UMass 72, Louisville 68
Travis Ford is one of those under-the-radar young coaches that is soon going to get the national attention that he deserves. After a solid playing career at Kentucky, it was easy to dismiss his early success in the NAIA as a product of his Kentucky connections, but his remarkable turnaround of the Eastern Kentucky program shows an ability to get the best out of his talent on a nightly basis. Now, he's doing it at UMass, a program that had largely dropped off the map (along with the rest of the Atlantic 10) after the glory days of the '90's with Marcus Camby and John Calipari. I didn't think that UMass had the pure talent to get a Tournament birth out of this season, but once again Ford is just squeezing out as much as he can from the cards he's been given. In his second season, UMass is actually a not-so-longshot bubble team. This is easily their best win, which isn't that great when you consider the resumes of other marginal bubble teams like Indiana State or Florida State, but they also haven't lost to anyone bad. Their two losses are to Boston College and Pitt - nothing to be ashamed of. They only get one other shot at a premiere win - a tough game at Kentucky next week that they'll probably lose. Luckily for UMass, the Atlantic 10 may not be like the '90's, but it's still a good conference. Resume building wins (as well as quality losses) exist in the form of Xavier and George Washington. If UMass can find some way to win 22 or 23 games and finish second in the A-10 (presumably ahead of GW and behind Xavier) it would be hard to deny them a Tournament bid. Even if they don't beat Kentucky, home wins over Miami, George Washington and Temple in the first half of January (along with a lack of bad losses) will probably be enough to get the Minutement into the BP65 in the runup to a big January 18th game at Xavier. Could be a really good game, with big Tournament ramifications. At the very least, some national recognition will help bring in the recruits that could return UMass back to its spot on top of the conference... assuming they can keep Ford from leaving to a bigger school.