Muddying the Water: Men’s Basketball Stock Report 1/16

Muddying the Water: Men’s Basketball Stock Report 1/16

This week we got everything we expect out of a weekend of NESCAC basketball: absolutely no clarity in the standings. We got no help this week trying to decide who is better than who, but this is what we love about our conference. Wesleyan looked like they were ready to make a jump to the top but has struggled recently, Middlebury is too hot and cold for us to get a read on, and we still don’t find ourselves completely sold on Hamilton. It’s still too early in the year for us to identify any major trends, and the standings don’t give us much to work with yet. I guess that leaves it up to the analysts to decide what’s really going on in the NESCAC this week:

Stock up

Middlebury F Eric McCord ‘19

Eric McCord
Eric McCord ’19 (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

In a league devoid of elite big men, McCord ’19 has been a consistent force down low for the Panthers. After starting off the season injured and struggling a bit as he worked his way back into shape, McCord had a breakout weekend, particularly against Tufts.  On a team that has several perimeter scoring threats, McCord makes his living on the glass and in the paint. He had himself a huge game in a win over the Jumbos, netting 13 points and hauling in 15 rebounds. Tufts came into the game hot after taking down Williams on Friday night for their 9th straight victory, so this was a statement win by the Panthers. The big man duo of Nick Tarantino ’18 and Eric McCord ’19 certainly don’t get a ton of press  on a team with Jack Daly ’18 and Matt Folger ’20, but they understand their role, and McCord especially has them emerging as one of the most efficient front courts in the NESCAC.

Wesleyan F Nathan Krill ‘18

Nathan Krill
Nathan Krill ’18 (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)

We have talked a lot this year about Jordan Bonner ’19 and Kevin O’Brien ’19 making the difference for this Cardinal squad. It’s time to talk about Nathan Krill ’18, because he is showing that Wesleyan is more than just those two players. Krill isn’t a super star by any means, but he is producing exactly at the level that he needs to be as a role player for this team. Against Hamilton, Krill netted 9 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, then followed that up with a 14-point, 10-rebound double-double in a huge win over Little Three rival Amherst. Krill has historically been a very streaky player, capable of both monster games and derailing the whole team with poor shooting and attitude. This season has seen him stay within himself more, a good sign for the Cardinals. Wesleyan needs to step it up a bit following their big win over Middlebury, and perhaps this will be fueled by Krill  expanding his role a bit, because he has shown us that he is capable of doing so.

Stock down

Wesleyan’s Ascension

A few week’s ago, I wrote about how Wesleyan had begun to prove themselves, and they looked like the class of the NESCAC. Well, here I am, doubting everything I once said. After the Cardinals defeated the mighty Ephs on the road, in overtime, when they still had Kyle Scadlock, they looked like they were ready to compete for a championship. They have still given us plenty of reasons to believe they’re legit (see Nathan Krill ’18), but it is hard to really decide where they fall amongst the NESCAC’s elite. They were able to beat Amherst and Middlebury, two very legit wins, but they also fell to Hamilton and Williams the second time in the game that counted. The Cardinals are definitely a team capable of beating anyone (as they showed against Middlebury), but they aren’t quite ready to say that they’re here to stay at the top of the league, especially with Hamilton ascending and Middlebury figuring themselves out a bit against Tufts.

Wesleyan has fced down NESCAC’s best, and come out with a 2-2 record. That’s good, but they’re still not a guaranteed #1.

Williams’ Big Man Battle

The Ephs had a tough weekend, falling at home to Tufts in a hard fought game before taking care of Bates the following day. The Jumbos are a very good team, and Williams isn’t in the “stock down” category for any reason other than the fact that their frontcourt situation is as confusing as the plot of Inception. Matt Karpowicz ’20 and Michael Kempton ’19 make up undoubtedly the largest big man duo in the league, with Karpowicz standing at 6’8”, 250lbs and Kempton at 6’10”, 235lbs. From an outsider’s perspective, it is a mystery why Karpowicz isn’t seeing more time. Take this past weekend for instance; Karpowicz had 9 points, 10 rebounds against Tufts and 10 points, 11 rebounds against Bates. Kempton had 4 points, 3 rebounds against Tufts and 2 points, 3 rebounds against Bates. Karpowicz shot 67%, Kempton shot 38%. These numbers were all while both Kempton and Karpowicz were playing nearly identical minutes. This weekend was a microcosm for the entire year, because Karpowicz is obviously the more athletic and talented player, yet Kempton starts and splits the minutes. Williams isn’t playing especially poorly at the moment, but it is confusing why they wouldn’t use Matt Karpowicz ’20 more to bring themselves to a higher level.

Matt Karpowicz ’20 is one of the most talented big men in the league.

Who Wants It?: Men’s Basketball Power Rankings 1/10

It’s never easy to rank teams. The CFP committee (despite being paid professionals) couldn’t do it, and now we have two schools celebrating national championships in Division I football. When it comes to NESCAC basketball, it isn’t any easier. We’ve had just one weekend of conference play, and there weren’t too many surprises, but there were some big results like Williams over Wesleyan and Wesleyan over Middlebury. In these rankings I am almost entirely looking at conference games, as these are the best indication of where teams truly stand when compared to each other. Look for these rankings to change a ton in the coming weeks, before we start to get some real shape to the standings come February.

#4 Williams (11-2, 2-0)

Last Week: 76-68 W @ Wesleyan, 91-57 W @ Conn College

This Week: vs. Tufts, Bates

It was a huge weekend for the Ephs as they snuck away with a win in Middletown – avenging one of their two losses on the year – and defeating the Camels in convincing fashion to finish 2-0. It looks like for now, they are finding ways to win without Kyle Scadlock ’19. The win over #14 Wesleyan was a huge win because the Cardinals are looking very dangerous after taking down Middlebury on Saturday. Bobby Casey is one of the most dangerous sharpshooters in the league, scoring 24PPG this weekend on 78% shooting and 75% from behind the arc. Alongside him, James Heskett ’19 is scoring 17.5PPG and putting up 5.5 assists, but at 6’8” we should expect to see Heskett putting up a bit higher rebounding numbers if Williams is going to stay hot.

Tufts (11-3, 2-0)

Last Week: 94-83 W vs. Colby, 87-65 W vs. Bowdoin

This Week: @ Williams, @ Middlebury

Well here we are in NESCAC play and we find ourselves saying that yet again, the Jumbos are among the best. They are scalding hot, winners of 8 in a row including convincing conference wins over Colby and Bowdoin that are what is expected of a top tier team. Vincent Pace is loudly making his case for POY, averaging 19PPG, 12REB/G, and 4.5AST/G in their wins over the Maine schools. It should also be noted that although KJ Garrett returned to play in the games out in California, he did not play in either of their NESCAC openers. If he is able to return soon for league games then Tufts has another very deep lineup

#18 Hamilton (12-0, 1-0)

Last Week: 78-55 W @ Trinity

This Week: vs. Wesleyan, vs. Conn College

Hamilton continues to do everything they can do to prove that they have what it takes to be in the top of the league with a statement win in a 78-55 drubbing of Trinity. Kena Gilmour ’20 still looks like one of the NESCAC’s best, pouring in 23 points and grabbing 8 rebounds in the victory. We’ll wait and see if the high-scoring strategy used by the Continentals continues to prove effective in conference play. The win over Trinity was a start, but Hamilton has a chance to make some noise when the Cardinals and Camels come to town this weekend.

#14 Wesleyan (10-2, 1-1)

Last Week: 76-68 L vs. Williams, 80-70 W vs. Middlebury

This Week: @ Hamilton, @ Amherst

It’s still hard to get a good read on this Wesleyan team. They are definitely good, having already beaten Williams in a non-conference game and now Middlebury in a game where they played very well. A loss to Williams may simply prove to us that Williams is better than we thought, but the Cardinals had a chance to really do some damage, and they couldn’t finish a hard fought game at home. Wesleyan’s strength is their balance. Jordan Bonner ’19, their leading scorer, scored 28 points on a poor 10-33 shooting against Williams. Then in the win over Middlebury, he scored just 7 points on 1-5 shooting, allowing the shots to be attempted more evenly. Wesleyan doesn’t have a true “star,” but their efficient style still puts them in the top of the league.

