Is This The Year?:2017 Hamilton Men’s Basketball Preview

2016-17 Record: 16-8 (4-6 NESCAC); lost to Tufts in NESCAC quarterfinals

2017-18 Projected Record: 17-7 (4-6 NESCAC)

Key Losses:

G Kyle Pitman ’17 (13.8 MPG, 3.5 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 0.9 APG)

G/F Wes Wilbur ’17 (11.3 MPG, 2.7 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 0.5 APG)

F Carlos Fineman ’17 (8.2 MPG, 2.3 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 0.6 APG)

Projected Starters:

Jack Dwyer ’18 (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)

G Jack Dwyer ’18 (26.0 MPG, 7.7 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 5.4 APG)

Now in his fourth year at Hamilton, Dwyer has been a key contributor to the team since his freshman year. As one of two seniors in the starting lineup and as the point guard, Dwyer has the team’s biggest leadership role. However, he is up to the task as he has played floor general for the Continentals since his freshman season. He averaged 18 minutes a game off the bench as a freshman, with 3.8 points and 3.6 assists per game. The 5-10 point guard moved to a starting role in his sophomore season, improving to 11 points and 5.5 assists per game. Dwyer will have to improve on his 39.2 shooting percentage from last season, the second lowest on the team. He had a bit of a down year in stats as well last season, averaging 7.7 and 5.4, but should be ready to come back in full force this season. Dwyer is in the starting lineup for experience, but it should be noted that this spot will likely belong to Kena Gilmour ’20 sooner rather than later. Gilmour had a spectacular freshman season, averaging 12 points per game on 48% shooting in just 18 minutes. Dwyer provides an experienced counterpart to Gilmour’s potential, but potential will most likely win out.

Andrew Groll ’19 (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)

F Andrew Groll ’19 (22.3 MPG, 8.2 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 0.8 APG)

Groll got to Hamilton two years ago and started right away, averaging 9.5 points and 7.8 rebounds per game in his freshman season. He picked up right where he left off the next year, averaging 8.2 points and 7.4 rebounds. At 6-7, Groll is the tallest player on Hamilton’s roster and could be due for a breakout junior season. If he can get into double digits, the Continentals could make a run for the top half of the NESCAC. There are several facets of his game that could easily get him over that mark. He shoots 44.8 percent which is low for a big man and will need to get that number up to 50 percent. He also has made a surprising 7 of 15 shots from behind the arc, which means he could have the potential to expand his game and shoot more three-pointers. Finally, Groll only shot 75 percent from the line and could also improve in that category. If Groll can make slight improvements in those three parts of his game, he could see some double-doubles this season.

Peter Hoffman ’19 (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)

G/F Peter Hoffmann ’19 (28.3 MPG, 16.7 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 1.2 APG)

Hoffman also started right away for the buff and blue, and averaged 12.7 points and 4.3 rebounds his freshman season. He saw a nice uptick in production last year, averaging 16.7 points, fifth in the NESCAC, and 5.6 rebounds per game. He also made an impressive 42.2 percent of shots from behind the 3-point arc. It’s hard to ask more from the NESCAC’s fifth scorer, but as Hamilton’s best player Hoffman might need to increase his production for the Continentals to improve this season. He will likely see another increase in minutes and if he can increase his point total by even one basket a game, it could make the difference.

Michael Grassey ’19 (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)

G/F Michael Grassey ’19 (23.6 MPG, 12.4 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.4 APG)

Hailing from Winchester, Massachusetts, Grassey had a solid freshman season, averaging 9.4 points and 5 rebounds in 20 appearances off the bench. He earned a starting spot in his sophomore season, increasing his production to 12.4 points and 6.2 rebounds. His 82.1 percent career average from the free throw line leads the team. Grassey led the team in scoring several times last season, and it will be important for him to take next steps to help lighten Hoffman’s load. He also will need to continue to contribute on the boards despite his 6-4 stature. Grassey is an all around tough player and is in many ways the heart and soul of the 2017-18 Continentals.

Joe Pucci ’18 (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)

G/F Joe Pucci ’18 (24.1 MPG, 6.0 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.1 APG)

The other senior on the team, Pucci, may not contribute as much on the stat sheet but is a leader both in the clubhouse and on the court. He averaged 6 points last season, a solid improvement from 5.3 points in his sophomore year. If he can find double figures a few times this season, it will certainly help the Continentals take more teams to the wire than last season. Again, part of Hamilton’s success relies on lightening the dependence on Hoffman. If Pucci can step up with more points, the Continentals will be rolling deep into the NESCAC playoffs.

Key/Breakout Player: Peter Hoffmann ’19

Hamilton has a deep starting lineup, but the offense runs through Hoffman and will depend on his production this season. The team was 8-2 when he scored 20 points or more, so if he can increase his production by the slightest amount, Hamilton should contend for the top half of the NESCAC. As stated before, the junior from Putnam Valley is likely to see even more time on the court. This is because his responsibilites for Hamilton are on both sides. He is their best scorer, using his size and touch to either post up smaller players or take forwards off the dribble. And defensively, he is their best rim protector, averaging nearly 2 blocks and two steals per game (1.9 and 1.7. respectively.) He will get the defensive assignment against many of the best scorers in the league, and will likely be asked to score 20 points as well. If he does this and Hamilton takes a leap forward in the tournament, Player of the Year is very much in the realm of possibility.

Key game: Friday, February 2nd at Bates

Hamilton has two Friday-Saturday road trips back to back in late January and early February. They will want to go 2-2 in that stretch, and three or even four losses could derail their season. Hamilton plays an unbalanced home and road schedule in the NESCAC, in fact, with six games on the road compared to just four at home. Last season, Bates’s 83-78 win ended a six-game Hamilton win streak. Although they recovered two games later with wins over SUNY Polytechnic and Williams, they certainly wish they could have that one back.

New Coach: Sherry Dobbs

Adam Stockwell added Sherry Dobbs to his staff this offseason, replacing Bryan Mathews who took an assistant job at Southern Virginia. Dobbs most recently coached as an assistant on the St. Lawrence staff, leading them to a 20-7 record and an NCAA Division III tournament appearance. Before that he spent 13 years at the head position for SUNY Potsdam where he got as far as the NCAA quarterfinals in 2005.

Season Outlook:

After a solid improvement from 2015-16’s 11-13 record, Hamilton finished 2016-17 at eighth place in the NESCAC. With only three seniors on the roster, the Continentals are still a young team and have a lot of promise for the future. However, the junior class of Hoffman, Grassey and Groll means they also have the ability to win now and could pose a serious threat to some of the NESCAC’s top half teams. It has been a theme of the last few seasons in the NESCAC that Hamilton is a threat. Last season it seemed imminent that the Continentals would use their immense potential to come for the top teams. This paranoia reached its peak following their upset of nationally ranked Wesleyan. However, they weren’t able to sustain that momentum, in large part due to that same youth. Four of their six NESCAC losses last season were decided by double digits, suggesting that, once they fell behind, they didn’t feel ready to come back.

Kena Gilmour
Kena Gilmour ’20 was Rookie of the Year last season, and could make a further leap this year.

On paper, this season has a chance to be different. Hamilton is kind of the Milwaukee Bucks of the NESCAC, in that they shy away traditional positions in favor of length and versatility. Hoffman, Grassey and Gilmour are all long, athletic players who can guard multiple positions and score from all over the court. As I said above, Hoffmann is the key to this team, but Gilmour may be the co-key. Gilmour has the potential to be a transcendent creator off the dribble, which Hamilton lacks right now. His relentless driving to the basket will open up lanes for Hoffmann, Grassey and Groll to either cut or pop out for three. If Gilmour makes another leap as a sophomore, Hamilton could finish in the top four. Not a typo, it’s very possible. But to do this, they must find a way to stay in games and not let teams pull away. Their previously mentioned unbalanced schedule will make for a tough season, but they might have the most returning talent in the league, and didn’t lose their best player (unlike Williams, Middlebury or Trinity.) This could be Hamilton’s year, but again, we said that last year.

