Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Game Preview - Duquesne hosts (13-6, 2-3) UMass Wednesday at 7pm

In my mind there are 4 teams that will come out of the A10 and make the NCAA Tournament. At this point Xavier, Dayton, and Rhode Island are making strong bids to be the top three teams out of the conference. Duquesne, Charlotte, St. Joseph's, and UMass are all left fighting for that 4th and final spot out of the A10. A win over UMass at home is a necessity if the Dukes hope to keep their NCAA Tournament dreams alive.

UMass is 13-6 on the season and 2-3 in conference play with wins over Charlotte and Dayton in A10 play. Charlotte only has 1 loss in conference play so far this season, and Dayton was ranked in the Top 25 when they were upset by UMass. UMass is in much the same boat as Duquesne, they have already lost to Xavier, and St. Joe's twice in conference play and they cannot afford a loss against Duquesne if they want to have a serious shot at the big dance. Wednesday's match up should be a high scoring affair, the Minutemen like to run and are one of the top scoring teams in the country.

The Minutemen are led by 6'7 senior forward Gary Forbes (pictured right.) Forbes is third in Atlantic 10 in scoring and 33rd in NCAA with his 20.3ppg average. And if scoring is not enough he is also averaging 7.1rpg this season. Forbes started his college career at the University of Virginia before transferring to UMass. Forbes spent this summer playing for Panama in the FIBA Americas Championship.

The scary thing about UMass is that they are one of only two NCAA teams that feature two Top 50 scorers this year. 6'2 sophomore guard Ricky Harris (pictured below) is 35th in the NCAA in scoring with 19.9ppg. Harris leads the team in steals with 40 and in 3 point shots made with 52. Harris did not play a significant role for UMass last year but has blossomed into a heck of a ball player for the Minutemen. This is what Coach Ford had to say about Harris prior to the 07-08 season: "Ricky is somebody, again, who has to go from not playing a huge role to someone that we are expecting to play a very significant role. He is somebody that we are going to expect to score points." I bet Ford would laugh now if that quote was repeated back to him.

UMass features a player who has NBA connections, 7'1 center Luke Bonner (pictured right) is the younger brother of San Antonio Spurs forward Matt Bonner. Luke is a redshirt junior after transferring to UMass from WVU a few years back. Much like Matt, Luke is known for his 3 point shooting ability and he leads the Minutemen with a 3 point shooting percentage of 41% Matt Bonner has started 13 of UMass' 19 games this season and I expect him to see some minutes fighting against Duquesne's twin towers Shawn James and Kieron Achara. Good luck Luke, the twin towers have been on fire lately.

UMass' other big man 6'9 Dante Milligan was originally a highly touted Pitt Panther recruit who transferred to UMass after red shirting the 03-04 season and then playing a total of 5 games for the Panthers in 04-05. Milligan is averaging 8.1ppg and 4.8rpg for the Minutemen this season.

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