In his first season as head coach at UMass, Matt McCall inherited a couple players capable of aiding in the rebuilding process in guard Luwane Pipkins and forward Rashaan Holloway, and he added a transfer guard in Jaylen Brantley. Brantley, who played two seasons at Maryland before returning to his home state, was expected to be an immediate factor in the Minutemen rotation this season.
Unfortunately that will not be the case, as it was announced Tuesday that Brantley’s career is over after a previously undetected heart ailment was found during a medical exam. UMass has a medical policy in which it administers an electrocardiogram (EKG) test as part of its initial examination of incoming athletes, which is how Brantley’s heart ailment was detected.
“While knowing my basketball career will be over, the fact that I will be able to live a healthy, normal lifestyle does give me peace of mind,” Brantley said per the release. “This has been a hard process, but I am thankful for the support and guidance of Coach McCall, the medical staff at UMass, my teammates, my mother and my family.
“It’s certainly a difficult diagnosis to receive, but there is so much I want to do in life and knowing this early will help me in the long term. I thank God that this condition was detected and may have saved my life and, for that, I will be forever grateful.”
While Brantley’s career coming to an end is certainly a negative, it is good for his sake that this situation was detected. Brantley, who transferred to UMass as a graduate student, will remain on scholarship while helping the program in what was termed as a “leadership role” in the release.
As for how Brantley’s situation impacts UMass on the court, the team’s depth at the point takes a hit with Pipkins and redshirt freshman Unique McLean being the other available scholarship options. Keon Clergeot, who began his collegiate career at Memphis, will sit out this season per NCAA transfer rules.
On Thursday evening, the NBC Sports Network announced the more than 30 Atlantic 10 games the network will air during the 2017-18 season.
The full schedule includes three regular-season women’s games, as well as second round and quarterfinals coverage of the Atlantic 10 Tournament, which will take place at the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. beginning on March 8. A10 games can also be streamed on NBCSports.com as well as the NBC Sports app.
The first game of the season to be aired on NBCSN will be a Big 5 clash between Temple and La Salle.
Here’s NBCSN’s full schedule:
Sunday, Nov. 26: Temple at La Salle, 5 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 9: Penn at Dayton, 3 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 16: Georgia at UMass, 3 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 23: Wagner at Dayton, 3 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 30: Fordham at VCU, 12:30 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 30: UMass at St. Bonaventure, 2:30 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 30: Davidson at Richmond, 4:30 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 6: UMass at Dayton, noon
Saturday, Jan. 6: VCU at La Salle, 2 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 7: Davidson at George Mason, noon
Wednesday, Jan. 10: Richmond at Saint Joseph’s (women’s), noon
Saturday, Jan. 13: La Salle at Duquesne, 12:30 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 13: Saint Louis at George Mason, 2:30 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 13: George Washington at Richmond, 4:30 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 14: Davidson at Fordham, 3 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 14: Saint Joseph’s at UMass, 5 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 20: George Washington at VCU, 12:30 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 20: La Salle at Richmond, 2:30 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 20: George Mason at Duquesne, 4:30 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 27: Duquesne at Rhode Island, noon
Saturday, Jan. 27: UMass at Fordham, 2 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 28: George Washington at St. Bonaventure, noon
Sunday, Jan. 28: Richmond at Davidson, 2 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 28: St. Bonaventure at Duquesne (women’s), 4 p.m.
Wednesday, Jan. 31: Fordham at Saint Louis (women’s), noon
Saturday, Feb. 3: George Mason at Richmond, 4:30 p.m.
Saturday,: Feb. 3: Duquesne at St. Bonaventure, 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 3: George Washington at Dayton, 12:30 p.m.
Thursday, March 8: Atlantic 10 Championship Second Round (four games)
Friday, March 9: Atlantic 10 Championship Quarterfinals (four games)
UMass’ leading scorer to transfer, eligible immediately
Donte Clark, the top scorer for UMass this past season, will reportedly explore his options for his final collegiate season.
Jon Rothstein of Fan Rag Sports reported that Clark will graduate this spring and look to transfer. Clark had previously declared for the 2017 NBA Draft. Without hiring an agent, Clark retains his eligibility.
