The Future is Now: Bowdoin Men’s Basketball Season Preview

Bowdoin Polar Bears

2016-2017 Record: 12-11; 3-7 in NESCAC (failed to reach NESCAC playoffs)

2017-2018 Projected Record: 5-5 in NESCAC

Key Losses:

Neil Fuller ‘17 (4.3 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.1 APG)

Fuller started every game for the Polar Bears last year, and was a consistent and experienced player. His leadership and poise will definitely be missed by a Polar Bears team that struggled with consistency last year. Luckily, Bowdoin returns most of their major contributors outside of Fuller.

Tim Ahn ‘19 (6.8 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 5.4 APG, 25 steals)

Ahn departs due to an academic semester abroad. Ahn led the Polar Bears in steals and assists last season, and was a quick and reliable ball handler. The Bears have some depth at guard, including three new first-year recruits.

Projected Starting Lineup:

Guard Zavier Rucker ‘21 (N/A)

Zavier Rucker
Zavier Rucker ’21 (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

Not much information is available about Zavier Rucker, but all signs point to him being in the starting lineup on day 1. He’s a gritty, hard-working player capable of playing multiple positions, and he hails from the Taft School. Coaches and veterans have said that Rucker may not light up the stat sheet, but will take care of the ball and serve as an elite on-ball defender. This is an area in which the Polar Bears struggled, so the addition of Rucker will perhaps boost Bowdoin in much needed areas.

Guard Liam Farley ‘18

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

A 6’5” senior from the Windy City, Farley has been a staple of the Bowdoin Basketball team since his first year. He’s a proven shooter from the outside, and has also shown the ability to get to the hoop. Depending on their approach, the Polar Bears may want Farley to drive to the hoop, and draw defenders away from their other shooters. Whether or not he can do this remains to be seen.

Forward David Reynolds ‘20

David Reynolds
David Reynolds ’20 (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

Reynolds made a pretty big splash in his first season with the Polar Bears, despite injury. He averaged 10.3 points per game and 21.5 minutes per game. He had good chemistry with Simonds, and was a solid interior defender as well. He’ll see a big uptick in minutes this year, and since he’s returning from injury, that may be a storyline to take note of. More on Reynolds below.

Forward Jack Simonds ‘19

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

Mr. Maine, and Mr. Reliable. An early (and accurate) candidate for NESCAC Player of the Year, Simonds has been a flat-out stud for the Polar Bears the past two years. He really does it all: shoots, drives to the hoop, defends well – he’s really a ‘jack’ of all trades (haha!). Though his average scoring dropped from 19 PPG in 2015-2016 to 16 PPG in 2016-2017, Simonds has shown no signs of slowing down. He will handle the ball consistently, and will be called upon to make things happen late in games. Simonds averaged the 6th most minutes per game in the NESCAC last season, so longevity may be a lingering issue for Simonds and the Polar Bears. If he can remain healthy and consistent (and I think he will), he will continue his trend of putting up big numbers for the Polar Bears. He is the real deal, and the team’s centerpiece.

Forward Hugh O’Neil ‘19

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

O’Neil saw a big increase in minutes last year, and he delivered solid interior defense and scoring. His 9.8 rebounds per game was good for second in the NESCAC. His transition into a starting role last year satisfied everyone’s hopes of O’Neil emerging into a beast on the boards. All signs indicate that trend continuing this season. At 6’7”, O’Neil may often be a bit smaller than his matchup, but that shouldn’t hurt his ability to use his quickness to score and grab rebounds down low.

Breakout Player: David Reynolds ‘20

Reynolds battled with injury last year, yet was able to produce in big ways when he was on the court. Sources tell me he’s healthier and stronger than ever now. He’ll most likely find himself in a starting role with a chance to showcase his scoring abilities early and often. If all goes right for Reynolds and the Polar Bears, he will complement Simonds’s scoring load and serve as another player opposing defenses need to worry about. His game resembles Simonds’ to some degree in its versatility. He shot nearly 40% from three last year on four attempts per game, but also uses his size to finish inside and from mid-range. Like I said before, his health was the question last year, and that was the only thing standing in the way of a really stellar freshman season. This year, Reynolds seems ready to shoulder a heavy workload, and with his athleticism and scoring ability, he should be a major contributor for the Polar Bears.

Season Outlook:

Bowdoin reeled a bit last year after losing Lucas Hausman, finishing tied for 9th in the NESCAC. In that season, though, Bowdoin coaches were forced to thrust players into unfamiliar roles and hope to get production. This year, on the other hand, Bowdoin will be returning most of its starters / key contributors, so there should be fewer instances of ‘growing pains.’ With a solid core consisting of Farley, Simonds, and O’Neil, this team should be in sync consistently and compete hard in every game they play.

Simonds has proven that he thrives in the spotlight and enjoys being ‘the guy’ for Bowdoin. His leadership and nasty scoring abilities must be on full display if Bowdoin is to make some noise in the league this year. Bowdoin will also need strong years from fellow captains Farley and O’Neil.

The Bowdoin bench will be captained by Blake Gordon ‘18, who can be deadly from three-point range. Beyond that, though, the Bowdoin bench has some question marks. Jack Bors ‘19 figures to be a regular presence off the bench, like in previous years, but could also figure into the starting lineup at the question-mark point guard spot. The Polar Bears have 5 new first year players, so odds are some of them will see decent time and be forced to contribute off the bench. Just who that will be remains to be seen. I mentioned Rucker as a likely first-year contributor, but he’ll need a solid supporting cast.

Bowdoin will need to take down perennial foes Amherst and Bates this year if they are to shake up the NESCAC leaderboards. They will need to get into a groove offensively and muster better on-ball defense if they want to compete with the teams at the top of the league.  If the Polar Bears can spread scoring evenly and have certain guys step up when called upon, this season could be a success. This team has a very solid core of junior and sophomore players, and a promising collection of first-years. After adding several more wins to their total this year, I think Bowdoin has a solid foundation to compete in the NESCAC for years to come.

A Mammoth Shakeup: 2017-2018 Amherst Men’s Basketball Season Preview

Amherst College Mammoths

2016-2017 Record: 17-8, 7-3, lost to Williams in first round of NESCAC Tournament, earned NCAA Berth (lost to Keene State)

2017-2018 Projected Record: 18-6, 5-5

Key Losses:

G Jayde Dawson (19.1 PPG, 2.6 AST/G, 1.2 STL/G)

F Eric Conklin (8.3 PPG, 59% FG, 4.7 REB/G)

F David George (6.2 PPG, 6.6 REB/G, 2.2 BLK/G)

Introduction:

It’s hard to even write the phrase “Amherst might be down this year,” but it could be true. In an offseason marked by the graduation of one of the best senior classes in recent league history, Jayde Dawson’s loss looms very large. Dawson, for better or worse, carried Amherst last year, finishing second in the league in scoring and closing out several games with clutch shots. Of course, he also shot them out of some close games, to the chagrin of Mammoth fans. But Amherst has the perimeter scoring to replace Dawson. Johnny McCarthy has long looked ready to be a number one option, and Michael Riopel may be the best outside shooter in the league. The losses that will hurt the Mammoths more are in the frontcourt. Eric Conklin was an excellent post scorer who gave Amherst the opportunity to play inside-out with him and Riopel, and George, for all his offensive liabilities, anchored a solid defense. In a league in which two of the three pre-season top teams (Middlebury and Williams) have supersized lineups, losing your two best big men isn’t a great recipe for success.  Add in solid point guard Reid Berman and stretch four Jacob Nabatoff, and Amherst is faced with replacing four starters and a sixth man. Coach David Hixon (who is closing in  has been known for his ability to reload quickly, and Amherst again has one of the best recruiting classes in the conference, but this year will be a challenge even for him.

