It’s been just over a month now since my baseball career and college career came to an end. While I haven’t written a blog in a few months (as Pete happily pointed out towards the end of the semester), I enjoyed watching from arm’s length as Pete and Devin handled NESCAC baseball coverage this spring. Now that I’ve taken some time to digest the fact that I don’t have many days left before I enter the grueling grind of nine to five, I’ve come to realize the fact that one of my favorite parts of college has been writing for Nothing But NESCAC. It might seem a bit corny to write about NESCAC football and basketball games as if they were nationally televised SEC and ACC contests, but for me it has served as a chance to shine some light on the successes of my fellow Division III athletes.
I first heard of NbN my freshman year at Tufts when my roommate, Tim Superko, started cracking up in our dorm room and called me over to his computer. I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw Adam’s equation demonstrating that Superko is a mashup of Paul Konerko and Superman. That kept me reading, and as I enjoyed keeping up with the site throughout my sophomore year, I decided to go out on a limb one night on Twitter and slid into the DMs of the NbN account to ask if I could write for basketball season. To my surprise, Joe responded almost immediately, and just like that, I was on board.
During that first basketball season (my junior year), I was just trying to get my feet wet. I went to every Tufts basketball game (spoiler alert: I’m a Tufts basketball superfan, always have been, always will be) and had grown up at Amherst college basketball games, so I felt like I knew quite a bit about NESCAC hoops. As it turned out, I had a lot to learn about the league, and a lot more to learn about journalistic writing. Regardless, I had a blast that winter. Writing weekly blogs, conducting interviews, and watching NESCAC basketball became my hobbies outside of academics and baseball. Soon enough, the remaining spare time that I had was replaced with editing and arguing with Pete over game predictions and All-NESCAC honors.
I would say the highlight of my blogging career came in the aftermath of posting my predictions for offensive/defensive POY at the beginning of football season this year. An Amherst football alum took exception to the lack of Amherst players on my list, and soon enough we were in a twitter war. That’s the kind of stuff that makes blogging fun – interactions with our readers. Though we do our best to keep up the facade that we know everything there is to know about NESCAC athletics, this is simply not true. It’s great to know when our readers agree with our opinions, but it’s also fun when you challenge us on our points. So please, give Pete hell next fall. People forget that a commenter once referred to him as the Skip Bayless of NESCAC blogging.
While I can’t take credit for starting NbN like Adam and Joe, it has been a privilege to run this blog. A huge thank you goes out to both of you for getting me on board and then convincing me to take the keys to the castle when you guys graduated last year. As I chatted with Adam at halftime of a Tufts basketball NCAA tournament game during my junior winter, I remember thinking “absolutely not” when Adam first mentioned that I should take over the blog for them. Well, as the weeks passed I realized that I was much more into the idea in May than I had been in March. I sit here writing this with a feeling of satisfaction knowing that I made the right choice when I told Joe over the phone last summer that I would accept their offer. Thanks for everything fellas.
I also can’t thank Pete enough for running the site with me this year. Throughout the fall and winter he was constantly coming up with ideas, writing and editing, all while managing his own bundle of extracurriculars. Pete is awesome to work with. He brings energy to the site and always make sure to keep me grounded, evidenced by the shots he takes at me in every other article. I will not soon forget our passionate text arguments regarding power rankings, game predictions, and most memorably, our conversation when he found out that I had picked Ed Ogundeko as my Player of the Year rather than Matt St. Amour. I know that Pete will continue to do a great job with NbN in the fall.
Finally, I’d like to thank all the NESCAC athletes out there. You guys are what makes this site fun and unique. While Division III does not receive the same glory that Division I does, the passion that Division III athletes — and especially NESCAC athletes — play with is just as noteworthy. As a NESCAC junkie that has grown up immersed in this terrific conference, I can say with great certainty that there is no conference quite like the ‘CAC.
One last quick plug, if you have any interest in writing for the site, no matter what sport you’re thinking of (even if we don’t yet cover it!), please reach out on either Facebook, Twitter, or to our email, email@example.com. You can have any sort of commitment level that you like – it’s truly up to you. NbN really is a lot of fun, and speaking from experience, you won’t regret your decision to join us. I’ve had a blast writing about NESCAC sports, and I look forward to reading NbN in the future as it continues on.
I need to open this piece by apologizing to everybody who is a fan of Middlebury athletics. In the fall I picked the Middlebury women’s soccer team to win the NESCAC tournament, they were bounced in the semifinal. Last week, I picked the women’s basketball team to beat Colby and advance to the semifinals. They too, were defeated. Clearly, Liamstradamus, as I lovingly called myself earlier, is cursed. Please forgive me. Regardless of my personal failings though, and there are many, the world kept spinning and NESCAC basketball kept churning along. We’re down to four remaining teams, a final four if you will, and they’re squaring off this weekend in the semifinals and finals, hosted in Amherst. Before we get to the predictions for this weekend, let’s take a look back at the weekend that got us here.
NESCAC Quarterfinals Recap
1. Amherst defeated 8. Bates 76-35
Amherst continued their undefeated season with a thorough dismantling of the team from Lewiston. A surprise tournament appearance was the culmination of an up and down season for the Bobcats who finished the year 8-17 overall. The game was basically over as soon as it began, with Amherst jumping to a commanding 22-5 lead after just one quarter of play. Although Bates played a good second quarter, the lead continued to grow until Amherst had run them out of the gym. The big story coming from the game though was the disturbing play of Nina Davenport ’18, who fouled out after only playing 3 total minutes. Without their leading scorer, the Bobcats were forced to lean heavily on their four other starters who recorded 37, 35, 38, and 31 minutes as a unit. Amherst relied on Emma McCarthy ’19 who turned in a 19-point and 9-rebound performance.
2. Tufts defeated 7. Williams 58-40
Tufts remained hot on Amherst’s heels with a convincing victory over a talented Williams team. Tufts, the number three team in the most recent D3hoops poll, had a 14-point lead at halftime and never looked back as they closed out this quarterfinal battle. Michela North ’17 led all scorers with 14 points, while two other Jumbos contributed 11 points as the team advanced. Williams shot themselves in the foot with 23 turnovers, and they also struggled to rebound the ball, getting outrebounded by five. The Ephs were much closer in other statistical categories. The Jumbos barely outshot Williams in terms of percentage, and the Ephs also generated 16 points in the paint, a solid number for the team. Again, I have to come back to them getting absolutely killed by turnovers. Tufts attempted 22 more shots than the Ephs as a result of the extra possessions. That disparity is nearly impossible to overcome for a poor shooting team like Williams.
3. Bowdoin defeated 6. Conn College 72-47
Bowdoin continued their string of impressive performances with an evisceration of the visiting Camels. The Polar Bears have now climbed to number 17 in the latest D3hoops poll and look poised to make some noise in the national tournament. Despite trailing after one quarter of play, the Bowdoin refused to give up and stormed back to take the lead by halftime. A dominant third quarter put the game out of reach and ended the hopeful Camels’ season. Bowdoin managed to get 15 players into the game and saw production spread across the starters and bench units that entered the game. Marle Curle ’17 and Taylor Choate ’19 scored in double digits, but also contributed four and five rebounds respectively, as well as three assists each. Bowdoin is playing dominant basketball right now and looks just as impressive as their record would indicate.
5. Colby defeated 4. Middlebury 48-39
I hate to say I told you so, but I did and I don’t hate it so… I told you so. Sarah Kaufman ’18 has been Middlebury’s engine all year. In wins she has averaged over 15 points a game, in losses she has struggled to crack 5. Colby clearly keyed in on Kaufman, forcing her into contested looks and limiting her to only 10 points on 3-7 shooting. Middlebury’s depth, which I lauded last weekend as one of their strengths, collapsed in the quarterfinals. The bench unit is largely comprised of first years and the intensity in a do or die NESCAC playoff game is definitely a step up from a normal regular season contest. Colby was carried by the duo of MK Caverly ’17 and Haley Driscoll ’18 who scored 18 and 12 points respectively. Middlebury is surely disappointed in this loss. They’ve been a dominant unit all season and outrebounded and assisted the Mules, but it was in vain. Their season ends, and the Mules trot off to their second straight NESCAC semifinal appearance.
NESCAC Semifinals Preview
So, with the quarterfinals out of the way all we have left is one action packed weekend of semifinals and final to tide us over until the NCAA tournament begins. Amherst, Tufts, and Bowdoin are all, in my mind, locks to make the NCAAs regardless of the outcome this weekend, but if Colby wants to keep playing they’re going to have to find a way to win two games against some really tough competition. So, let’s take a look at the Mules’ chances this coming weekend.
