Amherst and Trinity Gear Up: Weekend Preview 1/29

Amherst and Trinity is going to be another physical battle. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
Amherst and Trinity is going to be another physical battle. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

It’s a light weekend around the NESCAC as teams take on their usual travel partners, meaning there are no Friday games and a full slate Saturday afternoon. The heavyweight bout of the day is clearly Amherst at Trinity, a game in which the winner will have the inside track on hosting the NESCAC Semis and Finals. For everyone else, this is a critical weekend midway through the NESCAC season. A loss for a 3-3 team like Conn, Wesleyan or Williams makes any chance of hosting a NESCAC playoff game nearly disappear. A loss for a 1-4 squad like Bowdoin or Colby might knock them out of the playoff picture completely.

Three to Watch

Middlebury Center Matt Daley ’16

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. Daley could be one of the best big man in the NESCAC if he wasn’t hurt so often. Right now he’s coming back from a foot injury, and he played just 33 minutes in two games this past week. However, the Panthers have been off since Tuesday, so there is hope that he’s been able to rest up enough to be ready to go against Hamilton. When he plays, Daley is a beast, averaging 12.2 ppg and 8.4 rpg in 22.3 mpg. For what it’s worth, he ranks eighth in the league in points per 40 minutes, and the guys around him on the rebounding leaderboard are all playing more minutes, with the exception of Eg Ogundeko ’17, who’s just a freak on the boards. For Hamilton, Andrew Groll ’19 has had a strong debut season, but can he slow down the nifty Daley? This will be a fun matchup to watch.

Colby Seniors Luke Westman and Ryan Jann

If you read Adam’s stock report or my power ranks this week, you know that we’re drinking the Kool-Aid on Colby right now. Still, though the Mules are sitting at 1-4 in conference and now need to go on the road and get a win in Brunswick where Bowdoin is also 1-4. This game will be huge for both teams, because it could serve as a tie-breaker in a potential tie for one of the last playoff spots. In some ways, Colby is the best offensive team in the league. The Mules have the best field goal and three point shooting percentages. As we know, though, defense is not their strong suit. That’s why Ryan Jann and Luke Westman will be crucial in defending reigning scoring champ Lucas Hausman ’16. It will have to be a team effort to stop Hausman and his sidekick Jack Simonds ’19, but last time these two teams met it was mainly Jann with a little bit of Westman sprinkled in defending Hausman. Hausman scored 22 points in that game, but it took him 22 shots, and Colby won. That game was in Waterville, though, and in their three NESCAC road games so far Colby has yet to get a win.

Wesleyan Guard Jack Mackey ’16

We’ve talked about the fluctuation in the Wesleyan lineup and how they’ve had to deal with injuries, but it looks like the Cardinals are just starting to get in a groove. They were finally able to make some shots from deep in their last game against Bates (mainly thanks to BJ Davis ’16). The key for them, I believe, will be getting production out of Mackey, Joe Edmonds ’16, Harry Rafferty ’17 once again, but Mackey in particular because he’s recently returned to the starting lineup and is playing big minutes once more. He’s only shooting 25.7 percent from three point land, but I believe that’s primarily an injury-related issue. He’s a much better shooter than that, and last season he did a lot of damage from behind the arc. If Mackey’s going well, stopping him and Davis together will be a nightmare.

Upset Alert: Middlebury (11-7, 4-1) at Hamilton (9-9, 0-5), 3 PM, Hamilton, NY

I’m just going to keep slighting my Panthers because it seems to motivate them. Seriously, though, there really aren’t any other options. I’d be shocked by a Bates victory over Tufts, Wesleyan is a favorite over Conn but not by much, and Colby-Bowdoin and Amherst-Trinity are even match ups. The Continentals took Middlebury to OT last year in Pepin, and they are an interesting team. I don’t think Hamilton will win, but it is a long road trip to upstate New York and there’s the potential for the Panthers to write this one off before it even starts. In terms of match ups, Middlebury has the advantage across the board, so it would take a great game from someone on Hamilton for the Conts to pull it off.

Game of the Week: Amherst (15-3, 4-1) at Trinity (14-5, 5-0), 3 PM, Hartford, CT

I think that these are easily the two most talented teams in the league, and, going by record, they’re also the best, but I do feel much more confident about the Bantams than I do about Amherst. Trinity has an identity and is full steam ahead. Amherst seems to suffer from inconsistency and lack of focus. How else do you go from beating Wesleyan by 26 to squeaking by Conn by two then getting rocked by Wesleyan by 27, then a week later dropping a road game at Colby then squashing Williams by 21, all within a 13-day stretch. I hate to beat a dead horse, but part of the issue is the two-headed monster at point guard. Both Jayde Dawson ’18 and Reid Berman ’17 are awesome at times, but I think there is also some element of Dawson hearing footsteps at times. In Amherst’s loss at Colby, Dawson went extremely cold and finished 3-18 from the field. Berman ended up running the point for most of the game. There’s really no better solution than to let hot hand play, but it’s an interesting storyline to watch.

Matchup to watch: Ed Ogundeko vs. David George ’17

Ogundeko’s transformation from rebounding horse to all-around star has been fun to watch, and one that we’ve long hoped George would make. Still, George is an incredible rim protector, averaging 2.3 blocks per game. I can’t wait to see Ogundeko try to go to work against George, and it will absolutely be a physical battle for rebounds. Ogundeko is going to have to set the tone for Trinity. Overall, Amherst is an underrated defensive team, and are holding opponents to an incredible 26.5 shooting percentage from beyond the arc. That means the Bantams have to get the ball inside.

Prediction: Trinity 65 – Amherst 60

It’s unfortunate for the Bantams that this isn’t a Friday night game, when student crowds are usually the most boisterous. Nevertheless, being at home is going to be a boost for Trinity who is 8-0 at home this year. Will that be enough to stop Amherst? I think yes, though I could see Amherst running away if Dawson is hot, Jeff Racy ’16 makes a bundle of threes and George can slow down Ogundeko. I like the matchups for the Bantams, though. It may actually be a good move for Coach James Cosgrove to sit Ogundeko when George is on the floor and try to match him up with Eric Conklin ’17, a worse defender but better scorer. Shay Ajayi ’16 will have to shut down either Connor Green ’16 or Johnny McCarthy ’18, no small feat, but one that he can accomplish. How Trinity stops the man not being defended by Ajayi is the question. If there’s one thing I believe about Trinity, though, it’s that they can defend anyone.

More Predictions:

Middlebury 80 – Hamilton 66

Tufts 88 – Bates 70

Wesleyan 69 – Conn College – 62

Colby 78 – Bowdoin 66

A Modest Proposal on Amherst’s New Mascot

Amherst College will no longer use the name "Lord Jeffs" - long an unofficial mascot for the school's athletic teams. (Greg Saulmon/
Amherst College will no longer use the name “Lord Jeffs” – long an unofficial mascot for the school’s athletic teams. (Greg Saulmon/

Disclaimer: I do not go to Amherst. I’m a senior at Bowdoin. I have barely ever been to Amherst before, and I have not talked often to Amherst partisans about their mascot. My familiarity with the Amherst community is no better than that of any other NESCAC student. So my opinions carry no weight at all. 

In case you missed the news, on Tuesday the Board of Trustees for Amherst College officially announced that the college has chosen “not to employ this reference in its official communications, its messaging and its symbolism (including in the name of the Inn, the only place on the campus where the Lord Jeffery name officially appears).” The decision is already somewhat symbolic. The athletic department in its game recaps and previews has not referred to Amherst teams as the Lord Jeffs recently, and the Lord Jeffs is already an unofficial mascot.

Amherst College finds itself in a position where a mascot — which, when you think about it, has only one real job, which is to unify — is driving people apart because of what it symbolizes to many in our community,” wrote Cullen Murphy, the chairman of the board. – New York Times

Weeding into the arguments for and against getting rid of the mascot is obviously now a completely academic one. Suffice it to say that the move is one completely supported here. I can’t say that Nothing But NESCAC has been good about avoiding using the name Lord Jeffs, like how many news organizations no longer refer to the NFL team in Washington DC by their formal name. However, from now on we will try our best not to refer to Amherst as the Lord Jeffs.

