2017 NESCAC Championship Repeat? Power Rankings 2/1

While Pete was quick to point out my recent whiffs in predictions, he neglected to say how when I put Hamilton at the top of the power rankings two weeks ago, they were still undefeated and coming off of a win against a strong Wesleyan team. Did I account for the fact that Kevin O’Brien contracted an illness making him unable to play? No. They still had an undefeated record in mid-January, and despite their lack of credible opponents, I became a believer. I am not so certain anymore. Also, I talked about how Bates was a sneaky threat to compete against Wesleyan. After a big win against Tufts and some close games against other top teams, their arsenal of players had a shot to run the table. But I jinxed them. While my credibility is certainly in doubt at the moment, made clear thanks to some familial disloyalty on the website, here are this week’s rankings—Take ‘em or leave ‘em:

1. #6 Middlebury (16-3, 5-1)

Last Week: 87-81 W @ Trinity

This Week: vs. Bowdoin; vs. Colby

While Midd’s shooting has been a question as late as they are waiting for F Matt Folger ’20 to heat back up, Jack Daly ’18 has continued his dinking and dunking (not actual dunking) to grind out wins for the Panthers. While they lack a consistent outside shooting presence, Folger has shown signs of life of late in mid-week games, and Joey Leighton has been a diamond in the rough who came in as the player of the game against Williams a few weeks ago. This weekend provides a limited test in a Bowdoin team hot after knocking off the struggling continentals, followed by what should be a guaranteed win against Colby. They are hot and haven’t lost since the first conference weekend against Wesleyan and have earned this spot with quality wins and a reliable defense.

2. #13 Williams (16-4, 4-2)

Last Week: 75-58 W @ Trinity

This Week: vs. Colby; vs. Bowdoin

Following a valiant comeback effort against Middlebury two weeks ago, the Ephs took care of business against a struggling Trinity team—in more convincing fashion than the Panthers. James Heskett has emerged as a monster, valiantly replacing Kyle Scadlock, pitting him in the middle of the NESCAC POY race. He shot 12-15 against the Bantams, dropping 34 points to go along with four steals. He dominated the floor and made up for poor shooting from Bobby Casey  (4-15 FG). Henry Feinberg stepped in for Mike Greenman (out with injury) in the starting lineup this week and played well in the wake of a solid bench performance against Middlebury. Williams now has a big and athletic lineup that has impressive depth. Look for them to continue winning if Heskett keeps shooting like Steph Curry.

James Heskett ’19 may be the frontrunner for POY.

3. #17 Wesleyan (16-4, 5-2)

Last Week: 60-52 W vs. Tufts, 68-50 W vs. Bates

This Week: @ Trinity

Losing Kevin O’Brien to an illness has surely hurt the Cardinals’ starting lineup recently, but should feature its PG again soon. Two easy wins against Tufts and Bates—unranked mid-tier NESCAC teams, but not exactly chumps—leave them with a spot alone in second place in the standings with just three games to go. Jordan Bonner is starting to find his shot again, and the trio of Nathan Krill, JR Bascom, and Jordan Sears have been putting around 25 points and 25 rebounds per game, a balanced and deep defensive and supportive scoring effort that leaves Wesleyan in a great spot with a light weekend against Trinity. Look for them to climb back up the rankings when they get O’Brien back.

4. Amherst (13-6, 4-2)

Last Week: 75-60 W vs. Bowdoin; 82-77 W @ Colby

This Week: @ Tufts; @ Bates

Amherst is starting to roll late in the regular season as they put up a nice undefeated weekend against a Bowdoin team that looked great against Hamilton. This team also blew Hamilton out. Four of their starters scored double-digit points against the Polar Bears, ending the night at a 50.8 FG%, enough to win against any team. They have now shot at 47% FG or higher in their last three NESCAC games, which shows that are hot and ready to take on the Jumbos and Bobcats this weekend. The Mammoths are slowly returning to their former form, led by Johnny McCarthy ‘18, Grant Robinson ’21, and Michael Riopel ’18. The young and the old are slowly leading this team towards the top of the rankings and standings. Watch out up top.

5. #21 Hamilton (17-2, 4-2)

Last Week: 76-67 W @ Colby OT; 68-72 L @ Bowdoin

This Week: @ Bates; @ Tufts

I would like apologize to Hamilton fans for putting the pressure of the #1 spot in the power rankings in their court. They couldn’t handle it. Back to back losses to Bowdoin and Amherst (75-49!) are showing that perhaps these continentals aren’t as strong as their record appears. I’m not discounting their body of work in its entirety—they are still ranked 21st in the nation. They were simply outplayed against Bowdoin, shooting 36.5% from the field compared to Bowdoin’s impressive 45.2% clip. They also went to OT vs. Colby which is much more of a red flag than either of their losses. Their star, Kena Gilmour, went just 6-20 in the game shooting and is 9-31 in his last two conference games, not exactly carrying the team to victory. Tim Doyle, Michael Grassey, and Peter Hoffmann all have the ability to put up big games though, making their starting five deadly when they get hot. Time for a gut check.

