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Challenging Chaz: Some of the nation's top point guards await UMass' Williams 

UMass redshirt junior guard Chaz Williams, right, drives against Laurent Rivard of Harvard in the second half of the Minutemen's 67-64 season-opening win over the Crimson on Tuesday morning at the Mullins Center.
KEVIN GUTTING

UMass redshirt junior guard Chaz Williams, right, drives against Laurent Rivard of Harvard in the second half of the Minutemen's 67-64 season-opening win over the Crimson on Tuesday morning at the Mullins Center. KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

CBSSports.com ranked Williams No. 25 on its list of the top 50 point guards. He’ll face at least six other players on the list and possibly one more, as well as a handful of others that didn’t crack the list.

UMass forward “Maxie Esho made me aware that I was one of the top 50 point guards in the country,” Williams said. “He asked me was I happy. I said no. This may be my opportunity. I like being the underdog, but at the same time I’m coming to play. I’d like to play those guys every night.”

Here’s a look at who he will play:

20. Rotnei Clarke, Butler — The Arkansas transfer didn’t actually play point for the Razorbacks and wasn’t expected to play the position for the Bulldogs. But when Chrishawn Hopkins was kicked off the team, Clarke, who is one of the nation’s best shooters, moved over.

24. D.J. Cooper, Ohio — One of Williams’ shorter competitors at 6-feet, Cooper played a huge role in the Bobcats’ deep NCAA tournament run last year. His return is one of the biggest reasons Ohio could do it again.

37. Kwamain Mitchell, Saint Louis – He’ll miss the first several weeks of the season after foot surgery. How well he bounces back could go a long way toward determining how good SLU is.

38 Kevin Dillard, Dayton — If the Flyers are going to exceed low expectations this season, it’ll likely be Dillard leading them. The senior led the team in points (13.3 ppg) and assists (6.0 apg) a year ago.

42. Semaj Christon, Xavier — The freshman is at the center of the Musketeers rebuilding process.

Williams could face these players in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off:

10. Lorenzo Brown, NC State or 15. Tim Frazier, Penn State — Williams is going to get one of these elite point guards depending on today’s results. Brown is a big part of the reason expectations are so high around the Wolfpack. He averaged 12.7 points and 6.4 assists a year ago.

Frazier led the Nittany Lions in scoring (18.8 ppg), rebounding (4.7 rpg) and assists (6.2) last year.

5. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State or 41. Trae Golden, Tennessee — Williams will only face Smart or Golden if things align correctly in Puerto Rico. He can’t play both, but he could miss both.

Smart has yet to play a college game, but he’s getting rave reviews already.

“He’ll go through all of the adjustments that a freshman goes through. But he’s all about playing hard,” OSU coach Travis Ford said. “He’s a leader. He makes guys around him better and makes a lot of winning plays. His game isn’t based on scoring. He’s a special player.”

Golden is underrated nationally going into the season, but could get people’s attention quickly with a strong showing in Puerto Rico.

Not on CBS’ list:

Carl Jones, Saint Joseph’s — Jones is more of a lead guard than a true point. How he goes, so go the Hawks.

Tyreek Duren, LaSalle — The junior was the catalyst for La Salle’s improvement that culminated in a trip to the NIT last year. He’s a big reason the Explorers are a dark horse contender in the Atlantic 10.

Darius Theus, VCU — If he was more of a scorer (8.5 ppg), he probably cracks CBS’ list. Still, he’s essential to the Rams’ up-tempo offense and defense.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Follow UMass coverage on Twitter at twitter.com/GazetteUMass. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.

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UMass men's basketball opens Puerto Rico Tip-Off Thursday against Providence

Thursday, November 15, 2012

BAYAMON, Puerto Rico — There are 18 weeks and at least 28 games for the University of Massachusetts men’s basketball team before Selection Sunday. But the Minutemen’s goal of having their name called by the NCAA tournament selection committee that day, could be affected by tonight’s 7:30 game against Providence in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. For each of the eight … 0

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