1. Amherst vs. 5. Colby
Although Colby looked good this weekend in dispatching the Panthers, taking on this team from Western Mass is an entirely differently animal. When the two teams met in late January, Amherst dominated the game and strolled out with a convincing 69-43 victory. The biggest problem for Colby will be their ability to score. Holding Amherst down is difficult, they’ve only scored less than 50 points twice this year, and one of those games was the rock fight they had with Tufts a couple weekends ago. Colby is the ninth best offense in the NESCAC in terms of scoring offense and didn’t even crack 50 in their win this past weekend against Middlebury. As the Mules’ leading scorer and rebounder Driscoll will have to put on an absolute show for Colby to have any chance in this game. Additionally, Colby will need to find a way to shut down Amherst’s three point attack. Amherst is one of the best shooting teams in the conference, but Colby is one of the best at defending the three point line. A big game from Driscoll, combined with limiting Amherst’s three point opportunities will be the key to success for the Mules. Unfortunately, I just don’t see that happening. Amherst is too deep, too talented, and too consistent to lose this game. They beat Colby and advance to the finals with a dominating win.
Writer’s Pick: Amherst
2. Tufts vs. 3. Bowdoin
This game should be much more exciting than the Amherst vs. Colby game. Bowdoin has been playing some of their best basketball as of late. They’ve won 9 straight games since their loss to Amherst, and the average margin of victory in those games has been an impressive 26 points. Yes, this also includes the 40-point demolitions of fellow semifinalist, Colby, and Hamilton, who nearly missed the tournament. Tufts, meanwhile, has been winning all year. That’s it, Tufts just wins. They’re 24-1 and their only loss has come to undefeated Amherst. Any year when you can put together 24 wins is surely a successful one, but I’m sure Tufts is itching to avenge their 1-point losses to Amherst earlier this year and in the NESCAC finals last year. Unfortunately, I don’t think they’ll get the chance. Bowdoin is my pick for this game and I’ll tell you why. The last time these two teams played Tufts narrowly defeated Bowdoin 46-43. But there were a couple of factors in that game that indicate to me that it was an anomaly. Firstly, Bowdoin averages only 15 turnovers per game this year, in their first matchup with Tufts they coughed up the rock 30 times. Secondly, Bowdoin is at their best when they can spread the ball around and get everyone involved. No Polar Bear averages more than 10 points per game, and 8 average more than 5. In their games against Tufts, Bowdoin relied heavily on one player, Abigail Kelly ’19, who scored 21 points. The next highest scoring Polar Bear was Ally Silfen ’17 with 8. And thirdly, Bowdoin shot only 30 percent from the field in that game, while their season average is second best in the conference at 43.3. Of course, I would be remiss to exclude the possibility that Tufts might have just forced this upon Bowdoin in their first game. Tufts is very good at forcing turnovers, generating 22.4 a game. Their exceptional defense also allows just 31.5% shooting and only 42.1 points per game. The Jumbos are a very talented team and certainly, as the two seed, enjoy some sense of favoritism in this game. I just think that given Bowdoin’s recent show of excellence, the strange nature of their first game against Tufts, and the fact that this game is being played in Amherst rather than Medford, the situation is ripe for Bowdoin to sneak a win from the mighty Jumbos and leap into the conference finals.
Writer’s Pick: Bowdoin
NESCAC Finals Prediction
Wow that was a long one. Sorry about that I got a little caught up. Let’s move on and take a look at my presumptive finals matchup, Amherst vs. Bowdoin, since I won’t have time to churn out another article between Saturday and Sunday.
1. Amherst vs. 3. Bowdoin
The last time these two teams squared off Amherst ran away with the game, winning 66-45 on Bowdoin’s home court. I wrote afterward that Bowdoin had to be perturbed that they looked so helpless against the upper echelons of the conference. Since that game however, Bowdoin has been on a tear, winning their last nine. While Bowdoin has stepped up their game as of late, Amherst is continuing their routine of absolute dominance. 25-0 does not happen by accident. A near unanimous position atop the national top 25 is no fluke either. Right now, Amherst is the favorite in every game they play, and the same is true in this game. This game could certainly come down to a 3 point competition. These teams are numbers one and two in the league in total three-pointers made (Amherst being one and Bowdoin being two). In terms of percentage, Bowdoin is best in the league with Amherst claiming the second spot. The real difference between the two comes when defending the 3 point line. Bowdoin is a middling 3 point defensive team, in terms of both total makes conceded and percentage allowed. Amherst, on the other hand, is the best team in the league in terms of three-point defense, conceding the least amount of made threes and forcing their opponents to shoot the worst percentage in the league. Amherst’s league topping defense in points allowed per game will also have to shut down Bowdoin’s league-best offense in terms of points scored per game. Bowdoin’s hope has to be that this game turns into a shootout. The Polar are an extremely balanced scoring team, perhaps the most in the league. They have to hope their shooters, Lauren Petit ’18, Kate Kerrigan ’18, Curle and Kelly can outshoot Amherst for a full 40 minutes. On the other side though is the NESCAC’s fifth-leading scorer Ali Doswell ’17 and her cohort of talented teammates. Emma McCarthy ’19 and Hannah Hackley ’18 could have huge games to power the purple, and don’t sleep on Ali’s twin sister Meredith Doswell ’17, the team’s 4th leading scorer and 2nd leading rebounder to quietly propel her team to victory. I think Amherst has enough firepower to defend their NESCAC crown.
Writer’s Pick: Amherst
As this weekend draws closer and we begin to wrap-up an exciting season of basketball, I’d just like to thank everybody who has read even one of these articles. They’ve been fun to write and have certainly allowed me to become more accustomed with the women’s side of the NESCAC, something I rarely get to do as a player for the men’s team (Coach won’t let me watch the women’s games on my phone on the bench, which is just ridiculous. C’mon, Coach, it’s 2017). I’m looking forward to seeing how this weekend turns out. I am sad my friends on the Middlebury women’s team couldn’t make it this far, but we’re still left with four great teams and two more hair raising games of NESCAC basketball. So, let’s all enjoy the weekend and watch some of the best teams in the country duke it out one last time!
Wow, what a final weekend of basketball! Tons of movement in the lower half of the bracket really shook up the first round matchups and left us primed for an exciting first round of the NESCAC playoffs. My apologies to the the teams from Wesleyan, Hamilton, and Trinity. You all had really fun seasons and all look ready to make major moves in the conference next year. Unfortunately, the clock has run out on this season for these three teams, and with them missing the playoffs, we’re down to our final eight. Eight very good teams stand before me, but only one can be America’s next top model! No, that’s not right… only one can be the NESCAC champion! Yeah, that’s it. Below you’ll find my prediction for all four games this weekend as well as a brief description of what that could mean for the semi-finals and finals in two weeks. Here we go!
1. Amherst (24-0, 10-0) vs. 8. Bates (8-15, 3-7)
I had faith in the Bobcats to sneak out a win against the rapidly falling Ephs from Williams last weekend, but Bates was walloped and dropped all the way from a potential 6 seed, to the 8 seed. And for their failure they are punished! Bates is coming up against a team that has to be considered the best in the country at this point in Amherst. The Purple have been on a tear all year, easily dispatching every opponent they’ve come across to the tune of a 24-0 record. The two sides met just a couple weeks ago in Lewiston and Amherst cruised to victory, winning 75-37. Bates’ workhorse, Allie Coppola ’17, certainly did her part in that game scoring 10 points, but she can’t singlehandedly carry the Bobcats to victory against a team as good as Amherst. She’s going to need help, particularly from the bench and from her usual partner in crime, leading scorer Nina Davenport ’18. Those two will have to play out of their minds just to keep this game close. I just don’t see it happening though. Look for Amherst to dominate this one on both ends of the floor and win.
Writer’s Pick: Amherst
2. Tufts (23-1, 9-1) vs. 7. Williams (15-9, 4-6)
Williams beat Bates last Sunday to secure their place in the NESCAC tournament, but their weekend was all good. On Friday the Ephs were blasted 61-27 on their home court by the same Jumbos that they’ll have to play Friday. The Ephs are a talented team, but they’ve struggled this year against superior competition, losing to every single team currently ranked higher than them in the NESCAC tournament. Tufts, meanwhile, has been either the best, or second best, team in the country for the whole year. If your only loss on the season is a 1 point nail biter to the number 1 team in the nation, then you have to consider that season a rousing success. The key to Tufts’ dominance has been their defense. They surrender a stingy 42.2 points per game to their opponents, and only allow them to shoot 31.4 percent from the field. A Williams team that is decidedly average on the offensive side of the ball and has struggled all year against teams as talented as Tufts, probably won’t see much success in this game. Tufts should cruise to victory and set their sights on returning to the NESCAC semi-finals and finals. Of course, I said Williams wouldn’t even make this tournament so what do I know?
