Friday Recap and Saturday/Sunday Preview

Reaction to Friday’s Games

Will the Real Middlebury Please Stand Up?

You’re killing me, guys. A 9-0 start, an 0-2 start to conference play including a blowout loss to Tufts, an absolute dismantling of Wesleyan, just scraping by with a win against the conference’s only remaining winless team, and now another blowout loss to the Ephs. I was starting to think that the Tufts and Conn. games could be chalked up to having to play on Sunday and maybe that’s where Middlebury’s struggles were based, but there was no excuse for this one. Nearly a full week of rest and preparation and the Panthers just fell flat. And the game was never really close. Middlebury had the lead for all of one possession of the ball game before Williams stole it away for good with a Dan Aronowitz ’17 trey with 19:11 to go in the first half.

Hayden Rooke-Ley '15 poured in 20 points on 5-11 (3-8 3PT) shooting to lead all scorers. (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)
Hayden Rooke-Ley ’15 poured in 20 points on 5-11 (3-8 3PT) shooting to lead all scorers. (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Obviously, I’m closer to the Middlebury team than any other in the NESCAC, and so I still have hope for this season because I understand why they’ve had some of their struggles. Matt St. Amour ’17 returned tonight but likely wasn’t at full strength and showed some rust from the three-point line, going 0-4. Captain Dean Brierley ’15, who has filled in in the starting lineup the last three games, is a capable shooter himself but St. Amour has a more dynamic offensive game when he’s good and healthy. The performance from Matt Daley ’16 was certainly promising. It’s been a month now since the athletic big man has returned to action but Coach Jeff Brown has been working him into the rotation slowly. For what reason, we don’t know. Perhaps to teach Daley a lesson or simply because Nick Tarantino ’18 had been playing consistently. However, a near double-double from Daley in just 21 minutes (a season high) might inspire Coach Brown to let Daley loose a bit more going forward. It’s worth the chance because obviously this team is not in a place right now where it can compete for the NESCAC title, and Daley could be an X-factor down the stretch. Last but not least, it was just an uncharacteristic night for Middlebury as they shot poorly from everywhere on the floor and they allowed the Ephs to shoot over 50 percent from the floor. On the season Middlebury opponents were shooting under 37 percent from the field before this game. Maybe the sloppy performance has something to do with the fact that J-term just ended for the Middlebury team. Perhaps they felt that little bit of fatigue mixed with relief that always comes with passing in a final paper or taking that final exam. But they will need to overcome distractions much more serious than that if they are going to win the NESCAC this season.

The PG Battle in Amherst is Over

Reid Berman ’17 is the real deal. I talked in the Friday Preview about how Berman was a pass-first point guard who could really grab hold of the starting job with a good performance on Friday night. Berman did pretty much exactly what he was supposed to do, dishing out 13 assists. And as advertised, he didn’t look to shoot much, only taking five shots (missing them all). Of course, Berman is not a polished product. Zero percent from the floor isn’t a good stat, no matter how many assists you tally, and he also turned the ball over six times, but he seems to be a good fit on a team with three starters who can knock down a lot of trey balls.

All Hail the Bantams

For at least one day, Trinity is the undisputed king of the ‘CAC. I doubted the Bantams going into this one, thinking that John Swords ’15 would force Trinity to take a lot of threes and I didn’t think a lot of those threes would go in. Well, I was half right. Trinity attempted 26 threes, just three short of a season high, but they were able to sink 11 of them (42.3 percent). Rick Naylor ’16 was the hero for the Bantams, scoring seven straight points, including a three at the end of regulation and four points to open the overtime period, to help clinch the victory.

Rick Naylor '16 scored 13 of his 16 points after halftime to help the Bantams beat the Polar Bears. (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
Rick Naylor ’16 scored 13 of his 16 points after halftime to help the Bantams beat the Polar Bears. (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

Defense was the story of the night. Shot clock violations played into the narrative on both sides. Trinity forced one near the end of regulation and Bowdoin caused their own with five seconds left in overtime, but was unable to get a clean shot for the win and Bryan Hurley’s ’15 desperation three was no good as the buzzer sounded.

Ed Ogundeko ’17 continues to be a beast on the boards for Trinity. The 6’6″ forward snagged another 12 rebounds and still leads the NESCAC in rebounds per conference game despite coming off of the bench and only playing 20.5 minutes per conference game.

If there’s a downside to the Bantams thrilling victory, it might be that this game would suggest that Trinity needs an uncharacteristically efficient shooting night in order to beat the NESCAC’s best. But this is just one game, so let’s not jump to conclusions. Instead, let’s let the Bantams enjoy their time atop the heap. If we’ve learned anything in the NESCAC this season it is that no one is safe, so don’t get too comfortable up there.

Saturday/Sunday Preview

Players to Watch

1. Guard Joseph Lin ’15 (Hamilton)

Hamilton has given Middlebury a tough time in these teams’ last two matchups, Middlebury is going to be angry and Lin and Co. got Friday off so they’re going to be fresh. The student body is on vacation in Middlebury so it won’t be a particularly boisterous crowd, and I think that could benefit Lin, who had his worst conference game so far in the Hamilton win over Williams last week. I think Lin bounces back despite Middlebury’s tough defense. This is somewhat of a gut call, but if there’s one reason that I think Lin could have a big game it’s simply that I don’t see anyone else in the Hamilton starting five drawing a favorable matchup. Not that Lin vs. Jake Brown ’17 is an easy assignment for Lin to score on, but I think the Continentals lean heavily on the senior guard in this one and that he rises to the occasion.

2. Center John Swords ’15 (Bowdoin)

Last night Swords was more active and engaged on the offensive end than he has looked in a lot of games recently shooting it 13 times, a season high. Unfortunately he made only six, a terrible night considering his usual shooting percentages. Still, the Polar Bears would be happy to have Swords shoot so often every game. How Swords’ minutes get managed today will be fascinating to watch. He played a season high 41 minutes against Trinity, a very physical team. Bowdoin does not really have another player who can keep David George ’17 off of the offensive boards for Amherst so they are going to need their big guy to play a lot. Whether Swords is physically up for it is a big question. If he is not then the Polar Bears will need to dig deep if they want to avoid an 0-2 weekend.

3. Guard Harry Rafferty ’17 (Wesleyan)

Like Wesleyan as a team, at times Rafferty looks like one of the finer guards in the conference who is especially lethal from downtown. Then he also has games where he struggles to find his rhythm. Yesterday, Rafferty came off the bench, something he has done a couple of other times only to return to the starting lineup the next game. He played well coming off the pine with 15 points, six rebounds and three assists. That was not enough for Wesleyan to overcome a huge night from Graham Safford ’15. Rafferty has become more of a straight scorer this year, so making him the primary scorer off the bench is not actually a crazy idea. He and Tarik Smith ’17 could end up locking horns on both ends of the floor if both of them come off the bench. That two guards so talented are both filling a reserve role makes for an interesting storyline to watch today.

Game of the Day: Bowdoin (13-5, 4-2) at Amherst (13-5, 3-3), 3:00 PM

I get the feeling that this will be the closest of the five games to be played today and tomorrow. After Bowdoin lost the nail-biter with Trinity yesterday this game took on a lot more meaning for the Polar Bears, who could go from potential number one seed to middle of the pack over the course of two days if they lose to the Lord Jeffs. As mentioned above, the Swords-George matchup should be a good one, but the most interesting battles to watch will not be when the ball is in either player’s hands, but rather the fights for rebounds. Both players are defense-first and are top five in both rebound and blocks per game. Offensively, both players are very efficient, so something will have to give in this matchup.