Projected Starters:

G Vic Sinopoli ’19 (1.2 PPG, 4.8 MIN/G, 3:1 A/TO)

Vic Sinopoli
Vic Sinopoli ’19 (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

This spot is a huge question mark for Amherst. Last year, Reid Berman offered a steady hand at the position, but ball handling and creating duties were pretty much  handled by Dawson or McCarthy. As Amherst’s early exit in the playoffs showed, this is not a particularly sustainable method. Sinopoli played very few minutes as a sophomore last season, but runs the offense well and has the experience that Coach Hixon always prizes. However, first year Grant Robinson ’20 is chomping at the bit for this spot. Robinson offers a higher ceiling than Sinopoli. A speed demon with great court vision, he could take ball handling duties away from McCarthy and bring the Amherst offense to a more organic level than they reached last season. Their tournament this weekend will be a fascinating chance to see who impresses the most at the one.

G Michael Riopel ’18 (10.2 PPG, 47.4% 3FG, 0.8 STL/G)

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

There’s more on Riopel below in the Breakout Player section, but you can see from his stat line above what he brings to this team; shooting. Riopel is as consistent a shooter as there is in the league. But he is far from a one trick pony. At 6’5,” he can guard multiple positions, and rebounds very well (3.9 REB/G last season despite varying minutes.) Riopel is freed up this season, and a huge breakout is possible.

G/F Johnny McCarthy ’18 (14.2 PPG, 8.0 REB/G, 46% FG, 34% 3FG)

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

For much of his career, people have discussed McCarthy like he was the victim of some horrible tragedy. “Poor McCarthy, he’ll never get the touches he deserves playing next to Jayde Dawson.” This was a dumb take. Never mind that the defensive attention Dawson drew made much of McCarthy’s drives to the rim far more open than they will be this year, but McCarthy still got twelve shots and six threes per game. But nevertheless, this year McCarthy gets his chance to be a solo act. He should be aided by a starting role and more minutes for Riopel (more on him later,) whose outside shooting should keep driving lanes open. But McCarthy hasn’t shown himself to be a great passer yet in his career. He only averaged two assists against 1.8 turnovers last year. If Amherst hopes to have a more ball movement-centric offense this season without Dawson’s one-on-one skills, that will have to start with McCarthy, their best player and, finally, their go-to-guy.

F Eric Sellew ’20 (2.5 PPG, 9.3 MIN/G)

Eric Sellew
Eric Sellew ’20 (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

Sellew is another player who didn’t get many minutes last season due to Amherst’s short rotation. But with George and Conklin gone, Sellow is set to have his moment in the sun. A prototypical stretch four, Sellow has been working this off-season at stretching his range behind the arc, a prerequisite for this spot in Amherst’s perimeter-based offense. As a regular contributor last season, Sellew has a clear first crack at this starting spot, but he is not without competition. Junior Dylan Groff ’19 has made tremendous strides during training camp, and Fru Che, a first year, has impressed as well. Sellew has to be an offensive threat for the Mammoths to have enough firepower to keep up with Williams, Tufts and Middlebury.

C Joseph Schneider ’19 (2.1 PPG, 4.6 MIN/G)

Joseph Schneider
Joseph Schneider ’19 (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

Schneider is a fascinating player, and could be the key to Amherst making the jump from “fine” to “good” or even from “good” to “great.” At 6’10” and with a tremendous wingspan, Schneider is one of the biggest players in the league, and offers a nice centerpiece to what is a very long Amherst lineup. He got little to no playing time last year behind George, Conklin and Nabatoff, but projects as a key cog in the offense this season. He has good footwork and hands, and his size alone should make him something of a shot-blocking threat. Amherst has succeeded in the past with four perimeter players and a traditional center, so the lack of outside from shooting from him and backup CJ Bachman ’19 shouldn’t be too much of an issue. If Schneider can be a real threat the way Conklin was last year, Amherst could be in business.

Breakout Player: G Michael Riopel ’18 

As I mentioned above, Riopel is a deadeye shooter. But he won’t be able to rely the constant double teaming of McCarthy and Dawson this season. Of course, McCarthy will still demand a great deal of defensive attention, but teams will still make sure to leave a good defender on Riopel. If he is going to make a leap, it will have to be as a ball handler and driver. He showed signs of being able to that last season, shooting nearly 50% from two point land overall. But during league play, he made only one non-three pointer per game. He needs to at least develop a midrange pull-up game to contend with players running him off the three point line. And with his height, he has the potential to finish at the rim too. Amherst’s offense last season was often stagnant, with far too much one on one play. The loss of Dawson should improve that, but scoring will be a problem, and Riopel is crucial to solving it.

Michael Riopel ’18 will need to become more of an all around threat to make up for the loss of Dawson.

Everything Else:

I hesitate to use the term “rebuilding year” for the Mammoths. They still have McCarthy, one of the three or four most skilled players in the league, as well as Riopel. A better term might be “retooling.” Amherst is faced with the task of changing their entire style of play. Although much of the criticism of Jayde Dawson was alarmist, he did force the Mammoths to play a slower style of basketball than they would like. This season, the Mammoths look poised to play a ball movement-heavy, 3-and-D type of game that should at least be more fun to watch, and possibly more successful as well. Riopel and McCarthy are the key to this offense, but the retooling has occurred mostly in their supporting cast. Sellow and Groll are stretch fours whom Amherst will use mostly on the perimeter. And G Tommy Mobley ’20, after barely playing during his first year, will get serious minutes and three point looks.

This new, aggressive style should apply on defense as well. After relying largely on David George to make up for gambling on the perimeter, Amherst is now playing a switchier lineup, with a focus on the perimeter. Riopel and McCarthy have elite size and length for their position, as does Sinopoli. And of course, Schneider is one of the bigger players in the league. He will be a key. If he is a liability in the pick and roll, teams like Middlebury and Williams will be able to roast him with their skilled perimeter bigs. But if they play a smaller player, they will severely lack rim protection. There’s a chance that Amherst’s off-season losses hurt them on defense more than offense.

Amherst has retooled with Williams in mind, as every team in the league has had to do this off-season.

Amherst is one of the harder teams in the league to project. They lost an almost impossibly high percentage of their scoring and minutes in the off-season. For any other team, this would be a death sentence, and this preview would be about them looking towards 2018-2019. But this is Amherst we’re talking about. They always seem to find a way to be there at the end of the season. And, with a far more sustainable (and young) offense, Amherst is in a position to be there in the future as well.

 

Is This The Year?:2017 Hamilton Men’s Basketball Preview

2016-17 Record: 16-8 (4-6 NESCAC); lost to Tufts in NESCAC quarterfinals

2017-18 Projected Record: 17-7 (4-6 NESCAC)

Key Losses:

G Kyle Pitman ’17 (13.8 MPG, 3.5 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 0.9 APG)

G/F Wes Wilbur ’17 (11.3 MPG, 2.7 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 0.5 APG)

F Carlos Fineman ’17 (8.2 MPG, 2.3 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 0.6 APG)

Projected Starters:

Jack Dwyer ’18 (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)

G Jack Dwyer ’18 (26.0 MPG, 7.7 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 5.4 APG)

Now in his fourth year at Hamilton, Dwyer has been a key contributor to the team since his freshman year. As one of two seniors in the starting lineup and as the point guard, Dwyer has the team’s biggest leadership role. However, he is up to the task as he has played floor general for the Continentals since his freshman season. He averaged 18 minutes a game off the bench as a freshman, with 3.8 points and 3.6 assists per game. The 5-10 point guard moved to a starting role in his sophomore season, improving to 11 points and 5.5 assists per game. Dwyer will have to improve on his 39.2 shooting percentage from last season, the second lowest on the team. He had a bit of a down year in stats as well last season, averaging 7.7 and 5.4, but should be ready to come back in full force this season. Dwyer is in the starting lineup for experience, but it should be noted that this spot will likely belong to Kena Gilmour ’20 sooner rather than later. Gilmour had a spectacular freshman season, averaging 12 points per game on 48% shooting in just 18 minutes. Dwyer provides an experienced counterpart to Gilmour’s potential, but potential will most likely win out.