Can Hamilton Topple Tufts?: Hamilton at Tufts Quarterfinals Preview

#8 Hamilton (16-8, 4-6) at #1 Tufts (19-5, 8-2), Saturday, February 18, 2:00 PM, Medford, Massachusetts

(Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)

When Tufts clinched the top seed in the NESCAC tournament last Friday they had plenty of reason for celebration – this is the first time in school history that Tufts has earned the number one seed in the NESCAC tournament. Despite the terrific achievement, however, the Jumbos still waited until Sunday afternoon before they learned who they would be hosting in the NESCAC quarterfinals. I’m sure Coach Sheldon was watching Williams intently in their game against Bates to see if they had made any adjustments since Tufts bullied them on Friday, and indeed they did. The Ephs pulled out a three point victory in Lewiston, boosting their place in the standings and leaving Hamilton to walk into the hornet’s nest that is Cousens Gymnasium. As a Tufts student myself, I can admit that attendance at sporting events in Medford is pretty inconsistent. After last year’s playoff runs by both the men’s and women’s basketball teams though, I would expect that a doubleheader split between the two teams would provoke quite a turnout today. We will see I guess. It took a few straight years of success for Warriors fans to jump on the bandwagon, but maybe Jumbo Nation will support their squad more faithfully than the frontrunning fans of Golden State. If so, lookout Hamilton.

While Tufts is stepping into the playoffs coming off of one of their best games of the season, the Continentals enter this game in the opposite fashion of Tufts. Hamilton got swept by Amherst and Trinity in the last weekend of NESCAC play to cap off a pretty poor stretch in which the team lost four of their five conference games during the second half of the NESCAC season. Coach Stockwell can’t be thrilled by the way his team limped into the playoffs, but guess what, this is NESCAC basketball and ANYTHING can happen. Just two years ago, Wesleyan ran through the tournament as the #6 seed to earn the NESCAC title and the automatic NCAA bid that comes with it. Regardless of how they got in, Hamilton is in the tourney, and they have the tools to make a sneaky run if they execute properly.

 

Last time they met

Throughout the first half, the game was pretty back and forth, but with a couple minutes to go until the break, Hamilton lost their focus. Down just five with 2:22 left before the halftime whistle, the Continentals turned the ball over three times, allowing Tufts to go on an 8-2 run to extend the lead to 11 heading into the second half. Though Tarik Smith ‘17, Eric Savage ‘20 and Ben Engvall ‘18 had very respectable games, it was KJ Garrett ‘18 who stole the show for the ‘Bos – the transfer junior put up 19 points on 8-11 shooting to lead the Jumbos to victory. Peter Hoffmann ‘19 put forth a valiant effort on the Hamilton side of the ball with 22 points of his own, but many of his teammates struggled to find the bottom of the net, nullifying the sophomore’s success scoring the rock. While he didn’t have a great game, Tom Palleschi ‘17 was in the lineup for the Jumbos back in January when these two first met, so Andrew Groll ‘19 definitely had a different matchup to deal with than he will have today. Groll was part of a small supporting cast for Hoffmann in meeting numero uno, so it will be up to Drew Madsen ‘17 to shut him down this afternoon.

 

Tufts X-Factor: Guard KJ Garrett ‘18

KJ Garrett ’18 (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

In Palleschi’s absence, Garrett has stepped up in a big way for Tufts. Some might even say he’s stepped up in a Jumbo way. Just kidding, that would be the corniest pun ever, nobody would ever say that. But the point remains, Garrett’s play has elevated as Palleschi’s absence has necessitated, and Coach Sheldon is going to need a strong effort out of the junior again against Hamilton. Just last week, Garrett averaged 18 points over two games, knocking down 13-15 field goals and 7-7 three-point attempts! That’s incredible efficiency. What makes Garrett so tough is that he is leaps and bounds beyond virtually every opponent in terms of athleticism, so he is able to get out in transition and also crash the boards. Meanwhile, he has snuck up as a pretty deadly three-point shooter. His strategy of playing the snake in the grass on a team full of shooters seems to be working out for him. Garrett is getting good shots and nailing them. If he plays well, the Jumbos win, end of story.

 

Hamilton X-Factor: Guard/Forward Michael Grassey ‘19

Michael Grassey ’19 (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)

Last time he faced the ‘Bos, Grassey struggled. He shot just 2-7 for six points before fouling out, a performance that is far from the norm for the combo guard. As mentioned above, Hoffmann lacked the necessary reinforcements to outduel the Jumbos in January, but if Grassey can get back to standard partner-in-crime form, these two sophomores just might be able to topple top-seeded Tufts. Grassey is by far the best outside shooter on Hamilton’s roster and frankly put, he is going to need to drill some of the open shots opportunities he gets from Hoffman and Kena Gilmour ‘20 off of drive-and-kicks. Additionally, Grassey could do the Continentals a huge favor by demonstrating the ability to get to the rack early in the game. Without Palleschi, and potentially Pat Racy ‘20, who didn’t play last weekend for Tufts, Madsen is the lone big man left on the top seed’s roster. This predicament makes foul trouble a grave concern, and one that Madsen needs to be ultra weary of. If Grassey can get to the paint once or twice early, the Jumbos will sag and he will get open shots from the perimeter. The sophomore’s performance is crucial for Hamilton in this one.

 

Everything Else

While the two X-factors I’ve listed above are going to have crucial impacts (either positive or negative) on this game, both teams are going to need a full team effort to pull off the W. Hamilton is not as a deep a team as Tufts, so their stars – Hoffman, Grassey, Groll and Gilmour – need to perform, while their role players – Doyle, Dwyer, Pucci – need to excel as well. Although Tufts is used to not having Palleschi at this point, the way they have powered through his injury is by playing as a team, not by playing as a handful of individuals. Tufts’ best games have come when they have had four or five players score in double-digits. Today is no different, the Jumbos need a team effort. X-factor Garrett has the luxury of being able to lean on a deeper cast than X-factor Grassey does. Vinny Pace ‘18, Tarik Smith ‘17, Ben Engvall ‘18, Everett Dayton ‘18, Eric Savage ‘20… all these guys know how to score, and all of them have pulled the sled at different points this year. It’s just a matter of who is going to rise to the occasion at tipoff today.

With all the scorers this game has to offer, I don’t quite anticipate this being a low-scoring affair. If the Jumbos get hot from three like they did against Williams last week, they could run away with it. If the Continentals can force Tufts into contested shots however, they’ll be able to get out on the break just like they want to. The winner of this game is going to be the team that can hinder the other team’s offensive strategy. Because both teams want to get out in transition, offense will start on defense in this game, and an extra-high emphasis should be placed on rebounding the basketball. Both teams feature guards that are strong on the glass, so it will be a matter of grit to see who wins the battle on the boards. While this should definitely be a good game, on that is much closer than the seeding implies, I don’t see Tufts losing this one, especially not on their home court. Tufts is too deep and Hamilton just isn’t. The Continentals are trending upward, but I don’t think this is their year.

