NESCAC women’s basketball kicked off its 2017-2018 campaign with a great set of games last weekend. In preparation for conference games that will start up in the next couple of weeks, each team played non-conference opponents. Here are my hot takes:
Hot Take 1: Amherst and Tufts will be really good
If you were reading my women’s soccer articles in the fall, you witnessed how many times I picked the underdog to defeat Williams, who is now in the Final Four. Each time I picked the opponent, Williams proved me wrong. I feel like Amherst and Tufts are the basketball versions of Williams. They’ve both ended up at the top of the league many of the previous seasons. They’re similar to the Spurs and Patriots: they’re consistently very good without much flash. Amherst has lost Ali Doswell ‘17, who was nominated for the DIII player of the year for the 2016-2017 season, and was an All-American. Doswell’s 13.2 PPG and stellar three-point percentage will be missed. Amherst, per usual, will utilize the ‘next person up’ mentality. Don’t get me wrong, Doswell’s loss will be felt, but with two convincing non league wins, I think Amherst will enter league play with the assumption that the squad can go all the way again this year. Tufts, on the other hand, is returning Melissa Baptista ‘18. Similar to Doswell, Baptista started every game for the ‘Bos. She comes off a season where she averaged around thirteen points per game, an All-American selection, and was a threat everywhere on the court. Tufts is already 2-0 on the young season, and I would expect Amherst and Tufts to be at the top when it’s all said and done.
Hot Take 2: It’s going to be a long winter in Lewiston
The Bates Bobcats dropped its opening two non league games last weekend. Everyone has a different mentality when it comes to these games. Obviously, the NESCAC playoffs are determined by a team’s NESCAC record. Every competitor, however, wants to win each game he or she plays in. Therefore, Bates’ two opening losses should raise major red flags. The NESCAC is one of the strongest conferences in the country for DIII in all sports. Losing to non-NESCAC teams isn’t a good statistic. It won’t get any easier for Bates down the road with games against Maine NESCAC rivals on the horizon. Defense for Bates was the major inhibiting factor last year keeping the team from a successful seasons. Giving up eighty-five points to Smith on Sunday isn’t a good sign that they’ve made significant improvements on the defensive side of the game. If Smith puts up that many points, imagine what will happen when Amherst, Tufts, or Bowdoin comes to town. It’s early in the season, but Bates needs to turn it around soon. Nina Davenport ‘18 is one of the best shooters in the conference. She will be one of the difference makers for Bates this season. If she sets the example of focusing on defense just as much as (or more than) offense, the hot take could be wrong.
Hot Take 3: Contrary to popular belief, defense still wins championships
The Golden State Warriors have made people believe that the way to win championships and create the ultimate basketball franchise is through quick transitions threes. Daryl Morey, the GM for the Houston Rockets, was the first man in the NBA to use the ‘Moneyball’ approach in basketball. If you watch a Rockets game, you will observe that there are no midrange jump shots, but only dunks/layups and threes (i.e. Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan wouldn’t be a system fit). In the era of offense in the NBA, the score of last year’s NCAA women’s basketball championship was 52-29 Amherst over Tufts. The top two scoring and three point percentage leaders from last season weren’t from Tufts or Amherst. If you want to beat Tufts or Amherst, you have to match their defensive mentality and efficiency. Bates, Colby, and all the other teams who were below .500 last year can put the ball in the basket. However, they couldn’t play the defense that those two outstanding teams could. I think all the teams that will post a record above .500 this year will be great defensive teams that value defense more than flashy offense.
I need to open this piece by apologizing to everybody who is a fan of Middlebury athletics. In the fall I picked the Middlebury women’s soccer team to win the NESCAC tournament, they were bounced in the semifinal. Last week, I picked the women’s basketball team to beat Colby and advance to the semifinals. They too, were defeated. Clearly, Liamstradamus, as I lovingly called myself earlier, is cursed. Please forgive me. Regardless of my personal failings though, and there are many, the world kept spinning and NESCAC basketball kept churning along. We’re down to four remaining teams, a final four if you will, and they’re squaring off this weekend in the semifinals and finals, hosted in Amherst. Before we get to the predictions for this weekend, let’s take a look back at the weekend that got us here.
