UMass Vs. NC State Preview: The Minutemen Are Ready To Run

Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

UMass @ StatSheet
2012 Stats
2013 Roster
2013 Schedule

UMass Offense 11-12
Four Factors Percent Nat'l Rank
eFG% 49.6 149
Turnover Rate 19.9 156
Off Reb Rate 34.2 95
FTA/FGA 33.4 248

Now things begin to get interesting. UMass won 25 games last season, went deep in the A-10 tournament, and reached the NIT final four. The Minutemen return four starters from that squad, including their leading scorer, who is a dynamic point guard.

This will be quite the contrast from Penn State in more ways than one--UMass is perfectly comfortable running the floor, and in fact finished last season at No. 3 nationally in adjusted tempo. That is, potentially, good news for NC State, but the Pack's guards must make better decisions if the transition game is going to pay dividends in this matchup. They need to be better prepared for those situations, because this game could be wide the hell open.

Head coach Derek Kellogg inherited a team that liked to run, and he's pretty much maintained that legacy, even into what is now his fifth season. His offenses have generally been poor because they haven't shot the ball well, but the Minutemen turned a corner last season, and with so much experience returning, it is reasonable to expect more improvement.

It still isn't a team likely to shoot exceptionally well, but the lineup is full of versatile scorers, and that presents its own set of problems for opposing defenses. NC State's perimeter defense is going to have to be more alert in this one, as UMass is considerably more dangerous from three-point range than Penn State.

Starters

Chaz Williams (5-9, 175) -- Williams led UMass in scoring last season and did a fine job leading the offense, but he struggled where you might expect someone of his size to struggle. He hit just 40.5% of his twos, which was lower than his three-point shooting percentage. The trouble with someone like Williams is it's not as simple as "make him put the ball on the floor." He's also good at getting to the line, and he is an excellent free throw shooter. So keep him in front of you and he could pull up from three, where he is deadly; play to stop the jump shot and he could easily end up shooting free throws.

Jesse Morgan (6-5, 190) -- Morgan isn't likely to draw many fouls, and while his steal rate is solid, he does not provide much in the way of secondary value. His playing time increased significantly as a sophomore last season and he developed into a good three-point shooter (36.1%), with his attempts split about evenly between twos and threes; he hit just 43% of his twos, though, so this is one guy State wants to funnel inside the arc.

Raphiael Putney (6-9, 185) -- Second on the team in scoring last season. He hit 57.1% of his twos and 37.3% of his threes--and he took 143 three-pointers--so he is a dangerous and versatile scoring threat. He was also the team's best shot botherer and defensive rebounder among the the team's regular rotation.

Terrell Vinson (6-7, 220) -- Vinson has been pretty accurate inside the arc over the course of his career; his issue is perhaps an over-reliance on three-pointers. Last year he attempted 107 threes and made 30.8% of them--that was a career high 3FG%. If you're sensing a theme by this point, though, you're right. UMass has a lineup full of veteran players who can score inside or out, and this will be a much different challenge from Penn State.

Cady Lalanne (6-9, 250) -- Played sparingly last year, but put up impressive rebounding and block rates. He needs to get the turnovers under control, but with enough minutes, he'll post some double-doubles.

Bench

Freddie Riley (6-5, 190), Maxie Esho (6-8, 205), Sampson Carter (6-8, 220).

UMass Defense 11-12
Four Factors Percent Nat'l Rank
eFG% 46.2 47
Turnover Rate 22.3 66
Off Reb Rate 34.1 252
FTA/FGA 38.3 222

While it has its costs, Kellogg has built a disruptive defense that appears to rely on a fair bit of zone. That pays dividends in the block and 2FG% categories, but they have not rebounded well at this end under Kellogg, and they tend toward the foul-prone end of the spectrum.

If State isn't more careful with the ball on Friday, though, the shortcomings may not matter much. UMass presents a different challenge from Penn State in a number of ways, and how quickly the Pack adjusts is going to be crucial.

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