That leaves the obvious question of what to call Amherst now. Mascots are fun, and as a writer, they give valuable diversity for naming teams. Mascot names should also generally be harmless.

Currently, the frontrunner for the new mascot is the Moose. The simple reason is that in 2014 when the debate about Lord Jeff was taking place on campus, a moose wandered across campus. So Amherst teams would become the Moose, or the Purple Moose if Amherst wanted to do what they always do and copy Williams who have as their secondary mascot the Purple Cows. The official name for Williams’ teams is the Ephs, in honor of Colonel Ephraim Williams who gave the original money for the school.

With all due respect to every moose out there, I think that Amherst can do better. For one, moose are a boring animal. They are big and all, but they move slowly. Secondly, there is no plural of moose. Differentiating between the singular and plural moose is impossible.

I agree that the new mascot should be some animal not quite in the mainstream. The best NESCAC mascots are ones like the Camels and Polar Bears that are a little off the beaten path for normal mascots (fun fact: Panther is not actually its own species). With that being said, Amherst should resist the urge to pick a mascot that also starts with an A; being the Amherst Aardvarks or Amherst Anteaters is sophomoric.

So, without further ado, my personal nominee for the Amherst mascot is the Dorsets.

What is that, you ask? A Dorset is a breed of sheep that according to Wikipedia, “are all white sheep and medium size having good body length and muscle conformation to produce a desirable carcass.” Amherst would actually NOT be the first college in America to have the Dorsets as their mascot. That would actually be the University of North Carolina. However, UNC is always called the Tar Heels in popular culture, and the general public does not consider them the Dorsets at all. The Amherst Dorsets might feel like a weird thing right now, but the Trinity Bantams is also a somewhat peculiar name. The Bantams, a type of rooster, is in my opinion, one of the best NESCAC mascots. Having to explain your mascot shouldn’t be seen as a negative, but rather a positive because explanation involves some of the basic tenets of a liberal arts education.

Having Amherst be the Dorsets is nice because it then means both Amherst’s and Williams’ mascot are domesticated animals. The battle of the sheep vs. the cows would be welcome fodder between the two rivals.

There are many other ideas floating around for the new mascot, most of them better than this one. Over on, Purple Reign is already emerging as a favorite. Personally, I think that would be a pretty awesome name, too.

A profile of a Dorset.
A profile of a Dorset.

Move Over, Jumbos: Power Ranks 1/27

Shay Ajayi '16 has his Bantams rolling off of seven straight wins and a 5-0 NESCAC record. (Courtesy of David B. Newman/Trinity Athletics)
Shay Ajayi ’16 has his Bantams rolling off of seven straight wins and a 5-0 NESCAC record. (Courtesy of David B. Newman/Trinity Athletics)

There was a big shake up in this week’s Power Rankings, but that’s become commonplace in the NbN ranks. Why? Because of the five rankings we’ve put out (including this one), we’ve had four different authors. We apologize for the inconsistency, but not for the knowledge.

1. Trinity (14-4, 5-0, Last week: 3)

The last NESCAC team standing a year ago in the NCAA tournament, this year’s edition of the Bantams might be even better. They’ve improved on the offensive end (76.9 ppg vs. 69.6 ppg in 2014-15), and they’re still fierce on defense (36.7 field goal percentage allowed, best in the NESCAC and the nation) despite losing top perimeter defender Hart Gliedman ’15 and center George Papadeas ’15. Eg Ogundeko ’17 is the team’s most improved player. Always a force defensively, Ogundeko has improved his touch by leaps and bounds and is averaging 14.0 points per game. Oh by the way, the Bants are on a seven-game winning streak.

2. Amherst (14-3, 4-1, Last week: 2)

The LJs have had a rough stretch recently, losing two of three, including an out-of-conference blowout loss to Wesleyan and Colby’s only NESCAC win. Nevertheless, Amherst’s talent hasn’t declined, and they have a history of winning. All of the pieces are there. Two point guards, one capable of scoring in bunches, the other a great distributor. Maybe the best perimeter defender in the league in Johnny McCarthy ’18. Connor Green ’16, the seasoned vet. A great rim protector in David George ’17. The best three-pointer shooter in Division-III, per through January 25. And some more solid bench pieces. They’ll be just fine.

3. Wesleyan (15-4, 3-3, Last week: 6)

Welcome back to the top, Wesleyan. The Cardinals fell victim early on to two things: injuries, and NESCAC rules. NESCAC teams are often at a disadvantage early in the season because of the limited contact they get with coaches before firing it up for real. Hence, the season-opening loss to Lyndon St. Then the Cards rattled off 11 straight wins, and though they’ve only gone 4-3 since January 8 against Middlebury, all of those games were against NESCAC teams, and there were no gimmes. Wesleyan played Amherst twice, Trinity, Tufts and Middlebury over that stretch, and when they drew Hamilton and Bates they took care of business as they should. They still haven’t totally found their mojo. As documented many times here, they went through one of the ugliest seven game three-point shooting stretches basketball has ever seen at any level, but they made 13-23 last game against Bates. Coach Joe Reilly just needs to find the right rotation. Should he go back to what worked a year ago with a six-man rotation and Harry Rafferty ’17 and Joe Edmonds ’16 being big factors? Maybe, but Kevin O’Brien ’19, PJ Reed ’18 and Nathan Krill ’18 have become so important this year. I think all of that will work itself out, and the Cardinals have an easier NESCAC slate ahead.

4. Middlebury (11-7, 4-1, Last week: 5)

It’s been a meteoric rise through the ranks for the Panthers, and it makes my heart swell. I won’t lie, I had my doubts after they lost their two best scorers from last year’s team. However, I think in some ways we’re seeing an addition by subtraction scenario. Middlebury a year ago relied on Dylan Sinnickson ’15 and Hunter Merryman ’15 to find a way to shoot them to victory. Now, their team is more balanced and contributions are coming from all over the place. They have two great point guards, and on any night one or the other could tack on double digit points. Matt St. Amour ’17 is obviously a top-notch scorer, and the biggest strength he has that goes overlooked is how good he is at getting to the foul line and scoring from there (though his percentage from there so far is below his standards, he has the third most attempts in the NESCAC). It’s been a revolving front court door, but Coach Jeff Brown is getting solid minutes from whoever steps on the floor, and Middlebury fans will continue to pray that center Matt Daley ’16 is healthy enough to give 25 or so minutes come playoff time.

5. Tufts (13-4, 4-2, Last week: 1)

They have a couple of stars, but I think it’s now fairly evident that they’re not terribly deep. We knew that Tom Palleschi ’17 staying in the game was key already, but that became really evident against Middlebury. Foul trouble kept Palleschi out for much of the second half, and the Panthers actually crushed Tufts on the boards (53-44). Ryan Spadaford ’16 was also out for that game, though, which factors in. The fact is, though, that outside of the starting five, there’s not much of a scoring threat, which is why, I think, you see the starting five from Tufts playing a big chunk of minutes – Spadaford is playing the last at 23.8 mpg. Health will be critical, as will someone stepping up from the bench who can put the ball in the hoop.

6. Colby (12-6, 1-4, Last week: 10)

Colby is a bit like Tufts, only with, in my opinion, a slightly lower ceiling despite more experience. They rely heavily on their starting five, as well, and they absolutely must stay healthy. The Mules went 1-2 in NESCAC games without center Chris Hudnut ’16 over the past week or so (although the win was against Amherst, go figure). Everyone looks good to go as it stands today, and if Colby had pulled off the win over a very good Husson team last night I was considering putting them as high as third in these rankings, despite the 1-4 conference mark. Alas, they couldn’t finish the job, but I still think this team is on the rise.

