Power Rankings 12/12

First and foremost, I want to thank all of our readers who followed us so faithfully during the fall and early on here in the winter. We know that most of you are just like us, NESCAC students with a love of sports and a desire to see their classmates, peers and friends compete and succeed on the field. If you’ve been reading the blog closely these last couple months, you will know that I had the pleasure of spending this past semester in Sydney, Australia.

Yours truly crushing some surf down under. (Courtesy of Surf Camp Australia)
Yours truly crushing some surf down under. (Courtesy of Surf Camp Australia)

As a consequence, I could only follow the football and basketball action from afar and only contribute sporadically to the blog’s content. But I’m back now, ready to bring you even more analysis and opinion right here on Nothing but NESCAC, as the dramatic ‘CAC basketball season unfolds. Again, thank you for reading, and we hope you continue to do so.

Let’s get on to this week’s power rankings.

1. Bates (7-0)

It pains me to slot the Bobcats ahead of my very own Panthers, but Bates has simply been the most impressive team so far. They took down a Babson team early in the season that just dismantled the suddenly reeling (is that too strong a word?) Amherst Lord Jeffs and has wins over Bowdoin and Tufts as well. They’ve already shown that they are the team to beat in the CBB with two wins by a combined 26 points. And both Delpeche brothers have taken steps forward and become solid compliments to the likes of Graham Safford ’15, Mike Boornazian ’16 and guard Billy Selmon ’15. What’s more, the ghost of that Safford three to win the game at Middlebury last season still haunts my dreams. This team has it all. Experience, height, three point shooting (though Safford and Boornazian have started off slow in that regard), and something to prove after going 1-9 in the NESCAC last season.

2. Middlebury (7-0)

Middlebury has had some close calls already against questionable opponents (UNE and Skidmore), but they’ve found a way to win and that’s all that matters. This is a team that I believe will get better as the year progresses, as Jake Brown ’17 becomes even more comfortable as the point man, Matt St. Amour ’17 gets further removed from his knee surgery, Jack Daly ’18 gains more experience and, fingers crossed, Matt Daley ’16 gets healthy and realizes the potential that he has flashed the past two seasons. Dylan Sinnickson ’15 and Hunter Merryman ’15 are doing their part, but the team is lacking an inside presence on both ends, something we knew would be a question mark before the season started.

3. Bowdoin (5-3)

This might surprise some, as there are two teams with only two losses, but there is a method to the madness. Two of the Polar Bear’s losses came to very strong teams in Bates and Babson, which are a combined 15-1, and as we know the only loss between them came when the Bobcats topped the Beavers. The loss to Colby isn’t a great one, but I believe it was just a hiccup. Remember, this was an NCAA tourney team last year that brought back an MVP candidate in the seven footer John Swords ’15. The health concerns we had now look foolish, as Swords is playing upwards of 29 minutes per game. With him on the floor, Bowdoin has a chance against anyone.

4. Williams (7-2)

Seven straight wins is a good way to start turning heads. With all the departures and two losses to open the season, this team could have gone into panic mode quickly. But then the Ephs proceeded to launch an offensive assault, scoring at least 82 points in the next six games. However, they allowed 69+ in five of those six games. I think it’s clear that this team is going to be fine offensively, but like Middlebury the biggest question is an inside presence on defense that can discourage shooters in the lane. That’s something that all the teams above the Ephs (with the exception of Middlebury until Daley gets healthy) all have.

5. Amherst (5-2)

Three days ago, Amherst might have had a claim to the top spot on this list, but I’m not here to talk about the past. The Lord Jeffs are still among the most talented squads in the NESCAC, but they are struggling to put it all together right now. Against Brandeis their perimeter defense was mediocre. The Judges were able to run a simple three-man weave at the three-point line until one of their guards was able to catch a defender napping and drive the lane (they also shot nearly 60 percent from deep, but a lot of those were way too wide open). Coach David Hixon will likely make sure that doesn’t become a trend, but for now it’s a concern. What’s more, defensive star David George ’17 barely saw the floor down the stretch of that game as Amherst needed to score points quick. George is a great rim protector, but he can’t be a liability on the offensive end if this team is going to be next-level.

6. Wesleyan (6-2)

The Cardinals have won handily in most of their victories, and competed in both losses, losing in OT to Williams and by eight to Curry. This team’s strength is a defense that ranks third in the NESCAC, but Wesleyan suffers from a lack of depth. Six players are averaging over 20 minutes per game, and after that no one tops 11 minutes. On the flip side they do have great balance in that group with four players in double digits scoring and a fifth, Jack Mackey ’16, averaging 9.9 points per game. Besides that OT loss against Wesleyan, we do not have much to go off of for this team.

7. Trinity (7-2)

The Bantams have a defense that has been just slightly more successful than the Cardinals, and because of their stinginess last season there’s reason to believe that the D will once again be very legit. On offense, the Bantams feature a lot of solid but unspectacular pieces. Their best strategy will be to milk clock and trust that they can shut opponents down. But will that be enough against the high-powered attacks of Middlebury, Williams and Amherst?

