Just Get In: Examining the Playoff Race

Bo McKinley '16 and the Conn College Camels are among those battling for a spot in the NESCAC playoffs. (Courtesy of Conn College Athletics)
Bo McKinley ’16 and the Conn College Camels are among those battling for a spot in the NESCAC playoffs. (Courtesy of Conn College Athletics)

On the surface, the NESCAC tournament is an easy thing to get into. Eight of 11 teams make it, so you have a 73 percent chance at the start of the season. This year though … some very good teams are going to be on the outside looking in. Just so we are completely clear, the top six teams (Trinity, Amherst, Middlebury, Tufts, Wesleyan and Williams) have all clinched playoff spots. Here is how the standings for the final five teams look. Included is their record versus the other four teams because of the importance of tiebreakers.

7. 3-5 Connecticut College Camels (2-0. Beat Bates and Hamilton)
8. 2-6 Bowdoin Polar Bears (2-1. Beat Bates and Colby, lost to Hamilton)
9. 2-6 Colby Mules (1-2. Beat Hamilton, lost to Bowdoin and Bates)
10. 2-6 Hamilton Continentals (1-3. Beat Bowdoin, lost to Conn, Bates, and Colby)
11. 2-7 Bates Bobcats (2-2. Beat Colby and Hamilton, lost to Conn and Bowdoin)

Going through the potential scenarios for each team making the playoffs is tiresome and nearly impossible. Instead, I’m going to rank the teams in likelihood to make the playoffs and make the case for and against them making the playoffs. To be clear, two of these five teams are making the NESCAC tournament.

1. Conn College Camels

This week’s opponents: Friday at Colby, Saturday at Bowdoin

Why they make it: The case for the Camels being the most likely team to make the playoffs is simple: they need to win just one game to guarantee they make it. Even if they lose both games, they have a chance if things break right. Conn College could easily be off the bubble at this point, but they have lost three NESCAC games by six points combined. The Camels have a balanced offensive attack with four players averaging double figures in conference play. They are the most talented and balanced of these five teams, and that talent will be enough to pull out one game against Colby and Bowdoin.

Why they don’t make it: A very young team with two freshmen among their top players have to go on the road all the way to Maine and win against teams much more experienced than them in these situations. Conn College has never been in this spot before. How they react down the stretch of a close game is a question mark, but remember that they lost the game last Sunday down the stretch. Another problem besides inexperience is that they are allowing the second most points per game in conference games. Both Bowdoin and Colby are good offensive teams capable of making these games into track meets.

2. Colby Mules

This week’s opponents: Friday vs. Conn College, Saturday vs. Wesleyan

Why they make it: Of these five teams, I think Colby has the best chance of going 2-0 and securing their spot without having to worry about tiebreakers. They have lost four of their NESCAC games by an average of 2.7 points, and they have been banged up for much of the season, too. With five seniors in the starting lineup, nobody has more motivation than them to take care of business and get into the NESCAC tournament. Their talent is obvious given that they beat Amherst and came close to beating Middlebury last weekend, too. Chris Hudnut ’16 is also playing better in the last few weeks than he has all season.

Why they don’t make it: Alright, so while they lost a bunch of close games, the two games Colby actually won were by two and four points, respectively. They needed a near miracle in the final 15 seconds of regulation against Hamilton to pull out that game. The Mules just play close games. They rank ninth in NESCAC games in both points scored and allowed per game. Their bench lacks any consistent scorer, and they have no backup big men meaning they rely on Patrick Stewart ’16, Sam Willson ’16 and Hudnut to stay out of foul trouble.

3. Bowdoin Polar Bears

This week’s opponents: Friday vs. Wesleyan, Saturday vs. Conn College

Why they make it: I mean, the team with the presumptive NESCAC Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year can’t really miss the playoffs can they? Well, they won’t if Lucas Hausman ’16 and Jack Simonds ’19 score like they are capable of this weekend. Simonds seemed to be hitting a little bit of a freshman wall, but he has put that idea to bed with 23 and 27 point performances the past two games. The Polar Bears probably still need one more player to step up in some way, be it rebounding, assisting, or scoring. My money is on one of the other seniors, point guard Jake Donnelly ’16 or Matt Palecki ’16, being that guy. Playing at home in the Morrell Madhouse (no one calls it that but me), where Bowdoin is 6-3, also helps a little bit.

Why they don’t make it: The problems the Polar Bears have had all season (rebounding and defense along with an offense too reliant on individual scoring) are still there. The Polar Bears have allowed the most points per game, 84.8, and have the worst rebounding margin, -5.9, of anybody in conference games. Both those marks are also well below anybody else. The possibility of Wesleyan crushing Bowdoin on the glass this weekend is a very real one. The Polar Bears also have allowed teams to shoot a whopping 43.0 percent from three point land.

4. Bates Bobcats

This week’s opponents: Sunday at Williams

Why they make it: I sort of like the match-ups for Bates against Williams. They can put Mike Boornazian ’16 on Dan Aronowitz ’17 to slow down the Ephs’ leading scorer. Malcolm and Marcus Delpeche ’17 should have the advantage on the interior, and the Bobcats have plenty of other bodies to throw into the mix also. The Ephs aren’t a real high scoring team, and a few easy buckets for Bates in transition could have an outsized effect if it’s a low scoring affair. Don’t forget that Bates had a four game winning streak in the beginning of January with three of those wins vs. winning teams. The Bobcats can play a little ball.

Why they don’t make it: First, the Bobcats only have one game left, making Williams a must win. And even that isn’t a guarantee of a spot. Second, Bates has to do it on the road away from their preferred environs in Lewiston. Third, they have lost seven of their last eight games with the only win coming against a subpar Maine-Farmington team. I worry about where the scoring comes from given the struggles of Boornazian to be efficient. A big question mark is sharpshooter Josh Britten ’16, who sat out against Bowdoin on Tuesday.

5. Hamilton Continentals

This week’s opponents: Friday at Trinity, Saturday at Amherst

Why they make it: The Continentals are hot, baby! They had a two game winning streak going until their overtime loss to Colby last Sunday. Freshman big man Andrew Groll ’19 has played better as the season has gone along, averaging 12.3 ppg on 53.6 percent shooting in NESCAC games. Both center Ajani Santos ’16 and shooting guard Michael Grassey ’19 had season high performances in points last weekend. Of these five teams, the Continentals have been playing the best basketball as of late.

Why they don’t make it: I feel like I’ve said this a thousand times this season, but it doesn’t get any harder than going on the road to play Trinity and Amherst. Both the Bantams and Purple and White (please choose a new mascot soon Amherst. Don’t forget the Dorsets!) have plenty to play for still so the Continentals won’t get any breaks. The Continentals beat Middlebury so they have that notch in their belt, but it will take a near perfect game for them to get a win this weekend. The athleticism mismatch between the Continentals and their opponents is a significant one.

Disclaimer: I will be yelling/chanting/clapping as loud as possible at both Bowdoin games this weekend. Most of the time it will be in support of the Polar Bears, but other times it won’t. I mean opposing players no disrespect and want nothing but the best for you, but I hope you miss every shot against Bowdoin.

– Adam Lamont

Last Ditch Effort: Power Ranks 2/10

The celebration was short-lived for the Bobcats on their senior night, and they'll need to find some inspiration if they are going to make the NESCAC playoffs. (Courtesy of Josh Kuckens/Bates College)
The celebration was short-lived for the Bobcats on their senior night, and they’ll need to find some inspiration if they are going to make the NESCAC playoffs. (Courtesy of Josh Kuckens/Bates College)

Being on break this past weekend, I followed the NESCAC action from afar even as my Middlebury classmates played their final regular season home games in Pepin Gymnasium. What stood out to me over the weekend was the continued separation between the top five and bottom six, and the Cardinals darkened that line with a buzzer-beating win over the sixth-place Ephs. As usual, though, there were close games even between the “elite” and the “also-rans”, but in this case all of big favorites won their games. So, while there is a little bit of variation in the top and bottom tier, there will be no teams crossing that chasm until one of the bottom feeders can emerge as a consistent adversary.

