Give Credit Where Credit Is Due

Tufts guard Ben Engvall '18 lays the ball in as Amherst's David George '17 tries for a swat from behind (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics).
Tufts guard Ben Engvall ’18 lays the ball in as Amherst’s David George ’17 tries for a swat from behind (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics).

So there I was – it was Tuesday and I was just sitting around trying to put together a plan of attack to become an academic weapon in between now and finals. Just minding my own business when Pete sends me his list of talking points to edit. I finally got around to reading it Wednesday night in the midst of my increasingly building workload, and when I finished, I couldn’t ignore the feeling that something was off. I took a quick read through and didn’t notice any grammar mistakes, a pleasant surprise for Pete’s work. So I reread the talking points he put together, and then it struck me. There was no mention of the #1 or the #3 teams in the nation, Amherst and Tufts. Seems a bit odd, no? Well, congratulations Pete, because if this was your strategy to motivate me to write a blog, it worked. Maybe I just have a soft spot for these two because I grew up an Amherst fan and am now a Tufts superfan, but I’m sick and tired of the lack of credit being given to these two. The fact is, omitting these two teams is inexcusable at this point in the season, so I’ll do the honors. Here’s how two of the top three teams in the nation are doing so far this fall.

Amherst, 4-0

Coach Dave Hixon has quite the squad this year, and he hopes to lead them back to the Final Four like last year (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics).
Coach Dave Hixon has quite the squad this year, and he hopes to lead them back to the Final Four like last year (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics).

Amherst is 4-0 after Tuesday night’s solid win against Westfield State, and has done nothing that indicates their number one national ranking is undeserved. Their closest game has been an 11 point victory on the road against Anna Maria, which is also their only away game at this point. In their home contests, however, Amherst has been nothing short of dominant, outscoring their opponents by a total of 89 points in those three matchups, or just under 30 PPG. Obviously, Amherst hasn’t been faced with the strongest competition so far, but they also haven’t shown any signs of weakness. The Purple and White are playing the best defense in the league by far (just 58.0 OPPG), allowing 9 points less than the next closest NESCAC defense (Williams). They’re not necessarily forcing the most turnovers in the world (13.5 TO/G, 7th in the league), but they are forcing opponents into taking difficult shots. I mean really tough shots. Opponents are shooting just 34.7% from the field and 26.3% from three-point land against Coach Hixon’s squad…. That second percentage is absolutely miserable.

One reason Amherst is able to force this poor offensive play is that they are so versatile on defense. Jayde Dawson ‘17 can guard pretty much any opposing point guard, Johnny McCarthy ‘18 flashes such length that Kevin Durant looks like he has t-rex arms in comparison, and both Michael Riopel ‘18 and Jeff Racy ‘17 more than hold their own. Amherst switches pretty much everything on the perimeter, something they can do because of their athleticism, size, and most of all, because they have David George ‘17 manning the paint – not a bad little safety net behind you as a perimeter defender.

“Oh, but Rory, Amherst doesn’t have anyone who can score! McCarthy is their top scorer with just 13.0 PPG – that’s 18th in the NESCAC!!!” So what. Amherst never has anyone that scores significantly more than the rest of the team, that’s why they’re always so good. Coach Hixon currently has four players averaging double digits: McCarthy, Dawson (11.0), Riopel (10.5), and Eric Conklin ‘17 (10.3). That’s not something too many NESCAC teams can say. They are also so deep that they don’t play their starters the entire game, they just simply don’t need to. Of the top 10 scorers, only the 10th highest scorer (Vinny Pace, who I will get to), that is averaging under 20 minutes per game. Pace is actually the only one averaging under 24 MIN/G. Well, McCarthy is the only one on Amherst averaging over 24 MIN/G, and the next highest is Riopel, who is playing 20.5 minutes on average. My point is this: Amherst scores the ball extremely efficiently, and while it’s certainly impressive that Jack Simonds is scoring 25.2 PPG, he is also playing 36.2 MIN/G. I’m not picking on Jack, I’m just saying that there is a strong correlation between minutes played and points scored. This is a pretty consistent trend through the top 10 scorers, which is why Amherst’s wide array of scoring threats should be more highly regarded than it seems like it is. Amherst is really, really good, and they deserve that recognition.

Tufts, 5-0

Tarik Smith '17 has been the most consistent threat for the Jumbos so far this year (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics).
Tarik Smith ’17 has been the most consistent threat for the Jumbos so far this year (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics).

A lot of people have been wondering all year – why is Tufts ranked #3? I just simply don’t get that question. Tufts started at #5 because of their Elite Eight finish last year, but they have also proved that they still deserve to be up there. Really? Ab-so-lute-ly. Tufts is currently out to a perfect 5-0 start. Spanning back through the 1999-2000 season, Tufts has not done this once. Frankly, I don’t know what happened in the 1998-1999 season or any season before that – Tufts archives don’t go back that far – but let’s just leave at this, it has been a VERY LONG TIME since Tufts had such a good start. Additionally, Tufts consistently has one of the hardest non-conference schedules in the NESCAC, and this year is no different. On Tuesday night, Tufts won an absolute battle against #23 WPI at home by score of 75-71. They also beat an Emerson squad that has been rising in recent years, and MIT, who is always at least in the Top 25 discussion. Fact is, Tufts has some solid wins on their resume already, and it’s only December 2nd. So how are they doing it?

This is the interesting part – Tufts is not really dominating in any categories. Let’s look at their defense first. The Jumbos are 5th in points allowed, they foul the 4th most, and they only force the 6th most turnovers. Tufts opponents shoot 39.3% from the field and just 33% from deep (3rd and 5th best respectively). They do have Tom Palleschi ‘17, who was second in the nation in blocked shots last season, and is continuing his dominance down low with an average of 4.2 BLK/G. He’s currently tied with Bates’ Malcolm Delpeche ‘17 at first in the conference, but realistically, I don’t see any way that Delpeche (or anyone else) takes the blocked shots crown from Palleschi at the end of the season. Still, however, blocked shots does not necessarily mean good team defense. Statistically, Tufts looks like an above average defensive team, but not the most dominant in the league. So how about the Tufts offense then?

Tufts, who led the rest of the league in scoring last year by a pretty comfortable margin, is currently 7th in the league in scoring. They’re shooting the 7th highest percentage at 45.6%, and they are hitting just 68.3% of their free throws, 3rd worst in the league. They also only tally the 8th most AST/G in the NESCAC, and turn the ball over the 2nd most. So how are the Jumbos doing it?

Well, the fact is, they just know how to win. Their primary gameplan has two-parts: get to the foul line and hit threes. Tufts has shot and made the 2nd most free-throws in the ‘CAC behind Wesleyan, and they have shot and made the 4th most three-pointers. They’ve got five guys knocking down shots from beyond the arc: Ben Engvall ‘18 (7-16), Tarik Smith ‘17 (6-14), Ethan Feldman ‘19 (10-25), Vinny Pace ‘18 (7-18), and Eric Savage ‘20 (5-13). When you have that many guys that can hit shots from deep, it’s pretty difficult for opposing defenses. So, just chase shooters off the arc, right?

Wrong. If you don’t sag, then Palleschi will eat down low. Defenses have been aware of this so far, and they’ve sagged into the paint, doubled team, and have fronted Palleschi. Basically, they’ve said, “if we’re going to lose, someone besides Palleschi is going to have to beat us.” The tough part is, Tufts has other guys! A lot of them. It seems like they’ve taken a page out of Amherst’s playbook in that no one guy is going to run the show, but rather, the whole squad is going to chip in. Opening night, it was Feldman and Everett Dayton ‘18 who carried the ‘Bos. Game 2 – Smith, Palleschi and Feldman. Game 3 – Pace, Smith, and KJ Garrett ‘18. Game 4….okay you get my point. It’s someone different every night, and that right there is why Tufts is so good. Whatever you take away, the Jumbos have a Plan B, C, and D. This team is very, very good, and if we are lucky, we could see an incredible #2 vs. #3 matchup tomorrow night: Babson vs. Tufts. Just pray that Babson and Tufts both handle business like they should tonight in the Big Four Tournament and maybe, just maybe, tomorrow will be electric.

Johnny McCarthy '18 is the leader on the court for Amherst this year (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
Johnny McCarthy ’18 is the leader on the court for Amherst this year (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

In summary, Amherst and Tufts are two of the best teams in the country, and as of now, seem to be the two best teams in the conference. I know that our job is to cover everyone in the NESCAC, but having two ‘CAC teams in the top three is not the most common thing in the world. The best teams in the NESCAC generally spread out their scoring and play nearly impenetrable defense. Amherst is doing this, and they’re playing phenomenal defense. Tufts is really spreading out the scoring, and playing solid D. These two are the best two teams in the conference right now, but unfortunately we’re going to have to wait until January to see how they stack up against the rest of the conference. I’m looking forward to Amherst-Tufts once NESCAC play begins, but for now I just hope we get to see a Babson-Tufts matchup tomorrow.

Can The Bantams Follow In Their Football Team’s Footsteps?: Trinity Basketball Season Preview

Jeremy Arthur has had a hot start for the Bantams so far, and they will need him to keep it up in order to challenge for the top spot in the NESCAC this year (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics).
Jeremy Arthur has had a hot start for the Bantams so far, and they will need him to keep it up in order to challenge for the top spot in the NESCAC this year (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics).

Editor’s Note: While 99% of the work on these previews is done by the writers, the projected records for all NESCAC Men’s Basketball teams were decided upon by the editors collectively,  not decisions of the writers themselves. So, if you want to be mad at someone about the record projections, be mad at us. Also, now that the season is under way, treat this as our thoughts on what we’ve seen so far, not just a regular preview.

Trinity suffered a heartbreaking loss to Middlebury in the NESCAC finals. After a nearly perfect regular season in conference, only losing to Amherst on January 30th, the Bantams, hampered by injuries, fell in the final 70-58. They were pretty much the best team in the conference all year, completing the 1-2 NESCAC punch with Amherst at the top, but didn’t perform quite as well at the tail end of the season. They were an experienced, well seasoned, and dynamic team. However, four out of the five of Trinity’s starters graduated and moved on to the real world. Their only returner is Ed Ogundeko ’17. For most teams this would leave a bleak outlook for the year and a plan for rebuilding, however, Coach James Cosgrove and the Bantams have other plans. Ogundeko is no ordinary player. He led the league in boards and is plenty to build a team and a season around.