NESCAC Quarterfinals Recap
1. Amherst defeated 8. Bates 76-35
Amherst continued their undefeated season with a thorough dismantling of the team from Lewiston. A surprise tournament appearance was the culmination of an up and down season for the Bobcats who finished the year 8-17 overall. The game was basically over as soon as it began, with Amherst jumping to a commanding 22-5 lead after just one quarter of play. Although Bates played a good second quarter, the lead continued to grow until Amherst had run them out of the gym. The big story coming from the game though was the disturbing play of Nina Davenport ’18, who fouled out after only playing 3 total minutes. Without their leading scorer, the Bobcats were forced to lean heavily on their four other starters who recorded 37, 35, 38, and 31 minutes as a unit. Amherst relied on Emma McCarthy ’19 who turned in a 19-point and 9-rebound performance.
2. Tufts defeated 7. Williams 58-40
Tufts remained hot on Amherst’s heels with a convincing victory over a talented Williams team. Tufts, the number three team in the most recent D3hoops poll, had a 14-point lead at halftime and never looked back as they closed out this quarterfinal battle. Michela North ’17 led all scorers with 14 points, while two other Jumbos contributed 11 points as the team advanced. Williams shot themselves in the foot with 23 turnovers, and they also struggled to rebound the ball, getting outrebounded by five. The Ephs were much closer in other statistical categories. The Jumbos barely outshot Williams in terms of percentage, and the Ephs also generated 16 points in the paint, a solid number for the team. Again, I have to come back to them getting absolutely killed by turnovers. Tufts attempted 22 more shots than the Ephs as a result of the extra possessions. That disparity is nearly impossible to overcome for a poor shooting team like Williams.
3. Bowdoin defeated 6. Conn College 72-47
Bowdoin continued their string of impressive performances with an evisceration of the visiting Camels. The Polar Bears have now climbed to number 17 in the latest D3hoops poll and look poised to make some noise in the national tournament. Despite trailing after one quarter of play, the Bowdoin refused to give up and stormed back to take the lead by halftime. A dominant third quarter put the game out of reach and ended the hopeful Camels’ season. Bowdoin managed to get 15 players into the game and saw production spread across the starters and bench units that entered the game. Marle Curle ’17 and Taylor Choate ’19 scored in double digits, but also contributed four and five rebounds respectively, as well as three assists each. Bowdoin is playing dominant basketball right now and looks just as impressive as their record would indicate.
5. Colby defeated 4. Middlebury 48-39
I hate to say I told you so, but I did and I don’t hate it so… I told you so. Sarah Kaufman ’18 has been Middlebury’s engine all year. In wins she has averaged over 15 points a game, in losses she has struggled to crack 5. Colby clearly keyed in on Kaufman, forcing her into contested looks and limiting her to only 10 points on 3-7 shooting. Middlebury’s depth, which I lauded last weekend as one of their strengths, collapsed in the quarterfinals. The bench unit is largely comprised of first years and the intensity in a do or die NESCAC playoff game is definitely a step up from a normal regular season contest. Colby was carried by the duo of MK Caverly ’17 and Haley Driscoll ’18 who scored 18 and 12 points respectively. Middlebury is surely disappointed in this loss. They’ve been a dominant unit all season and outrebounded and assisted the Mules, but it was in vain. Their season ends, and the Mules trot off to their second straight NESCAC semifinal appearance.
NESCAC Semifinals Preview
So, with the quarterfinals out of the way all we have left is one action packed weekend of semifinals and final to tide us over until the NCAA tournament begins. Amherst, Tufts, and Bowdoin are all, in my mind, locks to make the NCAAs regardless of the outcome this weekend, but if Colby wants to keep playing they’re going to have to find a way to win two games against some really tough competition. So, let’s take a look at the Mules’ chances this coming weekend.
