16 years drought ends for UMass today

RALEIGH, North Carolina (WWLP) – UMass will play Tennessee in the NCAA basketball tournament on Friday afternoon.  It is the first time the Minutemen have been back in the NCAA Tournament since 1998.

UMass will definitely have a strong fan base with it in Raleigh on Friday, 22News met dozens of fans who traveled from New England to see the Minutemen in the NCAA Tournament.

The Sheraton Hotel in Raleigh where the UMass basketball team is staying has become Amherst south.  UMass fans were fired up for their team’s first appearance in the NCAA Tournament in 16 years.

UMass won 24 games this season and are the 6 seed in the Midwest region, but are an underdog.  Tennessee is a 4 point favorite to beat the Minutemen.

22News caught up with a couple players who were anxiously awaiting their chance.

“I’m a senior this is my last year, just trying to give it everything we got, can’t take any plays off, all effort and just leave everything on the floor”, said UMass senior forward Raphiael Putney.

“What we got in front of us right now only happens once in a lifetime really and I’m just trying to take advantage of it”, said UMass sophomore guard Derrick Gordon.

Gordon has NCAA Tournament experience having played with Western Kentucky two years ago.

The Raleigh area is similar to the Five College Area in Western Massachusetts.  Duke, North Carolina and North Carolina State are all within 20 minutes of each other.

UMass plays Tennessee at 2:45pm.  The winner will play either Duke or Mercer on Sunday.  Duke would clearly have the home court advantage.

Our coverage of the UMass basketball team in the NCAA Tournament continues on wwlp.com and on 22News at noon live from the PNC Arena in Raleigh.

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