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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Tuesday, November 13, 10 a.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Mullins Center (9,493) -- Amherst, Massachusetts. Television: ESPN. Home Record: Harvard 1-0, UMass 0-0. Away Record: Harvard 0-0, UMass 0-0. Neutral Record: Harvard 0-0, UMass 0-0. Conference Record: Harvard 0-0, UMass 0-0. Series Record: Massachusetts leads, 13-7.
GAME NOTES: The Massachusetts Minutemen will open up their season at home on Tuesday morning against in-state rivals the Harvard Crimson as part of the College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon.
Harvard got its season off on the right foot last Friday by downing MIT at home, 69-54. The Crimson have won 20 games or more in three consecutive seasons, but they will have their hands full this year if they want to make it a fourth. With three sophomores and a freshman in the starting lineup, they are one of the youngest teams in the Ivy League.
UMass put together a fantastic campaign in the Atlantic 10 in 2011-12, going 9-7 in conference play while tallying 25 wins overall, a 10-game improvement from the season before. The Minutemen were snubbed from their first NCAA Tournament bid since 1998, but they were granted a spot in the NIT and defeated Mississippi State, Seton Hall and Drexel en route to the semifinals, where they finally fell to Stanford.
These two programs have met 20 times previously, but the last matchup came during the 1991-92 season. UMass has a 13-7 advantage in those contests.
Harvard owned the fourth-best scoring defense in the nation a year ago, allowing a mere 55.6 ppg, and it picked up right where it left off against MIT on Friday by allowing the Engineers to shoot just 36.4 percent from the floor while forcing 18 turnovers. The effort at the offensive end of the floor was stellar as well, with the Crimson connecting on 46.4 percent of their field goal attempts. Jonah Travis came off the bench to score a team-high 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting while also adding eight rebounds and three blocked shots. The sophomore averaged just 2.4 ppg last season and his continued production would be a big boost for a team that lost some key contributors in the offseason. Guards Wesley Saunders (11 points) and Laurent Rivard (10 points) also scored in double figures. Kenyatta Smith is another sophomore who is in for a major boost in playing time. Smith made his first career start at center and made his impact felt across the board with eight points, eight rebounds, five blocks and three assists.
There is plenty of reason for optimism in Amherst this season, as UMass returns four starters to a squad that put up nearly 77 ppg in 2011-12, and it will be led once again by Chaz Williams. The diminutive guard (5-9, 175) may be small in stature but he came up big for the Minutemen in his first season on campus, tallying 16.9 ppg, 6.2 apg, 4.4 rpg, and 2.2 spg en route to being named First Team All-Atlantic 10, and he's likely to push for All-America status if he keeps up with the trend. Williams is surrounded by some more- than-capable role players. Raphiael Putney (10.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg) and Jesse Morgan (9.9 ppg) contributed more than 100 combined three-pointers to the team total of 288 last year, which ranked first in the conference. Terrell Vinson (9.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg) is in a similar mold as Putney as a physical forward with a nice shooting touch. Several key bench player return to the fold as well, including Freddie Riley (6.5 ppg), Sampson Carter (8.6 ppg) and Cady Lalanne (6.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg), although the latter two missed significant time last season due to injury.
Harvard got off to a strong start but against a weak opponent, and expectations need to be tempered for this young squad. UMass should have no problem regaining the chemistry it had last season early on this year. Williams and company have what it takes to crack the stout Crimson defensive game plan.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Massachusetts 70, Harvard 60
11/13 10:21:18 ET
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