Writer’s Pick: Tufts
3. Bowdoin (20-3, 8-2) vs. 6. Conn College (16-8, 4-6)
A disappointing final weekend that saw them finish 0-2 dropped Conn from the five seed down to six. If they had managed to beat Colby on Friday they would be heading to Middlebury to visit me and the rest of the Panthers this Saturday instead of slogging to Maine to play the Polar Bears. I mention this because the Polar Bears have been nigh on unbeatable at home. Bowdoin is 7-1 at home with their only loss coming to Amherst. Their only other loss in NESCAC play was a tough 3 point defeat at the hands of Tufts. Everyone else has folded before Bowdoin, who defeated Conn just last week, in Brunswick 68-49. Conn was surely missing the presence of Payton Ouimette ’19, who has been out since late January. If the Camels are to have any hope of beating the Polar Bears then Mairead Hynes ’18 and Liz Malman ’17 will need to step up. Look for Bowdoin to continue their offensive dominance though. They’ve scored the most points per game in the NESCAC for the year with 74.9, and shoot the best from deep, bombing away at a 37. 6 percent clip. This will be a tough matchup for Conn who surrenders the third most points per game in the league. Sorry for not being exciting, but I can’t see the underdogs from New London pulling this one out. Bowdoin wins and begins preparations for the semi-finals by halftime of this game.
Writer’s Pick: Bowdoin
4. Middlebury (17-7, 6-4) vs. 5. Colby (12-11, 4-6)
Call me biased, or a homer, or Liam, or whatever you want, but this has got to be the game of the week. Not only is this super exciting for me, since both the men’s and women’s teams are hosting quarterfinal games for the first time in my years here at Midd, but it also should be exciting for anybody who is a fan of basketball. These two teams provided us with a great game earlier this year, that eventually went into overtime before Middlebury caught fire and won 64-49. Its strange to see a game become so lopsided in overtime but don’t let that fool you, this was a hard fought game all the way through. Middlebury led by 10 at the half, but Colby dominated the second frame of the game and won the fourth quarter 17-9 to even force the overtime. Middlebury caught fire from three in this game as well, shooting 6-15 on the night. The real place where Middlebury has an advantage, and this was displayed in the overtime, is their depth. Middlebury is comfortable bringing five, and sometime even six, different players off their bench. A total of seven different Panthers have managed to crack the starting lineup this year. Colby, on the other hand, relies heavily on their top seven players to get the job done and goes deeper into their bench only sparingly. If this game is another close contest, look for Middlebury’s depth to shine and help them put away the game. Conversely, if Colby can get a good performance from Haley Driscoll ’18 then they have a real puncher’s chance in the game. Additionally, the Mules should focus on shutting down the electric Sarah Kaufman ’18 in this game. In losses Kaufman is only scoring 5.2 points per game, while in wins she is amassing 15.4 ppg. When Kaufman is on, the Panthers go, when she’s off, they falter. I see Middlebury winning another tight contest and advancing to the semi-finals, but the Mules will be no pushover thats for sure.
Writer’s Pick: Middlebury
Sorry, I’ve been boring. I’ve picked the top four seeds all to advance and nary an upset in sight. Of course, while upsets are fun, I’m not going to go against logic here. None of the top 3 teams in the conference have lost to anybody but each other, and all three have gotten into the habit of blowing out their conference competition. Meanwhile Middlebury, only has one loss to a non-top three team, a fluky loss to Hamilton that Sarah Kaufman did not play in. The conference this year has been harshly divided into tiers. The upper tier has absolutely dominated the lower tier, and looks poised to continue that domination into the tournament. If my predictions are all correct, then the semi-finals will take place in Amherst next weekend. Amherst will play Middlebury and Tufts will play Bowdoin, and from there I’d say we’re poised for a rematch of last year’s final between Amherst and Tufts. Of course, several things in this first round could change that. A determined Conn College team might shock the Polar Bears and open the door for Middlebury or someone else to take on Tufts in the semi-finals. The Mules of Colby might kick the Panthers early and revisit the semifinals much like last year. Bates might put the fear of god into Amherst and rattle their confidence. Who knows!? We’ll just have to tune in this weekend to find out!
Sorry for the brief hiatus last week everybody, you know how things pile up the last week of j-term, which for most is reserved for skiing and partying, but for me was reserved for basketball and thesis writing. Nevertheless, I am back this week and ready to fill you in on two of the most important games in the NESCAC that occurred this past weekend. The top four teams in the conference met this week in matchups that will likely (and I stress likely since nothing is set in stone), determine the top four seeds of the conference tournament and thus home court advantage.
Tufts vs. Amherst
Amherst defeats Tufts 36-35
By far the biggest game in the country this weekend, the previously undefeated and top ranked Jumbos squared off against the undefeated and second ranked team from Amherst. This game not only had major NESCAC implications, but might have been a preview for the eventual national championship. Amherst emerged victorious, seeking out a 36-35 win in a game that was equal parts ugly, a defensive clinic, and exciting. Tufts jumped out to an early lead, dominating the first quarter by a score of 18-8. Amherst however, would not go quietly into the night and closed the gap to only 3 by halftime. An even third quarter opened the door for Amherst to dominate the fourth and escape from Medford with a hard fought, and well earned, victory. Amherst took advantage of Tufts in the one area where the Jumbos have been consistently weak this year, on the backboard. Amherst out rebounded Tufts 36 to 29 on the game, which made up for their lackluster day shooting the ball. In a game that saw a slow pace dominate, Amherst’s 9 second chance points certainly had a major impact on the game. Down the stretch, Tufts forward Melissa Baptista ‘18 fouled out, a huge blow given that she was the leading scorer for the Jumbos on the day. This opened the door for Hannah Hackley ‘18 to score five fourth quarter points and lead the Purple and White to victory.
Tufts, who has now dropped to number 3 in the latest D3hoops poll, certainly hoped that their home court advantage would lead them to victory, but it’s hard to beat a team as talented as Amherst when you generate no fastbreak points, only 2 second chance points, and only 7 bench points. The loss has to be especially frustrating for the Jumbos as they had looked unbeatable for the past few weeks. Dominating Middlebury in the second week of NESCAC play seemed to indicate that the Jumbos were the cream of the crop in the conference. Regardless, this loss shakes the standings into a difference picture. Tufts only narrowly edged third place Bowdoin earlier this year, a team that Amherst blew out, and this loss must be disheartening for the team going into the final weekend of NESCAC regular season play.
On the other hand, Amherst has to be thrilled. A convincing win over Bowdoin and a victory over Tufts on their home court has surely placed Amherst at the forefront of both NESCAC and national championship discussions. A convincing win over Middlebury this weekend, currently 4th in the NESCAC, would serve as the final cherry on the top of a great season. Even if Amherst only manages to get 1 win this weekend in their two games they will secure home court advantage for the entirety of the NESCAC playoffs, a huge boon for any team. Look for Ali Doswell ’17 and Hackley to continue to carry Amherst in the coming weeks as the Purple and White look to secure their second straight NESCAC championship.
Middlebury vs. Bowdoin
Bowdoin defeats Middlebury 82-52
While the top two teams in the conference were duking it out, the 3 and 4 seeds were also engaging in a battle for seeding and supremacy. Bowdoin dominated the Panthers, who I had recently placed at the 3 spot in my power rankings, to the tune of a 30 point thrashing in Middlebury’s own Pepin Gymnasium. Middlebury’s two games against the best of the best in the conference have now both ended in dramatic defeat, with the team falling to Tufts earlier in the year 54-38. With a game against Amherst this weekend, Middlebury will be looking to prove that they belong with those upper echelon teams, and not merely the position of best of the rest.
Bowdoin, meanwhile, seems to be putting things together at the right time. Convincing wins over both Hamilton and Middlebury this past weekend, and two certainly winnable games this coming weekend against Wesleyan and Conn College, have the Polar Bears poised to finish at 8-2 and the 3rd seed in the NESCAC tournament. The biggest take away from the weekend was the dominance of Bowdoin’s bench. In a league where a lot is decided by each team’s respective starting five, to get 44 points off the pine, as the Polar Bears did against Middlebury, is a huge boost. If Bowdoin can get that kind of production in the NESCAC playoffs they could certainly scare either Tufts, who they only narrowly lost to earlier this year, or Amherst.
These two games were huge for the seedings of the upper parts of the tournament. Barring a disastrous 0-2 weekend, Amherst will secure the number 1 overall seed in the conference tournament. With their 8 wins, including one over Bowdoin, Tufts will secure the 2 seed. Bowdoin would also need to go 0-2 in this coming weekend to drop from 3 to 4, and Middlebury would need to go 2-0 to even ensure that happens, as Bowdoin now holds the tie break between the two teams. The convoluted mess of the standings behind Middlebury (currently the fourth seed) could potentially lead to a very interesting series of tie breaks if things play out in just such a way. To simplify everything though, if Middlebury can win just one game this weekend, either against Amherst on Friday or Trinity on Saturday, they will clinch the 4 seed and home court advantage during the quarterfinals.