1. Amherst vs. 5. Colby
Although Colby looked good this weekend in dispatching the Panthers, taking on this team from Western Mass is an entirely differently animal. When the two teams met in late January, Amherst dominated the game and strolled out with a convincing 69-43 victory. The biggest problem for Colby will be their ability to score. Holding Amherst down is difficult, they’ve only scored less than 50 points twice this year, and one of those games was the rock fight they had with Tufts a couple weekends ago. Colby is the ninth best offense in the NESCAC in terms of scoring offense and didn’t even crack 50 in their win this past weekend against Middlebury. As the Mules’ leading scorer and rebounder Driscoll will have to put on an absolute show for Colby to have any chance in this game. Additionally, Colby will need to find a way to shut down Amherst’s three point attack. Amherst is one of the best shooting teams in the conference, but Colby is one of the best at defending the three point line. A big game from Driscoll, combined with limiting Amherst’s three point opportunities will be the key to success for the Mules. Unfortunately, I just don’t see that happening. Amherst is too deep, too talented, and too consistent to lose this game. They beat Colby and advance to the finals with a dominating win.
Writer’s Pick: Amherst
2. Tufts vs. 3. Bowdoin
This game should be much more exciting than the Amherst vs. Colby game. Bowdoin has been playing some of their best basketball as of late. They’ve won 9 straight games since their loss to Amherst, and the average margin of victory in those games has been an impressive 26 points. Yes, this also includes the 40-point demolitions of fellow semifinalist, Colby, and Hamilton, who nearly missed the tournament. Tufts, meanwhile, has been winning all year. That’s it, Tufts just wins. They’re 24-1 and their only loss has come to undefeated Amherst. Any year when you can put together 24 wins is surely a successful one, but I’m sure Tufts is itching to avenge their 1-point losses to Amherst earlier this year and in the NESCAC finals last year. Unfortunately, I don’t think they’ll get the chance. Bowdoin is my pick for this game and I’ll tell you why. The last time these two teams played Tufts narrowly defeated Bowdoin 46-43. But there were a couple of factors in that game that indicate to me that it was an anomaly. Firstly, Bowdoin averages only 15 turnovers per game this year, in their first matchup with Tufts they coughed up the rock 30 times. Secondly, Bowdoin is at their best when they can spread the ball around and get everyone involved. No Polar Bear averages more than 10 points per game, and 8 average more than 5. In their games against Tufts, Bowdoin relied heavily on one player, Abigail Kelly ’19, who scored 21 points. The next highest scoring Polar Bear was Ally Silfen ’17 with 8. And thirdly, Bowdoin shot only 30 percent from the field in that game, while their season average is second best in the conference at 43.3. Of course, I would be remiss to exclude the possibility that Tufts might have just forced this upon Bowdoin in their first game. Tufts is very good at forcing turnovers, generating 22.4 a game. Their exceptional defense also allows just 31.5% shooting and only 42.1 points per game. The Jumbos are a very talented team and certainly, as the two seed, enjoy some sense of favoritism in this game. I just think that given Bowdoin’s recent show of excellence, the strange nature of their first game against Tufts, and the fact that this game is being played in Amherst rather than Medford, the situation is ripe for Bowdoin to sneak a win from the mighty Jumbos and leap into the conference finals.
Writer’s Pick: Bowdoin
NESCAC Finals Prediction
Wow that was a long one. Sorry about that I got a little caught up. Let’s move on and take a look at my presumptive finals matchup, Amherst vs. Bowdoin, since I won’t have time to churn out another article between Saturday and Sunday.