8. Colby (6-3)

As expected, Chris Hudnut ’16 is playing at an All-NESCAC First Team level, averaging a double-double thus far. What is surprising is how far teammate Luke Westman ’16 has raised his game. Last year, Westman was quiet but deadly, averaging 9.5 points per game on 65 percent shooting while tallying a 1.75 assist-to-turnover ratio. The junior point guard has upped the ante, however, becoming more efficient and taking better control of the ball, averaging 12.2 points per game (second on the team) on 68.2 percent shooting (incredible for a guard) and posting a 2.6 assist-to-turnover ratio. This team is loaded with offensive weapons, but are sort of the anti-Trinity, as they are allowing the second-most points in the league. Defense wins championships, fellas, and as fun as the Mules are to watch, they haven’t yet figured that out.

9. Conn College (5-3)

It’s been a bumpy start for the Camels, but the St. Joseph’s win was a good one and with three straight W’s, hopefully the team can get on track. Bo McKinley ’16 is doing a good job running the point and shooting the three, and Zuri Pavlin ’17 is a beast, as expected, averaging a double-double. But two exciting freshmen have come on and made this team dangerous. Six-foot-five Isaiah Robinson ’18 tops the teams in minutes and provides another big body in the Conn frontcourt, while Lee Messier ’18 has proven to be a sharpshooter from deep and leads the team in scoring. This young duo should only get better, making the Camels a candidate to play spoiler either late in the season or possibly in the first round of the NESCAC tourney.

10. Hamilton (7-2)

Hart who? The Continentals are 7-2! Hope abounds in Clinton. But wait, not so fast. Not only is Hamilton on a two-game skid, but only one of those seven wins came against a team that currently has a winning record, and the competition doesn’t get much better before the Continentals open up conference play against Amherst. As I predicted before the season started, Ajani Santos ’16 has really elevated his game, leading the team in scoring and and shooting almost 57 percent from the floor, but Zander Wear ’18 has not mad the immediate impact that we hoped he would, and overall there’s just a gap between Hamilton and the top tier of the NESCAC.

11. Tufts (3-6)

Despite all the optimism with the return of Tom Palleschi ’17 and the promise of a healthy starting five that couldn’t get on the court at the same time last year for very long, we were skeptical before the season started about whether this team would be as good on the court as it was on paper. Unfortunately, in the past few seasons the Jumbos have just been one of those teams that can’t match its talent with its performance. As the only team in the NESCAC with a losing record right now, Tufts was a default choice for the bottom spot in these rankings. They still have the talent to rise quickly through the ranks, and two former NESCAC Rookie of the Years, as well as one of the league’s most dynamic big men in Hunter Sabety ’17, but for right now they look doomed to another disappointing season.

Don’t Mess with the Bobcats: Stock Report 12/8

Alumni Gymnasium with the student section at the far end. (Courtesy of Bates Athletics
Alumni Gymnasium with the student section at the far end. (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

From the outside Alumni Gym does not look much. Once you get inside you realize that it actually is not big at all. That lack of size is, of course, the greatest strength of Bates’ home court. Only a few hundred people can fit into the gym which gives it a high school atmosphere. Classic old wooden stands extend back on both sides only eight rows deeps. On the far end of the gym behind one of the baskets enough space is available for 100 people to sit: a ready made fan section for Bates fanatics.

Thursday night I traveled to Bates along with nine friends to see our favorite team Bowdoin take on a surging Bates team. Last year a similar group traveled to Lewiston in February and watched Bowdoin dismantle a Bates team that was in the midst of a late season collapse. That game was during Bates’ winter break so most of the students were home for the game.

The atmosphere on Thursday night was completely different however. By the time the national anthem began, the student section was about three quarters full, and by the opening tip the gym was louder than most NESCAC gyms. Many other students littered the rest of the stands as well making empty seats a rare commodity. The first Bates basket brought a cascade of roars from under the basket that did not let up much causing some visible discomfort from the visiting Polar Bears.

After a back and forth first half, Bates busted open the game part way through the second. Bates was on offense going towards the student section in the second half, and the students had no problem letting Bowdoin hear it every time a Bates player made a basket. Two consecutive dunks put Bates up big and forced a Bowdoin timeout that could barely be heard over a rocking crowd.

Bates has been the most impressive team of the season thus far. While their 1-9 conference record still casts a shadow of doubt over them, that shadow keeps receding every game Bates plays. The NESCAC is far from Division 1 where students live and die by how their basketball team does, but Bates has staked their claim definitively as having the best home-court advantage in the NESCAC. One date to circle for certain on your calendars is January 9th when Bates opens up conference play against 7-0 Middelbury at 7 PM in Alumni Gym.