#16 Middlebury (9-3, 1-1)

Last Week: 82-60 W @ Conn College, 80-70 L @ Wesleyan

This Week: vs. Bates, vs. Tufts

The Panthers are good, but how good are they? Well, they had a chance to make a statement against Wesleyan but couldn’t, and did what they needed to do in taking care of Conn College. Time will tell for the Panthers but for now I’ll give them 5th. Jack Daly consistently shows why he is among the conference’s best, putting up 21 points, 15 rebounds, and 8 assists despite the loss against Wesleyan. They will get another chance to prove themselves in a matchup to watch when they host Tufts this weekend.

Trinity (10-3, 1-1)

Last Week: 69-63 W vs. Amherst, 78-55 L vs. Hamilton

This Week: @ Bowdoin, @ Colby

Trinity is another team that I’m not completely sold on. A win against Amherst looks good, although the Mammoths have been trending in the wrong direction as of late. They then traveled to New York and were destroyed by an impressive Hamilton team. A poor effort like the one against Hamilton is not a good step as Trinity looks to force their way to the top. Eric Gendron had the best game in the win over Amherst, posting 6 assists and 5 rebounds to go along with 15 points. It is still unclear who the “go-to” scorer is in West Hartford, as the Bantams will get a chance to prove that they’re out of the cellar of the league.

Bowdoin (10-3, 1-1)

Last Week: 71-50 W @ Bates, 87-65 L @ Tufts

This Week: vs. Trinity

Things went very well for the Polar Bears last Friday as they kept Bates to a cold shooting night from the floor. Tufts is a good team, but Bowdoin is not making a great case for themselves losing by 22. Bowdoin’s leading scorer, David Reynolds ’20, actually comes off the bench, but puts up 15.4PPG, as well as 5.2REB/G and 2.1AST/G. Zavier Rucker ’21 is looking like one of the most steady point guards in the league in just his first year, and helps maneuver a quiet but dangerous Polar Bear offense. They welcome the Trinity this weekend in a game that will certainly tell us a lot about each team.

Amherst (8-4, 0-1)

Last Week: 69-63 L @ Trinity

This Week: vs. Conn College, vs. Wesleyan

After the game against Trinity there have been whispers about Amherst not being as good this year. And most of those whispers came from me. Trinity is not one of the best teams in the NESCAC, and Amherst wasn’t able to pull out a close win, a game that they have traditionally won over the years. They didn’t play poorly by any means, but the fact that they didn’t play poorly and still lost to a middle-of-the-pack team shows that they are down this year. They could turn things around this weekend by stealing a win against Wesleyan.

Bates (8-6, 1-1)

Last Week: 71-50 L vs. Bowdoin, 83-76 W vs. Colby

This Week: @ Middlebury, @ Williams

This week made it difficult to judge a Bobcat team because they really showed both sides of who they are this year. Against Bowdoin they simply couldn’t score, and they had no offensive threats at all. Against Colby the shots were falling, and Nick Lynch ’19 looked like the type of big man they need in Lewiston when he posted a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds. It really looks like Jeff Spellman ’20 and Tom Coyne ’20 are the only scorers in this Bates lineup and if they have off nights, the rest of the lineup can’t provide the firepower they need. They would really impress this weekend if they were able to steal a win from either the Panthers or the Ephs.

Colby (7-5, 0-2)

Last Week: 94-83 L @ Tufts, 83-76 L @ Bates

This Week vs. Trinity

Colby played well at times against Tufts, but lacked the star power to be a team as good as the Jumbos. They were hoping for a bounce-back win against Bates, but were denied at the hands of Nick Lynch and the Bobcats. Dean Weiner ’19 is having an outstanding junior campaign. He is a double-double machine, posting 17 points and 10 rebounds against Tufts, followed by a 19-point, 11-rebound effort against Bates. He isn’t getting a ton of help, so the Mules have struggled. They’ll look to turn it around this weekend against the Bantams.

Conn College (5-8, 0-2)

Last Week: 82-60 L vs. Middlebury, 91-57 L vs. Williams

This Week: @ Amherst, @ Hamilton

Things look bleak in New London. As we’ve mentioned, David Labossiere ’19 is having a breakout junior season and Dan Draffan ’21 is making a case for Rookie of the Year, but they don’t really have much else. They defeated Fisher in a non-conference affair on Tuesday. They’ll face a struggling Amherst squad and then Hamilton, so hopefully that win is just the spark they were looking for.

Here at Last: Wesleyan vs. Middlebury Game of the Week Preview

Ah we’re finally here – the start of conference games. Despite there only being one remaining unblemished team in the NESCAC, we see four schools in the top 25, with several others just outside. Although there are only two games this weekend (Wesleyan competing in both) that feature both teams within the top 25, there are some huge games between schools traditionally viewed as “bottom-tier” looking to climb the totem pole. Getting off to a good start is vital in a conference where everyone only plays each other once, and these early season games will start to give some shape to the standings. It’s never easy to pick a game-of-the-week because they’re all  important, but the matchup between Wesleyan and Middlebury on Saturday is about as big an opening-weekend game as they come. The Cardinals play the host this time, seeking their first win over the Panthers in 13 years. With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at the battle for the most average mascot in the NESCAC (and the top spot in the league:)

Overview

Wesleyan enters this game at 14th in the latest national poll, despite a tough

Kevin O’Brien ’19 and Jordan Bonner ’19, seen here apparently judging someone for their shoe choice, are responsible for much of Wesleyan’s offense.

loss last week to a good, yet struggling Springfield squad after a 9-0 start to the season. They square off with Williams on Friday night in a rematch of an epic battle from before the holiday break, so the result of that will certainly give us more indication of how the Cardinals will look for their showdown with Middlebury. The win over Williams was easily their biggest win of the season so far, being that it was on the road and pre-Scadlock injury. They haven’t had a particularly challenging schedule otherwise, but they have still looked very tough nonetheless. The Cardinals distribute their scoring fairly evenly, but they have found the star power they were searching for in Jordan Bonner ’19, who has been huge in filling the scoring void left by the graduation of Joseph Kuo ’17 and Harry Rafferty ’17. However, Coach Reilly’s squad really prides themselves on their defense, only allowing 62.8 points per game, good for first in the conference. This stingy defense will be crucial in stopping a high-powered offense like that of Middlebury, so look for the Cardinals to try and slow the game down, forcing the Panthers into half court sets and making them work for every basket.

Wesleyan X-Factor: G Kevin O’Brien ’19

Kevin O'Brien
Kevin O’Brien ’19 (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)

Being the fundamentally sound, defensive-minded team that they are, Kevin O’Brien ’19 is exactly what Coach Reilly could ask for. Despite only averaging 9 points per game, O’Brien shoots 63% from the field, which places him at 4th in the conference. This essentially means that he doesn’t shoot often, but when he does, it goes in. In order to keep up with an offense like Middlebury’s, he will have to continue this type of offensive efficiency. While he may not be a huge scorer, O’Brien fills out the stat sheet in nearly every other way possible. He comes in at 2nd in the NESCAC in assists per game (6.3), 8th in blocks per game (1.2), and he leads the league in steals per game (2.2). The focus for O’Brien will be on not turning the ball over, because he also leads the league with 4.4 turnovers per game. If he is able to control the ball, the efficiency that he provides will make the Cardinals very difficult to stop on the offensive end. On the other side of the ball, O’Brien’s 6’5”, 200lb frame makes him the ideal size to defend just about any position on the court. However, being one of the league’s premier defensive players, he will likely be given the task of dealing with Jack Daly, which is a very tall order. If he can stop or even slow down Daly, it will put Wesleyan in an excellent position to come out on top. A lot is going to be asked of Kevin O’Brien this weekend, but it is no secret that the Cardinals will only be able to fly as high as he can take them.