1. No. 19 Amherst (18-4, 6-2, Last week: 1)

Yes, they lost to Tufts, and yes, it wasn’t particularly close, but let’s not overreact. Look, Amherst isn’t a perfect team, and they might slip up here and there, but I still hold them as the favorite as of this posting today. Not to excuse Amherst from that game, but Tufts was at home, and the Jumbos shot 8-20 from three, and in case you forgot, Amherst is leading the world in three-point field goal percentage defense (27.4 percent allowed), so that’s anomalous. What’s more, Jeff Racy ’17 is in an epic slump right now (he was 0-6 from deep against Tufts), and I think that actually bodes well for Amherst going forward for two reasons. Racy’s slump has highlighted the ability of Connor Green ’16, Jayde Dawson ’18 and Johnny McCarthy ’18 to put up big points on any given night. They don’t need one guy to score 20 per game for them to win. Secondly, Racy is going to come back. He might not shoot near 60 percent from beyond the arc as he did early in the season, but he won’t go 0-6 very often, either. This team is still very good. As Adam pointed out though, the rotation continues to shorten, so the lack of bench production from the Purple and White remains a concern.

2. Trinity (16-6, 7-1, Last week: 2)

Two games, two easy wins, and one over the Amherst-slaying Tufts Jumbos in Medford. Even with Ed Ogundeko ’17 hampered, Trinity cleaned up the boards in both games. In stark opposition to Amherst, Trinity can get scoring from everyone up and down the lineup, which, in the end, might be the reason that Trinity prevails in a back-to-back NESCAC Semis and Finals scenario. For now, though, the head-to-head loss to Amherst still speaks loudly, and even though Tufts went on to beat Amherst the night after losing to Trinity, there’s the fact that the Jumbos may have been in panic mode and needing a win over Amherst. Don’t underestimate a team in a must-win situation.

3. Middlebury (14-8, 6-2, Last week: 5)

Spots 3-5 have become so muddled, but I took a glance over the Panthers last eight games and realized that if Andrew Groll ’19 hadn’t canned that short jumper as time expired to beat the Panthers, they’d be a lock for this spot and be 7-1 in conference play. Now, of course, we can’t just ignore that said nail in the coffin happened, that Middlebury has also fallen to Conn. College, that they only beat Colby by two points last Friday at home, and they haven’t yet played Amherst or Trinity. Still, as it stands today, they’re looking pretty good. They seem to have a bit of a fighter’s mentality this season, whereas in years past there was more of a sense that if the star wasn’t playing well or they were down at half, that you could write it off. Not anymore. I don’t have much wealth to wager these days (especially after some sour Super Bowl bets), but I’d put down a few bucks on Middlebury going 1-1 this weekend against the top two teams, which would mean a home playoff game in Pepin Gym.

4. No. 20 Wesleyan (18-4, 5-3, Last week: 3)

As I said in last week’s ranks, things are trending up for the Cardinals, so why did they move down a notch? Simply put, things are so close between Middlebury, Wesleyan and Tufts, and head-to-head scores move the needle ever so slightly. Tack on a nailbiter against Williams, a team that the Cards should beat handily on paper, and Wesleyan drops to No. 4. Still, the contributions of Jack Mackey ’16 and the solid eight-man rotation continue to give me confidence in this team. Their ability to pull out the victory against Williams suggests that they are a mature team, and that’s the difference between them and a green Ephs squadron.

5. No. 25 Tufts (17-5, 6-3, Last week: 4)

The win over Amherst and loss to Trinity sum up to a pretty par for the course weekend. Good for the Jumbos, as a 2-0 performance would mean bye-bye home game, but they were able to stay in the conversation with one win. In the loss to the Bantams, they breakout of Shay Ajayi ’16 is troublesome for Tufts. How was Tom Palleschi ’17, by far the league’s best shot blocker and a tough interior defender, not able to slow down Ajayi? Perhaps the key to beating Palleschi is to give the ball to someone quick who can step away from the basket and shoot jumpers, but how many teams have that guy? Not Amherst, maybe Middlebury if Matt Daley ’16 is making shots from 15-foot jumpers, sort of Wesleyan if Rashid Epps ’16 is going well, but if Joseph Kuo ’17 is in the game them Palleschi is apt to cover the latter, while Kyle Scadlock ’19 or Jack Simonds ’19 might be that guy, but as a whole their teams probably aren’t good enough to beat Tufts. So often in basketball it comes down to matchups, and it just might be that Trinity has the perfect one to exploit what Tufts can do on defense.

6. Williams (14-8, 4-4, Last week: 6)

They continue to solidify that No. 6 spot, even in defeat, as a buzzer beating loss to the Cardinals is nothing to tuck your tail over. They also just squeaked out a win over Conn. College, but the Camels are darn good, in case you hadn’t noticed. The biggest thing holding this team back is youth. Losing Mike Greenman ’17 has been, I think, an unquantifiable loss. He probably wouldn’t have put up massive numbers on the stat sheet, but his presence would have been invaluable, and we might be talking about the “top six” teams instead of the “top five” if he were still playing. As it stands now, two freshmen, Kyle Scadlock and Bobby Casey ’19, are playing starter minutes, while two others fit into the tail end of the rotation, and the rest of the rotation is pretty inexperienced, as well, with the exception of Dan Aronowitz ’17.

7. Conn College (12-10, 3-5, Last week: 9)

Sort of how I did with Middlebury, I look at Conn’s last X number of games and say, I could easily have seen this or that turning out differently and we might really have something here. Of course, you can often say that with any team, but Conn’s play has really stuck out to me. They’re young, they’re inexperienced, and they could easily fade off like most young teams, and yet they just keep competing. And I’m moving them up in the rankings, despite losing five straight games. Those five games – a neck-and-neck two-point loss vs. Tufts; a disappointing 105-89 loss vs. Mitchell College; an eight-point loss to Wesleyan, in Middletown, in which the Cardinals had to go 20-30 from the floor in the second half to win; a comeback attempt fallen short at Western Connecticut; and a lead let slip to Williams, 70-67. As the Camels get a little more mature, they’ll learn how to win those games, and by next season they could be hosting a playoff game.

8. Colby (14-8, 2-6, Last week: 7)

My Mules keep holding on. I shouldn’t call them “my Mules,” because I don’t want to play favorites (other than Middlebury), but I have stubbornly believed that they can turn it on all season long. They almost beat the Panthers, and they just got by the Continentals in the season’s highest-scoring NESCAC game. That’s just who Colby is – a run ‘n’ gun squad that will struggle against the better defenses. The bright side for them is that Chris Hudnut ’16 has been playing consistent minutes which gives them a chance in any game, and Pat Stewart ’16 has, at least for now, surpassed Racy as the best three-point shooter in the NESCAC. What’s more, Stewart isn’t a one-trick pony. As if this offense wasn’t dangerous enough already.

9. Hamilton (11-11, 2-6, Last week: 11)

Things are pretty ugly down here in the bottom trio right now, but none of these teams are quite dead yet. The Conts have a brutal weekend ahead with Trinity and Amherst coming up, but it’s not ridiculous that a 3-7 team could squeak into the playoffs, so they still have plenty to play for, and they showed it last weekend. The 15-point win over Bowdoin was consummate. Hamilton outshot the Polar Bears in every facet, matched them on the boards and only let Bowdoin ahead for the first 3:15 of the contest. The enigma that is Ajani Santos ’16 looked like an old version of himself, only better, with 25 points and seven boards. Unfortunately, the magic wore off in the game against Colby. Santos only played 17 minutes and had four points, but it was the frosh Michael Grassey ’19 bursting onto the scene with 23 bench points. Groll collected a double-double, as well, with 18 points and 10 boards, but Colby just outshot Hamilton in the OT period to pull away. This is another young team gaining valuable experience this season, and getting a playoff game would be huge for their development.

