AMHERST — The University of Massachusetts men’s basketball team won’t ease into its 2013-14 schedule. By the time the season is 48 hours old, the Minutemen will have played two games that could affect their NCAA tournament chances four months later.
UMass opens the season Sunday against Boston College at 3 p.m. in the Coaches vs. Cancer Boston Tip-Off at TD Garden. The game is part of a tripleheader featuring six of the state’s seven Division I teams. Boston University and Northeastern play at 12:30 p.m., while Harvard faces Holy Cross at 5:30 p.m.
The Minutemen won’t have much time to recover before hosting Louisiana State, Tuesday at 11 a.m. as part of ESPN’s Tip-Off Marathon.
UMass coach Derek Kellogg said the Minutemen wouldn’t be pacing themselves Sunday despite the second game looming.
“We’re going to kill ourselves on Sunday. If we have to put cots in the locker rooms and let guys sleep here, we’ll do that,” Kellogg said. “Two games of this magnitude in less than 48 hours is a daunting task for anybody. It’s tough. The reality is these are game we couldn’t pass up. It’s a chance to play BC at the Garden for the American Cancer Society. When is LSU ever going to come to Amherst, Massachusetts? When you have an opportunity to do that and get on national television, you can’t pass that up.”
UMass crushed BC the last time the teams met, rolling to an 82-46 win in 2011. The Eagles suspended the series for a year and has improved considerably since. The Eagles are a popular pick to take a big step forward in Steve Donahue’s fourth year at the Heights. BC went 16-17 (7-11 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) last year but got better as the season progressed. Most of its core returns, led by ACC Freshman of the Year Olivier Hanlan. The 6-foot-4 guard from Quebec averaged 15.4 points and 4.2 rebounds per game last year.
Like Donahue’s successful Cornell teams, the Eagles will rely heavily on 3-point shooting. Hanlan is one of a handful of reliable outside shooters returning from a team that shot 35.3 percent from outside last year.
The game will pit a pair of emerging junior big men as BC’s Ryan Anderson will matchup against UMass’ Cady Lalanne.
Foul trouble and rebounding figure to be big for both sides. Lalanne said rebounding on the defensive end of the floor will be especially critical for UMass.
“It’s big. If you let them get an offensive rebound and kick it back out, those are the ones people make,” Lalanne said. “They’re feet are set and they’re already ready. We have to make sure we rebound the ball. We’re a transition team and long rebounds help with transition. The ball is already halfway up the floor.
BC toughened its nonconference schedule with games against UMass, VCU, Connecticut, Purdue and Providence to give itself a chance to make the NCAA tournament.
Providence beat BC 82-78 in overtime Friday.
The game will potentially mark the debut of four Minutemen. Sophomore Derrick Gordon will start at guard, while freshmen Demetrius Dyson, Seth Berger and Clyde Santee could all see action off the bench.