Well, I guess the Amherst players didn’t like that I dropped them from the top spot last week, because they waltzed into the enemy territory of Hartford and traipsed out with the victory. Elsewhere in the rankings, Hamilton finally got angry about their low seeding and decided to pull off the upset. Even Bowdoin’s OT win could be considered an upset if you’re going by the power rankings (and honestly, is there a better metric out there?) And I’m sure, beyond a doubt, that in all of these instances a perceived slight by yours truly was the one and only motivating factor.
1. #11 Amherst (17-3, 5-1, Last week: 2)
Amherst made a big statement in that win Saturday. Though the final was 89-82, Amherst basically lead wire-to-wire and jumped out to a 12-1 lead to start the game after Trinity scored the first point on a free throw. All season long I’ve believed that they are the most talented team, and the only question is whether they can mesh well enough to win a NESCAC title. I’m still not convinced they can, but if I had to put my money on someone right now, it would be them.
2. Trinity (14-6, 5-1, Last week: 1)
The Bantams fall because of the head-to-head loss to Amherst, but my confidence in them hasn’t waned. Prior to last weekend’s game with Amherst, the Merchant Marine loss is curious, but the distribution of minutes makes me think that Coach James Cosgrove was trying to prove a point to his starters, so I’m taking the L with a grain of salt. Now that they’ve lost two in a row, though, they’re officially “battle tested”. Time to stop messing around, and solidify your seeding with a win over Tufts on Friday.
3. #22 Wesleyan (17-4, 4-3, Last week: 3)
The Cardinals stay in the three spot, and I thought about even moving them up to No. 2 because I think they’ve finally found some continuity. Over the last half dozen or so games, Coach Joe Reilly has settled into an eight-man rotation, and that has really become evident in the last two contests. Nathan Krill ’18, Harry Rafferty ’17 and Joe Edmonds ’16 contributed 88.6 percent of the minutes off the bench against Conn College and Emmanuel. Furthermore, Jack Mackey ’16 made seven three-pointers on Monday night, which gives me some confidence that he’s back to close to normal.
4. Tufts (16-4, 5-2, Last week: 5)
The Jumbos hurdle the Middlebury Panthers because of Middlebury’s slip up, not Tufts’ win over Bates. It’s really tough to pick one over the other, especially since their head-to-head meeting went down to a three-point attempt at the buzzer in OT. Both of these teams still have the Amherst-Trinity gauntlet ahead of them. Those two games will either make or break both teams’ seasons.
5. Middlebury (12-8, 4-2, Last week: 4)
Combine the tough early season start with a depressing upset loss at Hamilton and it makes you wonder whether the mid-season hot streak and 4-2 conference record were an anomaly. I don’t think that’s necessarily so, and I believe there’s a huge gap between the top five and bottom six, but still, the Panthers have question marks. They need to get Zach Baines ’19, who’s been out sick, healthy once more, because he is a spark on both ends of the floor. Since January 4, Baines has played 26.4 mpg. That would rank in the top 25 over the course of a whole season, so his absence shouldn’t be brushed off. Oh, I’d also like to point out that Matt St. Amour ’17 went OFF for 32 points at Keene St. last night, the place where St. Amour’s season ended with an ACL tear two seasons ago. Take that, unforgiving Keene St. hardwood.
6. Williams (13-7, 3-3, Last week: 8)
They’ve beaten everyone they should, and lost to everyone they should – at least when it comes to NESCAC opponents. The Ephs are 3-0 against Colby, Bowdoin and Hamilton, and 0-5 against Wesleyan, Amherst, Trinity and Middlebury. Unfortunately, if that trend continues, Williams will drop match ups with Wesleyan and Tufts over the next two weekends and finish 5-5. I’d be surprised if things shook out so neatly. They’re not playing particularly well of late, and some of the first-years might be hitting a bit of a wall. Still, for now they hold onto the No. 6 spot.
7. Colby (13-7, 1-5, Last week: 6)
I have no idea where to rank teams 7-11. Colby just lost to Bowdoin, who’s gotten crushed by Trinity and Husson in the last week and a half, but Colby also took Husson to OT. Bates has gone through the ringer in recent weeks, losing to Bowdoin, Middlebury, Conn, Wesleyan and Tufts, but they also beat Colby in early January. Conn has dropped three straight, but they do have wins over Bates and Middlebury in the bank. Meanwhile, Hamilton’s over there jumping up and down that they just beat the Panthers (Sorry, guys, but a two-point win isn’t going to be enough to shoot you up through the ranks). I’ve still got the Mules above the other Maine teams because of their experience and explosive offense. They need to be healthy, though, as we know, and need just a little production from the bench – at least defensively. Chris Hudnut ’16 is still having his minutes limited, and it’s possible he just won’t be 100 percent this season.
8. Bowdoin (9-8, 2-4, Last week: 9)
As cool as the 20-point breakout from Jack Bors ’19 was against Colby, I don’t think we’re going to see that repeated again this season, which means the Polar Bears are going to be fighting for a playoff spot. However, Lucas Hausman ’16 gives them a shot to win any game if he gets hot, and that’s mainly why I have them at No. 8. Hausman got better as the season went along last year. That might be happening again. In his last eight games, he’s had at least 26 points six times, 30-plus four times, and 42 one game.
9. Conn College (12-8, 3-4, Last week: 7)
This might be a little low, because I like the Camels, and I think they’re going to the playoffs this season. Even though I have Colby ahead of them, I could easily see the Mules slipping up down the stretch and falling short of catching Conn. The Camels have played all the good teams tough, except for Trinity – they beat Middlebury, lost to Amherst by two on the road, lost to Tufts by two at home and by eight on the road at Wesleyan. They have a great mix of stardom (Zuri Pavlin ’17), toughness (Dan Janel ’17), and talent from the youngsters (David Labossiere ’19 and Tyler Rowe ’19).
10. Bates (10-10, 2-5, Last week: 10)
No changes in the bottom two this week. The Bobcats haven’t won a tough game in awhile. They beat Maine-Farmington, who is 2-16, last night, Hamilton on January 15 and Colby on January 8, but have sprinkled in five losses during that span. The weird thing is that the Bobcats have beaten Husson twice this season. Husson is 15-4, and even though the North Atlantic Conference isn’t exactly the ACC, Husson has beaten Colby and Bowdoin. Even weirder, Bates was one of the four NESCAC teams to best Babson early this season. Still, they seem to be regressing right now. Not the time for that to happen.
11. Hamilton (10-10, 1-5, Last week: 11)
The Continentals have a little something going right now with wins over Ithaca, Keystone and Middlebury in their last five games, but Keystone has four wins and Ithaca isn’t what it once was. The win over Middlebury is legit, but it came at home, and they will need to sweep Bowdoin and Colby this weekend and then take to the road and beat either Amherst or Trinity to get into the playoffs.