7. Conn College (12-6, 3-3, Last week: 7)

Another team – and a program – on the rise is the Conn College Camels. Do-it-all man Zuri Pavlin ’17 has seen his numbers decline, but that’s only because he has some really good players around him for the first time. PG Tyler Rowe ’19 is the truth, and in case you missed it he made it into Sports Illustrated in the Faces in the Crowd section a couple weeks ago. Forward David Labossiere ’19 has been just as impressive in his debut campaign. The unsung hero of the group is forward Dan Janel ’17 who has really stepped up his game. Conn’s website doesn’t list weights, but trust me, he’s thick, and he’s ripping down 6.4 boards per game in under 20.o mpg. Pretty nice stats.

8. Williams (12-6, 3-3, Last week: 4)

It’s hard to explain, but I just don’t get a great feeling in my gut about the Ephs this year. Believe me, I will never count them out until it’s all said and done, but I don’t think they have enough to make a deep run in the NESCAC tournament. They hung with Trinity and Middlebury but ultimately lost, and tonight’s game against Amherst will be a big statement one. The loss of point guard Mike Greenman ’17 was unfortunate, because the man that I think will be the best point guard on the roster, Bobby Casey ’19, isn’t quite ready for the limelight, though he hasn’t played badly. Kyle Scadlock ’19 is fun to watch, though, and this team could be electric next year. I hope that Coach Kevin App can get some of his big men, namely Michael Kempton ’19 and Jake Porath ’19, some valuable experience so that there is a center in place to take over for Edward Flynn ’16, otherwise the four-out-one-in system will have to change.

9. Bowdoin (8-7, 1-4, Last week: 9)

I guess losing center John Swords ’15 was a bigger loss than we could have anticipated. Lucas Hausman ’16 and Jack Simonds ’19 are doing everything they can, but it’s not enough. No one else is in double figures on offense, and they’re struggling on defense. I’ll stop here, because I don’t like to make Adam upset.

10. Bates (9-9, 2-4, Last week: 8)

At 2-4 in the NESCAC, they’re still very much alive for a playoff spot, but they have their question marks. Mike Boornazian ’16 is scoring a lot of points, but it’s also taking him a lot of shots to do it. Can someone step up and help him put the ball in the basket? If they can, pairing that with their ability to put two strong rim protectors down low could make for a tough team to beat. After all, this is almost the same team as the one that made an NCAA run last year, albeit one very big difference in the subtraction of Graham Safford ’15.

11. Hamilton (9-9, 0-5, Last week: 11)

We’re sort of treading water with the Continentals right now. Take out the Tufts game, and Hamilton has lost by an average of 5.75 ppg to NESCAC teams, which means that they’re competitive but just no quite able to close the gap. This freshman class is getting a great deal of experience, though. Peter Hoffmann ’19, Andrew Groll ’19 and Michael Grassey ’19 make up a great core, and getting a few NESCAC wins would be huge for their development.

Cardinals Soaring after 2-0 Weekend: Stock Report 1/26

PG BJ Davis '16 is driving the Cardinals on their current revival tour. (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)
PG BJ Davis ’16 is driving the Cardinals on their current revival tour. (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)

The NESCAC conference schedule is a fickle beast with only 10 games. With most teams playing twice within a 24-hour span, things can quickly change for a team. Perhaps nobody better exemplifies that than Wesleyan. We already knew after Monday’s blowout victory over Amherst that the Cardinals were not about to fold, despite the 1-3 conference start.

The game Friday night against Tufts was a perfect display of 2015-2016 NESCAC basketball: two veteran teams with different styles going down to the wire with both teams making critical mistakes that changed the outcome. Wesleyan outlasted the Jumbos in overtime to get the win 78-77, but the game only went to overtime because of a gamble that backfired magnificently on Vinny Pace ’19. With five seconds left and the score 70-68 in favor of Tufts, Tarik Smith ’17 missed his second free throw. Wesleyan did not call timeout and quickly looked to outlet the ball to BJ Davis ’16. Pace was aggressive and went for the steal on the outlet pass, but he was a split-second late and fouled Davis instead. Of course, Davis made both to send the game to overtime.

The win over Tufts was huge, obviously, and the Cardinals kept up their momentum the next day by cruising to a win over Bates. After pounding the ball inside vs. Tufts, Wesleyan shot 56.1 percent from three and made 13 threes as a team in the 82-67 win – assuaging some fears about their recently horrendous three point shooting.

Now the Cardinals are ranked #25 in the Top 25, Davis just won NESCAC Player of the Week Honors, and Coach Joe Reilly is the D3 Coach of the Week. Not a terrible weekend.

Looking ahead, Wesleyan has tough but winnable games left against Williams and Conn College. Then they play the bottom three teams in the conference (Hamilton, Bowdoin and Colby). No win in the NESCAC is an easy one this year, but the Cardinals are feeling way better about where they are right now than they did just one week ago.

Stock Up


Oh, who is that team alone at the top of the NESCAC standings? That would be the Bantams, who “just win baby win.” Guys like small forward Eric Gendron ’18 are giving the Bantams a much more dynamic offensive attack. That smashmouth defense is not quite as fearsome as in years past, but the Bantams still get after it on that end. As usual, the Bantams are getting no love on a national level as they are not in the Top 25 of the poll. Why a team that came within a shot of making the Final Four last season and is undefeated halfway through the conference season is unranked is beyond me. The Bantams have some questionable early season losses, I get that. That is almost by design, however. Coach Jim Cosgrove plays a long bench in order to get his secondary guys experience, and sometimes that means the Bantams lose a suspect game. Still, the Bantams are 15-4 and should be ranked.

Colby’s Toughness

The Mules badly needed a win this weekend, and they got one against Amherst. What impresses me the most is that the Mules got close to beating Trinity on Friday night, also. After losing a tough game in the weekend opener, it would have been easy for the Mules to not show up against the most talented team in the league. Instead it was an inspired performance with Chris Hudnut ’16 fighting through his recent injuries to lead the way with 17 points. Starting point guard Luke Westman ’16 fouled out of the game with nearly nine minutes left, but backup John Gallego ’16 had eight points in the second half, including the free throws down the stretch that helped secure the victory. Sure, Colby benefited from bad shooting from Amherst to get the win, but you still have to give all the credit to the veteran Mule squad.

Conn College Forward David Labossiere ’19 

The Camels split this weekend, falling just short against Tufts on Saturday but taking care of Bates handily. On Friday night Labossiere scored a career high 23 points to lead the way. On Saturday, he was quieter with 13 points, nine of them in the second half. Labossiere is great at getting to the rim, combining the leaping ability to get clean looks with the balance to finish those looks easily. He isn’t shooting a lot of threes (less than 2.0 per game), but he is making over 50 percent of them. In NESCAC games, Labossiere is third on the team with 12.3 ppg. The balance that the Camels have been playing with recently is exceptional and a big reason why teams have struggled to slow them down. The Camels are going to be a handful for the rest of the season, and they project to be a major player over the next couple of years.

Stock Down

Bowdoin Defense

Between the second half against Amherst Friday night and the first half against Trinity Saturday, the Polar Bears allowed 107 points in the equivalent of a 40-minute game. Amherst scored 56 in the second half by crashing the offensive boards and taking advantage of their size. The Bantams scored 51 in the first half because they made every open three that Bowdoin gave them. Defending the three point line has been a problem for this team all year. What is just as frustrating is the continued lapses in defending simple pick and rolls or allowing players easy back cuts. Given the makeup of this team, Bowdoin is never going to be a good defensive team, but their performance in those two halves is inexcusable. At 1-4, the Polar Bears need to figure it out very soon, or else they risk missing the NESCAC tournament all together.