The Bantams still stare down several holes in their lineup left by the class of 2016 at the guard and forward positions. Shay Ajayi, Rick Naylor, Jaquann Starks, and Andrew Hurd combined to average 37.3 PPG and 9.5 assists/game, making up most of the Bantams’ production. However, the four only averaged 13 REB/G combined, which barely bests Ogundeko’s 10.6 REB/G, leaving less of a hole down low. Trinity’s Coach Cosgrove clearly planned out the transition from one era to the next as he brought in six first year players to aid in adding depth and production that will help the returners cope for the holes in the lineup. Joe Bell, Kyle Padmore, and Nick Seretta should be the major contributors from the class of 2020, offering help to returners Jeremy Arthur ’19, Eric Gendron ’18, Langdon Neal ’17, and Chris Turnbull ’17 who are likely starters for the Bantams. These inexperienced players have struggled so far, as Trinity has struggled to a 1-3 start. The Bantams need some production outside of Ogundeko in order to continue to be a top tier NESCAC team.

Projected Record: 7-3

2015-2016 Record: 19-8, 9-1, Lost in NESCAC finals, Lost in first round of NCAA Tournament

Head Coach: James Cosgrove, 7th year, 90-67

Returning Starters:

Center Ed Ogundeko ‘17 (19.5 PPG, 5.2 REB/G, 2.3 A/G, 40.1% 3PT)

Key Losses:

Forward Shay Ajayi ’16 (13.9 PPG, 7.3 REB/G, 48.3% FG)

Guard Rick Naylor ‘16 (5.6 PPG, 1.2 AST/G, 30.1% FG)

Guard Jaquann Starks ‘16 (11.7 PPG, 2.2 REB/G, 2.4 AST/G)

Guard Andrew Hurd ’16 (6.1 PPG, 4.8 AST/G, 2.1 REB/G)

Projected Starting Lineup:

Guard Langdon Neal ‘17

Langdon Neal (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
Langdon Neal (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

Neal enters his senior season as the clear replacement for Andrew Hurd ’16 as he played in all of the Bantams’ 27 contests and averaged 14.1 minutes/game in 2016. He shot 39% from the field last year en route to a modest 3.7 PPG, 1.6 REB/G, and 1.6 A/G. Neal, a former walk-on player at American University, transferred to Trinity last year and should find his groove after one year in Cosgrove’s system. His D1 talent should translate over well to a starting position after sitting behind Hurd last year and one of four major contributors off of the bench a year ago. The Bantams will look for him to improve from beyond the arc as he shot just 1 of 4 from three-point range in 2016. Hurd had incredible 3-point efficiency as he shot 46.9% from deep and was a threat, whereas Neal’s range was limited. If Neal can become more of a shooting threat, it should open up the court for Ogundeko, who should be the clear target for opposing defenses.

Guard/Forward Eric Gendron ’18

Eric Gendron (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
Eric Gendron (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

Gendron enters as pretty much a lock to start this year after finishing fourth on the team last year with 8.2 PPG. He led the team in free-throw percentage and 42.2% from 3-point range last season, good for 7th in the NESCAC. He will likely play at the 2 position after Jaquann Starks’ departure (three guards in total graduated last year) leaving Trinity with a bigger lineup than most teams. At 6’4’’ Gendron should be one of the bigger shooting guards in the league, but has the ability and touch from deep range to back it up. The junior averaged 20.2 minutes a game last year and was a clear sixth man on a team that was dominated by upperclassmen. His 92.7% clip from the charity stripe led the team, and his eight double-digit point performances suggest that he could easily become the second leading scorer behind Ogundeko.

Forward Chris Turnbull ’17

Chris Turnbull (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
Chris Turnbull (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

Senior captain, leader, and four year player Turnbull looks to transition into the starting lineup as he was another major contributor off of the bench a season ago, averaging 16.5 minutes per game. His 3.8 REB/G and 5.7 PPG were solid for the time he got, especially considering Ogundeko’s ability to grab nearly every rebound in a game. The 6’4’’ player should fit well into the small forward position as he is backed up by plenty of bigger players down low. This should give him some opportunity to shoot as he showed flashes of big game capabilities after raining down 14 points twice last season. His veteran and experienced presence should offer the generally young Bantam team some guidance and an example of how to stick out the bench for a few years and earn a captainship and a spot in the starting five. Turnbull isn’t going to make or break the Trinity season, but he should still play as a staple and consistent contributor in the lineup, offering reliability and a solid amount of rebounds, probably coming in right behind Ogundeko on the team’s leaderboard, in a lineup that is filled with questions and intrigue heading into 2017.

Forward Jeremy Arthur ‘19

Jeremy Arthur (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
Jeremy Arthur (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

Arthur is one of the aforementioned question marks headed into this winter. Arthur transferred to Trinity last year from Westchester Community College and because of his late arrival didn’t make his debut until January 7th against Elms College. Coach Cosgrove played Arthur sparingly, averaging just 10.3 minutes in the games he played, but he performed well towards the end of the year and scored nine points against Middlebury in the NESCAC semifinal game. He is a big 6’4’’/210lb. and should be able to handle himself well down low with the help of Ogundeko. Arthur’s consistency will be a major factor in how much he helps out the Trinity offense, but he should be able to rack up the boards with the big men. Someone needs to replace Ajayi, who grabbed 7.3 boards per contests last season, creating a big gap in the Bantams defense. Arthur might just be that guy.

Center Ed Ogundeko ‘17

Ed Ogundeko (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
Ed Ogundeko (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

This guy is a beast. There’s nobody in the league who is even close to as good as him down low. His ability to get rebounds outperformed all other competitors by over 2 REB/G, an incredible difference. I’ve already mentioned him in most of the other blurbs and that’s because the team is going to rely on him to have any chance to compete this year. Sure, there are some solid newcomers and pretty good returners from the bench last year, but Ogundeko is the clear shining star on this squad. Without him, the Bantams just don’t have much of a chance. Lucky for them, he should be able to carry the team as much as one player can – Ogundeko will likely lead Trinity in points and rebounds, getting close to the NESCAC league lead in both too. His double double capabilities will be nightmarish to opposing centers who have to deal with the 6-6 230 pound beast down in the front court. This preseason All-American, captain, and center was the NESCAC defensive player of the year and should increase his rebound totals without a major defensive presence in the lineup with Ajayi gone. His season high of 22 points last year against UMASS-Boston should be eclipsed in nearly every contest and he should also score well over 50% of the time from FG range. Opponents’ game plans will center around how to stop Ogundeko, and for good reason. I’d be shocked if he wasn’t at least 1st team All-‘CAC at the end of the year.

Diamond in the Rough: Guard Nick Seretta ‘20

Nick Seretta (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
Nick Seretta (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

I’m not going to lie here, I’ve been pretty lazy about writing this article. It took me a while to find a time to interview Coach Cosgrove and I kind of put the preview on hold for a while with football season wrapping up. On top of that, as many college students could agree, going home for Thanksgiving had me feeling some type of way [Editor’s note: and then I slacked pretty hard on the whole editing part of the process, pushing back the publishing date even further]. On the bright side though, this has allowed me to see what Trinity’s playing time distribution looks like after their first two games, and it’s evident that Seretta should be a major contributor from his contributions early in the young season. The 6’3’’ swingman from Middlesex, CT is averaging a huge 24 minutes per game and scored 11 points against Southern VT in his first collegiate contest. Since then, he is averaging 7.5 PPG and 3.3 rebounds per contest too. The high flying first year can dunk with the best of them too, and he should be a big playmaker and an exciting weapon down the road for the Bantams. Cosgrove highlighted how Seretta should be one of the major first year players to make an immediate impact at the college level, especially considering Trinity’s lack of guards. Youth is in quantity in Hartford, and Seretta is just one of many young guns Cosgrove looks to unveil in 2017.

Everything Else:

Between Neal, Gendron, Arthur, and Turnbull, Trinity looks to have a solid lineup as they will be led by senior sensation Ogundeko. However, the four replacements from last year’s NESCAC regular season winning team might not be up to the task. Yes, they have experience and great coaching, but none of them really standout as big playmakers and guys who can go off during a game the way that Ajayi or Starks could. Arthur in particular has had some big games, but other than Ogundeko, the Bantams have struggled to score during their 1-3 start.

This hole will hopefully lead to big impact seasons from several of the first years, including the aforementioned Seretta as well as Joe Bell ‘20 and Kyle Padmore ‘20. Bell has struggled thus far, only playing in 8.3 minutes per game and going 2-14 shooting, but his time will come as the season progresses. Padmore should have a bigger role at the guard spot evidenced by some early big minutes off of the bench. So far he is averaging 14.3 minutes per game. Padmore has shot efficiently, but only has 5 points so far this season, a number I suspect will rise as the season progresses. He has racked up a total of four boards in the first two contests though and should only increase his production as he finds his role and gets comfortable at the college level.

The 6’4’’ guard saw the opening in the lineup from a season ago and is hungry to take minutes away from the returners, as any competitive player should be, but drastic improvement throughout the course of the season is not out of the question here. He drilled a three pointer against Southern Vermont in a tough overtime loss, and should only drain more as the season goes on. Guards for the Bantams will be flying in and out of the game as they don’t have any clear stars taking the ball up the court, but they might be fine with a dribble-by-committee approach.

There are a lot of things up in the air for Trinity in this young season as they look to repeat as NESCAC regular season champs and overcome upset losses last year to win some rings. They have a long road ahead of them with ample transition into what is a new era in Hartford. Ogundeko is going to do everything he can to end his college career with a bang, and the seasoned Coach Cosgrove shouldn’t roll over easily either. Regardless of how they stack up, Trinity won’t go down easily; they are always a player in the title race, and if the young Bantams  can adjust to the college level and complement the elderly Trinity ballplayers, they will be dangerous.