10. Bowdoin (10-10, 2-6, Last week: 8)

The loss to Hamilton really stung this weekend, and the Polar Bears didn’t put up too much of a fight against Middlebury. At this point we have a pretty good grip on what Bowdoin can do. They only go as far as Lucas Hausman ’16 and Jack Simonds ’19. Against Middlebury, that pair combined for 52 of the team’s 69 points. On the season they have scored 51.3 percent of Bowdoin’s points, by far the highest percentage for any duo (Vinny Pace ’18 and Tom Palleschi have tallied 37.6 percent of the Jumbos’ points). That can lead to some exciting games to watch, but it’s not a recipe for success, especially not at this level.

11. Bates (10-13, 2-7)

Bowdoin just creamed the Bobcats last night, but even if that hadn’t happened, Bates would probably still be in this spot. They’ve lost three in a row, seven of eight, and eight of 10. Things have really deteriorated. Bates opened the season with six straight games of 79 or more points, and had a five-game stretch where they scored 73+ four times. In the nine games sense, Bates has scored less than 70 in seven of those games, and the 73-51 loss to Bowdoin last night was probably the team’s low point. All of that is a long way of saying that Bates’ season has been in free fall for awhile. Other teams have figured out how to force Mike Boornazian ’16 into a lot of tough shots, and he’s had some bad shooting nights because of it with no one to pick up the slack. As I said before, none of these teams are dead yet, but it will take a monumental effort and a lot of luck for Bates to sneak into the postseason.


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.

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.


Welcome to the First Day of the Rest of Your Lives: Weekend Preview 1/8

Like the rest of us, Bates Head Coach Jon Furbush is sick of this nonsense. Let's play some NESCAC basketball. (Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)
Like the rest of us, Bates Head Coach Jon Furbush is sick of this nonsense. Let’s play some NESCAC basketball. (Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

Through about one month of the season (factoring in the time off for the holidays) NESCAC teams are a combined 87-33. Ten of 11 teams have records over .500. No teams remain undefeated, but Amherst, Wesleyan and, surprisingly, Colby all only have one loss. Babson, a Final Four team a year ago that took out Trinity in the Elite Eight and brought back Player of the Year candidate Joey Flannery, is 7-4, with all four of those losses coming against NESCAC teams. Amherst is ranked ninth and Tufts 22nd, with Trinity, Colby and Wesleyan knocking on the Top 25 door.

Suffice to say it’s been a successful start to the year for the NESCAC, all things considered. Because of the location of some of the member schools (read: Middlebury, Bates, Bowdoin, Colby and Hamilton, especially), NESCAC teams often face weak schedules to open the season because there just aren’t many quality teams around. That’s why it’s critical for teams to find good competition in tournaments early on. Trinity lost by five to No. 11 Susquehanna on Dec. 11 in Pennsylvania. No. 12 WPI has already bested Tufts and Bates this year. Wisconsin-Stevens Point walked all over Hamilton in Arizona on Dec. 30, and No. 20 Oswego St. handled Middlebury back in November. Colby actually beat No. 18 Mount Union down in Orlando last week. And lest we forget, the NESCAC’s success against Babson has knocked the Bobcats out of the Top 25. Win or lose, the teams that have seen this high level of competition will benefit this weekend when the intensity turns up and there are no more easy games.

Below we will give you a brief preview of each matchup (mind you, that’s 10 games, so forgive our brevity), the player or matchup to watch and a prediction. I’m supremely confident that most of our predictions will prove to look foolish this time Monday morning.

Middlebury at Wesleyan, Friday 7 PM

This is a really tough opening game for the Panthers, but if they match up well against any of the top teams in the NESCAC, it’s definitely Wesleyan, and they catch the Birds early on when they’re still nursing a few battle scars. Middlebury crushed Wesleyan 97-60 last year, and Wesleyan’s roster is basically the same, though the Panthers have lost their two best scorers. The matchup to watch is between point guards BJ Davis ’16 and Jake Brown ’17. Talk about quickness and flair, this duo has it in spades. Both teams are guard-heavy, so that’s likely to be a wash. If either front court can take over offensively, that unit’s team will win the ball game. Despite Middlebury’s struggles, their defense is underrated, so expect this to stay tight throughout.

Prediction: Wesleyan 68 – Middlebury 61

Hamilton at Conn College, Friday 7 PM

A matchup of two teams struggling to make the playoffs consistently, this is basically a must-win if either squad hopes to achieve that goal. Hamilton has been impressive early on with some talented young players, but the same could be said for Colby. We talked about three of those guys (and gave an honorable mention to another) on Wednesday. Conn’s Zuri Pavlin ’17 has been one of my favorite players to follow the past two seasons because he’s a double-double machine, but his numbers are down a little bit this year, and Hamilton has a rebounding fiend of its own in Andrew Groll ’19 than can neutralize Pavlin’s impact on the boards. Outside of Pavlin, Conn does not rebound well. Neither team is particularly strong defensively, but Conn has a little more juice on the offensive end right now, so I think they’ll eventually pull away. Plus, being at home, especially this early in the year when teams aren’t used to weekend travel, could be a bonus.

Prediction: Conn 82 – Hamilton 72

Bowdoin at Tufts, Friday 7 PM

Prior to the season, I would have guessed this would be a blow out. Now, however, with the emergence of Jack Simonds ’19, Bowdoin has a legitimate 1-2 punch, and I’m not sure anyone can stop it. On the flip side, I am pretty certain no one at Bowdoin can stop Tom Palleschi ’17. Palleschi is the man to watch. The Polar Bears will need to throw some double teams at the lefty, but in their favor is the fact that they can roll out a few forwards to slow him down, while there is very little front court relief for Palleschi. and if he stays out of foul trouble (a big if), this is going to be a comfortable, though not easy, win for the Jumbos. I have no numbers to prove this (perhaps we will compile some at some point – any stat nerds out there with some free time?) but I believe that if we had strength of schedule numbers Tufts would be near the top of the list. For the last two years they’ve been 13-12 and just some chemistry or flow or voodoo away from being really, really good. Maybe this is the year.

Prediction: Tufts 78 – Bowdoin 72

Colby at Bates, Friday 7 PM

The Mules’ MO this season is score the basketball, and they’ve done that quite well. They can shoot the three (39.9 percent), get to the line (282 FT attempts, second in NESCAC) or just throw it into big man Chris Hudnut ’16 (16.6 ppg). Even though we expected Bates to present a unique problem on defense for its opponents with the Delpeche twins in the middle, teams have been scoring at a pretty rapid clip against the Bobcats (72.1 ppg, 42.4 FG%). That could result in a recipe for disaster for Bates tonight. Colby SG Ryan Jann ’16 is the man in this one. I don’t see anyone that can stop him from Bates, and he had a cool 19 points on 6-9 shooting in their last meeting, when Colby won just 78-74 in Waterville, but the Mules also shot well below their season averages. If they can play to their potential, Colby wins this one.

Prediction: Colby 80 – Bates 70

Williams at Amherst, Friday 7 PM

When these two teams meet there is always an added level of intrigue. All-time, Williams holds the 119-97 (55.1%) advantage over Amherst, though recent history has favored the Lord Jeffs. Between 2012 and the 2014 NESCAC Championship, Amherst won eight straight contests. Miraculously, Williams broke the streak in that year’s NCAA Semis, then won again in the teams’ first meeting of 2015. Amherst won the last contest 86-76 in OT. Amherst is definitely the favorite coming into this one, as they will be in ever game unless someone knocks them off. They have far more experience, and as we’ve noted before, the 2015-16 Williams squad is similar in make up to the 2014-15 Amherst team. Dan Aronowitz ’17 plays the role of Connor Green ’16, leading a talented squad deficient of seniors. Simply put, Amherst has the advantage at every position, so a big game from young point guards Chris Galvin ’18 and Bobby Casey ’19 who have had to take over for the oversized production of the injured Mike Greenman ’17. Unless those guys have huge games, it’s going to be over early.