 

Writer’s Pick: Tufts

The Times, They Are A’Changin’: Hamilton v. Middlebury Preview

Overview:
Saturday’s match-up in Vermont features the Hamilton Continentals visiting the Middlebury Panthers, two of the three teams tied for third place in the NESCAC. Each team will be looking to secure a spot at the head of the conference table with Tufts and Trinity. The Continental’s team motto, “Punish With Pace,” is an apt description of the way they have played this year. Their blistering offensive attack has driven them to the NESCAC lead in points per game and scoring margin. However, that motto would work just as well for the Panthers. Middlebury is just as speedy as Hamilton, so we can expect a fast-paced affair this Saturday at 3PM.
Conference Play:
Though Middlebury is nationally ranked (at #22) and Hamilton isn’t, they have had near identical results in NESCAC play. Each team has a NESCAC record of 3-2, and entering the contest, both teams’ last NESCAC game came against Williams, with divergent results. Hamilton handled the Ephs easily at home just two days before Middlebury got slaughtered in Williamstown. However, they also split against Bates, with opposite results, so neither team has a clear edge in the success of their in-conference play.
High Stakes:
Regardless of the results, the games this weekend should provide us with some national and conference clarity. Of the two teams, the Panthers are the only ranked team, but at #22, a loss against an unranked opponent would likely drop them out of the top 25. However, a win for Hamilton could slide them into the national conversation. They lack the success in recent years that the other ranked NESCAC teams have, but with a win, their conference record would be an excellent 4-2, and their overall record would be 14-4, right in line with that of other ranked teams. National rankings are fun for bragging rights (and a potential at large bid) but what really counts is the NESCAC standings come playoff time.
Hamilton and Middlebury enter the game tied for third (along with Amherst) and a win for either team could help solidify home-court advantage in the playoffs. To further complicate things, Amherst is playing second place Trinity on Saturday as well. With an Amherst win, both Amherst and Trinity will share second place with the winner of Middlebury v. Hamilton. With a Trinity win, either the Continentals or Panthers will have sole control of third place. The loser of this game could suffer steep consequences, potentially falling as far as seventh place. Whatever this weekend holds will undoubtedly shake up the NESCAC standings.
Middlebury X-Factor: Perimeter Play
Matt St. Amour
Matt St. Amour ’17 (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)
 Middlebury, offensively, has been carried by the offensive play of their two senior backcourt star(ter)s. Matt St. Amour ’17, possibly the most dynamic scoring threat in the conference, gives defenses fits from inside and outside with his sweet shooting stroke and incisive slashing. Big games seem to get him going—so much so, that his teammates have grown accustomed to calling him “Mr. Clutch,” due to his game winners in high school and college. He scores more in conference games than any other player, averaging 22.6 per NESCAC contest (5 more than anyone else). In a crucial conference matchup like this, St. Amour would be wise to do his best Santana Moss impression. 
St. Amour’s backcourt partner, Jake Brown ‘17, is not one to be taken lightly, especially coming off of a career high 31 points in his last game. He has more assists per game (6.7) than any other player in the NESCAC, and still scores ten a game.

Despite these lofty averages, setting the Cont’s ablaze will prove

Peter Hoffmann
Peter Hoffmann ’19 (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)

no small task, as they have the manpower to counter St. Amour and Brown’s onslaught. Peter Hoffman ‘19, Hamilton’s leading scorer (16.9 points per game), is also possibly the league’s best all around defender. A springy athlete who stuffs the stat sheet by averaging about two steals, two blocks, and six rebounds is a force to be reckoned with on both sides of the floor. The Cont’s, anchored by Hoffman, will have their hands full Saturday afternoon when tasked with slowing Middlebury’s potent offense.

Hamilton X Factor: Age Ain’t Nothin’ but a Number

Though Middlebury probably has the edge in terms of star power and veteran leadership, Hamilton’s young guns are not to be overlooked. Freshman Kena Gilmour hasn’t started a single game this year, but he has earned more and more minutes as the season has gone on. In his last three games he is averaging 16.7 points in 21 minutes a game. He’s playing like a budding superstar and he’s getting the minutes to back it up. Hamilton’s youth movement goes beyond Gilmour, however. Star forwards Hoffmann and Andrew Groll ’19 are both sophomores, and give the Continentals a dynamic interior presence on both sides of the ball.

Kena Gilmour '20 (Michael P. Doherty photo)
Kena Gilmour ’20 is just one of Hamilton’s many talented young players.

Who has the edge?

Hamilton is unbeaten at home. On the road they are a merely human 6-3. Although Hamilton is riding high on a three game win streak, Middlebury’s home-court advantage shouldn’t be overlooked in this matchup. Furthermore , Middlebury’s experienced players with long histories of success gives them the edge over Hamilton’s younger squad. Hamilton as a program hasn’t played in a game this meaningful in years, and obviously their players have not either. Middlebury, on the other hand, has played in games like this for years. I’ll take the Panthers at home.
Writer’s Pick: Middlebury

The Year of The Jumbo?: Power Rankings 1/19

KJ Garrett ’18 made a splash off the bench this weekend for the Jumbos with 30 points on 13-18 shooting (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics).

This weekend brought tight games, upsets, and standings shake-ups. Some players rose to the occasion in times of need, while others shrunk from the spotlight. One thing that is certain about the NESCAC this year is that it is competitive through and through. Here are this week’s power rankings:

1.) #4 Tufts (13-2, 4-0)

Tufts’ victories against Middlebury and Hamilton cemented them at the top spot this week as the only undefeated team in NESCAC competition. Tufts barely beat Middlebury, up by just one point with 21 seconds remaining, but were able to make their free throws and keep the lead in what could be a playoff preview. Other than their two back to back losses to #1 Babson (then #2) and UMass-Boston on December 3rd and 6th, the Jumbos have been perfect all season and are now the highest ranked team (#4) in the conference after Amherst’s two losses this past weekend. The Middlebury game was a great display of Tufts’ balance as all five starters scored double-digit points, with Everett Dayton leading the way with 16. Tom Palleschi continued his hot play and had a well rounded game with three blocks, three assists, six boards, and 10 points. Eric Savage went off against Hamilton on Saturday with a double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds) and a season high in boards that shows how versatile this Tufts team is and why they shouldn’t have many issues this weekend against a resurgent Wesleyan team and a decent Conn College team. Tufts should continue to climb in the national rankings.

2.) #15 Middlebury (13-2, 3-1)

The Panthers would be #1 if Eric McCord made a final minute layup and they held on afterwards in Medford last Friday, yet the Jumbos held off McCord and Middlebury to give Midd their first loss in conference play. With that being said, Middlebury has found something in McCord that can help fill the hole that Zach Baines left when he departed from Vermont. McCord broke out against the Jumbos as he matched his season high in rebounds with eight and found a new season high of points with 22, 10 more than his previous high. He then added 11 points and six rebounds against Bates on Saturday, really cementing himself as the sixth man and as a force in the paint as the 6’7’’/255 pound beast is now a force to be reckoned with. Coach Brown also has to be happy that Nick Tarantino ’18 is holding his own in the starting lineup after struggling his first few starts beginning on December 29th. He has averaged nearly 10 rebounds and 10 points a game these last three contests and is shooting at over 50% in those games too, much better than the 1-6 he went against the Camels. Williams should be another team that the Panthers beat so long as these guys continue to produce – Matt St. Amour and Jake Brown can do the rest.

3.) #16 Amherst (10-4, 1-2)

Yes, Amherst got swept this past weekend and are still ranked 3rd this week. Unfair? Maybe but they are still one of just four nationally ranked NESCAC teams and did knock off #1 Babson earlier in the season. Now, they lost to Wesleyan last Friday who was ranked earlier in the year and desperately needed the win in their home gym to remain relevant in the NESCAC. However, a 14 point loss to an unranked team isn’t really indicative of a championship caliber season. On top of that, Jayde Dawson had the best game and he did not play well. He did score 17, but 6-19 from the field and 1-7 from 3-point range is 2016 Kobe-esque in his send off game. Amherst followed up Friday with an OT loss to Conn College, who hasn’t been overly impressive thus far, giving the Camels their first ‘CAC win of the year. This is not a good sign for the Purple and White. Johnny McCarthy played well and got back to his consistent form with 19 points after just five against the Cardinals. So while Amherst might no longer host the NESCAC tournament, they are in no danger of falling out of the playoff race. They need to get it together this weekend against Bowdoin and Colby as a loss to either will certainly boot them out of the top-25 and push them farther down the power rankings.

4.) Bates (12-4, 3-1)

A Delpeche sandwich means a job well-done (Courtesy of Bates Athletics/Phyllis Graber Jensen).

I’ll admit that I either underestimated the Bobcats or overestimated the Continentals. I fully expected Bates to fall to Hamilton last weekend, but here they are at #4 in the rankings already with three wins in conference, more than all of last year. Their performance so far has all but cemented them as a NESCAC playoff team. Bates defended four of six of Hamilton’s big scoring threats well (Gilmour, Doyle, Pucci, and Groll) which forced PG Jack Dwyer to shoot more than he generally likes to. While this allowed Dwyer to score a season high of 19, the other key players found themselves neutralized, allowing the Delpeche twins to have a day. Marcus scored 17 and hauled in 14 boards and Malcolm scored 12 and had 17 rebounds of his own. Jeff Spellman was a key player off of the bench too as he added 16 points in 25 minutes. Bates also played Middlebury in a tight game, falling behind early but clawing their way to within a 10 point margin by the end. Marcus Delpeche found less shooting success in this contest and Middlebury controlled the rebounds (45-31), giving the Panthers an upper hand, especially in the first half. Bates should beat Conn College on Friday if they keep playing with this intensity and their matchup against Wesleyan will tell who should be higher in the rankings.

