Sometimes, there's no way to explain how an underdog team conquers the odds and battles its way to a championship, but usually it has something to do with the bond among the players.
Such is the case with this year's UMass squad.
The Minutemen have forged an unlikely 25-11 record this season en route to the NIT Final Four at Madison Square Garden, and the players credit their success to a "Brotherhood" that has developed as they have worked tirelessly toward the common goal of overcoming adversity and accomplishing something great.
This might be the season they finally do it.
Sophomore guard Chaz Williams, who leads the team in points (16.4 per game) and assists (6.4), told The Republican's Ron Chimelis, "It's a bond. Not many people can enter The Brotherhood."
Sophomore guard Jesse Morgan, who originally committed to Seton Hall before reconsidering, spending some time at a Connecticut prep school and joining the Minutemen midway through last season said, "The Brotherhood has allowed us to get past a lot of adversity from day one. … Everybody bought in. The Brotherhood is strong."
That is the secret to the difference between good teams and great teams; on great teams, every single player buys into the message, and because of that, they win.
The Minutemen don't play in the strongest conference in the world, and they may have beaten just one ranked opponent this year (No. 24 Temple, in the Atlantic 10 tournament). But the RPI ratings have them slated at No. 58 with a 0.572 strength of schedule, far above No. 75 Stanford (0.557 SOS).
To get to the semifinals, UMass has taken down Mississippi State and Seton Hall before barely sneaking by Drexel 72-70 last week. The Cardinal beat Cleveland in the first round before needing an extra period to defeat Illinois State 92-88 in the second round. It slaughtered Nevada 84-54 en route to this matchup, so maybe it is in for a letdown game against the Minutemen.
Or maybe the Minutemen will just win because they know how, because they've worked tirelessly as a cohesive unit all season to get to this point and they will make it happen by sheer force of will.
Sometimes these things just can't be explained. They just happen because a team wants it bad enough. The Minutemen really want this win, and they really want a championship, and their Brotherhood might just want it bad enough to take down Stanford to get it.
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