Over the course of the holiday week, we at College Basketball Talk will be detailing what we believe will be the New Year’s Resolutions of some of the nation’s most talented, most disappointing, and thoroughly enigmatic teams. What can we say, we’re in a giving mood.
WHAT DOES UMASS PROMISE TO GET MORE OF? Derrick Gordon
Why it will happen: Derrick Gordon had some heavy expectations entering this season for the Minutemen. He sat out last year due to NCAA transfer rules, and so far this season he’s been the impact transfer many thought he’d be. Gordon has played 11 games with his new team, and as UMass pushes for an NCAA tournament bid, he could play a major role. He’s the only one on the roster with NCAA tournament experience after all. When he helped lead Western Kentucky to an unlikely berth in the tournament in 2012 he came up with big scoring games, such as a 25-point performance in the Sun Belt quarterfinals and scoring a dozen on eventual champion Kentucky.
Why it won’t happen: UMass has its alpha dog in Chaz Williams, who is more than capable of putting together a big performance. Gordon may be poised for a big night himself, but the Minutemen may not need it. UMass has all five starters averaging double figures while Maxie Esho and Trey Davis have both improved from a season ago. He’s led the team in scoring twice this season, but for someone who attacks the basket as he does, he’s struggled from the line (49 percent). He may very well continue to invest himself in other areas for UMass, such as the defensive end of the floor.
WHAT DOES UMASS SWEAR THEY WILL DO LESS OF? Suffering bad losses
Why it will happen: UMass put together a challenging non-conference schedule, and until Saturday’s loss to Florida State, the Minutemen were one of the nation’s only remaining unbeaten teams. The Minutemen have earned victories over LSU, New Mexico and BYU with a chance at another quality win this weekend against Providence. The Atlantic 10 schedule was favorable to UMass, as conference contenders VCU and Saint Louis both travel to Amherst for games this year.
Why it won’t happen: The Minutemen won 21 games last season, but had to accept a bid to the NIT with losses to Charlotte and St. Bonaventure outweighing a one-point win at La Salle. This season, UMass has already secured several out-of-conference wins, but the A10 schedule still offers some potential upsets. The Minutemen has a three consecutive road games against George Mason, Elon and Richmond in the span of a week in addition to a trip to D.C. to take on a talented George Washington team.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.