Andrew Groll ’19 (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)

F Andrew Groll ’19 (22.3 MPG, 8.2 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 0.8 APG)

Groll got to Hamilton two years ago and started right away, averaging 9.5 points and 7.8 rebounds per game in his freshman season. He picked up right where he left off the next year, averaging 8.2 points and 7.4 rebounds. At 6-7, Groll is the tallest player on Hamilton’s roster and could be due for a breakout junior season. If he can get into double digits, the Continentals could make a run for the top half of the NESCAC. There are several facets of his game that could easily get him over that mark. He shoots 44.8 percent which is low for a big man and will need to get that number up to 50 percent. He also has made a surprising 7 of 15 shots from behind the arc, which means he could have the potential to expand his game and shoot more three-pointers. Finally, Groll only shot 75 percent from the line and could also improve in that category. If Groll can make slight improvements in those three parts of his game, he could see some double-doubles this season.

Peter Hoffman ’19 (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)

G/F Peter Hoffmann ’19 (28.3 MPG, 16.7 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 1.2 APG)

Hoffman also started right away for the buff and blue, and averaged 12.7 points and 4.3 rebounds his freshman season. He saw a nice uptick in production last year, averaging 16.7 points, fifth in the NESCAC, and 5.6 rebounds per game. He also made an impressive 42.2 percent of shots from behind the 3-point arc. It’s hard to ask more from the NESCAC’s fifth scorer, but as Hamilton’s best player Hoffman might need to increase his production for the Continentals to improve this season. He will likely see another increase in minutes and if he can increase his point total by even one basket a game, it could make the difference.

Michael Grassey ’19 (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)

G/F Michael Grassey ’19 (23.6 MPG, 12.4 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.4 APG)

Hailing from Winchester, Massachusetts, Grassey had a solid freshman season, averaging 9.4 points and 5 rebounds in 20 appearances off the bench. He earned a starting spot in his sophomore season, increasing his production to 12.4 points and 6.2 rebounds. His 82.1 percent career average from the free throw line leads the team. Grassey led the team in scoring several times last season, and it will be important for him to take next steps to help lighten Hoffman’s load. He also will need to continue to contribute on the boards despite his 6-4 stature. Grassey is an all around tough player and is in many ways the heart and soul of the 2017-18 Continentals.

Joe Pucci ’18 (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)

G/F Joe Pucci ’18 (24.1 MPG, 6.0 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.1 APG)

The other senior on the team, Pucci, may not contribute as much on the stat sheet but is a leader both in the clubhouse and on the court. He averaged 6 points last season, a solid improvement from 5.3 points in his sophomore year. If he can find double figures a few times this season, it will certainly help the Continentals take more teams to the wire than last season. Again, part of Hamilton’s success relies on lightening the dependence on Hoffman. If Pucci can step up with more points, the Continentals will be rolling deep into the NESCAC playoffs.

Key/Breakout Player: Peter Hoffmann ’19

Hamilton has a deep starting lineup, but the offense runs through Hoffman and will depend on his production this season. The team was 8-2 when he scored 20 points or more, so if he can increase his production by the slightest amount, Hamilton should contend for the top half of the NESCAC. As stated before, the junior from Putnam Valley is likely to see even more time on the court. This is because his responsibilites for Hamilton are on both sides. He is their best scorer, using his size and touch to either post up smaller players or take forwards off the dribble. And defensively, he is their best rim protector, averaging nearly 2 blocks and two steals per game (1.9 and 1.7. respectively.) He will get the defensive assignment against many of the best scorers in the league, and will likely be asked to score 20 points as well. If he does this and Hamilton takes a leap forward in the tournament, Player of the Year is very much in the realm of possibility.

Key game: Friday, February 2nd at Bates

Hamilton has two Friday-Saturday road trips back to back in late January and early February. They will want to go 2-2 in that stretch, and three or even four losses could derail their season. Hamilton plays an unbalanced home and road schedule in the NESCAC, in fact, with six games on the road compared to just four at home. Last season, Bates’s 83-78 win ended a six-game Hamilton win streak. Although they recovered two games later with wins over SUNY Polytechnic and Williams, they certainly wish they could have that one back.

New Coach: Sherry Dobbs

Adam Stockwell added Sherry Dobbs to his staff this offseason, replacing Bryan Mathews who took an assistant job at Southern Virginia. Dobbs most recently coached as an assistant on the St. Lawrence staff, leading them to a 20-7 record and an NCAA Division III tournament appearance. Before that he spent 13 years at the head position for SUNY Potsdam where he got as far as the NCAA quarterfinals in 2005.

Season Outlook:

After a solid improvement from 2015-16’s 11-13 record, Hamilton finished 2016-17 at eighth place in the NESCAC. With only three seniors on the roster, the Continentals are still a young team and have a lot of promise for the future. However, the junior class of Hoffman, Grassey and Groll means they also have the ability to win now and could pose a serious threat to some of the NESCAC’s top half teams. It has been a theme of the last few seasons in the NESCAC that Hamilton is a threat. Last season it seemed imminent that the Continentals would use their immense potential to come for the top teams. This paranoia reached its peak following their upset of nationally ranked Wesleyan. However, they weren’t able to sustain that momentum, in large part due to that same youth. Four of their six NESCAC losses last season were decided by double digits, suggesting that, once they fell behind, they didn’t feel ready to come back.

Kena Gilmour
Kena Gilmour ’20 was Rookie of the Year last season, and could make a further leap this year.

On paper, this season has a chance to be different. Hamilton is kind of the Milwaukee Bucks of the NESCAC, in that they shy away traditional positions in favor of length and versatility. Hoffman, Grassey and Gilmour are all long, athletic players who can guard multiple positions and score from all over the court. As I said above, Hoffmann is the key to this team, but Gilmour may be the co-key. Gilmour has the potential to be a transcendent creator off the dribble, which Hamilton lacks right now. His relentless driving to the basket will open up lanes for Hoffmann, Grassey and Groll to either cut or pop out for three. If Gilmour makes another leap as a sophomore, Hamilton could finish in the top four. Not a typo, it’s very possible. But to do this, they must find a way to stay in games and not let teams pull away. Their previously mentioned unbalanced schedule will make for a tough season, but they might have the most returning talent in the league, and didn’t lose their best player (unlike Williams, Middlebury or Trinity.) This could be Hamilton’s year, but again, we said that last year.

Will The Mules Kick?: Colby Men’s Basketball Season Preview

Colby College Mules

Losing Patrick Stewart is a huge blow to a team that didn’t find any NESCAC success in 2017. Also gone are Joe Connelly and Max Steiner who started and saw significant time last year. That leaves the rebuilding Mules with G Ethan Schlager ’19, F Sean Gilmore ’20, and a host of players looking to crack the starting lineup. Potential starters are newcomers G Wallace Tucker ’21 and G Matt Hanna ’21, the 2017 sixth man G Tyler Williams ’20, F Steven Daley ’19, G Alex Dorian ’20, and G Sam Jefferson ’20. The positive takeaways from last year include a much higher ceiling for 2018, a host of experience for the Mules’ young players, and plenty of competition in the preseason for spots up for grabs. Coach Strahorn emphasized that while the Mules lack a big rebounding presence in their front court (Jefferson and Daley both out-rebounded the 6’7” Gilmore), but will attempt to make up for it with their pace of play. The Mules play with a smaller, guard-heavy lineup and don’t have a true center, but this allows for a fast game speed. There should be a collective rebounding effort from the guards with a nose for the ball and the few with more size, although they will need to improve in the paint to make a noticeable transition out of NESCAC obscurity. Coach Strahorn is also excited about first year players Hanna and Tucker who are dynamic players that can force penetration on offense, pushing opponent defenses to collapse and rotate. At this point in the year with a developing program, Coach Stahorn said that up to 14 players have the ability to carve out a role this season. The season’s just around the corner, and the Mules need somebody to step up with Stewart no longer in the picture.