1. Amherst vs. 3. Bowdoin
The last time these two teams squared off Amherst ran away with the game, winning 66-45 on Bowdoin’s home court. I wrote afterward that Bowdoin had to be perturbed that they looked so helpless against the upper echelons of the conference. Since that game however, Bowdoin has been on a tear, winning their last nine. While Bowdoin has stepped up their game as of late, Amherst is continuing their routine of absolute dominance. 25-0 does not happen by accident. A near unanimous position atop the national top 25 is no fluke either. Right now, Amherst is the favorite in every game they play, and the same is true in this game. This game could certainly come down to a 3 point competition. These teams are numbers one and two in the league in total three-pointers made (Amherst being one and Bowdoin being two). In terms of percentage, Bowdoin is best in the league with Amherst claiming the second spot. The real difference between the two comes when defending the 3 point line. Bowdoin is a middling 3 point defensive team, in terms of both total makes conceded and percentage allowed. Amherst, on the other hand, is the best team in the league in terms of three-point defense, conceding the least amount of made threes and forcing their opponents to shoot the worst percentage in the league. Amherst’s league topping defense in points allowed per game will also have to shut down Bowdoin’s league-best offense in terms of points scored per game. Bowdoin’s hope has to be that this game turns into a shootout. The Polar are an extremely balanced scoring team, perhaps the most in the league. They have to hope their shooters, Lauren Petit ’18, Kate Kerrigan ’18, Curle and Kelly can outshoot Amherst for a full 40 minutes. On the other side though is the NESCAC’s fifth-leading scorer Ali Doswell ’17 and her cohort of talented teammates. Emma McCarthy ’19 and Hannah Hackley ’18 could have huge games to power the purple, and don’t sleep on Ali’s twin sister Meredith Doswell ’17, the team’s 4th leading scorer and 2nd leading rebounder to quietly propel her team to victory. I think Amherst has enough firepower to defend their NESCAC crown.
Writer’s Pick: Amherst
As this weekend draws closer and we begin to wrap-up an exciting season of basketball, I’d just like to thank everybody who has read even one of these articles. They’ve been fun to write and have certainly allowed me to become more accustomed with the women’s side of the NESCAC, something I rarely get to do as a player for the men’s team (Coach won’t let me watch the women’s games on my phone on the bench, which is just ridiculous. C’mon, Coach, it’s 2017). I’m looking forward to seeing how this weekend turns out. I am sad my friends on the Middlebury women’s team couldn’t make it this far, but we’re still left with four great teams and two more hair raising games of NESCAC basketball. So, let’s all enjoy the weekend and watch some of the best teams in the country duke it out one last time!
Sorry for the brief hiatus last week everybody, you know how things pile up the last week of j-term, which for most is reserved for skiing and partying, but for me was reserved for basketball and thesis writing. Nevertheless, I am back this week and ready to fill you in on two of the most important games in the NESCAC that occurred this past weekend. The top four teams in the conference met this week in matchups that will likely (and I stress likely since nothing is set in stone), determine the top four seeds of the conference tournament and thus home court advantage.
Tufts vs. Amherst
Amherst defeats Tufts 36-35
By far the biggest game in the country this weekend, the previously undefeated and top ranked Jumbos squared off against the undefeated and second ranked team from Amherst. This game not only had major NESCAC implications, but might have been a preview for the eventual national championship. Amherst emerged victorious, seeking out a 36-35 win in a game that was equal parts ugly, a defensive clinic, and exciting. Tufts jumped out to an early lead, dominating the first quarter by a score of 18-8. Amherst however, would not go quietly into the night and closed the gap to only 3 by halftime. An even third quarter opened the door for Amherst to dominate the fourth and escape from Medford with a hard fought, and well earned, victory. Amherst took advantage of Tufts in the one area where the Jumbos have been consistently weak this year, on the backboard. Amherst out rebounded Tufts 36 to 29 on the game, which made up for their lackluster day shooting the ball. In a game that saw a slow pace dominate, Amherst’s 9 second chance points certainly had a major impact on the game. Down the stretch, Tufts forward Melissa Baptista ‘18 fouled out, a huge blow given that she was the leading scorer for the Jumbos on the day. This opened the door for Hannah Hackley ‘18 to score five fourth quarter points and lead the Purple and White to victory.
Tufts, who has now dropped to number 3 in the latest D3hoops poll, certainly hoped that their home court advantage would lead them to victory, but it’s hard to beat a team as talented as Amherst when you generate no fastbreak points, only 2 second chance points, and only 7 bench points. The loss has to be especially frustrating for the Jumbos as they had looked unbeatable for the past few weeks. Dominating Middlebury in the second week of NESCAC play seemed to indicate that the Jumbos were the cream of the crop in the conference. Regardless, this loss shakes the standings into a difference picture. Tufts only narrowly edged third place Bowdoin earlier this year, a team that Amherst blew out, and this loss must be disheartening for the team going into the final weekend of NESCAC regular season play.