Amherst’s biggest challenge will be stopping explosive guard Lucas Hausman ’16. The kid just keeps getting better and does most of his damage inside the arc or at the free throw line. The Lord Jeffs have had some difficult stopping guard penetration this season and have committed the third-most personal fouls per game in the NESCAC. Those two factors combined could mean a lot of trips to the line for Hausman, a 91.1 percent free throw shooter who went 13-13 from the stripe against Trinity last night. We will see some combination of Johnny McCarthy ’18 and Connor Green ’16 lined up with Hausman. Whether either player can slow down the Bowdoin scoring machine could be the difference in this game.

Lucas Hausman '16 has been unstoppable as of late. The junior dropped a career-high 30 against Trinity in a losing effort on Friday. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics/
Lucas Hausman ’16 has been unstoppable as of late. The junior dropped a career-high 30 against Trinity in a losing effort on Friday. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics/

Another interesting matchup occurs at the point guard position, where both teams employ Rajon Rondo-like playmakers. Hurley and Berman are both looking to pass first, the latter almost to a fault, so it should be fun watching them attack one another possession after possession. Hurley obviously gives up some size to Berman, but that shouldn’t be much of a disadvantage in this game seeing as Berman is unlikely to rise and fire, meaning that Hurley could have one of his best defensive games of the season today.

I missed on my prediction yesterday when I stated that Bowdoin would win by 10 over the Bantams, and today I’m going to have to pick against the Polar Bears. Especially given Amherst’s home court advantage, I think the Lord Jeffs win on a couple late free throws by Green. Keep in mind, though, that Amherst lacks a dead eye free throw shooter like Hausman. Green is the best from the stripe and he is shooting under 75 percent. I think he comes up clutch today, but the opportunity is there for Bowdoin to foul early and capitalize on some missed front ends of a one-and-one. Nevertheless, the pick is in: Amherst by five.

Enjoy all the games today.

Clash of the Titans: Friday 1/30 Preview

Hayden Rooke-Ley '15 returned in a big way against Hamilton last week, going 7-10 from deep in a Williams loss. Rooke-Ley and the Ephs welcome the Middlebury Panthers into Chandler Gymnasium tonight. (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)
Hayden Rooke-Ley ’15 returned in a big way against Hamilton last week, going 7-10 from deep in a Williams loss. Rooke-Ley and the Ephs welcome the Middlebury Panthers into Chandler Gymnasium tonight. (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

We are just a few hours away from a full slate of Friday night NESCAC action. The top two teams in the conference meet in Hartford tonight, but every game is important and will have conference implications. Because of the driving snowstorms around the northeast, no team in action tonight has played since last weekend. Hamilton was the only team able to get any games in this week, but they are off until Sunday when they will travel to Middlebury (an exciting matchup given the upset that Hamilton pulled in the regular season last year).

Players to Watch Tonight

1. Forward Jacob Nabatoff ’17 (Amherst)

Nabatoff has seen his numbers wax and wane this season. He was playing 30 minutes or more for a period but as other players like Eric Conklin ’16 have returned from injury, he has played less in recent weeks. Nabatoff can be a frustrating player for Amherst fans to watch because he has the size at 6’8″ and skill to be a very productive player. But he is still a young player and he barely played last season so he is inconsistent. Colby’s defensive woes are well-documented, so Nabatoff could have a solid game tonight against the Mules.

2. Guard Reid Berman ’17 (Amherst)

Not to load up on Amherst sophomores, but in case you missed it, Berman has stolen the starting point guard role away from transfer Jayde Dawson ’18. Whether this move becomes permanent remains to be seen, but Berman has had two solid games in a row. The youngster is a pass-first type, who racked up 12 assists against just two turnovers combined against Williams and Trinity. Dawson’s minutes have shrunk in the last few games with Berman’s emergence, and with another solid game the sophomore could solidify his place as the starter.

3. Guard Matt St. Amour ’17 (Middlebury)

The Vermont native has been out since January 18 when he suffered an ugly-looking ankle sprain against Conn. College at home late in the game. The sprain wasn’t as bad as it looked, and St. Amour was able to limp to the locker room after the game, but it did keep him off the court for two games, and likely would have held him out on Tuesday if the snow hadn’t caused a postponement of Middlebury’s game against Lyndon St. The sharpshooter’s return will be huge for the Panthers this weekend. St. Amour has been a much better player this year than in his freshman campaign which is all the more impressive given that he had to recover from a torn ACL in the offseason. Williams’ opponents have jacked up 393 treys on the season already, third most in the NESCAC. If the shots are there for St. Amour, he’s going to take them. He’s been more effective getting to the lane so far this season (45.5 percent from the field) than shooting from deep (24.6 percent from 3PT), but this could be the game where he gets his long distance stroke going. As for the ankle, St. Amour isn’t showing any signs of it bothering him, but these things do linger so if he comes up gingerly at any point during the game, we’ll know why.

Game of the Night

Bowdoin (13-4, 4-1) at Trinity (14-5, 4-1)

John Swords '15 was the only player for either side in double figures in last year's game against Trinity.  The big man had 11 points, six boards and four blocks in the Bowdoin win. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)
John Swords ’15 was the only player for either side in double figures in last year’s game against Trinity. The big man had 11 points, six boards and four blocks in the Bowdoin win. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

If you like high-scoring basketball, I’d look elsewhere. Last year’s matchup ended 46-39 in favor of Bowdoin. Only one player ended up in double figures. Bowdoin’s 46 points were the lowest in a Polar Bear victory since 1949. However, if you’re a NESCAC fan (or player) this game holds a lot of meaning.

Who had this late January game pegged as a matchup of conference leaders? Not me, although I have said all year that Bowdoin would be in the running for a conference title (though with the losses of Neil Fuller ’17 and Keegan Pieri ’15 I’m a little less confident nowadays), but I never thought that Trinity would find the offense to win four of their first five conference games.

Well, turns out, they really haven’t, as they rank ninth in the league in points per conference game. But the defense has turned it up in big games, allowing three less points per conference game than overall. Maybe this is a result of Trinity taking air out of the ball, but the Bantams are going to have to score some points tonight against a Bowdoin team that seems to be getting hot offensively despite the injuries. Bryan Hurley ’15 and Lucas Hausman ’16 are one of the league’s best offensive backcourts and John Swords ’15 should be good for a few put-back buckets, though expect George Papadeas ’15 and Ed Ogundeko ’17, the NESCAC’s leading rebounder in conference games, to neutralize Swords offensively.

On the other end, Swords’ presence is the main reason why teams have shot 433 three pointers against Bowdoin this season, the most in the NESCAC. Wesleyan is next on that list. Cardinals’ opponents have shot 414 threes in one more game than Bowdoin has played. That means that the offensive pressure for Trinity lands mainly on the likes of Jaquann Starks ’16 (41.5 percent 3PT, 4.9 attempts per game), Chris Turnbull ’17 (35.9 percent 3PT, 2.6 attempts per game) and Andrew Hurd ’16 (31.2 percent 3PT, 2.5 attempts per game).

This is a difficult matchup for Trinity, and therefore I have to give the advantage to the Polar Bears. Prediction: Bowdoin by 10.

Hard to Kill a Polar Bear: Bowdoin Update

Bryan Hurley '15 goes to the hoop during the Bowdoin comeback against Colby. (Courtesy of the Kennebec Journal)
Bryan Hurley ’15 goes to the hoop during the Bowdoin comeback against Colby. (Courtesy of the Kennebec Journal)

Through a combination of injuries and the flu, Bowdoin walked onto the bus last Saturday, the 24th, to head to Colby with only nine healthy players, including Stephen Girolamo ’16 who walked onto the team this fall and has barely played all season. John Swords ’15 was the only starter still standing from last season’s team that went to the NCAA tournament. Colby won the teams’ first matchup of the season 61-48 in Brunswick, at which a promotion helped to bring the biggest and loudest student crowd at Colby in years.