Amherst Point Guard Jayde Dawson ’18 

Dawson really looked like he had turned the corner as the point guard for Amherst. Heading into Saturday, he had shot above 50 percent in three straight games while leading the team in scoring twice. Then Saturday against Colby, his shot went cold. He finished 3-18 from the field (2-11 from three), and Coach Dave Hixon played Reid Berman ’17 over him down the stretch because of his ineffectiveness. Dawson is still going to start and be the guy in the game at the end of most games, but Saturday drove home how limited of a point guard he is. If his shot isn’t falling, Dawson is capable of changing his approach and finding ways to get his teammates the ball … A.K.A. be a point guard. He is a scorer first and a passer second. Not surprisingly, Dawson finished Saturday with zero assists. Almost as damning in a weird way is that he had zero turnovers meaning he continued to take shots instead of trying to create for his teammates.

No Rest for the Weary: Saturday Preview 1/23

Williams has to wait until tomorrow for their showdown against MIddlebury. (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)
Williams has to wait until tomorrow for their showdown against MIddlebury. (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Just about every game last night carried with it an exciting storyline. Wesleyan toppled a Top-25 team for the second game in a row. Trinity barely snuck by Colby, dropping the Mules to 0-4 in NESCAC play. Conn won again, and with three wins are probably just one more victory away from guaranteeing a playoff bid. Amherst took care of business versus Bowdoin – no matter how great Lucas Hausman ’16 is, the Polar Bears don’t have enough weapons to compete. Williams over Hamilton was the one game that went pretty much as expected and told us very little about either team. Today’s games carry just as much weight and intrigue.

Tufts at Conn College, 1:00 PM, New London, CT

Tufts and Conn are teams with identical records going in opposite directions, though to be fair they started at opposite ends of the spectrum. Tufts has now lost two OT games to Middlebury and Wesleyan, while Conn continues to win close game after close game. The Jumbos looked hectic in the OT period against Wesleyan, marking the second overtime period where Tufts fell apart at the seams. Vinny Pace ’18 on three occasions in the overtime found himself in the air with no idea where to pass it. Tom Palleschi ’17 missed an ugly three. And there was no coordination on offense as the seconds ticked away.

That being said, the Jumbos have all the talent in the world and will be tough to defend. On the opposite end, Conn PG Tyler Rowe ’19 has emerged as a future star. The matchup between him and Tarik Smith ’17 will be a great one. Still, when I look at every position in the lineup, the Jumbos seem to have the edge. Conn’s best chance will be to do some work in the frontcourt between Zuri Pavlin ’17 and Dan Janel ’17, because Tufts lacks frontcourt depth.

Prediction: Tufts 81 – Conn 78

Bates at Wesleyan, 3:00 PM, Middletown, CT

The Cards look to be figuring it out, but let’s not forget that one week ago they were coming off of a 26-point loss to Amherst and looked like a ship without a rudder. They have not fixed their biggest issue – three-point shooting. The Cardinals have made just 12 of their last 80 (15.0 percent) attempts dating back to that loss to Amherst, and 31 of their last 146 attempts (21.2 percent). Against Tufts last night Wesleyan shot 3-21 (14.3 percent) from three point land, 13-27 (48.1 percent) from the free throw line, and turned the ball over 22 times.

Yet somehow, the Cards won, and surprisingly it was by dominating the frontcourt. Joseph Kuo ’17 and Rashid Epps ’16 are known commodities, but Nathan Krill ’18 has started to play some important minutes. This year’s Wesleyan team is deep, a far cry from last year’s squad that ran only six deep. They’ve gone through a lot of growing pains, but I think they’re going to be better than last year’s team once they get through the kinks, and this game should be a comfortable win because Bates is not playing well right now.

Prediction: Wesleyan 75 – Bates 64

Trinity at Bowdoin, 3:00 PM, Brunswick, ME

The Bantams certainly don’t win pretty, but they do win as they escaped against Colby 62-60. Trinity will look to get the ball inside a lot today, something they failed to do last night finishing the night with just 8 free throws as a team. Frontcourt depth behind Shay Ajayi ’16 and Ed Ogundeko ’17 remains a concern. Primary backup Connor Merinder ’19 could really use a breakout game to get more confidence going down the stretch. Otherwise the Bantams are in danger of Ogundeko getting into foul trouble.

To stop the Bantams inside, Bowdoin needs a team effort, especially rebounding the ball. The Polar Bears sorely miss John Swords ’15 in that category, but they still should be doing a better job boxing out as a team. The individual offensive brilliance of Lucas Hausman ’16 and Jack Simonds ’19 had the Polar Bears up on Amherst. It’s possible that great performances from those two today are enough, but I think the Bantams defense is too stout.

Prediction: Trinity 73 – Bowdoin 67

Amherst at Colby, 3:00 PM, Waterville, ME

The good news for Colby is that Patrick Stewart ’16 played 31 minutes last night and Chris Hudnut ’16 returned in limited action to score 8 points. The bad news is they need a massive upset to avoid an 0-5 conference start. Ryan Jann ’16 had an off night against the Bantams going 0-7 from the field, and the Mules need him to make tough shots. Colby is getting healthy, but they might not be getting there fast enough to help today.

Connor Green ’16 looked like his old self scoring 27 points against Bowdoin. Amherst in the second half was sending three guys to crash the offensive boards, and the leaping ability of guys like Green and Michael Riopel ’18 made a difference. Whatever Amherst found in the second half last night needs to carry over to today. An engaged and aggressive Amherst team is a terror for the rest of the league because of the athleticism and size the roster has. Barring Colby hitting everything from three today, Amherst gets the job done.

Prediction: Amherst 82 – Colby 71

Williams at Middlebury, Sunday 3:00 PM, Middlebury, VT

This is the only game this weekend besides Tufts vs. Conn College that features two above .500 teams in conference. The Ephs are now riding a three game winning streak, but the three games all came at home against Hamilton, Bowdoin, and Colby. Those three have a combined conference record of 1-12. The scores of those game are also remarkable similar: 75-66 over Colby, 76-65 over Bowdoin, and 73-63 over Hamilton. The other constant in those games was Dan Aronowitz ’17, who averaged 21.0 PPG and 10.3 RPG over the three game stretch. Aronowitz is much more of a threat from three this season, and the Panthers need to keep an eye on him at all times.

Middlebury won’t have played in over a week when they take the court tomorrow, and that time off has given them plenty of time to get ready for the Ephs. The Panthers strength recently has been great depth. Guys like Adisa Majors ’18 and Bryan Jones ’17 have been coming off the bench and giving an instant lift to the team. Their depth helps to keep the Panthers fresh since they are constantly pushing the ball up the court. Williams has the discipline and personnel to counter that transition offense, however. Sometimes basketball is just about who hits shots and who misses them, and if that is the case in this one then I like Williams in a squeaker.

Prediction: Williams 79 – Middlebury – 75

On the Road Again: Weekend Preview 1/22

Our forerunner PantherNation (still alive and well in the Twitterverse but survived only by us in the blogosphere) astutely points out that the first two weekends of NESCAC play have been marked by home teams dominating. Getting an idea of how much home court advantage helps teams is hard in part because in the NESCAC teams usually play against each other once a season. It most certainly isn’t worth 53 points, the point differential between Saturday’s blowout win for Amherst over Wesleyan and Monday’s reversal of Wesleyan destroying Amherst.It obviously matters though. NESCAC teams went 32-23 at home in conference games a season ago.

This weekend the top three teams in our Power Rankings (Trinity, Amherst, and Tufts) all head out on the road. Amherst and Trinity are travel partners so they head to Maine in order to visit Colby and Bowdoin. Tufts, who already played on the road last weekend and split against Middlebury and Hamilton, travels through Connecticut for games vs. Conn College and Wesleyan.

Trinity and Amherst are the teams to keep an eye on. Both are perfect at home, but Trinity has a 4-4 record away from home and Amherst is 5-2. Neither Colby or Bowdoin appears to be a huge burden to get past, but both teams have players capable of putting the team on their back with hot shooting. Winning on the road is all important for securing what matters: a home NESCAC playoff game.