Conceivably, Williams, Hamilton, and Conn College could all make plays for the four seed. Conn has the “easiest” path, just needing to win out and Middlebury to go 0-2. Williams and Hamilton would need Conn to either finish 1-1 or 0-2 and Middlebury to finish 0-2, while also going 2-0 themselves to even begin the process of tie breaking for the fourth seed. At the very bottom of the standings, Bates could clinch the 8 seed if they beat Williams on Sunday, or if both Colby and Trinity lose 1 game. Bates also holds the tie breaker over Hamilton in terms of head to head. With how neck and neck every team in the 5-10 spot has been in the NESCAC this year (just look back at the wild fluctuations of my power rankings and the standings as a whole), anything can happen in this final weekend. Don’t rule out any team from making a run for the playoffs. As a sort of final power rankings I will list my predictions for each team’s final record and playoff seeding below, as well as who they will play in the first round if my prediction is correct. I’ll release a full playoff preview next week after the seedings are finalized
Amherst (10-0) vs. 8. Colby (3-7)
Amherst runs the table and faces off with the Mules in the first round, who beat Wesleyan in the final weekend and have the tiebreaker over Williams, who goes 0-2 in the final week and falls out of the playoffs.
Tufts (9-1) vs. 7. Hamilton (4-6)
Tufts defeats Williams in their final game of the season, securing the number 2 position. Hamilton beats Trinity (who finished 2-8 and in 10th place) and falls to Amherst. They lose the tiebreaker to Bates and secure the 7 seed. Quite a turnaround after a largely poor season.
Bowdoin (8-2) vs. 6. Bates (4-6)
A battle for Maine emerges as Bowdoin wins out and secures the 3 seed to face the Bobcats who beat Williams in their final game of the season to finish 4-6. Winning the tiebreaker against the Continentals allows the Bobcats to grab the 6 seed. A surprising finish after entering conference play with the worst overall record record and little hope for a resurgence.
Middlebury (6-4) vs. 5. Conn College (5-5)
Middlebury defeats Trinity to secure the four seed. The Camels beat Colby but can’t get by Bowdoin and finish the regular season at .500. This game will be a rematch of a game decided by 2 points earlier this year, with the Panthers barely squeaking out a win in New London. The Panthers are kicking themselves after not beating Hamilton earlier this year and having this position locked up before this weekend.
Of course these are all just predictions. Anything could happen this weekend, and anything might! You’ll have to tune in to every game you can to see the final seed placement. I look forward to writing all about them next week! No matter how this season turns out it’s been super fun to cover, and we’re not even done yet!
The flu has been going around Middlebury the last few days, and while it has forced me to hide in my bed (or my library carrell) it has not slowed down the rapidly passing NESCAC basketball season. We’re roughly halfway through at this point and the league is really beginning to take shape. As we enter the final weeks of the season, teams are jockeying for seeding and competing to secure the last few spots in a tight playoff race. With that being said, let’s get right down to the power rankings! Of course, these rankings don’t mirror the actual standings exactly, but rather how I envision the playoff picture and final standings shaking out after the full 10 game NESCAC slate.
1.) #1 Tufts (19-0, 6-0)
Weekend Results: Defeated Wesleyan 80-45, Defeated Conn College 72-48
The Jumbos have been utterly dominant for this entire season. Another weekend of refusing to surrender 50 points in even one game has bumped their NESCAC standing to an impressive 6-0 and their overall record to an unreal 19-0. Tufts has also remained the top team in the D3hoops rankings for the entire year. The thing that really stands out about Tufts is their balanced attack. 7 different Tufts players average over 5 a game and 2 average in double figures. The go-to scorers, Michela North ’17 and Melissa Baptista ’18, are perfectly capable of carrying the entire load, as they did against Wesleyan scoring 15 and 18 respectively. But they don’t mind allowing the supporting cast to buoy the team either, evidenced on Saturday against Conn where Erica DeCandido ’20 led the Jumbos with 18 points. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait until February 4th when this team takes on the next squad on this list in a game that will probably decide who maintains home court advantage in the NESCAC playoffs.
Amherst has looked every bit as dominant as Tufts has throughout the course of the season. Playing Bowdoin this past weekend (the only other NESCAC team besides Tufts and Amherst that is ranked in the D3hoops top 25 at 21st), Amherst displayed the clear separation between themselves and the rest of the NESCAC by dominating the Polar Bears 66-45. It has always been assumed that the future Hamsters (my vote for the new Amherst mascot has officially been cast, Editor’s Note: as a lifelong Amherst resident, I would like to note that Hamsters was proposed because it is an anagram of Amherst) could trot out a talented lineup week in and week out, but this group seems particularly dangerous. The team boasts overall NESCAC leading scorer Ali Doswell ’17 who is averaging 13.7 ppg. Ali’s sister, Meredith Doswell ’17 is also the NESCAC’s 10th leading rebounder, pulling in 6.6 rpg. And no discussing of Amherst’s talent would be complete without mentioning the combination of Jaimie Renner ’17 and Hannah Hackley ’18 who are averaging 3.3 and 3.1 assists per game respectively, good for 7th and 8th in the NESCAC. This team is deep and talented and right on Tufts’ heels.
3.) Middlebury (14-3, 4-1)
Weekend Results: Defeated Williams 85-57
Big ups to the Middlebury Panthers who have finally been the team to loosen Bowdoin’s stranglehold on the number 3 spot! No one can accuse me of nepotism though as this team has certainly done enough to earn this bump up in the rankings. Middlebury absolutely dominated Williams this weekend, a team I think has the potential to make a late season run and secure a spot in the playoffs. Middlebury was clearly better though, and led throughout the game. Their dominating second quarter, in which they outscored Williams 18-5, put the game completely out of reach for the Ephs, and the 85 total points scored is Middlebury’s best scoring output of the season. In the game the Panthers shot 58 percent from three, and brought back memories of their evisceration of Wesleyan earlier this year. When their shots are falling this team is hard to beat, and when their freshman play as well as they did this weekend, the team might be unstoppable. Betsy Knox ’20 and Kira Waldman ’20 exploded in this game each garnering 17 points in the effort. Some might see Middlebury’s youth as a disadvantage, but this is a young team that plays with an old soul, and they’ll be particularly dangerous come tournament time.
4.) #21 Bowdoin (13-3, 3-2)
Weekend Results: Lost to Amherst 66-45, Defeated Trinity 76-61
I opened my first power rankings by declaring that Bowdoin might be better than either Tufts or Amherst, and ummm I think I was wrong. Bowdoin hasn’t been able to scratch out a win in either game with the top two teams in the conference, losing to Tufts in a close affair and being blown out by Amherst.. While holding serve against the rest of the conference is certainly impressive, it will do little good for a team with championship aspirations at the end of the season. The Polar Bears’ consistent problem in these big games has been their inability to score. In their three losses on the season, Bowdoin is only averaging 50 points (44 if we only include NESCAC losses) a sharp downturn from their season average of 73.5 ppg. It can’t be denied that Bowdoin has played a difficult early season schedule, so I’d say there is a decent chance they run the table in their last 5 games with their only real remaining test against Middlebury on February 4th (what a day of basketball that will be). Even if the Polar Bears are 8-2 entering the conference tournament, I think it will be very hard for them to triumph over Tufts or Amherst.
5.) Tie between Colby (9-8, 2-3), Trinity (11-6, 2-3) and Conn College (12-6, 2-4)
Editor’s note: cop out indeed, Liam.
I know it’s a cop out but none of these teams have given me any reason to place one in front of the other. Trinity was 2-1 heading into the weekend before losing to both Colby and Bowdoin. Colby, meanwhile, has a bad loss to Bates who is distinctly below these three teams, and was absolutely crushed by Amherst, but of course they did beat Trinity. And Conn seems to be a new team each time they take the floor. They smoked Bates, and then looked completely helpless against Amherst. After the top four teams their is a steep and dramatic drop off, and nobody in this second group really has shown that they belong atop it. Conn might have the weakest case, having already been absolutely blown out by Amherst and Tufts, but then again, that’s Amherst and Tufts. Colby only lost to Tufts by 12, but has been blown out by both Bowdoin (who they still have to face in NESCAC play) and Amherst. Trinity has solid wins over Conn College and was 9-2 coming in to NESCAC play, but then they got blown out by Colby. Of course Trinity has Courtney Erickson ’19 who is the 5th leading scorer in the NESCAC, but Conn has Mairead Hynes ’18 who is making a strong case for player of the year. No matter how you slice it, these three teams are confusing and difficult to sort out. This weekend, Colby and Trinity both play top flight competition, and Conn should secure a win over lowly Wesleyan. Hopefully these games will help us suss out this absolute mess of a five seed.