The Return of the ‘CAC (Sports Blog): Five Talking Points Regarding NESCAC Basketball

Zach Baines helped Middlebury hold on to beat RPI 79-72 on Tuesday.
 Thanksgiving break was an exciting time for a lot of people. Rory got weirdly competitive with his mom, I watched 3 seasons of VEEP in four days, and there were also a couple NESCAC basketball games that we should mention. The upper crust of the league continued to play well for the most part (although Middlebury had a wakeup call that we will get to momentarily), while Bowdoin and Connecticut College continued to rise from the lower ranks. There are star performances to be discussed, questions to be raised, predictions to get wrong, and it’s just really good to be back. We’re rested, refreshed and 10 to 15 pounds heavier, so let’s get down to it with this week’s talking points.
Connecticut College
Terrible nickname, good team? Connecticut College has appeared ready to make a leap for several years now. A win over eventual champion Middlebury last season marked the Camels as a potential Cinderella team, but they never again reached that point, missing the tournament entirely. But so far they have looked very much like the team that shocked the Panthers in 2016. Senior forward (and charter member of the ‘How Long Has He Been in College’ All Star Team) Zuri Pavlin has held down the boards and provided a strong post presence with averages of 12 points and 11 rebounds per game. Indeed, the Camels have done much of their damage in the paint, averaging 84 points per game despite only making 7 threes per game (third to last in the league) and shooting 65% from the line. It is very possible that Connecticut College’s success is unsustainable once league play begins, as their poor shooting could cost them in close games. But it is also possible that the Camels are over the hump (I’m so sorry) and will contend for the rest of the year.

 

The Delpeches

Image result for mary kate ashley olsen full house
Which is Malcolm and which is Marcus?

A brilliant and handsome basketball analyst predicted before the season began that, if Bates had any hopes of contending in the league this season, the Delpeche twins would have to combine to carry the team on their shoulders. Alright fine, not exactly a brilliant insight. “Oh really Pete? For a team to be good, the two best players have to be good? You’re a genius!” But the fact remains Malcolm and Marcus are putting up the best twin performance since Mary Kate and Ashley Olson in Full House. The Brothers Delpeche have combined to average 31 points and 22 rebounds per game, and Malcolm is the early leader for Defensive Player of the Year thanks to his 4 blocks per night average. The joint success of Malcolm and Marcus has Parent-Trapped (because they’re twins!) opponents on both ends, and if they keep it up, Bates could turn some heads come league play.

Wesleyan’s Bench

Salim Green
Salim Green ’19 (Courtesy Wesleyan Athletics)

To use an understatement. the Cardinals appear to be weathering the departures of Rashid Epps and BJ Davis fairly well. Wesleyan has jumped out to a 5-0 start, using a balanced attack led by senior forward Joseph Kuo. However, what sets Wesleyan apart from some of the other top teams in the league is their deadly second unit. Sophomore guard Salim Green is the most explosive sixth man in the league, average 12.4 in 24 minutes. Fellow guard Jordan Sears ‘18 and forward PJ Reed ‘17 follow Green and give coach Joe Reilly maybe the most versatile second unit in the league, along with Amherst. Green in particular will clearly push for starters’ minutes as the season goes on, but keeping him on the bench could be a lethal weapon for the Cardinals.

Middlebury

The Panthers have hit a bump in their road to a second consecutive league title. On Sunday they blew a 17 point lead and dropped a heartbreaker at home to an excellent Endicott team 93-89, and on Tuesday night they again threatened to lose a double digit lead at home before big plays by Matt St. Amour ‘17, Zach Baines ‘19 and Adisa Majors ‘18 led them to a 79-72 win over RPI. The main problems for the Panthers have been defensive, as a lack of communication and poor rebounding led to many easy looks and second chances in both games. Middlebury has also had virtually no bench production. The second unit has only scored 15 points total in the last two games. This is partially due to the loss of Hilal Dahleh ‘19 with a back injury, but Middlebury desperately needs some life off the bench. It is of course beneficial in the long run for the Panthers to work out these kinks by playing good teams before league play begins, but Middlebury has some real problems to solve before Amherst and Tufts come calling.

Peter Hoffmann ‘19

Peter Hoffmann
Peter Hoffmann ’19 (Courtesy Hamilton Athletics)

Hamilton has been another team off to a surprisingly hot start in 2016, and that is thanks in large part to the play of sophomore Peter Hoffmann. After missing the first two games, Hoffmann has come in and dropped 20 points and 5 rebounds per game, as well as 3.3 steals. A versatile forward, Hoffmann does most of his damage in the paint and from the mid-range. Interestingly, he has struggled tremendously from the line, shooting only 45% despite attempting nearly 8 per game. That number will have to improve, or else he may have the ignomious status of being both Hamilton’s best player and biggest liability come league play.

How Badly Will the Polar Bears Miss Hausman?: Bowdoin Basketball Season Preview

 

Tim Ahn '19 is going to need to step it up for Bowdoin this year in the absence of Lucas Hausman (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)
Tim Ahn ’19 is going to need to step it up for Bowdoin this year in the absence of Lucas Hausman (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

Editor’s Note: While 99% of the work on these previews is done by the writers, the projected records for all NESCAC Men’s Basketball teams were decided upon by the editors collectively,  not decisions of the writers themselves. So, if you want to be mad at someone about the record projections, be mad at us. Also, now that the season is under way, treat this as our thoughts on what we’ve seen so far, not just a regular preview.

Projected Record: 3-7

2015-16 Record: 12-11, 4-6; Fell to #2 seed Amherst in NESCAC quarterfinals.

Last year the Polar Bears had to find a way to win without John Swords. This year they’re going to find a way to win without Lucas Hausman. Both of those players have gone on to play professionally in Spain, so they were probably pretty good. Jack Simonds growth will play a large role in the team’s success this year, and with the loss of three key starters, we’ll have to see how the new starters handle the uptick in minutes.

Head Coach: Tim Gilbride, 31 seasons, 444-315 (.593)

Captains: Neil Fuller, Jack Hewitt

Key Losses: Lucas…Hausman

Lucas Hausman was arguably the best player in the NESCAC last year. But now he’s gone. So that sucks.

Jack Donnelly and Matt Palecki were both senior starters last season. Their loss makes Bowdoin a very young team, with just one junior and one senior starter. Palecki led the team in rebounds, and was also good for about 9 PPG on offense.

Those guys started every game when they were healthy.

Starters:

Guard Tim Ahn ‘19

Tim Ahn '19 (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)
Tim Ahn ’19 (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

Ahn’s a sophomore guard from San Diego. He’s quick, and he led the Bears in steals, despite coming off the bench, and averaging 17 minutes per. Ahn and Simmonds will be the assist specialists on the team. The shifty sophomore will have to step up his production this season in the absence of Hausman, especially now that opposing defenses will be able to hone in on Simonds when the Polar Bears have possession.

Guard Liam Farley ‘18

Liam Farley '18 (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)
Liam Farley ’18 (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

Farley’s a 6’5” junior guard from the Windy City. He’s appeared in just about every game since he got to Bowdoin, but he’ll see a big increase in minutes this year. I wouldn’t say Farley is an elite shooter, but he has the ability to knock down shots from outside when he’s left open. At 6’5”, that is certainly a useful skill for a Bowdoin team in need of some firepower. The squad is definitely going to need Farley to get to the hoop, however, as this will force defenses to sag into the paint, opening things up for Bowdoin’s other shooters.

Forward Jack Simonds ‘19

Jack Simonds '19 (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)
Jack Simonds ’19 (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

The Mainer. Don’t need to say much about Simonds. He can do it all. He shoots, he drives, he plays solid defense – Simonds is a great basketball player. The sophomore has good size, which makes him a difficult matchup for forwards when you mix that size with his athleticism.  Simonds is the reigning NESCAC rookie of the year for a reason, but the Polar Bears need him to avoid a sophomore slump if they’re going to be competitive. While Simonds definitely benefited from being the second option behind Hausman, this leaves room for question: can Simonds be “the guy” in his 2016-2017 campaign? So far, it looks like the answer is yes. Through four games Simonds is dropping 26.8 PPG, highlighted by his 31 points in the season opener against Southern Vermont, a team that made an NCAA appearance last year. He also went for 28 in a close loss to #2 ranked Babson on Sunday. Simonds is the real deal, and definitely a guy to keep an eye on this season.

Forward Hugh O’Neil ‘19

Hugh O'Neil '19 (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)
Hugh O’Neil ’19 (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

O’Neil hails from historic Lexington Mass, and will be counted on for strong defense this year. He’s tall, and he can rebound with the best of ‘em. In just 16 minutes per game, he averaged 5 boards per, so in a starting role, he could be a beast on the glass. Bowdoin lacks size, so O’Neil is going to need to be tough down low for the Polar Bears. He will often be smaller than his matchup, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’ll be a bad matchup. O’Neil just needs to use his quickness to his advantage. We’ll find out more about his offensive game as he gains experience, but look for O’Neil to be a solid player down low for Bowdoin.

Forward Neil Fuller ‘17

Neil Fuller '17 (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)
Neil Fuller ’17 (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

A senior captain from the Peach state, Fuller will be the elder statesman among the starting five. Jimmy Naismith used a peach basket as the first ever hoop when he invented the game of basketball (I grew up 15 minutes from the Basketball Hall of Fame), so it makes lots of sense that Fuller plays basketball. He’ll bring the leadership. Crazy statistic about Fuller: I once ran into a girl while on a tour of the Jameson Distillery in Dublin who went to highschool with him. Mind bottling. He increased his FG% by 13% last year – hopefully he can shoot above .500 again in 2016-17. Like O’Neil, Fuller is going to need to assert his authority down low on this small Bowdoin team. Their success likely rides on the shoulders of these two forwards, because if they can’t stop opposing post players, Bowdoin is going to have a heck of time against the Trinity/Tufts/Amherst’s of the league.

Breakout Player: Guard Tim Ahn ’19

There’s 25 PPG to replace from Lucas Hausman, 9 PPG from Matt Palecki, and 4 PPG Jack Donnelly, adding up to a total of about 40 points that need to be found somewhere. Ahn is going to play a big role in finding those points, in one way or another. While he was able to gain some good experience last year, Ahn is going to see an enormous boost to his minutes this season, and his ability to handle the pressure of starting in the NESCAC is certainly a question. Bowdoin is relying on Ahn, so hopefully he can find a way to get the job done. He’s currently the third leading scorer on a team that spreads the wealth pretty evenly outside of Simonds, which definitely Bowd(oin)s well for the Polar Bears. 