Two to Watch

1. Shooting Guard Lucas Hausman ’16 (Bowdoin): It’s a huge weekend for the Polar Bears needing at least a split against Trinity and Amherst in order to avoid falling to 1- in conference. It took 40 points from Hausman against Bates to get Bowdoin their one conference win. He will probably need somewhere close to 30 in a game this weekend. The problem is that Amherst with Johnny McCarthy ’18 and Trinity with Shay Ajayi ’16 both have defenders capable of at least bothering Hausman. Last season Hausman averaged 20 points in two losses to Amherst and had 30 in an overtime loss at Trinity. Hausman is prone to sometimes get off to slow starts, but Bowdoin can’t afford to fall behind in either of their games this weekend. While he is averaging a phenomenal 25.1 PPG this season, those numbers will start to look meaningless if Bowdoin keeps losing games.

2. Point Guard Shawn Strickland ’18 (Bates): In four wins over just more than a week at the beginning of January, Strickland scored in double figures for 4 consecutive games. That was when Bates played their best basketball with close wins over Brandeis, Babson, and Colby. In the three games since then, Strickland has been held to single digits in each game, and the Bobcats have gone 1-2. The Bobcats do not have enough perimeter scoring without Strickland making shots to keep up with teams. Josh Britten ’16 has been great making threes, but he is a one dimensional player. Mike Boornazian ’16 is good, but his efficiency has suffered without Graham Safford ’15 to take pressure off him. Strickland needs to be the guy scoring 10-15 points per game. He also needs to push the pace so that Bates can get easy buckets in transition.

Tyler Rowe '19 lead Conn College into a big home NESCAC weekend. (Courtesy of Conn College Athletics)
Tyler Rowe ’19 leads Conn College into a big home NESCAC weekend. (Courtesy of Conn College Athletics)

Two Storylines to Follow

1. Wesleyan drawing a line in the sand.

I have a suspicion that this is right where Wesleyan wants to be. Last year the Cardinals hot streak started when they had their backs against the wall. They were 3-5 heading into the last weekend of the season with road games against Hamilton and Williams. They won both those in blowouts before winning three games in a row on the road.

Against Amherst on Friday night, Wesleyan looked as bad as any team can. From the very first possession of the game when Amherst got two straight offensive rebounds before Connor Green hit a three, the Cardinals looked like a defeated team. Nobody on offense was trying to attack the paint, and if they did, they were getting swallowed up by the Amherst defenders. Wesleyan was able to hold Amherst scoreless for a period of 4 minutes and 46 seconds in the first half, but they were only able to cut a 24 point deficit to 20 points in that span.

I didn’t watch the game on Monday night I’ll admit, but the statement from Wesleyan was a strong one. The game means more for the Cardinals than it does Amherst. A key for Wesleyan was having a combined 16 steals and blocks. They need to use that defensive energy to get them going on the other end of the floor. Both Bates and Tufts are tough opponents, but the Cardinals get them at home. Maybe just maybe, the Wesleyan crowds that came out in full force down the stretch last year return this weekend and help carry the Cardinals to a big weekend.

2. Who leads the way for Amherst.

This storyline has been one developing all season. We noted back on December 2nd that Connor Green’s ’16 struggles could cause problems on such a talented team. Even with the 3-0 conference start, Amherst still has a lot of uncertainty surrounding them. Green seemed to break out when he had 39 points and made big shot after big shot in Amherst’s double-OT win over Babson on December 10th. Yet, in the eight games since then, Green is averaging 11.4 PPG on 33.7% shooting. 53.5% of all the shots Green has taken are from beyond the three point line, though that is just up slightly from last year when 51.4% of his shots were threes.

For a little while in the beginning of January, Amherst was incredibly balanced with no player scoring 20 points in four straight games. In the past two games, Jayde Dawson ’18 has stepped to the forefront running the offense with authority from the point guard position. Way too often Dawson forces the issue, either launching a three early in the shot clock or driving with no real plan of where to go with the ball. At the same time, he has made some big shots this season. Either him or Green is the player most capable of carrying the offense. However, each of them is equally capable of sinking Amherst in any given game. This issue isn’t going away, but keep an eye on it this weekend.

Jaquann Starks '16 is ready to roll. (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
Jaquann Starks ’16 is ready to roll. (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

Friday Game Predictions

Check back in first thing Saturday morning for predictions on the Saturday and Sunday games.

Trinity (12-4, 3-0) at Colby (11-4, 0-3)

You might not remember, but Colby  without Patrick Stewart ’16 or Chris Hudnut ’16 came VERY close to beating Trinity in the NESCAC quarterfinals, ultimately falling 66-63. We don’t know how healthy Stewart is after he came off the bench in a non-conference game this week. Having him healthy gives Colby a chance to spring the upset. It will take a bevy of threes from the Mules to do it, though.

How Trinity reacts to the long bus ride up north is probably the deciding factor in this one. A Bantam team ready to play has too much size for the Mules to handle. Another key is Rick Naylor ’16, Eric Gendron ’18, and Jaquann Starks ’16 making threes. to open up the inside. One person who should not be shooting threes is Shay Ajayi ’16. He is shooting 25.7% on threes. He is best attacking the rim, even if he is out of control at times when he does so. The Bantams need to be upset alert, but they will get the job done.

Prediction: Trinity over Colby 72-63

Tufts (12-3, 3-1) at Wesleyan (13-4, 1-3)

The Jumbos started strong in conference last year also, but they stumbled later on in their schedule. That strong start was fueled in large part by Tarik Smith ’17 shooting the ball at an unsustainable level. This season Smith has been playing well in a secondary role to Vincent Pace ’18. Often Smith will pass up an open three to drive into the paint. That attacking mentality has paid off to the tune of Smith making the 2nd most free throws per game in the NESCAC. It sometimes feels like Smith is moving in slow motion, but he is always in control. He has to take pressure off of Pace in this one.

The Jumbos are hoping to get Ryan Spadaford ’16 back from an ankle injury that made him miss last weekend. Spadaford is the final piece that lets the Jumbos play with four three point shooters surrounding Tom Palleschi ’17. His return is going to be enough to get past Wesleyan… I think.

Prediction: Tufts over Wesleyan 71-67

Amherst (13-2, 3-0) at Bowdoin (8-5, 1-2)

As a Bowdoin fan, I do not like this matchup for the Polar Bears at all. Amherst’s weakness on defense is when you put them into pick and roll situations and are able to penetrate forcing the defense to scramble. McCarthy has the size and quickness to give Hausman problems, and Coach Dave Hixon can try either Green or Racy on Jack Simonds ’19. On the interior, David George ’17 presents problems for Matt Palecki ’16 and Neil Fuller ’17 on the boards. Dawson went off against Bowdoin in the NESCAC semifinals for 21 points last year, and he is playing as well as he ever has for Amherst.

If I’m Coach Tim Gilbride I’m stashing Hausman, a not good defender, on Racy. Hausman just has to stick to Racy the whole time, and since Racy isn’t a threat to drive much, Hausman should be up for the task. Hixon will probably counter by running Racy off screens in order to tire out Hausman. If Bowdoin is going to win, it needs a big game from an unexpected source. Guard Jake Donnelly ’16 or Matt Palecki ’16 are the most likely candidates. Even then, I don’t think that Bowdoin has enough to hang with Amherst in a high scoring game.

Prediction: Amherst over Bowdoin 87-74

Bates (9-7, 2-2) at Conn College (11-5, 2-2)

This is the type of game that shows the depth of the league this year. Both teams have plenty of talent but lots of flaws also. Conn College has been playing so well recently that they might see a little regression this weekend. The Bobcats are on the road for the second straight weekend. They have been on the bus a lot recently after making the trip to Hamilton last weekend.

Marcus and Malcolm Delpeche ’17, the twins who have confused announcers from the day they set foot on campus, have become more consistent this season. However, neither is capable of winning a game by himself, and the edge on the perimeter goes to the Camels. Conn College proves that they are really a quality NESCAC team this weekend with a big win.

