UMass men’s hoop to host Stony Brook in NIT first round
Coach Derek Kellogg and the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team will host Stony Brook at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday at the Mullins Center in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament. Kellogg is seen here coaching against Virginia Commonwealth in the semifinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament Saturday in New York. VCU won 71-62. (AP Photo) Purchase photo reprints »
AMHERST — The season will continue for the University of Massachusetts men’s basketball team, but not in the tournament it wanted.
The Minutemen received a No. 2 seed in the National Invitation Tournament and will play No. 7 Stony Brook at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday at the Mullins Center. The game will be online only on ESPN3.
UMass (21-11) had hoped that its resume combined with a run to the semifinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament would be enough to earn a trip to the NCAA tournament, but when the field was announced Sunday night the Minutemen were not included.
The players were disappointed.
“We feel like we were robbed,” senior Terrell Vinson said. “I don’t know what goes on in the committee room so I don’t really know. I felt we deserved to get in. I think we really got robbed this year. Last year I kind of felt when we lost to St. Bonaventure and they won the championship, we wouldn’t get in. I felt like we got robbed all the way around this weekend.”
Freddie Riley said the team fell short of its goals.
“We obviously wanted to go to the NCAA Tournament. The season is kind of looked at as a failure to us right now because we didn’t get there,” said Riley, who believes the team would need to make a deep run in the NIT to take any of the sting away. “Going to the NIT, I don’t think it would be complete without us going to the championship game and winning it.”
Coach Derek Kellogg said he understands Riley’s frustration, but disagrees that the season was a failure.
“When you’re a senior, and the ultimate goal as a college player is to get to the NCAA tournament, a young kid, who doesn’t understand that there are other things that can be considered success, might look at it that way,” he said. “We’ve given the fans and the program some life. That we’re even in contention and consideration, people are excited. They think the program is headed in the right direction.”
Both players expect the Minutemen to bounce back.
“We’re still grateful to be playing in the postseason instead of just having our season be over after last game,” Riley said. “We’re going to try to end the season on a good note even though we’re not going to the tournament like we hoped.”
“Guys just want to play a little longer,” he said. “Going to the NIT championship or the final four would be fun.”
Kellogg entered Sunday cautiously hopeful.
“Coming into this, I was realistic,” Kellogg said. “It was a long shot to a certain extent because of where we were in the RPI (55). We might have been one win short. When I was presented with some blind resumes, I thought we were as good as four or five of the teams that actually got in. So then I was optimistic, but realistic knowing they can only take so many teams.”
Kellogg has now turned his attention to the NIT.
“There’s a lot of positives. The NIT is a great tournament,” he said. “Teams that make it to the final four of the NIT are teams that could probably make it to the Sweet Sixteen or the Round of 32 in the regular tournament so let’s go prove to people that even though we didn’t get in, we were somewhat deserving.
“You can feel bad, but you’ve got to move on and move forward. I think the guys will be OK come” Monday, Kellogg added.
He had been hoping to play Tuesday.
“I was looking forward to Tuesday. I wanted to get out there as soon as possible,” Kellogg said. “It’s going to seem like a long time between games. We’d gotten used to only having 18 hours to prepare.”
He said of Stony Brook, “I’ve been able to watch a little bit on TV. I remember thinking they were a good team. They get up and down a little bit.”
Stony Brook (24-7) earned an automatic bid to the NIT by winning the America East regular season title. It lost in the conference tournament semifinals to Albany.
If UMass beats the Seawolves, it would host the winner of No. 3 Iowa and No. 6 Indiana State at a time to be determined.
Virginia is the No. 1 seed in the region. The Cavaliers will take on Norfolk State, which as a No. 15 seed upset No. 2 Missouri in last year’s NCAA Tournament. No. 4 Saint Joseph’s hosts No. 5 St. John’s in the region’s other game.
Kellogg said he and former UMass coach John Calipari exchanged text messages after Calipari’s Kentucky squad, the defending national champions, also did not make the NCAA tournament. The Wildcats received a No. 1 seed in the NIT.
Calipari took to Twitter to address Kentucky fans. The following is four tweets combined.
“I’m really disappointed we didn’t make the NCAA Tournament but we are going to use this time to make us better.
“We had our chances, but I’m not going to stop. It’s a great lesson for the future of our program & a humbling experience for me as a coach.
“To the #BBN (Big Blue Nation), you did your part all season long. You showed up in droves and helped us pull through key games. We didn’t do our part.
“Even now, I’m going to coach these guys, try to make them better & give everything I can to make sure we control our destiny in the future.”
The only way UMass and Kentucky could play is in the NIT championship.
TICKET INFO — Tickets for Wednesday’s game are on sale online at TicketMaster.com or by phone through the Mullins Center box office at 866-UMASS-TIX (866-862-7784).Season-ticket holders will be able to order tickets for their regular seats by calling the box office or logging into their UMass ticket account.
Ticket prices are $16 for reserved seats; $12 for adult general admission; $10 for senior general admission, $8 for children and $5 for students.
KELLOGG BONUSES — The Minutemen’s performance will earn Kellogg a $70,000 raise for the remainder of his contract which runs through the 2016-17 season.
Finishing with an RPI or better than 60 (UMass was 55 according to ESPN) and a strength of schedule of 75 or better (71) are each worth a $25,000 per year raise, and the NIT bid is worth $20,000.
WILLIAMS HONORED — Junior guard Chaz Williams was named to the Atlantic 10 All-Tournament team for the second straight season, a rare feat for a player who did not make the final in either year.
Williams averaged 20.6 points and 5.1 assists in three Atlantic 10 tournament games.
Matt Vautour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow UMass coverage on Twitter at @GazetteUMass. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.