5.) Wesleyan (13-3, 2-2)

Two shocking losses to open up conference play and drop the Cardinals out of the top-25 were not part of the plan. These 18 and 16 point losses to Middlebury and Hamilton respectively had to hurt, but Wesleyan really bounced back against previously #5 Amherst and a solid Trinity team at home, preventing a bottom half ranking this week. The victory over Amherst is especially surprising. Amherst had been dominant all year up until that point and didn’t show any signs of slowing down. But Wesleyan’s defense shined on Friday, holding the Purple and White to just 30% shooting from the field and 24.1% from beyond the arc. Kevin O’Brien led the way with 19 points, nine boards, four assists, four steals, and two blocks. Jordan Sears also had a big 10 rebounds off of the bench and Amherst just couldn’t put anything together. The most remarkable stat from the weekend is that both O’Brien and Joseph Kuo had more rebounds at 11 and 10 respectively than Ed Ogundeko did, who had just eight on Saturday. Kuo also added 14 points and the Cardinals narrowly pulled out the win, reestablishing themselves as a contender. They have a tough weekend against Tufts and Bates and if they can go 1-1 that should be considered a success.

6.) Hamilton (11-4, 2-2)

I’m a big fan of the Continentals’ resurgence similar to Bates from last place to a position of relevance in the conference. Their youth will still shine through from time to time as consistency and closing out games is a big focus for the team, but at 2-2 they still have a lot of potential upward mobility ahead of them if they seize the opportunity. Dwyer showed last weekend against Bates that when other teammates get shut down he can still shoot, although it wasn’t quite enough on the road on Friday. They did keep the game close and nearly managed to come back, but Kena Gilmour, Joe Pucci, and Andrew Groll weren’t themselves as they shot a combined 6-24. Their loss against Tufts was expected, but Groll and Gilmour had bounce back games while Pucci and Jack Dwyer couldn’t get it going. Tufts’ 46.3% from the field is what killed the Continentals. They will need a strong game, especially defensively, if they want to beat a desperate Williams team.

7.) Trinity (10-6, 2-1)

Jeremy Arthur ’19 (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics).

While the gap between Trinity and Hamilton and Wesleyan isn’t huge, their two conference wins against Williams and Conn College are hardly justification for a higher spot. Their loss to Wesleyan cemented them at #7 this week, and barring upset wins elsewhere in the conference, wins against Colby and Bowdoin this weekend shouldn’t move them too much higher. Ogundeko is averaging a double-double with 17.4 points and 10.6 boards, top-5 in the league in both. However, Ogundeko showed against Wesleyan that he is human as he was out rebounded by two Cardinals. The Bantams are reliant on him to dominate in the paint as potential dud performances like Chris Turnbull’s against Conn College (0-7, zero points) could put easy wins in jeopardy. Despite the winning conference record, Trinity has issues as Langdon Neal hasn’t been too impressive shooting the ball, averaging just over four points in NESCAC games. Also, Trinity’s bench hasn’t produced much at all and compared to Middlebury and Hamilton’s bench players as an example, the Bantams don’t compare. Look for them to win this weekend but the Bowdoin game could be closer than people expect for the third place NESCAC team.

8.) Conn College (10-5, 1-3)

Erasing a 17 point halftime deficit against Amherst bodes well for the Camels heading into the rest of the season. They just saved their NESCAC first half with that win as an 0-4 start could’ve sent them towards the offseason as playoffs would be a much tougher achievement at that point. 1-3 still isn’t good, but knocking off any ranked team is a feat worth mentioning. They played Middlebury closely on January 7th, lost big to both Trinity and Hamilton, and won by seven in OT to the Purple and White. Last weekend was a tale of two different Conn College teams. While the Camels usually rule the rebounds due to two big men, Daniel Janel and Zuri Pavlin (Pavlin recently broke the Conn College all time rebounding record), the pair notched only nine combined boards against Trinity compared to Ogundeko’s 12. On top of that David Labossiere shot just 2-8, Colin Pascoe didn’t take a shot, Isaiah Robinson only scored two points compared to his normal 9.5…you get my point. When that many players have down games, this team likely isn’t going to win. However, like they showed against Amherst, when both of their big men have incredible games, they win. It’s a tale of consistency and for a team that lost so many close games in the final minutes a year ago, they should be sick of these ups and downs. Not so bold prediction: anytime Janel and Pavlin score 20 each and have 18 rebounds combined, they’ll win. This weekend will be a good test to see is they can keep pace with the big dogs as Bates and Tufts are both challenges steep challenges, especially in those rowdy environments.

9.) Bowdoin (9-6, 1-2)

The Polar Bears have the NESCAC scoring leader in Jack Simonds (21.9 ppg) and they can shoot as Hugh O’Neil ranks fourth in FG% (57.9%) and David Reynolds ranks fourth in 3PT% (43.3%). O’Neil is also in the top five in rebounds with 9.6 per game, but other than that, Bowdoin doesn’t have a whole lot going there way. The game against Tufts summarized this well as those three accounted for 25/42 rebounds, 40/54 points, and the rest of the team shot 6-30 from the field. Against Bates, again, these three were the only ones to score in double digits, had the majority of the rebounds, and only lost by five. While it was a close game, Bowdoin needs another element to complement these guys as the load can’t all fall on their shoulders. Neil Fuller could be that guy – he put up 10 against Williams along with five rebounds, helping out Bowdoin’s big three despite Reynolds’ down game. Of course, they will have a good chance if Simonds drops 32 every contest. This team needs more balance, and if they continue playing more like they did against the Ephs, they should have a better shot at making the playoffs.

10.) Williams (12-4, 1-3)

Williams’ only conference win came against Colby who is right below them in the rankings, so it doesn’t say too much. It’s hard to believe but the Ephs were ranked this season in what seems like ages ago. Their recent drop off is a product of better competition in the conference and the lack of a big rebounding presence. Kyle Scadlock and Daniel Aronowitz are their best chance at matching the league’s best, but a team high of 6.0 reb/g isn’t exactly noteworthy in a positive light. To emphasize this further, Ogundeko hauled in 23 rebounds against Williams, and while Aronowitz had a great game and had a double-double, they simply couldn’t stop the Bantam’s big man. In a two point loss like that, every possession is key, and if they could’ve gotten some offensive boards they would’ve been able to get over the hump. It was the same story against Bowdoin as the Polar Bears hauled in 40 rebounds compared to just 27 for the Ephs, while no individual had more than five and they had just six offensive rebounds. Williams can score well – Aronowitz, Scadlock, and Cole Teal all score over 10 per game – but unless they can stop other teams from controlling the ball, they won’t make the playoffs.

11.) Colby (7-7,0-3)

0-3 is obviously a tough start for any team, but especially for the underdog. Colby has a lot of ground to make up over these next few weeks as at least three or four wins will be needed to sneak into the NESCAC playoff picture. They have kept all three losses within 15 points, but Patrick Stewart is just about the only bright spot here. The senior is averaging 16.2 ppg while the next closest player is at just 7.9 ppg. His 6.2 rebounds also lead the team, and nobody has more than Joseph Connelly’s 2.4 a/g, which isn’t exactly impressive. First year Ethan Schlager has played well in conference games, with 11.3 ppg over these three contest in just 21.0 min/g, and the Mules will need more help from him and other rookies Ronan Schwarz and Sam Jefferson if they are going to have a chance at climbing out of the cellar. Away games at Trinity and Amherst are going to be tough contests, and I’d be shocked if they pulled off an upset.

