By Kevin McCaskill Jr.
*“You play - to win - the game” - Herm Edwards*
I don’t delve in the world of “moral victories”.
Yesterday’s loss to George Mason, 93-92, was both the most stunning and most predictable outcome I could have imagined.
There is no way UMass should have lost that game. Poor close-outs on 3-pt shooters lost the game, while the HC of UMass 🏀, Matt McCall is blaming the referees 🙄.
Letting a middling team, that is having internal issues, stick around in a game UMass should have dominated, lost UMass the game. That is mostly on the players.
The other 2 major issues are squarely on the HC.
Those issues: 1. Refusing to run a legitimate offense with action and motion; 2. The worst substitution rotation in College Basketball.
UMass, similar to Syracuse, does not run an offense. Both offenses, empirically, are random screens all over the half-court and see what happens.
UMass has something Syracuse doesn’t though - a dominant post player in Tre Mitchell.
We have to give George Mason credit, they had a really good defensive plan to neutralize Mitchell. They double teamed him on most plays. His defender was always on/under him.
If the McCall ran an effective offense or two, other players could have been involved. This involvement can lead to better contributions. McCall doesn’t run any types of offenses 🤔. He lets Carl Pierre shoot any shot he wants to shoot, which is a dangerous proposition.
Also, my “Tre Mitchell Shots” theory is proven correct once again. If you don’t know the “Tre Mitchell Shots” theory, its simple: If a starting Guard shoots more shots than Mitchell, UMass is likely to lose that game.
UMass is now 3-10 when a starting Guard takes more shots than Tre Mitchell. Noah Fernandes took 15 shots and made 5 (33%). Carl Pierre took 14 shots and made 5 (36%).
The main option for optimal offensive success for UMass is Tre Mitchell taking the most shots (even the 3s 😳, 👍🏽). The only other option is running “scripted” offensive plays where all the players on the floor get involved.
Now, for the second major issue - the substitution rotation.
Up to the George Mason game, the players off the bench usually go in this order: Weeks Jr., Walker, McCrory, Gasperini, Dominguez, Kolton Mitchell.
Dyondre Dominguez shouldn’t be behind McCrory or Gasperini. His offensive game hasn’t sparked yet because he is averaging 8 minutes per game and not getting any type of looks from 3-pt range. Also, when he is on the floor, a couple of his teammates aren’t even looking his way 🤔.
I watched Dominguez play twice, McCrory once. That is not ideal sample size to really rate a player.
Dyondre Dominguez is better and can be better for UMass than Cairo McCrory.
In the NEPSAC Power 5 AAA Championship game, I watched on two occasions where late in the shot clock Dominguez took it upon himself to guard Femi Odukale and try and get the one-on-one defensive stop. That shows is tenacity and toughness. He has parts of his game to work on, specifically driving to the basket and ball handling, but every player has things to work on in their game. Dominguez’ minutes need to double for UMass to have any success this season.
To be clear, I think Cairo McCrory is a very good player and definitely has a role on this and future teams.
There are other concerning roster issues. Preston Santos is on a leave of absence for “personal reasons”. Kolton Mitchell wasn’t with the team for the game. No definitive word that he is in Amherst.
Two young men who helped salvage a legitimate season out of last season probably aren’t going to be with UMass after 2021. That’s my speculation only; I don’t have UMass “sources”.
I’m not a endorser of the Fernandes/Garcia starting backcourt either. Garcia should go to the bench and Weeks Jr. should start. The next first three off the bench should be Walker, Garcia and Dominguez.
UMass has no “muscle memory” of a winning program. Rationalizing losing is a key to keep losing. Overreacting to losses is also a key to keep losing. Making the right and necessary changes will lead to victory. The UMass HC needs to call Billy Donovan or Joakim Noah [he is free] and get some of those old Florida plays. The HC also needs to play Woodstock’s best player last year, Dyondre Dominguez.
A loss is loss. The lesson(s) learned in defeat should be a part of the strategies for victories. 🔬