Everything Else

Simonds was the NESCAC rookie of the year. He’s dirty. The question is, will he be able to repeat, or improve on his 16 PPG season? Did he benefit from Lucas Hausman receiving so much attention from opposing defenses? We’ll see. The big lefty is going to need to figure out how to score on the best defenders in the league, because he is definitely going to get those matchups. Bowdoin needs a strong year out of Simonds. So far, he looks capable, but we’re only four games in remember – it’s too early to ride anyone too high or too low at this point in the year.

The loss of Swords was certainly felt last year, and Hausman’s loss is going to hurt this year as well. Think about this: Hausman holds the single season NESCAC scoring record after his 2015-16 campaign. He averaged 25 PPG. He averaged 6 PPG more than the scoring runner up. That’s kind of insane. Where is Bowdoin going to get the production to make up for Hausman’s absence? The fact is, Bowdoin has not really needed many other scorers for the last few years, and while it certainly would have helped them to, they definitely relied on Hausman to make them a competitive team. Ahn, Simonds, Fuller, O’Neil, Farley…who is it going to be? I think Bowdoin’s best chance at competing for a NESCAC title is if they can roll out a lineup that spreads out the scoring pretty evenly. If the Polar Bears fall into the trap of just getting the ball to Simonds and watching him go to work, they simply will not find themselves in the top of the standings as NESCAC action plays outs.

Blake Gordon ‘18, Jack Bors ‘19, Charles DiPasquale ‘18, Jack Hewitt ‘17 and Richard “Swiss Rick” McCallister ‘18 (Rory was on his high school team and apparently everyone called him this) …. who is going to step up for the Polar Bears and take on the approximately 80 minutes per game lost to graduated seniors? It looks like freshman guard David Reynolds is the first one off the bench for Bowdoin so far, and Gordon has also mixed in with Hewitt and Bors. We’ll see how deep the Bowdoin bench goes as the season wears on.

NESCAC Counseling: Five Talking Points to Diffuse Family Tensions This Thanksgiving

Image result for fighting thanksgiving family
Don’t fight at Thanksgiving, talk about NESCAC sports instead.

Thanksgiving has long been a major danger zone for family arguments, as alcohol, football and repressed anger combine to create the potential for lasting damage. And the current political climate will only exacerbate that danger. No matter which side of the aisle your family members sit on, there will be fights around the table this year. When those fights spring up, you’ll need something to diffuse the tension. That’s where we come in. NESCAC basketball has been helping my dad and I resolve arguments for the last five or six years, and we here at NbN want to help you do the same. Here are five NESCAC basketball storylines from the opening weekend to help distract the table from the inevitable political conflict that will come along with Thanksgiving 2016.

 

1: Zach Baines’ Jumpshot

Zach Baines
Zach Baines ’19 (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

The fact that Baines is an important player for Middlebury this year is no surprise. He had an impressive freshman season, and many extremely well-informed figures in the NESCAC basketball analyst community (such as myself) had him as a dark horse All-League candidate. However, the three pointer was not the weapon that we expected him to be wielding so early in the year. In his MVP performance in the Eastern Connecticut Tip-Off Tournament, Baines averaged 18.5 points and 9 rebounds per game on 60 % shooting. He also took four threes and made three of them, including the dagger in a hotly contested final against host Eastern Connecticut. Jump shooting was identified early in the season as the key to Baines making a sophomore leap, and it looks like he is ready and willing to take over games from the perimeter, as well as defensively.

2: Jack Simonds’ Lucas Hausman Impression

Jack Simonds
Jack Simonds ’19 doing his best Iceman from Top Gun impression here (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

Star guard Lucas Hausman got Bowdoin used to having the best all around scorer in the league. But once he graduated, it seemed likely that Bowdoin would take a break from watching people light it up every night. However, sophomore Jack Simonds seems to have other ideas. Simonds put up 60 points in Bowdoin’s opening tournament, on 51% shooting and 38.5% from three. As the only big time scoring threat on his team, Simonds should have his pick of shots throughout the year and has a real chance to lead the league in scoring, picking right up where his illustrious teammate left off.

3: Amherst’s Depth

At my dinner table, this would be almost as distressing a conversation as any political talk, but I guess people in Amherst may enjoy talking about this. National preseason number one, the Purple and White enjoyed their usual easy opening weekend tournament, beating up on Green Mountain and St. Lawrence 83-41 and 90-68 respectively. What stands out about these games though is the balance and depth exhibited in Amherst’s lineup. The leading scorer for the weekend was Michael Riopel, a junior guard who only played 17 minutes per game. Amherst’s starting lineup is experienced and dynamic, led by guards Jayde Dawson ‘17 and Johnny McCarthy ‘18, as well as center David George ‘17. But Riopel, Reid Berman ’17 and Eric Conklin ‘17 give Coach David Hixon many options off the bench. Amherst could concievably run 8 or 9 deep all season, something that is rare among NESCAC teams.

4: Trinity…Yikes

Ed Ogundeko
Ed Ogundeko ’17 (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

First of all, thank you so much to the Trinity website for not yet updating their statistics from the weekend. I had to do the stats for this column myself, and i’m an English Major! Math is not my strong suit. Anyway, I can excuse them for being slow on that becuase they had a rough weekend in other regards. Trinity went 0-2 in their opening weekend, losing in overtime to UMass-Dartmouth and Southern Vermont. This was not the fault of senior center Ed Ogundeko, who ripped those two teams apart to the tune of 25 points and 16 rebounds per game. Ogundeko was the Defensive Player of the Year last season, but it looks like his offensive game has caught up to his defense in a big way. It was finding him help that the Bantams struggled with over the weekend, as the rest of the team shot roughly 35% from the field, compared to Ogundeko’s 70%. Trinity struggled to score at times last season, and two of their leading scorers, Jaquaan Starks and Player of the Year Shay Ajayi, graduated. They will need more production from players other than Ogundeko if they want to stay in contention with deep teams like Amherst and Middlebury.

5: Colby!

If I gave you three guesses as to which NESCAC team had the most impressive offensive performance of the weekend, I’m willing to bet that Colby wouldn’t have been in the mix. But the Mules kicked and brayed, and averaged 89 points over their two game opening weekend, winning both games. Colby was lights out from three point range at 44% as a team.

Image result for patrick stewart
As if he wasn’t versatile enough, he averaged seven rebounds per game last weekend!

Senior forward and wheelchair-bound leader of a superhero team Patrick Stewart was particularly impressive, averaging 17 points and 7 rebounds per game on 53% shooting from 3. It seemed possible at the beginning of the year that the bottom three teams in the league would be the three Maine schools, but Colby might have more fight in them than we thought.

And That’s a Wrap!: The Final 2016 NESCAC Football Power Rankings

Devon Carrillo '17 was a force for Wesleyan all year long (Courtesy of Steve McLaughlin/Wesleyan Athletics)
Devon Carrillo ’17 was a force for Wesleyan all year long (Courtesy of Steve McLaughlin/Wesleyan Athletics)

1.) Trinity

Well, there weren’t any ‘fluke’ losses this year for Trinity. For those of you NESCAC old timers, yes, I am referring to Bob Smith’s Middlebury football shirts he made in 1992 after Midd went 7-1 to win the league and deemed their only loss to Trinity a ‘fluke.’ There’s simply no argument that can be made against the mighty Bantams here. They are the kings of the ‘CAC and had the success all year to back it up. Spencer Donahue ’17 had a monster year and could easily win Defensive POY as a part of the secondary that terrified opposing QB’s all season. Sonny Puzzo ’18 improved drastically from his 2015 campaign, decimating the TD:INT ratio of last year that was below 1:1 to improve to 16:4. He also made a great case for First Team All-‘CAC. Max Chipouras ran over everybody in his path for the Bantams all year, finding holes and blasting through defenders en route to 910 yards, 5.8 yds/carry, and 7 TDs, only second to Tufts’ Chance Brady. You want to know what their secret formula to winning the league was? Just dominate offense, defense, and special teams. Undefeated.

2.) Tufts

Chance Brady is in the history books. According to Babe Ruth in The Sandlot, legends never die, and in every sense of the word, Brady’s 17 rushing TD season (19 total) is legendary. He won two more Gold Helmets and managed to lead his team to a 7-1 season just two years after breaking a preposterous 31 game losing streak. Despite their resurgent season that only Rory could’ve predicted, they did lose to Trinity and the Bantams showed they had the better team. But last week in Middlebury, VT, Brady couldn’t be stopped, and the Tufts secondary gave Lebowitz all he could handle. They battered him all day and tallied 2 fumbles, 3 INTS, and three painful looking sacks. The Jumbos will still have Ryan McDonald ’19 next year who played well when he started, tallying a 5:1 TD:INT ratio and a crazy 602 yards rushing, good for 5 TDs and 6.2 yds/carry. The Jumbos won’t stop here and the Bantams better watch out, there’s a stampede on the way in 2017.

3.) Wesleyan

In mutual games, Wesleyan largely played better than Middlebury. These two teams were the closest in talent level this season, both losing to Trinity and Tufts for their only losses, knocking off Amherst, and all the other teams that we expected them too. However, the Cardinals blew the Purple and White out, and could’ve easily beaten Tufts in Week 1, and frankly the fact that they went 6-1 in their final games shows that even without any assurance that they could get back into the championship run, they still put a great season together. Puzzo, Lebowitz, and Piccirillo are the top 3 QB’s in the conference and Piccirillo is arguably the best of the bunch. His 10:2 TD:INT ratio and 62.3% completion rate led the league, and he was second in passing yds/game to Lebowitz who benefitted from a system conducive to more passing attempts. Their defense also allowed the least yds/game and put them in a position to win a share of the league championship in the final game. They earned this ranking and nearly earned a ring.

4.) Middlebury

It’s tough for me to put Midd below Wesleyan here as I rooted for them all year and still thought they could win up until the final minutes against the Jumbos. However, the box scores don’t lie—the Panthers barely knocked off Amherst and Trinity rolled right over them. Lebowitz had a great season, especially considering that it was his first season starting in the NESCAC, but slowed down at the end of the year. A big loss to Trinity after a 5-0 start proved to be somewhat of a reality check, and pretty much crushed the Panthers’ hope of going to titletown. However, this team still had a great season, putting up a 6-2 record, and was hurt big time by injuries in the final weeks heading into their two biggest games against Trinity and Tufts. The fire in the hearts of this Midd team showed up in the final minutes against the Jumbos when they frantically put a rally together, sparking hope in the parents and fan section. Diego Meritus ’19 improved on his first season and looks like he could step up to another level next year; Conrado Banky ’19 proved me right in that he is a fast twitched receiving animal; and Lebowitz broke out in a big way. The good news for Panthers fans is that these three guys will be back, and they will be hungry for the ‘ship.