Middlebury X-Factor: F Nick Tarantino ’18

Nick Tarantino
Nick Tarantino ’18 (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

While both Wesleyan and Middlebury are led by stellar backcourts, it is the play of forward Nick Tarantino ’18 that will decide the game for the Panthers. Tarantino fills out his big man duties averaging 8 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game, but in order to take down the Cardinals on the road, more will be expected of him. His season average is 8.8 points per game, however he has given us glimpses of what he is capable of, putting up 17 points against Endicott and 20 versus Skidmore, both of whom were NCAA tournament teams from last season. The closest thing to a true big man that Wesleyan has is freshman Jordan James ’21, who is still learning the ins and outs of college basketball. At 6’7”, 205lbs, Tarantino isn’t considered a “center” per se, he will have to both bang around down low with James, and step outside on forward Nathan Krill ’18 who is capable of stepping back and knocking down threes. To this point, Tarantino has seen 20 minutes of action per game, but now that conference play has started, it will be important to see if he can get enough rest to play an efficient 25-30 minutes. If he can play good post defense, rebound, and score when he’s asked to in these extended minutes, it is hard to envision Wesleyan being able to slow down yet another outstanding Panther team.

Final Thoughts

This matchup will help us answer the age-old question that the Joker posed at the end of The Dark Knight – what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? The contrasting styles of these two teams could not be more obvious: Wesleyan lives by the adage that defense wins championships, whereas Middlebury employs the run-and-gun strategy that has brought them so much success over the years. My guess is that this game will get a bit higher scoring than Wesleyan would like, and they will not get to enjoy their home-court advantage to its fullest extent with no students back on campus yet. Each of these teams has a game on Friday that will factor in, with Wesleyan hosting Williams and Middlebury traveling to New London to take on Conn College. The fact that Wesleyan has a much more difficult Friday night game plays heavily to the Panthers’ advantage, as they will look to get out to a big lead over the Camels, and rest up for the next day. I believe that the star power of Jack Daly ’18 and Matt Folger ’20 will prove to be too much for the Cardinals to handle, and Wesleyan will have to wait yet another year to try and take down the mighty Panthers.

Writer’s Pick: Middlebury 82-75

The Top is Up for Grabs: Stock Report 1/3

The holiday break brought us quite a bit of surprise this year, which is actually pretty new for NESCAC basketball. As we have mentioned time and time again, NESCAC teams traditionally beat up on non-conference teams in early season games. This season has looked a little bit different thus far. Again, the early season games are about trying different schemes and finding out what works best for each team, so it is not all that surprising to see some strange results. Despite this fact, there were some notable things that took place as many teams traveled all over the nation to take on the best teams Division III has to offer:

Stock Up:

Tufts

KJ Garrett
One of the best athletes in the league, KJ Garrett ’18 gives Tufts the depth to rise to the top of the league once again.

After a sluggish start to the season (in part due to tough scheduling), Tufts has begun to find their identity. Although they did not play their absolute best basketball out in California, they were still able to head back to the east coast with two victories. Vincent Pace ’18 has looked every bit of the star player they were counting on, with two convincing performances. Pace put on two solid performances, beginning with a 19-point, 6-rebound effort against Pomona-Pitzer. Against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps he struggled a bit from the field, going 5-17 and 1-7 from behind the arc. He was still able to overcome this tough shooting night by going 5-5 from the free-throw line to finish with 16 points. What makes him such a great player is that he continues to find ways to impact the game outside of scoring, which he displayed by hauling in 13 rebounds against CMS. The Jumbos also benefit from the return of KJ Garrett ’18, and this is huge for their depth as Garrett provides consistent guard play and the rebounding spark that they need. Tufts is proving yet again why they belong at the top of the league.

Williams F James Heskett ‘19

James Heskett
James Heskett ’19 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

The loss of Kyle Scadlock ’19 left a lot of production up for grabs in the Eph lineup. James Heskett ’19 has stepped up to fill the scoring void in a very big way. While he stands at 6’8”, Heskett is as pure a shooter as they come. Over the break he put up two monster scoring efforts, and was incredibly efficient in doing so. Despite a disappointing loss to Hamline, Heskett poured in 24 points on 9-12 shooting, including 5-8 from deep. He followed this up with an even more impressive performance against Cal Lutheran, lighting them up for 29 points on 9-15 from the field, 5-10 from three-point land, and 6-6 from the free throw line en route to a bounce-back win. These types of games are exactly what Williams is looking for in the wake of the Scadlock injury, and fortunately it extends beyond just Heskett. The Ephs employ a four-guard lineup that is absolutely lethal from beyond the three-point line, and they love to shoot, leading the conference in both made threes and attempted threes. This strategy is even more effective given that they are centered around the outstanding big-man duo of Michael Kempton ’20 and Matt Karpowicz ’20. Even without Scadlock, this is a very dangerous Williams squad that certainly has the rest of the league on notice.

Kena Gilmour and Hamilton

Hamilton now stands alone as the only undefeated team remaining in the NESCAC. Despite a relatively unimpressive non-conference schedule, the Continentals continue to impress. Kena Gilmour ’20 has now become a household name, earning MVP honors at the Greyhound Classic in which Hamilton took home the trophy. Gilmour dropped 22 points and posted a career-high 11 rebounds against Lebanon Valley, then followed that up with 23 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 steals in the title game against a strong Moravian team. Hamilton is continually aided by hot three-point shooting, most notably Tim Doyle ’19 and Joe Pucci ’18 who are first and second respectively in 3-point percentage. At this point we just have to wait and see if the Continentals can bring this type of play into conference games, because they have done all they can do at this point to show that they are ready to jump into the top echelon of the ‘CAC.

Reigning NESCAC Player of the Week Kena Gilmour and Hamilton have the league on notice…for now.

Stock Down:

Ranked NESCAC Teams

It seems that being ranked in the top 25 this year has been a curse for NESCAC teams. Early in the year, Bowdoin made a jump into the D3 hoops rankings, then proceeded to lose back-to-back games to Colby and St. Joe’s. Williams got as high as third in the rankings, then lost to Wesleyan at home (pre-Scadlock injury), but remained in the top 10. They then lost to a relatively weak Hamline team over the break. Middlebury* got all the way up to number 2, then lost two of their last three games, albeit against very good opponents, #13 York and #12 Swarthmore. Wesleyan was undefeated and on the brink of cracking the top 10, and then lost to a struggling Springfield team. This week Hamilton entered at #24 in the national rankings, so the Continentals better watch out, or they will suffer a similar fate as the top dogs.

*I’m going to give Middlebury a break here because Coach Brown absolutely stacked their non-conference schedule. Four of their first nine games were against schools that have seen time in the top 25 this year. Though they hoped for better than a 2-2 finish in those games, I’ll chalk it up to working out the kinks after losing a large portion of their production from last season.

Non-Conference Dominance

I don’t mean to say that the NESCAC has fallen dramatically because the teams are a combined 86-29, which is still very good. What we saw over vacation was a bit different than past years. Hamilton and Trinity were the only teams that won their respective holiday tournaments, and even the teams that didn’t compete in an official tournament struggled a bit. I already talked about the losses of Middlebury, Wesleyan, and Williams (who all won their holiday tournaments last season), but unfortunately for the NESCAC, it extends beyond that. Colby fell to the host Salem State squad in their tournament, Conn College continued their struggles, losing to Maine-Presque Isle, Amherst dropped a game to NAIA Southeastern University, and Bates lost three winnable games to average Concordia University, Brandeis, and St. Joe’s teams.