Prediction: Conn College over Bates 72-59

Hamilton (8-8, 0-4) at Williams (11-5, 2-2)

Coach Kevin App and Williams lost on the road to Hamilton last year, and they shouldn’t be looking past this game. Freshmen dot both starting lineups, and the battle between Kyle Scadlock ’19 and Andrew Groll ’19 is a diaper dandy. In the end, the difference is not a freshmen but Dan Aronowitz ’17. The multi-faceted forward is doing a great job of leading this Ephs team without forcing things too often. Williams gets above .500 in conference after starting off 0-2.

Prediction: Williams over Hamilton 68-60

Note: I’m picking three road teams to win. We’ll see how that goes.

New Number One: Power Rankings 1/21

Amherst prepares to break the huddle around Coach Dave Hixon. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
Amherst prepares to break the huddle around Coach Dave Hixon. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

We do Power Rankings every week in order to look beyond the simple story of wins and losses and really try to get an idea for how each team stacks to each other. Not all wins and losses are created equally obviously. The rankings near the beginning of the season are mostly a result of the eye test since teams in the non-conference schedule do not play that many common opponents. By the end of the NESCAC regular season the Power Rankings will look quite similar to the NESCAC standings because of all that data we get from the NESCAC games.

Right now though might be when the Power Rankings are at their most valuable because there is enough common opponents to grade each team roughly while the eye test still carries weight. So read on, and get angry about how much lower your favorite team is than you think it deserves to be.

1. Tufts Jumbos (12-3, 3-1, Last Week: 2)

Tufts just lost to Middlebury Friday night, but the game was on the road and went into overtime. They shot 16-29 (55.2%) from the free throw line and committed 20 turnovers even though they are 2nd in the NESCAC in free throw percentage at 75.1% and are averaging 13.2 TOs per game. The loss ended an 8 game winning streak, but it is a good loss, and the Jumbos responded well by blowing out Hamilton the next day. They have blown out Colby, Bowdoin, and Hamilton. Those three teams have a combined winning percentage of 1-9 in league play, but nobody else is blowing teams out like the Jumbos are.

However, Coach Bob Sheldon could end up being the Achilles Heel for this team. On Friday down the stretch and in overtime, he insisted on subbing out Tom Palleschi ’17 on defense because he had four fouls and Sheldon did not want to lose him on offense. I’m sorry, but you have to play the LEADING shot blocker in the NESCAC (and the all-time Tufts leader in blocks) on defense in a close game even if he ends up fouling out. Palleschi sat from the 3:10 to the 0:38 mark in overtime because there was no stoppage in play for Sheldon to get his big man back in the game.

2. Amherst (13-2, 3-0, Last Week: #1)

Amherst drops down a spot after getting shellacked by Wesleyan Monday night 71-44 in the non-conference Little Three game. Having to come back at home in the 2nd half against Conn College on Saturday also isn’t a great look. This is a better version of the team from last year since everyone is back, but it is frustrating for Amherst fans that the same problems still dog them. The defense is lackluster even though they have superior athletes at almost every position, and the team relies on outside shooters, many of whom are streaky.

The one shooter who is not streaky is Jeff Racy ’17. In conference, he is shooting the ball 7.3 times per game while averaging 15.7 PPG. So he is averaging more than 2.0 points per shot. Put another way, Racy’s points per shot is better than a dunk! Using true shooting percentage, a slightly better statistic, Racy comes in at .768 this season. At Michigan, Duncan Robinson is leading the country in true shooting percentage (that a former NESCAC player is leading the country in that category is pretty incredible) with the number .733. Basically, Racy is incredibly efficient. He is also the leading scorer for Amherst.

3. Trinity Bantams (12-4, 3-0, Last Week: #4)

Every week Trinity is looking more and more dangerous, putting their uneasy early season further into the distance. They pulled away from both Conn College and Wesleyan in games that were closer than the final score indicated. The ability of Trinity to finish games is a skill that they have shown a lot over the past two seasons. The team defense isn’t as good as it has been in years past in part because of the loss of ace perimeter defender Hart Gliedman ’15. It is still a really physical group that is not giving up a lot of easy buckets.

The difference from last year is they don’t have to rely on Jaquann Starks ’16 nearly as much on offense. Ed Ogundeko ’17 has made a big jump in his junior season, and Shay Ajayi ’16 is playing better also meaning that the Bantams have a legitimate three headed attack on offense. I just wish that Coach Jim Cosgrove would play his core guys more. Nobody on the roster is averaging more than 25 minutes per game. Even in conference games, no Bantam is playing more than 30 minutes per game.

4. Williams Ephs (11-5, 2-2, Last Week: #6)

The win for Williams Sunday against Bowdoin to get back to 2-2 in conference was a big one. The Ephs didn’t play great and they still did enough to beat a quality team without too much drama. They are shooting the ball much better in conference: 40.0% 3FG in conference vs. 33.9% 3FG overall. I’m a little surprised that the Ephs rank second to last in assists per game even though their offense is built on moving the ball from side to side and frequent back cuts. The good news is they aren’t turning the ball over that frequently: just 12.0 TOs per game which is the third best mark in the league. Point guard Bobby Casey ’19 has become the third best player on the team behind Dan Aronowitz ’17 and Kyle Scadlock ’19. For what was supposed to be a rebuilding year, the Ephs are pretty darn good.

5. Middlebury Panthers (9-7, 3-1, Last Week: #10)

The biggest movers this week backed up the big overtime win over Tufts by controlling the entire way to beat Bates 73-61. The Panthers did it without center Matt Daley ’16 too. The downside is that Daley, unfortunately injury riddled his whole career, might be dealing with something that won’t go away. If that is the case, the Panthers will have to double down on playing aggressive perimeter defense and pushing the ball in transition at all times. Point guard Jake Brown ’17 is the x-factor for them: he was good last weekend. He even is shooting pretty well from three this season, even if his attempts are still really low. One concern is that he is too aggressive on defense. He leads the league in fouling out, especially bad as a perimeter player. He has to figure out how to hound his opponents without picking up ticky-tack fouls.

6. Wesleyan Cardinals (13-4, 1-3, Last Week: #3)

What a weird team. Just three days after getting run out of the building at Amherst and having nobody on the team make more than two shots from the field, Wesleyan turned around and put the beatdown on Amherst. Squeezed in between was the Cardinals battling Trinity for 32 minutes before scoring just 10 points in the final 8:46 and losing to the Bantams. That offense has been oddly ineffective. Stalwarts Joe Edmonds ’16 and Harry Rafferty ’17, the two leading scorers for Wesleyan in 2013-2014, have been relegated to minor roles. Edmonds has lost his starting spot at least temporarily to Kevin O’Brien ’19, and Rafferty has continued to not shoot the ball efficiently. Getting those two straightened out is necessary.

This group is going to continue to fight as Monday night showed. The tweet from point guard Jack Mackey came after the game on Monday and is in response to a Twitter account that was mercilessly mocking Wesleyan’s performance during the game Friday.

7. Conn College Camels (11-5, 2-2, Last Week: 5)

Alright, so the Camels aren’t going from winless to undefeated in NESCAC play. Yet, I feel better about them this week than I did last because of the way they played vs. Amherst and Trinity. For a young team, there is such a thing as a moral victory. Going into LeFrak Gym (Amherst’s home court) and nearly coming away with the win is going to help this group in the next few weeks. Point guard Tyler Rowe ’19 has been a handle for everybody who has to guard him. He hasn’t even been shooting the ball well from three recently (an atrocious 1-12 in conference). Rowe and other young guns like forward David LaBossiere ’19 and sharpshooter Lee Messier ’18 are making the Camels tons of fun to watch. A huge weekend with visits from Bates and Tufts awaits them.