On the other hand, Amherst has to be thrilled. A convincing win over Bowdoin and a victory over Tufts on their home court has surely placed Amherst at the forefront of both NESCAC and national championship discussions. A convincing win over Middlebury this weekend, currently 4th in the NESCAC, would serve as the final cherry on the top of a great season. Even if Amherst only manages to get 1 win this weekend in their two games they will secure home court advantage for the entirety of the NESCAC playoffs, a huge boon for any team. Look for Ali Doswell ’17 and Hackley to continue to carry Amherst in the coming weeks as the Purple and White look to secure their second straight NESCAC championship.
Middlebury vs. Bowdoin
Bowdoin defeats Middlebury 82-52
While the top two teams in the conference were duking it out, the 3 and 4 seeds were also engaging in a battle for seeding and supremacy. Bowdoin dominated the Panthers, who I had recently placed at the 3 spot in my power rankings, to the tune of a 30 point thrashing in Middlebury’s own Pepin Gymnasium. Middlebury’s two games against the best of the best in the conference have now both ended in dramatic defeat, with the team falling to Tufts earlier in the year 54-38. With a game against Amherst this weekend, Middlebury will be looking to prove that they belong with those upper echelon teams, and not merely the position of best of the rest.
Bowdoin, meanwhile, seems to be putting things together at the right time. Convincing wins over both Hamilton and Middlebury this past weekend, and two certainly winnable games this coming weekend against Wesleyan and Conn College, have the Polar Bears poised to finish at 8-2 and the 3rd seed in the NESCAC tournament. The biggest take away from the weekend was the dominance of Bowdoin’s bench. In a league where a lot is decided by each team’s respective starting five, to get 44 points off the pine, as the Polar Bears did against Middlebury, is a huge boost. If Bowdoin can get that kind of production in the NESCAC playoffs they could certainly scare either Tufts, who they only narrowly lost to earlier this year, or Amherst.
These two games were huge for the seedings of the upper parts of the tournament. Barring a disastrous 0-2 weekend, Amherst will secure the number 1 overall seed in the conference tournament. With their 8 wins, including one over Bowdoin, Tufts will secure the 2 seed. Bowdoin would also need to go 0-2 in this coming weekend to drop from 3 to 4, and Middlebury would need to go 2-0 to even ensure that happens, as Bowdoin now holds the tie break between the two teams. The convoluted mess of the standings behind Middlebury (currently the fourth seed) could potentially lead to a very interesting series of tie breaks if things play out in just such a way. To simplify everything though, if Middlebury can win just one game this weekend, either against Amherst on Friday or Trinity on Saturday, they will clinch the 4 seed and home court advantage during the quarterfinals.
Conceivably, Williams, Hamilton, and Conn College could all make plays for the four seed. Conn has the “easiest” path, just needing to win out and Middlebury to go 0-2. Williams and Hamilton would need Conn to either finish 1-1 or 0-2 and Middlebury to finish 0-2, while also going 2-0 themselves to even begin the process of tie breaking for the fourth seed. At the very bottom of the standings, Bates could clinch the 8 seed if they beat Williams on Sunday, or if both Colby and Trinity lose 1 game. Bates also holds the tie breaker over Hamilton in terms of head to head. With how neck and neck every team in the 5-10 spot has been in the NESCAC this year (just look back at the wild fluctuations of my power rankings and the standings as a whole), anything can happen in this final weekend. Don’t rule out any team from making a run for the playoffs. As a sort of final power rankings I will list my predictions for each team’s final record and playoff seeding below, as well as who they will play in the first round if my prediction is correct. I’ll release a full playoff preview next week after the seedings are finalized
Amherst (10-0) vs. 8. Colby (3-7)
Amherst runs the table and faces off with the Mules in the first round, who beat Wesleyan in the final weekend and have the tiebreaker over Williams, who goes 0-2 in the final week and falls out of the playoffs.