Weekend Preview 2 Part 2: Saturday’s Games

Zuri Pavlin lifts (Courtesy of Conn College Athletics)

It’s a big weekend around the ‘CAC, and Friday’s games will have a pretty big impact on the way Saturday’s games go. Bates, Hamilton, Middlebury and Tufts all have the pleasure of playing each other (except Bates does not play Tufts, and Hamilton does not play Middlebury), which will mean the number of undefeated NESCAC teams will dwindle to a maximum of three this weekend. On the other end of the standings, Williams, Bowdoin, and Colby are all winless in conference play, and face only other winless squads, meaning at least one of them will walk away feeling a little better about themselves this weekend. Then, there is the scrum in the middle, where Amherst, Conn, Trinity and Wesleyan will face off, with Amherst and Trin looking to jump to 3-0 while Conn and Wes are hoping to right their ships. With all that in mind, momentum is a big factor this weekend. A win Friday night bodes very well moving into Saturday’s games, while a loss could steer some teams toward panic mode. Here’s what we’ve got for Saturday’s action:

 

Hamilton (10-2, 2-0) at #6 Tufts (11-2, 2-0), Medford, MA, 2:00 PM

Like I said, momentum is supremely important this weekend, especially in this game. Hamilton and Tufts will either be feeling good after a big Friday night win against another solid squad, or they will be disappointed with their first NESCAC loss of the season. That’s why no matter the result, it is extremely important to get out to a hot start in this game. I strongly believe that whichever team asserts their dominance early will win the game, especially if they are 3-0 while their opponent is 2-1 at tipoff. For the visiting Continentals, the key to victory is on the defensive end. Their obvious disadvantage is on the block, where Palleschi has a massive size advantage over the tall but lankier Andrew Groll ‘19. However, Palleschi alone cannot defeat the Continentals, so their focus on the defensive end should be on preventing penetration from Tarik Smith ‘17, Vinny Pace ‘18 and Everett Dayton ‘18, all of whom are very good at getting to the hooping and dishing to open shooters. Hamilton has shown that they know how to put the ball in the hoop, so it is not their offense that they should be worried about (though I do think the length of Tufts could be a bit tricky for the Hamilton guards), but rather how they are going to keep Tufts from scoring. This is going to be a big game for Peter Hoffmann ’19, who has the best combination of size and scoring ability on the Continentals’ roster, and as he goes the Hamilton offense will go. I believe that the Jumbos will get to the hoop as they usually do, but because of their size advantage across the board, I expect Hamilton to sag into the paint quite a bit. For this reason, I will warn Hamilton: do not sleep on Tufts sharpshooter Ethan Feldman ‘19. He could be deadly on Saturday.

 

Writer’s Pick: Tufts

 

#15 Middlebury (11-1, 2-0) at Bates (11-3, 2-0), Lewiston, ME, 3:00 PM

On paper, this game looks close. The teams have similar records and have opposite strengths, which gives each team a different advantage. Middlebury’s guards are clearly their strength, while it is the post play of the Bobcats that propels them. However, I do not think this game will be nearly as close as some might project. To be honest, I’m predicting that Middlebury will roll. While Bates as the advantage down low with the Delpeche twins, these two have consistently struggled in league play throughout their NESCAC careers. While the pair has improved each season, they have not flashed the ability to take over games very often, and against an experienced Middlebury team I just don’t think this will be one of the rare occasions where they do. While the departure of Baines certainly hurts the Panthers, Nick Tarantino ‘18 is an admirable replacement, and I think he will lock down whichever Bobcat big he is matched up against. If that holds true, maybe the other Delpeche twin can go to work, but the Bobcats are going to need production out of their guards and the stingy defense of Jake Brown ‘17 and Jack Daly ‘18 doesn’t lead me to believe that we will see that. Middlebury should be able to keep the Bates guards in check, and if they do, the Panthers will climb onto Matt St. Amour’s back and show the Bobcats who is higher up in the feline hierarchy.

 

Writer’s Pick: Middlebury

 

#5 Amherst (10-2, 1-0) vs. Conn College (8-4, 2-0), New London, CT, 3:00 PM

This matchup is interesting. As Pete mentioned in his earlier article, the Purple and White (who by the way, might be called the Amherst Hamsters soon enough since hamster is an anagram of Amherst) have lost two of their last four. This couldn’t matter less to me in terms of their performance this weekend. Amherst is always one of the top couple teams in the NESCAC – they pretty much always have been with Dave Hixon at the helm. They are a very tough team to beat, but they are also generally prone to complete melts where they lose focus and lose to teams worse than them. Take last year, for example: Amherst played Wesleyan in an out-of-conference tilt and lost by 27 after beating them by 24 just three days earlier. Did this mean Wesleyan and Amherst were even teams, or that Wesleyan was better? No. It just meant that on certain nights, Amherst takes the night off. That’s what I would say happened against Springfield College in December. I have been watching Amherst College basketball my entire life. I used to wreak absolute havoc in Alumni Gymnasium, and I would watch every Amherst game. I still remember standing in the front of the Amherst student section with a couple of my friends as a 12-ish year old as Amherst took down Tufts in OT. Through the years, I have learned that you must take Amherst one game at a time. So, in this matchup, here’s what should you look for:

 

The matchup between Tyler Rowe ‘19 and Jayde Dawson ‘18 is the one that immediately jumps out to me. These are the two stars of their respective teams this season, and whoever wins this matchup will likely give his team what it needs to win. If I were a betting man (which I’m not, because that would be an NCAA violation), I would say that Dawson wins this battle. He is just as athletic as Rowe, but he has such a size advantage that it is tough to pick against him in this one. Dawson has 4 inches on Rowe, and though Conn does not list their weights, I would guess there is also about a 25 pound disparity between the two of them. I think Amherst would be silly not to post up Dawson at least a few times to take advantage of this mismatch. I do think Zuri Pavlin ‘17 will have a great game for the Camels, as he is much more mobile than Amherst’s David George ‘17, but I don’t think it will be enough to deal with the size advantage that Amherst possesses all over the perimeter. Between Dawson, Johnny McCarthy ‘18, Michael Riopel ‘18 and Jeff Racy ‘17, Conn will struggle to match up.

 

Writer’s Pick: Amherst

 

Trinity (9-5, 1-0) at Wesleyan (11-3, 0-2), Middletown, CT, 3:00 PM

Joseph Kuo ’17 (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics).

Trinity looked good against Williams last weekend, and Ed Ogundeko ‘17 looked VERY good. His stat line speaks for itself, but Ogundeko’s physicality is what sets him apart from other big men in this league, which is why I think he will have a solid day against Joseph Kuo ‘17 of the Cardinals. However, I do not think he will have the same type of day that he did against Williams, as Kuo is a very solid big man in his own right. This will be a back and forth matchup on the low block, which is why I am cancelling out these two when making my prediction. This game will be won by the perimeter players. As always, Trinity will slow the game down and work out of the halfcourt set primarily, which means Wesleyan’s discipline and communication on defense is key. Trinity turns the ball over more than anyone else in the league, so if Wes can turn TOs into points, they will be in very good shape. However, that means they will have to take care of the ball themselves – Wesleyan turns the ball over the second most. Offensively, Wesleyan should try to get into the paint more often, and stop hucking up threes. As they learned last weekend, three-point shots are not their strength, getting into the paint is. Wesleyan is a lot deeper at the guard spots than Trinity, so if they can get to the rack and force the Bantams to foul, the Cardinals are in good shape. However, if they fall into the trap of shooting a million threes again, then Trinity will be able to contain the weapons of the Wesleyan offense. This game is a toss up, as I think the two are very evenly matched and a lot of how this game plays out depends on gameplan, but I think Wesleyan edges Trinity in a tight one.

