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College Basketball November Roundup: UMass Cracks Top 25

UMass Minutemen

#24 Massachusetts

Record: 6-0 (2nd in Atlantic 10 Conference)

The UMass Minutemen earned their first top 25 ranking in the AP poll since 1998, the last year they played in the NCAA Tournament, thanks to a hot start in which they won their first six games by an average of 10 points. The run was highlighted by a win at the Charleston Classic, where they earned a comfortable 16-point victory over then-#19 New Mexico in the semifinal before defeating Clemson 62-56 in the final on November 24.

UMass leads the Atlantic 10, and is 39th nationwide, with 83.7 points per game, led by center Cady Lalanne‘s 17.8 ppg on 64.3% field goal shooting, all of it on top of his 11.3 rebounds per contest. Point guard Chaz Williams is adding 16 points and 6.2 assists, while small forward Sampson Carter, power forward Raphiael Putney and shooting guard Derrick Gordon all average double-digit scoring as well.

Minutemen December schedule: 12/03 @ Eastern Michigan (5-1), 12/07 vs. BYU (6-2), 12/14 vs. Northern Illinois (2-4), 12/18 @ Ohio (6-1), 12/21 @ Florida State (5-2), 12/28 vs. Providence (7-1)

Harvard

Record: 7-1 (1st in Ivy League)

Harvard won its first four games of the 2013-14 season, all at home, before suffering its first loss, 70-62 at Colorado. The Crimson then traveled to Anchorage, where it swept Denver, Green Bay and TCU on its way to the Great Alaska Shootout title. Thus far, Harvard has looked like a good bet to repeat as Ivy League champs and return to the NCAA Tournament, thanks in large part to a solid defense that ranks ninth in the country with 58.1 points allowed per game, having held two opponents, Division III MIT and Howard, under 50 points. The Crimson’s offense is centered around swingman Wesley Saunders (14.9 ppg, 6.4 rpg) and Cameroonian power forward Steve Moundou-Missi (11.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg), both of whom have shot better than 50%.

Crimson December schedule: 12/04 @ Northeastern (2-5), 12/07 @ Boston University (5-2), 12/21 vs. Vermont (3-6), 12/28 @ Fordham (3-2)

Boston University

Record: 5-2 (2nd in Patriot League)

The BU Terriers started off the season with back-to-back wins, then dropped their first two games at the 2K Sports Classic, against then-19th ranked Connecticut and Eastern Washington. Since then, three straight victories have put BU back in the thick of the Patriot League race, in a virtual tie with Loyola Maryland (4-1) which, like BU, is in its first season in the League. Point guard Maurice Watson, Jr. leads the Terriers with 14.6 points and 5.4 assists per game, while forward Dom Morris is adding 12.9 points and 7.7 boards. Shooting guard D. J. Irving, for his part, is averaging 10.3 points despite shooting just 29.9%.

Terriers December schedule: 12/02 @ Quinnipiac (4-1), 12/07 vs. Harvard (7-1), 12/11 @ George Washington (5-1), 12/15 vs. Norfolk State (5-2), 12/21 @ Maryland (5-2), 12/29 @ Saint Joseph’s (3-2)

Holy Cross

Record: 4-3 (T-4th in Patriot League)

Holy Cross alternated wins and losses through its first six games before moving above .500 with a 63-52 win at New Hampshire on Saturday. The Crusaders went 2-2 at the Hall of Fame Tip Off, with wins over Fairfield and Hartford and losses to #12 North Carolina and Belmont. Power forward Dave Dudzinski leads the team in both points (17) and rebounds (7.7), while the offense has also gotten good production from shooting guard Cullen Hamilton (16.2 ppg), forward Malachi Alexander (11.6) and point guard Anthony Thompson (10).

Crusaders December schedule: 12/04 vs. Albany (3-3), 12/07 @ Hartford (2-6), 12/16 vs. Canisius (3-3), 12/21 @ NJIT (4-3), 12/28 @ #22 Michigan (5-2)

Boston College

Record: 3-4 (last in Atlantic Coast Conference)

Boston College is the only ACC team with a losing record after dropping its first three games, but the Eagles have won three of four since then, with their only loss in that span coming against #18 Connecticut at the 2K Sports Classic, where they went 2-2 with wins over Florida Atlantic and Washington. In fact, there are reasons to believe BC is better than its record suggests, since its four losses have been by an average of just four points. Shooting guard Olivier Hanlan (21.7 ppg), power forward Ryan Anderson (19 ppg, 7.1 rpg) and guard Joe Rahon (13.4 ppg) have been the Eagles’ best performers to this point.

Eagles December schedule: 12/04 @ Purdue (5-2), 12/08 @ USC (5-3), 12/12 vs. Maryland (5-2), 12/15 vs. Philadelphia University (Div. II), 12/22 @ Auburn (4-1), 12/28 vs. VCU (5-2)

Northeastern

Record: 2-5 (7th in Colonial Athletic Association)

One year after winning the CAA regular season title, Northeastern has gotten off to a sluggish start, including a 1-2 turn at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. As with Boston College above, the good news for the Huskies is in the details, as their five losses have been by an average of 5.6 points, while their two wins are a 14-point domination of Central Connecticut State and a seven-point victory at Georgetown. Forward Scott Eatherton has been superb, averaging a double-double with 16.3 points on 61.6% shooting and 10.6 rebounds, along with 1.4 blocks per game. Other high scorers are shooting guard David Walker (12.3) and forward Reggie Spencer (10.3).

Huskies December schedule: 12/04 vs. Harvard (7-1), 12/07 vs. UAB (5-2), 12/15 @ Fairfield (1-6), 12/21 vs. Milwaukee (7-2), 12/22 @ Tulane (4-4), 12/31 vs. Richmond (6-2)

Massachusetts Lowell

Record: 0-6 (last in America East Conference)

UMass Lowell’s first season at the Divison I level has gotten off to an unsurprisingly tough start, as the River Hawks have dropped their first six games by an average of 20.5 points. Chad Holley is scoring 14.3 points per game, Akeem Williams 14.2 and D. J. Mlachnik 10.7, but no player is averaging more than five rebounds or three assists. All in all, this will probably be a long season for the Hawks.

River Hawks December schedule: 12/01 vs. Mount Ida College (Div. III), 12/03 @ St. Bonaventure (5-2), 12/07 @ NJIT (4-3), 12/09 @ Columbia (4-3), 12/18 vs. Vermont (3-6), 12/21 vs. Duquesne (2-3)

About Nick García - @N_A_Garcia

Nick is the Celtics and college sports editor at Sports of Boston. He writes about basketball, football and anything else that comes his way. Follow him on Twitter @N_A_Garcia

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