Despite all of that and a nine point half time deficit, the Polar Bears scratched and clawed (apologies for the pun) their way to a huge win over their rival Mules to move to 4-1 in the NESCAC, tied for first with Trinity. Now the hardest games on the Bowdoin schedule still remain and the early gains they have made in conference play will be put to the test. This weekend against Trinity and Amherst will be huge in deciding whether Bowdoin will again host a home NESCAC game.

At this point, before we go any further, I should probably say that I care more about the Bowdoin basketball team than, frankly, any other basketball team, professional included. Heck, I traveled all the way to Pennsylvania last season to watch the Bears lose in the first round of the NCAA tournament. I have a completely irrational affection for this basketball team. With that being said, I think that the following analysis of Bowdoin is fair.

A three game losing streak, all by double digits, in December looked like a signal that Bowdoin simply did not have the same chutzpah that got them through so many close games last season. For the first time, I had actual doubts about whether Bowdoin was going to be able to contend. So, two weekends ago I came back to campus early to watch Bowdoin play Williams, a game that I thought had terrible match ups for Bowdoin nearly across the board. Then the first half happened and Bowdoin raced out to a 17-point halftime lead. Yet even when Bowdoin was up 20 with under 14 minutes to go, I knew Williams was going to come back because the Polar Bears don’t win games easily. More often than not, they win right when you begin to think the possibility that a loss is eminent. Even though the Ephs came storming back and almost won the game, what the win over Williams did was pull me back into believing whole-heartedly that Bowdoin could compete for the NESCAC championship.

More Adversity

Then, later last week the devastating news of the injury to Keegan Pieri ’15 came out. Pieri had just started playing his best basketball of the season according to Coach Tim Gilbride. He averaged 18.0 points per game and 8.0 rebounds per game in the wins over Hamilton and Williams. Even in a league suddenly overflowing with 6’6″ forwards capable of taking over games offensively, Pieri was a mismatch for teams. He could hit open threes and put it on the floor when needed. But where he really shined was when he was isolated one-on-one in the mid-post. Pieri is a lethal shooter from the 10-15 foot area where he uses his length to shoot over defenders. If defenders got up too close he was able to exploit them with a lefty hook shot. He is a really crafty offensive player that has a great feel of the game. More often not, when Bowdoin needed a bucket, their offense was going through Pieri and he was creating either his own shot or the Polar Bears would swing it around the perimeter to a guard.

The loss of Pieri is even worse because Bowdoin already lost another forward, Neil Fuller ’17, to injury back in December. Bowdoin was a team that lacked depth when the season began, but forward was the one position where the Polar Bears could actually say they had plenty of impact players. Without Fuller, Matt Palecki ’16 moved into the starting lineup and saw his minutes increase while bench players Liam Farley ’18 and Jack Hewitt ’17 saw a little uptick in their minutes. Suddenly Farley and Hewitt move from secondary pieces to critical rotation members. Even though Bowdoin is not going to need their bench to produce much, those guys need to do enough to keep Bowdoin in the game and keep Gilbride comfortable with resting his starters.

Farley was a huge part of the second half comeback against Colby. He scored seven of Bowdoin’s 12 points during a huge 12-1 run to take the lead. His confidence was clear when, after shooting 0-4 in the first half, he stepped into an open three that gave Bowdoin a 48-47 lead. That offense and shooting is going to be critical going forward to keep the Bears in close games. From day one, Farley has been serene with the ball, never looking like an overmatched freshman. He does not have the same post game as Pieri, but he should be able to replace most of his outside shooting and slashing. Gilbride says a big reason Farley belongs on the court now is that “he has a better idea of team principles, especially defensively which require a lot of vision and idea of what other guys are doing.” Learning defensive rotations at a new level is often the hardest thing for a freshmen to do, and though he is still capable of freshmen mistakes, the 10 minutes in the second half Farley played against Colby shows that Gilbride thinks he will makes the right play more often than not.

Guard Leadership

Even though Bowdoin graduated their entire starting backcourt from last season, Gilbride knew going into the season that he had a more offensively talented duo this season in Bryan Hurley ’15 and Lucas Hausman ’16. Hurley of course was injured for most of last season but was the starter for his entire sophomore year. At the beginning of the season Gilbride could see that Hurley was pressing somewhat because he wanted to win so badly. He forced things too often as a point guard instead of having things come to him. Since Christmas break, Hurley has turned it around and gotten his swagger back. He is getting into the lane more and had eight assists three games in a row two weeks ago. He uses his body exceptionally well when he is in the paint to shield defenders from swiping at the ball. Hurley says the team is running more pick and rolls, something that the senior guard welcomes.

His partner in crime in the backcourt is Hausman, a junior who has had to bide his time as a scorer off the bench before becoming a starter this season. He is unique to this Bowdoin roster in his ability to finish in traffic because of his athleticism. His skill set is even changing up the way that Bowdoin tries to play. Hurley says that, “now with the loss of Keegan and Neil still out, we have been trying to push more in transition because Lucas is such a great finisher.”  Watching Hausman on the fast break is awesome. Despite being only 170 pounds with a full stomach, he has no fear in barreling into multiple defenders. You can see the defenders think they have him stopped before Hausman twists and contorts until he finds some sliver where he pushes through and gets off a quality shot. He is admittedly more comfortable shooting off of the bounce than in catch and shoot situations which explains why he is only hitting on 25.9 percent of his threes. Though he is not always the most efficient player, when he gets hot, teams are in deep trouble.

Challenges Ahead

Now Gilbride has to figure how to stretch this thin roster out over two tough road games on back-to-back days. With the short bench Gilbride says the coaching staff has a plan for how to manage everyone’s minutes, but once Bowdoin is in a game situation, things are always capable of changing. Guys that I’ve barely mentioned here like Palecki, Jake Donnelly ’16 and Hewitt will all have to make huge contributions for Bowdoin to win at least one of their games.

The game tonight against Trinity is a rematch of last year’s NESCAC quarterfinal triple overtime thriller that saw the Bantams prevail in Brunswick.  The Polar Bears know all about Trinity’s strengths on the defensive end. “Trinity is good in one-on-one matchups,” says Gilbride. “They have good length, strength, and athleticism to make it tough that way. Then they are very well coached as a team so they are good at rotating down and getting an extra guy in the paint.” The game tonight will not be an aesthetically pleasing one, and whoever can make just enough shots will pull it out.

Remember also that Bowdoin is doing all this even though Swords is scoring less this season. Though his scoring is down, Swords remains a huge presence in the paint that teams fear. Teams are shooting 28 threes per game against Bowdoin in conference play. Williams, who would shoot a three before they took an open layup, is averaging 27 threes per game for the season. Guards are loathe to try to challenge Swords at the rim, and he is so big that he clogs up a lot of lanes by simply being in the paint.

The hardest games on Bowdoin’s schedule are still in front of them. The Polar Bears wore down last season losing five of their last seven games, albeit in very close games against good competition. It will be a challenge for Bowdoin to bring it every game, but they have shown their reslience thus far. Yes, losing Pieri hurts a lot. But Palecki says, “[Pieri’s] injury is just another large bump on what has been a pretty bumpy road so far.”