This is a bit uncharacteristic of the best conference in the NCAA, but it is a tough year to follow after many teams across the league lost big performers from the loaded 2017 class. The reasons for this are varied. Of course, some teams are simply struggling. Williams is still working out the kinks of playing without Scadlock, and Middlebury is simply finally realizing that they lost two of the best guards in the country. But non-conference scheduling has also gotten stronger. As traditional in-state doormats (like Castleton in Vermont) drop NESCAC teams from the schedule, coaches have opted to replace them with strong teams from across the country, meaning more losses outside of NESCAC play for the best teams. This will only benefit the league come league play. The power rankings are going to look a lot different week-to-week, and the league games will be higher quality as teams have experience with quality opponents already. Us NESCAC students will continue to count on our cherished basketball programs to keep us moving through the harsh winter, as we see record-low temperatures devastating the northeast.

To Study or Not To Study: Men’s Basketball Stock Report 12/12

This past Saturday, I got to travel to Colby to watch Bates take on the Mules in Waterville. Bates pulled off the win, 82-79 in a tightly contested matchup that I believe was an instant classic. In front of an unusually raucous crowd for this early in the year, the two teams put on a show. This game had absolutely everything. We saw Matt Hanna hit four consecutive threes and give the crowd an awesome, Russell Westbrook-esque celebration. We saw the players getting chippy. We saw the fans getting chippy. We saw the lead never get above 3 for either team in the final 12 minutes of the game (until Bates hit a few free throws at the very end). We saw a technical foul. We saw Tom Coyne bank home two three pointers from 30+ feet to seal the win for the Bobcats. It was the stuff of legends.

That is what NESCAC basketball is all about. There is nothing like getting to travel to any school for a game and watch their loyal fans pack the gym to watch more drama than a Shakespearean tragedy. Fortunately truth is stranger than fiction, and we get an entire season of games featuring players whose legacies will surely outlast those of Macbeth or Hamlet. Anyways, let’s take a look at how foul or fair each team is looking heading into exam week and a blissfully long winter break.:

Stock up

Bates G Tom Coyne ’20

Tom Coyne
Tom Coyne ’20 can score as well as anyone. (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

Bates got a chance to play both Colby and Bowdoin this week, and each time Coyne put on a show. Despite the 70-63 loss against Bowdoin, he led the game in points with 22, and grabbed 9 rebounds. In the 82-79 win against Colby, he went off for a career-high 30 points on 11-16 from the field, including 6-8 from three-point range. One of the greatest things about the game against Colby was that for the final minutes of the game, the players on the court were Nick Gilpin ’20, Jeff Spellman ’20, Tom Coyne ’20, Kody Greenhalgh ’20, and James Mortimer ’21. This lineup is one that has already shown improvements this year, and they will get to see three full seasons playing on the floor together. Bates is only getting better from here as Coach Furbush has the pieces he needs to develop and build around for the future.

Middlebury F Nick Tarantino ’18

Nick Tarantino
Nick Tarantino ’18 is an absolute beast in the paint (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

Middlebury has been on a tear this season, starting off 6-0 and receiving the #2 national ranking in last week’s poll. They have many weapons, but senior Nick Tarantino ’18 has stood out as exceptional recently. He recorded a double-double against Endicott (an NCAA tournament team from last season), putting up 17 points and 10 rebounds, while dishing out 4 assists. In their last game against national #16 Skidmore (another 2017 NCAA tournament team), he channeled his inner-Ed Ogundeko, posting 20 points (on 9-13 shooting) and 17 rebounds. This type of production is ridiculous alongside weapons like Jack Daly ’18 and Matt Folger ’20. The Panthers are showing us yet again why they belong in the conversation not only for best in the NESCAC, but potentially best in the nation.

Tufts G Vincent Pace ’18

 

Vincent Pace ’18 is definitely living up to his POY-candidate hype (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

Vincent Pace
Vincent Pace ’18 is recovering his pre-injury form. (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

Selected as NESCAC Player of the Week, Pace led the struggling Jumbos to a much-needed 2-0 week. He torched Emerson to the tune of 30 points and 8 rebounds, shooting 13-21 from the field. Pace tied the game with a three, then hit the game winning layup with under a minute left as the ‘Bos erased a 16-point second half deficit. Against UMass-Boston, he guided Tufts to a jaw-dropping 29-1 lead with 13 points and 7 rebounds on the way to a 73-58 win. He has clearly developed as the top scoring threat for a team that looks to gain some traction as they head out to Los Angeles to take on a few of the Claremont schools. If he continues this type of performance and the Jumbos continue to improve, Pace certainly remains in the conversation for NESCAC POY.

Hamilton

The Continentals are now 8-0 (tied for the best record in the NESCAC) and have been playing incredibly well this season. To be honest I believe they deserve a little more credit, only receiving 18 votes in the last national rankings. Only three of their eight wins have been decided by less than 10 points. They are blowing teams out, and putting up a lot of points in the process. Kena Gilmour ’20 leads the team with 17.4PPG and 7REB/G, and Michael Grassey ’19 has shown that he is a huge piece of this Continentals team. Grassey ’19 is putting up 14.1 points per game to go along with 6.5 rebounds,C especially having huge games against Utica and Eastern. Keep an eye on this underrated and young Hamilton squad, because they are a force to be reckoned with in New York.

Kena Gilmour ’20 is one of the most exciting players in the league.

Stock down

Conn College

It has been a tough stretch for the Camels, who are in the midst of a three game losing streak. They lost to both Mitchell and Western New England, neither of whom is particularly good. They sit at 4-5, which makes them the only NESCAC team below .500, with Bates having the second worst record at 5-2. Not to say that they don’t have any good players, because David Labossiere is averaging 18.3 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. They are suffering from the loss of Tyler Rowe ’19, who was 4th in the NESCAC in scoring, but transferred to Western Connecticut this year. Conn College still has matchups with City College of New York and Maine Presque-Isle before they gear up for their first conference matchup with Middlebury. Hopefully the Camels start to turn things around because you never know what can happen in NESCAC play.

Williams’ Title Chances

In the wake of Scadlock’s injury, a lot of weight will fall on PG Bobby Casey’s (19) shoulders.
 Things took a turn for the worst in Williamstown last week when Kyle Scadlock ’19 suffered a torn ACL in the first half of their game against Westfield State. Obviously, this is a crushing blow to both Williams and the league as a whole. Scadlock is one of the most exciting players in the league, as well as the  team’s leading scorer and rebounder. Williams is certainly still one of the best teams in the conference and perhaps the nation, but they have a much steeper hill to climb now. Look for players like Bobby Casey ’19 Michael Kempton ’20 to take on bigger roles, as well as forward James Heskitt ’19. Heskitt may be best suited to take on some of Scadlock’s myriad responsibilities both offensively and defensively, as he is another versatile forward with quick feet. It will take a team effort for Williams to keep pace with Middlebury, Tufts and suddenly hot teams like Wesleyan or Hamilton. Scadlock is only a junior, so hopefully he will return to full health so that we can see what Williams is truly capable of. Best of luck on a speedy recovery, Kyle.

Upset Alert: Men’s Basketball Stock Report 12/5

For those of us that made it out of the library, we saw a pretty exciting week as far as preseason NESCAC basketball goes. The week featured two non-conference, conference games: Colby topped Bowdoin, 89-84 in a high scoring affair, while Wesleyan needed more than just 40 minutes to edge Williams, 72-67, on the road in Williamstown. This week there were fewer extraordinary individual performances, so much of the focus is on the teams as a whole, with much focus on the two aforementioned games. As we eagerly await the start of true conference play, let’s take a long about who is trending up and who is trending down after this exciting week:

Stock up

Wesleyan’s legitimacy

Kevin O’Brien ’19 is emerging as one of the best all around players in the league, and has Wesleyan rising in the rankings.