8.) Williams (12-7, 2-4)
Weekend Results: Defeated Hamilton 69-52, Lost to Middlebury 85-57
I feel that Williams is certainly talented enough to challenge some of the higher level teams in this conference, but they just haven’t played to that potential. Stomping Hamilton is great, but if you can’t follow that up by at least showing up to play against Middlebury, the win on Friday begins to ring more hollow. There are signs up of hope though. The team is 2-4 and 3 of those losses have come against Middlebury, Bowdoin, and Amherst, 3 of the top 4 teams in the conference. Of course, the other loss came against Colby, but quiet – this is confusing enough as it is. Four games remain for the Ephs, and 3 of them (at Wesleyan, at Conn, and home against Bates) look extremely winnable. Williams could squeak to 5-5 by the end of the season and that would likely be good enough to secure a playoff spot. If that happens, this team could certainly be dangerous. They already have a top 8 defense in the conference, and if their offense can step up heading into the latter part of the season this is a team that I bet most upper seeds would be loathe to see in the first round of the NESCAC playoffs. Look for Amanni Fernandez ’18 to step up in the coming weeks to take some of the scoring load off of the shoulders of Devon Caveney ’17.
9.) Bates (5-12, 2-4)
Weekend Results: Lost to Conn College 87-69, Lost to Wesleyan 62-58
Initially, things were looking up for the Bobcats. After Friday January 13th they were 2-1 in the conference and looking to shock the world against the Middlebury Panthers. Instead they were blown out against the Panthers that Saturday and stumbled to an 0-2 mark this weekend. With one of those losses coming against last place Wesleyan, and the other to a team in Conn that the Bobcats had been neck and neck with in the playoff race (they of course still have the same record, the NESCAC is kooky) this weekend has to be a double punch in the gut for this team. 3-3, which would be their record if they had managed to eke out 1 win this weekend is a lot better than 2-4, and with games still in the future against Tufts and Amherst, Bates is seeing their playoff chances slip away. The game against Trinity also won’t be a cakewalk, and Williams is still on their schedule. A trip to the NESCAC playoffs, which even last weekend I thought was a distinct possibility, is looking more and more like a pipe dream. Of course, if player of the year candidate Allie Coppola ’17 or her partner in crime Nina Davenport ‘18 have anything to say about it the Bobcats shouldn’t be counted as dead yet. Hopefully the two can combine a stellar performance one of these days instead of just trading off who gets to score the most points each game.
10.) Hamilton (8-9, 1-4)
Weekend Results: Lost to Williams 69-52
The only reason Hamilton isn’t last on this list is because they beat the team that is. Of course, with Wesleyan putting it together and beating Bates this past weekend, Hamilton has to be worried that their tenuous grasp on the “Not the Worst” medal is slipping. Hamilton’s biggest problem is by far their offense. Their defense ranks in the top 6 of the league, but their offense is tied for the second worst mark in the conference at generating points per game. A lot of this can be blamed on their shooting. They shoot a woeful 36 percent overall from the field, and a paltry 27 percent from 3. They also don’t get to the charity stripe nearly enough, having made the second least amount of free throws through their first 5 games. Here’s a positive though: this team is super young. Like crazy young for a team in the NESCAC. Of their top four scorers, 3 are sophomores or freshman, and the other, Lauren Getman, is still only a junior. Six Continentals average more than 20 minutes a game and only one is a senior. Three are either sophomores or freshman. This is a young team with a ton of potential. Yes, there have been and will continue to be growing pains this year, but an already upper tier defense, combined with assured offensive growth, could put the Continentals in a dangerous position in coming years.
11.) Wesleyan (7-10, 1-5)
Weekend Results: Lost to Tufts 80-45, Defeated Bates 62-58
And with that every single NESCAC team has secured a win in conference play! The Cardinals have to feel good getting that monkey off their back heading into the second half of conference play. The Cardinals’ final four games comes against Conn, Williams, Bowdoin, and Colby, and with how inconsistent some of those teams have been, sneaking a few more wins in is not outside of the realm of possibility. Wesleyan also has to be thrilled that their best player is Tara Berger who is only a sophomore. The star forward has been averaging 10.3 PPG to go along with 8.2 REB/G – good for third in the conference. Wesleyan’s leading scorer, guard Olivia Gorman, is also only a sophomore, and only one senior is in Wesleyan’s regular rotation. Much like Hamilton, if this team continues to grow they might be dangerous next year or a little further down the line.
This past weekend was a weekend of blowouts. In total only three games on the women’s side of the NESCAC were decided by single digits. While this certainly indicates some lack of parity within the conference, I think it also points to a clear delineation between the different tiers of the conference. There are clearly top dogs, Amherst and Tufts, teams proving their place among the conference’s best, Bowdoin, Middlebury, etc., and a third tier of teams struggling to remain competitive in a conference where the top two teams have looked decidedly dominant. Of course, this being the NESCAC, a fickle and unpredictable thing if ever there was one, anyone can beat anyone on any given weekend. So don’t let these rankings get you down if you don’t see your team at the top of the list! There’s always next weekend, and always a chance for a lower rung team to get hot at the right time (just ask the Wesleyan Men’s team from two years ago who parlayed a 5-5 conference record into a tournament championship!) 1. Tufts (16-0, 4-0) Weekend Results: Defeated Middlebury 54-38, Defeated Hamilton 70-42 Tufts remain the cream of the crop of the conference. Their shellacking of Middlebury, in the notoriously difficult to play in Pepin Gymnasium, and their dismantling of Hamilton a day later further cemented their position atop the league standings. The Tufts defense was stellar, holding Middlebury to 28 percent from the field and Hamilton to 30.9 percent. The Jumbos were also great at protecting the ball from the opponent, averaging a low 10.5 TO/G for the weekend. It’s hard to write anything about the Jumbos that hasn’t already been said. They’ve been dominant against any and all comers this year, remain unbeaten in the league and at large, and show no signs of slowing down. With games against Wesleyan and Conn College next weekend its hard to see the run of Tufts dominance ending anytime soon. 2. Amherst (15-0, 3-0) Weekend Results: Defeated Wesleyan 71-33, Defeated Conn College 69-35 Holding one opponent under 40 points in a college basketball game is impressive, but not allowing 40 points in a game for an entire weekend is insane. Amherst’s defense has been rock solid. Amherst is sacrificing a measly 37.3 points a game to their opponents and have absolutely stifled the opposition. The team does not lack offensive power though, averaging 70 points per game for the weekend. Some might argue that Amherst’s weekend of absolute dominance might have been more impressive than Tufts’, and there is some merit to that. Since the beginning of NESCAC play the two teams have been neck in neck in points allowed per game and in field goal percentage. The matchup between Amherst and the Jumbos on Saturday, February 4th could decide home court advantage in the NESCAC playoffs if neither team falters along the way. 3. Bowdoin (12-2, 2-1) Weekend Results: Defeated Williams 54-47
Bowdoin played in one of the three games this weekend that was decided by less than double digits. Their tilt with Williams was only decided by 7, but Bowdoin led by 8 at half and looked like the better team for much of the game. Bowdoin’s only NESCAC loss this season came against the top ranked Jumbos and it feels wrong to fault the Polar Bears for losing to someone that many consider the best team in the country. Bowdoin also retained their 19th national ranking in the most recent D3Hoops poll but there are certainly some issues facing them moving forward. Before conference play began I projected Bowdoin as perhaps a better team than Amherst or Tufts, but they have not shown that ability thus far in their conference games. While Amherst and Tufts have been blowing opponents out, Bowdoin has an average margin of victory of only 10.5. The team has also struggled to score in conference play, averaging only 55.7 points a game so far. Of course, NESCAC defense is notoriously tough so some might blame that for the recent swoon in points production, but certainly Bowdoin hoped to be challenging Amherst and Tufts at the top of the league and their offense will need to pick up to secure that position. 4. Middlebury (12-3, 3-1) Weekend Results: Lost to Tufts 54-38, Defeated Bates 66-46. Middlebury might not be too happy to catapult into the number 4 spot in these rankings. The last two teams slotted here, Trinity and Williams, have seen their fortunes turn sour over the last couple weeks as their weaknesses have been exposed. Hopefully (sorry for the bias), the same fate does not befall the Panthers. Their loss to Tufts, while ugly, is not a sign of despair. The team was boosted by the play of Catherine Harrison ’19 who recorded 12 points and 13 rebounds in the loss and continued her campaign for an all-league nod at the end of the year. The win over Bates was also certainly a positive sign. The Bobcats, far from being the bottom feeder I feared they might end up, have been a competent team for most of the year and played Bowdoin closely earlier this year. For the Panthers to blow them out as they did indicates that this team is for real. A win over Williams this Sunday and continued unimpressive (if still winning) basketball from the Polar Bears might propel the Panthers to the number 3 spot in these rankings! 5. Trinity (11-3, 2-1) Weekend Results: Defeated Conn 77-72, Defeated Wesleyan 74-67 Trinity, after a disappointing first week of the season the Bantams bounced back with an impressive 2-0 weekend. While both of the team’s wins were close (only 5 and 7 point differentials in the two games), the milieu that is the middle of the pack needed a team at the top and Trinity fit the bill. Trinity’s overtime victory over Conn was particularly impressive. The team was led by a dominant performance from Courtney Erickson ’19, who poured in 19 points and grabbed 16 rebounds. Erickson also paced the Bantams against Wesleyan again scoring 19 points and pulling down 8 boards. The Bantams were particularly unselfish over the weekend, averaging 18 assists a game. If they can continue this level of play next weekend against Colby and Bowdoin, Trinity might lock up a higher position in the NESCAC standings. 6. Bates (5-10, 2-2) Weekend Results: Defeated Hamilton 60-44, Lost to Middlebury 66-46
