DAILY DISH: UMass, Dayton and the A-10 are killing it


Williams and the Minutemen are back in the Top 25 for the first time since 1998. (UMass Athletics)

This was supposed to be a transition year in the A-10. With the departures of league stalwarts Temple and Xavier as well as Butler, the Atlantic (now) 13 was supposed to be a 2-bid league, with VCU and Saint Louis battling it out for the top spot.

There’s just one problem with that. Nobody told UMass.

The Minutemen are taking everybody back to the Marcus Camby, Carmelo Travieso days after sweeping their way through the Charleston Classic this weekend. Well…maybe not, but they’re back in the rankings for the first time since 1998. (They’re No. 24 in the AP poll).

Derek Kellogg’s bunch has pressed and pushed its way to impressive wins over Boston College (86-73), LSU (92-90), Nebraska (96-90), New Mexico (81-65) and Clemson (62-56).

While none of the BCS-conference teams on that list will make anyone tremble, they’re key wins for the Minutemen, who are building a non-conference resume that will look legit come Selection Sunday. College basketball die-hards already know about senior point guard Chaz Williams, who is averaging 16 points and 6.2 assists per game.

He’s been one of the best little-known players in the country for years, and now he’s getting the chance to shine on a bigger stage. Williams’ numbers are identical to his sophomore year in Amherst, when he put up 16.9 points and 6.2 dimes, but he’s finally getting some help.

Five Minutemen average in double figures, including 6-10 center Cady Lalanne, who is putting up 17.9 points and 11.3 boards per game. He’s made a name for himself early this season and should find himself on NBA Draft boards come June. Lalanne just might be the most improved player in the country this season, which is something I know a little bit about. Yeah, I’m kind of not a big deal. At all.

It’s not just UMass that is making noise in the A-10.

5-0 Dayton shocked No. 11 Gonzaga in Maui on Monday night, storming back from a double-digit deficit to upend the Bulldogs, 84-79.

The Flyers got 23 points on 8-of-11 shooting from freshman guard Jordan Sibert and 15 and 9 boards from sophomore Dyshawn Pierre (12.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg). UD did a terrific job on the boards, and now owns two impressive wins after handling Georgia Tech in Atlanta. There’s still a long way to go in the season and plenty of opportunities for more resume wins, but the Flyers look like a legit NCAA-worthy squad thus far.

It’s too bad that Charlotte decided to bail on its A-10 brethren for the browner grass of Conference USA (a move that was made for football! Who knew they even had a team?!).

The 49ers ran through Kansas State, Northeastern and Michigan to win the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Classic. Charlotte’s conference schedule is about as intimidating as lime jello, so they’re going to need to win a crapload of conference games to earn an at-large bid, but the win over the Maize and Blue is terrific for a program that has a chance to fall off the map after leaving the A-10.


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