2016-2017 record: 10-14 (.417); 1-9 (.100) (NESCAC)

Playoffs: Did not play playoffs

Key Losses:

  • G Joe Connelly ‘17 (21.3 MPG, 7.8 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 2.1 APG)
  • F Patrick Stewart ‘17 (29.2 MPG, 16.1 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.5 APG)

Projected Starting Lineup:

  • G Ethan Schlager ‘20 (22.7 MPG, 6.7 PPG, 2.3 APG, 3.3 RPG)
Ethan Schlager
Ethan Schlager ’20 (Courtesy of Colby Athletics)

The sophomore guard will play a critical role in the Mules’ 2017-2018 campaign. As a freshman last year, Schlager logged an impressive 22.7 Min/G. Schlager’s role this year will grow even larger with the loss of G Joe Connelly. The sophomore guard dished out 2.3 assists per game last year, and that statistic will have to go up even further if the Mules want to improve their offense from a season ago. Easier said than do, however, with the loss of F Patrick Stewart. Stewart’s finishing ability and offensive prowess led him to be the best Mule scorer by far. He will likely be one of the leading assist men for the Mules this year. The Choate alum showed he could put the ball in the basket, but he needs to improve his field goal percentage if the Mules seriously want to content. His 38.1 FG % from the field last year needs to improve to around 45%-50% if he wants to be depended upon as an efficient scorer. He did show decent range with a 39.8% three point percentage. With Connelly out of the picture, Schlager’s effectiveness as a guard who facilitates and scores at an efficient clip is essential to Colby’s success.

  • Sam Jefferson ‘20 (24.1 MPG, 7.8 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.6 APG)
Sam Jefferson
Sam Jefferson ’20 (Courtesy of Colby Athletics)

Jefferson, a Newton, Massachusetts native, played in all twenty-four games for the Mules last season. He averaged about twenty-four minutes per game, which shows his dependency. The 6’ 4” two guard snagged four rebounds per game and posted nine points per game in NESCAC play. With the loss of Stewart, the main offensive weapon in Colby’s arsenal, Jefferson needs to step up his offensive game. Similar to Schlager, his field goal percentage dipped below 40% last year. Without Stewart, more defensive attention will be given to both Schlager and Jefferson. Therefore, it’s imperative to the two guards to swing the ball wing to wing and toss passes down to the post to keep the defensive on its heels. More open looks will be generated by ball movement, and probably greater shooting efficiency will occur. If Colby wants to win, Jefferson will need to score the ball more efficiently, and generate more open looks, which will in turn bring up his assist numbers.

  • G Alex Dorion ‘20 (16.1 MPG, 4.2 PPG, 1.2 RPG, 1.2 APG)
Alex Dorion
Alex Dorian ’20 (Courtesy of Colby Athletics)

Dorion shot a lot of threes last year. To have the audacity to shoot that many threes as a freshman is something to tip your cap to. However, shooting in the low 30%’s for three isn’t necessarily great. Adding to that, shooting overall in the 30%’s doesn’t make me want to pick him as the man Colby depends on like they did for Stewart. Nevertheless, freshman year is over. NESCAC basketball moves at a much faster rate than most high school leagues, so a year under the belt for Dorion is crucial. After an offseason of lifting and working on his shooting form, I think he can turn into a three point assassin. He has decent size for a guard, and he’s sneakily athletic. He gets into good position to get steals and draw charges. Again, do I think he’ll be the difference maker for the Mules? No. I do think that he’ll make a positive impact if he cracks the starting lineup, which I think he will. He doesn’t have the three point prowess of a J.J. Reddick or Kyle Korver, but I think he can be like a decent catch and shoot guy like Steve Novak.

  • F Sean Gilmore ‘20 (16.3 MPG, 7.7 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 1.7 APG)
Sean Gilmore
Sean Gilmore ’20 (Courtesy of Colby Athletics)

Colby’s frontcourt is headlined by 6’ 7” Sean Gilmore, who looks to build off a successful freshman campaign. Gilmore provides rim protection for the Mules; he led the team in blocks last year with twenty-four. Even though he only averaged around sixteen minutes per game, I see him playing a larger role this year with Stewart having graduated. Obviously in this day in age of three point basketball, rebounds remain paramount with either generating second chance opportunities or preventing them. As the rim protector of the team, Gilmore’s 2.8 rebounds per game will have to drastically improve from last year. I know he played a lesser role last season, but as someone who’s one of the bigger guys on the court, he has to use his footwork to get position on those rebounds. In the 2016 NBA Finals, Tristan Thompson was one of the major reasons why Cleveland won due to his size, rim protection, and rebounding ability. Gilmore has two of those attributes, and I’m sure a year in the league has only enhanced his anticipation skills, footwork, and box out ability.

  • F Steven Daley ‘19 (15.6 MPG, 4.9 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 0.8 APG)
Steven Daley
Steven Daley ’19 (Courtesy of Colby Athletics)

With limited depth in the front court, Daley’s transition from underclassmen to upperclassmen will be put to the test the season. The 6’ 4” Daley reminds me of a player similar to Draymond Green. An undersized four who’s athletic, can shoot, and tough inside seems like the common trend in basketball nowadays. Daly is no different. A football and basketball player at Roxbury Latin, Daley can bang with the big boys in the paint, but can also defend a smaller guard on a switch out on the perimeter. The numbers from last year don’t jump out at you, but I think that’s Colby’s mantra anyways. There’s no one player, with Stewart gone, who’s going to burn a defense. Each player has to make steady contributions to the offense, and Daley is no exception. What really stood out to me from last year is his field goal percentage. With the guards shooting relatively inefficiently, a 50.5% from the field lit up my eyes. I think the biggest takeaway from Daley and Gilmore is that they have to set the tone for the team. Both these guys have to be a physical force down in the paint because I don’t have much faith in the guards’ ability to compensate for Connelly and Stewart’s departure.

Key Player: G Ethan Schlager ‘20

The common theme in the article is how to make up for the offense that Patrick Stewart gave to the Mules. The man averaged sixteen points per game, while the next guy didn’t even come close to that. Further, the loss of another offensive threat in the form of Joe Connelly hurts the Mules’ offense even more. This is where Ethan Schlager comes in. I think that he has to take the roles of both Connelly and Stewart combined if the Mules want to be successful. If that’s the case, all his numbers have to go up. And I mean every important offensive statistic. For one thing, he has to be a better facilitator. Without as many scorers as last year, it’s imperative for him to use his basketball IQ to get his teammates clean, open looks. Next, his field goal percentage needs to climb. This improvement not only comes in the form of better shots, but having confidence. With Stewart and Connelly gone, Schlager needs to think of himself as the man. He has to be the one who carries the team. If that field goal percentage rises above 45%, I believe his points will climb as well. I’m not saying he has to be a walking double double every night, but he needs to be awful close for Colby to make a serious improvement from last year.

Everything Else:

There’s isn’t much to say about last season for the Mules. With only one conference win, there isn’t anywhere to go but up. The Mules have to keep that in mind all season. With teams like Williams, Middlebury, Amherst, and Wesleyan in the league, Colby needs to take each game one at a time. Looking at all those big names can be daunting, but understanding that any improvement is beneficial is a necessity. Also, understanding the team’s state right now is imperative. Colby only graduated two seniors last year. The projected starting lineup is made up of all underclassmen with the exception of Daley. Colby will remain relatively young for the foreseeable future. As much as I’ve grown to disdain this phrase because of its repetition, I’ll invoke it now because I think it’s entirely applicable: “Trust the Process.” Like the Sixers, it’s hard for me to say that Colby’s going good this year. Every team should have confidence in themselves, but as an impartial writer, I’m not going to sit here and say that Colby will miraculously be one of the best teams in such a competitive conference. Connelly and Stewart’s departures definitely don’t help the Mules either. There are some glimmers of hope, however, especially in Colby’s backcourt. For a team that ranked the worst in the league in points last year, the team astonishingly ranked second in assists. Keep the ball moving; shots will eventually fall. The young guards shouldn’t be shaken with their poor shooting from last year. If they stick with it, the shots will fall if they trust all the work they’ve put in in the offseason. In conclusion, don’t look for the Mules to wow you with improvement, but I think they can pick up a few more wins this year in order to escape the bottom of the league. 