Tufts (9-1) vs. 7. Hamilton (4-6)
Tufts defeats Williams in their final game of the season, securing the number 2 position. Hamilton beats Trinity (who finished 2-8 and in 10th place) and falls to Amherst. They lose the tiebreaker to Bates and secure the 7 seed. Quite a turnaround after a largely poor season.
Bowdoin (8-2) vs. 6. Bates (4-6)
A battle for Maine emerges as Bowdoin wins out and secures the 3 seed to face the Bobcats who beat Williams in their final game of the season to finish 4-6. Winning the tiebreaker against the Continentals allows the Bobcats to grab the 6 seed. A surprising finish after entering conference play with the worst overall record record and little hope for a resurgence.
Middlebury (6-4) vs. 5. Conn College (5-5)
Middlebury defeats Trinity to secure the four seed. The Camels beat Colby but can’t get by Bowdoin and finish the regular season at .500. This game will be a rematch of a game decided by 2 points earlier this year, with the Panthers barely squeaking out a win in New London. The Panthers are kicking themselves after not beating Hamilton earlier this year and having this position locked up before this weekend.
Of course these are all just predictions. Anything could happen this weekend, and anything might! You’ll have to tune in to every game you can to see the final seed placement. I look forward to writing all about them next week! No matter how this season turns out it’s been super fun to cover, and we’re not even done yet!
Winning on the road in the NESCAC is certainly no picnic. In fact, it might be the opposite of a picnic. First of all, you’re inside, there are no tasteful blankets spread in a beautiful field, and rarely does your host offer you a sandwich or even a glass of lemonade. Usually visiting teams on a given NESCAC weekend feel fortunate to escape 1-1 and if they manage to go 2-0 a celebration is certainly in order. This weekend in women’s basketball didn’t exactly follow the trend I just played out above. Of the 10 games this weekend visiting teams managed to eke out 5 wins, good for a .500 record on the weekend. Of course though, there were upsets and blowouts and tight games, and certainly plenty of movement in our power rankings! Let’s get right down to it.
Tufts, who remains at the top of D3hoops poll as well as our own, had one of the tougher slates of games this weekend if only because they played Bowdoin to open their NESCAC play. I had speculated in my previous column that Bowdoin could be the best team in the NESCAC heading into conference play, despite having losses while Tufts and Amherst remained undefeated. Well, apparently I annoyed the Jumbos who outlasted the Polar Bears in what could certainly be described as a rock fight. Neither team shot better than 31 percent from the field for the game and there were a total 52 turnovers over the course of the game. Tufts was able to control the ball a little bit better, only turning it over 22 times to Bowdoin’s 30. After this hard fought game Tufts returned to form against a determined Colby team, outshooting, out rebounding, and out assisting the visiting Mules. Tufts won’t fall from this top spot until they lose a game, but a weaker bench (only mustering 9 points in the game against Bowdoin) and questionable rebounding (were out-rebounded by 8 by the Polar Bears) are cause for concern for the Jumbos. Their defense is top notch, and it will carry them a long way this season, so if the Jumbos can figure out some of these smaller issues they will be close to unstoppable.
2.) Amherst (13-0, 1-0)
Results: Defeated Williams 76-44
Amherst coasted to victory in their only NESCAC action of the weekend, dominating the Ephs and retaining their number 2 overall spot in this list and in the D3hoops rankings. Amherst led 50-19 at the half and was able to ease into a sure victory, looking dominant on both ends of the floor. Amherst is particularly impressive in the paint where they battered Williams for 46 points and managed to secure a +14 rebounding margin. This is par for the course for Amherst, who leads the NESCAC in average rebounds per game. 11 members of the Amherst team managed to score and 4 of their 5 starters scored in double digits, illustrating their depth and balanced style of play. Before the NESCAC season started Hannah Hackley ’18 had been one of the preeminent threats for Amherst but she was outshone in this game by both Emma McCarthy ’19 and Ali Doswell ’17 who scored 15 and 18 points respectively. I was worried about Amherst’s lack of depth but in this game they proved me totally wrong.
