NIT Tournament: What UMass Victory over Drexel Means for Program

Sam R. QuinnSenior Analyst IIIMarch 21, 2012

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The UMass Minutemen have finally put their program on the map.

Derek Kellogg's squad erased a 17-point deficit to defeat the Drexel Dragons last night in the quarterfinals of the NIT.

Kellogg has coached his team to three consecutive road victories against higher seeds, showing that they might not be the second-tier team most believe they are.

The short-term result is that the Minutemen will travel to Madison Square Garden, as they will face either Stanford or Nevada in the semifinals in New York City.

If they win that one, they will be playing in the NIT championship with the hopes of claiming the title of the best team in the country not to make the NCAA tournament.

The long-term impact of the program's impressive NIT run is much more important.

Should UMass go on to win the NIT, it would give the program a huge boost. A boost in confidence, a boost in support and most of all, a boost in recruiting.

Prospects always like to go where they can play and win. They also like to play for a successful coach. Kellogg has become just that.

If you look at the team's stats this season, it's amazing that their regular season record wasn't better than 22-11.

They were 23rd in the nation in scoring, 13th in rebounding and 17th in assists.

Chaz Williams may be a guy you haven't heard of, but this kid is going to kill it if he sticks around for the next two years. He's listed at 5'9" (but definitely isn't that tall) and has everyone on the Amherst campus mesmerized by his skills.

He averaged over 16 points, six assists and four rebounds per game as a sophomore. Next season he will be one of the best in the country as he hones his skills.

This team is going to get better. Their four leading scorers are underclassmen and should return for another season. They're going to get new recruits thanks to their success.

Most of all, they're going to get better as they play with each other more.

You heard it here first: The Massachusetts Minutemen will be going to the 2013 NCAA tournament.