The flu has been going around Middlebury the last few days, and while it has forced me to hide in my bed (or my library carrell) it has not slowed down the rapidly passing NESCAC basketball season. We’re roughly halfway through at this point and the league is really beginning to take shape. As we enter the final weeks of the season, teams are jockeying for seeding and competing to secure the last few spots in a tight playoff race. With that being said, let’s get right down to the power rankings! Of course, these rankings don’t mirror the actual standings exactly, but rather how I envision the playoff picture and final standings shaking out after the full 10 game NESCAC slate.
1.) #1 Tufts (19-0, 6-0)
Weekend Results: Defeated Wesleyan 80-45, Defeated Conn College 72-48
The Jumbos have been utterly dominant for this entire season. Another weekend of refusing to surrender 50 points in even one game has bumped their NESCAC standing to an impressive 6-0 and their overall record to an unreal 19-0. Tufts has also remained the top team in the D3hoops rankings for the entire year. The thing that really stands out about Tufts is their balanced attack. 7 different Tufts players average over 5 a game and 2 average in double figures. The go-to scorers, Michela North ’17 and Melissa Baptista ’18, are perfectly capable of carrying the entire load, as they did against Wesleyan scoring 15 and 18 respectively. But they don’t mind allowing the supporting cast to buoy the team either, evidenced on Saturday against Conn where Erica DeCandido ’20 led the Jumbos with 18 points. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait until February 4th when this team takes on the next squad on this list in a game that will probably decide who maintains home court advantage in the NESCAC playoffs.
2.) #2 Amherst (19-0, 5-0)
Weekend Results: Defeated Bowdoin 66-45, Defeated Colby 69-43
Amherst has looked every bit as dominant as Tufts has throughout the course of the season. Playing Bowdoin this past weekend (the only other NESCAC team besides Tufts and Amherst that is ranked in the D3hoops top 25 at 21st), Amherst displayed the clear separation between themselves and the rest of the NESCAC by dominating the Polar Bears 66-45. It has always been assumed that the future Hamsters (my vote for the new Amherst mascot has officially been cast, Editor’s Note: as a lifelong Amherst resident, I would like to note that Hamsters was proposed because it is an anagram of Amherst) could trot out a talented lineup week in and week out, but this group seems particularly dangerous. The team boasts overall NESCAC leading scorer Ali Doswell ’17 who is averaging 13.7 ppg. Ali’s sister, Meredith Doswell ’17 is also the NESCAC’s 10th leading rebounder, pulling in 6.6 rpg. And no discussing of Amherst’s talent would be complete without mentioning the combination of Jaimie Renner ’17 and Hannah Hackley ’18 who are averaging 3.3 and 3.1 assists per game respectively, good for 7th and 8th in the NESCAC. This team is deep and talented and right on Tufts’ heels.
3.) Middlebury (14-3, 4-1)
Weekend Results: Defeated Williams 85-57
Big ups to the Middlebury Panthers who have finally been the team to loosen Bowdoin’s stranglehold on the number 3 spot! No one can accuse me of nepotism though as this team has certainly done enough to earn this bump up in the rankings. Middlebury absolutely dominated Williams this weekend, a team I think has the potential to make a late season run and secure a spot in the playoffs. Middlebury was clearly better though, and led throughout the game. Their dominating second quarter, in which they outscored Williams 18-5, put the game completely out of reach for the Ephs, and the 85 total points scored is Middlebury’s best scoring output of the season. In the game the Panthers shot 58 percent from three, and brought back memories of their evisceration of Wesleyan earlier this year. When their shots are falling this team is hard to beat, and when their freshman play as well as they did this weekend, the team might be unstoppable. Betsy Knox ’20 and Kira Waldman ’20 exploded in this game each garnering 17 points in the effort. Some might see Middlebury’s youth as a disadvantage, but this is a young team that plays with an old soul, and they’ll be particularly dangerous come tournament time.
4.) #21 Bowdoin (13-3, 3-2)
Weekend Results: Lost to Amherst 66-45, Defeated Trinity 76-61
I opened my first power rankings by declaring that Bowdoin might be better than either Tufts or Amherst, and ummm I think I was wrong. Bowdoin hasn’t been able to scratch out a win in either game with the top two teams in the conference, losing to Tufts in a close affair and being blown out by Amherst.. While holding serve against the rest of the conference is certainly impressive, it will do little good for a team with championship aspirations at the end of the season. The Polar Bears’ consistent problem in these big games has been their inability to score. In their three losses on the season, Bowdoin is only averaging 50 points (44 if we only include NESCAC losses) a sharp downturn from their season average of 73.5 ppg. It can’t be denied that Bowdoin has played a difficult early season schedule, so I’d say there is a decent chance they run the table in their last 5 games with their only real remaining test against Middlebury on February 4th (what a day of basketball that will be). Even if the Polar Bears are 8-2 entering the conference tournament, I think it will be very hard for them to triumph over Tufts or Amherst.
5.) Tie between Colby (9-8, 2-3), Trinity (11-6, 2-3) and Conn College (12-6, 2-4)
Editor’s note: cop out indeed, Liam.