 

Writer’s Pick: Wesleyan

 

Williams (11-3, 0-2) at Bowdoin (8-6, 0-2), Brunswick, ME, 6:00 PM

The rare NESCAC Saturday night game holds an interesting matchup between the Ephs and the Polar Bears, one which Williams must win if they want a shot at finishing in the top half of playoff teams in the NESCAC this year. However, early in the season it is also a pretty crucial game for Bowdoin if they want to crack the playoffs this year. With what appears to be the rise of Hamilton and Bates, Bowdoin needs to beat some playoff-caliber teams, and Williams would definitely be a nice win to write home about. However, I think this is a tough matchup for the Polar Bears for a few reasons. First of all, Bowdoin is best when Jack Simonds ‘19 has a mismatch. Williams doesn’t give him that, because Kyle Scadlock ‘19 is every bit as big and is every bit as athletic, so this is not going to be a game where Simonds completely takes over. Secondly, the weakness is Williams is down low, and unfortunately for Bowdoin, that is also their weakness. I will say, sophomore Hugh O’Neil has done a nice job under the hoop for the Polar Bears this year, but he is not going to single-handedly lead his team to a win. Thirdly, Williams has a stronger and deeper cast of guards than Bowdoin. Bobby Casey ‘19, Cole Teal ‘18, and Dan Aronowitz ‘17 provide a plethora of options for the Ephs offensively, and they are complemented by forward Scadlock. The matchups will be interesting, and I think the Ephs can exploit them no matter how Bowdoin chooses to play it. Assume Simonds guards Aronowitz – that leaves Scadlock with a huge mismatch down low, and doesn’t really slow down Aronowitz that much either. Assume Simonds guards Scadlock – Scadlock still outsizes Simonds, and Aronowitz has an even more favorable matchup on the perimeter. I don’t really see a way that Bowdoin can slow down the Williams attack in this one, which is why I think Williams should win pretty handily.

 

Writer’s Pick: Williams

2 NESCAC, 2 Weekend: A Preview of Friday’s Games

The opening weekend of NESCAC play was one of extremes. No team finished 1-1, marking out a clear top and bottom tier. Five teams sit at 2-0,and five teams sit at 0-2, with Trinity and Amherst lucking out with only one game over the first weekend and sitting at 1-0. Obviously it’s too early to make assumptions about whether the tiers we see right now will last throughout the season, but there are some interesting threads that should be monitored going forward. Will Middlebury be fine even without Zach Baines? Will Wesleyan make the tournament? Is Ed Ogundeko Shaq’s son? All these stories and more will continue into Friday night’s games, so let’s get into them.

Writer’s Note: This article is a little rushed as I had to spend most of the day yesterday apologizing to various fans for Rory putting Amherst at #1 in the Power Rankings even though they’ve lost two of four. So just keep that in mind.

GAME OF THE WEEK: #15 Middlebury (11-1, 2-0)  @ #6 Tufts (11-2, 2-0)

7:00 PM, Medford, Massachusetts

Overview:

“NESCAC Skip Bayless” will be my Twitter handle within the fortnight.

First of all, this is obviously going to be a difficult game for me. On one side we have Middlebury, which is of course my hometown, and watching the basketball team as I grew up has been arguably the most influential factor in becoming the person I am today. And on the other side we have Tufts, the team I hate with all my heart. The list of wrongs done unto me by Tufts University is too long and horrible to replicate here on a family blog. I’ll just say that Tufts is the Count Olaf to my Baudelaire children; constantly destroying everything I hold dear out of pure malice and spite.

That said, this should be a spectacular game. Tufts and Middlebury are both coming off very impressive opening weekends, and their strong play has been reflected in their respective climbs in the national rankings. As usual, Middlebury owes much of their success to their incredible backcourt, and particularly to the triumphant return of Matt St. Amour’s shooting stroke. After a prolonged slump, St. Amour catapulted himself back into the POY race with 52 points over the two games, including 31 in Sunday’s win over Connecticut College. More importantly, St. Amour got his buckets very efficiently, shooting 10-19 from three and needing only 30 shots to garner his 52 points. Middlebury has done a tremendous job winning games during St. Amour’s slump, but it was about time he carried them again.

Tufts made quick work of the Maine teams in the opening weekend, besting Bowdoin and Colby easily. They did it with balance; no single player had more than 20 points, but 7 players had more than 10. Tarik Smith ‘17 had a nice weekend after an inconsistent start to the season, adding a new weapon to the Jumbos’ arsenal. It was crucial for Tufts to have a good weekend starting off the year, as they had a couple bad losses to Babson and UMASS Boston that had cooled some people on their league standing. However, they had the easiest weekend of any top tier teams. This game is their first big test since Babson, and should reveal a great deal about how high the Jumbos can fly this season.

X-Factors

For Middlebury it has to be transition, and I mean that in multiple senses of the word. The Panthers must continue to excel in their fast-paced, perimeter orientated style on both sides of the ball. As our blogfathers Panther Nation pointed out, Middlebury may well have the best backcourt in the country, and they need to continue that excellent play to weather a lack of front court depth, at least offensively.

Speaking of the front court, that brings me to the second type of transition that will determine Middlebury’s success. Earlier this week it was announced that talented forward Zach Baines ‘19 made the decision to transfer to Occidental College in Los Angeles. This is a tremendous blow to the Panthers, as Baines was both their most versatile defender (other than Jack Daly ‘18) and a dangerous offensive weapon who was just beginning to realize his potential. His loss will obviously affect Middlebury on the court in the ways we saw last weekend. The guards, especially less prolific scorers Jake Brown ‘17 and Daly, will need to be more aggressive shooting the ball, and forwards Nick Tarantino ‘18, Matt Folger ‘20 and Eric McCord ‘19 will all compete for minutes and touches alongside Adisa Majors ‘18. It will be a fascinating subplot to follow throughout Middlebury’s season as to which big man emerges as the starter out of those three. But Middlebury will need to respond to Baines’ loss off the court as well. It can be very difficult to lose a teammate midway through the year, and no one would blame the Middlebury players for being a little down. However, they can’t afford to let it affect them against Tufts. Middlebury’s experienced leaders like Brown, St. Amour and Daly will have to handle the transition for Middlebury this weekend, in more ways than one.

Vincent Pace
Vincent Pace ’18 (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

For Tufts, it is more simple. Vincent Pace ’18 has to get going. A legit POY candidate when healthy, Pace has struggled for much of the season, shooting only 42% from the field and 32% from three. Admittedly he hasn’t had to play big minutes that often yet as he recovers from a knee injury, but if Tufts wants to remain in the top tier they need the old Pace back. The Jumbos can’t rely on a big weekend from Tarik Smith, as Middlebury defends the perimeter better than anyone. Tufts will need Pace’s versatile scoring ability and ball handling if they hope to knock the Panthers off track, and indeed will need it for the rest of the league play. The toughest games are still ahead.

Final Thoughts:

Tom Palleschi ‘17 for Tufts has definite strength mismatches against both Tarantino and Folger. This means that we may see more of Eric McCord than the other two. If that’s the case, Middlebury may be in trouble from a fast break standpoint. The great benefit of both Tarantino and Folger is that they are weapons in transition. They can both shoot (although Folger is more of three point threat,) and they run the floor like deer. McCord is much stronger and possibly a better one-on-one matchup for Palleschi, but Middlebury sacrifices some fast break potential with him on the floor. McCord got exposed a bit by Connecticut College in terms of moving his feet defensively, and Tufts should look to do the same by putting him the pick and roll and getting him out on the break.

That said, I don’t see that Tufts has an answer for Middlebury’s guards. St. Amour is better at getting himself involved even when he’s not shooting well than Jack Simonds ‘19 for Bowdoin, and Daly and Brown are forming into an excellent offensive duo in addition to their terrifying defense. Middlebury matches up very well with Pace and Smith, and Palleschi has not yet shown himself to be capable of taking over a game.

Writers Pick: Middlebury

#5 Amherst (10-2, 1-0) @ Wesleyan (11-3, 0-2)

7:00 PM, Middletown, Connecticut

Amherst huddles to discuss strategy during their win over Williams. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

Amherst took the opening battle in the ancient Jeff-Ephs war, beating Williams in Williamstown 80-72 in a game that they had in hand throughout. They relied heavily on their dynamic backcourt of Jayde Dawson ‘18 and Johnny McCarthy ‘18, who combined for 34 points and were the only starters in double figures. The game also featured the return of the Amherst bench, as Michael Riopel ‘18, Reid Berman ‘17 and Eric Conklin ‘17 combined for 30 points and carried the offense for large stretches. One thing to watch for Amherst is their low assist numbers. They only had 9 against Williams, and 7 of those came from the three bench players. They did a nice job exploiting mismatches against the Ephs, particularly McCarthy and Conklin, but against an elite defense like Wesleyan, they may need a more sustainable style, especially since Wesleyan has a stable of long, athletic guards to throw at Dawson.