Prediction: Amherst 85 – Williams 73

Colby at Tufts, Saturday 2 PM

Saturday begins with an exciting matchup of two teams trying to prove that they belong. Both could be 1-0 coming in, but don’t surprised if they are both 0-1. That’s the beauty of NESCAC basketball. This should be a fun one to watch as both teams know how to put the ball in the hoop, ranking second (Colby) and third (Tufts) behind Amherst in points per game. In the second game of a back-to-back, the bench becomes more important, so which role player can step up and make the difference will be a difference-maker. Tufts goes a little bit deeper in its rotation, and a guy like Drew Madsen ’17 might need to chip in 10 points or so for the Jumbos. Palleschi is going to be working his butt off as the focal point of the Tufts attack against Bowdoin, and either fatigue or foul trouble could force him to the bench for stretches in this one.

Prediction: Tufts 89 – Colby 87

Hamilton at Wesleyan, Saturday 3 PM

This seems like a slam dunk for the Cards … and I think it probably is. Crazier things have happened, but I don’t see anyone stopping BJ Davis, and I doubt that the Continentals will be really sharp in their second game of the weekend because of their youth and inexperience. The X-factor for Hamilton still has to be Ajani Santos ’16. Santos has been a staple on this team for the past few years, last season averaging 10.5 ppg and 5.6 rpg while starting 23 games. This year he has 1.6 – just 1.6 – ppg and is only on the floor for 13.5 minutes per game. Coach Adam Stockwell wouldn’t reveal what the issue was, but there’s clearly something going on here. Santos has been in the starting lineup the last few games, though, so maybe things are finally coming around. Joseph Kuo ’17 is a strong interior presence for the Cardinals, but as we know their team strength is guard play and the bench doesn’t run very deep, so a coming out party from Santos could swing the tide of what is otherwise bound to be a lopsided affair.

Prediction: Wesleyan 69 – Hamilton 59

Middlebury at Conn College, Saturday 3 PM

A couple of years ago, this game would have been a cake walk for the Panthers. Now, it’s hard to even pick them as a favorite. Conn is still untested, but they have some interesting pieces. Zuri Pavlin is a known commodity, even though his numbers are down so far this year, and Lee Messier ’18 is taking the expected step forward and turning into a go-to scorer, but newcomers Tyler Rowe ’19 and David Labossiere ’19 look like the real deal, too. Forward Isaiah Robinson ’18 missed the first few games of the year, played the next six and then missed the last contest with the Coast Guard, but he’s a solid body that can bang down low and bring toughness, and don’t forget about Bo McKinley ’16, the incumbent at point guard, surpassed by Rowe, who brings three-point shooting off the bench. Conn has all the pieces to pull a fast one on the Panthers. The key for Middlebury is point guard Jake Brown. Perhaps it’s unfair because I watched Joey Kizel ’14 run the show for two years, but my sense is that Brown needs to drive this team if they are going to make it back to the playoffs.

Prediction: Conn College 78 – Middlebury 73

Bowdoin at Bates, Saturday 3 PM

I’m predicting that Tom Palleschi and the Jumbos will be able to stifle the Polar Bears, but I think that Bowdoin will break out in a big way against Bates. Simply put, who is going to guard Lucas Hausman and Jack Simonds? Mike Boornazian is a great offensive player, but I’m not convinced he can stop Hausman, and Simonds is going to be an issue for either Mike Newton ’16 or Marcus Delpeche ’17, whomever Bates chooses to throw at him. The Bobcats don’t even get the benefit of the Alumni Gym crowd, as classes don’t begin again until Monday. It’s an unfortunate time to waste a home weekend for Bates, and I think Bowdoin can take advantage.

Prediction: Bowdoin 81 – Bates 71

Williams at Trinity, Sunday 2 PM

Finally, we get the NESCAC debut of Trinity, last year’s top regular season team. Even though the Bantams lost a few important players, there seemed to be enough holdovers in place for Trinity to stay near the top of the heap. The losses of defensive stalwart Hart Gliedman ’15, multi-talented forward Alex Conaway ’15 and center George Papadeas ’15 have hurt more than expected. As a team, Trinity is still playing strong defense, holding opponents to a mere 35.5 field goal percentage. They just can’t put the ball in the hoop. Starks and Rick Naylor ’16, in particular, need to shoot the ball better, but it could be a big game for Ed Ogundeko ’17. Long an enigma for his impressive rebounding rate in limited minutes, Ogundeko has made some strides offensively out of necessity. He’s a true center, something that is lacking from many NESCAC rosters, and if he can manhandle Williams’ Edward Flynn ’16 then Trinity can shake off the early season struggles and start the NESCAC sched 1-0.

Prediction: Trinity 68 – Williams 63

Holiday Power Rankings

Connor Green '16 has had his ups and downs, but he's the leader of a 7-0 Amherst squad and coming off of a 39-point performance against Babson. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
Connor Green ’16 has had his ups and downs, but he’s the leader of a 7-0 Amherst squad and coming off of a 39-point performance against Babson. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

Our effort so far this basketball season has been a little bit lacking, I will admit. As happens with this stuff, school work is getting priority over NESCAC sports blogging (somehow my mom thinks one is more important than the other. Imagine that!). Luckily, I’ve got a little window to give a quick overview of where teams are right now before they take their holiday break. I haven’t seen every single team play yet but I’m getting there.

1. Amherst (7-0)

The only undefeated team left in the league, Amherst is playing more to the level of their talent this year than it did last. As hinted at in the beginning of the year, Coach Dave Hixon has decided to go to a lineup of four shooters surrounding one big man for long stretches, including the starting lineup. He has done this type of lineup in years past, and the Jeffs don’t actually give up a lot in size since Jeff Racy ’17, Michael Riopel ’18, and Johnny McCarthy ’18 all go 6’5″or 6’6″. They are outscoring teams by 24.7 ppg so far, but a lot of that is because when it is a blowout late, Amherst’s back of the bench is still better than the teams they have played so far. Don’t get too excited when the Jeffs blow out teams by 30 because of that depth factor.

2. Wesleyan (7-1)

As many expected, the two finalists from the NESCAC championship game a year ago are the class of the league, with the Cardinals showing that their late run last year was no fluke. Their only loss to Lyndon State is a puzzling one, but it was in the first game of the season and by just two points, 80-78, so we will let that one slide. The balanced attack of last year where anybody could be the leading scorer for a given game has yielded to an attack led by BJ Davis ’16 who is averaging 19.7 ppg on 52.4 percent shooting. Davis has also kept his assist and turnover rate at the exact same as last year, so the ball being in his hands a lot has been a good thing. He also was responsible on Saturday for the game winning shot against Williams.

3. Tufts (6-2)

Nobody plays a harder season opening schedule, and the Jumbos have walked the tightrope to get to 6-2. Three of their wins have come by three points or less, though one of their losses is also by only three points. At this point last year, against a similarly difficult schedule, Tufts was 2-6 (many of those losses were close, too). Turning those close losses into wins I think is a factor of the Jumbos’ perimeter players becoming the leaders scoring-wise. It is easier to get baskets at the end of games with guards than big men. Vincent Pace ’18 (18.3 ppg) is becoming that go-to guy on the perimeter, and other guys like Tarik Smith ’17, Ryan Spadaford ’16 and Stephen Haladyna ’16 give more scoring punch out there. That has made the lack of scoring from star center Tom Palleschi ’17 (11.0 ppg) not too much of an issue.