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.

Winter (Sports) is Coming: Football Season Wrap-Up

Well here we are. It’s 34 degrees outside, it’s supposed to snow next Tuesday, and another NESCAC football season has come and gone. And what a season it was. Trinity was supposed to use the rest of the league as target practice, and for the most part they did. But the Mammoths stunned them in Week Seven, and gave us one of the more exciting final weekends in recent memory. We had an incredible senior class that gave us highlights galore all year, and they will all be missed. But there are also talented young players who have the league set up for the future, especially the first year QB crew of Williams’ Bobby Maimaron, Amherst’s Ollie Eberth and Bates’ Brendan Costa.

However, the biggest story of the season might not have to do with the players at all. 2017 was the first season in which the teams played a full nine game schedule, ensuring that everyone played everyone else. I don’t know what the readers think, but to me it was a roaring success. The biggest reason that the final weekend was so exciting was that head-to-head play was such a factor. Amherst could have clinched the title with a win over Williams because of their win over Trinity, which gave them the tiebreaker. And Middlebury’s win over Tufts mattered because the tie breakers they had with Wesleyan and Amherst would have allowed them to share the title had Trinity lost. In the past, there’s a chance Amherst and Trinity wouldn’t have even played. Count us in as big fans of the ninth game.

Speaking of Williams, the Ephs have to be the other biggest story of the season. Last year, Williams went 0-8 and were outscored on the season 99-263. In the Biggest Little Game in America 2016, Williams lost 28-3. Fast forward a year, and Williams beat Amherst 31-24 to finish at 6-3 keep their hated rivals from a NESCAC title. Credit for this incredible turnaround has to go to Head Coach Mark Raymond. Raymond vaporized the culture of losing that had permeated the Williams locker room in about five minutes, and created one of the tougher teams in the league. They had wins over two of the best teams in the league (Amherst and Middlebury) in the two most exciting games of the year, showing their knack for clutch play. The culture that Raymond that has established in such a short time is borderline unbelievable. Coach of the Year is his by a mile.

Williams made incredible strides this season, and might well take home the title next year.

Of course, the next most credit has to go to the players. Despite having the youngest team in the league, Williams showed that they’re already one of the elite teams in the league. QB Bobby Maimaron ‘21 is a star, adjusting his game to fit the opponent. Against Middlebury, he matched Jared Lebowitz ‘18 throw for throw to pick apart Middlebury’s iffy secondary. And against the dominant Amherst defense, he kept it on the ground and ran for four touchdowns, including the game winner in OT. In an offseason that will see the departure of three elite quarterbacks, Maimaron is the next superstar. With other impressive first years like WR Frank Stola, RB T.J Dozier and LB T.J Rothman, Williams may well be the favorite to win the title next season. Imagine saying that two years ago.

As I said earlier, this was a season full of stellar seniors. Wesleyan’s tandem of QB Mark Piccirillo and WR Mike Breuler put up video game numbers all year, and forced some record book re-writing. Breuler ended the season with 87 receptions and 1167 yards, both records, and Piccirillo finished the season with a 70.4% completion percentage, top five in the country. These two stars might be the top two contenders for POY, but they weren’t the only stars who will be leaving the NESCAC sky. Trinity QB Sonny Puzzo ‘18 closed his career with back to back NESCAC titles, and picked apart Wesleyan in his final game to the tune of 228 yards and three touchdowns (2 passing one rushing.) Puzzo is one of the most successful QB’s in recent NESCAC history.

Mike Breuler ’18 is one of the best receivers in NESCAC history.

And then there’s Jared Lebowitz. I promised myself (and every other writer) that I wouldn’t write this whole article about him, but just a few words. When he went down against Bates, he was having one of the best QB seasons in recent NESCAC history, with 18 touchdowns against just two interceptions. His matchup with Puzzo and Trinity is one of the great “what-ifs” of the season, as if he had played it might have been an all-time classic. No matter what, Lebowitz will go down as maybe the best of the Middlebury quarterback dynasty, and one of the best on any team. I may still vote for him as the Second Team QB (I kid, I kid.)

There’s one more, considerably less athletic graduating senior to mention; me. This will be my last season covering NESCAC football for this blog. I’m in the library and crying is frowned upon so I won’t write too much, but just know that this blog has been the best choice I’ve made in my college career. I got my start with football, and getting to write about the teams that I’ve grown up loving (Middlebury) and loathing (Amherst) is an incredible pleasure. To all the players, parents and fans, you’re the reason we do it, thank you for reading.

In the words of Bill Belichick, we’re on to basketball.

The Last Football Show: Week 9 Weekend Preview

As always, make sure you check out Matt’s excellent piece on the Game of the Week, Amherst @ Williams. But that is far from the only good game here on the last weekend of the season. Middlebury @ Tufts has major championship implications, as does, of course, Trinity vs Wesleyan. And the other games feature young teams battling it out for pride and confidence, which can often produce the best games. This is how the season ends, not with a whimper, but with a bang.

Middlebury (6-2) @ Tufts (5-3), 12:30 PM, Medford, MA

It would take a good deal of help from Wesleyan and Williams for this game to have championship ramifications but it could. If Wesleyan beats Trinity, Williams beats Amherst, and Middlebury beats Tufts, then the Panthers would be one of four teams (Trinity, Wesleyan, Amherst and them) who finish at 7-2. Additionally, Middlebury would have the head to head tiebreaker over Wesleyan and Amherst. There’s a lot of moving parts to that equation, but all of them are very possible, so Middlebury has quite a bit to play for in this game. Tufts has no championship hopes, but they;d love to play spoiler and grab a win over an elite team.

As has been the case for Middlebury for the last two weeks, the big key is the play of Jack Meservy ‘19. He got knocked around by Trinity (the best secondary in the league) and did some  knocking of his own against Hamilton (arguably the worst.) Against the Continentals he flashed a nice touch on deep balls, throwing two deep touchdowns to speed merchant Jimmy Martinez ‘19. Tufts ranks somewhere in the middle of the spectrum of NESCAC secondaries (with Hamilton and Trinity as the two ends.) Tim Preston ‘18 is a threat, but he hasn’t gotten a ton of help this year, and Tufts defensive numbers are middling at best. A good showing here could cement Meservy’s spot as next year’s starter… or Lebowitz could come back. We shall see.

Ryan McDonald ’19 is made to attack the Middlebury defense.

Middlebury’s defense has been really excellent since Lebowitz went down, allowing the offense many chances to put it together. But they haven’t faced an attack quite like Tufts yet. Ryan McDonald ‘19 challenges defenses with his legs even more than Puzzo and Maimaron, two quarterbacks whom Middlebury often allowed to escape the pocket and move the chains through scrambling. And plus, the Jumbos’ run game is starting to look more like last year’s albeit without one star. In their last three weeks, which feature a win over Williams and an impressive loss to amherst (31-26,) Tufts has used a committee of talented backs to beat teams on the ground and set up play action throws on the run for McDonald. It’s hard to predict which back will be the lead, but Mike Pedrini ‘21 and Andrew Sanders have both played well. Run defense has killed Middlebury in both of their losses, particularly containing quarterbacks. I think it hurts them again this week.

Score Prediction

Tufts 20, Middlebury 15

Wesleyan (6-2) @ Trinity (7-1), 12:00 PM, Hartford, CT

This classic offense-defense matchup features Trinity fighting to keep the solo championship which was all but guaranteed for much of the season. They’ll need help from Williams, of course, but nothing happens unless they win here. And boy do they have their work cut out for them. Wesleyan may well have played the best all-around game of any team this season last week, pasting Williams 35-0. They held the Ephs to just 127 total yards, and phenom QB Bobby Maimaron to just 51, with two interceptions. And on the other side of the ball, QB Mark Piccirillo ‘18 stuck his namely firmly at the front of the POY race. He has now not thrown an interception in three games after throwing seven in the first five, and has five passing touchdowns in the last two. He also has four rushing touchdowns on the year (with no fumbles in the last five games) and is in the top five in the country in completion percentage at over 70%. With Lebowitz possibly done, Piccirillo is the best QB in the conference, and a win over the Bantams would cement his legacy and secure his hardware.