Going into the year, we weren’t sure what to expect of this Cardinal team who lost three underclassmen, to go along with two graduating seniors. Even when they started 5-0, none of those five wins stood out as particularly impressive. This all changed on Saturday after they took down the no. 3 nationally-ranked Ephs in overtime. Although it won’t count towards the NESCAC standings, this is a very impressive win for Wesleyan. Winning a game against a team of this caliber on the road is not only a resume-booster, but it should give this unproven lineup a huge dose of confidence. The Cardinals are aided by reigning NESCAC player of the week, Jordan Bonner ’19 who dominated against Williams, and has emerged as the top scoring threat in Middletown. They also boast one of the league’s most efficient players in Kevin O’Brien ’19, who averages 10.8PPG, 7REB/G, and 5.8 AST/G, while shooting 62.5% from the field. This type of efficiency will be key for Wesleyan if they would like to stand atop the conference, or even the Little Three, by the end of the season.

Colby

Last week we mentioned Bates and Bowdoin as Maine schools that were on a bit of a tear, and now we can add Colby to the list. They welcomed the Polar Bears to Waterville and put on quite a performance. I’m not a betting man (in compliance with NCAA rules of course), but if I were, I would say that Bowdoin was probably the favorite in this one, entering the game undefeated and ranked #22 nationally. It was a very tight game the entire way, but the Mules simply shot too well to lose this one. They  shot 48.4% from the field, they were 13-32 (40.6%) from beyond the arc en route to a 5-point victory. Their style of play is very offense-oriented and they like to shoot A LOT. However, their pass-first mentality places them first in the league with 20.3 assists per game. They also love to crash the boards, specifically on offense. They are in the middle of the pack (5th) in the conference in total rebounds, but second in offensive rebounds. Colby very much subscribes to living and dying via the three-point shot, but it has worked thus far, as they are second in threes per game. The Mules are very fun to watch, so stay tuned to see how they fare over the next few weeks.

NESCAC parity

This is a much more scrutinized topic in NESCAC football, especially with the conference’s basketball being much deeper, but it does seem that year-in and year-out we see more or less the same teams at the top. It was exciting to see both Wesleyan and Colby (underdogs per se) take down higher ranked teams and show that anything can happen on any given night in the ‘CAC. I am about as big a NESCAC fan as they come, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t have any evidence to back up my claim that the NESCAC is the best conference in the NCAA. 11 of the last 14 Division III Final Fours® have featured at least one team from the NESCAC, and there are no other conferences at any other division that can say the same. Hopefully the new NESCAC-ESPN deal gets off the ground, so we can start airing games that are played at this high of a level. Until then.

Zavier Rucker ’21 is one of the talented young players that are helping less established teams make runs this season.

Stock down

Williams’ little three chances

The mighty Ephs have shown us that they are vulnerable, and Wesleyan showed what it takes to defeat them. The Cardinals stymied the Ephs on defense, holding them to 23-62 (37.1%) from the field and 9-33 (27.3%) from 3-point land. It didn’t get any better from the charity stripe, where Williams went 12-23, good for 52.2%. They were not turning the ball over at a particularly high rate, but their poor showing from the field resulted in a season-low 11 assists. Wesleyan’s defensive effort was superb, and I’m confident the Ephs will bounce back, but this result was pretty shocking considering they came in at #3 in the nation. That said, this was officially a non-conference game, and teams aren’t expected to be in top shape on December 1st. Williams simply has much more to prove with after the first blemish of their season, especially with another non-conference matchup with Amherst looming. With Wesleyan showing that they aren’t messing around and Amherst playing well out of the gates, the Little Three crown will be a lot tougher to grab than we may have thought at the beginning of the year.

Johnny McCarthy as a POY candidate

Amherst’s strong start this year has been a team effort; it’s about the name on the front, not the one on the back.

As a writer, I take pride in my work, and I’m also willing to admit when I was wrong. In the case of McCarthy, it does appear that I was wrong when I discussed him as a possible POY candidate. Nothing against McCarthy or Amherst, because they are off to a great start, appearing at no. 21 in the nation this week. Simply put, Amherst is too balanced for McCarthy to stand out as a candidate for this prestigious award. He is putting up 8.5PPG, 6.0Reb/G, and 2.3AST/G, which are all solid numbers, but not enough to place him under POY consideration. The Mammoths have such a large rotation of players that play at a high level, so no individual is truly standing out. Again, this is not meant to take any jabs at the Mammoths who have being playing really good basketball, but it is interesting to see who will take a step forward once they get to the more difficult portion of their schedule.

New Look NESCAC: 5 NESCAC Basketball Talking Points for Thanksgiving

As the opening weekend of NESCAC basketball comes to a close, we start to see some early headlines. Yes, this is a very small sample size so obviously a lot can and will change, but what better way to spend your Thanksgiving break than over-analyzing NESCAC basketball? That’s what we do at my house at least. We’ve already seen some monstrous individual performances, well-balanced team efforts, and generally A LOT of points put up. Granted, NESCAC schools almost always beat up on their non-conference opponents, finishing the weekend at a combined 20-2, however one of those losses was Bates to Trinity, so someone had to lose that game, and the other was Tufts to no. 9 nationally ranked Wash. U on the road by just 4 points. With this in mind, let’s take a look at 5 talking points to help steer conversation at the Thanksgiving dinner table away from Colin Kaepernick and back in the right direction:

1: Eric Savage is the real deal

Eric Savage ’20 has been an absolute force for the Jumbos so far (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

This weekend we saw three absolutely dominant performances, two of which were somewhat expected: Kyle Scadlock (24PPG, 11REB/G, 53.6% FG, 85% FT) and Jack Daly (17.5PPG, 10.5REB/G, 9AST/G, 52.2% FG). The third huge performance of the weekend, and the surp came as a bit of a surprise in Eric Savage ’20 from Tufts. The aptly named Savage has been just that – tied for the league lead with Scadlock at 24PPG – yet also averaging 14REB/G and 6.5AST/G, both good for 2nd in the conference. What makes these numbers especially notable is that Tufts played easily the hardest opening-weekend schedule, taking down a good Webster team before falling in a close game to a Wash. U team that we will likely see in the NCAA tournament. Obviously, Savage will have to continue putting up numbers similar to these in order to warrant POY consideration especially only being a sophomore, but now we’re able to see how high the ceiling is for him.

2: Bates’ offense needs help

While my bias leads me to believe that Bates is simply undergoing an identity crisis after playing their first two games without the Delpeche twins in five years, frankly, their offense has not been good. Although the loss of the twins is a somewhat valid excuse, losing to Trinity by 28 in their opening game is inexcusable. Fortunately, they were able to salvage total embarrassment by hanging on to a 72-69 victory in overtime against a weak Maine Maritime team. Their defense hasn’t been great, certainly not terrible, however it is the offense that needs a shake up. The Bobcats come in at dead last in the league in points per game, field goal percentage, assists, and rebounds. It doesn’t take an expert to know that this is not good. Interestingly, Bates actually averages the second fewest turnovers in the league. This means that they are simply just not getting good shots, so look for Coach Furbush to continue trying new offenses to see what clicks before we get into conference play.

3: Amherst’s balance

I was hesitant to include this one because we saw nearly the exact same trend at the start of last season – Amherst beats up on their perennially easy first weekend teams, and nearly everyone on their team gets good minutes. Because they used so much of their bench, their stats are a bit skewed at this point, and they will start to use fewer guys once they start to figure out who they are this season. With that in mind, they have still played an incredibly balanced brand of basketball (I’m no English major but I’m pretty sure that’s called an alliteration). The Mammoths have 10 players averaging between 5 and 12 points per game, 8 players averaging between 3 and 8 rebounds per game, and 5 players averaging between 2 and 4 assists per game. This balance is outrageous and with Amherst only having two seniors, it is good to see their younger guys starting to fill roles in a lineup that lost a lot from last season. We will see if they can continue this when their competition picks up.

