talk about the past. To beat the dead horse into a bloody pulp, here’s the rundown of what’s exciting about next year:
- Everyone who played major minutes is back except for Sean Carter.
- Key players who broke out this year like Chaz Williams, Jesse Morgan and Raphaiel Putney return a year older and wiser.
- Cady Lalanne and Sampson Carter will (knock on wood) be coming back healthy, with 3 and 2 more years (respectively) left of eligibility.
- Our top recruit (Jordan Laguerre) didn’t even play last year. He will join the rotation along with big man Tyler Bergantino and backup point guard Trey Davis.
- Even with BC pussying out and dropping what would almost certainly be another embarrassing loss from their schedule, the overall schedule will be more exciting next year, with a big Puerto Rico tournament, non-conf visits from an up-and-coming Miami (FL) team and the Ohio team that was just in the sweet 16, and oh yeah….
- Kids who actually give two shits what this team does next year.
It’s about damn time. I’ve been harping on it for years now (holy shit, it literally has been years now), but I’ll be damned if a student group didn’t finally step its game up and put together a posse of kids who demonstrate some sort of group leadership on the front lines, home AND (at least in the NIT, with a little online prodding from Matt) away. I’ve been verbally fellating (mother, phrasing!) them for the last few months, but I gotta hand it to ‘em – the Mullins Militia is what I’ve been talking about for a while now. By the way, glad I got to meet a few of ya down in NYC…hell, Chili even managed to not get screencapped flipping me off, so that’s a win right there. And no, this has nothing to do with self-subsistence or the fact that we know these guys read us. Well, maybe a little. But keep up the good work guys.
But mostly, as a whole, I’m pumped (and you should be too. FEEL THE EXCITEMENT. FEEL IT) that we actually had some games this year where the student section didn’t look like the luxury seats at a Yankees game. Sure, a lot of it has to do with…winning, duh. But starting 7-0 didn’t put butts in the seats last year. There was a slow buzz this year that grew and grew until it exploded in some seriously big home crowds for Saint Louis and Rhody. I’ve never been so happy to stand in line for something.
This year, UMass is a known quantity. The secret is out. If that season-opening tournament precedes the home opener, and UMass pulls off a couple big-name wins, we might actually start seeing hockey-esque lines to get into basketball home games, something I don’t believe has happened for a non-BC game since the 1900s. If it sounds like a pain in the ass, and a recipe for pink-hat-ization, well, trust me. It’s a good problem to have. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, Minutefans. For now, the bandwagon is open to all comers.
And so the summer is upon us, gang. Season 3 of Fight Mass is pretty much a wrap. Thanks to everyone who reads us, and thanks to our contributors this season, Jarod and Cam. You guys, and anyone else who wants to, are way more than welcome to hit me up on Facebook or Twitter about writing a Contributor’s Corner article, either during the summer or next season. Next season will almost certainly be the first year where all three of us will no longer be in western Mass, so we’re gonna be depending on some student insight to keep the campus pulse for us.
I’ll try – key word there – to keep the page updated this summer, especially with the men’s lacrosse playoffs around the corner and with plenty to report on for football and for hoops and hockey. But you know better than to quote me on that.
Oh, one more thing. Is it October yet?