A New Number One: Power Rankings 1/30

Jaquann Starks '16 and Trinity are at the top of the rankings. (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
Jaquann Starks ’16 and Trinity are at the top of the rankings. (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

Like most power rankings this season, the position of each team will more than likely switch by the end of the weekend. After several years of consistency in the NESCAC, this year has throw history out the window. This weekend will we see the league finally settle down, or will the last two and a half weeks exhibit the same amount of turbulence that we’ve seen all season long? One things for certain, there is room for any team to gain ground.

1. Trinity (14-5, 4-1) Last Week: 2

Trinity is at the top, but they shouldn’t get too comfortable. Their next two opponents, Bowdoin and Colby, have been playing solid basketball and are hungry to break through against one of the top teams. With a 70-54 win against Amherst, Trinity is tied for the top record in the NESCAC, and they get the top spot because of the quality of competition they have played in conference thus far.

2. Middlebury (13-3, 2-2) Last Week: 1

Middlebury, who had appeared to be in a good spot last week lost to non-conference opponent Maine-Fort Kent 71-62. The production, other than seniors Dylan Sinnickson ’15 and Hunter Merryman ’15 (20 and 15 points respectively), was lacking. The Panthers will have a good test of their resilience on Friday when they face Williams. The Panthers are hungry for this one after last season when they let a big lead slip away both times they played. It’s only one game, but the once long season now has under three weeks left. Right now they need consistency from more than just their seniors.

3. Tufts (8-8, 3-1) Last Week: 6

Tufts rises despite losing their only conference game to Bates last weekend. The Jumbos have shown that they should be among the top this year. These past few weeks they’ve taken down previous number one ranked teams, such as Amherst, Middlebury, and Trinity, putting them in an excellent position in the conference. Where I am hesitant to ramp up Tufts’ stock beyond this comes from the fact that they hold an 8-8 record. Yes, they have proven they can beat the “best” (term used loosely given the inconsistency this year) in the league, but their slow start puts them in a difficult spot to make the playoffs if they are unable to win the NESCAC tournament.

4. Amherst (12-5, 2-3) Last Week: 2

Amherst has dropped since last week after their tough 54-70 loss to Trinity. Seeing as Trinity is ranked No. 1 this week, I’m not going to look too far into that one game. That being said, their 2-3 conference record speaks for itself. Given that, I think the Lord Jeffs will still be a force to be reckon with down the stretch. Their schedule, like Trinity’s includes Colby and Bowdoin in their next two games, two teams that will surely be ramped up to have the chance to take a shot at the revered Lord Jeffs in LeFrak gym. Given their past, I can’t see Amherst finishing the season poorly. Call it a visceral reaction, but I’ll stand by them remaining in the top 5.

5. Bowdoin (13-4, 4-1) Last Week: 5

As a fellow Polar Bear, I’ve been tough on Bowdoin all year as far as where they have ranked on my list. That will continue. Right now, after beating a tough Colby team on the road 68-65, due largely in part to the play of senior Bryan Hurley ’15 and junior Lucas Hausman ’16 (combined 47 points in the win), Bowdoin seems to be playing their best basketball, and at the right time. In the coming weeks, they’ll go against Trinity, Amherst, Bates, Middlebury, and Tufts to finish out their conference play. In one week, you and I both will know how serious Bowdoin is this year. Right now, they have the potential to go way up in rankings, but then again, that is the case with most teams this year.

6. Bates (12-4, 2-2) Last Week: 4

After losing two straight to Amherst and Trinity, Bates was able to bounce back and beat Tuft. Bates will for sure be a playoff team, and the formula for success has been clear- if Graham Safford ’15 and Mike Boornazian ’16 play as well as they’re capable of playing, Bates has enough depth in the Delpeche brothers and Billy Selmon ’15 to make a run. Still, they are ranked second to last in points per game scored with 67.2. The Bobcats have also gotten through the toughest part of their schedule. They should be able to gain ground on the rest of the league in the coming weeks.

7. Williams (11-7, 2-3) Last Week: 7

Williams is a team that sits on the fringe of the top eight, and similarly to Amherst, has a 2-3 record in the conference. What gives Amherst the edge is based on the fact that the Ephs have tough opponents these coming weeks in Middlebury, Bates, and Tufts. A loss to Hamilton last weekend hurts Williams, but they shouldn’t be too concerned with one game; Williams has all the pieces in place and are just looking to find their groove.

8. Colby (11-7, 3-2) Last Week: 8

Colby sits in an intriguing spot right now because they have not truly been tested yet. Yes, they split the series against Bowdoin (losing the conference matchup), but that is it. The three conference wins the the Mules have this year come against the three teams that are below them in this weeks power rankings, Wesleyan, Hamilton, and Conn. That means one thing- it’s going to be an uphill battle from here on out.

9. Wesleyan (13-5, 2-2) Last Week: 9

The Cardinals fall out of my top eight for one reason in particular- the next six games for Wesleyan all come against conference opponents. The way that the league has played out thus far, anything can happen, making it particularly difficult to rally off a wining record. I’m not saying they can’t do it, I just think things would look better for Wesleyan if there were one or two out of conference games in this final stretch in order to give them a breather.

10. Hamilton (12-6, 1-4) Last Week: 11

While Hamilton’s playoff hopes seem to still be distant, Continental fans had something to cheer about when Hamilton defeated Williams in a close 67-64 battle. Jack Donnelly ’16 and Kyle Pitman ’17 are top ten in the league in 3-pt percentage, giving Hamilton the ability to work outside in. Finishing out their season with five conference games, the Continentals hold some power in determining  end of the year rankings for the league.

11. Conn College (7-9, 0-4) Last Week: 10

The Camels have yet to get a win in conference play, and sit last in our rankings with an overall record of 7-9. This year Conn has ranked 10th or lower in both defense and offense- a stat makes it very difficult to muster up some wins. The seemingly leveled playing field of the NESCAC this year has hurt Conn. While previously low-ranked teams have been able to compete with the top, Conn was unable this year to make the jump into that next level of play.

All Aboard the Express: Fantasy Report 1/29

If we are being completely honest, I’ve never actually played fantasy basketball before. I’ve been in leagues with friends where we had drafts and stuff, but I’ve never paid attention and gotten invested in it. Maybe that explains why I stood pat and didn’t adjust my roster this week besides to make sure I took Dylan Sinnickson ’15, who didn’t have a conference game, out of lineup and put in Rashid Epps ’16, a player I thought was going to see an uptick in production. Meanwhile Joe got his namesake Joseph Lin ’15 back into the starting lineup and benched Jaquann Starks ’16. Then he gave Zuri Pavlin ’17 and Hunter Sabety ’17 the nod this week over Hunter Merryman ’15, who also didn’t have a conference game, and Ed Ogundeko ’15.

Lord of the ‘Cac (Adam) Lin and Tonic (Joe)
Player Player
Guard G. Safford Guard J. Lin
Guard D. Wohl Guard L. Hausman
Guard J. McCarthy Guard L. Westman
Forward J. Swords Forward C. Hudnut
Forward A. Santos Forward D. George
Forward Mar. Delpeche Forward Z. Pavlin
Forward R. Epps Forward H. Sabety
Bench D. Sinnickson Bench H. Merryman
Bench J. Brown Bench J. Starks
Bench S. Ajayi Bench E. Ogundeko

No two ways around it, I got thrashed this week. Nobody on my team performed better than expected except for Graham Safford ’15 who had eight assists, six rebounds and four steals to go along with 13 points. Joe enjoyed a solid offensive week especially in the points category where Lucas Hausman ’16 led the way with 24. Joe’s efficiency starts with the efficiency king Luke Westman ’16, but other guys like Sabety were also crucial in overcoming a subpar shooting week from Lin and Chris Hudnut ’16. The only other category where Joe had a significant lead over me was assists where Lin continued to be a dynamo with another casual nine dimes. My down week did not cost me too badly except in points where a 51-point deficit in one week is hard to overcome. Here’s the Week 3 scoresheet.