4. Colby (5-1)

The Mules might chafe at this spot since their only loss was in overtime in the first game of the year, but they also needed a Ryan Jann ’16 three to beat a 2-5 Regis team by a point. I got to see them play on Saturday against Bowdoin, and the skill on offense is there to play with anyone. All five starters are threats to score the ball, and they do a great job of moving the ball. They lead the league with 19.5 apg, and the return of forward Patrick Stewart ’16 as someone capable of filling it up from deep is a big help. I worry about their defense which is the third-worst in ppg with 76.3. Some of that is because Colby likes to play at a fast pace, but it is still frustrating that a team with five seniors can’t play better team defense.

5. Williams (5-2)

Only one member of the rotation is a senior, two of the three top scorers are freshmen, and two starting guards are injured. Yet the Ephs are 5-2 and had an early 16-point lead over Wesleyan before ultimately losing on that BJ Davis shot. Starting point guard Mike Greenman ’17 could be back for their next game, and shooting guard Chris Galvin ’18 is also supposed to be back after Christmas. I suppose it’s better for the Ephs to be injured early on, as it’s allowing more young players to get minutes. Their game tomorrow against Springfield, a team that beat Trinity, will be another good benchmark for the young team.

6. Trinity (4-2)

Maybe this is a little bit of a disappointing start for the Bantams, but they had some questionable non-conference losses last year also and then went 9-1 in the NESCAC. Neither of their losses are particularly bad, and Coach Jim Cosgrove is also playing a very deep rotation at this point of the season. At a glance, the statistics for their big three of Ed Ogundeko ’17, Jaquann Starks ’16, and Shay Ajayi ’16 aren’t great. Then you realize that none of them is averaging more than 25.0 mpg. So while Ogundeko’s 12.5 rpg is already fantastic, it becomes flat out ridiculous when converted to per 40 minutes: 21.0 with the next closest player at 15.7 rebounds per 40 minutes. The bottom line is the Bantams have the best scoring defense and second-best rebounding margin so far. They are going to be good come NESCAC games.

7. Bowdoin (4-3)

My dear Polar Bears could have really used that win over Colby Saturday, and even though seven feels low, this is a good team, albeit with some potentially killer faults. Two of their three losses are by a combined six points. Lucas Hausman ’16 is a menace, but he isn’t a superhero. Colby did a good job in their win over the Polar Bears of harassing him and not allowing him to get to his favorite spots. Hausman still had 22 points, but it took him 22 shots to get there. For me, I’m interested to see how the identity of the team evolves. Will they become run-and-gun, completely abandoning the ethos of last year, or will they try to still retain some of that defensive identity?

8. Bates (4-2)

Bobcats fans might be a little mad at me for putting Bowdoin over them, but the Bobcats don’t have as good a win as Bowdoin does over Babson, though that Babson loss looks worse and worse every time a NESCAC team wins in overtime against the Beavers. Anyways, the loss of Graham Safford ’15 has not hurt this team offensively at all. Bates is averaging 86.8 ppg, second best in the NESCAC. Mike Boornazian ’16 is the man leading the way with 15.5 ppg. Most encouraging is that the three-point production of not only Safford but also Billy Selmon ’15 and Adam Philpott ’15 has been replaced by guys like Shawn Strickland ’18  and Josh Britten ’16. Britten barely played at all last year, and his shooting is valuable to open up space inside for the Bobcats.

9. Conn College (5-2)

Guess what, the Camels are hot right now! They’ve won five games in a row, and they just had their best win of the season over a 6-3 Eastern Connecticut team that beat Trinity earlier this week. Point guard Tyler Rowe ’19, who had 22 vs. Eastern Connecticut, has very quickly become a starter and is providing a huge spark with 12.3 ppg and 3.1 apg. David Labossiere ’19 is playing so well that the coaching staff can’t keep him off the court, and he just started his first game of the season. Some players are taking smaller roles because of it, but the Camels are playing well together. And don’t look now, but they play vs. Hamilton and Middlebury, the two teams below them in our rankings, in the first weekend of NESCAC play. Could they really open 2-0 in the NESCAC?

10. Hamilton (5-3)

The Continentals are 5-3 even though they are essentially playing without their top three scorers from last year. I say essentially because Ajani Santos ’16 is actually still on the roster and playing, but he is averaging just 1.6 ppg. He has actually been playing more and even got the start last game against Hobart. However, he scored just two points and continues to be somewhat of a mystery. If he is able to get everything straightened out, he would join Peter Hoffmann ’19 and the others on this young nucleus to make a pretty intriguing team. As it is, without him Hamilton is reliant almost entirely on perimeter scoring.

11. Middlebury (4-5)

Do I think Middlebury is the worst team in the NESCAC … well maybe, actually. At this point I can’t put them above anybody. Two of their five wins are blowouts against an 0-8 Johnson State team, but there are a couple of close losses to RPI and Skidmore. The statistics say that Middlebury is 4-5, but again that is colored by those two games vs. Johnson State. Granted, I’ve only been able to watch them for stretches online, but what I’ve seen hasn’t looked great. They have nobody who can score inside besides Matt Daley ’16, and nobody besides Matt St. Amour ’17 looks to be an average or better three point shooter. And they’re young. Daley and Connor Huff ’16 are the only seniors making an impact. We’ll see. 

No Hart, No Linsanity; Who Will Guide the Continentals? Hamilton Season Preview

Jack Dwyer has taken over the point guard position for a young Continental team. (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)
Jack Dwyer has taken over the point guard position for a young Continental team. (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)

Editor’s Note: Things can be a little confusing now that the season is underway. Consider the rest of our previews as season predictions based off of a compilation of conversations with coaches and players and observations from the first couple of games.
All statistics that appear next to players’ names are from the 2014-15 season.

Last season was a year of growth for the Hamilton Continentals, both for players new and old. With the decisions of Matt Hart to transfer to George Washington and incumbent senior Bradley Gifford to hang up the sneaks, Head Coach Adam Stockwell was unexpectedly left with a depleted roster for 2014-15. As a result, freshmen who weren’t expected to play very much earned valuable experience, and PG Joseph Lin ’15 played like one of the league’s elite until an injury towards the end of the season.

The Continentals must once again overcome the loss of their two most important players from a season before – this time to graduation – with Lin and sharpshooting forward Peter Kazickas ’15 on to greener pastures. Coach Stockwell is waiting for a veteran to emerge at the center of this unit, like Lin last season or his predecessors Hart, Greg Newton ’14 and Pat Sullivan ’12. The Hamilton basketball team is entering its fifth season competing in the NESCAC, with its best finish being a 5-5 conference mark in 2013-14. With a lack of experience on the roster, Hamilton will be hard-pressed to match that 5-5 record, but the program is moving in the right direction with a bevy of talented youngsters now on board.

2014-2015 Record:

14-10 overall; 2-8 NESCAC (10th); Did not qualify for NESCAC Tournament

Head Coach: Adam Stockwell, 5th season, 55-43 (.561)

Returning Starters: Four

PG Jack Dwyer ’18 (3.8 ppg, 3.6 apg, 32.0% FG)
G Jack Donnelly ’16 (8.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 43.2% 3PT)
G/F Joe Pucci ’18 (5.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 41.8% FG)
F Ajani Santos ’16 (10.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.7 bpg)

Coaches always say that the past is the past and players have to earn their stripes each new season, but they don’t always choose lineups with that philosophy in mind. This year, it’s very apparent that Coach Stockwell is giving nothing freely to his veterans. Santos and Donnelly, who started 23 and 22 games last year, respectively, are out of the starting lineup, while Dwyer and Pucci, who each started 12 contests a year ago, have apparently locked down starting spots. Donnelly is still racking up minutes and has seemingly embraced the sixth-man role, but Santos looks to be in the dog house right now with just 10.3 mpg through three games so far. Coach Stockwell hasn’t let on what’s behind the severe drop in Santos’ playing time, instead reiterating his confidence that the big man can get back on track, and citing some outstanding efforts from some younger big men. If I had to ponder a guess, I’d say that Santos’ constant foul trouble and temper have hindered him. That’s only a guess though – there is plenty of season left to see how things work out.