Trinity has to be pretty steamed following a pretty severe beatdown at the hands of the Mammoths. The final score of 28-20 is misleading–Amherst dominated the whole way, and the Bantams scored a touchdown with 24 seconds left to make it more respectable. Much of Trinity’s offense is created by their defense; takeaways set them up in great field position and force opposing defense back onto the field quickly tiring them out and allowing Max Chipouras ‘19 to find the holes. Amherst didn’t turn the ball over once, and as such was able to dominate time of possession 36:22 to 23:07. As I said above, Wesleyan has not been turning the ball over at all lately. Piccirillo has cleaned it up, and they have a pen of sure-handed running backs, like Sean Penney ‘21 and Glenn Smith ‘21, who hold onto the ball and can run out the clock or set up Piccirillo scrambles. Trinity has to force turnovers in this game, and they may have to look outside of Dominique Seagears ‘18, who will have his hands full with Mike Breuler ‘18. The linebacking corps of Dago Picon-Roura ‘19, Liam Kenneally ‘18 and Carty Campbell ‘18 may make the difference. If they can pick of a slant pass or force a fumble from one of those young running backs, Trinity is back in business.

Predicted Score: Trinity 27, Wesleyan 20

Bates (2-6) @ Hamilton (2-6)

The “Best of the Rest” championship could actually be a pretty thrilling game. Both teams are high octane offenses with bad defenses. That’s the recipe for a lot of points, and in a hurry. Bates’ offense is more of a recent development. QB Brendan Costa ‘21 has found the easier half of the schedule to his liking, turning into ‘08 Madden Michael Vick before our eyes. He leads all NESCAC players in rushing yards over the last four weeks, and has made some big throws as well. Bates is inverting the NESCAC offensive trend of the season, by using passes as a change of pace for a run-heavy offense. Mickey Nichol, Brian Daly and Jaason Lopez are all receivers who can make big plays out of short, dump-off passes in between Costa’s electrifying runs. Against bad defenses, this offense is very fun to watch, and tremendously successful.

Jaason Lopez ’21 is a big play threat for the Bobcats due to his incredible speed.

Hamilton is a more traditional offense, but can also light up weak defenses. QB Kenny Gray ‘20 is underrated, and he has legit set of weapons in Joe Schmidt ‘20, Christian Donohoe ‘20, and RB Mitch Bierman ‘21. Gray missed their game against Middlebury last week, and his status for this game is up in the air. If he doesn’t play, Bates should have an easy path to victory. But even if he does, the porous hamilton defense should let Costa do whatever he wants in leading the Bobcats to victory.

Predicted Score: Bates 35, Hamilton 28

Colby (0-8) @ Bowdoin (0-8), 12:30 PM, Brunswick, ME

If you remember Season Four of Friday Night Lights, the “Toilet Bowl” was a huge moment of team bonding for East Dillon Lions. It was their first win, and for a team that had to forfeit their home opener due to injury concerns, the importance of that win could not be overstated. For one of these teams, that will also be the case. Bowdoin has enjoyed some offensive success as of late. Promising first year QB Griff Stalcup played a great game against Wesleyan, but missed last week’s loss to Bates. But Noah Nelson ‘19 was able to step in against Bates and put up a very effective performance, throwing for 302 yards and two touchdowns. Bowdoin has the weapons to be an effective offense with consistent QB play. RB Nate Richam ‘18 is injured, but Gregory Olsen ‘21 looked like his NFL counterpart last week, catching two touchdowns. WR Nick Vailas ‘18 and TE Bryan Porter ‘18 have long been underrated based on playing in Bowdoin. The Polar Bears have the offense to make this a laugher.

Colby doesn’t have nearly the offensive firepower of Bowdoin, but they have real difference-makers on defense. LB Sebastian Philemon ‘19 (69 tackles) and S Don Vivian ‘19 (3 INT)  are legit All-League candidates. Against Bowdoin’s precariously good offense, the two of them should be real difference makers. Add in versatile RB Jake Schwern ‘19, who should get a ton of touches, and this really is anybody’s game. I’ll take the Polar Bears at home.

Predicted Score: Bowdoin 24, Colby 14

Rivalry Restored: Amherst @ Williams Game of the Week Preview

With Amherst knocking off Trinity last week in impressive fashion, a more dominant showing than the 28-20 final score would indicate, the Mammoths control their own destiny—win their final game and they are NESCAC champions. But that game is the 132nd installment of the Biggest Little Game in America, to be played out in Williamstown where the Ephs have a legitimate chance to defeat their archrival for the first time in a while. Led by a breakout freshmen class, Williams looks to have put their recent struggles in the past, and at 5-3 are certainly good enough to snap Amherst’s 6 game winning streak in the rivalry. With Amherst looking to clinch a championship, and Williams looking to send their seniors off in style and prevent any celebrating from being done on their own turf, this game is truly up for grabs.

Amherst couldn’t have been much happier with how they played last week, snapping Trinity’s 16 game win streak and leapfrogging over them to the top of the standings. While I admittedly did not give them much of a chance in last week’s preview, they did do all of the things I said they needed to do to knock off the Bants. They never let Max Chipouras ’19 get settled in for Trinity, which for him translated to 26 carries for “only” 92 yards and a touchdown. They forced Sonny Puzzo ’18 to beat them and he couldn’t, throwing for 172 yards and an interception. And Reece Foy ’18 hit James O’Regan ’20 for a 55 yard touchdown pass, which means we hit my keys to the game trifecta of:

1. Make someone other than Chipouras beat you

2. Force turnovers and short fields and

3. Hit a home run play on offense.

Not bad.

This Amherst team is legit. It may have taken 8 weeks and a lot of badgering from the Facebook comment sections to make us say that, but following their performance against Trinity they have truly proven themselves. Their lack of a superstar QB and the fact that Jack Hickey ’19 and Hasani Figueroa ’18 split carries for their dominant rushing attack mean that no one on their offense really jumps out at you, and they don’t have the depth of dangerous playmakers on defense that teams like Trinity and Tufts do, but they’re legit. They have the best offensive line in the league, the best linebacking corps in the league, and probably the best group of cover corners in the league as well.

The Amherst secondary did an excellent job on Mike Breuler ’18 against Wesleyan, and will look to do the same to Frank Stola ’21.

But they will be tested in every which way by this Williams team. QB Bobby Maimaron ’21, WR Frank Stola ’21, and the rest of the weapons on Coach Raymond’s offense can put points up in a hurry, and you just know they’ll have some tricks up their sleeve for this one. Their defensive line started out really strong, but has faded in recent weeks. If they can return to their early season form, and link up with their linebackers, who have been really good in their own right all year, this game is going to come down to the wire. This rivalry has been quite one-sided for more than half a decade now, but that’s not going to be the case on Saturday.

Amherst X-Factor: WR James O’Regan ’20

James O'Regan
James O’ Regan ’21 (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

Their leading receiver in every statistical category except for the fact that he has one less reception than Bo Berluti ’19 (36), O’Regan ’20 might be the most under appreciated skill player in the NESCAC. His 18.7 yards per catch lead the league and his ability to stretch the field vertically is one of the factors that have gone into Hickey and Figueroa’s success on the ground. The weak spot in the Williams defense is their cornerbacks. They’ve combined for 1 interception, and it was a desperation heave to the back of the end zone against Hamilton. Four different Wesleyan receivers had receptions of 20+ yards, and if O’Regan can hit them for big plays like that, it’s going to be really hard for them to key in on the Amherst run game like they’re going to want to.

Fortunately for O’Regan, at 6’4″ and 200 pounds, he is going to have a huge advantage over whichever cornerback Williams chooses to throw at him. Desmond Butler ’19 is 5’11 and Amhyr Barber ’19 is 5’10. It doesn’t get any bigger at the safety position, so unless they plan on throwing a linebacker like 6’2″ 205 TJ Rothman ’21 on O’Regan in select packages and losing arguably their best run stopper, it is simply going to be an uphill battle for whoever matches up with O’Regan. Everything is set up for him to have a big day.