Category Lord of the ‘CAC (Adam) Lin and Tonic (Joe)
Points 53 104
Assists 16 27
Rebounds 49 52
Steals 8 12
Blocks 7 6
FT% 61.5% (8/13) 73.5% (25/34)
FG% 41.2% (21/51) 45.8% (38/83)
3PT Made 3 3

Even though the conference season is only halfway over, a lot of the categories are already so lopsided that they are unlikely to change hands. Points, once well within reach for me, is now dangerously close to being sewn up for Joe. Free throw percentage and assists are two categories Joe can practically guarantee because he has far and away the strongest individual performers in those statistics. I can look at blocks and three pointers as the only two categories where I am comfortably ahead. So the season looks like it will come down to rebounds, steals, and field goal percentage, with rebounds the closest of them all. Look for us to adjust our rosters over the next couple of weeks to try to fully take advantage of our team’s relative strengths and weaknesses.

Category Lord of the ‘CAC (Adam) Lin and Tonic (Joe) Leader
Points 405 503 Joe
Assists 63 103 Joe
Rebounds 220 220 Tied
Steals 37 34 Adam
Blocks 40 21 Adam
FT% 69.6% ( 87/125) 78.9% (163/213) Joe
FG% 47.8% (153/320) 49.5% (185/374) Joe
3PT Made 36 15 Adam

Overall Score: Joe leads 4-3-1

Hamilton Stays Alive with Back-to-Back Wins

Joseph Lin '15 as taken his game to another level this season for the Continentals. (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)
Joseph Lin ’15 as taken his game to another level this season for the Continentals. (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)

Wins against Williams and Keystone College have provided hope that Hamilton is starting to turn it around after a rough patch to start NESCAC play. The Continentals were able to compete in their first four NESCAC games, losing by seven to Amherst and five to Colby, but a loss is a loss and before last weekend Hamilton was buried deep in the NESCAC cellar. However, the Continentals two most recent games have Hamilton players and fans thinking that all might not be lost. The most encouraging sign? That Hamilton has now shown an ability to win in different ways. Against the Ephs, Hamilton held an offense averaging 75.8 PPG on the season to 64 points, and against Keystone the Continentals dialed in from long range, nailing 9-18 three pointers.

Hamilton’s defeat of Williams was important not only for morale, but also to keep Hamilton mathematically afloat in the conference. While Hamilton went down by 12 points at 53-41 with 12:33 to go, they showed the tenacity to wait out Williams’ shooting barrage and pour in the points themselves to chip away at the lead. Williams made 14-29 three pointers (48 percent), with Hayden Rooke-Ley ’15 shooting 7-10 from behind the arc. However, Hamilton stuck with the defense and held the Ephs to just 5-13 from three point range in the second half. The Ephs did not score from long range in the final 9:28 of the game.

With Williams cooling off, the Continentals took advantage with a key three pointer by Jack Donnelly ’16 followed by points from Peter Kazickas ’15 and Joseph Lin ’15 to cut the lead to four. The teams went back and forth for a while before Hamilton took the lead with 1:18 left on a jumper from Ajani Santos ’16. With Lin on the bench after his fifth foul, Jack Dwyer ’18 knocked down a couple of clutch free throws to put Hamilton up three. Finally, Kazickas’ shots from the line closed it out for the Continentals in their first NESCAC win.

Head Coach Adam Stockwell showed his experience down the stretch, twice instructing his players to foul with Hamilton up three. Williams’ Mike Greenman ’17 made 3-4 free throws in the game’s final moments, not enough to close the gap.

Kazickas led the way for the Continentals with 18 points and six rebounds, while Kyle Pitman ’17 had 12 and Lin followed them in double figures with 11 points and nine assists. Rooke-Ley finished with 21 points for the Ephs, and Wohl contributed 13 points and six rebounds.

After two NESCAC playoff appearances in the last three years, Hamilton struggled in the midseason this year with two straight losses to former Liberty League rivals Vassar and Union and four consecutive defeats in NESCAC play, which dropped the Continentals to 10-6 after a 7-0 start. The loss of transfer Matt Hart, who averaged 20.6 points per game last season, and the graduations of Greg Newton ’14 and Bradley Gifford ’14 left a major hole on the court for Hamilton, and many wondered whether there was enough talent left on the roster to fill that gap. Senior captain Kazickas has stepped up all over the floor, though, averaging 10.3 points per game, while Lin has transformed himself, taking on a full-time starting role and averaging 15.1 points and 6.7 assists per game, 5.6 and 1.8 last year. Lin currently leads the NESCAC in assists and is sixth in all of Division-III. Santos (11.5 PPG, 6.6 RPG) and Jack Donnelly (7.4 PPG, 39 percent 3-PT) have picked up where they left off last year and sophomores Pitman and Wes Wilbur ’17 have done their part averaging 6.7 and 5.5 points off the bench, respectively, with Pitman shooting 38 percent from behind the arc. Joe Pucci ’18 and Dwyer are getting better and better every game, and learning new roles, with Pucci, a natural guard, having to play more in the high post with his 6’7” frame. Zander Wear ’18 also adds height to the team, with his huge 6’11” body; while he’s only played 98 minutes so far this season he has shown the ability to win battles on the boards.

Hamilton’s 1-4 NESCAC record will have several pundits counting them out of the running for a playoff run, but their recent wins should give them some momentum as they go on the road. They have already played some of the better NESCAC teams in the conference in Amherst, Trinity and Bowdoin and close out their schedule with easier games (if there is such a thing in the NESCAC this season) against the Connecticut teams, Wesleyan and Connecticut College. Despite the recent improvements, Hamilton still has a young team. However, the bench is improving with every game as the Continentals enter the NESCAC stretch run. The Continentals are showing signs of improvement and should be a contender for one of the eight playoff spots, and then anything can happen.

Just Another Crazy Weekend: Stock Report 1/26

It was another wild weekend in NESCAC basketball, with all of the action going down on Saturday afternoon/evening. The amount of chaos so far in the conference is unquantifiable, but comparing the current NESCAC standings to our preseason composite power ranks gives you a good idea. Things might still shake out and end up a little bit closer to what we imagined at the beginning of the season, but right now the only teams we appeared to be really close on are Conn. College and Wesleyan, whom we ranked sixth but is sitting in a tie for fifth at the moment.

This weekend might have been the craziest yet. We had underdogs pulling off big wins at home in Clinton and Lewiston (that’s if we’re buying into Tufts. Are we ready to do that?), a classic CBB game with Bowdoin and Colby, and Middlebury losing to an United States College Athletic Association school (did anyone even know that the USCAA was a thing?). What do we make of all the madness? As always, some players’ stock rose while others fell.

Stock Up

1. Bryan Hurley ’15 and Lucas Hausman ’16

The two Bowdoin backcourt mates combined for 47 points, nine boards, seven assists and three steals to help the Polar Bears edge Colby by three points on Saturday, 68-65. With the crushing news that Keegan Pieri ’15 has probably played his last basketball game for Bowdoin due to his second concussion of the year (see below), this was a major statement game for the Polar Bears.

Boy, did Hurley and Hausman respond in a big way. We’ve talked quite a bit in this space about how Hurley hasn’t been quite the same player as he was pre-ACL injury, and Saturday was not a classic Hurley performance, but it was undoubtedly his best game of the season as he went 7-16 from the field, 4-9 from three and 5-6 from the line for 23 points. He’s now had four straight games shooting over 40 percent from the field and six straight with multiple made treys. Suffice to say he looks much more comfortable these days.