I know it’s a cop out but none of these teams have given me any reason to place one in front of the other. Trinity was 2-1 heading into the weekend before losing to both Colby and Bowdoin. Colby, meanwhile, has a bad loss to Bates who is distinctly below these three teams, and was absolutely crushed by Amherst, but of course they did beat Trinity. And Conn seems to be a new team each time they take the floor. They smoked Bates, and then looked completely helpless against Amherst. After the top four teams their is a steep and dramatic drop off, and nobody in this second group really has shown that they belong atop it. Conn might have the weakest case, having already been absolutely blown out by Amherst and Tufts, but then again, that’s Amherst and Tufts. Colby only lost to Tufts by 12, but has been blown out by both Bowdoin (who they still have to face in NESCAC play) and Amherst. Trinity has solid wins over Conn College and was 9-2 coming in to NESCAC play, but then they got blown out by Colby. Of course Trinity has Courtney Erickson ’19 who is the 5th leading scorer in the NESCAC, but Conn has Mairead Hynes ’18 who is making a strong case for player of the year. No matter how you slice it, these three teams are confusing and difficult to sort out. This weekend, Colby and Trinity both play top flight competition, and Conn should secure a win over lowly Wesleyan. Hopefully these games will help us suss out this absolute mess of a five seed.
8.) Williams (12-7, 2-4)
Weekend Results: Defeated Hamilton 69-52, Lost to Middlebury 85-57
I feel that Williams is certainly talented enough to challenge some of the higher level teams in this conference, but they just haven’t played to that potential. Stomping Hamilton is great, but if you can’t follow that up by at least showing up to play against Middlebury, the win on Friday begins to ring more hollow. There are signs up of hope though. The team is 2-4 and 3 of those losses have come against Middlebury, Bowdoin, and Amherst, 3 of the top 4 teams in the conference. Of course, the other loss came against Colby, but quiet – this is confusing enough as it is. Four games remain for the Ephs, and 3 of them (at Wesleyan, at Conn, and home against Bates) look extremely winnable. Williams could squeak to 5-5 by the end of the season and that would likely be good enough to secure a playoff spot. If that happens, this team could certainly be dangerous. They already have a top 8 defense in the conference, and if their offense can step up heading into the latter part of the season this is a team that I bet most upper seeds would be loathe to see in the first round of the NESCAC playoffs. Look for Amanni Fernandez ’18 to step up in the coming weeks to take some of the scoring load off of the shoulders of Devon Caveney ’17.
9.) Bates (5-12, 2-4)
Weekend Results: Lost to Conn College 87-69, Lost to Wesleyan 62-58
Initially, things were looking up for the Bobcats. After Friday January 13th they were 2-1 in the conference and looking to shock the world against the Middlebury Panthers. Instead they were blown out against the Panthers that Saturday and stumbled to an 0-2 mark this weekend. With one of those losses coming against last place Wesleyan, and the other to a team in Conn that the Bobcats had been neck and neck with in the playoff race (they of course still have the same record, the NESCAC is kooky) this weekend has to be a double punch in the gut for this team. 3-3, which would be their record if they had managed to eke out 1 win this weekend is a lot better than 2-4, and with games still in the future against Tufts and Amherst, Bates is seeing their playoff chances slip away. The game against Trinity also won’t be a cakewalk, and Williams is still on their schedule. A trip to the NESCAC playoffs, which even last weekend I thought was a distinct possibility, is looking more and more like a pipe dream. Of course, if player of the year candidate Allie Coppola ’17 or her partner in crime Nina Davenport ‘18 have anything to say about it the Bobcats shouldn’t be counted as dead yet. Hopefully the two can combine a stellar performance one of these days instead of just trading off who gets to score the most points each game.
10.) Hamilton (8-9, 1-4)
Weekend Results: Lost to Williams 69-52
The only reason Hamilton isn’t last on this list is because they beat the team that is. Of course, with Wesleyan putting it together and beating Bates this past weekend, Hamilton has to be worried that their tenuous grasp on the “Not the Worst” medal is slipping. Hamilton’s biggest problem is by far their offense. Their defense ranks in the top 6 of the league, but their offense is tied for the second worst mark in the conference at generating points per game. A lot of this can be blamed on their shooting. They shoot a woeful 36 percent overall from the field, and a paltry 27 percent from 3. They also don’t get to the charity stripe nearly enough, having made the second least amount of free throws through their first 5 games. Here’s a positive though: this team is super young. Like crazy young for a team in the NESCAC. Of their top four scorers, 3 are sophomores or freshman, and the other, Lauren Getman, is still only a junior. Six Continentals average more than 20 minutes a game and only one is a senior. Three are either sophomores or freshman. This is a young team with a ton of potential. Yes, there have been and will continue to be growing pains this year, but an already upper tier defense, combined with assured offensive growth, could put the Continentals in a dangerous position in coming years.
11.) Wesleyan (7-10, 1-5)
Weekend Results: Lost to Tufts 80-45, Defeated Bates 62-58
And with that every single NESCAC team has secured a win in conference play! The Cardinals have to feel good getting that monkey off their back heading into the second half of conference play. The Cardinals’ final four games comes against Conn, Williams, Bowdoin, and Colby, and with how inconsistent some of those teams have been, sneaking a few more wins in is not outside of the realm of possibility. Wesleyan also has to be thrilled that their best player is Tara Berger who is only a sophomore. The star forward has been averaging 10.3 PPG to go along with 8.2 REB/G – good for third in the conference. Wesleyan’s leading scorer, guard Olivia Gorman, is also only a sophomore, and only one senior is in Wesleyan’s regular rotation. Much like Hamilton, if this team continues to grow they might be dangerous next year or a little further down the line.