Duquesne (16-14) at Massachusetts (20-10) (ET)
GAME NOTES: The eighth-seeded Massachusetts Minutemen host the ninth-seeded Duquesne Dukes this evening in the first round of the 2012 Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament, with the winner advancing to play top-seeded Temple in the quarterfinal round in Atlantic City on Friday.
Duquesne (16-14, 7-9 A-10) have reached the 15-win plateau for the fourth consecutive season -- its longest streak since its six-season run from 1968-73. While the Dukes have been a respectable opponent this year, they have struggled of late, losing four of their last five coming into the tournament. Though UMass has the home court advantage tonight, DU comes in with confidence after beating the Minutemen the last two times it visited Amherst, both by margins of more than 17 points.
UMass started the year looking like one of the front runners, beginning the season an impressive 16-5. The Minutemen have come back to Earth in the last few weeks however, going just 4-5 since Feb. 1, leading to a 20-10 overall record. Their 9-7 conference mark had them in a four-way tie for fifth place with La Salle, Dayton and Saint Joseph's, but through an elaborate tie- breaking process, the Minutemen were saddled with the eighth seed.
UMass has a 34-25 series advantage over Duquesne, although the Dukes have won four of the last five meetings, including the lone matchup this season in an 80-69 final on Jan. 5 in Pittsburgh.
Duquesne has been very impressive at the offensive end of the court this season, ranking fourth in the conference in scoring at 72.3 ppg while shooting 45.2 percent from the field. Its efficiency has been increased by its incredible turnover margin (+5.3), ranking third in the nation behind only Syracuse and Virginia Commonwealth. The Dukes are also one of the top teams in the conference in terms of assists (15.2 apg), assist-to-turnover ratio (1.3), and steals (7.9 spg), but their defensive efficiency has left something to be desired, as they permit 71.3 ppg on 45.6 percent field goal efficiency. DU's offense is paced by B.J. Monteiro, who contributes across the board with 15 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.1 spg and 1.1 bpg. Sean Johnson adds 13.5 ppg to the mix and T.J. McConnell nets 11.4 ppg while ranking third in the A-10 in assists (5.5 apg) and first in steals (2.8 spg).
UMass has the conference's second-most potent offensive attack, with its 76.1 ppg ranking only a tenth of a point behind Temple for the league lead. It relies heavily on the three-ball in its approach, leading the A-10 in three- point attempts (691) and ranking third in long-range makes (240). The Minutemen also play tough defense, ranking third in field goal percentage against (.404) and first in three-point percentage defense (.305). However, they still allow 71.2 ppg, which ranks in the bottom-third of the league. Chaz Williams has been one of the A-10's most exciting players this season, scoring 16.2 ppg, logging 2.3 spg, and dishing out a league-best 6.4 apg. Five other Minutemen score at least 7.4 ppg, with Raphiael Putney (10.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 1.5 bpg) being the most effective presence in the paint.
While Duquesne has recent experience winning big at the Mullins Center, it hasn't visited Amherst in more than a year, and this UMass squad is much improved. Despite their recent slip in the standings, the Minutemen should be good enough to escape this first-round matchup in front of their home fans and move on the quarterfinals.
GAME NOTES: The eighth-seeded Massachusetts Minutemen host the ninth-seeded Duquesne Dukes this evening in the first round of the 2012 Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament, with the winner advancing to play top-seeded Temple in the quarterfinal round in Atlantic City on Friday.Fact Stats
FACTS & STATS: Site: Mullins Center (9,493) -- Amherst, Massachusetts. Television: None. Home Record: DU 10-5, UMass 14-1. Away Record: DU 4-8, UMass 4-7. Neutral Record: DU 2-1, UMass 2-2. Conference Record: DU 7-9, UMass 9-7. Series Record: Massachusetts leads, 34-25.Game Date and Time
Tuesday, March 6, 7:00 p.m. (ET)Predicted Outcome
Massachusetts 77, Duquesne 73