4: Trinity’s defense looks like that of the Boston Celtics

The Bantam defense looks to take a leap this year, and they are off to a great start in doing just that. They were able to win the Maine Maritime tournament in an easy fashion while holding their opponents to 59 points per game, second to only Amherst. I will say the same thing about Trinity that I said about Amherst: they played a relatively weak schedule this weekend, squaring off against Bates who is undergoing an identity crisis, and Wheelock who is nothing special either. That said, they held their opponents to an abysmal 29.8% from the field including 18.4% from behind the arc. This is honestly a testament to their coaching because they find a way to get a hand up and contest just about every shot, making it brutal for their opponents to get good looks. Without the individual superstar that they have had in the past few seasons, the Bantams will continue to rely on their very good defense to keep them in games.

5: Youth movement across the league

Matt Folger ’20 is as good a scorer as anyone in the league (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

The most exciting headline of the weekend is certainly the new wave of names across the stat leaderboards in the NESCAC. In fact, 8 of the top 10 leading scorers from this weekend were either a sophomore or junior, and as a fan of the conference as a whole, this is great news. Almost every team has asked one or a few underclassmen to step into larger roles to fill a void left on their team, and these underclassmen have performed admirably. There are a ton of juniors who have already made an impact and will continue to do so, but certainly keep an eye on sophomores such as Eric Savage (Tufts), Jeff Spellman (Bates), Kena Gilmour (Hamilton), and Matt Folger (Middlebury) not only as dark horse scoring title candidates for this year, but POY candidates a year or two down the road.

Thanksgiving is a crazy time – seeing family, catching up on work, starting to think about exams (that word itself just makes me cringe), and many, many other things, but the thrill of the NESCAC basketball season is finally upon us. For us NESCAC students, this means an absurdly long and dark winter, but it also means packing every last person possible into each of our respective gyms to cheer on our most beloved basketball teams. There is something in everyone that makes us inherently proud of where we go to school, and basketball manifests this sentiment better than anything. This is the beginning of an awful and amazing time of year and I don’t know about anyone else, but I couldn’t be more excited.

 

Who’s Got What It Takes?: Top 5 NESCAC POY Candidates

With football season coming to a close, and the weather getting unsettlingly cold for this early in the season – 4 inches of snow already in Lewiston – it’s time to get serious about basketball. We lost an immensely talented group of seniors across the league, and we’ll start to see some new names headlining the best conference in Division III (and I will fight anyone who says otherwise). This makes choosing player of the year candidates a bit challenging because although the conference loves giving the award to seniors, we don’t see the same dominance that we’ve seen from the past few groups. This makes the future look that much more exciting with the NESCAC shrouded in mystery.

2016-2017 NESCAC Player of the year: G Matt St. Amour ’17 (#4 Middlebury)

22.0PPG, 4.7REB/G, 3.0AST/G, 42% 3PT

Matt St. Amour
Matt St. Amour ’17 (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

Last season we saw the Player of the Year Award given to one of the best pure scorers in recent NESCAC memory in St. Amour, who led Middlebury to the conference championship and an Elite Eight appearance in his senior campaign. Half of the top 10 leading scorers in conference play last year return to this year, so we’ll certainly keep an eye on them moving forwards.

I have tried to lay this out as simply as possible: stats and info on each player, along with some notable facts, and a significant game to highlight from last season. Yes, that does make it significantly easier for me to write, but I’m hoping it also makes it easier for the readers to compare each of these players. That’s the hope at least.

Note: all stats are from conference play only.

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

G/F Johnny McCarthy ’18 (Amherst) – 6’5”, 205lbs

2016-2017: 14.7PPG, 9.4REB/G, 46.3% FG, 32.2% 3PT

McCarthy was an absolute workhorse for the Purple & White last year, leading the league with 33.1 minutes per game. And with Jayde Dawson being out of eligability, McCarthy will get all the touches he wants and more. As a true wing with his 6’5” frame, he is a double-double machine, recording 6 last season, 5 of which were against NESCAC opponents. It is tough to pick out one game in particular in a season where McCarthy had monstrous numbers, but in a win against then-no. 9 Tufts he put up 18 points and 14 rebounds, along with 3 blocks. With the amount of time he spends in the game, he will continue to be one of Amherst’s most reliable players and if he can keep putting up video 2K-like numbers, he is one of the top candidates for the NESCAC’s most coveted award.

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

F Jack Simonds ’19 (Bowdoin) – 6’6”, 225lbs

2016-2017: 16.0PPG, 4.9REB/G

One could argue that no single player is more valuable to their respective team than Simonds is for the Polar Bears. It was a little disappointing to see that his average dropped from 19PPG to 16PPG in conference play, but he still has a lot of time to develop, just entering his junior season. Simonds is a natural scorer who has the type of shot-creating ability and confident demeanor that beg for the ball to be in his hands at the end of a close game. Having a player like this is rare and although he is only halfway through his career, he has shown that he is capable of putting up huge numbers, especially under an offense that puts the ball in his hands every possession. Only Matt St. Amour, Daniel Aronowitz, and Jayde Dawson attempted more field goals last year than Simonds, and that is a trend that is certainly going to continue into this season. Like McCarthy, Simonds spends a lot of time on the floor, finishing with the 6th highest minutes per game in the NESCAC with 32.3 in 2016-2017. If he can get enough rest and his supporting cast can keep them in the game without him, he is a vital part of Bowdoin’s lineup, and a player to build around for the next two years. In what was surely the Polar Bear’s biggest win last season against Williams, Simonds went off for 32 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists, while going 7-8 from the line. This type of production is absolutely ridiculous, and undoubtedly places Simonds among the NESCAC’s elite.

Vincent Pace
Vincent Pace ’18 (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

F Vincent Pace ’18 (preseason #6 Tufts) – 6’6”, 205lbs

2016-2017: 11.9PPG, 6.4REB/G

While he put up more than respectable numbers last season, this is the year for Pace to break out. Tufts lost a lot of production in the graduation of Tom Palleschi ’17 and Tarik Smith ’17, and Pace is ready to step into a much bigger role. He shot a modest 35% from the field, while going 28% from behind the arc, and 63.3% from the line.  With a jump shot as nice as Pace’s, his shooting numbers should be considerably higher. His 11.9 points per game average is also a bit deceiving, because he was only playing 26.7 minutes per game last year as he recovered from a knee injury, good for a pedestrian 28th in the NESCAC. He should see considerably more touches this year, likely resulting in higher production. His rebounding numbers also increased significantly when Palleschi was battling injury, and this is hopeful for his production on the glass this season as well. No game is more indicative of Pace’s upward trending value than in the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament when he absolutely lit up St. John Fischer for 37 points and 6 rebounds, on 12-17 shooting, 5-6 from downtown, and 8-9 from the line en route to a 94-81 victory. Obviously these are absurd numbers and this was a bit of an anomaly, but it shows what Pace is capable of, and what he will try to do in leading this year’s Jumbo squad.

Jack Daly
Jack Daly ’18 (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

G Jack Daly ’18 (preseason #8 Middlebury) – 6’3”, 190lbs

2016-2017: 10.9PPG, 6.5REB/G, 5.5AST/G, 49.3% FG, 45.5% 3PT

Daly is among the many across the league who will step into a much larger role after Middlebury graduated a significant portion of their lineup from last year, most notably Jake Brown ’17 and Matt St. Amour ’17. I believe that Daly is more than capable of filling this role, and was often forced to take more of a backseat to the duo of Brown and St. Amour, specifically in the scoring department. Look for his scoring numbers to take a jump up this year, especially if he can continue to be lethal from long range. His usage also lends itself to an uptick in scoring because he finished last season at 2nd in the NESCAC with 32.9 minutes per game. What makes Daly so valuable, however, is how much balance he offers, dishing out a conference-best 5.5 assists per game and hauling in an impressive 6.5 rebounds per game despite only being 6’3”, to go along with his scoring ability. Something to keep an eye on is that Daly fouled out 4 times last year, 3 of those games were losses, and the last one was in the Elite Eight to Williams, so Daly must stay out of foul trouble to be the team’s true leader. While Daly has had his fair share of double-doubles, he missed a triple-double by just one assist in a win against Trinity last season, putting up 19 points, 10 rebounds, and 9 assists. He was able to get to the line quite a bit that game, something he will likely continue to do this year, as he gets stronger. Keep an eye on Daly engineering yet another outstanding Panthers team this season.