Williams X-Factor: DE Jameson DeMarco ’19

Jameson DeMarco
Jameson DeMarco ’19 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

There were a lot of options for this pick, as is the case when you play a really good team. But beating Amherst begins and ends with stopping the run. TJ Rothman ’21 (3rd, 79), Jarrett Wesner ’21 (7th, 65), and Luke Apuzzi ’20 (9th, 63), all rank in the top ten in the league in tackles, but as those numbers indicate, there’s no doubt that they’ll bring it on Saturday. Instead, it’s the Williams defensive front that needs to really step it up, and DeMarco is going to need to lead that unit. DeMarco leads the team in sacks with 4.5 and is second on the team in tackles for loss, but a lot of those numbers came earlier in the year. This defense made a big splash in Week 3 when they held Trinity RB Max Chipouras ’19 to just 80 yards on 28 carries, by far his most inefficient game of the season, and DeMarco was the main culprit behind that effort, going for 7 tackles, 2 of which were for a loss. Williams as a team hasn’t been tested against a traditional rushing attack really at all since they faced Trinity, being matched up against aerial threats like Middlebury’s Jared Lebowitz ’18 and Wesleyan’s Mark Picarillo ’19, or dual threat QB Ryan McDonald ’19 at Tufts.

While it’s a small sample size, just one game, it was against the league’s best running back in Chipouras, and their performance against a smash mouth back like him should give them confidence in being able to stop Hickey and Figueroa. They have other playmakers on their D-Line such as DeMarco’s counterpart DE Austin Thomas ’19, and NT Chris Hattar ’18, that will be relied on to stop Amherst’s offense, but DeMarco has done it before and he needs to do it again on Saturday.

Everything Else:

 This is going to be a really fun one. The biggest Division III rivalry in the country, and one of the biggest in all of collegiate sports, two exciting, talented teams, and a championship on the line. While College Gameday isn’t going to be in Williamstown this week, this is probably the most exciting installment of this rivalry to take place in the Berkshires since Chris, Lee, and Herbie came to town in 2007. This time last year Williams was 0-7 and Amherst was 3-4. But now the two teams find themselves in much different, better places. Williams has turned 0-7 into 5-3 with some new young stars, and Amherst, after flying under the radar all season, finds itself needing to win one game to win a league title, with the chance to celebrate it on their hated nemesis’s field.

Like any football game really, all eyes are going to be on the quarterbacks. With it being both Amherst’s Ollie Eberth ’20 and Williams’ Bobby Maimaron ’21’s first experience under center in this rivalry, it will be interesting to see how they handle the nerves that come with it. But Eberth ’20 has impressed week in and week out, passing every test along the way, and Maimaron has rarely looked like a freshman this fall. I think both young quarterbacks, and both teams really, will come out and play their best games. Both teams are well coached and in the last week of the season, should be the most prepared they’ve been all year.

Bobby Maimaron ’21 gets his first taste of the rivalry following the worst game of his career. Can he recover?

This game will probably be decided by something as simple as who takes care of the ball better and commits less turnovers. There is enough playmaking on both teams that any of 8-10 guys could be the hero in what will be an otherwise pretty even game (Amherst has the better offensive line and secondary, but it’s just about a wash everywhere else). I may be biased, but if Pete was doing this preview he’d find a way for Middlebury to win the game so I’ll survive (Editor’s Note: Actually if Williams wins this game, Middlebury has a chance to tie for the league title, so Middlebury could actually be won of the winners in this one.) Bobby Maimaron ’21 and his favorite target, classmate Frank Stola ’21, will end their explosive freshman seasons in style, conjuring up the same late game magic they brought to Midd in Week 5, and the Ephs will eke one out in the 30 degree weather on Homecoming, ending a 6 game win streak and Amherst’s title hopes in style.

Final Score: Williams 31, Amherst 27

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.

You Don’t Want That Three Peat: Middlebury Men’s Basketball Season Preview

Middlebury Panthers

2016-2017 Record: 27-4, 8-2, won NESCAC championship, lost to Williams in Elite Eight

Projected 2017-2018 Record: 22-7, 8-2

Key Losses:

G Jake Brown ‘17 (11.8 PPG, 6.3 APG, 1.4 STL/G)

G Matt St. Amour ‘17 (21.8 PPG, 4.6 REB/G, 3.1 AST/G, 40.8 % 3PFG)

G Bryan Jones ‘17 (5.6 PPG, 37% 3PFG)

Projected Starting Lineup:

G: Jack Daly ‘18 (12.1 PPG, 6.5 REB/G, 5.9 AST/G, 1.9 STL/G)

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

Aside from Editor in Chief, my most important job at this blog is the president of the Jack Daly fan club. Daly has long been the Kevin Jonas to St. Amour and Brown’s Joe and Nick–almost (and maybe even as) talented, but under the radar. But now he gets a solo act. Scoring is not his specialty, but he will be asked to be more aggressive in creating his own shot to replace some of St. Amour’s possession-saving shots. But Daly has already proven that he can fill it up when the team needs it. He had a buzzer beater in the holiday tournament last season, and in the NCAA game against Williams he had 23 points, while Brown and St. Amour both struggled. He will have to shoot higher than 31% from three, but he improved in league play last season despite a an awkward jump shot. What really sets him apart, however, is everything else besides scoring. There might be no greater triple double threat in the league. He led Middlebury in rebounding last season, (6.5) despite being a good six inches shorter than Nick Tarantino (6’3″ in the program? Alright Jack.) And he finished in the top three in the league in both assists and steals. He fills the stat sheet like no one else. Middlebury might have had the three best guards in the league on their team last season, and it’s possible that the best one is the one that stayed.

G: Hilal Dahleh ‘19 (4.7 PPG, 1.7 REB/G, 39% FG)

Hilal Dahleh
Hilal Dahleh ’19 (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

This second guard spot is maybe the biggest question mark for the Panthers. Daly should effectively mitigate the loss of Brown at the point, but Middlebury’s success last season stemmed from having multiple guards who could initiate the offense, guard threats on the opposing team, and create shots for themselves. There’s a lot of competition for this spot. Sophomores Perry Delorenzo ‘19 and Joey Leighton ‘19 are excellent shooters, as is precocious first year Max Bosco. Perhaps the best candidate among the first years to jump into this spot would be first year Jack Ferrall. A tremendous athlete, Ferrall projects as an elite defender with finishing skills that transcend his height. But his shooting is not as far along as any of the other guards.

The person who best allows the Panthers to continue playing the way they want is Hilal Dahleh. In his first year, he impressed with his terrific defense and feel for the game, despite struggling with his shot. He was projected to be a major factor last season, but suffered a back injury in the preseason which forced him out for the entire year. But he has worked his way back into playing shape, and should enter the season at 100%. At 6’3”, he has terrific size for the position, and his long arms allow him to be a good complimentary defender to Daly. The key for him will be hitting shots. He has to be an offensive threat out of the two guard spot for the Middlebury offense to function. If he struggles shooting the ball to start off the year, there are several shooters on the bench who are ready to go.

F: Matt Folger ‘20 (6.5 PPG, 4.1 REB/G, 1.5 BLK/G)

Matt Folger
Matt Folger ’20 (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

This spot is also up for debate, as if any of the other guards besides Dahleh impress enough in the preseason, they could slide into the starting lineup, with Dahleh at the three and Folger at the four. But Folger’s starting spot is far from in doubt, and having him at the three opens up a world of possibilities. There’s more on him below so I won’t say too much here, but there are few players in the league with his combination of height and perimeter skills. Teams can’t put a guard on him, as he has good post footwork and can shoot right over the top of them. But very few big men can keep up with his speed and ball handling, and he draws a center away from the basket. This opens up driving lanes for any of the speedy Middlebury guards. If at all possible, the Panthers should try to play Folger here at the three to create mismatches all over the floor.