Stock Up

Guard Jaquann Starks ’16 (Trinity): So much NESCAC offensive success is based on the point guard’s play, and different teams require their point guards to approach the game distinctly. Starks is primarily asked to score in his role for the Bantams and leads the team with 15.1 points per game. His shooting percentages are 35.1/44.0/80.6 (in order of field goal/three point/free throw). Starks has struggled to shoot the ball well closer to the basket in large part because there is no spacing when he goes into the lane since he is the primary three point threat for Trinity. That lack of offensive weapons does not appear to be going away, but that does not mean Trinity is not a threat this season in the NESCAC. With Starks providing much of the offense recently, the Bantams have put together a four game winning streak since falling to 2-2.

Forward Marcus Delpeche ’17 (Bates): The Bobcats proved that they are for real not simply because they beat Colby and Bowdoin, but also how they did it. Last year Marcus played fewer than 17 minutes per game while serving as the backup for his brother Malcolm. This season Coach Jon Furbush has become comfortable with playing the two twins at the same time, and it has yielded great results thus far. Marcus is the third leading scorer for Bates with 10.7 points per game. Many of those points are off of offensive rebounds because opponents do not have power forwards capable of keeping him off of the boards. 49% of his rebounds have been offensive rebounds. Having Marcus and Malcolm playing big minutes together makes Bates capable of matching up against the likes of Amherst and Trinity in conference play.

Forward Hunter Merryman ’15 (Middlebury): If 2014 is “the year of the skilled forward” as Pete Lindholm asserts, then Merryman is the one most often forgotten about. After all, Merryman is not even the best forward on his team. Yet he still is having an All-NESCAC caliber season. He is averaging 17.1 points per game, most of which is because he is making an outrageous 56.4% of his three pointers. Logic tells us Merryman is unlikely to have morphed into an automatic shot maker, but is rather enjoying an extended hot streak that should end soon. Even when he slows down Merryman will continue to be a very good player, albeit not the second coming of Dirk Nowitzki.

Stock Down

Guard Bryan Hurley ’15 (Bowdoin): Last week was a terrible one for Bowdoin overall going 0-3 with the defeat assured well before the final buzzer sounded. A lot of things went wrong for the Polar Bears, but the sudden ineffectiveness of Hurley was one of the principle problems. The point guard averaged only 4.3 points per game in the three contests. Even more worryingly he  saw his assist:turnover ratio plummet. In Bowdoin’s first four games (all wins) he had a 3.5 assist:turnover ratio but managed only a 1.1 ratio in his last three games. Without Hurley making plays, Bowdoin’s offense fell stagnant for crucial parts of the second half, and their opponents were able to pull away. Hurley and the other members of the Bowdoin senior class have to return to form quickly in order to turn things around.

Amherst and Middlebury

The Jeffs and Panthers both remain undefeated, but they both have shown real weaknesses so far. For Amherst, the problem is putting all the pieces of their talented roster together into something that works as a basketball team. We have said it before, but the Jeffs simply do not look like your normal Division 3 team since they trot out two athletic 6’8″ players, two 6’5″ wings, and a 6’2″ point guard. That hasn’t kept them from having some close calls in games. Though the final score against Emerson indicated a blowout, the Jeffs held only a one point lead halfway through the second half. A huge steal from Johnny McCarthy ’18 off an inbounds pass helped spark a major run that put the game out of reach, but it took Amherst a while to put away an Emerson team that was overmatched in terms of height.

Meanwhile Middlebury escaped their first loss of the season by the skin of their teeth, coming back from seven points down in the final minute against Skidmore to win in regulation. The win would not have been possible without five missed free throws from Skidmore in the last minute. Middlebury for now lacks any type of inside presence because Matt Daley ’16 is still out of commission, and they still seem to fluctuate wildly in their level of play. Somewhat surprisingly, Joey Kizel’s ’14 absence has not been felt as much as the lack of center Jack Roberts ’14.

Both teams love to play at a high pace and thrive on their talent in the open court. However, when teams are able to slow down games then they run into trouble. The schedule of course works in the favor of both these teams as they will have a lot of practice time over winter break to help smooth out some of their issues before they jump into conference play.

Revenge of the Nerds

It escaped our notice for a little bit, but the NESCAC announced the Fall All-Academic team a few weeks back meaning it is time for us to put our own little spin on it. Just as we did back in the spring for baseball, we are going to make two hypothetical teams. One team is made up solely of players who made the All-Academic team and also happen to be pretty good at football as well. The other team is filled with players who, while they are surely great people and students in their own right, did not make the All-Academic team but still are very good at football.

What is the point you ask? Well it is fun first of all. More importantly, it reminds us that NESCAC athletes are really students and not athletes masquerading as students. The guys who dominate on Saturday also often dominate the classroom and library every day of the week.

Reminder that freshmen are not eligible for the All-Academic team.

