UMass men's basketball focuses on NIT, Stony Brook
The University of Massachusetts men's basketball team, seen here playing Virginia Commonwealth in the semifinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament on Saturday in New York, will host Stony Brook at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament. (AP Photo) Purchase photo reprints »
AMHERST — Junior forward Sampson Carter said the University of Massachusetts had used Sundays this season to rest and reflect.
The Minutemen played almost every Saturday and took the next day off to bask in the good feeling of a win, or heal from the frustration of a loss.
On Monday, Carter said the Minutemen were upset Sunday with not being included in the NCAA tournament field, but were ready to move on and prepare for their Wednesday night 7:15 National Invitation Tournament game against Stony Brook at the Mullins Center.
“There’s always that Sunday you use to put everything behind you and reflect,” Carter said. “It’s a new day now. There’s no reason to look back. We had a good season. We took a couple losses, especially losing one of our leading scorers (Jesse Morgan). But we’re looking forward and stay positive and play again Wednesday.”
UMass coach Derek Kellogg, who opened practice playing the Harlem Shake on his whistle, planned a short practice Monday.
“I have to do a good job today as a coach to bring some energy to practice and keep it light,” he said before practice. “After today they should be ready to go. It’s tough for a college kid to put everything in perspective and see the whole picture. That’s my job as a coach because I’ve been through it as a player and coaching.”
He said getting the players excited to play was a little more challenging this year than it was a year ago.
“Last year was another step and the guys were really excited to be there. This year we had our sights set on something a little different and put ourselves in position to at least be near there,” Kellogg said. “These kids have matured as people and the program has matured to where we have a game on Wednesday and I don’t care if it’s a streetball game at the horseshoe (court at Southwest Residential Area). You’ve got to come and play.”
Junior point guard Chaz Williams thought the Minutemen would do that.
“These guys like to play basketball. We love basketball. Not a lot of teams are fortunate to be playing right now. We’re just taking advantage of the opportunity god has given us. We’ll just go out and perform,” he said. “You’re still representing the school, the program and Mass. as a whole. We still want to go out there and perform.”
“I guess we just put everything else behind us and try to stay positive. The positive thing is that we have a high seed and we’re still playing. There’s a lot of other teams at home right now,” said Carter, who was injured during last year’s run to the NIT Final Four. “I was just so thankful that we made postseason play last year. I didn’t play in the NIT last year so it’s still a good experience for me.”
Kellogg said the disappointment of not coaching in the NCAA tournament won’t stop him from watching the games.
“I’ll watch a lot of it. I’m a coach. I want to improve and get better too. I like to watch games and see what coaches are doing and what styles are winning, who’s effective,” he said. “If some teams that play like us are playing, I’ll try to pick up some things.”
Carter said it would be hard knowing teams UMass beat were in the field, but he planned to watch the tournament.
“It’ll be aggravating to watch it, but I have other friends playing in the NCAA,” he said. “I’m going to watch it and keep up with them.”
Matt Vautour can be reached at email@example.com. Follow UMass coverage on Twitter at @GazetteUMass. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.