As for Hausman, he might have a case for Most Improved Player in the NESCAC this season, and he’s among the league leaders in scoring. With him and Hurley firing on all cylinders, Bowdoin might have the best offensive backcourt in the NESCAC. But it remains to be seen whether the duo can keep up this level of performance for the rest of the season.

2. Joseph Lin ’15

I guess it’s time to start believing in Lin, who’s averaging 19.6 PPG and 9.8 APG in conference games. Lin had his worst shooting night of the NESCAC season against Williams (4-12, 11 points), but he stilled handed out nine assists in 37 minutes. He is the key cog for Hamilton, and it must have been huge for the team’s confidence to knock off the Ephs for Hamilton’s first conference win of the season. Now I must acknowledge that the three minutes that Lin did not play just so happened to be the last three of the game on Saturday and he exited with Hamilton down by three, so others probably deserve more credit for the upset win in particular, but Lin has been spectacular overall in big games and I think we can expect that to continue for the senior.

3. Trinity Offense

Now let’s take this with a grain of salt. The Trinity offense is still no Middlebury or Williams, but maybe they’ve caught on to something – shoot more threes. The Bantams went 8-18 from deep in their victory over Amherst, and are shooting 37.7 percent from three in conference games but have taken the fewest number of attempts. Chucking up shots from long range doesn’t really fit with this team’s personality. They’d much rather be physical in all facets of the game, but maybe that’s what the Bantams need to do to get the offense rolling. Hart Gliedman ’15 is a perfect example of this. He is a defense-first guard, a tough defender who gets a lot of steals and only scores 4.3 points per game. But he is shooting 47.4 percent from deep on the season. He hasn’t been a great three-point shooter in the past so maybe that percentage is an aberration, but for all we know he spent his entire summer jacking up treys like Jimmer Fredette and this could be for real.

Stock Down

1. NCAA Dreams for Non-Champions

If any of the top half of the league can win out in the regular season, that team will have a very good shot at making the tournament with an at-large bid based on the wins they would have to earn from here on out. Bowdoin made it last year at 19-5 and 6-4 in conference. But with the parity in the NESCAC the chances of Bowdoin or Trinity ending up 9-1 or for Middlebury going 8-2 are slim. Williams just had a terrible loss against Hamilton and has two other bad losses against teams hovering around .500. With eight losses already, Tufts would be a long shot if they lost in the NESCAC tournament, and the same can be said for Colby with seven losses. Bates is 12-4 and all of those losses came against winning teams, but with the rumors swirling that Graham Safford ’15 is less than 100 percent right now the Bobcats will be hard-pressed to remain contenders. Safford hasn’t been shooting particularly well since 2015 began and was already rested for one game two weeks ago. What Bates does have in their favor though is that two of their losses came against out-of-region teams, so they won’t hurt the Bobcats as much when the selection committee convenes. The Middlebury loss to Maine-Fort Kent was not pretty, but Fort Kent isn’t a D-III school so the same logic applies. The Panthers should be rooting hard for Tufts to keep winning to boost their strength of schedule. Wesleyan still has an outside chance, but the loss to Curry will be crushing for them. Amherst has just five losses, but some of them came in dominating fashion, which leads one to believe that the Lord Jeffs have flaws that will prevent them from going on a run and remaining unbeaten from now until tournament time. The NESCAC might be a one-bid team this year, something that has been talked about quite a bit this season but is becoming ever more realistic.

2. Conn. College Camels

Not to kick a team while its down, but the blowout loss to Wesleyan probably ends the Camels’ chances of sneaking into the playoffs. There was a glimmer of hope after Conn. played Middlebury tough last weekend, but that glimmer has been extinguished. Conn. is a young team with a lot of work to do. They’ve let teams run away with games too often this season, losing by double figures five times this season. The Camels need to learn how to play a complete game and sustain runs from their opponents.

3. PG Tarik Smith ’17 (Tufts)

Smith has been featured in this section for three straight weeks now, but for the first time his stock has fallen. Since being removed from the starting lineup Smith had elevated his game in NESCAC play and turned into a leader for the Jumbos. But then he goes and has his worst game in over two weeks, 10 points on 3-9 shooting and six turnovers as Tufts fell for the first time in conference. I think what this says is that Tufts needs Smith to be a scorer off of the bench if they are going to beat the good teams in the NESCAC. Hopefully Smith can go back to the player he had been in the previous four games when he shot nearly 70 percent from the field and averaged 17 PPG and return to the Stock Up section next week.

On the Road Again: Weekend Preview 1/23

The NESCAC schedule means that this is the weekend when teams play their usual travel partner. Because they have played all the same teams in conference thus far, we should have a good idea on how each team matches up with their opponent.

A big theme of the weekend is road favorites trying to avoid losing to home teams. The combined conference records of home teams this weekend is 5-12 while away teams are a combined 13-6. And remember that those records come against the same teams. Colby is the only home team with a winning record at 3-1 and are also the only home team that can be considered a favorite going into tomorrow. Winning on the road is not easy, but most gyms in the NESCAC do not offer a significant advantage as overall teams are 9-11 on the road this season.

Three Players to Watch

1. Power Forward Rashid Epps ’16 (Wesleyan): A tough start for Wesleyan in conference is in part because of Epps not producing. The junior has seen his playing time squeezed somewhat and he even got dropped from the starting lineup against Middebury. Epps has never been the primary scorer for Wesleyan, but the emergence of Joseph Kuo ’17 has pushed him into the third or fourth role offensively. However, the Cardinals are not a particularly dynamic offensive team, and Epps is far and away their most efficient scorer. Some of that efficiency is because he scores a lot on second chance points, but even last year when he was more of a focal point on offense, he shot 55 percent from the field. He is shooting one less shot per game and has averaged only 5.0 shots per game over the past five games. Wesleyan cannot afford to lose at Conn College. Make no mistake, even though the Camels are 0-4 in conference, they are playing decently and will beat somebody soon. They need to avoid taking too many threes and get Epps involved early.

2. Point Guard Reid Berman ’17 (Amherst): Though Berman has still yet to start a game for the Jeffs, more often than not he, rather than Jayde Dawson ’18, ends up being on the court to finish games. Dawson continues to show flashes of excellence, but Coach Dave Hixon does not trust him as a point guard. After two early turnovers, Dawson went to the bench midway through the first half and never returned. Berman is pass-first almost to a fault, but he came up huge down the stretch for Amherst against Williams scoring seven points. I know seven points might not sound like much, but before Wednesday, Berman had scored eight points total since the Christmas break despite playing significant minutes in every game. Seven points is a major breakthrough for him. Berman is not going to shoot from the outside (one made three all season), but he showed he can get into the lane and be a threat to score. That is really all he needs to be since he has proven that he is an excellent passer. We don’t know whether Hixon will put Dawson back in the starting lineup or commit to Berman completely, but at this point it appears Berman is the primary point guard for Amherst.

3. Forward Dan Aronowitz ’17 (Williams): I got to watch Aronowitz in person last Friday when Williams visited Bowdoin, and he was the only reason the halftime score wasn’t 50-10 Bowdoin. And it wasn’t just his 13 points at half that stood out but the different ways he was able to affect the game on both ends. Even though webcasts around the NESCAC are now very good, it is hard to understand how a player really works unless you see them in person, especially if you are sitting courtside. The sophomore is undersized playing a lot of minutes at power forward, but he has held up on the defensive end. He is the second option right now on offense and is shooting 39.7 percent from three for the year. The injury to Hayden Rooke-Ley ’15 could have CRUSHED Williams, but they are treading water right now without him. Because of improvements from Aronowitz and Ryan Kilcullen ’15 amongst others, Williams is becoming that team nobody wants to play.