Projected Starting Lineup:

PG Jack Dwyer ’18

The Hamilton lineup is extremely fluid right now, with 11 (eleven!) guys seeing double digit minutes per game, but Dwyer looks the the closest thing to a lock for me the rest of the season. He’s a true point with great quickness and good strength, given his size (5’11” 175 lbs). His scoring binge over the weekend was impressive, but not surprising to those around the Hamilton team. Don’t expect quite that level of production (16.0 ppg through three games), because he doesn’t shoot the three ball at all, but he can hang in the low teens range in points. There are some great, if unproven, shooters on this team, and Dwyer is the man to get them the basketball.

SG Peter Hoffman ’19

Hoffman is obviously green as a freshman, but he’s immediately become a scoring threat and is second on the team with 11.7 ppg. Unlike Dwyer, Hoffman can light it up from deep, and at 6’5″ he complements the smaller Dwyer well. Classmate Tim Doyle ’19 started the first two games in this spot, but Hoffman started the last, and it’s going to be a constant battle to see which youngster can solidify his position, but both will continue to see minutes.

G/F Joe Pucci ’18

Pucci is tall – 6’7″ – but has guard-like athleticism. Just a sophomore, he has the ability to become a leader for this young squad. He should be able to do a little bit of everything for the Conts – score some points, rebound and defend those tough wing players. With Pucci at the 3, Hamilton will be going against the NESCAC grain which seems to be trending towards three-guard sets. It’s a risky strategy, but one that could pay dividends if Pucci can defend his smaller match ups.

F Andrew Groll ’19

Another freshman expected to play big minutes, Groll is going to be counted on to be a physical presence at 6’6″ 240 lbs. Coach Stockwell has high hopes for the way Groll will develop, and he applauded the way Groll gets after rebounds on both ends of the floor. He might not be the most refined offensive player just yet, but with so many shooters around him and coming off the bench, Groll could stick in the starting rotation.

F Ajani Santos ’16

This is a gut call, because the early signs are that Santos is being passed over by the young forwards – Groll, Pucci, Kelan McConnell ’18 and Karl Koster ’18. Obviously, his league-worst 88 personal fouls and eight ejections for fouls last year were a big problem, but there has to be something else going on here. Unless a player gets in trouble or comes into camp completely out of shape – and I’m not saying either of these things are true, nor is there any evidence that either is the case –  you usually don’t see a team’s most used player ride pine early on the next season. I don’t know what’s wrong, but I think it has to be made right for Hamilton to be competitive. As talented as the Hamilton youngsters are, Santos will be needed to provide some senior leadership if this team is going to go far.

Breakout Player: G Peter Hoffman

It’s not often that a freshman comes into any college league with the talent and opportunity to be an immediate star. In this case, Hoffman has both. He’s got great size for a two-guard, can shoot from anywhere (including the free throw stripe), and is a great perimeter defender, according to his head coach. There is a lot of competition at the guard spot for Hoffman, and he probably won’t see much more than 20.0 mpg with Donnelly coming off the bench and playing an important role, but he can be an efficient scorer and make an impact on both ends of the floor.

Everything Else:

Backing up the shifty Dwyer at point guard is the more strategic Wes Wilbur ’17. They won’t both be on the court very often, but when they are Wilbur will shift to the two-guard spot. The disadvantage of having them both on the floor is that it takes away the three-pointer from the Continentals game, and even though they didn’t shoot the three much last year, they were the most efficient three-point shooting team in the NESCAC. Donnelly and Hoffman are excellent outside shooters, and I would expect most of the minutes to feature the threesome of Dwyer-Donnelly-Hoffman on the court. Kyle Pitman ’17 is the last guard in the mix, and he brings great range to the floor, too.

The frontcourt minutes are totally in flux with the expected return to relevance of Santos. Right now, Groll, Pucci, Koster and McConnell are taking up most of the time, but something will have to give if Santos is going to reemerge. Groll and Koster are Stockwell’s workhorses down low, banging bodies and getting rebounds. McConnell is undersized at 6’5″ but is another sharpshooter, while Pucci does a bit of everything, too, but as noted above, with him at the 3-guard, Hamilton might get run off the court by some quick and skilled back courts. The x-factor for the Hamilton frontcourt, once again, is 6’11” Zander Wear ’18. Wear came to Hamilton with a lower level of basketball experience than most freshman in the league, but has taken a big leap from a season ago. Still, with so much youth and talent amongst the Hamilton big men, it will be an uphill battle for Wear to break in.

Coach Stockwell is running with a deep rotation right now and allowing the cream to rise to the top. It’s a good strategy early on, and one that many NESCAC coaches employ, especially with a younger roster like Hamilton’s. The only worry is whether the Conts can build up enough chemistry with the guys who are going to be on the court come NESCAC time in January. Can they rely on freshmen and sophomores to lead them to the NESCAC playoffs? Or will Donnelly and Santos go out with a flourish in their final college season? Hamilton may be the toughest team to predict at this point this season. The good news for Hamiltonians is that youth and talent are aplenty in Clinton.

On the Outside Looking (L)in: Hamilton Season Wrap Up

Hamilton fell short all too often this season. The Conts nearly knocked off Bates on the road in early February, but eventually lost 73-71. (Courtesy of Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)
Hamilton fell short all too often this season. The Conts nearly knocked off Bates on the road in early February, but eventually lost 73-71. (Courtesy of Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

Season Record: 14-10 (2-8), missed NESCAC Tournament

For a team that lost the NESCAC’s top scorer, Matt Hart, to transfer and a couple of critical players to graduation, to start this season 7-0 and then 10-2 seemed a miracle to some, which I’m sure was some motivation to the Continental players. All they heard all of season was about how the program was going to take a major step back with the departure of Hart, and yet the Conts came out firing, something that wasn’t missed by their former teammate.

Unfortunately for Hamilton, it all came crashing down after the first NESCAC game of the season. At the time, it seemed like a small hiccough because the Continentals played Amherst so tightly, and the play of captain Joseph Lin ’15 was a hot topic, as well.

Hamilton dropped its first four conference games, burying itself in a hole that it would not recover from. A 67-64 win over Williams kept the Continentals’ hopes alive, and two subsequent out-of-conference wins got the team’s confidence up, but after that four more conference losses put the nail in the coffin. Hamilton was able to end its season on a high note, though, with a fairly drama-free victory over Conn. College that began in a very unorthodox way. But more on that later.

High Point: 46-44 win at Hobart Sunday, January 4

Hamilton played five teams this season who made it into the final public NCAA Regional Rankings, which are used to determine at-large bids for the NCAA Tournament. Trinity, Amherst, Bates and Bowdoin all got the best of the Conts, but Hamilton was able to squeak out a win against East Region Hobart, which finished the season at 18-8 and now is hoping for an at-large bid that is unlikely to come. Still, to win a back-and-forth, ugly game on the road against a team that is on the cusp of the NCAA Tournament seemed like a statement win at the time for Hamilton.

Joseph Lin (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)
Joseph Lin (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)

MVP: Joseph Lin ’15

This is an easy pick. If there was such an award, Lin would likely garner the Most Improved Player in the NESCAC award. Lin came off the bench mostly last season, and played 21.8 minutes per game, tallying 5.6 PPG on 40.2 percent shooting, 24.5 percent from deep and 66.7 percent from the line, 2.6 RPG, 1.8 APG and a 1.4 A/TO ratio. In 2014-15 those numbers improved drastically: 29.2 MPG, 13.5 PPG, 45.5 percent FG, 38.5 percent 3PT, 74.7 percent FT, 2.7 RPG, 6.4 APG, 2.3 A/TO.

