UMass will refuse to lose, be ignored in NCAA tournament

Derrick Gordon UMass 2014 NCAA tournament
Derrick Gordon and the UMass Minutemen are a No. 6 seed in the 2014 NCAA tournament. Credit: Getty Images

The Celtics were in full-fledged rebuilding mode as the building formerly known as the FleetCenter opened its doors in 1995, and Boston was in desperate need for an entertaining and successful brand of basketball.

John Calipari’s UMass Minutemen played their home games an hour and 45 minutes away from the Hub in Amherst, Mass., but there was great buzz in the city that year regarding the newly branded “Commonwealth Classic,” pitting the budding Minutemen against Big East stalwart Boston College. UMass, fresh off an Elite Eight appearance in the NCAA tournament months prior, defeated the Eagles, 65-57, in front of a sell-out crowd at the “new Garden” and, somewhat surprisingly, Boston’s collective sports attention slowly but surely turned to the “Refuse to Lose” Minutemen as March 1996 approached.

UMass made it all the way to the Final Four in the Meadowlands that season, due to the efforts of revered players like Marcus Camby, Edgar Padilla, Carmelo Travieso and Donta Bright. But the Massachusetts program soon-after fell on hard times when Calipari fled to the NBA and the NCAA came down hard on the program due to the “illegal acceptance of gifts” by Camby.

Consider the penance served.

UMass (24-8) will play its first NCAA tournament game in a mere 5,852 days this Friday (2:45 p.m., CBS) against either Iowa or Tennessee. Head coach Derek Kellogg, who was a star point guard under Calipari in the early ’90s, has steadily built the program back up since taking the reigns in 2008. In Kellogg’s first three seasons on the UMass bench, the Minutemen went 39-53. In the past three seasons, UMass has gone an impressive 70-32.

“That was an emotional, great feeling to see UMass pop up on the screen,” Kellogg told reporters on Selection Sunday. “It’s just a lot of hard work and dedication from our staff and families. We got some indication today. It’s been an emotional time, and we’re excited to be where we are.”

UMass is led by senior guard Chaz Williams, who is averaging 15.8 points and 7.0 assists per game. Big man Cady Lalanne (11.4 ppg) and forward Sampson Carter (10.5 ppg) are the two other double-digit scorers for the boys from the province of the Mass Pike.

Now, it’s highly unlikely that the Minutemen will regain anything close to the popularity they had in Massachusetts in the mid-1990s anytime soon, due mainly to Boston’s four major pro sports teams having enjoyed so much success in the past 10-plus years and that UMass’ ultimate ceiling as a No. 6-seed in this year’s tourney seems to be a Sweet Sixteen berth.

Still, as March Madness tips off this week, UMass alums and fans in and around the Hub will not only refuse to lose, but will also refuse to be ignored. The basketball buzz emanating from Amherst is back.

Follow Metro Boston sports editor Matt Burke on Twitter @BurkeMetroBOS


Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking


K-9 nose helps capture $150K in cocaine at…

A furry, four-legged security agent helped authorities stop an illegal cocaine shipment from sneaking past JFK customs.


Minnesota man asked to leave Southwest flight after…

A man and his two sons were asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after the man sent a tweet complaining about being treated rudely by a gate agent.


Man sues hospital after surprise penis amputation

An Alabama man who went in to a hospital last month for a circumcision awoke after surgery to find his penis had been amputated, his lawyer said on Thursday.


Review: Brett Ratner's big 'Hercules' movie is small…

The latest "Hercules," starring Dwayne Johnson as the half-god beefcake of Greek myth, strips its hero and tale of most of its fantastical elements.


Scientists recreate world's smallest Monet copy

Scientists have reproduced a famous Impressionist painting using nano-printing, to create what has been described as the world's smallest work of art. Reworked at the…


Jerry Seinfeld is ambidextrous, and other Reddit AMA…

See some of the weirder highlights of Jerry Seinfeld's recent Reddit AMA.

Going Out

Grab a pedestrian and start dancing at What…

As a New Yorker, I’ve mastered the art of focusing my gaze straight ahead. Though it occasionally piques my interest, the absurdities that play out…

U.S. Soccer

Orlando City takes shot at NYCFC over Frank…

Orlando City reminded the world how big a signing Brazilian star Kaka earlier this month with a photo of Kaka mobbed by fans juxtaposed against Lampard.


Jeremy Lin says 'Linsanity' is over as he…

Jeremy Lin lit up the NBA two years ago with his play for the Knicks but he has no desire to recreate "Linsanity" in his new career with the Lakers.


2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

U.S. Soccer

NYCFC announce signing of Frank Lampard

The tease of a big signing Thursday by new MLS side NYCFC ended up being one rumored for weeks. England midfielder Frank Lampard agreed to…


Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.


Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.


Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.


Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.