Offense

All-Academic Everyone Else
POS Player School POS Player School
QB Jack Doll ’15 Tufts QB Matt Milano ’16 Middlebury
RB Tyler Grant ’17 Bowdoin RB Chudi Iregbulem ’15 Trinity
FB Jack Donovan ’15 Bowdoin FB Michael Budness ’15 Trinity
WR Grant Luna ’17 Middlebury WR Mark Riley ’16 Bates
WR Brendan Rankowitz ’15 Middlebury WR Gene Garay ’15 Amherst
WR Steven Kiesel ’15 Williams WR Matthew Minno ’16 Middlebury
OL Scott Mergner ’15 Amherst OL Pat Dimase ’15 Wesleyan
OL Lyle Seebeck ’15 Bates OL Dan Finta ’15 Middlebury
OL Connor Clancy ’15 Colby OL Joe Magardino ’15 Trinity
OL Blake Shapskinsky ’15 Middlebury OL Nick Noonan ’15 Hamilton
OL Sam Hart ’16 Amherst OL Alan Felix ’15 Williams

Three quick observations before moving onto the defense.

1. One would expect quarterbacks, a position so often associated with intelligence in the media, to be all over the All-Academic team. However, Jack Doll ’15 is the only QB who saw any significant playing time make it. Fortunately for the hypothetical coach of the All-Academic team, Doll is a good one who is more than capable of leading the offense.

2. The All-Academic team includes five players who were also All-NESCAC. Three of those five are on the offensive line with Blake Shapshinsky ’15 and Connor Clancy ’15 on the second team and Scott Mergner ’15 the lone representative from the first team. In fact, the offensive line is the strongest unit considering Sam Hart ’16 started at left tackle for Amherst while Lyle Seebeck ’15 started multiple years for Bates.

3. So yes, the talent level on the All-Academic team is a notch below the Everyone Else team, but it is only a notch really. In our opinion, Tyler Grant ’17 was snubbed first team All-NESCAC honors, and the receiving trio sets up nicely with Doll’s skill set of short crossing routes.

 Defense

                             All-Academic                                                   Everyone Else

POS Player School POS Player School
DE Nik Powers ’15 Wesleyan DE Jimmy Brao ’15 Tufts
DE Max Lehrman ’15 Amherst DE Gil Araujo ’16 Middlebury
DT Paul Johnson ’17 Amherst DT Lyle Baker ’16 Trinity
DT CT Harris ’15 Colby DT Michael De Percin ’15 Hamilton
OLB Alex Daversa-Russo ’16 Wesleyan OLB Tom Szymanski ’15 Trinity
OLB Chris Tamasi ’15 Amherst OLB Mark Upton ’17 Bates
MLB Tim Patricia ’16 Middlebury MLB Ned Deane ’15 Amherst
CB Tom Cabarle ’15 Williams CB Jake Bussani ’14 Wesleyan
CB Dan Pierce ’16 Middlebury CB Jaymie Spears ’16 Amherst
SS Matt Benedict ’15 Middlebury SS Donnie Cimino ’15 Wesleyan
FS Mike Mancini ’15 Trinity FS Jason Buco ’15

Three thoughts on the defense

1. The difference between these two teams is miniscule. 10 of the 11 All-Academic team were also All-NESCAC, including five on the first team All-NESCAC. Dan Pierce ’16, the only player who didn’t make All-NESCAC,  still enjoyed an incredible year and had a strong argument for making it.

2. Safety was the deepest position for the All-Academic team while corner was the weakest. So we cheated a little bit and decided that we are simply going to have four safeties in the secondary. While the all safety secondary might give up a little in the passing game, try running outside against it, I dare you.

3. The defensive line for the All-Academic team is slightly stronger. Nik Powers ’15 and Max Lehrman ’15 were first team while CT Harris ’15 and Paul Johnson ’17 were second team. Harris also made first team last season and Johnson might have been first team if not for NESCAC coaches preferring to honor seniors on the first team.

 Special Teams

                         All-Academic                                                        All-NESCAC

POS Player School POS Player School
KR Chris Gow ’16 Amherst KR Zack Trause ’15 Tufts
P David Kurey ’15 Bates P Kyle Pulek ’16 Trinity
K Joe Mallock ’15 Williams K Phillip Nwosu ’15 Amherst

Looking down the rosters of both teams, the All-Academic team certainly would give the Everyone Else team a run for their money on most days. If we were setting the line for the game, it would settle in around -6 in favor of the Everyone Else team. The key to the game would likely be how Matt Milano ’16 was able to throw against the secondary made up completely of safeties. One would guess that the All-Academic team would be able to get good pressure on Milano because of their strength on the defensive line and the presence of Chris Tamasi ’15 coming off of the edge.

Another note of importance is that Amherst, the NESCAC champions, also tied for the most players on the All-Academic team with their rivals Williams. Both placed 20 football players on the team.

Finally, what we wrote back in the spring still holds.

“One last note is that many of the athletes who did not make the All-Academic team still work incredibly hard in the classroom. Keep in mind that the difficulty of achieving the requisite 3.35 GPA fluctuates between departments, majors and professors. This isn’t to disparage anyone who did make the All-Academic team because a 3.35 isn’t easy no matter what classes you take. I want to make clear that I’m not putting down The Everyone Else roster for their performance in the classroom. A lot of factors besides a student’s intelligence and work ethic go into what a final GPA looks like. With that being said, a huge congratulations to all of the students for their great work both on the field and in the classroom.”