For Wesleyan, this game is as close to a must-win as one can have in the second week of league play. Wesleyan dropped both their games last weekend, on the road to Middlebury and Hamilton. Wesleyan’s elite defense broke down for them in both games, giving up 83 and then 92, but it was a simple lack of offense that really did them in. Shooting 34% from the field won’t win you any games in a deep league like the NESCAC. Wesleyan particularly needs more consistency from their guards. Salim Green ‘19 and Harry Rafferty ‘17 combined for 31 against Middlebury, but couldn’t hit water from a boat against Hamilton, shooting 3-18 from the field. Wesleyan matches up very well defensively with Amherst, as Rafferty, Green and Kevin O’Brien ‘19 provide a nice rotation to throw at McCarthy and Dawson. And the floor spacing ability of Nathan Krill ‘19 could draw David George ‘17 from the paint, opening up driving lanes. But Krill has to control his emotions enough to stay on the floor (something he decidedly couldn’t do against Middlebury,) and Wesleyan has to drive in those lanes and make shots. If they don’t their chances of making the tournament could be in serious doubt.

Writer’s Pick: Amherst

Hamilton (10-2, 2-0) @ Bates (11-3, 2-0)

7:00 PM, Lewiston, Maine

Andrew Groll
Andrew Groll ’19 had a terrific weekend for Hamilton and also took home the “NESCAC player most likely to secretly be 39 years old” award. (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)

This is about as exciting a matchup as you can have from two unranked teams. Hamilton solidified their rollicking, offense-filled march to NESCAC relavance by handling both Connecticut College and then-#9 Wesleyan at home by scores of 86-70 and 92-76. The Continentals get their buckets in a variety of ways and from a variety of sources. They are led in scoring and on defense by sophomore forward Peter Hoffmann ‘19, so averages 17 a game and put up 21 (and seven blocks) against Conn College. But when Hoffmann struggled his way to 7 against Wesleyan, they more than picked up the slack. Andrew Groll ‘19 put up 20 points and 14 rebounds, and and super-subs Tim Doyle ‘19 and Kena Gilmour ‘20 led a bench attack that put up 38 points. Hamilton is young and loaded with talent, and the rest of the league should definitely be on notice.

Bates’ surprising run to relevance has been accomplished in almost the exact opposite way from Hamilton’s. They have ridden a punishing defense led by Malcolm Delpeche ‘17, who leads the league in blocks, and his twin brother Marcus, who is no defensive slouch himself. The towering Delpeche brothers allow Bates to play very aggressively on the perimeter, as either side has an eraser to wipe away their mistakes. Offensively, Bates sort of figures it out as they go. The Delpeche brothers are the keys to the offense as well, combining for 27.5 points per game. Additionally, they draw double teams in the post, leading to open three point shots. However if the pair of big men are struggling from the field, Bates doesn’t have a lot of depth to pick up the slack. They needed a stunning 23 point outburst from Tom Coyne ‘20 (who played just two minutes the night before) to scrape out 64-59 win over Bowdoin. This game is a classic good offense-good defense matchup, and factoring in the youth of Hamilton and the tremendous homecourt advantage that Bates enjoys in Alumni Gym, I see the Bobcats taking it.

Writer’s Pick: Bates

Trinity (9-5, 1-0) @ Connecticut College (8-4, 0-2)

7:00 PM, New London, Connecticut

Ed Ogundeko
Ed Ogundeko ’17 (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

All season it has seemed like Trinity was one other scoring option away from continuing their control of the NESCAC regular season. Ed Ogundeko ‘17 has been a total monster all season, sitting at fourth in scoring at 17.1 PPG and first in rebounding at 10.7 REB/G. But he couldn’t do it alone, and Trinity entered league play at 8-5, the most losses in the league. However, the weekend showed that Chris Turnbull ‘17 and Jeremy Arthur ‘19 have the potential to be fine running mates for Big Ed. But it also showed that on some level he can do it himself. In a non league tilt against Pine Manor, Turnbull and Arthur combined for 34 points on 11-17 shooting, providing and excellent side hustle for Ogundeko’s 24 points and 12 rebounds. In Trinity’s win over Williams last Sunday, Turnbull and Arthur cooled off a bit, but were still able to combine for 24 points. Ogundeko did the rest, dominating the game to the tune of 15 points and 23 rebounds. Ogundeko may well be able to carry his team to the tournament, but if Arthur and Turnbull can really get going, it may be the NCAA tournament as well as the NESCAC.

Cind 1997.jpg
With Whoopi as her trainer, Brandi will take the Battle of the Cinderellas easily.

Connecticut College had their carriage turn back into a pumpkin over the course of the weekend. After a tough loss to Hamilton in a battle of the Cinderellas, they had to make the long drive to Vermont only to fall to Middlebury 97-89. (Sidenote, Battle of the Cinderellas might be a great movie idea. Every Cinderella ever comes together and fights each other for the title. My money is Brandi.) Zuri Pavlin ‘17, the Camels’ leading rebounder and scorer, battled a mysterious injury throughout the weekend, but even with him Connecticut may simply not have enough weapons to match up in the league this year. Fortunately for them, Trinity often struggles offensively as well. This game has the potential to keep Conn College’s tournament hopes alive, but I don’t see Ed Ogundeko letting that happen.

Writer’s Pick: Trinity

Williams (11-3, 0-2) @ Colby (7-6, 0-2)

7:00 PM, Waterville, Maine

Cole Teal ’17 was a bright spot for Williams, pouring in 26 points in their loss to Amherst. (courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Much like Wesleyan, Williams is drifting dangerously close to the edge of “must-win” territory  They drew a tough opening draw in facing then #3 Amherst to lead off league play, and dropped that game 80-72. They then dropped their second game to Trinity 65-63, an ugly offensive performance from a team that has prided itself on offensive efficiency over the last few years. Williams needs more from everybody, but Kyle Scadlock ‘19 had a particularly disappointing weekend. Amherst and Trinity were able to load up on star forward Daniel Aronowitz ‘17, leading to big games from Cole Teal (26 against Amherst) and Bobby Casey (21 against Trinity.) However, those two key players can’t seem to get hot at the same time, and Scadlock hasn’t been nearly aggressive enough to help Aronowitz make up for it. He only took 11 shots over the whole weekend, less than many NESCAC students do at one pregame. If Williams has any hope of climbing out of this whole, they will need him to live up to his potential and be a viable second scoring option behind Aronowitz.

Colby faces a similar situation to Williams in that simply no one on their team is shooting well enough. After a hot start to the season, Patrick Stewart ‘17 has been mired in a slump that is mirrored by his teammates. Over the weekend they shot under 38% from the field in both games, and under 30% from three. Unless the Mules get magically hot, it’s hard to imagine them pulling off the upset against the Ephs, who should be hungry to send a message to the league that they are still alive.

Writer’s Pick: Williams

NESCAC Play Begins: Part Two

Joseph Kuo ’17 has a been a force for Wesleyan so far, and he will be needed big time this weekend (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics/Lianne Yun).

Being a Tufts student, I think it’s important that my first order of business is to address the elephant in the room. Pete definitely hates Tufts, no matter how much he denied it yesterday in his preview of today’s games. To be honest, I don’t blame him, it’s just his Middlebury inferiority complex kicking in. Take it easy on him, guys, Middlebury Athletics is all he has. That being said, whoever made this comparison between Pete and Skip Bayless in the comment section: bravo.

More importantly, let’s take a look at the Saturday/Sunday games. Overall, the contests appear to be a bit less interesting than Friday’s games, but it’s the opening weekend of NESCAC play – anything can happen.