Three Games to Watch

 3. Saturday 3:00 PM: Bowdoin (12-4, 3-1) at Colby (11-6, 3-1)

A matchup of teams 3-1 in conference and the CBB rivalry makes this a wonderful undercard for the weekend. However, both teams’ conference records are inflated a bit by having already played Hamilton and Conn College, objectively the two worst teams in the NESCAC. Bowdoin’s win over Williams was a very good one, but since the Ephs were without Rooke-Ley, it still carries a little asterisk. The winner of this game will need only a couple more wins before they can think about a home NESCAC tournament game while the loser falls back to the pack with the toughest conference opponents still ahead of them.

John Swords '15 and Chris Hudnut '16 will clash once again this weekend. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)
John Swords ’15 and Chris Hudnut ’16 will clash once again this weekend. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

The tough news for Bowdoin is that Keegan Pieri ’15 suffered his second concussion of the season on Wednesday night and is out for the foreseeable future. Concussions are obviously not something to mess around with and we wish Keegan the best of luck dealing with them. On the court, he is a massive loss given he is the second leading scorer and rebounder on the Polar Bears. John Swords ’15 will need to step up and be an offensive threat in the middle, something that he has not been for long stretches this season. Coach Tim Gilbride could fill Pieri’s place in the starting lineup in a couple of different ways including going small with guard Jake Donnelly ’16. Liam Farley ’18 should see an uptick in minutes because of the injury as well.

In the first game between these two teams Colby outplayed Bowdoin in the second half and managed to run away with it at the end. Bowdoin was simply unable to buy a basket from the outside going 2-15 from three. Bryan Hurley ’15 scored only two points in the game, but he is looking much more comfortable of late and has made multiple three pointers in each of his past five games. Bowdoin will have to adjust quickly to playing without Pieri who was the most capable guy on the team at creating his own shot.

For Colby, they know Chris Hudnut ’16 and Luke Westman ’16 will produce so it comes down to their other guys. Ryan Jann ’16 is a smooth shooter who makes one shot a game that you have no idea how he did it. Sam Willson ’16 played one of his worst games of the season the first time around, but he has been fantastic in conference averaging 14.0 PPG. The Mules need to also play Bowdoin to a standstill on the boards in order to keep the Polar Bears from getting easy buckets. These are two teams very familiar with each other so expect a close game.

2. Saturday 3:00 PM: Trinity (13-5, 3-1) at Amherst (12-4, 2-2)

Disregard the fact that Trinity lost a mid-week game once again to an opponent they should have beat while Amherst pulled out a big win against Williams in overtime. This game is almost a tossup.

The talent on the Amherst roster is undeniable, but for the first time in a long time Dave Hixon is unsure on how all the pieces best fit together. Nine players are averaging more than 10 minutes for Amherst. The last time the roster was so unsettled was the 2009-2010 season when Amherst had 11 players average more than 10 minutes per game (injuries to key players help explain the high number) as the Jeffs struggled to a 14-11 record, including 3-6 in conference. Connor Green ’16 is getting close to putting his stamp on this team as a leader with a 30-point performance Wednesday. The Jeffs need him to become their go-to guy, someone they can rely on to get easy offense. If that happens all the talent behind him can fall into manageable roles: e.g. David George ’17 as shot-blocker and rebounder, Jeff Racy ’17 as sniper from three, and Johnny McCarthy ’18 as a Swiss Army knife.

At this point everyone knows that Trinity is extremely talented defensively and relatively inept offensively. They can thank their defense for their 3-1 start in the NESCAC. Trinity is yet to have a NESCAC opponent score more than 60 points against them in regulation. On the other end, the polite way of putting it is that the Bantams are balanced, but a more realistic outlook is that they simply lack players capable of creating and making their own shots beyond, occasionally, Jaquann Starks ’16. Guys like Alex Conaway ’15, Shay Ajayi ’16, and George Papadeas ’15 are all capable of having good games, but they just are not reliant enough. The Bantams will want to make this game ugly, and there is a good chance they will succeed in doing just that against an Amherst team that tends to play to its competition.

1. Saturday 3:00 PM: Tufts (8-7, 3-0) at Bates (11-4, 1-2)

The road was not kind to Bates last weekend as they fell to Trinity and Amherst. Now they return to the comfy confines of Alumni Gym where five of their final seven conference games are at home. In fact, Bates’ only conference road games remaining are at Colby and Bowdoin so the Bobcats will not leave the state of Maine for the rest of the regular season.

Meanwhile Tufts continues to look better and better as we get further into conference play. Their win Thursday over UMass-Boston 80-67 saw them overcome 16 turnovers and four of their five starters scoring five points or less. Of course, it helps when your fifth starter, Hunter Sabety ’17 goes 9-9 shooting for 24 points. Even though Ryan Spadaford ’16 and Thomas Lapham ’18 have started recent games, Vincent Pace ’18 and Tarik Smith ’17 are the guys who do most of the backcourt scoring. The Jumbos are now above .500 for the first time all season. A win at Bates would cement their place at the top of the league with a good chance at going 7-0 before they play Williams in February.

Defensively Bates should match up well with Tufts because the Delpeche brothers can slow down Sabety and Tom Palleschi ’16. The Bobcats have to find a more consistent rhythm on offense, as they are averaging a NESCAC low 56.3 PPG in conference. Graham Safford ’15 has seen his scoring take a dive, and over on the D3Boards there are unsubstantiated rumors that he is playing injured. Safford is still playing heavy minutes and his backups, Jerome Darling ’17 and Justin Zukowski ’18, have played very sparingly. Safford has to be at or near his best for Bates who should be playing in front of a large home crowd tomorrow.

The Fantasy Continues: Week 2

We’re back with another edition of the fantasy basketball report. As a reminder, Lin and Tonic (Joe) led after one week, 5-3. Despite my strategy to draft big men early, I ended up with a commanding lead in assists and a slight advantage in steals and a major deficit in rebounds and blocks after Week 1, so I made the decision to drop the injured Hayden Rooke-Ley ’15 in favor of Ed Ogundeko ’17, who played really well in the first week of conference play. I then decided to move Ogundeko into my starting lineup over Zuri Pavlin ’17, who only had one conference game this weekend. In the back court I moved Jaquann Starks ’16 into the lineup for Joseph Lin ’15. I never should have doubted Lin, who had 43 points, 18 assists and six steals on the weekend. Whoops…

Adam shook up his lineup a bit, too, but didn’t make any roster changes, so our lineups going into the weekend looked like this:

Lord of the ‘CAC (Adam) Lin and Tonic (Joe)
POS. Player Player
Guard G. Safford J. Starks
Guard D. Wohl L. Hausman
Guard J. McCarthy L. Westman
Forward J. Swords C. Hudnut
Forward D. Sinnickson E. Ogundeko
Forward A. Santos H. Merryman
Forward Mar. Delpeche D. George
Bench J. Brown Z. Pavlin
Bench S. Ajayi H. Sabety
Bench R. Epps J. Lin

First we’ll show you the scoresheet for Week 2 alone. Notice that scoring was way, way down from Week 1. Also, just looking at who we decided not to start, and I’ve already mentioned my mistake to bench Lin, but Adam really could have benefited from Jake Brown’s ’17 19 assists. Of course the tradeoff would have been only getting seven points and six boards. On the other side, having Hunter Sabety ’17 in the lineup would have been pretty helpful. After missing the conference opener against Middlebury last weekend, Sabety came back strong against Amherst and Trinity, scoring 28 on 14-21 shooting (66.7 percent) with eight rebounds and four blocks.