Young and Talented: Freshman Update

Those who watched ESPN last night saw Duke beat Wisconsin, the second ranked team in the country, in large part because their three freshmen played great. Of course, the NESCAC is not littered with future first round NBA draft picks, but that doesn’t mean that some freshmen can’t come in and contribute right away. Below are some of the players that are already making an impact.

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

Johnny McCarthy- #10- G- Amherst

McCarthy is a 6-5, 190-pound guard, who played for Noble & Greenough School in Massachusetts. McCarthy has the ability to take the ball into the paint and will finish with either a smooth turn around jump shot or go up strong to the glass. His game fits in nicely in the Jeffs’ offense and hopefully he can fill the shoes of Tom Killian ’14. McCarthy has been playing so well that he is even generating some Player of the Year buzz. In his first four games with Amherst, he has been very impressive, averaging 14 points per game, shooting 55.3% from the field and 35.7% behind the arc. In addition, he has hauled in 4.5 rebounds and 2.8 steals per game and he is only improving.  After an impressive debut on November 18, dropping 17 points in 33 minutes, he played an efficient game on November 22 against Mount Ida, going 7-9 from the floor with 16 points and 6 boards. You might expect to see some turnovers from a college freshman, but McCarthy only had one turnover in his first three games. It is looking like a bright future for McCarthy in NESCAC basketball.

Lee Messier (Courtesy of NERR)
Lee Messier (Courtesy of NERR)

Lee Messier- #21- G- Connecticut College

Messier is a 6-3, 175-pound guard, who played for the Tilton School in New Hampshire. Messier has been a shooter since day one and especially loves the three pointer. He has the ability to run the break and find gaps in the defense. His shot is similar to that of Steph Curry, a guard for the Golden State Warriors.  He has a quick release, allowing him to get his shot off from outside the arc, as well as in traffic. His highlight tape from high school is basically a two-minute video of him hitting a barrage of threes and pull-up jumpers.

His college highlight tape is starting to look very similar.  In his first four games, Messier has already dropped in 11 threes, going 6-10 in his second game.  He currently averages 14.2 ppg and shoots 37.9% from three.  His deadly shooting ability will free up room in the paint for another standout freshman and big man from Conn, Isaiah Robinson.

Isaiah Robinson (Courtesy of Instagram)
Isaiah Robinson (Courtesy of Instagram)

Isaiah Robinson- #33- F- Connecticut College

Robinson is a 6-5, 225-pound forward, who played for the Salisbury School in Connecticut.  He is a big man with a nice mid-range jump shot, and once he gets in down on the block, there are not many players big enough to stop him from going up strong for two points. This season for the Camels, Robinson has averaged 12.5 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, shooting 48.8% from the field.  On November 20, he dropped 25 points and came away with 7 rebounds in 48 minutes against Yeshiva.  If he can clean up some of his turnovers, he will be a tough player to stop in the paint.

Vincent Pace (Courtesy of My Central Jersey)
Vincent Pace (Courtesy of My Central Jersey)

Vincent Pace- #13- G- Tufts

Pace is a 6-5, 185-pound guard, who played for the Bridgewater School in New Jersey. He is a smart player, who can defend well on the ball and can be trusted to set the tempo while running the offense. At the beginning of the season, Pace was projected to become a breakout player, and he has certainly played at a high level, living up to the hype.  His playing time and his play have improved as the season has progressed. He put up 12 and 13 points respectively in his previous two outings.  Before a tough game last night, after five games, he was averaging 7.0 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 3 assists, some solid numbers for this Jumbo, who also had four steals in a tough loss against MIT on November 25.  We will have to wait and see if Pace can continue to play at the level of a breakout player.

 

Early Look at the Player of the Year Race

NESCAC Basketball is in full swing now, giving me a reason to love in the beginning of this long, devastating Vermont winter. Each team has played at least two full weekends of games against competition ranging from mediocre to a little under mediocre, so in true ESPN fashion, I think it’s a fair juncture to speculate about some end of season results. Here I handicap the early season race for Player of the Year. The difficult thing about writing this article at such an early juncture in the season is finding the delicate equilibrium (big words for a sports article, right?) between who is playing the best right now, and whom I think will be playing the best at the end of the year. I’ve done my best to balance those two ideologies here, but please be nice to me about my picks when this goes viral on ESPN.com.

Dan Wohl '15
Dan Wohl ’15 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

1. Daniel Wohl (Williams ’15)

Coming into the season, it was clear that the Ephs were going to need a new messiah following Duncan Robinson’s ascension to Michigan and Michael Mayer’s graduation. And early in the season, that door was definitively open. Williams opened the year with back-to-back losses to Southern Vermont and Oneonta State, reaffirming the many fears that Ephs fans had regarding the season. Then Daniel Wohl emerged. Averaging 18.1 points per game (with a 51/40/73 shooting line) to go along with a robust 9.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists, Wohl has provided a sense of toughness and consistency to pair with the streaky outside oriented game of partner in crime Hayden Rooke-Ley. Wohl’s all-around skills have been crucial to Williams remaining a power in the conference, and that is what catapults him to the top of this list.

