The Atlantic 10 has established itself as one of the better mid-major conferences recently, and look for Massachusetts to make an early statement vs. Boston College of the ACC.
Look for the Atlantic 10 to make a statement vs. the ACC in a New England Battle on a neutral floor on Sunday when the Massachusetts Minutemen (0-0, 0-0 away) take on the Boston College Eagles (0-1, 0-1 away) in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic from TD Garden in Boston, MA at 3:00 ET.
The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Massachusetts as a small underdog for this contest with the current line at +2½ with odds of -110.
Boston College returns all five starters from last season and it already has a game under its belt, but it was an 82-78 overtime loss at Providence on Friday where perhaps its biggest weakness from last season plagued the Eagles again and probably cost them a win, with that being offensive rebounding.
Massachusetts returns three starters from a team that won 21 games last season including their biggest contributor and now senior Chaz Williams, who led the Atlantic 10 in assists. Speaking of the Atlantic 10, it was ranked among the best mid-majors in the country last year along with the Mountain West and the Missouri Valley, and the Minutemen now have a chance to make an early statement for the conference vs. an ACC major.
The Eagles figure to improve on their 16-17 record in 2012-13 with their entire starting lineup returning, but unfortunately you cannot coach height, and the tallest Boston College starter is still just the 6-foot-8 starter Ryan Anderson. That noticeable lack of bulk resulted in a grand total of two offensive rebounds at Providence in the opener, while they surrendered 11 to the Friars in an overtime loss, meaning BC would have won in regulation with just adequate boarding.
Unfortunately that is nothing new for the Eagles, as they ranked a dismal 288th in the country in offensive rebounding percentage last season while grabbing only 28.1 percent of their own missed shots, well below the national average of 31.8 percent, and that does not figure to change this year with the same cast of characters, as was bore out in the opener.
The Minutemen finished at 21-12 last year but that only netted them an NIT berth where they lost at home to Stony Brook in the opening round. The senior Williams has made a point publicly that he wants to make his first NCAA Tournament appearance in his final season, and thanks to the defection of Butler to the Big East, Massachusetts is certainly among the log-jammed second tier of the Atlantic 10 behind the prohibitive preseason favorite VCU.
Besides the three returning starters, the Minutemen added a quality transfer in Derrick Gordon from Western Kentucky, where he averaged 11.8 points, and the probable fifth starter Raphiael Putney is not lacking in experience either after averaging 22 minutes off the bench last year.
Look for Massachusetts to score some early brownie points for the Atlantic 10 with Williams serving as the catalyst with his distribution skill vs. Boston College on Sunday.
NCAA Basketball Pick: Massachusetts +2½ (-110)