Updated: Mar 9, 2021
By Kevin McCaskill Jr.
The 2020 Atlantic 10 Tournament ended before UMass was able to play a game.
This season, the A10 Tournament was held in Virginia. Virginia is a Southern state that has rolled back some COVID-19 protocols. Also, most teams in the A10 are close to Virginia.
The Minutemen beat St.Joe’s yesterday afternoon and scored 100 points 😳. Unfortunately, this great opening performance was fool’s gold. The Minutemen lost to the Billikens of Saint Louis today in the 2nd Round, 86-72.
UMass Sophomore Tre Mitchell played 37 minutes and scored 30 points. He also grabbed 6 rebounds. Javohn Garcia was the only other player on UMass to score in double-figures; he chipped in 11 points.
SLU was led in scoring by Javonte Perkins; he scored 25 points on Thursday afternoon. His teammates Jordan Goodwin and Yuri Collins had 18 and 17 points, respectively.
I missed the first 18 minutes of the game but from what I saw, SLU played harder and smarter on Thursday and earned their spot in the next round.
UMass only shot 29% from 3-pt range today. Twenty-four hours earlier, UMass shot 40% from 3-pt range, with 15 made 3FGs 😳.
Anyone who knows UMass or has followed the team this year or in recent years, KNOWS, that that performance against St. Joe’s was an aberration or an anomaly. UMass can hit 3s but UMass isn’t a “bombs away” 3-pt shooting team. The UMass offense runs through Tre Mitchell and when that happens, UMass has their best chance of winning.
This season was unlike any other season, obviously. UMass took a more cautious approach to their season than the High Schools in the region. Both didn’t allow the general public, however the MIAA allowed family members and the media in the building. UMass only had the media they sponsor at the Mullins Center [and those young people pay to go to UMass 🧐].
The other noticeable aspect of this season was the COVID-19 "pauses". The College Basketball season started in late November. UMass was scheduled to play at Mohegan Sun in "Bubbleville". That did not happen. UMass had to pause all sports related activities due to COVID-19 positive tests and contact tracing. The season was paused again because of COVID-19 cases in Amherst in early February.
The team also had a game cancelled because of white nationalism/white supremacy. On January 6, 2021, UMass was in Washington D.C., to play George Washington. White nationalist groups, their collaborators and sympathizers led a hostile and aggressive attack on the U.S Capitol building, where at least 3 people were killed. The UMass 🏀 program made the right decision and immediately got out of D.C.
UMass had 7 games postponed or cancelled this season.
The brightest spot of the UMass program continues to be Tre Mitchell. He had to deal with some injuries this season but none seemed to be too bad 🤞🏽. He averaged 18 ppg and 7 rpg. He also averaged 1.6 blk/gm 🤚🏽. He gets into it with opposing players every so often but he keeps his composure most of the time. Once again, he is the best player on the team and the offense HAS to run through him for UMass to be successful.
While T. Mitchell has been at UMass, the Minutemen are 5-11 (31% winning %age) when a starting Guard attempts more shots than T. Mitchell.
I don’t have any UMass “sources”; I spend no time in Hampshire County. There is a possibility Tre Mitchell turns pro this year. If he does leave, UMass will definitely need a new offensive strategy. If he stays, he will continue to be the most important player in the program.
The other bright spots of this season, for me, were Carl Pierre and the production of 2 of the Freshman from Woodstock. I’ll write about all 3 Freshman later in the article.
Here, I want to salute and thank Carl Pierre. He is a very good player and he has had a good career at UMass. He plays hard every game. He competes on the defensive end and he might be the best wing/perimeter defender UMass has. I felt at times, especially last year, he took too many jump-shots but that’s his game. He doesn’t drive to the basket a lot and he isn’t a distributor of the ball. He can get open and drain shots. He is also quick and decisive in transition. There is speculation about his future because the NCAA is granting Seniors another year if the Seniors want to stay in college and get a full Senior season. I encourage Pierre to stay. I respect his decision if he decides to move in his life.
The most perplexing aspect of the season was UMass HC Matt McCall’s substitution pattern and floor combos. There was roster turmoil all season: Preston Santos never played a game and I don’t think he was in Amherst at all this season; Kolton Mitchell fell out of the rotation, even though is the only PG who stayed on the roster from last season; Dyondre Dominguez didn’t get the playing time he deserved, especially early in the year; Dominguez and Cairo McCrory were held out of games spanning over 2 weeks by the UMass Athletics Department. So to be fair to McCall, he only had his team at full strength in the first few games.
That being said, some of his combos out on the court were confusing. FP SPORTS already identified the backcourt of Garcia and Noah Fernandes as problematic. Each guard is too short to consistently defend Guards in this era. Most PGs & SGs are 6’3” or taller. I’d be shocked if either Garcia or Fernandes is over 5’11” 🤷🏽♂️. They both are “shoot-first” PGs. They don’t get their teammates involved enough.
Fernandes is a decent PG, despite his predilection to shoot but Garcia is a shooting guard. He was out of control too often when he was asked to be PG. He takes bad shots and drives aimlessly sometimes.
Next season, McCall cannot start Fernandes and Garcia. They should never be on the court together at the same time.
Once again, I have 0 sources in Amherst: I think 2 to 4 players could transfer this season. I already mentioned that T. Mitchell could go to the NBA this upcoming summer. There are a few players on the Minutemen who might want out.
So 🤔, this is the section about the 3 incoming Freshman from Woodstock Academy: Ronnie DeGray III, Cairo McCrory and Dyondre Dominguez. Last year, I didn’t know UMass was recruiting DeGray; the “talk” was only about McCrory and Dominguez.
Going into the season, I thought Dominguez would get heavy minutes. I was wrong. DeGray started every game and McCrory was usually the 1st or 2nd man off the bench. They both had good years. DeGray has to work on securing the ball and making better passes. McCrory has to work on his offensive game because he will have opportunities to get buckets but he needs to be able to convert, in the mid-range and closer to the rim. Both young men’s 3-pt shots are better than what I thought, even though DeGray hit a bunch of 3s in last years NEPSAC Power 5 AAA Championship Game.
I don’t understand McCall’s treatment of Dominguez, in regards to Dominguez’ minutes on the court. He only played in 11 of the 15 games 🤔. He only played more than 10 minutes in a game, 3 times 🤔.
First, I don’t think Dominguez should be playing the 4/Power Forward position. Yes, he is tall at 6’8” but that’s not his game. He is a 3-pt shooter and if defenders close out too hard on him he can get by defenders and get a shot for himself or his teammates. I watched him take the defensive challenge and play defense on players he wasn’t matched up with when he played at Woodstock.
Second, he has the attitude and edge it takes to be successful on this level.
If this team is going to be successful next season, McCall has to integrate Dominguez in the line-up and get him at least 15 minutes/game.
Dominguez can improve his game also. He can work on his speed and explosiveness. He also needs to be stronger with the basketball (a play against SLU @ SLU where the ball was taken right out of his hand comes to mind).
It’s also clear now that McCrory and Dominguez were held out because they were on the verge of being academically ineligible.
Well, UMass finished 8-7, which is above .500 😊 👏🏽. The only D1 school in Western Mass. finally had a decent season. I think the team will look different next year but there is a possibility this whole team comes back (maybe without Gasperini because he is a graduate transfer 🤷🏽♂️).
Hopefully the health of the country will be at a place where FP SPORTS will be in Amherst later this year to see some games live 🤞🏽.