F: Adisa Majors ‘18 (9.6 PPG, 4.7 REB/G, 54% FG)

Adisa Majors
Adisa Majors ’18 (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

Majors has carved out a nice spot for himself here in Middlebury. His style in the post is best described as “Elephant in a China Shop,” but his 54% field goal percentage speaks to its effectiveness. His 15-foot jumper is perfect for playing in a guard-heavy offense, and he has gotten himself into good enough shape to beat most big men down the court. He has developed into the perfect big man for Jack Daly. Defensively, he has made great strides, but still gets into trouble when switched onto opposing guards. Eric McCord ‘19 is less of a liability in this area, and is a better passer out of the post as well. But he hasn’t practiced yet this season, so right now Majors is the guy. He will need to continue to earn his time, as a three guard lineup with Folger at the four is entirely possible. But then again, he’s done that his whole career.

F: Nick Tarantino ‘18 (6.8 PPG, 6.0 REB/G, 0.9 BLK/G, 60% FG)

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

Tarantino was an embodiment of one of the strangest developments of Middlebury’s season last year. In the first half, Middlebury was getting killed on the glass and in the paint defensively, and it looked as if the forward rotation would spoil the incredible perimeter play and lead to an early tournament exit. But around the beginning of league play, Tarantino, McCord and Majors turned it on and became one of the more threatening units in the league. Tarantino was especially impressive. He shot 59% from the field and grabbed 7 rebounds a game, becoming the kind of imposing threat that Middlebury needed to have controlling the paint. And this season he should only get better as the established starter. As a recruit he was touted as being an outside threat, but he has (mercifully) left that behind in favor of a springy, jump hook-based post game. His most underrated skill is his passing, as he and McCord have developed a nice chemistry on high low actions, taking advantage of both of their heights to see over the defense.

Speaking of defense, that is where he must improve. Despite his long arms, height and jumping ability, he still averaged less than one block per game last season. Folger is a great shot blocker, but when Tarantino is in Folger will most likely be on the perimeter. Tarantino must become a more imposing defensive force for Middlebury. When McCord comes back, some minutes at this spot will go to him, but they are at their best when playing together, so Tarantino should see consistent minutes all season.

Key Player:

F Matt Folger ‘20 (6.5 PPG, 4.1 REB/G, 1.5 BLK/G)

If Middlebury hopes to continue the frantic, perimeter-heavy style of play that has won them back-to-back NESCAC championships, Folger must take a big leap forward. He certainly has the talent to. At 6’8”, he is tall enough to be a menace in the paint on both sides of the ball. He showed flashes of being a dominant interior force last season, averaging 1.5 blocks per game despite limited minutes, and he has terrific touch around the rim on offense, shooting 60% on two point field goals. But it’s his perimeter skills at that height that make him one of the most talented players in the league. He has very quick feet and long arms, enabling him to guard players of all different positions. Middlebury will ask him to do a great deal of this, as many lineups for the Panthers will feature him at the small forward spot alongside more traditional big men such as McCord, Tarantino or Adisa Majors ‘18.

Matt Folger ’20 has the skills to be one of the league’s best in his second season,

Folger also will take on much more responsibility as a three point threat. Middlebury’s guard-heavy recruiting class suggests that they want to continue to run and shoot three pointers often. This is difficult to do when you graduate your three best outside shooters, including one of the best in the country. Folger’s form is beautiful, and his success inside the arc and at the foul line (80%) serve as evidence to his great touch, but he only shot 28% from three last season. Of course it takes most first years time to adjust to the college game (Middlebury loyalists will remember that Matt St. Amour struggled from three for most of his first two years) but Folger doesn’t have that luxury this season. He will be asked to live up to his considerable potential this year, and if he does, an All-NESCAC selection is not out of the realm of possibility.

Everything Else:

Middlebury’s goal, like the rest of the league’s, is to beat Williams. They’re the preseason number one, and they’re the team that knocked the Panthers out in the NCAA tournament last season. The way that Middlebury is going at the Ephs is by matching their size and positional versatility. Daly has long been the best defender in the league in terms of guarding all positions; he is the only point guard in the league who can guard power forwards effectively, and will most likely guard the opposing team’s best player regardless of size or position. With the forward rotation of Folger, Tarantino, Majors and McCord, and terrific defensive guards in Dahleh and Daly (say that three times fast) the Panthers have the ability to play a lineup big enough to bang on the glass with Williams without sacrificing too much speed. Another factor in this equation is first year forward Ryan Cahill ‘21. He is another big man who is far more mobile than his size would lead you to believe, and is already a threat from outside. He will be in the rotation as long as McCord is out, and maybe beyond that.

Middlebury could also match Williams by playing small and running them off the floor, but there are more question marks there. Coach Brown’s focus in the offseason for recruiting was certainly guards, and he has brought in an excellent class. We have already discussed Farrell’s two way potential, but the second unit of guards runs deeper than just him. Bosco is one of the best shooters in the class, regardless of team. His release is lightning fast, and he is very advanced at finding his spot and finishing over size. Defensively he projects as a liability right now due to his own diminutive stature, so he is better suited at the moment to be shot of caffiene off the bench, a la Bryan Jones.

Delorenzo and Leighton also figure to fight for minutes, and as always, whichever one of them is hitting shots will determine who sits higher in the rotation. Much of Middlebury’s second unit play will be guard-heavy, three point barrages, but they could also easily trot out a three guard starting lineup, with Bosco or Delorenzo joining Dahleh and Daly in the back court. With Folger at the four and  Tarantino, Majors or McCord (when he returns from injury) at the five this lineup would be very difficult to defend. However, the would be worse on the boards and overall easier to score on, especially for larger lineups like Williams’.

Middlebury has reloaded this season, but there are a lot of red flags. Daly has the highest amount of responsibility of any point guard in the league. He has to run a high paced offense, while working in many new players and guarding the best player on the other team. He doesn’t have a proven backup, although Dahleh, Farrell and Bosco are all capable of bringing the ball up. They will run a lot of the second unit offense. But with that said, there’s no way that Middlebury isn’t worse without Daly on the floor. He might set minutes records this season, and there’s no guarantee that he can sustain his impossible hustle while having the ball in his hands so often.

Jack Daly is an all around star, but he’s never been “the man” before. Can he lead a team and continue his signature brand of basketball?

The lack of three point shooting is also worrying. The three graduated seniors were the three best outside shooters on a team that didn’t exactly light it up for much of the season. Middlebury got in a lot of trouble when teams could pack the paint against them and force them into congested shots in the paint. That’s what Williams did in the NCAA tournament. Daly will have to shoot better than 31%; if teams can go under picks and play off him, the offense stalls out at the top of the key. Folger’s 28% is unacceptable for a guy with such pretty form, and he represents the biggest outside weapon in the projected starting lineup. And Bosco, Delorenzo and Leighton will have to live up to their billing as bombers. Middlebury can no longer rely on St. Amour to get them a shot in failed possessions, other guys have to step up.

The losses look huge on paper. St. Amour is one of the best NESCAC players of the last 20 years, and Brown wasn’t far behind him. Bryan Jones was a force off the bench, and even Liam Naughton hit a couple big shots and was huge for team chemistry. But they retained a great deal of talent as well. The forward rotation was a strength at the end of last season, and all of those players are back and a year more experienced. With a big starting five that looks more Division One than NESCAC, Middlebury should be able to cure much of rebounding woes that once plagued them. The keys to Middlebury’s chances at a three-peat lie on the perimeter. They need Daly and Folger to up their scoring averages and three point percentages considerably, and for Delorenzo, Ferrall, Dahleh, Bosco and Cahill to be threats off the bench. The Panthers enter the season eighth in the country and third in the NESCAC, behind Williams and Tufts. It’s possible that at the end of the year, we will look back on that and laugh at how low they were. But it’s also possible that we shake our heads and wonder why they were so high. I think it will be the former, but, as always, I’m biased.