College Basketball Insider: Minutemen are enjoying their time back in spotlight

  • Updated: January 3, 2014 - 10:30 PM

UMass has returned to prominence for the first time since its vacated Final Four.

In his sixth year, Derek Kellogg has UMass back in the top 25 for the first time since 1996.

Photo: MIC SMITH • Associated Press,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

These days, Derek Kellogg is having trouble finding peace.

Not so long ago, the Massachusetts men’s basketball coach would stroll through campus in mid-December in relative silence, only the crunch of snow under his feet and patter of students chatting in the background serving as a soundtrack to his walk.

No more. Now, Kellogg — suddenly standing at the helm of a nationally ranked program — gets swarmed while standing in line for coffee. When he sits down at restaurants, passersby pound the glass in excitement. Signs in storefronts around tiny Amherst, Mass., nearly 100 miles west of Boston, exalt the experience that has everyone buzzing:

“Chazketball.”

“It’s all coming at once, and it’s great,” said Kellogg, who coached UMass to the NIT each of the past two years. “All of the sudden, people are really, really paying attention.”

In some ways the hype over the up-tempo, pressing squad led by the tiny-but-dynamic Chaz Williams is like déjà vu for the sixth-year coach, who has gladly waved off his calm walks for the hubbub. Kellogg was a UMass freshman himself 22 years ago, playing under John Calipari. It was that 1991-92 team that first made the AP top 25, beginning a seven-year stretch that marked the program’s glory years. The Minutemen made the NCAA tournament every season from 1992 to ’98, including Sweet 16 in 1992, the Elite Eight in ‘95 and the Final Four in ’96 (though NCAA sanctions later vacated it).

Returning to that form is the dream that Kellogg has sold to recruits since he arrived, one that was almost hard to re-imagine on it’s own. At least until now.

Since knocking off teams such as Brigham Young, New Mexico, Nebraska and Providence — six top-100 teams in all according to CBSSports.com’s Ratings Percentage Index listings — the Minutemen (11-1) have vaulted into the national consciousness, playing a fun-to-watch style with plenty of star power. Besides Williams (15.3 points, 7.7 assists per game), Massachusetts — which is ranked No. 3 in the RPI and is No. 23 in the AP poll — boasts an extremely tough and effective big man in junior Cady LaLanne, who in his first healthy season is averaging a double-double at 14.0 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. As the team has impressed, crowds have come in droves — against Providence a week ago, the Minutemen drew 9,500, their first sellout in five years.

The major jump might have taken Kellogg off-guard a bit, but it’s something that the players were “starving” for in the offseason, Williams said — when the team underwent a more rigorous regimen than usual.

“It was like a bunch of animals ready to be let out of the cage,” Williams said.

Perhaps that’s why Kellogg hasn’t taken it as his role to defuse the excitement, saying instead that his players should “bottle it up and enjoy it.” He knows he doesn’t have the type of team that would easily become cocky. In fact, on the day that Massachusetts was first ranked — the last time coming in 1996 — the team held practice as usual, and Williams remembers just one conversation about the achievement.

“I joked around with [senior forward] Sampson Carter about it, I said ‘Man, we are finally in the top 25,’ ” Williams said.

Sampson turned to his teammate and shook his head, knowing all too well the feeling of winning 15 games or fewer and hearing echoes in the William D. Mullins Memorial Center.

The peace could return to Amherst as quickly as it was forced away.

“Nah, we’re close to being out of the top 25,” Sampson said.

Williams said the pair looked at each other and made another commitment. “We still have a lot of work to do,” he said.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

San Francisco - WP: M. Bumgarner 8 FINAL
Pittsburgh - LP: E. Volquez 0
Minnesota 7:25 PM
Green Bay
Buffalo 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Chicago 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Cleveland 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
St. Louis 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Atlanta 10/5/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Tampa Bay 10/5/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Houston 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Baltimore 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Pittsburgh 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Arizona 10/5/14 3:05 PM
Denver
Kansas City 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
NY Jets 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Diego
Cincinnati 10/5/14 7:30 PM
New England
Seattle 10/6/14 7:30 PM
Washington
Washington 1 FINAL
Buffalo 6
Carolina 3 FINAL
Columbus 6
Pittsburgh 2 FINAL
Detroit 0
Montreal 3 FINAL
Chicago 1
Arizona 2 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Fla Atlantic 6:00 PM
FIU
UCF 6:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 9:30 PM
(2) Oregon
Louisville 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Syracuse
San Diego St 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Utah State 10/3/14 9:15 PM
(18) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(12) Miss State
Ball State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Army
Iowa State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(21) Oklahoma State
Marshall 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Old Dominion
Southern Miss 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Middle Tennessee
(20) Ohio State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Maryland
Purdue 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Florida 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
SMU 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(22) East Carolina
Virginia Tech 10/4/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Eastern Mich 10/4/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Texas 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Indiana
Massachusetts 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Tulsa 10/4/14 2:00 PM
Colorado State
New Mexico 10/4/14 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
(3) Alabama 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(11) Ole Miss
(14) Stanford 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(9) Notre Dame
(17) Wisconsin 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Navy 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
(7) Baylor 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Texas
(4) Oklahoma 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(25) TCU
Wake Forest 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
NC State 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Clemson
Buffalo 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Bowling Green
Ohio U 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Central Mich
Oregon State 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Colorado
Vanderbilt 10/4/14 3:00 PM
(13) Georgia
Kansas 10/4/14 3:00 PM
West Virginia
Kent State 10/4/14 4:00 PM
Northern Ill
South Alabama 10/4/14 5:00 PM
Appalachian St
Texas-El Paso 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
(15) LSU 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
UAB 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Ky
Texas Tech 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(23) Kansas State
Michigan 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rutgers
Hawaii 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rice
Toledo 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Mich
ULM 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
Idaho 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Texas State
Memphis 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Arizona State 10/4/14 6:30 PM
(16) USC
So Carolina 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Kentucky
Pittsburgh 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Virginia
Miami-Florida 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Georgia Tech
(19) Nebraska 10/4/14 7:00 PM
(10) Michigan State
UNLV 10/4/14 7:00 PM
San Jose St
Ga Southern 10/4/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Utah 10/4/14 9:30 PM
(8) UCLA
Boise State 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Winnipeg 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Edmonton 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Hamilton 10/10/14 6:00 PM
Toronto
Ottawa 10/11/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Vikings do Thursday in Green Bay?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close