5.) Amherst

Nobody expected Amherst to be fifth on this list at the end of the year, but not even Amherst’s fans could argue for a better ranking. A tough 27-26 loss to Middlebury in week three would spiral the Purple and White’s season out of control, leading to a 2-4 finish. Granted they struggled with injuries all year as both their first and second string QB’s Reece Foy and Alex Berluti were out, Foy for the entirety of the season and Berluti for a large part of it. Some highlights were that they extended their winning streak to a historic 21 games, WR David Boehm had a fantastic senior campaign good for 660 receiving yards and 6 TDs, and the defense held opponents to a league best 79 rushing yards per game. On the positive side, Reece Foy will be back next year, and when he is on the field, he is always a candidate for POY. I’m not sure if it’s a coincidence, but this is the first year Amherst didn’t have a mascot during football season and was also the year that their winning streak ended. Is this the new curse of the Billy Goat?

6.) Bates

This is where the rankings start to get a little trickier. The margins between Bates, Hamilton, and Colby are fairly narrow, as they all played pretty evenly against each other. Bates showed flashes of what is to come with their Sophomore QB Sandy Plashkes who broke off some big rushes despite a lack of passing consistency. Bates took the CBB crown, beat Colby and Bowdoin, and while that isn’t saying too much, they put up a good game against Tufts (12-7 loss) and jumped up to a 9-0 lead against Middlebury. And if they managed to beat Hamilton, they would’ve been tied with Amherst! Throughout the season, I put a lot more faith in the Bobcats than their success warranted, and maybe their season doesn’t deserve this ranking considering they did lose to Hamilton, but based on their games against some of the tougher teams, they are the best of the bottom tier of NESCAC teams.

7.) Hamilton

Continental fans might not be too happy with this ranking since they beat Bates by a considerable margin in week 8. However, that’s not a great selling point when you lose to the other 3-5 team, Colby. Once again, the distance between these 6-8 ranked teams is minimal, and if Hamilton put up a solid performance against any of the top NESCAC teams they would be ranked higher. But there isn’t a great argument to be bumped up when they got absolutely blown out against Middlebury, Amherst, Trinity, and Wesleyan. Mickey Keating ’18 was arguably Hamilton’s best defender with two picks and 72 total tackles to lead his squad, while Colby Jones ’19 also added two INTs, showing what the NY squad’s defense could showcase next year. QB Kenny Gray ’20 had a tough rookie season, but his experience this year should give him a lot to work on and a bunch of improvements going into his sophomore year. This is obvious but if their defense can allow less than 26.9 ppg next year, they’ll have a much better chance.

8.) Colby

Similar to Hamilton, nothing really stands out with the Mules’ season in terms of wins and losses. 3-5 is respectable, sure, but they only competed against Bowdoin, Williams, Hamilton, and Bates. They beat the Continentals but lost to Bates in a close game, and won against the Ephs in what was a poorly played Week 1 game. They did show some real offensive pieces unlike Bates and Hamilton, as Jabari Hurdle-Price ’18 rushed for 91 yds/game and six scores while roping in the most catches (30) on the team. Sebastian Ferrell ‘19 and Christian Sparacio ‘18 looked like Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison at times, especially towards the end of the season. Good news for the Mules is that their QB, top RBs, and top WRs are all staying put for next year, so if Gabe Harrington ’18 or another signal caller can figure it out, they might actually compete against some of the big dawgs.

9.) Williams

I tried to spin off the Ephs as a better team than their record after they played well against Middlebury, but a winless season doesn’t leave a whole lot of positives. Jansen Durham could be a legit QB in the ‘CAC the next few years if he makes a Puzzo-esque transition into 2017; the two are definitely show some similarities in their career trajectory. Do-it-all playmaker Adam Regensburg showed off his athleticism time and time again as he led the team in receptions (37), receiving yards (319), field goals, punts, and points (he also put in time as a DB and a kick returner). CB Ben Anthony also had a promising first season with 44 tackles and 2 picks, showing that he will be a threat to opposing QBs in the years to come, but overall, this team has some work to do. They lost three games by less than two possessions, so if they bring in some more playmakers, they could get over the hump into the win column.

10.) Bowdoin

Well, not a lot to say here. Bowdoin went 0-2 in the CBB series and 0-8 overall, so they pretty much put themselves in this position. Their closest game was against Hamilton in a one point heartbreaker, and other than that, it was a pretty ugly season. The lone bright spots for the Polar Bears, who must be feeling pretty cold right about now, were Joe Gowetski ’20 and Nate Richam ‘20. Gowetski represented the future of NESCAC linebackers with a ludicrous 92 tackles to open up his career, and Richam displayed some promising work out of the backfield. These two will both solid for the winless squad going forward. Better luck next year.

No More Boornazian, How Will the Bobcats Respond?: Bates Basketball Season Preview

Marcus Delpeche '17 is hoping to turn Bates around after their struggles during the 2015-2016 season (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)
Marcus Delpeche ’17 is hoping to turn Bates around after their struggles during the 2015-2016 season (Courtesy of Josh Kuckens/Bates College)

Editor’s Note: While 99% of the work on these previews is done by the writers, the projected records for all NESCAC Men’s Basketball teams were decided upon by the editors collectively,  not decisions of the writers themselves. So, if you want to be mad at someone about the record projections, be mad at us.

The Bobcats were destined to struggle from the start in 2015-2016, as the graduation of point guard and team engine Graham Safford ‘15 was a difficult storm to weather. Despite a stellar season from forward Mike Boornazian, Bates was unable to make waves in an especially deep NESCAC talent pool, finishing at 2-8 in the league and missing the postseason tournament. And unfortunately, 2016-2017 doesn’t look any easier for the Bobcats, as Boornazian has also moved on to greener pastures. Combined with the marked improvements of Hamilton and Connecticut College, Bates is in danger of again finishing towards the bottom of the league.

However, Bates has two tall beacons of hope in the persons of senior twins Marcus and Malcolm Delpeche. Two of the most athletically gifted big men in the league, neither Marcus nor Malcolm has ever quite dominated like they seem to have the ability to. But this season is their last chance. Marcus has consistently shown a wider array of offensive skills, while Malcolm has proved to be more of a defensive and rebounding force. For Bates to have any chance at success this year, both big men will have to become threats on both ends of the court.

Projected Record: 1-9

2015-2016 Record: 10-14, 2-8, did not make NESCAC tournament

Coach: Jon Furbush, 6th year, 104-99 (.512)

Returning Starters:

Forward Marcus Delpeche ‘17 (11.1 PPG, 6.2 REB/G, 55.8% FG)

Forward Malcolm Delpeche ‘17 (8.4 PPG, 6.4 REB/G, 1.1 BLK/G)

Guard Shawn Strickland ‘18 (8.4 PPG, 3.5 A/G, 33.9% 3FG)

Key Losses:

Forward Mike Boornazian ‘16 (15.0 PPG, 5.8 REB/G, 2.9 A/G)

Guard Josh Britten ‘16 (7.5 PPG, 1.1 STL/G, 38.2% 3FG)

Projected Starters:

Guard Shawn Strickland ‘18

Shawn Strickland
Shawn Strickland ’18 (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

Standing at 5’9” with his high tops on, Strickland is not the most imposing figure on the court. But in an impressive sophomore season, he showcased a variety of skills that make him a key member of the Bates team this season, and next season as well. He averaged 8.4 points and 3.5 assists per game last season after only appearing in five games as a freshman. He even flashed a solid outside shot, hitting 33.9% of his three pointers. In a team that is low on both outside shooting and experience at the guard position, the keys to the offense should be in Strickland’s hands.

Guard Justin Zukowski ‘18

Justin Zukowski
Justin Zukowski (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

Bates still has a lot of uncertainty at the guard position leading up to the first weekend of games, but Zukowski is a serious contender for one of the starting spots. Zukowski appeared in 23 games as a sophomore, earning two starts and an increase in playing time as the season went on. The high point of his season came when he scored 19 points (on 5/9 shooting from three) against Trinity on February 6. As I mentioned earlier, Bates has a severe lack of outside shooting, so Zukowski has a major role to play if he can hit shots like he did that day against Trinity.

TBA

Forward Malcolm Delpeche ‘17

Malcolm Delpeche
Malcolm Delpeche ’18 (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

It can be really tough to be a twin, especially when your brother gains the reputation as “the better twin.” For his whole career, Delpeche has been a step behind his brother Marcus in terms of offensive development. Last season was no different, as he averaged only 8.4 PPG to Marcus’ 11.1, and shot only 46.3% from the field. Both those numbers are lower than Bates would like to see them given his talent. Bates’ offense this season should largely run through the two brothers down low, giving Malcolm more opportunities on offense. His biggest role for the Bobcats is on the defensive end, where he averaged 0.9 steals and 1.1 blocks per game. He is a smarter, more versatile defender than his brother, and is Bates’ truest rim protector.

Forward Marcus Delpeche ‘17

 

Breakout Player: Forward Marcus Delpeche ‘18

Bates will most likely run their offense largely through the Delpeche twins. And as the more offensively polished of the pair, Marcus should get tremendous offensive opportunities. At times last season he showed excellent footwork on the block, and has had the athleticism and touch to be an elite finisher at the basket. One area in which he needs to improve if he wants to make a first team run (which is within reason) is passing out of double teams. It was too easy last year to force him into turnovers by applying pressure. His defense and rebounding numbers will also need to go up. His brother takes some blocks and rebounds away of course, but Marcus is too often slow on help defense. If he can average 1.5 blocks and 8 rebounds, very reasonable numbers for a player of his skills, he could be a legit first team candidate. And more importantly, Bates could be considerably better than we predict.

Everything Else:

Bates has a very unconventional team for the current structure of the NESCAC. They are short on guards, and led by two big men in Malcolm and Marcus Delpeche. This obviously gives them some advantages, as there aren’t many teams in the league that can match up athletically with that frontcourt. However, even if both those guys become scoring threats inside, teams that have three point shooters will probably outscore Bates pretty consistently. You can’t shoot threes from the low block (Editor’s Note: Fact).