The 6-foot-4 North Carolina native averaged 12.6 points per game for the Minutemen last season. Those numbers were down from the previous year when he posted 16.1 points a night.
This is the latest exit for UMass, a roster that had almost a handful of student-athletes who had the luxury of graduating and becoming eligible immediately for the 2017-18 season. Fifth-year forward Zach Coleman and Zach Lewis, who transferred in from Canisius in 2015, both elected to become graduate transfers. Seth Berger is also reportedly weighing his options for next year.
All four were recruited by Derek Kellogg, who was relieved of his head coaching duties after nine seasons at his alma mater.
Chattanooga head coach Matt McCall was hired as his replacement at the end of last month. Despite the exodus of experience, McCall has yet to have one of his freshmen leave the program.
UMass has found, once more, the man to take over its basketball program.
The Minutemen have reached an agreement with Chattanooga coach Matt McCall, the school announce Wednesday
“The tradition and resources that are in place not only make this one of the best basketball jobs in the Atlantic 10 Conference,” McCall said in a statement released by the school, “but one of the best jobs in the country. We couldn’t be more excited about becoming part of the UMass family and look forward to building upon the rich tradition that has been established here in the past.”
In McCall’s two years at Chattanooga, the Mocs to the NCAA tournament in 2016 and a 19-12 record this year that featured five-straight losses to end the season.
The move will take McCall out of the southeast for the first time in his career as he previously served as at Florida and Florida Atlantic before getting his first head coaching job at Chattanooga.
McCall wasn’t the Minutemen’s first choice to replace Derek Kellogg after three-straight lackluster seasons. Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey had agreed to take the job before a last-minute about-face that saw him return to the Eagles program just before his introductory press conference was scheduled to begin.
“Matt is a rising star in college basketball coaching who has been a key piece of three successful programs in his career,” UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford said in a statement. “He has earned a reputation as a relentless worker, a great teammate and colleague and a confident leader of young men.
“Matt has worked with some of the most respected coaches and administrators in the country, who loudly sing his praises. Coach McCall’s appointment begins an exciting new chapter for our tradition-rich men’s basketball program at UMass.”
Despite being the second choice, McCall’s reputation in the coaching industry makes him a strong hire, having worked under Mike Jarvis and Billy Donovan. He took over at Chattanooga for Will Wade, and brought the Mocs to a 29-6 record and a 12-seed in the NCAA tournament in 2016.
UMass went to just one NCAA tournament under Kellogg (in 2014) during his nine seasons leading the Minutemen.
After five seasons at Winthrop, Pat Kelsey is headed to UMass.
The 41-year-old was announced as the Minutemen’s newest coach Tuesday.
“UMass is a national college basketball brand with a proud, powerful tradition,” Kelsey said in a statement released by the school. “As a player in the A-10 (at Xavier), I saw first hand what the potential is there. I look forward to the challenge of making UMass a major factor on the national level once again.”
UMass went 15-18 last season under Derek Kellogg, who took the Minutemen to the NCAA tournament as a six-seed in 2014, but saw the program languish around .500 the last three seasons.
Kelsey went 102-59 at Winthrop, going 26-7 this past season and taking the Eagles to their first NCAA tournament since 2010. Prior to his five-year stint with Winthrop, Kelsey was the associate head coach to Chris Mack at Xavier. He also previously worked at Wake Forest under Skip Prosser and Dino Gaudio. He played in three NCAA tournaments while a player at Xavier.
“Pat has been an important piece of some highly-successful programs throughout his career,” UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford said in a statement, “including the last five years leading the basketball program at Winthrop University.
“Coach Kelsey has a detailed plan for every phase of our program and a passionate work ethic providing fuel to reach our goals of building a championship-caliber program.”
March Madness 2017 Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament Preview, Bracket and Conference Postseason Awards
Atlantic 10 Player of the Year: T.J. Cline, Richmond
The 6-foot-9 senior forward was not only one of the most efficient players in the conference, he was the only player in the Atlantic 10 to rank top-5 in (18.6 PPG), rebounds (8.1 RPG) and assists (5.7 APG). He had a triple-double — 34 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists — against Duquesne and then recorded another one — 19 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists — in his final game at Richmond.
Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year: Archie Miller, Dayton
Last year, Dayton was in a three-way tie for first place. This season, the Flyers won it outright with a 15-3 conference record. Miller had to balance early-season injuries to Kendall Pollard and transfer Josh Cunningham, which shortended his frontline. Following a loss to VCU, which finished in second place, the Flyers went on a nine-game winning streak, capped with a win at home against the Rams.
First-Team All-Atlantic 10
T.J. Cline, Richmond
Jaylen Adams, St. Bonaventure: The senior guard was second in the conference in scoring at 20.8 points, and led the A10 in assists and 6.6 dimes per game.
Charles Cooke, Dayton: Also an all-defense selection by the A10 coaches, Cooke led the Flyers in scoring at 16.5 points per game to go along with his 5.2 rebounds and 3.0 assists a night.
Jack Gibbs, Davidson: The conference’s leading scorer at 22.0 points per game. The repeat selection registered a handful of 30-point games.
Marquise Moore, George Mason: At 6-foot-2, the senior guard averaged a double-double — 17.4 points and 10.5 rebounds per game — leading the A10 in rebounding at 6-foot-2. He was instrumental in an eight-win turnaround for the Patriots.
It’s been three years since the Atlantic 10 set a conference record by sending six teams to the NCAA Tournament. For the third straight year, the league is set to send half that amount, at best.
Rhode Island entered the season in the preseason top-25, but will likely remain on the bubble unless it makes it to Sunday’s tournament title game. Dayton won the league outright after overcoming early season injuries on the frontline. The Flyers are safe, as is VCU, who finished second to Dayton in the A10 standings this season.
The A10 wasn’t as strong as in previous seasons, but it could result in an eventful week in Pittsburgh. Will Dayton and VCU face off in a rubber match? Will Rhode Island secure its first NCAA Tournament bid since 1999? Or is there a bid stealer ready to make a run?
The Flyers topped the league for the second straight season; this time outright. After dealing with injuries early in the season, which played a role in a loss in a marquee home game against Saint Mary’s, followed by an upset loss to Nebraska, putting them on the wrong side of the Wooden Legacy bracket. However, Dayton enters Pittsburgh as winners of nine of its last 10. That span includes a win at Rhode Island and avenging a loss to VCU. Scoochie Smith, Charles Cooke and Kendall Pollard lead an experienced team with the league’s best offense, matched with a solid defense.
And if they lose?: VCU
The Rams finished second in the A10 and owns a win over Dayton. Like the Flyers, VCU has an experienced group led by seniors JeQuan Lewis and Mo-Alie Cox. Both meetings were decided by single digits. In both games, the Rams frontline, anchored by Cox and Justin Tillman, gave Dayton’s front court fits.
Rhode Island: The Rams enter this year as the conference favorite. They certainly have the talent, and perhaps a sense of urgency kicks in as the Rams are still one the bubble.
Richmond: Led by A10 Player of the Year T.J. Cline, the Spiders head to Pittsburgh as winners of four in a row. However, Richmond is 0-2 against VCU this season, a team it could potential face in the semifinals.
Sleeper: St. Bonaventure
With Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley, the Bonnies have two guards who can really light it up. While they finished the regular season 6-4, they did give both VCU and Dayton a tough test during meetings last month.
The Bubble Dwellers: One
Rhode Island: The Rams followed up a marquee non-conference win against a ranked Cincinnati team by losing four of their next six. A 21-win season, and a recent win over VCU, could keep URI on the right side of the bubble. However, a one-an-done performance this week could mean a long night on Selection Sunday.
Defining moment of the season: JeQuan Lewis takes a charge on in-bounds pass with 0.4 seconds remaining.
On Feb. 8, George Washington’s Yuta Watanabe hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 0.4 seconds left in a game against VCU. In lieu of going the length of the court for the next-to-impossible buzzer-beater, JeQuan Lewis drew a charge on Tyler Cavanaugh, sunk two free throws and the Rams left D.C. with the heist of a 54-53 victory. The previous game, a premature court storm by the St. Bonaventure fans, gave VCU a free throw, which helped force overtime.
VCU would have been on the wrong side of the bubble had it not won both those games, especially with Lewis’ quick thinking against the Colonials. Instead, the Rams are all but assured a seventh consecutive bid to the NCAA Tournament.