Dylan Sinnickson (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)
Dylan Sinnickson ’15 (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

2. Dylan Sinnickson (Middlebury ’15)

The third leading scorer and second leading rebounder in the league, Sinnickson appears to have made the leap that his precocious skill set had been foreshadowing for some time. Like Wohl, Sinnickson’s rebounding has been an underwritten but crucial aspect to the otherwise interiorly challenged Panthers, and his scoring has given them a go-to guy, who can create a shot out of seemingly impossible situations. Sinnickson has also shown a new propensity for clutch play, hitting a tough step back three and layup to slow down a run by RPI in Middlebury’s home opener on Sunday. His shooting has been less consistent than last year at only 31 percent from 3, but he has been going to the basket more authoritatively, and more outside shots will fall as the explosive Middlebury offense continues to gel. Sinnickson and Wohl have both been crucial to their team’s fast starts, and should continue to duke it out for postseason honors throughout the season.

Chris Hudnut '16 (Courtesy of Bear Sports News)
Chris Hudnut ’16 (Courtesy of Bear Sports News)

3. Chris Hudnut (Colby ’16)

Thus far, 2014-2015 can be seen as the year of the skilled forward in NESCAC, with Hudnut leading the charge. Although he spends far more time inside than Wohl and Sinnickson, he still has managed to put up 2.9 assists per game, pointing both to his high skillset and importance to the Colby offense. Those assist totals are coupled with 19.1 points and 10.6 rebounds per game, good for third and fourth in the league respectively. Hudnut’s impressive campaign is even further aided by 1.1 blocks and steals per game, again showing his impressive skill set for an interior player.

Hayden Rooke-Ley '15 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)
Hayden Rooke-Ley ’15 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

4. Hayden Rooke-Ley (Williams ’15)

I had spent most of the past few days flip flopping on where to put Rooke-Ley on this list, going as high as third and as low as off the list entirely. It’s certainly hard to ignore a player who has a 12 three pointer game (as Rooke-Ley put up against Johnson State,) and has not missed a free throw yet this year, an absurd 62-62 streak. However, he also started off the year an abysmal 1-15 from three, and his 3.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game are far from the all around excellence of the other players on this list. Perhaps sensing these internal qualms, Rooke-Ley proceeded to put up 43 points on 10-14 from three in RPI on Tuesday night, a team that gave Middlebury something of a scare at home on Sunday afternoon. He had 31 points with 9 threes in the first half alone. This performance rocketed him to the top of the NESCAC scoring list, overtaking Sinnickson. Rooke-Ley certainly lives and dies by the three pointer, but he’s doing considerably more living than dying right now, and that deserves some early season recognition.

Graham Safford '15 (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)
Graham Safford ’15 (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

5. Graham Safford (Bates ’15)

Safford’s candidacy for POY has been hindered somewhat by the prevalence of skilled forwards, but there has been perhaps no player more crucial to their team’s success than him. Bates has turned a lot of heads this year with a 6-0 start, including a 101-85 win over UNE, who fell to Middlebury on a buzzer beater, and a 76-70 win over Colby last night. With 19 points, 14 assists and 8 rebounds, Safford’s performance against UNE was enough to put him in the Player of the Year conversation.   That kind of all around performance has been a staple of his campaign, as he is averaging 15.2 points, 5.8 assists, and 7.2 rebounds per games, an extremely impressive number for a guard. However, inconsistent shooting and a high turnover rate (4.7 per game) have caused Safford to fall on this list, careening towards the jaws of the big men on the honorable mention list.

Honorable Mention

Hunter Sabety '17 (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
Hunter Sabety ’17 (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

Hunter Sabety (Tufts ’17)

Like the players on the top five, Sabety has been the focal point of his team’s offense. Unfortunately, this is far less of a compliment for Sabety than it is for the other players. Tufts has had a disappointing start to the year after coming in as a pre-season favorite. Sabety battled injuries to start the year and hasn’t played to the dominant level that it looked like he might jump to after an impressive freshman campaign. Tufts will probably figure it out in conjunction with Sabety, and it is unlikely that he isn’t in the running for POY by the end of the season.

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

Johnny McCarthy (Amherst ’18)

 Amherst has only played four games this year, against mostly underwhelming competition. Furthermore, they have such a balanced attack that no one player has stood out statistically on the Lord Jeff roster for the purposes of this award. However, the freshman McCarthy has stood out on the team for his excellent shooting (56% for the year) and scoring despite low minutes due to blowouts early in the year. He leads the team at 14.0 points per game in just 25 minutes, and should increase his output as Amherst’s competition gets stronger.

 

John Swords '15 (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)
John Swords ’15 (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

John Swords (Bowdoin ’15)

The 7’0” Bowdoin center was originally in the top five, mostly on the strength of his rebounding and absurd 75% field goal percentage. However, an anemic performance by Swords (and Bowdoin collectively) against Babson coincided with Rooke-Ley’s ascension to push Swords out of the top five. It is still unclear as to whether Swords will be able to carry the Polar Bears’ inconsistent offense against more talented teams once league play begins, but the performance against Babson doesn’t bode well. Fortunately, he will soon have ample opportunity to prove me wrong.