8. Bates Bobcats (9-7, 2-2, Last Week: #7)

Another 1-1 week for Bates as they continue to tread water. The problem is that the two wins were against Colby (a healthy Colby team though) and Hamilton so a lot of hard games still remain on the schedule. Josh Britten ’16 has stepped up in a big way in his senior year. Last season he averaged just 5.5 MPG. Now he is starting, averaging 17.9 MPG, and is the top three point threat on the team making 2.2 threes per game at a 42.2% clip. Mike Boornazian ’16 has to play at a higher level than he has so far in conference for Bates to make a run.

9. Bowdoin Polar Bears (8-5, 1-2, Last Week: #8)

I’ll be writing a lot more about my dear Polar Bears soon, so I’ll keep it brief. The loss to Williams was tough because now Bowdoin has to follow it up with visits from Trinity and Amherst. Lose both those games and suddenly they are 1-4 even if none of the losses are bad ones. Against Williams, Bowdoin missed their final 13 three-pointers. The margin for error is small on this team, and the shots didn’t go in at exactly the wrong time for them.

10. Colby Mules (11-4, 0-3, Last Week: #9)

My goodness does that 10 game winning streak Colby had feel like forever ago. A team that was a potential dark horse this year is staring down the barrel of an 0-5 start with Amherst and Trinity this weekend. Both forward Pat Stewart ’16 and center Chris Hudnut ’16 were in street clothes for the game Friday against Williams. Stewart was back in limited action on Tuesday in a win over Maine Maritime, but Hudnut was conspicuously absence. Without Hudnut, the Mules simply don’t have the size to keep pace with teams. They will fight and claw like crazy with Ryan Jann ’16 leading the way, and they will scare teams a lot. Still, Hudnut is a NESCAC First Team type player, and nobody on the roster can replicate at all what he does.

11. Hamilton Continentals (8-8, 0-4, Last Week: 11)

I feel like I wrote the exact same thing last year, but Hamilton really is pretty good for a team that is winless in conference. Their problem is the lack of any player who is capable of creating his own shot on offense. That coupled with a suspect defense is holding them back for now, but if they keep laying this way then good days are coming. They are out-rebounding teams by 5.0 boards per game in NESCAC play (best margin of anyone), a surprising but encouraging stat considering that Hamilton has not shot a good percentage meaning their opponents should have lots of easy defensive rebounds against them. Instead, guys like Andrew Groll ’19 and Ajani Santos ’16 are getting after it on the offensive boards. Hamilton will get their first win soon.

Vinny Pace: Leading the Jumbos’ Stampede

Vinny Pace '18 is a new man this season. (Courtesy of the Tufts Daily)
Vinny Pace ’18 is a new man this season. (Courtesy of the Tufts Daily)

Last year, Vinny Pace ’18 averaged 5.2 ppg overall for the Tufts Jumbos, and 5.4 ppg in conference. This season, Pace has absolutely exploded, and his numbers have skyrocketed to 19.5 ppg overall and an incredible 22.3 ppg in conference, shattering last year’s statistics and leaving us NESCAC junkies wondering, “What did Vinny do this offseason?” Seriously, this improvement has been incredible.

When I talked to Pace this week about his offseason workout regimen, he told me his primary focus was on improving his jump shot.

“I think having that going more consistently this year is making it easier to drive and get into the lane and make plays on offense.”

It worked. Pace is shooting much more consistently. The sniper is shooting 43.2 percent overall this year, but what’s more impressive is his in conference shooting: Vinny’s 14 threes are the most made in conference play thus far, and his three-point shooting percentage (58.3 percent) puts him at third in conference play. Pace has knocked down three or more from deep in 15 games this season, proving that his long-range game is a vital part of his offense.

Defenders have realized they have to step out on Pace to contest the three, but when they do, he blows right past them to get to the hole. He’s drawing contact and getting to the foul line, but the key is that he’s not forcing anything. When Pace doesn’t have a clean shot, he kicks it out to open shooters. His ability to distribute the ball is possibly Pace’s most impressive attribute. He’s tied at eighth in NESCAC play in assists, which is very impressive for the league’s second-highest scorer.

In addition, Pace is also rebounding the ball extremely well. He has even out-rebounded stud center Tom Palleschi ’17 in conference play. Ranked fourth in NESCAC games, Pace has made it clear that even though they are going to push the ball on the break, Tufts’ four-guard lineup is not going to lose games on the boards. Pace loves the new up-tempo style of play.

“Playing faster has allowed for more easy baskets for the entire team. It has allowed for guys to make plays in the open floor in transition, which we really didn’t have a chance to do last year.”

As the season progresses, keep an eye on Pace. It is definitely going to be a challenge to keep up the freakish rate Pace is performing at – ranking top-10 in points, assists and rebounds is crazy – but I think Pace is at least up to the task of keeping it close. This Friday night’s tilt is definitely going to be a good one to watch when Pace matches up with Wesleyan’s star BJ Davis ’16 in Middletown, Connecticut. Tune in to see whether or not Pace and the Jumbos can keep the train moving in the right direction against the Cardinals.

While World Markets Tank, Stocks Are Up in the NESCAC: Stock Report 1/18/16

The emerging play of Jack Daly '18 is part of the reason why Middlebury has climbed to 3-1 to open the NESCAC season. (Courtesy of Michael Borenstein/Middlebury Campus)
The emerging play of Jack Daly ’18 is part of the reason why Middlebury has climbed to 3-1 to open the NESCAC season. (Courtesy of Michael Borenstein/Middlebury Campus)

Raise your hand if you thought that, after two weeks of NESCAC play, Colby and Wesleyan would be in the bottom three and Middlebury would be looking like a top-four seed … that’s what I thought. While many of the teams are what we thought they were at this stage – Amherst (13-1, 3-0), Trinity (11-4, 3-0) and Hamilton (7-8, 0-4) on the opposite end – there are some really intriguing early season surprises. How did we get here? Let’s find out.

Stock Up:

Conn College Forward Dan Janel ’17

Connecticut College, the perennial NESCAC doormat, came into the second weekend of league play at 10-3 (2-0). Despite an 0-2 weekend, as a team the Camels’ stock is rising. Conn’s star, Zuri Pavlin ’16, was limited over the weekend, playing 15.0 mpg, but Janel stepped up in a big way and almost lead Conn to a monster upset over Amherst. Janel had his second double-double of the season and by far his best statistical game against the Lord Jeffs, tallying 18 points and 14 boards, while David George ’17 was limited to just five points and rebounds. The Camels need Pavlin to make the playoffs, but Janel is emerging as a solid front court mate, and his size is going to be problematic for most opponents.

Colby’s Ryan Jann ’16, Luke Westman ’16 and Sam Willson ’16

Quite the opposite to Conn’s early season performance, Colby has been a disappointment since NESCAC play started with three straight losses. They’re giving up too many points, and their usually explosive offense has sputtered to less than 70 points each contest. However, the performance of this trio on Friday night against Williams was heroic. Without Chris Hudnut ’16 and Pat Stewart ’16, Jann, Westman and Willson combined for 55 of the team’s 66 points. Colby is built to rely heavily on its senior starting five, and without two of those five some reserves were forced to step into roles that they were uncomfortable with. The injury bug bit Stewart a year ago, and it appears to have reared its head in Waterville once again.

Middlebury Guard Jack Daly ’18

I have to be honest, when you watch Daly with the ball in his hands he looks herky-jerky and awkard – about the exact opposite of backcourt mate Jake Brown ’17 – but then he does things that make it clear why he’s become 30-minute per night kind of guy for the Panthers. He’s every bit the team’s point guard as Brown is. Either man is capable of setting the Middlebury offense in motion and running in transition. The biggest bonus Daly brings to the table though is his defense. Tasked with taking on the opponent’s top perimeter player the majority of the time, Daly rises to the challenge. Tufts’ Vinny Pace ’18 had a subpar first half against Daly with 2-5 shooting. Pace went on a roll in the second half and ended up with 22 points, but he is the league’s second-best scorer right now, so give Daly some slack. Bates’ Mike Boornazian ’16 was made a non-factor by Daly on Saturday with just six points. Boornazian had just two field goals in that game, the first of which came with 4:36 left in the game and Middlebury up 16. The Panthers switch a lot on defense, so Daly isn’t perpetually glued to any opponent, but he’s shouldered the majority of the load on the perimeter for Middlebury and done an impressive job.