Lin worked his way into the starting lineup a few weeks before conference play began and became a mainstay in the starting five, distributing well to shooters Peter Kazickas ’15 and Jack Donnelly ’16 and inside to Ajani Santos ’16, earning a Player of the Week Honor along the way. Sadly, Lin’s season ended on crutches after he went down at Bates on February 7. In a nice gesture, Lin was able to grab one last basket in a Continentals uniform in his final game.

Player to Watch in 2014-15: Zander Wear ’18

Santos and Donnelly are known commodities at this point, but the real wild card for Hamilton will be the improvement of the near-seven-footer Wear. Listed at 6’11”, 245 lbs., Wear has better size than any big man in the NESCAC next season. The youngster appeared in 20 games, though he didn’t see very many minutes, and really didn’t do much in his short stints on the court. However, there is plenty of time for him to work on his footwork and skills before next season, and the kid is not afraid of contact, if his high school recruiting video is any indication:

How often do you see highlight tapes start with a player taking a bunch of charges?

A la John Swords ’15 for Bowdoin, Wear is a rare commodity that few teams can boast of and could single-handedly make the Continentals a contender next season.

Traveling to Maine Carries Significant Risk: Stock Report 2/9

Malcolm Delpeche '17 flushed this one home as the Bobcats slipped by Hamilton on Saturday, Feb. 7.
Malcolm Delpeche ’17 flushed this one home as the Bobcats slipped by Hamilton 73-71 on Saturday, Feb. 7.

The Maine triumvirate of Colby, Bates and Bowdoin combined on the weekend to go 4-0 at home. Behind hot shooting from Ryan Jann ’16 who finished with 26 points, the Mules beat Middlebury for their first win without Chris Hudnut ’16. Then on Sunday Bowdoin blitzed their way to an easy win over the Panthers to drop Middlebury to 3-5 in the NESCAC.

Meanwhile, Bates’ vaunted home-court advantage once again took center stage as the Bobcats pulled out close wins over Williams and Hamilton. The wins bring the Bobcats’ home record to 12-0 and 6-0 in NESCAC play. While you have probably heard all about how Alumni Gym rattles opponents, Colby and Bowdoin also boast great home records. Colby is 7-2 overall and 2-2 in the NESCAC at home, and this season has seen a resurgence in student attendance in Waterville. Bowdoin does not have as many students at their games (though I am one of the proud few), but the Polar Bears are 6-1 overall and 3-0 in the NESCAC when they play in Brunswick.

Of the three losses between them, two of them came at the hands of one of the other with Colby beating Bowdoin in Brunswick in December and the Polar Bears returning the favor in Waterville a few weeks ago. So the only team that has managed to come from out of state and beat a Maine school is Williams which beat Colby on January 17.

Stock Up

Center John Swords ’15 (Bowdoin)

As the only returning player from the All-NESCAC First Team, expectations were high for Swords coming into the season, but he has fallen short of them on the offensive end. Sunday was the Swords that Bowdoin fans were hoping for. The seven footer scored 20 points on 10-13 shooting, and at least five of his baskets came on dunks.  Swords attacked from the very beginning of the game, forcing Chris Churchill ’15 to pick up two early fouls. He was not afraid to put the ball on the floor and go to the hoop, something that he has been hesitant to do for long stretches this season. He also took it personal when he got called for an offensive charge drawn by Matt Daley ’16 and attacked Daley the next time he got the ball down low. It was only one game, but if Swords continues to play like he did on Sunday, Bowdoin will be difficult for teams to handle.

Shooting Guard Rick Naylor ’16 (Trinity)

Sometimes it is hard to pick out specific players on Trinity who are difference makers beyond Jaquann Starks ’16. That isn’t meant to insult the ability of anyone on the Bantam roster, but they are so balanced that picking out individuals is difficult. Naylor is certainly a role player averaging 5.8 PPG for the season, but he has come up big in recent weeks. First against Bowdoin he carried Trinity down the stretch on offense, and on Friday he helped Trinity outlast a determined Wesleyan squad. He went 5-6 from three on his way to a team high 17 points. On offense, Naylor is pretty much a straight shooter with 63 percent of his made shots coming from deep. In conference play he is shooting 54.5 percent from three, the second highest percentage in the league. On the other end, Naylor fits perfectly into the hard-nosed style Trinity plays. Despite averaging only 20.6 MPG, he has fouled out of four games so far this season, the fourth most in the NESCAC this season.

Guard Connor Green ’16 (Amherst)

Not that Green’s stock was necessarily low, but it has sky rocketed recently as the Lord Jeffs have started to look more like the perennial title contenders that we are used to seeing. Over the last four games, Green has scored at least 24 points three times and thrice snagged double digit rebounds. Last week we handicapped the Player of the Year race and Green came in with the fourth best odds to win the award. If we ranked these players again today Green would probably have the second best odds and the gap between Green and favorite Dan Wohl ’15 would be much smaller than it was then. Amherst is playing much better of late, blowing out some of the NESCAC’s bottom feeders and a couple tough Maine teams. It took awhile for Coach Dave Hixon to work out the rotation, but he seems to have found a serviceable point man in Reid Berman ’17 and a reliable bench scorer in Jeff Racy ’17. The Lord Jeffs are dangerous right now and Green is only elevating his game as the season goes on.

Stock Down

Hamilton’s Luck

Honestly, I feel terrible for the Continentals. They have played better than their 1-7 record would indicate. On Saturday Hamilton almost pulled off the upset at Bates. A layup from Joe Pucci ’18 put Hamilton up 71-66 with 1:36 to go, but Bates scored the final seven points to storm back for the win. For the Continentals, it was merely the latest close loss. Six of their seven losses in conference have been by single digits. It is a shame, too, because they play a fun, uptempo brand of basketball with an eclectic crew. Peter Kazickas ’15 is lights out shooting the ball, and he also rocks the best ‘mun’ (man bun. It is a hairstyle I swear) in the NESCAC. Ajani Santos ’16 has a nice post game, and Joseph Lin ’15 is one of the most clever players I have seen. Because of tie-breakers, Hamilton is already eliminated from the NESCAC tournament. We knew Hamilton would miss the transferred Matt Hart, but this group exceeded expectations even if the final records don’t show it.


Remember when I said that this weekend was going to go a long way in figuring out the NESCAC picture? Yeah, well I lied about that. Going into next weekend, the number of scenarios that can end up happening are endless. Trinity will host a quarter-final game, Bates will host for sure as long as they win one of their games this weekend, and Amherst will host for sure if they win against Middlebury. If those three host, then the winner of Tufts-Bowdoin will host the fourth game. Unless Colby or Williams goes 2-0 on the weekend and Tufts beats Bowdoin, then the Ephs or Mules would host because they both own the tiebreaker over Tufts. If Colby, Williams and Tufts are all 6-4 then Williams would host because they went 2-0 against those teams, but if Bates loses both games then there could be a four-way tie…OK we give up. Personally I am rooting for the scenario where Bates and Amherst go winless for the weekend, Tufts beats Bowdoin, and Williams and Colby go 2-0. That would mean that all six of those teams would finish at 6-4.

Middlebury Defense

There were some questions about the quality of Middlebury’s competition at the beginning of the year, but nevertheless their domination was impressive enough for us to rank them at the top of our initial power rankings, and a big part of that decision was the Panthers’ commitment to defense. Coach Jeff Brown challenged his guys to be the best defense in the country this season, and for a good chunk of the year the Panthers were ranked in the top five nationally in field goal percentage defense. In Middlebury’s first 13 games, during which stretch they started 13-0, they allowed 70 points only twice and both were easy victories. In the subsequent 11 games, opponents have scored 70 points seven times and Middlebury has gone 7-5. This weekend Colby and Bowdoin combined to shoot 47.3 percent from the field against the Panthers. Even Jake Brown ’17, possibly the best perimeter defender in the NESCAC, struggled against the athletic Lucas Hausman ’16 on Sunday. If Middlebury is going to right the ship (and even make the NESCAC tournament), they will need to get back to playing good defense.