The fifth starting spot for Bates is still up for grabs. It will probably have to be a guard, as neither Delpeche brother is skilled enough to play on the perimeter as a 3. In that case, the starter will most likely be a freshman. Bates has a strong class of guards, all of whom will compete for minutes and possibly that starting spot. Nick Gilpin ‘20 may have the edge given his good size for a guard (6’3”, 185.) There are also several returning candidates to fill out the starting lineup. Quin Leary ‘17 (who I won a Hoop Camp championship with in 2008, no big deal) and Jerome Darling ‘17 would both provide experience at that spot. It may honestly come down to a game time decision between the freshman, Leary and Darling for the final starting spot. Given Bates’s need for perimeter scoring, the decision will probably be based mostly on whoever shows the most offensive firepower over the next couple days of practice.

I want to close this article with a love note to Bates’ Alumni Gym. It is, quite simply, the best gym in the league. Not in terms of quality (in fact, there are several weird dead spots on the court where the ball bounces half as high) but in terms of character and viewing experience. There’s something about Alumni Gymnasium that makes basketball seem purer than other gyms around the league. Maybe it’s the way that a miss off the back rim makes every pipe in the building vibrate, or the brick walls that seem straight out of Hoosiers, but Alumni Gym is in tune with the natural rhythms of the game. That feeling is only exacerbated during the season, when Bates’ loyal fans pack the bleachers, creating the most aggressive fan environment in the league. The insanely close proximity of the bleachers to the court increases the intensity. It’s an incredible experience to watch a game there, and I highly recommend it. Bates has a tough road to climb this year, but improvements from the Delpeche brothers and the unwavering support of their fans could make for some surprises out of the Bobcats.

A Look Back at the 2016 NESCAC Football Season

The Trinity Bantams - your 2016 NESCAC football champs (Courtesy of Trinity athletics)
The Trinity Bantams – your 2016 NESCAC football champs (Courtesy of Trinity athletics)

What. A. Year. Seriously, NESCAC football was absolutely outstanding this year, and an enormous part of that was the competitiveness at the top of the league. We saw plenty of blowouts, but we also saw last second comebacks, epic defensive stands, and back and forth shootouts throughout the past eight weeks. The range of outcomes kept us on our toes throughout the year, and while some teams were much better than others, every team had at least one game that came down the wire, which definitely made things interesting as a fan.

I want to first congratulate Tufts on their first 7-1 season, their best season since 1998. While it’s true that I’m a fan of the Jumbos, objectively, I think that it’s just amazing how far this team has come since my freshman year. I will never forget my first Parent’s Weekend game as a Tufts student. Down by 3 with under a minute to go, Tufts had the ball on the 2 yard line for First and Goal. Deep into their eventual 31-game losing streak, I stood in a crowd of baseball players that were all trying to figure out what to do in the case of what looked to be the first Tufts victory any of us had seen. Well, fate was not on the side of the Jumbos that day, and an interception in the end zone ended their chances of finally adding a tally to the win column. I never imagined that just three years later, Tufts would be 7-1 and the lone team in 2nd place in the NESCAC. Congrats to the Jumbos on a great year.

Middlebury and Wesleyan, two more successful programs of late, kept up their winning ways. After a tough defeat at the hands of Tufts in the night-opener, Wesleyan rolled through the rest of the league, destroying everybody in their path from Weeks 2-7. By the numbers, Wesleyan was right up there with Trinity, and they put themselves in a position to be crowned NESCAC champs with a Week 8 win. Middlebury was also in the running for NESCAC champs in Week 8, but they took a very different path to get there. After blowing out their first two opponents in a display of aerial expertise, Jared Lebowitz and company faced a daunting task in taking on the dreaded Amherst, who were riding into Vermont on their 21-game win streak. Well, the game was an absolute classic, and Middlebury prevailed. Unfortunately, Middlebury was later dominated by Trinity and in a must win game, Chance Brady absolutely dismembered the Panthers, putting Middlebury in a tie for 3rd place with the Cardinals.

That streak-ending loss to Middlebury in Week 3 was the start of a fall from grace for Amherst, who had a disappointing .500 season. I don’t know if it was their lack of mascot or what, but Amherst just couldn’t find an identity this year, and their inconsistent play, especially on the offensive side of the ball, left them with a number of questions heading into the offseason. Luckily for Amherst, Reece Foy will be back next year to retake the reigns under center, a position that proved to be a weak spot for the Purple and White due to injuries and inconsistent personnel.

Bates, Colby and Hamilton were the next three in order. While 3-5 is improvement from 2015 for each of these squads, none of them beat a team with a better record from them. Until one or more of these teams can demonstrate the ability to beat a better team, we will continue to see a league of two tiers. At the bottom of this tier is Bowdoin and Williams, both of whom had disappointing seasons. Neither could ever string together a game where both the offense and the defense played well, it was always one or the other…or neither. Hopefully this year teaches these two squads what they need to do to compete next year.

Am I forgetting anyone? Oh yeah, the juggernauts from Hartford, CT of course! The Bantams were an unstoppable force this year, and there was no immovable rock in the league to counter the multi-faceted attack that Coach Devanney was able to roll out there on offense. Max Chipouras will benefited greatly from the effectiveness of the Trinity passing attack, and Sonny Puzzo reaped the benefits of the sophomore back’s effectiveness on the ground. Darrien Myers and Bryan Vieira proved that they are two of the best wide receivers in the league, and they lit up opposing defenses week in and week out. The Bantams averaged 38.1 PPG this year and it’s absolutely because of how ridiculously talented their offensive weapons were.

However, the scoring numbers for Trinity would not have been as high as they were without the incredible defense they had. Coach Devanney’s defense consistently set up Puzzo and company with terrific field position, and the Bantams frequently capitalized on the short field. Yet it wasn’t just field position that the Bantams provided the offense, Trinity also scored four defensive touchdowns – FOUR!! No other team scored more than one this year. Spencer Donahue, Archi Jerome, Paul McCArthy, Liam Kenneally, Yosa Nosamiefan…the list goes on. This defense was incredible, and they deserve all the credit in the world for their contributions to this powerhouse’s undefeated season.

Finally (and much less importantly), let me apologize for failing to post the writers’ predictions for this weekend. Frankly, I just dropped the ball on it. I’m not an excuse guy but I’ve never had more work in my life than I did last week. Schoolwork, job apps, baseball and blog life ate me up, plain and simple. However, everyone did get their predictions in before Saturday, and here is what they were (the final standings are below):

Trinity @ Wesleyan

Rory: Trinity 30, Wesleyan 24 W

Pete: Trinity 45, Wesleyan 14 W

Liam: Trinity 22, Wesleyan 17 W

Colin: Trinity 33, Wesleyan 30 W

Colby: Trinity 28 Wesleyan 20 W

Sid: Trinity 42 Wesleyan 38 W

Nick: Trinity 38, Wesleyan 14 W

Hamilton @ Bates

Rory: Hamilton 14, Bates 28 L

Pete: Hamilton 7, Bates 10 L

Liam: Hamilton 14, Bates 26 L

Colin: Hamilton 21, Bates 14 W

Colby: Hamilton 10, Bates 17 L

Sid: Hamilton 14, Bates 28 L

Nick: Hamilton 14, Bates 27 L

Williams @ Amherst

Rory: Williams 10, Amherst 21 W

Pete: Williams 13, Amherst 17 W

Liam: Williams 10, Amherst 28 W

Colin: Williams 10, Amherst 35 W

Colby: Williams 10, Amherst 35 W

Sid: Williams 16, Amherst 35 W

Nick: Williams 10, Amherst 31 W

Bowdoin @ Colby

Rory: Bowdoin 7, Colby 21 W

Pete: Bowdoin 0, Colby 30 W

Liam: Bowdoin 13, Colby 17 W

Colin: Bowdoin 17, Colby 14 L

Colby: Bowdoin 14, Colby 17 W

Sid: Bowdoin 12, Colby 16 W

Nick: Bowdoin 19, Colby 20 W

Tufts @ Middlebury

Rory: Tufts 28, Middlebury 21 W

Pete: Tufts 24, Middlebury 30 L

Liam: Tufts 27 Middlebury 24 W

Colin: Tufts 20, Middlebury 27 L

Colby: Tufts 21, Middlebury 24 L

Sid: Tufts 28, Middlebury 27 W

Nick: Tufts 25,  Middlebury 30 L

 

That leaves the final standings as follows:

1.) Liam (31-4)

2.) Rory (29-6)

3.) Nick (28-7)

3.) Sid (28-7)

5.) Pete (27-8)

6.) Colby (26-9)

6.) Colin (26-9)

Though I’m bitter about my loss, I was taught not to be a sore loser. Congrats to Liam on a great season – a well deserved championship title after 7 weeks of picking games (if we had picked in week 1 I would have beat you).

Coming Back for More: Amherst College Hoops Preview

Amherst took home the sectional championship last year, but fell short to Benedictine in Final Four (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
Amherst took home the sectional championship last year, but fell short to Benedictine in Final Four (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

Editor’s Note: While 99% of the work on these previews is done by the writers, the projected records for all NESCAC Men’s Basketball teams were decided upon by the editors collectively,  not decisions of the writers themselves. So, if you want to be mad at someone about the record projections, be mad at us.

Projected Record: 8-2

The 2015-2016 season saw the continued maturation of a young Amherst squad from the year before. Buoyed by a pre-season trip to Italy, the team jumped out to a 13-1 start. They rode the hot start through the NESCAC season going 8-2, both losses coming on the road. After taking down Tufts by three points in the semifinal, the Purple and White fell to Middlebury in an epic NESCAC championship, 81-79. Yet Amherst still earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament where they proceeded to win their first two games at home by a combined three points. The third and fourth rounds saw Amherst take down budding rivals Babson and Tufts in a more comfortable fashion. Then, the team traveled down to Salem, Virginia for Coach David Hixon’s 7th Final Four appearance. Much like the NESCAC final, Amherst fell to Benedictine (Ill.) by a bucket.