Tim Doyle and the Continentals are struggling heading into the home stretch of NESCAC play.

6. Bowdoin (14-5, 3-3)

Last Week: 72-68 W vs. Hamilton, 60-75 L vs. Amherst

This Week: @ Middlebury; @ Williams

After a big win against the Continentals and a loss against the suddenly scary Amherst team, these Polar Bears have a brutal away weekend ahead of them. They are firmly pitted in the middle of the NESCAC, likely to make the playoffs, but also likely to play their first postseason games on the road. The trio of Jack Simonds, David Reynolds, and Hugh O’Neil are dangerous and capable of going off enough to challenge these top teams in Middlebury and Williams. This could be a preview of one of the early or semifinal playoff games, giving us a peek into how much of a contender this Bowdoin team is.

7. Tufts (15-6 ,4-3)

Last Week: 52-60 L @ Wesleyan; 86-54 W @ Conn

This Week: vs. Amherst; vs. Hamilton

The Jumbos are struggling and are looking less like a championship capable team after several weekends of mediocrity. Their losses to Bates and Wesleyan drastically diminished their overall ranking and raises some serious concerns for this weekend against Amherst and Hamilton. They might lose both but need to at least split to have a shot at a home game in the first round. Their overall lack of scoring depth give them a bleak outlook against most of the top teams. Vincent Pace and Patrick Racy were the lone Jumbos to score over five points against Wesleyan, still only shooting 12-29 between them (decent, but not enough from the two top scorers). For this team to win close games, KJ Garrett is going to need to step up (1-9 shooting against Wesleyan).

Vincent Pace has been trying to keep Tufts afloat, although he was unable to do so in a crushing recent loss to Bates.

8. Bates (11-10, 3-4)

Last Week: 69-56 W @ Conn, 50-68 L @ Wesleyan

This Week: vs. Hamilton; vs. Amherst

I don’t have a whole lot of positive things to say about the Bobcats after falling flat against a Wesleyan team missing its starting PG. 19-57 shooting was not nearly enough to compete, combined with a complete lack of defense. Bates hauled in just 26 rebounds compared to 53 from Wesleyan and basically gave themselves no chance to win. Their two star players Jeff Spellman and James Mortimer shot just a combined 5-14 on the night. For Bates to have any chance to make a run at the playoffs, those two are going to need to make more of an impact.

9. Trinity (13-7, 2-4)

Last Week: 81-87 L vs. Middlebury; 58-75 L vs. Williams

This Week: vs. Wesleyan; @ Conn

While they had a strong performance against Middlebury, a big loss against Williams earlier in the weekend kind of took away any of the positives from the weekend. They couldn’t guard James Heskett and Eric Gendron was the only player with any ability to score (7-13, 18 points). Against Middlebury, although they were losing, they had a ridiculous 32 fouls, leaving the result of the game up to Jack Daly’s free throw shooting ability (he went 18-20 and iced the Bantams). They have a tough test this weekend and need to win against Wesleyan to prove they can compete (I would be shocked if they pulled it off).

10. Colby (10-10, 1-5)

Last Week: 67-76 L vs. Hamilton OT; 77-82 L vs. Amherst

This Week: @ Williams; @ Middlebury

Taking Hamilton to OT was a solid game for a team that has little hope to have a posteason. Sean Gilmore, Sam Jefferson, and Matt Hanna all scored over 15 points in the game and gave the Mules a chance to win. While these three didn’t put their squad over the edge, their youth in the starting lineup—two sophomores and two first years—bodes well for their future success. Maybe not this year, but next year, the Colby team’s stock should rise.

11. Conn College (6-14, 0-7)

Last Week: 69-56 L vs. Bates, 54-86 L vs. Tufts

This Week: @ Wesleyan; vs. Trinity

The good news is that if I don’t say anything good about the Camels, there is nothing for me to jinx. While they finally lost a NESCAC game by less than 15 points (they lost by 13 to Bates), they also had two starters score zero points in the matchup, putting all the pressure on Dan Draffan, Ben Bagnoli, and David Labossiere. A three on five matchup for a team without league leading stars is not a recipe for success.

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