Handicapping the Player of the Year Race

Photo Courtesy of the Williams Record
Photo Courtesy of the Williams Record

There are just two conference weekends left, and while athletes, coaches and fans are focused on the battle for seeding in the NESCAC tournament, individual performances over the final two weeks will play a major role in determining to whom the end-of-year awards are given.

Conference play is weighted heavily when looking at these awards because that is when the voting members, aka NESCAC coaches, get a first hand look at the candidates. Therefore it is necessary to look at matchups over the next few games in order to split hairs between all the great players in this league.

The race will be tight, and is still wide open, especially with preseason favorite Chris Hudnut ’16 succumbing to a season-ending knee injury on Jan. 24. In the five conference games that Hudnut was able to play, he averaged 21.8 points and 10.0 rebounds per game, numbers that would put him second and third respectively in conference games. Other players with high expectations, such as Hunter Sabety ’17 and Hayden Rooke-Ley ’15 have shown flashes of brilliance when on the court, but injuries will ultimately stop them from getting enough minutes to be true contenders. With Hudnut going down, the picture became a lot less clear. Below we handicap the Player of the Year race as it stands today.

C John Swords ’15

Odds: 50:1

As the guy who ought to be the hands-down Defensive Player of the Year, he should be in the discussion for overall Player of the Year as well. He probably won’t do enough on the offensive end to be seriously considered for the award, but his defensive impact is unquantifiable. Beyond the 17 blocks (1st) and 65 rebounds (2nd) that he has in seven conference games, he is undeniably the best rim protector in the NESCAC, and the main reason why opponents jack up more treys against the Polar Bears than anyone else.

PG Joseph Lin ’15

Odds: 30:1

Lin’s transformation has been a hot topic this season. The senior is the third-leading scorer in NESCAC games and the league’s top assist man by a wide margin. On a winning team his odds would be much better. While the POY award isn’t necessarily the best player on the best team, it often seems that way. Aaron Toomey’s ’14 Jeffs won the NESCAC tournament in both years that he was given the award, Ryan Sharry ’12 and the runner-up Panthers finished 26-4 that season. Troy Whittington ’10 and Williams went 29-3 in 2010-11. You get the idea. With no clear cut dominant team in the NESCAC this season the award could go to a player on a middle of the pack team, but not one who isn’t in the NESCAC playoffs.

SG Lucas Hausman ’16

Odds: 25:1

Another Bowdoin guy, and another that has elevated his game to a new level this season. Hausman has been an animal in conference play, averaging 23.7 points per game. He’s somewhat one dimensional; he loves to cut to the hoop, especially in transition, and force off-balance shots in traffic. But hey, it works for him. He is shooting 44.9 percent from the field in conference games and he is arguably the league’s best free throw shooter, which is good because he gets to the stripe more than anyone. As unfair as it is, his class might hurt Hausman somewhat in this chase. If it comes down to him and a senior who seem like a toss-up, the award will probably land in the elder’s hands. But a strong tournament run could quickly and significantly improve Hausman’s odds.

G/F Connor Green ’16

Odds: 18:1

After a fantastic sophomore campaign in which Green became the Lord Jeffs’ second option to Toomey, Green had a bit of a slow start to 2014-15. Through his first two games of January (10 total), Green was averaging 13.2 PPG. In the subsequent 10 games? 18.0 points per game. And in the last five, since the changing of the guard occurred at the point, Green has topped 30 points twice, including 33 against Bowdoin on Jan. 31, a record for the junior against D-III opponents (Green dropped 42 against D-II Nova Southeastern in a 105-101 loss last season). With more strong games against Conn. College and Wesleyan this weekend, followed by a big game against Middlebury next weekend, Green could leap frog those with better odds and steal this award. That last game in particular will be huge, as Green will probably have to deal with the size, speed and strength of Dylan Sinnickson ’15. A win in that head-to-head matchup, much like the one earned by our POY favorite, will go a long way towards winning over the votes of the NESCAC coaches.

PG Graham Safford ’15

Odds: 9:1

Safford fits the POY mold; senior leader, battle-tested, big moments on his resume, leading scorer, fills up the stat sheet and almost never leaves the court. Like Toomey in the last two years, Safford is the type of court general without whom his team would fall apart. Let’s compare the stat lines of Toomey from ’13-’14 and Safford from this year:

Safford: 36.6 MPG, 15.7 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 6.1 APG, 2.3 SPG, 1.5 A/TO, 39.2 FG%, 31.2 3PT%, 78.3 FT%

Toomey: 34.6 MPG, 19.9 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 6.4 APG, 2.0 SPG, 2.5 A/TO, 46.4 FG%, 40.2 3PT%, 91.2 FT%

The glaring difference doesn’t appear until you start looking at the percentages. Toomey was a more prolific scorer and he did it in a more efficient way, but Safford is comparable to Toomey across the board in other categories. The most important thing in favor of Safford’s campaign is that Bates rides or dies with the point guard’s play. If he can take them to the NESCAC Championship game he might convince the coaches that he is worthy of the award.

F Dylan Sinnickson ’15

Odds: 5:1

What a great story this kid is. As a freshman on Middlebury’s best team ever he played just over 10 minutes per game, averaged 5.7 PPG and shot just two, that’s right, two, three-pointers. Then he had to sit out his entire sophomore campaign because of a broken arm. Last year he returned and was a revelation, running the pick and roll to perfection with Joey Kizel ’14 and spreading the floor, dropping 43 percent of his attempts from long range, including a couple of game winners. He’s past the injury that took away his sophomore season, he’s returned with a vengeance from the personal break that he took from the game last season, and he’s completely reinvented his game. He’s possibly the most athletic guy in the NESCAC in any sport. He runs like the wind. On the baseball diamond he’s known for beating out routine grounders to shortstop. He jumps through the roof. And when he grows that hair out people often refer to him around campus as “That kid that looks like Jesus”.

The numbers bear out the praise. Sinnickson has racked up 18.7 PPG (4th in NESCAC), 11.1 RPG (1st), and does so with good percentages, 48.0 percent from the field and 35.0 percent from deep. On the other end of the floor, he often draws the opponent’s trickiest matchups. Hamilton’s Ajani Santos ’16 and Conn’s Zuri Pavlin ’17 can tell you just how much of a menace Sinnickson can be. The only reason he isn’t tops on this list is because in his toughest head-to-head matchup of the season Sinnickson was bested by our POY favorite.

G/F Dan Wohl ’15

Odds: 3:1

Against Middlebury last Friday night, Wohl went 5-10 from the field and 7-7 from the stripe for 18 points while also shutting down Sinnickson, who went 3-11 from the field for seven points. Wohl has been consistently great, but he has truly been incredible since a December 6 matchup with Springfield. Amidst all the change of the offseason, there seemed to be a transition period for this Williams team at the beginning of the season, and while they are still working out some of the kinks, Wohl seems to have gotten very comfortable. In the span of 28 seconds near the end of that Springfield game, Wohl completed an and-1 and flushed another lay up to put the Ephs up nine and score what would end up as the winning basket. He added a steal and two more free throws in the final two minutes to seal the victory, finishing with 20 points and seven boards. Since that game, Wohl has averaged 22.1 PPG.

Wohl is the second-leading scorer in conference games while also snagging 8.5 RPG in those games, and is among the league’s best defenders, swiping 1.3 SPG while playing lock-down defense. Williams still has to play Bates, Tufts, Conn and Wesleyan before the season is out. All of those teams except Conn are in the top half of the NESCAC in scoring defense, meaning that it will be a challenge for Wohl to keep up his scoring production down the stretch. But if he can score 18 on Middlebury, Wohl should be up for the challenge.