The only player not returning this year for Amherst is Connor Green ’16. A pure scorer, Green led the Purple and White with 15 PPG. But, as with any volume shooter, there are days where shots are not falling and it can throw the offense out of rhythm. Expect a more balanced scoring distribution this year as virtually anyone Amherst throws out there can score the rock. Defensively, the team is anchored by senior, two-time captain, David George ’17. George is arguably the best rim protector in the NESCAC and continues to polish his offensive game. Sharpshooter Jeff Racy returns along with junior Swiss Army knives Johnny McCarthy ‘18 and Michael Riopel ‘18. Jayde Dawson ’18 is also back with Reid Berman ’17 to split minutes at the point. The depth and talent on this team makes a NESCAC championship and another deep NCAA tournament run strong possibilities. D3Hoops.com reinforced this notion by ranking Amherst the preseason #1.

Head Coach: David Hixon, 40th year, 767-271 (.738)

Asst. Coaches: Aaron Toomey ’14, Kevin Hopkins ’08, J.D. Ey, Al Wolejko 

Returning Starters:

Guard Jayde Dawson ’18 (11.8 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 3.3 APG)

Guard Jeff Racy ’17 (11.2 PPG, 3 RPG, 49% 3PFG)

Guard/Forward Johnny McCarthy ’18 (13 PPG, 6 RPG, 2 APG)

Forward David George ’17 (8.9 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 60% FG)

Projected Starting Lineup

Qualifier: Given the depth of this year’s Amherst team, they could easily go 8-9 deep with little to no talent drop-off. But, you can only open the game with 5 on the court, so here it is:

 

Guard Jayde Dawson ‘18

Jayde Dawson (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
Jayde Dawson (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

A returning starter from last year, Dawson is an explosive player that can both score it, and hound opposing guards in the backcourt. I often liken Jayde Dawson to Russell Westbrook in that he can be by the far the best player on the court, but also, on occasion, the worst. A strong, energetic player he often toes the line between aggressive and reckless. Consistency will be the key for Dawson entering this season, but even a minor improvement from last year is a scary thought for opposing coaches. His size and strength allow him to get to, and finish at the rim. Dawson is also a streaky shooter who can stretch the floor at times but also garner the Rondo treatment when he’s off. A score-first guard, Dawson’s mercurial play can get him in trouble, but his ceiling might very well be the highest on the team. Defensively, he was second on the team a year ago averaging a steal per game. As previously noted, Dawson can make it very difficult for opposing guards to even get the ball past half court let alone get the team into an offense. The experience of last year should help, and a big year could be on the horizon for him.

Guard Jeff Racy ‘17

Jeff Racy '17 (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
Jeff Racy ’17 (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

When Joel Embiid told the world how he learned to shoot, Jeff Racy may have been in some of the video clips he watched. The senior captain is a classic sharpshooter. He averaged 11.2 PPG a year ago, almost all of which came from behind the 3 point line. He shot it at 48.7% from downtown for the season and was even better in NESCAC play, with a 57% 3-point percentage. Racy added a little strength from the year prior, which allowed him to not only get it done offensively, but defensively as well. He was second on the team in minutes at 30.5 per game. His length allows him to defend multiple positions making it easier to leave him in the game no matter the matchup. Racy’s ability to stretch the floor creates space for other guys to get to the rim or post players to go to work. He figures to be the premier shooter for Amherst, and possibly the NESCAC, again this year. Few things were more entertaining last year than watching Racy get hot and teams frantically trying to take away his air space. While his form is slightly unorthodox, the results speak for themselves. Jeff’s shot is like many things in sports; it’s only weird if it doesn’t work and trust me, it works. Expect much of the same from Racy this year. Also, don’t sleep on Racy going off on February 4th when Amherst hosts Tufts – his younger brother Pat is a freshman Jumbo, and I’m sure Jeff would like nothing more than to bury his little bro’s team.

 

Small forward Johnny McCarthy ‘18

Johnny McCarthy '18 (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
Johnny McCarthy ’18 (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

Coming off a Freshman of the Year award, Johnny showed virtually no signs of a sophomore slump.  A factor on both ends of the floor, McCarthy averaged 13 points a game to go along with 6 boards.  The 6′ 6″ swingman does a little bit of everything for the Purple and White.  He can score it inside and out, and is often tasked with checking the opposing team’s best player.  Deceptively quick, McCarthy always seems to get his hands on passes and break up the other team’s offensive rhythm.  He has the speed to stay with smaller players and the length to lock up taller players as well.  A common theme among this Amherst squad, Johnny offers versatility both defensively and offensively.  One area of improvement would be jump shooting consistency.  McCarthy can be a streaky scorer with bouts of icy shooting. He’s often able to offset this by getting to the rim and free throw line, but another player to stretch the floor never hurts.  A tireless worker, McCarthy has improved every year.  The decent high school player’s relentless work ethic has turned him into a bonafide NESCAC star.  Do not be surprised if McCarthy shows up on multiple post season award lists.

Forward Jacob Nabatoff ’17

Jacob Nabatoff '17 (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
Jacob Nabatoff ’17 (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

The only member of the projected starting five that did not start last year, Nabatoff looks to have an expanded role this coming season.  He did start a lone game last year, but averaged only 2.5 PPG in 10.5 MPG.  A potential stretch 4, he has range that extends to the three point line.  It will be interesting to see how Nabatoff’s game develops with more minutes.  He started 29 games his sophomore season and averaged a serviceable 6.3 PPG.  The senior had a 38% 3-point field goal percentage last year, demonstrating his ability to knock down the three ball.  Nabatoff is probably the biggest question mark in the starting line-up, but definitely has the talent and skill set to be a contributor.  There’s something to be said too about being a senior.  I’ve seen it a number of times where players finally hit their stride in the final year.  Look for Nabatoff to be an improved player this season, adding some ever-present depth to Amherst’s front line.

Forward David George ’17

David George '17 (Courtesy of Amherst College Athletics)
David George ’17 (Courtesy of Amherst College Athletics)

A two-year captain, George is in many ways the heart and soul of the team.  The 6’8″ forward anchors the defense and offers a back-to-the-basket threat on the offensive end.  He shot it at just around 60% from the floor last year and looks to expand on his offensive game even more in his final year.  George’s length and athleticism make him an elite defensive presence.  He averaged over 2 blocks a game last year and can be heard barking out commands to fellow teammates when he quarterbacks the defense.  George is also capable of providing an emotional spark, whether it be a big block or thunderous dunk.  Both the literal and figurative backbone of the team, George looks to close out his stellar career with another successful season.  As a strong voice in the locker room, he will also be tasked with fighting the complacency that can follow a successful season.  David George is an established player and you can depend on him to provide much of the same this year.

Breakout Player: Guard Michael Riopel ’18

Michael Riopel '18 (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
Michael Riopel ’18 (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

I don’t know if you can really consider it a breakout year considering the season that Riopel had a year ago, but he has the chance to elevate his game to another level.  A long, athletic wing, he spent 6 weeks out of his summer working with former Amherst standout and 2013 national champion, Willy Workman ’13.  His goal was to add strength and continue to round out his game, especially on offense.  The 6′ 5″ guard did a little bit of everything last year averaging a tick over 7 PPG, pulling down close to 4 rebounds, and even dishing out 1.3 APG.  Like many other players on this Amherst team, Riopel has the versatility to guard multiple positions.  Offensively, he did not shoot a ton of threes, but was effective when he did, connecting on 41% of his attempts.  Along with the PG Jayde Dawson, the junior swingman adds a slashing element to the offense and displayed the ability to get to the rim.  Coming off the bench, he made the second most free throw attempts on the team.  The added strength should allow the trend of Riopel getting to the charity stripe to continue.  While I think he’ll still come off the bench, that fact has more to do with matchups than ability.  The role also allows the freedom for Riopel to bring added defensive intensity along with instant offense.  If the NESCAC had a 6th man award I would put him at the top of the short list of potential winners, a la ’07-’08 Manu Ginobli.  Fiercely competitive, Riopel, through his hard work, has put himself in a prime position to have a career year.

Amherst hopes to cut the nets down in Salem, VA this year, a feat they haven't accomplished since 2013 (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
Amherst hopes to cut the nets down in Salem, VA this year, a feat they haven’t accomplished since 2013 (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

Everything Else:

Past performance is not always an indicator of future success, but last year’s tournament run has expectations for this year’s team running high. The team loses only one player from their rotation that ran up to 9 players deep a year ago, and as a result, they received the #1 ranking on d3hoops.com.  While the team will certainly miss the presence of Connor Green ’16, the offense may find more continuity now that they don’t necessarily have a pure scorer.  In talking with Coach Hixon, some of the challenges this year’s team will face are an expanded roster and contentedness.  The positives however, greatly outweigh the negatives.  I think that even though the team made the NESCAC final and Final Four there is still a sour taste left in their mouths from not bringing home any championships.  Coach Hixon also lauded the leadership on this team both by the seniors and the younger guys as well.  One element about having an expanded roster that can be a bonus is the ability to have competitive practices.  When guys push each other in practice, it makes it that much easier come gametime.

Reid Berman '17 brings some invaluable grit and attitude off the bench for Amherst (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
Reid Berman ’17 brings some invaluable grit and attitude off the bench for Amherst (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

The level and depth of talent on this team should make for an exciting season.  Seniors Reid Berman and Eric Conklin round out the rotation from a  year ago.  Berman provides a steady hand off the bench to run the point and lead the team in assists per game in limited action last year.  He provides both leadership and grit while doing all the little things a basketball team needs to be done.  Conklin is an undersized big at 6’6″ but uses his 235 lb frame, excellent footwork, and a soft touch to be an effective inside scorer for Amherst.  Additionally, he is  an excellent screener which allows other guys to get open looks.

The Purple and White open up the season with their annual Ken Wright tournament that should have stronger competition than in years past.  Babson also visits Amherst in December and Coach Hixon said that would be a good test considering the games the two teams have played in the past.  Last year featured a double overtime thriller before a competitive sweet sixteen matchup that saw Amherst win both.  The league should be as competitive as ever, helping weed out pretenders and prepare contenders for postseason play.  One of the benefits of having such a tough league schedule is that it will force Amherst to bring it every night.  Additional home games should also play to the Purple and White’s advantage given their unbeaten record in Lefrak Gymnasium a year ago.  The preseason #1 ranking is a place few coaches want to be because it can lead to additional pressure and complacency.  I don’t think those issues will crop up for this team due to the leadership it possesses.  Ultimately, the team has the talent to be better than they were last year and hopes to take the final step.  A NESCAC championship appearance along with a Final Four run is nothing to sneeze at, but the end goal this season is to close the deal and finish out with even more hardware.

