WESTFIELD, Mass. -- Westfield State University men's basketball will open the 2018-19 season with a stern test – a game against Division I UMass at the Mullins Center.
Despite the 30-mile distance between the two institutions, according to records, they have never played in an official regular-season game. The Owls travel to the state's flagship campus for the game at the Mullins Center on Tuesday, October 30 (Time TBA) for an exhibition game.
While the game will not count in the standings for either team, it will give Westfield State head coach Rich Sutter a good measuring stick for his team's progress through the preseason.
"It's generous of coach McCall to invite us up," said Sutter. "It's a once in a lifetime type of experience for our guys, to have the chance to play on a Division I court in a big time arena."
Sutter saw time on the Division I bench as an assistant at Colgate University from 1991-97 under Jack Bruen, recruiting and coaching former NBA standout Adonal Foyle, as well as Tucker Neale, the Red Raiders all-time leading scorer.
"The Division I season rules are different from Division III, so UMass will have been together longer as a team," added Sutter. "We will play a blue-white game before we play the Minutemen, so we can be sorted out, but they will be more ready. Of course, Springfield College played at UMass last year, and Springfield ended up going to the final four, so that's what we'd like to try to do too."
"I know that a few of our players know some of their guys, so there has been a little back-and-forth between the players already."
Westfield State played against the UMass freshman team in the late 60's and early 70's when freshmen were ineligible for varsity competition. The Owls junior varsity played against Minutemen frosh teams that included future-NBA Hall of Famer Julius (Dr. J) Erving in 1968-69, and later against a squad that included future Boston Celtics, University of Kentucky and Louisville head coach Rick Pitino and Boston College head coach Al Skinner during their collegiate playing days.
"Nobody had ever heard of Julius Erving when we went to play them," said Wayne Dimetres '72, who was a member of the Owls freshman team that matched up with the Doctor. "But at 18 he was as dominant as any college player you would ever see."
"We were just amazed," added Greg Little '72. "I had to try to guard Erving and I think I fouled out in the third quarter."
The Owls will have their hands full with the Minutemen this time around as well.
Junior guard Luwane Pipkins is the top returnee for the Minutemen, after averaging better than 21 points per game last season. UMass posted a 13-20 record in 2017-18 under first year head coach Matt McCall.
Westfield is coming off an 11-15 season in 2017-18. The Owls are led by 6-4 senior forward Marcus Collins (Rindge and Latin/Cambridge, Mass.), who scored 15.4 points and grabbed 9.7 rebounds per game. Collins was an All-MASCAC pick a year ago. Senior guard Peter Mafo (Classical/Lynn, Mass.) netted 11.5 points and 2.7 assists per game, and junior guard Moody Bey (Monson/Springfield, Mass.) tallied 12.3 points per game.
The full 2018-19 Owls schedule is now posted at WestfieldStateOwls.com.