My foot is firmly placed in my mouth. I projected the Bobcats, who had been woeful on both offense and defense, to be the worst team in the conference. But Bates has made me eat my words. Wins over Colby and Hamilton, albeit two of the lower teams in the conference, are nothing to sneeze at, and playing Bowdoin close in the first weekend of the season indicates that the Bobcats might be real. The ascendent play of Allie Coppola ’17 has been key to the success of the Bobcats. The senior forward led her team in rebounding and scoring in both games this weekend, averaging 24.5 points and 11 rebounds in her team’s two games. If Coppola continues to play like a bonafide player of the year candidate, Bates might scare some teams in the coming weeks. Things seem to be coming together for the Bobcats at just the right time. 7. Conn College (10-5, 1-3) Weekend Results: Lost to Trinity 77-72, Lost Amherst to 69-35 Going 0-2 on a weekend is tough for any team, but the lower rungs of the NESCAC are so convoluted that it’s hard to distinguish one of these teams from any of the others. Conn gets the nod though due to their high powered offense. The Camels are averaging a barnstorming 68.3 points per game, 3rd in the league, while also shooting 40 percent from the field, good for 6th. The Camels are undeniably paced by the excellent play of Mairead Hynes ’18 who had 33 points and 12 boards against Trinity. But Hynes struggled mightily with Amherst, scoring no points and securing only 1 rebound in 14 minutes played. The team will need Payton Ouimette ’19 to help Hynes if the Camels hope to jump a few more spots and secure a position up higher in the conference. 8. Williams (11-5, 1-3) Weekend Results: Lost to Colby 57-47, Lost to Bowdoin 54-47 Williams has been one of the hardest teams to pin down all year. They are clearly a talented team, especially when Devon Caveney ’17 is firing on all cylinders. The loss to Bowdoin this weekend is at least a little bit expected with how good Bowdoin is, but losing to Colby, particularly at home, has to raise some worries amid the Williams faithful. Williams’ offense looked positively dreadful against the Mules, mustering only 47 points on 29.4 percent shooting. The 6:20 assist-to-turnover ratio also spelled doom for the Ephs. The bench for the Ephs also only mustered 11 points per game over the weekend. Matchups next weekend against Hamilton, a team near them in the bottom of the rankings, and Middlebury, a team looking to secure their place towards the top of the conference, will surely be tests for Williams who will need to secure at least one victory to keep from becoming irrelevant in the closing weeks of league play. 9. Colby (7-7, 1-2) Weekend Results: Defeated Williams 57-47 Colby, a team desperate for a win after starting the year 0-2, got just that when they defeated Williams 57 to 47 this weekend. The Mules were lead by Haley Driscoll ’18 and Emily Davis ’19 who pitched in 16 a piece during the game. The biggest takeaway for the Mules though might be the play of their defense. The team has sacrificed 56.4 points a game this season but beat that average by 9 points in the game against Williams. If the defense can continue to play this well, something that I can certainly see happening based off their steals per game (6th in the conference), blocks per game (3rd in the conference), and opponent 3 point field goal percentage (5th in the conference) Colby could gain steam and jump into the playoff picture. Of course they will also need to limit opponents’ opportunities closer to the basket, the team is allowing opponents to shoot 37 percent overall from the field, the second worst mark in the league. Colby can’t just try and outscore opponents all year, the upper echelon teams in the conference are just too good for that, so their defense will need to step up. 10. Hamilton (7-8, 1-3) Weekend Results: Lost to Bates 60-44, Lost to Tufts 70-42) Hamilton was certainly hoping to use their 1-1 start in conference play to jump into the upper reaches of the conference, but an ugly loss to Bates, and the expected defeat at the hands of Tufts have driven them farther and farther down in the rankings. Hamilton’s major problem has been their offense. Of course, a defense surrendering 65 points a game is not good, but their offense has been decidedly worse. The team averaged a pitiful 43 points a game for the weekend and struggled to shoot in both games, shooting 28.8 and 30.9 percent in their two games. The team also only averaged 7 assists a game for the weekend. Lauren Getman ’18 has been Hamilton’s rock for much of the season, but she disappeared for parts of the weekend leaving the Continentals without a consistent scoring option. Getman, and the rest of the Hamilton lineup, will need to score points on a more consistent basis to get out of the cellar they’ve found themselves in. 11. Wesleyan (5-9, 0-4) Weekend Results: Lost to Amherst 71-33, Lost to Trinity 74-67 I’m not saying that a turnaround for the woeful Cardinals is impossible, but with each passing loss it is becoming more and more unlikely. With a conference season that only lasts 10 games, falling to 0-4 is a death knell for many a would be contenders. With games against the juggernaut Tufts and the talented Bowdoin still in the future, finding their way to a winning record seems a pipe dream at this point. Additionally, unlike other teams on the list Wesleyan has looked decidedly unimpressive even in their losses. Failing to crack even 35 points against Amherst is downright worrying, and allowing over 70 points in three of their four conference games is an equally distressing trend. I never want to write off a team before even the halfway point in the season, but Wesleyan looks to be in a pretty tough position, and maybe they should focus more on getting experience for their younger players, rather than trying to salvage a season that might already be gone.
Winning on the road in the NESCAC is certainly no picnic. In fact, it might be the opposite of a picnic. First of all, you’re inside, there are no tasteful blankets spread in a beautiful field, and rarely does your host offer you a sandwich or even a glass of lemonade. Usually visiting teams on a given NESCAC weekend feel fortunate to escape 1-1 and if they manage to go 2-0 a celebration is certainly in order. This weekend in women’s basketball didn’t exactly follow the trend I just played out above. Of the 10 games this weekend visiting teams managed to eke out 5 wins, good for a .500 record on the weekend. Of course though, there were upsets and blowouts and tight games, and certainly plenty of movement in our power rankings! Let’s get right down to it.
Tufts, who remains at the top of D3hoops poll as well as our own, had one of the tougher slates of games this weekend if only because they played Bowdoin to open their NESCAC play. I had speculated in my previous column that Bowdoin could be the best team in the NESCAC heading into conference play, despite having losses while Tufts and Amherst remained undefeated. Well, apparently I annoyed the Jumbos who outlasted the Polar Bears in what could certainly be described as a rock fight. Neither team shot better than 31 percent from the field for the game and there were a total 52 turnovers over the course of the game. Tufts was able to control the ball a little bit better, only turning it over 22 times to Bowdoin’s 30. After this hard fought game Tufts returned to form against a determined Colby team, outshooting, out rebounding, and out assisting the visiting Mules. Tufts won’t fall from this top spot until they lose a game, but a weaker bench (only mustering 9 points in the game against Bowdoin) and questionable rebounding (were out-rebounded by 8 by the Polar Bears) are cause for concern for the Jumbos. Their defense is top notch, and it will carry them a long way this season, so if the Jumbos can figure out some of these smaller issues they will be close to unstoppable.
2.) Amherst (13-0, 1-0)
Results: Defeated Williams 76-44
Amherst coasted to victory in their only NESCAC action of the weekend, dominating the Ephs and retaining their number 2 overall spot in this list and in the D3hoops rankings. Amherst led 50-19 at the half and was able to ease into a sure victory, looking dominant on both ends of the floor. Amherst is particularly impressive in the paint where they battered Williams for 46 points and managed to secure a +14 rebounding margin. This is par for the course for Amherst, who leads the NESCAC in average rebounds per game. 11 members of the Amherst team managed to score and 4 of their 5 starters scored in double digits, illustrating their depth and balanced style of play. Before the NESCAC season started Hannah Hackley ’18 had been one of the preeminent threats for Amherst but she was outshone in this game by both Emma McCarthy ’19 and Ali Doswell ’17 who scored 15 and 18 points respectively. I was worried about Amherst’s lack of depth but in this game they proved me totally wrong.
3.) Bowdoin (11-2, 1-1)
Results: Lost to Tufts 46-43, defeated Bates 70-58
As I mentioned earlier no team should be ashamed to go 1-1 in the NESCAC on a road weekend. That being said I’m sure the Polar Bears will be disappointed that they couldn’t upset Tufts and prove they belonged in the same conversation as the two teams ahead of them. We’ve already discussed the Tufts game above, but it’s worth reiterating that Bowdoin shot horrendously in this game. Barely cracking 30 percent from the field does not bode well for the team when facing elite defenses like Tufts. The fact that Bowdoin (now ranked 19th in the D3hoops national poll) relied on 21 of their 43 points from bench player Abigail Kelly ‘19 is also cause for concern. Of course, these fears could have been alleviated by shellacking Bates on Saturday, but Bowdoin needed a dominant fourth quarter to escape the lowly Bobcats by 12. Bowdoin shot better in this game (38% from the field), but to truly challenge the teams above them Bowdoin will need to up that number considerably and continue to dominate the glass (they finished the weekend with a +20 rebounding margin).
