Matt McCall enjoys UMass’ regional non-conference schedule

  • UMass head coach Matt McCall shouts instructions during his team’s loss to Howard in 2018 at the Mullins Center. STAFF FILE PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 11/8/2019 7:17:28 PM

AMHERST — UMass is headed to Connecticut to play a basketball game Saturday. It’s just 90 minutes south of where most Minutemen fans would prefer their favorite team be headed.

The Minutemen are headed to Fairfield to face the Stags for a 1 p.m. tipoff, the second game in a span of three regional opponents to start the 2019-20 season. UMass was responsible for scheduling nine non-conference games outside of their exemption tournament and six of those opponents hail from New England. Even the exemption tournament is in New England with the Minutemen participating in the Air Force Reserve Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off at Mohegan Sun.

But most of the UMass fans are disappointed by who the Minutemen aren’t playing this year – and haven’t for numerous years. UMass hasn’t faced Boston College since 2014 and it’s been even longer since the Minutemen tangled with UConn. Those two schools are the big fish in the pond of New England basketball, and both remain absent from the UMass schedule.

UMass coach Matt McCall said he leaves the scheduling decisions up to athletics director Ryan Bamford, but he wouldn’t be against trying to play either school in the future.

“I rely a lot on Ryan Bamford from our scheduling standpoint, I know he has great relationships with athletics directors in this area and we’re constantly trying to push the needle there,” McCall said Monday. “Obviously we’re going to try into Boston every year, if it’s Harvard or Northeastern, if it ever could be BC. It would be great for fans, but I rely a lot on Ryan for that.”

In an interview in August, Bamford said he has asked every season about scheduling Boston College in basketball, but that the right agreement has not been reached. Instead, he has focused on making sure UMass plays as many regional opponents as possible, including the six other Division I schools in Massachusetts. By the end of this season, McCall’s third with the Minutemen, UMass will have played four of the other six schools with Boston University and Merrimack being the exceptions.

McCall said he enjoys having a regionalized schedule because it limits the travel for his team, which does take a toll on players. UMass’ longest trip before the holidays this year is to Rutgers, still a manageable three-hour bus ride, and the Minutemen won’t board a plane until late December when they head to Akron.

“We don’t have to get on an airplane until after Christmas, which is phenomenal,” McCall said. “There’s so many good schools, so many good coaches up here in this area. ... When you get a chance to play against these guys and there’s so many good coaches up in this area and it can get fans excited and their school is excited and our school is excited, you can get people in here and create a little buzz around these regional opponents and regional games.”

ROAD WOES — UMass is hoping to snap an unfortunate trend under McCall on Saturday.

The Minutemen are 2-22 in true road games under McCall and just 4-27 in any game away from the Mullins Center. Yet Saturday’s contest against Fairfield might be on paper the easiest road game UMass has played under McCall. The Stags won just nine games last season and lost in new coach Jay Young’s debut Tuesday against Bucknell.

Josh Walfish can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JoshWalfishDHG. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at

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