Stock Down:


Maybe it’s too early to make this assumption – okay, it’s way too early – but the hallowed parity that was supposed to be a staple of the NESCAC this year might be an aberration. Sure, Amherst barely escaped against Conn on Saturday, but is there any doubt that the Lord Jeffs and Bantams are the league’s top two teams, with Tufts firmly in the top tier, as well? Wesleyan is still a major question mark because of the early season injuries, but I would bet my house (joke’s on you, I don’t have a house!) on one of those three teams winning the NESCAC Championship.

Wesleyan’s Three Point Shooting

The Cardinals’ three-point shooting on the weekend: 5-38. That’s not a typo – 13.2 percent. Wesleyan was a very good shooting time last season, and it’s the same team this year, so what’s going on? Only BJ Davis ’16 is shooting like he did a year ago, but everyone else is struggling. Remember that the Cards were the No. 6 seed in last year’s NESCAC tourney, so to expect them to run through the regular season this year with essentially the same roster would have been an overestimation. Nevertheless, we weren’t expecting this. The best chance the Cards have is to get everyone healthy and get some rhythm back.

NESCAC Scheduling

What’s going on here? Only three games last week, and a mere five in the week coming up. Not that the schedule of a NESCAC student is particularly open on a week night, but is it too much to ask for a couple of games to break up the monotony? At the least, we’ll have an interesting Amherst-Wesleyan rematch tonight. The Lord Jeffs got the important one in the league contest, but Wesleyan needs a statement win to get back on track. Maybe – just maybe – they can catch an Amherst team that showed its weaknesses in barely scraping by Conn on Saturday.

No Easy Games in the NESCAC: Weekend Preview 1/15/16

Another weekend of NESCAC basketball is ready to fascinate minds around the world. (Courtesy of Bates College)
Another weekend of NESCAC basketball is ready to fascinate minds around the world. (Courtesy of Bates College)

I’m a young pup of  22 years old, and I didn’t have the slightest idea about NESCAC basketball until just a few years ago. However, I think that the league is as good from top to bottom as it has ever been. When you have the defending champions Wesleyan (who as we know brought everyone on the roster back) nearly go 0-2 in the first weekend against two teams that missed the NESCAC tournament last year, the depth of the league is clear. That depth means that teams can’t dig themselves too big of a hole if they want to make the NESCAC tournament. The three 0-2 teams (Williams, Colby, and Hamilton) all have to face big challenges this weekend.

Three to Watch

  1. Center Chris Hudnut ’16 (Colby): It’s hard to believe, but both Williams and Colby are winless coming into tonight making this almost a must win for both teams. Colby had the more disappointing weekend seeing their 10 game winning streak go up in smoke on the road. To get back on track, the Mules need to have their man in the middle carry the load. Hudnut was a total non-factor last weekend scoring just 4.5 PPG in the two losses. He didn’t even score in the first half of the game against Bates. Hudnut has had some big games this year, but against the Mules’ top opponents he has had subpar performances. He has to play better against Williams, a team that, even with Ed Flynn ’16 playing better, is weak defensively inside. Hudnut was missing shots he normally makes last weekend. I’m guessing he makes more of those tonight.
  2. Center Ed Ogundeko ’17 (Trinity): Few players looked as impressive as Ogundeko did last weekend. The junior carried the Bantams with 21 points on 9-13 shooting and 11 rebounds. Most impressive was the control that Ogundeko played with (something his teammate Shay Ajayi ’16 could take notes on). The broad-shouldered big man used his positioning to get good looks down low that he finished with good touch. What proved that he was really locked in was the two jumpshots from the top of the key that he knocked down no problem. Tonight, the Bantams face Conn College in a game that will be a great measuring stick for the Camels. Saturday, Trinity faces Wesleyan who bounced the Bantams from the NESCAC tournament last year. Ogundeko, averaging 14.3 PPG and 11.7 RPG, needs to keep getting double-doubles this weekend.
  3. Guard Jack Mackey ’16 (Wesleyan): BJ Davis ’16 has risen to leading man status for the Cardinals, but he can’t do it alone obviously. Mackey has had a really slow start to the year because of injury problems. Last weekend Mackey had two of his better games scoring the ball averaging 14.0 PPG, but it did take him 14 shots in both games to do that. Almost everything for Mackey is coming on the perimeter which is why he is shooting 0.6 free throws per game, an awfully low number for a point guard. His rebounding numbers are also down from a year ago. The guard is one of the toughest players in the NESCAC, and that tenacity is a huge source of the edge that Wesleyan plays with. Now he needs to get back to playing as well as he is capable of.

Biggest Game: Wesleyan (12-2, 1-1) at Amherst (11-1, 1-0). Tonight at 7:00 PM

Guys, I’m a little bit worried about Wesleyan. I was expecting after their loss to Middlebury last Friday to come out firing against Hamilton, but they barely eeked out an overtime victory. Now they have to go on the road to Amherst and Trinity, the hardest possible weekend the NESCAC can offer. Let’s not forget that before they got really hot at the end of the year and won the NESCAC tournament, Wesleyan was a 3-5 team heading into the final weekend last season. And yes, they ran through non-conference play, but they didn’t have any great wins in that stretch.

What was concerning about last weekend was the lack of defense and the inability to dictate the pace, especially against Middlebury. The Cardinals are built to win games played in the high 50s with Davis making the big shots at the end of games. A team with so many seniors should not have to worry about a team as young as Middlebury imposing their style on a game, but that is exactly what happened last Friday. Nate Krill ’18 who was injured all of last year, has been a great addition as the backup big man, and the depth for the Cardinals is better than it was a year ago. The problem is that makes it harder for Coach Mike Reilly to find the right combination of players any given night.

On the other side, Amherst is sure to be out for revenge for last year’s championship loss. This team is playing better than it was last year, and with all the talent they have it is always going to feel like they have another gear to reach. I just don’t know if we will ever see that gear be reached for any significant length of time. The pieces don’t all fit together quite right for them. They might lead the league as a team in assists, but aside from backup point guard Reid Berman ’17, everybody on the roster is more comfortable looking for their own shot than finding a teammate.

For a team as talented as Amherst is, they are weirdly reliant on the three pointer. They have made more as a team than anybody else in the NESCAC, even though they have played less games than everyone else. Jeff Racy ’17 is a dead-eye assassin, but both Connor Green ’16 and Johnny McCarthy ’18 are streaky shooters.  Wesleyan is hoping that they can force a reprisal of the championship game when Racy, Green, and McCarthy combined to shoot 3-20 from deep. The likelihood of that is not good, and I think that Amherst rolls in this one.

Upset Alert: Tufts (11-2, 2-0) at Hamilton (7-6, 0-2). Saturday at 3:00 PM

After the perfect storm of a weekend that the Jumbos had to open the season, they almost feel primed for a letdown. You might have thought I would pick Middlebury to upset Tufts, given how the Panthers already pulled a fast one on Wesleyan. But the Jumbos are going to be ready for that one tonight. Yet, after the game tonight, Tufts will have to drive a few hours through sleepy upstate New York to get to Hamilton for their game tomorrow. The gym at Hamilton is notorious for having subpar crowds, so it’s going to be sleepy there too.

Throw in the possibility of Hamilton getting hot from deep, and suddenly the possibility of an upset starts to crystallize. What if Ajani Santos ’16 shows up like he did against Conn College and puts Tom Palleschi ’17 into foul trouble? What if the Jumbos simply aren’t as good on the road as they are in Medford? Odds are that Vincent Pace ’18, Tarik Smith ’17, and Stephen Haladyna ’16 are too much on the perimeter for the Continentals to handle. I’m just saying that this is the NESCAC where (almost) anything is possible.

You can get our predictions on every game tonight over on Twitter.