3.) Bowdoin (11-2, 1-1)
Results: Lost to Tufts 46-43, defeated Bates 70-58
As I mentioned earlier no team should be ashamed to go 1-1 in the NESCAC on a road weekend. That being said I’m sure the Polar Bears will be disappointed that they couldn’t upset Tufts and prove they belonged in the same conversation as the two teams ahead of them. We’ve already discussed the Tufts game above, but it’s worth reiterating that Bowdoin shot horrendously in this game. Barely cracking 30 percent from the field does not bode well for the team when facing elite defenses like Tufts. The fact that Bowdoin (now ranked 19th in the D3hoops national poll) relied on 21 of their 43 points from bench player Abigail Kelly ‘19 is also cause for concern. Of course, these fears could have been alleviated by shellacking Bates on Saturday, but Bowdoin needed a dominant fourth quarter to escape the lowly Bobcats by 12. Bowdoin shot better in this game (38% from the field), but to truly challenge the teams above them Bowdoin will need to up that number considerably and continue to dominate the glass (they finished the weekend with a +20 rebounding margin).
4.) Williams (11-3, 1-1)
Results: Lost to Amherst 76-44, defeated Trinity 68-54
Losing to the second ranked team in the country is hardly something to cry about, but Williams has to worry over the fact that they were absolutely blown out by Amherst. The 32 point defeat to Amherst was Williams worst lost on the season and snapped an impressive 4 game winning streak. Of course, the Ephs bounced back on Sunday defeating Trinity away from home 68-54. Trinity, whom I had ranked 4th in my preseason rankings. Trinity is a talented team and Williams clearly outperformed them. The defense was particularly impressive, holding Trinity to a measly 28.6% from the floor and forcing the Bantams to commit 13 turnovers. In both games Williams was led in scoring by the tandem of Devon Caveney ’17 and Amanni Fernandez ‘18, who combined to score 60 points on the weekend. The biggest problem for Williams is that their bench only produced 25 points through the entire weekend, this will need to improve in the coming weeks.
5.) Middlebury (10-2, 2-0)
Results: Defeated Wesleyan 76-63, defeated Conn College 58-56
I wrote in the preview that Middlebury’s biggest weakness was their occasionally anemic offense. I seemed to have struck a chord with a Panther or two as they scored their most points of the season on Friday against Wesleyan and eclipsed 70 points for the first time since the second game of the season. The Panthers were of course led by NESCAC player of the week Sarah Kaufman ’18, who tied a school record with 7 threes against Wesleyan and then made the game winning shot against Conn the next day. Kaufman led the team in scoring both days and was a force to be reckoned with. Middlebury has to be feeling good about securing two difficult road wins early in the year. If Kaufman continues to play this week Middlebury might be able to scare Tufts on Friday night and should defeat Bates on Saturday. 3-1 or 4-0 after two weekends in the NESCAC would be huge for the program and a massive confidence boost for the team.
6.) Conn College (10-3, 1-1)
Results: Defeated Hamilton 70-53, lost to Middlebury 58-56
Conn gets bumped up a spot here due to Trinity falling so heavily to Williams. The Camels did little to impress this weekend, defeating a team they should beat in Hamilton and falling in a close game to a team apparently on the rise in Middlebury. The Camels again relied heavily on their two go-to players Mairead Hynes ’18 and Payton Ouimette ’19. Hynes led the team in scoring both games and Ouimette was the second leading scorer in both games as well. Conn will need to find a reliable third option to continue a string of positive performances in NESCAC play. Liz Malman ’17 might just be that third option, but we will have to see who the Camels lean on as the season moves forward. The most glaring issue for the Camels came on the glass: Conn was out rebounded in both games this weekend, and that will need to change sooner rather than later if Conn has hopes of obtaining a NESCAC title.
7.) Trinity (9-3, 0-1)
Results: Lost to Williams 68-54
Only having one game in a weekend would seem like a positive for a team, but the Bantams seemed lethargic in their Sunday defeat at the hands of Williams, so perhaps the extra day did more harm than good. The game would have been even more of a blowout if Erica Junquet ’19, who had only averaged 7.8 points per game, hadn’t exploded for 17. As mentioned previously, Trinity was held to a paltry 28 percent from the field and was decisively out rebounded by the Ephs. Trinity’s starters, only one of whom managed to crack double digits in points scored, will need to step up for this team to remain competitive in the NESCAC. Home games next weekend against Wesleyan and Conn College should be a great opportunity for this team to get back on track and prove they’re legit.