Kyle Scadlock
Kyle Scadlock ’19 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

F Kyle Scadlock ’19 (preseason #3 Williams) – 6’7”, 205lbs

2016-2017: 8.5PPG, 5.0REB/G, 43.4% FG, 56.7% FT, 2.7TO/G

Scadlock rounds out this list as a bit of an enigma, but as Colby referenced in the Williams Season Preview, he has the tools to be a superstar. He started last year putting up solid numbers, then hit a bit of a cold spell in the middle of the season. The reason that he even warrants consideration for an honor this high is what he was able to do in postseason play. His regular-season stats were relatively average, especially compared to the rest of the players on this list, but take a look at his conference and NCAA Tournament stats, when the shoe almost fit just right on Williams’ Cinderella run to the Final Four last year:

NESCAC Tournament: 16.0PPG, 8.7REB/G, 67.7% FG, 88.9% FT

NCAA Tournament: 15.2PPG, 6.4REB/G, 3.0AST/G, 53.7% FG, 55.6% 3P, 90% FT

It is ridiculous what Scadlock was able to do, particularly because he was doing it against the best competition on the biggest stages. He put up one huge game after another, but the Sweet 16 was the most impressive of them all, when he torched Susquehanna to the tune of 22 points and 12 rebounds, while going 12-12 from the charity stripe. These are the numbers he is capable of with his rare combination of size and athleticism, giving him one of the highest ceilings of anyone in the NESCAC.

Final Thoughts:

There are certainly more than just 5 players capable of winning Player of the Year, and there are a lot of question marks, as many teams will see some unproven youngsters fill spots in their lineups. Of course, this article is written with the knowledge that end-of-the-year awards tend to be biased towards seniors. There are many non-seniors who could have a shot at the trophy if the older group struggles. Peter Hoffmann ’19 and Kena Gilmour ’20 for Hamilton come to mind, as does Middlebury’s Matt Folger ‘2o, Amherst’s Michael Riopel ’19, and Williams’ Matt Karpowicz ’20. If we were to do a midseason updated POY watch list (and we probably will), it might look completely different, but that’s what makes this league great. Buckle up folks, ‘cause we’re in for another fantastic year of NESCAC basketball.

Wisdom Comes Not With Age: Bates Men’s Basketball Season Preview

Bates College Bobcats 

2016-2017 Record: 15-10 (4-6 NESCAC), lost to Middlebury in NESCAC Quarterfinals

2017-2018 Projected Record: 12-12 (2-8 NESCAC)

Key Losses:

F Malcolm Delpeche ’17 (13.2PPG, 8.8REB/G, 3.1BLK/G)

F Marcus Delpeche ’17 (15.1PPG, 9.7REB/G, 54.3% FG)

G Jerome Darling ’17 (8.2PPG, 2.9AST/G)

Projected Starting Lineup: 

G: Shawn Strickland ’18 (Injured most of 2016-2017)

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

Leading a relatively unproven crowd in the 2017-2018 campaign is team captain Shawn Strickland. After a successful sophomore year, Strickland was injured for most of last season, playing sparingly at the end. He is a tenacious on-ball defender who provides a pesky matchup for whoever he is guarding. His ability to score and his outstanding court vision make him a threat on offense, but the Bobcats are going to need him to expand his range this year. He has shown that he is capable of knocking down the occasional 3-pointer, but with the loss of the Delpeche twins, he will have to show that he can provide a much more substantial amount of offense. What really sets Strickland apart is his basketball IQ. He is a very mature ball-handler who has to be prepared to quarterback a team that is very underclassmen-oriented, and keep the game at the pace Bates would like.

G: Nick Gilpin ‘20 (5.2PPG, 3.6REB/G, 3.6AST/G)

Nick Gilpin
Nick Gilpin ’20 (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

For much of his first season, Gilpin subscribed to the “coach’s son” stereotype, pretty evenly filling out the stat sheet. What was nice about Gilpin’s freshman season is that he showed steady improvement as the year went on, developing into his role as a starter. While he may not be a massive presence on the floor, his surprising athleticism helps him in rebounding as well as absorbing contact and finishing around the rim. He, too, will need to expand his range to help the new-look Bobcat offense, because their four-guard offense is only going to be successful if they can stretch the floor and knock down threes. Gilpin spent a lot of time at point guard last season and will likely continue to do so this season, so maturity from him will be crucial if he wants to keep up with the terrific guard play throughout the conference.

G: Jeff Spellman ’20 (9.6PPG, 2.9 REB/G, 51.4% FG)

Jeff Spellman
Jeff Spellman ’20 (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

Perhaps no one will be more vital for the Bobcats’ success this season than Jeff Spellman. Although he only stands at 6’2”, Spellman is one of the best athletes in the NESCAC. He did not see full minutes after coming off injury last year, and only had one start, but his style of play will likely benefit most from the loss of Malcolm and Marcus. While they were absolute beasts down low, Spellman requires space, and they planted themselves in the middle, often clogging the paint. His skill in creating shots coupled with his ability to get to the rim and finish through contact makes him one of the most deadly guards in the league. This talent did not get a chance to fully blossom with the Delpeches down low, so look for Spellman to explode into a breakout second year.

G: Max Hummel ’19 (6.7PPG, 35.6% 3P%)

Max Hummel
Max Hummel ’19 (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

Hummel has an interesting role on this year’s team because at 6’4”, he’s one of the taller players on the roster; however, he likes to play around the perimeter. This is acceptable, because he shoots threes at a solid 35.6% clip, but this team needs more production than just that. The rebounding void that the twins left results in a team-wide need to crash the boards. I’m not saying Hummel needs to be hauling in 10 rebounds a game, but he will need to produce more than the 1.9REB/G he was contributing last season.

This spot in the starting lineup is definitely up for grabs, because with Hummel’s de facto responsibility as a role player, much time in this spot will rotate between a few people. Tom Coyne ’20 and Justin Zukowski ’18 will help expand the court with sharpshooting abilities off the bench in this spot. Bates’ biggest issue is size, because they will start only one player over 6’3”, so if they are looking to go with a bigger lineup, we will definitely see them go deeper into the bench to be able to match the size of some of the other NESCAC powers.

C: Nick Lynch ’19 (Injured most of 2016-2017)

Nick Lynch
Nick Lynch ’19 (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

A lot remains to be seen from Nick Lynch ’19, because he is another Bobcat that is entirely unproven. His size at 6’7”, 230lbs makes him an obvious choice to play at the 5 in this lineup, but what to expect out of him is a bit of a question mark. He got decent minutes as a freshman, but was injured for almost the entirety of the 2016-2017 season so he has a lot to prove this season as one of the older players in the lineup. With the fast-paced offense that Bates expects to run, Lynch will have to spend time on the bench getting rest, especially after not having played a full season in two years. Lynch’s role is akin to that of Aron Baynes on this year’s Celtics squad: clog the paint, rebound, and hit a shot once in a while. He, too, is part of the supporting cast to go along with Bates’ up and coming backcourt, but how his talents will be utilized within the offensive scheme is yet to be seen.

Breakout Player:

 G: Jeff Spellman ’20 (9.6PPG, 2.9 REB/G, 51.4% FG)

When I said that Spellman was going to have a breakout second season, I meant it. Ever since stepping on campus last fall, Spellman has bit quite the enigma. After being recruited by a number of strong Division I programs in the northeast, Spellman ultimately enrolled at Stonehill to play on the basketball team there. He spent less than a week there before deciding to take a gap year, and reopen his recruiting process. Enter Coach Furbush. Furbush had always kept an eye on Jeff, but made sure to keep his distance when he clearly had his sights set on playing at the Division I or II levels. As it turns out, this was exactly what Spellman was looking for, so he elected to take his talents to Lewiston and famed Alumni Gym.