4.) Williams (11-3, 1-1)
Results: Lost to Amherst 76-44, defeated Trinity 68-54
Losing to the second ranked team in the country is hardly something to cry about, but Williams has to worry over the fact that they were absolutely blown out by Amherst. The 32 point defeat to Amherst was Williams worst lost on the season and snapped an impressive 4 game winning streak. Of course, the Ephs bounced back on Sunday defeating Trinity away from home 68-54. Trinity, whom I had ranked 4th in my preseason rankings. Trinity is a talented team and Williams clearly outperformed them. The defense was particularly impressive, holding Trinity to a measly 28.6% from the floor and forcing the Bantams to commit 13 turnovers. In both games Williams was led in scoring by the tandem of Devon Caveney ’17 and Amanni Fernandez ‘18, who combined to score 60 points on the weekend. The biggest problem for Williams is that their bench only produced 25 points through the entire weekend, this will need to improve in the coming weeks.
5.) Middlebury (10-2, 2-0)
Results: Defeated Wesleyan 76-63, defeated Conn College 58-56
I wrote in the preview that Middlebury’s biggest weakness was their occasionally anemic offense. I seemed to have struck a chord with a Panther or two as they scored their most points of the season on Friday against Wesleyan and eclipsed 70 points for the first time since the second game of the season. The Panthers were of course led by NESCAC player of the week Sarah Kaufman ’18, who tied a school record with 7 threes against Wesleyan and then made the game winning shot against Conn the next day. Kaufman led the team in scoring both days and was a force to be reckoned with. Middlebury has to be feeling good about securing two difficult road wins early in the year. If Kaufman continues to play this week Middlebury might be able to scare Tufts on Friday night and should defeat Bates on Saturday. 3-1 or 4-0 after two weekends in the NESCAC would be huge for the program and a massive confidence boost for the team.
6.) Conn College (10-3, 1-1)
Results: Defeated Hamilton 70-53, lost to Middlebury 58-56
Conn gets bumped up a spot here due to Trinity falling so heavily to Williams. The Camels did little to impress this weekend, defeating a team they should beat in Hamilton and falling in a close game to a team apparently on the rise in Middlebury. The Camels again relied heavily on their two go-to players Mairead Hynes ’18 and Payton Ouimette ’19. Hynes led the team in scoring both games and Ouimette was the second leading scorer in both games as well. Conn will need to find a reliable third option to continue a string of positive performances in NESCAC play. Liz Malman ’17 might just be that third option, but we will have to see who the Camels lean on as the season moves forward. The most glaring issue for the Camels came on the glass: Conn was out rebounded in both games this weekend, and that will need to change sooner rather than later if Conn has hopes of obtaining a NESCAC title.
7.) Trinity (9-3, 0-1)
Results: Lost to Williams 68-54
Only having one game in a weekend would seem like a positive for a team, but the Bantams seemed lethargic in their Sunday defeat at the hands of Williams, so perhaps the extra day did more harm than good. The game would have been even more of a blowout if Erica Junquet ’19, who had only averaged 7.8 points per game, hadn’t exploded for 17. As mentioned previously, Trinity was held to a paltry 28 percent from the field and was decisively out rebounded by the Ephs. Trinity’s starters, only one of whom managed to crack double digits in points scored, will need to step up for this team to remain competitive in the NESCAC. Home games next weekend against Wesleyan and Conn College should be a great opportunity for this team to get back on track and prove they’re legit.
8.) Hamilton (7-5, 1-1)
Results: Lost to Conn College 70-53, defeated Wesleyan 48-46
Hamilton is one team that stayed pat during the weekend’s slate of games. The Continentals were really outclassed by the Camels on Friday night. Their defense struggled to slow down Conn, who shot over 50 percent from the field for the game. Hamilton also relied heavily on their bench for their offense as two of their starters failed to reach the 5-point mark on the game, and only one starter managed to sneak into double digits. Falling behind 35-9 at one point in the first half really illustrated the difficulty this team had in scoring the ball. The team came back nicely on Saturday defeating Wesleyan on the road. Holding the Cardinals to 23.8 percent from the field was key to their victory since the starters struggled to generate points for the Continentals, who relied on 22 points from their bench to put away the struggling team from Wesleyan. Hamilton is a fringe playoff team that needs their stars to produce for the rest of the NESCAC season to ensure their position in the conference and not let their season end in disappointment.
9.) Bates (4-9, 1-1)
Results: Defeated Colby 64-57, lost to Bowdoin 70-58
Bates, in my preseason rankings, was definitely the bottom team. They were the only squad with a losing record and had struggled to score or play defense. A strong showing this weekend, however, has catapulted the Bobcats up several spots. Allie Coppola ’17 led the Bobcats to their upset of Colby by notching a career high 24 points. She also added in 16 rebounds just for good measure. That was the real key to Bates’ victory over Colby – absolute dominance on the boards. They finished with a rebounding margin of +21, and pulled in 44 rebounds overall. The team also had a strong showing against the highly regarded Bowdoin, keeping the game close until the Polar Bears were able to pull away in the fourth quarter. Coppola added 10 rebounds and 5 assists in this game to cap off her already stellar weekend of play. Bates will need to limit their turnovers (they averaged 20 per game for the weekend) if they want to remain competitive in NESCAC play and keep moving their way up in the rankings.
10.) Colby (6-6, 0-2)
Results: Lost to Bates 64-57, Lost to Tufts 70-58
Colby is surely disappointed after an 0-2 start to the season. The Mules were hammered on the boards this weekend, losing the rebounding battle by a whopping 25 rebounds over the course of two games. Colby also had a hard time generating points off their bench, only scoring 12 total this past weekend. And to add onto the rest of their struggles, their defense was certainly below average. Tufts managed to shoot 50 percent against the Mules while Bates managed to score on 40 percent of their shots. Colby’s team relies heavily on a couple of their starters to generate nearly all of their offense. This weekend it was the stellar play of Katie McCrum ’19 who dropped 22 points on Tufts (6-8 from three-point territory) and 11 on Bates. The Mules will need their star, Haley Driscoll ’18 to step up in the coming weeks after a disappointing weekend point total of just 20.
11.) Wesleyan (5-7, 0-2)
Results: Lost to Middlebury 76-63, Lost to Hamilton 48-46)
Wesleyan surely hoped a couple early home games would help propel them into the discussion as a potential playoff team, but their disappointing results from the weekend seem to indicate otherwise. While Wesleyan isn’t the only winless team in league-play ) Colby and Trinity are right there with them), they have to be upset that they couldn’t hold serve at home even one time this past weekend. The loss to Middlebury is understandable. It’s hard to beat a team when one player knocks down 7 three pointers by herself, but the Hamilton loss has to be truly heartbreaking considering the team led for the entire first half before a lackluster third quarter allowed the Continentals to creep back into and eventually steal the game. But Wesleyan fans should not despair just yet. Though they bring up the bottom of the rankings after the first week of play, the teams below the top three in the league are so close in talent and skill level that a late season run could catapult any number of stragglers into the playoff field. Of course, Wesleyan will need to right the ship quickly. Games against the juggernaut that is Amherst and the hungry-for-their-own-NESCAC-win Trinity Bantams next weekend will need the Cardinals’ full attention.
While much has been said in the last week about NESCAC men’s basketball (5 teams in the top 25 as of the writing of this piece), the women’s branch of the NESCAC has been gearing up for the beginning of their own conference schedule. With 10 of the 11 teams boasting winning records going into conference play this weekend the next couple weeks are sure to be filled with exciting games and action. But, before the games start, I need to make some predictions as I am prone to do. I’m choosing to write this article in a power ranking format where each team will be positioned based on where I project them to finish in the final standings.
#1 Tufts (Record: 10-0)
Tufts is currently ranked number 1 in the D3 hoops most recent women’s top 25 poll, so thusly they will occupy the top spot here. While Tufts doesn’t score at the rate of their NESCAC competition, averaging 64.5 points a game, their real strength lies in their defense. They are notoriously stingy allowing only 42.5 points a game. The Tufts anchor right now has to be senior center Michela North ’17. She is averaging 10.1 ppg and 7.8 rpg leading her team in both categories. Until someone unseats the Jumbos, who have been blowing people out by an average margin of victory of 21.9 PPG, they will remain at the top of this list.
