UMass handled its first game as a ranked team since 1998 with a road win at Eastern Michigan.
The Minutemen dealt with EMU’s 2-2-1 zone as well as travel issues. UMass’ team bus broke down, forcing the team to take four to five cabs to the arena and coach Derek Kellogg and his assistants had to go over scouting reports in the broken-down bus while they waited for the cabs to arrive.
The real test for the Minutemen, however, could be handling the hype that comes with the renewed expectations.
UMass, ranked No. 21, is now the favorite in the Atlantic 10. Sorry VCU, but the honor goes to the Minutemen, who won the Charleston Classic title while the Rams were manhandled in Puerto Rico.
UMass will get another major test Saturday when it hosts BYU in Springfield (1:30 p.m. EST, CBS College Sports).
The Minutemen will deal with more adversity than any other A-10 favorite. The schedule is a bit muddled by being made to play road MAC games because the football team is in that conference. UMass still has to go to Ohio after winning at EMU.
The BYU game is being played in Springfield, not Amherst, which should create even more of a buzz and will allow more fans in the Western Massachusetts area to get on board. Amherst is a bit of a sleepy college town where it's still very difficult to fill the Mullins Center, but having a hot team and the support of the larger Springfield area will bring some limelight on the Minutemen.
They'll have plenty to get excited about when they watch this team. The Minutemen have one of the top players in the league in point guard Chaz Williams. Williams is one of five players on the team averaging double figures -- Cady Lalanne, Sampson Carter, Raphiael Putney and Derrick Gordon being the others. They'll need to be well hydrated to deal with the Runnin' Cougars of BYU. The Matt Carlino-Williams matchup should be one of the toughest UMass will have this season.
The Minutemen still have to play Florida State in Sunrise, Fla., and host Providence before the A-10 season begins, so a win over BYU will continue the interest, the hype and increase the ranking before getting into conference play. But a loss will give reason to pause. It shouldn't, but it could, especially with a team where fans are increasingly suspect of whether they can return to being a consistent winner. Kellogg is a graduate and grew up in the area, so this means more to him than most. He is invested in turning this program around and winning Saturday will be another reason to believe in his cause.