Tuesday November 13, 2012

AMHERST -- It’ll be coffee and donuts instead of hot dogs and soda at the Mullins Center for the University of Massachusetts’ season-opening basketball game.

That’s because the Minutemen will tip off today at 10 a.m. on national television. UMass hosts Ivy League powerhouse Harvard, a game which will be televised on ESPN as part of a 24-hour basketball marathon.

"We’ve done a lot of things in the preseason in the morning," UMass coach Derek Kellogg said, when asked how he prepares for such an early wakeup call. "We’ve done it enough and I want to make sure the guys are getting the rest and have energy for that 10 a.m. game."

The Minutemen practiced at 10 a.m. over the weekend in preparation for the game.

There will be a 7 a.m. wakeup call for the players, and Kellogg will have the players report to the Mullins Center at 8:30.

"Normally, they eat four or four-and-a-half hours before the game. I think for this one, it’ll be a light 7 or 7:30 a.m. breakfast, get over here at 8:30 and get ready for the game," he said. "Try to keep it as normal as possible without having any normalcy."

The Minutemen enter the season with a No. 5 ranking in the Atlantic 10 Conference preseason poll. With it comes expectations that Kellogg said have settled on his team and the Minutemen have adjusted.


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"I think they all realize that now teams are going to come at us a little harder and a little tougher because there’s expectations and people have picked us [to finish] a certain place in the conference," Kellogg said prior to a midweek practice. "In the same token, I’m trying to not talk about expectations as much as preparing every day and making sure we’re doing everything we can to be the best basketball team that we [can be]."

The Minutemen return four starters, including preseason All-Atlantic 10 first-team pick Chaz Williams. The redshirt junior guard averaged 16.9 points and 6.2 assists per game. The biggest hole the Minutemen have to fill is at center where Sean Carter graduated. Sophomores Cady Lalanne or Maxie Esho are the candidates to start there. Kellogg said he wasn’t sure which direction he would go against the Crimson.

Coach Tom Amaker’s Crimson has been picked to finish second in the Ivy League behind Princeton. The Crimson have a lot to replace this year, and will do it with a young team. That’s because two of his veteran standouts were caught up in the cheating scandal that implicated 125 students there.

Kyle Casey was the leading scorer last year and Brandyn Curry led in assists. Both withdrew from school in the aftermath of the scandal that grew out of the take-home final for Government 1310: Introduction to Congress.

Harvard has only one senior, Christian Webster, on the roster. He comes off the bench. Ten members of the Harvard team are either sophomores or freshmen. Guard Laurent Rivard is Harvard’s top returning scorer and a preseason All-Ivy League pick. Freshman Agunwa Okolie is the preseason Ivy League Newcomer of the year.

The Minutemen started official practice on Oct. 15 and nearly one month later, Kellogg said his team is ready to take the court.

"I think the guys are getting a little cranky with each other," said Kellogg. "It’s time to test out where we are against another opponent.

"The reality of it is, I’m not sure if you know how good you are or what you need to work on until you actually play somebody at your level."