Category Lord of the ‘CAC (Adam) Lin and Tonic (Joe)
Points 139 146
Assists 25 25
Rebounds 67 99
Steals 16 4
Blocks 14 9
FT% 74.4% (32/43) 72.8% (59/81)
FG% 40.9% (56/137) 48.8% (63/129)
3PT Made 15 6

Just by glancing at the table above, it’s clear that I was able to maintain my leads in points and assists and the percentage categories, while also closing the gap in rebounds, so I should be pretty happy.

Lucas Hausman ’16 has increased his scoring by 7.7 points per game this season, and poured in 49 points for Joe’s Lin and Tonic squad this past weekend. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics and


Unfortunately steals, blocks and 3PT made are quickly slipping out of reach. Take a look now at the composite standings.

Category Lord of the ‘CAC Lin and Tonic Leader
Points 352 399 Joe
Assists 47 76 Joe
Rebounds 171 168 Adam
Steals 29 22 Adam
Blocks 33 15 Adam
FT% 70.5% (79/112) 77.1% (138/179) Joe
FG% 49.1% (132/269) 50.5% (147/291) Joe
3PT Made 33 12 Adam

Overall score: Tied 4-4

Power Rankings 1/21

Currently at seven in our ranks, Williams can move up starting tonight with a non-conference matchup at Amherst. (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)
Currently at seven in our ranks, Williams can move up starting tonight with a non-conference matchup at Amherst. (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

The results this past week have brought forth much change in this edition of the power rankings. Teams we once thought were falling have started to find a groove, and teams that once looked great are beginning to slip. While only two or three games separate this weeks rankings from last’s, the conference action this week sent the league into upheaval.

1. Middlebury (12-2, 2-2) Last week: 3

At the start of the conference season Middlebury was expected to be at the top and a couple months in they have done enough to regain the top spot. Right now they are on a four-game winning streak during which Dylan Sinnickson ’16 has averaged 16.0 points per game and the team as a whole has averaged 89.0 points. But what has been underrated so far has been Middlebury’s defense. Opponents are averaging 62.2 points per game, but they also get more chances against the fast-paced Panthers. D-III hoops statistics were last updated on Monday, but at that time Middlebury’s opponents’ field goal percentage was tops in the nation and the Panthers had the 11th-best scoring margin in D-III. The grind for the Panthers comes at the end of the season, and as we know that a lot can change in a week in the NESCAC. As of right now, Middlebury has found a groove that looks sustainable

2. Amherst (11-4, 2-2) Last week: 4

The Lord Jeffs went 1-1 this week but remain ranked in my top three. A solid offense and a solid defense is obviously key, but what makes Amherst appealing is their winning culture. They’ve been here before. David Hixon’s experience and the reputation of his team’s to get better as the year goes on (Amherst won 24-straight to win the NCAA title in 2013 and 20 out of 21 before losing to Williams in the semifinals last year) earns the Lord Jeffs the benefit of the doubt. Despite a loss to Tufts, which seems to be happening to every top team, the Lord Jeffs are getting good production off the bench especially from G Jeff Racy ’17, who leads the league in three point field goals made in conference games.

3. Trinity (13-4, 3-1) Last week: 2

Winning a double OT thriller 71-69 against Williams and holding off a late Bates run gives Trinity the invaluable experience in close games come playoff time. But the Bantams won’t see the top spot in my ranks just yet. After an offensive breakout earlier in the season, the Bantams have cooled off and are ninth in points per NESCAC game.

4. Bates (11-4, 1-2) Last week: 1

The Bobcats had a difficult couple of games this past week; games that give us a better sense of who they really are. While Graham Safford ’15, who has been an integral part in the team’s success, did rest against UMPI, he and his squad were unable to get even one conference win against Amherst and Trinity. Is another late season slide in the works for Bates, or can they look to bounce back quickly against a Tufts team that has played very well as of late? While it has only been a couple of games, this week proved that the Bobcats need their entire starting five to contribute if they are going to beat the NESCAC’s elite squads.

5. Bowdoin (11-4, 3-1) Last week: 8

With the Polar Bears playing their last four games against conference opponents, they are now 3-1 in NESCAC play, tying them for first in the league standings. While a 3-1 record puts them in a good spot right now, two of those W’s came against struggling Hamilton and Conn. College teams. Don’t look now, but Bowdoin’s offense seems to be streaking, averaging 73.8 points per game in conference play. With Trinity and Middlebury among those still left to play, it will be interesting to see how Bowdoin stacks up against some of the league’s best defenses.

6. Tufts (7-7, 3-0) Last week: 11

The Jumbos, a team that was not high on my rankings last week, has proven me wrong by beating Middlebury, Amherst and Trinity in three consecutive games. Former starting PG-turned-sixth man Tarik Smith ’17 has played a huge role in their streak, shooting lights out, as well as in the clutch, hitting some big free throws against Trinity. Yes, they are 3-0 in the conference, and yes, Tufts has beaten three of the top teams in the league, but those are only three games, lets not start crowning them league champs. They are still 7-7 overall, which probably eliminates them from contending for an NCAA at-large bid already. This recent influx of offense, scoring 80+ points in four of their last six games, is bound to recede, but hey, maybe they’ve found something special this year.

7. Williams (11-5, 2-2) Last week: 5

Williams sits middle of the pack but has the pieces to get hot at any time. Recently, the Ephs played Trinity, Amherst, Colby and Bowdoin, a four-game stretch that epitomized their inability to get a consistent level of play. While Trinity and Amherst are similar, so are Colby and Bowdoin, and the Ephs were only able to win one of each. That being said, Daniel Wohl ’15 has been lights out offensively, averaging 23.2 points per game in-conference. Williams has the talent and are on the brink of finding their groove.

8. Colby (11-6, 3-1) Last week: 7

Colby is in a similar situation as Bowdoin, beating middle-of-the-road conference teams to give them a strong conference record. Chris Hudnut ’16 has been a huge factor in both scoring as well as rebounding the basketball (22.5 PPG and 11.5 RPG in-conference), which has helped the Mules get off to this fast start within the NESCAC. Colby has tallied the most points per game in-conference, but Wesleyan was the only opponent that is among the top half of the league in defensive scoring. We’ll know if Colby is for real after they go through the gauntlet of Bowdoin, Amherst and Trinity.

9. Wesleyan (12-5, 1-2) Last week: 6

Wesleyan is a team that looked promising early on has had a tough couple of games against Amherst and Middlebury. In both losses the offense struggled, scoring only 46 and 60 points, respectively. Their high-powered three point shooting was non-existent, while frequent turnovers halted any offensive flow. What a shame for a team that got off to an unprecedented start this season, winning 10 games faster than any team in program history. Facing Conn, Bates and Tufts in the next three games, Wesleyan needs to rediscover their offensive production.

10. Conn College (7-8, 0-3) Last week: 10

Conn is in a similar position to Hamilton, losing their last four games. Statistically ranked tenth offensively and eighth defensively in NESCAC games, the playoffs seem unlikely for the Camels. It might be time to adopt the spoiler role for the Camels. Wesleyan, Tufts and Bates are their next three opponents, and they can disrupt the league with every conference win they get.

11. Hamilton (10-6, 0-4) Last week: 9

Nothing seems to be going right for the Continentals, especially within the last four games. In these four NESCAC games, Hamilton has failed to get a win. Starting the season 7-0 in all non-conference games says one of two things; the NESCAC is much higher quality basketball than the upstate New York teams, or Hamilton’s game has lost its touch. I think it’s safe to say that both previous statements hold some amount of truth. While the playoffs are a pipe dream right now, don’t count Hamilton out to play spoiler against some “on the cusp” teams late in the season.