#2 Amherst (10-0)
Amherst is right on Tufts’ tail in both the D3 Hoops rankings and in these ranking where they occupy the same position: number two. Amherst’s offense has been flat out dominant this year. They are second in the NESCAC in ppg with 78.2 and in field goal percentage where they shoot a blistering 45.2 percent from the field. They also lead the NESCAC in 3pt percentage bombing away with a 37.3 percent success rate. Don’t knock the other aspects of Amherst’s game though. They lead the NESCAC in rebounding margin and are second in points allowed per game. The standout right now is junior guard/forward Hannah Hackley ’18. The Westford, Massachusetts product is averaging 11.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game, while shooting over 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from three. The only knock right now on Amherst is a slight worry about their lack of depth. They only have one senior on the team and rely heavily on their first 6 players. Of course, benches will shorten during the NESCAC season anyway and Amherst has proven in the past to be able to win with almost any collection of players, so they’re certainly looking forward to this season.
#17 Bowdoin (10-1)
Bowdoin, in many ways has been the best team in the NESCAC this year, but they have a loss so for now we’re dropping them below Tufts and Amherst. Even their loss though, a 70-62 overtime defeat to Claremont, can be excused at least partially as it was their first game after their Christmas break. Bowdoin leads the NESCAC in scoring so far averaging a stunning 80.7 points per game. They aren’t sacrificing efficiency though as they also lead the league in field goal percentage at 46.3 percent and surrender the fewest turnovers per game, only 13.7. Kate Kerrigan ’18 has been key to Bowdoin’s explosive early season play. The 5’7” guard leads her team in points a game with 10.5, and she is second in rebounding and third in assists. She’s also tied for the team lead in steals with 1.5 a game. However, it’s Kerrigan’s shooting prowess that really shines through. She’s shooting over 55 percent from both the field and the three point line while also leading her team in field goals attempted per game. Bowdoin will certainly challenge Amherst and Tufts this year and seems poised to threaten either team come NESCAC championship time. Their Friday night tilt at Tufts should be a wild one.
After the top three teams, the league becomes much tighter. Four teams have two losses and all have also won at least 8 games. Trinity gets the nod here though as they combine a top four scoring offense with a top 5 defense. They have also been particularly dominant on the boards averaging a rebounding margin of 11.8 good for second in the league. After losing their season opener Trinity rattled off 8 straight wins and have displayed a potent offense, averaging 15.6 assists a game and shooting over 40 percent from the field. There are some concerns regarding their average of 17.2 turnovers per game, a number the coaching staff will surely hope to limit moving forward. Trinity relies heavily on sophomore center Courtney Erickson ’19 who is the only Bantam averaging double digits in points per game with 13.3. Her rebounding has also been excellent where she averages 7.4 per game. Trinity will have a chance to secure the number four spot this weekend when they play the next team on this list.
Williams is hot on Trinity’s heels for the fourth spot in the conference through the first 12 games of the season. Williams has proven that they can win both tight, ugly games (44-40 over Smith College) and in blowouts (66-46 over Springfield College). They also already have a quality win against a NESCAC opponent defeating Wesleyan in their Little 3 rivalry game 64-59. To maintain this position Williams will have to rely on a stingy defense that only allows 52.9 point per game. They are also third in the conference in field goal percentage defense forcing teams into shooting only 32 percent from the field. Much of Williams’ success will rely on Devon Caveney ’17. The 5’7 guard leads her team in scoring and stealing and is second on her team in assists per game with 2.7. Her coaches and teammates surely hope her three point shooting will improve (only 24.5 percent through 11 games) as NESCAC play begins and defenses tighten up.
Conn College (9-2)
Conn College has leapt out to an excellent start. One of their two losses came against Babson, a fringe top 25 team, and the loss was only by 9 points. Conn College has relied heavily on their offense, averaging 71.9 points per game, good for third in the league. Unfortunately their defense has been porous at times. They surrender 57.5 points a game, the second worst tally in the league, but this might be due to their high octane style of play. The Camels are second in the league in total field goals attempted and the gap between themselves and the third place team in nearly 50 shots. Conn relies heavily on two players Mairead Hynes ‘18 and Payton Ouimette ’19. Combined, the two are averaging 24.1 points per game and 16.7 rebounds. Hynes has also added 1.6 steals and nearly a block a game for good measure. The Camels’ hopes rest on the shoulders of these two and the rest of their starting five who have started all 11 games so far and are the only players averaging more than 20 minutes per game.
Middlebury has jumped out to a fast start and is looking to assert themselves as one of the better teams in the league. Much like several other teams on this list, Middlebury will live and die on the back of their defense. The Panthers currently allow a measly 47.5 points per game, good for third in the league, boast the fourth best rebounding margin in the league with 10.0, and only allow their opponents to shoot 33.7 percent from the field, good for fourth in the league. While the team’s defense has been commendable, their offense has struggled to consistently generate points. They rank in the bottom 4th of the league in points per game, assists per game, and field goal percentage. In their only two losses of the year the Panthers have failed to reach 50 points and struggled significantly from the field. A great deal of Middlebury’s offense comes from only 3 players, Colleen Caveney ’19, Catherine Harrison ’19, and Sarah Kaufman ’18, who are averaging 13.1, 10.0, and 9.7 points per game respectively. Caveney has been particularly impressive this year, averaging 4.3 rebounds per game, 1.4 steals, and shooting more than 44 percent from three on the season. Middlebury will have to step up their game on the offensive side of the ball to challenge for a spot at the top of the conference.
Hamilton started the season slowly, losing their first three games, but rebounded quickly and have gone 5-1 in the interim, hoping to continue that string of success in NESCAC play. Hamilton is a middling team in the conference on both offense and defense. They rank sixth in points scored per game and eighth in points allowed, but are the 5th best rebounding team in the conference based on rebounding margin with 8.3. Hamilton has also held their opponents to only 33.9 percent from the field and have also pressured opposing ball handlers well forcing 16.1 turnovers a game. Hamilton places a lot of their offensive burden on Lauren Getman ’18 the only player averaging double figures in points per game with 11.4. Getman has also been Hamilton’s leading rebounder on the year with 6.6 per game. The team as a whole has shot well from three, making these shots at a 33.3 percent clip, and Getman has been no exception shooting 55.6 percent from three on two attempts per game. Hamilton must hope for growth during NESCAC play from their second leading scorer Mackenzie Aldridge ’20 to challenge for a higher spot in the conference.
Colby ranks lower than Hamilton here due, at least partially, due to their propensity to get blown out when they lose. In all four of their losses Colby has fell by a double digit margin, and in two losses the margins were 20 and 22. Of course, one of those losses was in a non-conference battle with Bowdoin but that doesn’t bode well for a team hoping to remain competitive in the NESCAC after their trip to the semi-finals of the conference tournament last year. Colby has struggled on the boards compared to their NESCAC counterparts, only tallying a margin of 5.7 which is eighth in the league. Colby has also struggled to generate turnovers and allows their opponents to shoot 36 percent from the field, the second worst rating in the league. Where the defense has struggled, the offense has been at least serviceable. They average a middling 60.1 points per game, and have been the 6th most efficient team in the conference shooting 38.6 percent from the field. Haley Driscoll ‘18 has been the Mules’ bread and butter this year. The 5’11 center from Bedford, New Hampshire has been averaging 11.7 points per game and pulling 6.4 rebounds per game. She has also added 1.1 steals per game. Driscoll will need to carry much of the load for the Mules going forward.
Wesleyan has played five games on the road in there first ten matchups, compared to only three at home, and have gone 1-4 in those games (the other two games were at neutral sites). They are certainly hoping an end of season slate that features seven home games will lead to more winning. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, that will mean stepping up their play on both sides of the ball. They are currently 9th in the league in both points scored per game and points allowed per game, and are worst in the league in both field goal percentage and three point percentage. They are also ninth in the league in assists per game and average the most turnovers per game in the league. The Cardinals will certainly need Maeve Vitale ’18 to step up in a major way during conference play. The 5’8 guard is averaging 10.7 points per game on 38.9 percent shooting, while also draining 36.2 percent of her three pointers on more than five attempts per game. Vitale is also pulling down 5.6 rebounds and securing 1.9 steals per game, good for second and first on her team respectively. She’s all over the place for the Cardinals, but someone is going to need to step up and help her out if they want to climb the standings.
Bringing up the rear of our first power ranking on the Bates Bobcats who have stumbled early in the season to a 3-8 record. Unfortunately for Bates it is hard to focus on just one issue with this team. They are last in the NESCAC in both points scored per game and points and allowed. They also struggle with field goal percentage defense and their rebounding margin of 0.1 per game is the only NESCAC average less than 1. The only two meaningful statistical categories where Bates ranks in the top 8 of the league are assists per game where they rank eighth, and three point percentage where they rank sixth on the third most attempts. Bates also lacks depth, 6 players average more than 20 minutes per game and after than only one player averages more than 10 (Madeline Foote ’19, who averages 10.1). Allie Coppola ’17 has been one of the few consistent bright spots for the Bobcats, playing and starting all 11 games. She is also averaging 9.7 points per game, 9 rebounds per game, and 2.5 assists per game, good for second, first, and second on her team respectively. Things won’t get any easier for the Bobcats in the coming weeks as they play #17 Bowdoin and then travel to play Hamilton and Middlebury next weekend.