 

As I implied earlier, these rankings are very early and are by no means final (although of course no Amherst players should be legally allowed to win it.) It will be my, and every NESCAC basketball fan’s, distinct pleasure to watch this incredibly talented crop of players battle it out as the season progresses.

Power Rankings: 12/3 Edition

Malcolm Delpeche '17 dunks against Colby (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)
Malcolm Delpeche ’17 dunks against Colby (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

Still early on in the season, and having very few inter-conference games to look at, we give you the power rankings thus far. Given that it is early, last year’s results still linger but hold less merit now than our preseason predictions. This week we’ll look at what’s working  and what’s not for teams around the league.

1. Middlebury (6-0) – Quick out of the gate were the Panthers as they have earned this weeks number one spot. As predicted, Middlebury is led by senior Dylan Sinnickson ’15. The 6’5″ forward is in the top five of the NESCAC in rebounds per game (12.3) and points per game (19.5). That isn’t to say that Sinnickson is the only source of power for this team. Scoring 86.3 points per game, second to only Amherst, and only allowing 65.3 points per game from their opponents, Middlebury is rolling over most of their opponents thus far.

2. Amherst (4-0) – After only playing four games, Amherst has still proven to retain its high-octane offense that fueled its success last year. The Jeffs lead the league in points per game with 94, in part because of their depth on offense. In their first three games, their leading point scorer has been different every game, all with 17 points. In addition, two of their big-name players, F David George ’17 and G Connor Green ’15 are nearly matching each other in points scored, George with 13.7 and Green with 14.0, respectively.

3. Bates (6-0) – Bates has showed its determination to avenge last year’s disappointing season. Their victory over Colby last night asserted that they have exorcised their demons and are much more balanced as well going forward. Their early season victory over Babson is also looking better after Babson beat Bowdoin handily. A jack of all trades kind of team, they are middle of the pack in points scored (73.7) and points allowed (66.0), but so far their consistency on both ends of the floor seems to be a huge factor in their success.

4. Hamilton (6-0) – The story of Hamilton’s quick start stems largely from their success on defense. So far, they are first in the league in points allowed with 58.3 per game. The Continentals lead the league in steals (8.8) and blocks (5.7) per game, which has allowed them to get quick points in transition. Ajani Santos ’16 has been a large part in solidifying their defense with a league leading 2.6 blocks per game. It will be interesting to see how Hamilton’s defense holds up against the skillful stock of NESCAC players after Christmas break.

5. Bowdoin (4-1) – The Polar Bears are off to a good start this season, led by center John Swords ’15. The 7’0″ center is leading the team in points (14.8), rebounds (11.2), and blocks (1.6). Many of the worries about the defense have not come to roost as opponents are averaging only 59.6 points. The next few days will tell us a lot about how good this team really can be. Bowdoin faces Bates and Colby this week in non-conference action.

6. Williams (6-2) – Williams has had a decent start but has shown some weakness with the loss of the Michael Mayer ’14 and Taylor Epley ’14, along with Duncan Robinson ’17. After starting 0-2, the Ephs have put together a six game winning streak. While their offense has been strong, averaging 81.5 points per game, their defense has been a point of struggle for the Ephs. So far they have allowed 72.4 points per game, which is second to last in the league. Defense wins championships, as they say, so it is crucial for Williams to shore things up in this area if they want a shot at the championship.

7. Trinity  (4-2) – Although Trinity has all five starters returning from last year, so far they have yet to put it all together. Recent weeks have seen some improvement after a very uneven start. Seeing as it is still very early in the season, their is room for much improvement from the Bantams who are scoring under 70 points per game. The Bantams are still trying to find their star player (guard Jaquann Starks ’16 appears the guy most likely to step up) who can lead them down the stretch.

8. Wesleyan (5-2) – The Cardinals have looked very good on paper, scoring 75.6 points per game and allowing only 61.1, and although they have two losses, they are still in a good position for a successful season. Losing to Williams in overtime 85-77 shows that they can play with teams ranked above them.

9. Colby (5-3) – While records don’t tell the whole story, Colby’s less-than-desirable start has dropped them to number nine in this weeks rankings. They are a good 5-3 team at that, as they lost to Bates by only 6 and held them to under 80 points, Colby has plenty of time to gain ground in the league. Forward Chris Hudnut ’16 has been in control of this team, and the league at that, with 82 rebounds (1st in league) and 160 points (2nd in league) thus far. Look for him to continue to take control of this team later in the season.

10. Tufts (2-3) – The Jumbos are off to a tough start, despite all the talent they have going into this season. Their number one issue at this point has been on offense. Averaging a league worst 60.6 points per game has put more pressure on their defense to keep them in games. Tufts will need more consistent production from their starters. Center Hunter Sabety ’17 so far has put up 14.0 points per game, good, but not good enough unless he can find more offensive help from his guards.

