BW: I've never been high on UMass. They're 7-5 in the A-10 and everything looks good, but they've got Xavier and then they go at Dayton, at Temple. At the point where UMass was at or near the top of the conference, you have to take it with a grain of salt and say, 'Ok, who have they played?' They started off conference with Fordham, Charlotte, Richmond, they lost to Duquesne… kind of the bottom of the conference.
What do you like about this UMass team?
BW: I definitely like that they get out and they're always looking for offensive opportunities, because their point guard Chaz Williams is a little guy at 5-8, 5-9, but he can really go. If you don't get back in transition, he's going to score layups on you. He's just that quick.
Another guy I really like just watching them this season is Raphael Putney. He's had those games where he's really shown flashes of being one of the better players on the team, definitely shown the offensive capabilities of being an all-league player down the road.
What weaknesses do you see in this UMass team?
BW: The one thing I really don't like about them in general is the inconsistency that you see. They go and they beat SLU, pretty handily at home I might add, and then they lose at Rhode Island just three days later. They've got some good wins and then they've got some really bad losses. It reminds me a little bit of Dayton in that sense, except they've got way less good wins, which is why they're not being considered at all for the NCAA tournament. I think overall, they're one of those teams that, they don't lose a whole lot at Home. The one-point loss to LaSalle on Saturday was their first home loss on the season.
UMass is really good at home. Is there a reason for that other than their schedule?
BW: It's a weird place to play. They play hockey at the arena, and so I've talked to players that say they can feel the difference in the surface, with the ice being under the court having a little bit of an effect. They also had mentioned the fact that it was really dark inside the arena.
Why is UMass so inconsistent?
BW: This is a pretty young team. Besides Sean Carter, who's a senior, you're not losing a whole lot in terms of personnel in the years to come. You've got Chaz Williams who's a sophomore, you've got Putney who's a sophomore, you've got Jesse Morgan who's a sophomore and Terrell Vinson is a junior, so they're all coming back next year - that's your top four scorers. But that effects consistency factor. You look at Putney, who besides Williams has been their best player, his numbers are all over the board. His last couple of games he scored: three, six, 22, 18, eight, seven, 2, and 17. There's no consistency there.
What's Xavier's biggest advantage in this matchup?
BW: I really like either Lyons or Holloway - whoever draws their secondary guard, Jesse Morgan - not that Jesse Morgan's not a good defender, but Chaz Williams has shown that he's going to bring it. Morgan isn't as consistent as one would like and just doesn't have the experience as a sophomore.
Their whole team just lacks experience. At this point in the season, people like to say that it doesn't matter as much, that these sophomores are like juniors, but look at the stats… Raphial Putney can't put good back-to-back games together to safe his life.
What did you think of Xavier's game against Dayton?
BW: The one thing I think I was the most impressed with in the Dayton game was their intensity. They were up all the time, especially Dez Wells. He was making a lot of great plays, and Mark Lyons was all over the court as well. Obviously Holloway did what he did on the offensive end, but on the defensive end they really set the tone early with that intensity and seemed to get some of their swagger back. I would have liked to have seen them beat Dayton pretty handily just to say confidently that they're back and are going to be a tournament team. I still think they run the table, maybe lose to SLU, but they're going to get in when it's all said and done.
Who ya got?
BW: UMass does play really well at home, but it wouldn't surprise me if Xavier went in and put things away and essentially said, 'We're going to the dance.' I'll take Xavier. I think it's going to be closer than Xavier fans would like. It's going to be a grind-it-out type of game, but I think Xavier wins it. If they don't it makes the game against Saint Louis an absolute must win.