8.) Hamilton (7-5, 1-1)
Results: Lost to Conn College 70-53, defeated Wesleyan 48-46
Hamilton is one team that stayed pat during the weekend’s slate of games. The Continentals were really outclassed by the Camels on Friday night. Their defense struggled to slow down Conn, who shot over 50 percent from the field for the game. Hamilton also relied heavily on their bench for their offense as two of their starters failed to reach the 5-point mark on the game, and only one starter managed to sneak into double digits. Falling behind 35-9 at one point in the first half really illustrated the difficulty this team had in scoring the ball. The team came back nicely on Saturday defeating Wesleyan on the road. Holding the Cardinals to 23.8 percent from the field was key to their victory since the starters struggled to generate points for the Continentals, who relied on 22 points from their bench to put away the struggling team from Wesleyan. Hamilton is a fringe playoff team that needs their stars to produce for the rest of the NESCAC season to ensure their position in the conference and not let their season end in disappointment.
9.) Bates (4-9, 1-1)
Results: Defeated Colby 64-57, lost to Bowdoin 70-58
Bates, in my preseason rankings, was definitely the bottom team. They were the only squad with a losing record and had struggled to score or play defense. A strong showing this weekend, however, has catapulted the Bobcats up several spots. Allie Coppola ’17 led the Bobcats to their upset of Colby by notching a career high 24 points. She also added in 16 rebounds just for good measure. That was the real key to Bates’ victory over Colby – absolute dominance on the boards. They finished with a rebounding margin of +21, and pulled in 44 rebounds overall. The team also had a strong showing against the highly regarded Bowdoin, keeping the game close until the Polar Bears were able to pull away in the fourth quarter. Coppola added 10 rebounds and 5 assists in this game to cap off her already stellar weekend of play. Bates will need to limit their turnovers (they averaged 20 per game for the weekend) if they want to remain competitive in NESCAC play and keep moving their way up in the rankings.
10.) Colby (6-6, 0-2)
Results: Lost to Bates 64-57, Lost to Tufts 70-58
Colby is surely disappointed after an 0-2 start to the season. The Mules were hammered on the boards this weekend, losing the rebounding battle by a whopping 25 rebounds over the course of two games. Colby also had a hard time generating points off their bench, only scoring 12 total this past weekend. And to add onto the rest of their struggles, their defense was certainly below average. Tufts managed to shoot 50 percent against the Mules while Bates managed to score on 40 percent of their shots. Colby’s team relies heavily on a couple of their starters to generate nearly all of their offense. This weekend it was the stellar play of Katie McCrum ’19 who dropped 22 points on Tufts (6-8 from three-point territory) and 11 on Bates. The Mules will need their star, Haley Driscoll ’18 to step up in the coming weeks after a disappointing weekend point total of just 20.
11.) Wesleyan (5-7, 0-2)
Results: Lost to Middlebury 76-63, Lost to Hamilton 48-46)
Wesleyan surely hoped a couple early home games would help propel them into the discussion as a potential playoff team, but their disappointing results from the weekend seem to indicate otherwise. While Wesleyan isn’t the only winless team in league-play ) Colby and Trinity are right there with them), they have to be upset that they couldn’t hold serve at home even one time this past weekend. The loss to Middlebury is understandable. It’s hard to beat a team when one player knocks down 7 three pointers by herself, but the Hamilton loss has to be truly heartbreaking considering the team led for the entire first half before a lackluster third quarter allowed the Continentals to creep back into and eventually steal the game. But Wesleyan fans should not despair just yet. Though they bring up the bottom of the rankings after the first week of play, the teams below the top three in the league are so close in talent and skill level that a late season run could catapult any number of stragglers into the playoff field. Of course, Wesleyan will need to right the ship quickly. Games against the juggernaut that is Amherst and the hungry-for-their-own-NESCAC-win Trinity Bantams next weekend will need the Cardinals’ full attention.