11. Connecticut College (2-3) – Conn College rounds out the power rankings at number eleven, and so far they have struggled in both phases of the game. Offensively, they are ranked 8th with 73.2 points per game, and defensively they are at the bottom, allowing their opponents 76.4 points per game. Center Zuri Pavlin ’17 brings a force under the basket, leading the league in rebounds per game with 12.4, but like Tufts’ Sabety, needs more help from the supporting cast to get the Camels back on track.

Much to be Thankful for: Stock Report 12/1

 

The Thanksgiving holiday causes barely a blip in most team’s schedules, and the last week of November gave us plenty more of data points to judge teams off of. Overall it was a good week for NESCAC schools with the league going 15-4 combined. Five teams (Amherst, Bowdoin, Bates, Hamilton, and Middlebury) remain undefeated, and Tufts is the only team under .500 at 2-3.

Williams’ Hayden Rooke-Ley ’15 has emerged as the best story of the season thus far because of his sweet shooting stroke. The guard is now a perfect 61-61 from the free throw line.

Williams plays at RPI tonight at 8 PM, and you can watch as Rooke-Ley goes for the record here.

Stock Up

Guard Joseph Lin ’15 (Hamilton): After Matt Hart ’16 transferred and Greg Newton ’14 graduated, Hamilton needed to revamp their backcourt this season. Lin was a backup last season who averaged 5.6 points and 1.8 assists per game last season. He has bumped up those averages big time to lead the team in points with 13.4 per game and assists with 5.0 per game. Somewhat amazingly, Lin is still coming off the bench while Greg Dwyer ’18 runs the first team.  The Continentals are off to a 6-0 start, though four of those wins have come by single digits. The younger brother of that other Lin is ensuring that Hamilton, the team that was predicted to be one of the weakest teams in the NESCAC, still has a lot of friskiness in it.

Trinity’s Defense: Just as the warning bells were starting to go off in Hartford, the Bantams appear to have righted the ship. In their last two games, Trinity has held their opponents to an average of 45 points per game. Both games were wins despite the Bantams scoring less than 60 points in both games. The Bantams will take any drop in offensive production as long as they keep grinding out victories. Jaquann Starks ’16 is leading the team in scoring though he is averaging less than two assists per game. Wednesday will be a good test for Trinity when they play Springfield, an NCAA tournament team a year ago.

Center Chris Hudnut ’16 (Colby): Consistent excellence is one of the hardest things for fans to appreciate, especially when that excellence comes in the form of unflashy play. Hudnut’s game reminds us of Tim Duncan, someone whose greatness was not properly understood for a long time. On the offensive end Hudnut is effective because he can score in so many different ways. He can work out of the pick and roll, attack from the elbow, or use his varied post game in the low block. He uses his size and strength to overcome athleticism that is really only slightly above average. Hudnut has abandoned the three pointer after shooting 64 threes last season. That commitment to playing inside helps explain his uptick in rebounding as well from 8.4 to 10.9 rebounds per game.

Stock Down

Guard Stephen Haladyna ’16 (Tufts): The junior small forward is the third leading scorer for Tufts with 8.2 points per game, but that is where the good news ends for him. He is shooting only 25.5% from the field, including an awful 17.4% from three. He has been taking poor care of the ball turning it over 2.6 times per game while only supplying 1.0 assist per game. He has seen his production tail off in the last two games in large part because he went 0-8 from beyond the arc. Tufts sits at 2-3 on the year now, and Haladyna is far from the only reason why they are in this funk. Still, he needs to shake off his early season shooting slump now for the Jumbos to get back on track.

Free Throw Shooting: For some odd reason, about half of the NESCAC is having an awful time at the line overall so far this season. Five teams are all shooting less than 66.6% from the line. For comparisons sake, Trinity had the lowest percentage last year and still made 67.0%. Tufts and Wesleyan are both barely over 60%, a level that is usually reserved only for big men. Though overall the league is not far off from where it was last year, most of that is because of the absurd rate that Rooke-Ley has taken and made free throws. Take out his shooting and the overall NESCAC percentage falls from a respectable 72.4% (only .3% off of last year’s overall total) to a much less impressive 71.0%.

Bowdoin Identity: The Polar Bears carved out an identity in 2013-2014 built around defense and rebounding. Center John Swords ’15 was the obvious reason for that being their strength, yet there were concerns that they would be unable to replicate the same template because of the loss of their senior class. Grant White ’14 and Andrew Madlinger ’14 were both well above-average perimeter defenders who allowed Bowdoin to play both man and zone. The early returns through four games for Bowdoin were good though. Opponents were scoring a NESCAC-leading 57.5 points per game while the Polar Bears out-rebounded teams by 14.2 boards per game. Then the Polar Bears laid an egg last night losing 68-48 to Babson. The offense was shut down for long stretches, but the real concerns are how Babson was able to control play. Bowdoin lost the battle for the boards by nine despite Babson only having one player above 6’5″. After starting 12-0 in 2013, Bowdoin needs to recover from their first loss quickly with games against Colby and Bates later this week.