Jeff Spellman ’20 is a dark horse candidate for the scoring title this season.

Like I said before, Spellman is athletic specimen who has one of the quickest first steps in the league. His ability to score and defend almost any sized guard makes him one of the most versatile players on this team. The most is going to be asked of him, because his ceiling is by far the highest of anyone on the roster. He got his feet wet last year, but Bates will need him to dive all the way in if they are going to have success.

Everything Else:

Bates will certainly see some of the biggest changes of any team this season. Graduating two of the biggest nightmares in recent NESCAC memory results in a completely new scheme under Coach Furbush. As a coach, he and the Bates staff have always prided themselves on being defensive-minded, liking to grind out wins in low-scoring games, often in the 60s and even 50s. Like the best tend to do, Furbush tailored their game plan around what they have: athletic shooters who like to run. The Bobcats will live by the mantra that the best defense is a good offense, because for them to be effective this season, they will have to spread the floor, shoot a lot of threes, and run. From a fan’s perspective, this will make Bates games infinitely more fun to watch, as many of their scores will end in the 80s and 90s. You may have noticed that I have barely mentioned defense at all thus far, and that was fully intentional. Truthfully, the defense is going to be lacking, but with this Golden State Warriors-esque offensive game plan it is hard to envision many low scoring games this season.

Ask anyone in the game and they will tell you that there is no such thing as a “building year.” While I am not saying that the ‘Cats need to rebuild, they have a ton of youth on their roster, with 11 of their 17 players being either a freshman or sophomore. This means that a lot will be asked of the youngsters, even the freshman. The addition of James Mortimer ’21 and Sunny Piplani ’21 gives Bates a bit more size that they had been lacking. Mortimer ’21 will definitely see extended minutes, because at 6’4”, he has the size to defend just about any position, while his athleticism will keep him on the floor in the high-speed offense. Piplani ’21 offers a much-needed 3 and D type presence. He is a deadly sharpshooter who will be crucial in spreading the floor, but he will be asked to rebound and defend against some of the biggest players in the conference, so we’ll see what he has to offer.

Another exciting newcomer is Kody Greenhalgh ’20. Although he was recruited to play both football and basketball at Bates, Greenhalgh decided to only play football last season. This year, he committed to basketball, where he is likely more talented anyways. His athleticism at guard provides another option to employ in this scheme that will require a lot of moving parts. The depth that he brings will be important, especially because he joins this guard-heavy sophomore class.

Because of all the youth that Bates has, their early season, non-NESCAC schedule will be huge for their development. They have matchups with Trinity, Bowdoin, and Colby prior to winter break, none of which count towards the conference standings. These games will be hugely important in the maturation of the young guys, because getting to feel the intensity of a NESCAC game without the same stakes allows them to try different things and see what fits best with their team. Last year Bates lost at home to Colby by a point, but then went on to beat them handily in the game that actually counted, so we are able to see how vital those early-season games are.

Bates enjoys the best home court advantage in the league.

Although Bates enjoys by far the best home court advantage in the league, the scheduling gods were nice to opponents this year. Two of the five home conference games will be played when students haven’t returned to campus yet. As a Bates fan, this is devastating news, because almost every year the Bobcats are able to pull off a home upset like they were last year, handling then-no. 4 nationally ranked Tufts. A disclaimer for Amherst, Trinity, and Hamilton who have road trips to Lewiston at the very end of the year: come to play, because no one forgets their visit to Alumni Gym.

The Usual Suspects: Stock Report 10/23

Although we saw a relatively unsurprising series of results in this weekend’s games, there were certainly some important headlines and things to focus on as we move into the final third of the season. The only real excitement this week was that Amherst (5-1) topped Wesleyan (4-2) in an ugly game out at Amherst, but then again someone had to lose that game as we start to see the top teams in the league squaring off against each other. Hamilton squeaked out a 3-point victory over Colby at home, holding on to their unofficial title as “the best of the rest,” and now Trinity, Middlebury, and Amherst are the only remaining teams with championship hopes. And luckily for us, Middlebury and Trinity meet this Saturday in a de-facto league championship.

Stock Up

 Colby’s Offense

Jack O'Brien
Jack O’ Brien ’20 (Courtesy of Colby Athletics)

This one could just be called the O’Brien-Snyder duo, but I will give credit to Colby’s entire offense. Against Hamilton, QB Jack O’Brien ’20 did his best Matt Stafford impression, going 28-41 for 241 yards and 2 touchdowns, while throwing no interceptions, to ultimately still fall short 27-24. Colby entered the game with just 7 points as their previous season high, so finishing with 24 is clearly an upgrade no matter what the outcome. O’Brien’s favorite target was undoubtedly WR Mark Snyder ’18, whom he connected with 7 times for 99 yards and 2 TDs. Putting up 24 points is obviously a huge step forward for Colby’s offense, not only scoring more points, but allowing their defense to actually get a break on the sideline instead of having to come right back onto the field. Look for O’Brien and Snyder to continue to do damage as Colby gets into their CBB matchups against the much weaker Bates and Bowdoin squads.

Middlebury’s Depth

 There really was not much to highlight from the Bates-Middlebury matchup this weekend, as Middlebury did exactly what they expected to do, blowing out Bates 43-17. What was interesting about Middlebury’s offensive attack, however, was that 10 different receivers caught a pass of at least 5 yards, 7 receivers had at least 2 receptions, and 7 receivers had between 20 and 75 receiving yards. This is an incredible amount of balance in a receiving corps that leads the league in yards and touchdowns, with much thanks to QB Jared Lebowitz ’18. Despite a week 5 loss to Williams, Middlebury’s title hopes are still very much alive thanks to early season wins over Amherst and Wesleyan. This type of balance and depth will give Middlebury a chance to score a lot of points against an elite defense as Trinity comes to town for a big week 7 showdown.

Amherst’s Credibility

 I was hesitant to include this one, because I don’t feel that Amherst has done much to lose credibility despite a somewhat down year in 2016. Prior to the Wesleyan game, Amherst had not beaten a “top tier” team. They took care of Bates, Colby, Bowdoin, and Hamilton, but fell to Middlebury, keeping them in the middle of the conference. After grinding out a 21-17 against Wesleyan, they have certainly solidified their place amongst the top teams in the NESCAC, even while dealing with quarterback uncertainty all year.

Stock Down

Wesleyan’s Title Hopes

 I know the same could be said for Williams this week too, but with all due respect to the Ephs, Wesleyan’s expectations for this season were a little bit higher. After losing week 1 to Middlebury, the Cardinals got hot, winning 4 in a row. Amherst had been struggling to find a consistent quarterback, and Wesleyan was just not able to capitalize. Lots of credit needs to go to the Amherst defense, who held Piccirillo and co. to just 197 yards of total offense. Piccirillo ’18 didn’t throw an interception and Wesleyan didn’t lose a fumble, which is why I am more inclined to say that Wesleyan simply could not get anything going on offense. With Dario Highsmith ’20 out, there was no rushing attack for Amherst to respect, so they could key in on the secondary. Wesleyan has no choice but to play the spoiler for the rest of the season, with intriguing matchups versus Williams and Trinity on the horizon.

Jared Lebowitz’s Health

If Jared Lebowitz ’18 is healthy, the Panthers could knock off Trinity. But that’s a big “if.”

Potentially the biggest story of the weekend is that Middlebury QB Jared Lebowitz ’18 left the game against Bates in the second quarter with what appeared to be some sort of ankle or knee injury. This is not meant to be a knock on the rest of Middlebury’s team, but it is no secret that their offense is contingent upon having Lebowitz’ under center. I don’t know the full extent or even much about the injury at all – it is possible that he was merely roughed up on a play against Bates, and with the game being so secure, the substitution was merely precautionary. I certainly hope this is the case, because like any other NESCAC fan, I’m eager to see how Middlebury’s offense stacks up against the mighty Trinity defense. Either way, this is worth keeping an eye on because even if Lebowitz plays next week, his performance could be limited.