 

 

Can the Camels Finally Get Over the Hump?: Conn College Basketball Season Preview

Isaiah Robinson '18 and company are looking to continue the Camels' progression towards the top of the league this season (Courtesy of Conn College Athletics)
Isaiah Robinson ’18 and company are looking to continue the Camels’ progression towards the top of the league this season (Courtesy of Conn College Athletics)

Projected Record: 6-4

While a 3-7 conference record in 2015-2016 wasn’t what the Camels envisioned, they still were just one game out of the NESCAC playoffs and if it weren’t for a couple of late season losses, would’ve made it to the postseason. Conn was 12-12 overall last year, and while there were plenty of more experienced and/or more talented teams in the league, the Camels were able to beat Middlebury 82-81 on January 9th and lost to Amherst a week later on January 16th, 88-86, showing their ability to play up with the best in the league. With that being said, two late losses to Colby and Bowdoin showed the second face of this young team, and just like that they got bounced from the NESCAC playoff race. Conn only graduated one senior, Bo McKinley ‘16, a centerpiece of their team as a leader, and therefore they retain their other four starters, 6th man, and brought in four new freshmen. The Camels need to make great strides from last year in order to have a shot at winning the league championship, but their team chemistry from last year and experience will be a big help.

While McKinley was a starter, he only averaged 7.1 PPG in just over 18 minutes per game, showing the potential for the rest of this Connecticut College squad. Additional minutes should open up for junior guard Lee Messier who impressed in nine starts last year, averaging nearly 14 points in just over 24 minutes per game. He will likely take over the two-spot as the smaller Tyler Rowe ’19 at 5’10’’ should stay as the primary ball handler. Small forward David Labossiere ’19 will return as a second year starter, showing real talent last year after gaining more consistent minutes a few weeks into the season. Labossiere has some shooting ability beyond the arc. Captain Zuri Pavlin ’17 is another returning starter who will play as a small four for the Camels, and was arguably their strongest player last year averaging 8.6 rebounds and 10.1 points per game. Rounding out the big contributing returners is fellow captain Daniel Janel who is a bigger forward than Pavlin, but will likely play as a small center as Conn lacks a true elite big man, and averaged 6 boards and 9.5 PPG a year ago. While they missed out on the playoffs a year ago, they clearly gained valuable experience and should start the year in the middle of the pack as dark horses to rise up in what is shaping up to be a dominant conference.

2015-2016 Record: 12-12, 3-7, 9th place in the NESCAC, one spot from the NESCAC playoffs

Coach: Tom Satran, 15th season, 136-197 (.408)

Returning Starters:

Guard Tyler Rowe ‘19 (12.8 PPG, 3.3 REB/G, 3.9 A/G)

Forward David Labossiere ’19 (11.3 PPG, 3.6 REB/G, 51.0% FG)

Forward Zuri Pavlin ’17 (10.1 PPG, 8.6 REB/G, 47.9% FG)

Forward Daniel Janel ‘17 (9.5 PPG, 6.0 REB/G, 53.3 % FG)

Key Losses:

Guard Bo McKinley ‘16 (7.1 PPG, 1.2 REB/G, 1.3 A/G)

Projected Starting Lineup:

Guard Tyler Rowe ‘19

Tyler Rowe '19
Tyler Rowe ’19 (Courtesy of Conn College Athletics)

Rowe graced the ‘Faces in the Crowd’ section of Sports Illustrated last January after hitting back to back game winning shots against Middlebury and City College of New York, no small feat for any athlete. This shot him into the hearts of all Camel fans and fans of undersized basketball players. The 5’10” Rowe started as a freshman and certainly held his own against what has to be the best D3 competition in the nation. After all, four NESCAC teams went to the NCAA tourney last year. Four! While the point guard’s competition isn’t going to be getting easier this year, as a smaller player, he is less reliant on dominant physical ability and more on skill, so knowing the competition, the league, and individual opponents should help his game. Look for his assist numbers and shooting percentage to go up as he should begin to take smarter shots. He clocked in 27.8 minutes per game and started 22/24 contests during the 2015-2016 season; Rowe should take big strides towards the upper echelon of pg’s in the NESCAC this year.

Guard Lee Messier ‘18

Lee Messier '18 (Courtesy of Conn College)
Lee Messier ’18 (Courtesy of Conn College)

Messier was in and out of the starting lineup last year, starting 9/18 games that he played in, right behind the aforementioned McKinley. With McKinley gone, Messier should be a big part of what the Camels do this season. There is currently still competition for the 5th starting spot as Coach Satran wouldn’t reveal his replacement for the graduated captain, but with four new players coming on the Camels’ roster and Messier likely gaining additional minutes with the hole in the lineup, Conn looks pretty well-off right now. Messier didn’t start over Bo last year, but he averaged nearly six more minutes per game than him in the games both played in. Messier showed flashes of dominance against two of the best teams the ‘CAC had to offer last season. Against Middlebury and Amherst, Messier put up 19 and 17 points respectively, shooting 66.7% and adding on several three pointers. He is a big X-Factor from the shooting guard position, and enters his junior season with similar numbers both of his first two years, showing that he will likely put up 13-15 PPG and inch closer to a 50% FG% as he matures as a player.

Forward David Labossiere ‘19

David Labossiere '19 (Courtesy of Conn College)
David Labossiere ’19 (Courtesy of Conn College)

Similar to Rowe, Labossiere took on the league as a freshman starter and held his own. He emerged as one of the top newcomers in the conference at the two, registering 11.3 points and 3.6 boards a game. His athleticism isn’t to be questioned as the high flying small forward can jump out of the gym. Early on last season Fox Sports put him down as a contender for dunk of the year with a nasty and-one finish on an alley-oop against Roger Williams last November. The 6’4’’ forward should throw down some sick dunks, pin jobs, and other exciting plays for the Camels, transforming into a big playmaker in his sophomore season. If I went to Conn I’d go to the games just to watch this guy play.

Forward Zuri Pavlin ‘17

Zuri Pavlin '17 (Courtesy of Conn College)
Zuri Pavlin ’17 (Courtesy of Conn College)

As stated earlier, Pavlin had the best year by the numbers on a young team a year ago. His 8.6 rebounds per game led the team and were good for second place in the conference behind Trinity’s Ed Ogundeko ’17. Pavlin has a career total of a whopping 719 rebounds and lies just 112 boards behind the program leader, Peter Dorfman ’84, to become the program’s all-time leader. The captain power forward had even better defensive and offensive numbers his first two seasons and played nearly five less minutes per game last year. If he gets back to where he was sophomore year, he would push for the league lead in boards per game, and should average nearly a double double. A down year for him numbers-wise was still beastly, however, and there is more potential here for Pavlin heading into his senior season. Look for him to build on his past experience and dominate in the paint this season.

Forward Daniel Janel ‘17

Daniel Janel '17 (Courtesy of Conn College)
Daniel Janel ’17 (Courtesy of Conn College)

First year captain Daniel Janel finished his second season last year after leaving Adelphi in the Northeast-10 conference in Division II. Janel averaged 9.5 PPG and 6.0 REB/G last year after only putting up 4.1 PPG and 3.1 boards per contest his first year at Conn. These two very different slash lines are indicative of hard work, improvement, and familiarization at the D3 level. He posted the seventh highest field goal percentage in the NESCAC at 53% from the field and should be a force in the paint again this season. The 6’5’’ senior is definitely undersized as big men go, but the help from Pavlin underneath should provide ample distribution of boards to both, making it tough on opposing teams. The third year of play between these captains should contribute to more improvement in communication down low, and each could be in the running for All-NESCAC accolades come the season’s end.

Breakout Player: Forward David Labossiere ‘19

As mentioned before, this guy is really athletic. He seems similar to Middlebury’s Zach Baines in that each is a big threat to dunk, and both put up great freshmen seasons as small forwards. Labossiere should make strides to find more opportunities to shoot. His performances against Middlebury and Amherst were big keys for me as they show what he can do against the best in this league. He led his team in the first half against the Final Four team from Western Mass, going 5-5 from the field. Shooting percentage wasn’t a problem for him last year as anything above 50% is pretty solid, so if he finds more openings (which usually comes with experience), he should put up some (La)boss(iere) numbers. When researching Conn’s team, I couldn’t help but watch Labossiere’s highlight tape and it was pretty impressive to say the least. Yeah a lot of basketball players can dunk, but Labossiere has style and ease when he plays, and I think he’s about to take it to a whole ‘nother level.

Everything Else:

Coach Satran mentioned how the Camels need to adjust to the little things more than last year, and will need somebody else to step up as the 6th man with Messier likely entering the starting lineup. Conn should have depth with their already solid bench and four new recruits, and I suspect they will start the year in a much better place than 2015. The NESCAC is tough in terms of competition and the key for this developing team is “consistency.” Satran’s team knows that they can do it—they came within two points of upsetting Amherst in what was one of the best games of all of last year, and beat Middlebury. They also lost narrowly to Tufts at home in January, which would have been a huge momentum builder for the Camels. On the flip side, as I mentioned earlier, they lost to Colby and Bowdoin consecutively to end their season.

The high ceiling for the young Conn guards leaves a lot of room for growth, and they are anchored by Pavlin and Jalen down low. What helped the Camels last season was Messier’s presence right behind McKinley, acting as a great sixth man. This is going to be another essential for Conn going into the season—finding strong players deeper in their lineup to supplement their starting five. Satran will likely look to his youth for the backup as his squad starts to come into their own in the NESCAC. 6’5’’ Isaiah Robinson played in 20 games last year, averaged just over 15 minutes per contest, and has experience as a starter from his freshman year. He should be a valuable piece off of the bench for the Camels, bolstering their already strong big men. The Camels showed flashes of what was great basketball last season, but clearly couldn’t bring their A-game every night. They should improve in their consistency as they have nearly the same team as last year, but only time will tell if they will play down to weaker opponents. The top of the league should keep their eyes on the Camels as they push from the bottom up this year. The talent is there, but the question will be: can the Camels play to their full potential consistently?