Vin Parise’s 30-second timeout: Five questions with Derek Kellogg

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Vin Parise from CollegeBasketballTalk caught up with UMass head coach Derek Kellogg, who sits at 6-0 this season with a win in the Charleston Classic.

CBT: If I would have looked into a crystal ball in October and told you that UMass would be Top 25 before Thanksgiving; would you have believed it?

Kellogg: I knew we had some strong pieces in place and we would be better but I am a little surprised, in a very good way, that we are playing this well so early. I knew Chaz Williams would be our leader, but our other guys have been just as great.

CBT: When did it hit home that you guys could be a really good basketball team?

Kellogg: When we beat #19 New Mexico, I started to look at this group a little different. The way we had our press going and the way we played offensively – I felt we had the ability to play a high level of basketball. I’d love to be able to bottle that up now for the rest of the season.

CBT: Well, let’s talk X’s & O’s. What’s been the key so far between the lines and what will UMass be known for this season?

Kellogg: It will always start with our full court pressure. When we are able to speed the game up and Chazz Williams is pressuring with his on-the-ball defense; we are really good. But our half court defense has been tremendous as well. We beat LSU this year by only pressing half the game because they run so well. I don’t know if last year we would have been able to play at two different speeds like that.

CBT: How about your balance? You have 6 guys that average between 7 and 17 points per game.

Kellogg: I love it. My biggest question at the start of the year was who do I start? We have a solid 7-8 man rotation. Depth wise, I’d love for one more guy to emerge so it becomes a 8-9 rotation. We’re about to play on the road as a ranked team so people will be gunning for us – we need that depth. We’re also going to see some zone in the next few games so it helps when you have some more options.

CBT: How special has this start been as an alum and how often do you talk to John Calipari?

Kellogg: Cal is the best. I’ve been his player and then later his friend – but he will always be a mentor to me. He’s so happy for me and UMass right now. He’s always one of my first 2-3 text messages after I get after a big win. For all the places he’s been, I feel Cal will always consider UMass home. I’m just so lucky to be at a place where I went to school, that I love so much and a place that is so passionate about their hoops. Hopefully we can keep it going.

Vin Parise is the College Basketball Insider for NBC Sports Network and SportsNet New York. He is also a contributor & analyst for ESPN3, MSG Network, Cox Sports New England, Fox Sports 1, The Providence Coaches Show, St. John’s Radio & Iona College Radio. He coached 8 seasons at FDU, Rutgers & Iona. Follow Vin on Twitter: @VinParise

Illinois’ injury woes continue as starting center needs knee surgery

George Niang,Abdel Nader,Mike Thorne, Jr.
AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser
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Illinois suffered another blow in what has already turned out to be a brutal season.

Mike Thorne is expected to miss the rest of the season after tearing his meniscus. He reportedly underwent surgery on Monday to repair the injury.

Thorne, a transfer from Charlotte, was starting at center for the Illini and doing a good job of it as well. He was averaging 13.4 points and 8.4 boards, although Illinois has started off the season 3-4.

The reason for that slow start has mainly been those injuries. Tracy Abrams is already out for the season after tearing his achilles, and the Illini training room looked like a M.A.S.H. unit. Kendrick Nunn just returned two games ago from surgery to repair a torn thumb ligament. LeRon Black is still getting back to speed after offseason knee surgery. Jaylon Tate is back after dislocating a finger. Jalen Coleman-Lands was slowed by a stress fracture.

John Groce entered this season on the hot seat, and dealing with all of these injuries certainly isn’t helping his cause.

NEW PODCAST: Recapping Feast Week

Kris Dunn
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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We talk about a lot of stuff of the podcast today, mainly because a lot of stuff happened since we last spoke with you all.

For starters, we need to discuss the ‘realness’ of Syracuse and Xavier. Are they both truly top 15 teams, or do they just have top 15 resumes? We also dive into Chris Mack’s epic troll-job of Dayton at the Advocare Invitational final.

Other topics we touched on: Whether or not Scott is ever going to apologize to Wayne Selden, Wichita State’s tournament hopes, Texas A&M and whether we’d take Ben Simmons, Kris Dunn or Denzel Valentine today.

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes right here. It’s the quickest way to get access on your cell phone or tablet.