Scouting Report: UMass

The UMass program was taken over by former point guard Derek Kellogg. Kellogg was the captain of the team for two seasons in which the Minutemen won the Atlantic 10 regular season and tournament championships under John Calipari. Kellogg later learned under the tutelage of the great vacater at Memphis where he served as an assistant coach from 2000-2008. According to the A-10 Tournament media guide last season, he was Coach Cal’s leading recruiter which must mean he learned the tricks of the trade from the master. In other words, he was the one responsible for falsifying Derrick Rose’s SAT scores. All kidding aside, Kellogg was hired to help bring back some of the old magic and cheating that marked the Calipari glory years after Travis Ford had left for Oklahoma State.

Kellogg seems to have adopted his mentor’s offensive strategy focusing on a dribble drive motion offense focused around one player (a good description of this offense can be found here by Lee DeForest). Basically, the offense has a dominate the ball guard that is responsible for creating most of the team’s offense. In Calipari’s case consider luminaries such as Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans and John Wall to name a few. These point players are given great latitude to do what they want and a common characteristic of these players is that they all can get to the rim at will. Their dribble penetration abilities establishes the entire offense.

In regards to UMass, last season the player that filled this role was by All A-10 third team player Ricky Harris. Last season, Harris was among the national leaders in usage rate (a measure of how important a player is on offense) and shot rate (percentage of shots taken while a player is on the floor) ranking 8th and 11th respectively in those categories. The Minutemen’s offense ran through Harris.

Adopting that role this season is Senior guard Anthony Gurley, who is 41st in usage rate and 22nd in shot rate. The offesnsive blueprint largely remains the same. There were hopes that freshman point guard Daryl Traynham would be a good fit to run the offense but he was dismissed from the team after violating team rules. The Minutemen were further hindered in the backcourt when Sophomore guard Freddie Riley injured his leg in UMass’s last game against George Washington. He is listed as a probable scratch for the game. Filling out the backcourt are nominal point guard Gary Correia, a decent passer but otherwise unspectacular player and the ultra-aggressive Javorn Farrell who often ends up in foul trouble averaging 5.6 fouls committed per 40 minutes played.

The frontcourt is altogether unimpressive although one of the team’s strengths is offensive rebounding ranking 64th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage. Leading the pack is 6’9” center Sean Carter who had 19 rebounds in UMass’s only contest against Duquesne last season. He is a solid rebounder on both ends of the floor and especially on the offensive end where he ranks 73rd nationally in rebound rate. Carter also is a good shot blocker who could wreak havoc against a small Duquesne club. Do not be surprised if Carter has an outstanding game.

Defensively, the Minutemen thrive on forcing tough shots but they give up several second chances to opponents, an area where Duquesne excels. UMass also fouls often giving up 42.1 free throw attempts for every 100 field goal attempts placing it 254th nationally. That could be troublesome for a Dukes team that is poor from the foul line.

The Minutemen should not pose a great threat to Duquesne but free throw troubles and a big game from Carter could pose danger to a team in need of a win. UMass’s offense is floundering and confused while the defense is solid if not spectacular. However, they look to do similar things on defense as Xavier which proved to be a huge impediment to the Dukes on Sunday.

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