 

Saturday Games

GAME OF THE DAY: #9 Wesleyan @ Hamilton, 3:00 PM, Clinton, NY

Overview:

I would guess that most Cardinals fans looked past this game on their schedule due to Hamilton’s performance in recent years. For Wesleyan’s sake, I hope the players are not looking past this game. Obviously, they’ve got a battle on Friday night against Middlebury, but this new and improved Hamilton squad can definitely take advantage of that. Hamilton has been led by a cast of youngsters thus far, and this early season matchup is vital if these pups want to prove they can hang with the big dogs. Last year, the Continentals took Wesleyan to overtime before losing 82-76, and it actually took some clutch free throws by Wesleyan’s Joseph Kuo ‘17 down the stretch to avoid losing in regular time. Impressive performances will surely attract more attention to Michael Grassey ‘19 and Jack Dwyer ‘18 from the Wesleyan defense on Saturday, who had 16 a piece last year. It was the seniors that led the way for the Cardinals, as BJ Davis, Jack Mackey, and Joe Edmonds combined for 42 of Wesleyan’s 82 points. While this Wesleyan team has certainly figured things out so far this year on their way to a #9 national ranking, they will need someone besides Kuo to embrace the moment and put the ball in the bucket on Saturday if they want to keep up with high-scoring Continentals.

 

X-factors:

It has been Wesleyan’s depth and balance that has proven quite effective so far this year, but against this young Hamilton team, senior leader Harry Rafferty is going to need to take the reigns. Throughout his career, Rafferty has been a threat whenever he throws on the black and red jersey, and one main reason for that is because of his outside shooting. Take a second and digest this: Rafferty has shot 106 times this season, and while he is shooting 39.6% from the field, this number is somewhat skewed. Of those 106 shots, Rafferty has attempted 77 three-pointers. The senior shoots 37.7% from the field (29-77), which means he has hit as many threes as he has taken twos. That’s a bit ridiculous. If that’s the way Wesleyan’s offense works, great, but this clearly gives Hamilton an idea of how to play Rafferty: run him off the three-point line. Rafferty’s production is very important in this game, so if he is unwilling to move off the arc, Wesleyan could be in trouble.

 

For the home team, success is going to be dependent on the ability (or inability) to stop Kuo down low. That’s where Andrew Groll ‘19 steps in. Groll is a 6’7” forward that dominates the boards, pulling down 7.4 REB/G, which is right on pace with Kuo’s 7.3 REB/G. They both average over 2 offensive rebounds, so the key for Groll on the boards is making sure that Kuo is unable to provide his team with these extra opportunities. Defensively, Groll faces a tall task due to the innate ability of getting to the hoop that Wesleyan’s perimeter players possess. Wesleyan’s quartet of sophomore guards (Salim Green ‘18, Jordan Bonner ‘18, Kevin O’Brien ‘18, and Andrew Gardiner ‘18) can all drive the ball to the rim, which will force Groll to decide whether he is going to help off of Kuo or stay at home. It’s Groll’s decision-making and execution in these situations that will determine whether or not the Cardinals eat Hamilton alive in the paint.

 

Final Thoughts:

One of the most interesting dynamics of this game is the difference in offensive pace. Hamilton averages about eight points more per game than Wesleyan, and though they have played two less games than Wes, the Continentals shoot a higher percentage from the field and from deep. The biggest offensive advantage that I see for Wesleyan is their knack for getting to the foul line. Wesleyan shoots more free throws than any other team in the league, with about 26 per game, as opposed to Hamilton’s 23. They both shoot just about 70% from the strike, so in a close game (as I expect this to be), those 3 extra free throws could be crucial. Both teams are pretty deep, but Hamilton’s scoring is much more top-heavy than Wesleyan’s. If one of their big-time scorers like Peter Hoffmann ‘19 or Michael Grassey ‘19 gets in foul trouble, Wesleyan may be able to pull away. This will be a tough and physical game that depends highly on execution down the stretch. For this reason, I’m giving Wesleyan the advantage. They have simply had more experience in these types of games.

Writer’s Pick: Wesleyan

 

#8 Tufts @ Colby, 3:00 PM, Waterville, ME

This game could go one of two ways, and it’s all about which Tufts team shows up. Throughout this season, it has been a tale of two teams. The Tufts that walked into the gym against MIT and WPI was legit. They shot well, they had 32 and 35 points off the bench respectively, and they forced their opponents into difficult shots. Then there is the Tufts team that made an appearance against UMass Boston. They were outrebounded by a significantly smaller team, they had more turnovers than their opponents (albeit by just 1 turnover), and they allowed UMB’s center to dominate them. This Jumbos team is good because they are deep, but when they don’t get production from their bench, they simply aren’t as good a team. Now, it’s definitely worth noting that Vinny Pace ‘18, Tufts’ best scorer, was coming off the bench until the UMB game, but overall, they just need more consistency. Colby may be able to capitalize on this, but their margin of error is slim. Colby ranks last in the conference in scoring with just 70.7 PPG, a product of their league-worst shooting percentage and shot attempt numbers. Patrick Stewart ‘17 is currently the only double-digit point-getter on the Mules’ side of the ball, and that will be an issue against Tufts who has pretty favorable match-ups on their own offensive end. I don’t see Colby slowing down the Tufts offense too much, but you never know. Maybe the Mules will take down the #8 Jumbos. I’m not banking on that.

Writer’s Pick: Tufts

 

Bates @ Bowdoin, 3:00 PM, Brunswick, ME

Every year, I wait for NESCAC play before judging Bates because every year, their out of conference schedule is filled with teams that I know little to nothing about. However, I was impressed by Bates’ win against Brandeis recently, and before that they blew out Framingham State like they were supposed to. Maybe Bates is better than I predicted? Though both were non-conference games, Bates has fared 1-1 against NESCAC opponents this season with a buzzer-beater loss to Colby and a 14-point win against Bowdoin. Bowdoin will certainly be looking for revenge this time around, and so will Jack Simonds ‘19, who was held to just 12 points the first time these two met. Simonds, as anyone reading this blog knows, is Bowdoin’s leading scorer, and also the NESCAC’s leading scorer, but that hasn’t necessarily translated into success for the Polar Bears. I knew at the beginning of the season that Bowdoin would struggle if they didn’t diversify their scoring, and it looks like that’s exactly what’s going to happen in league-play unless they get some other guys involved in the offense. This is partly because Bowdoin’s defense is pretty porous. They allow the second-most PPG in the ‘CAC, and against Bates, they allowed the Bobcats’ starting lineup to tally 62 of their 74 points. The key for Bowdoin this time around is forcing the Bates bench to score. However, the Bobcats are in luck, as newly found offensive weapon Jeff Spellman ‘20 has been playing very well recently. Per usual, it’s up to the twin towers of Marcus and Malcolm Delpeche to anchor the load offensively. If these two dominate like last time (combined for 37 points), then Bates is in good shape. If not, then Simonds might just will Bowdoin to the promised land in this in-state rivalry.

Writer’s Pick: Bowdoin

 

Conn College @ #22 Middlebury, 3:00 PM, Middlebury, VT

Unlike Pete, I’m able to write about Middlebury in less than twelve lengthy paragraphs, so enjoy this conciseness for a change. Conn-Midd is another subtle yet intriguing game, one which strongly resembles the Wesleyan-Hamilton matchup. Conn College has been gaining steam the last couple years, and they hope that this is finally the year they get over the hump (lol, camels). Middlebury, on the other hand, is looking to once again get off to a hot start in conference play just a year after I called them a rebuilding team and one without playoff hopes. This, of course, propelled the Panthers not only into the playoffs but also the the NCAA tournament after winning the NESCAC championship. En garde, Middlebury. In any event, I see one clear problem for Conn, and that is their defense. Middlebury has offensive weapons – namely, Matt St. Amour. The Panthers have compiled some nice wins against Southern Vermont and Skidmore already, but they did so with Zach Baines ‘17 in the lineup. As Pete mentioned, Midd is likely without Baines and Hilal Dahleh ‘19 this weekend, which makes their bench much thinner. This bodes well for Conn, a team that will either be thirsty for a win after a tough loss to Hamilton, or thirsty to continue their win streak after a solid win against Hamilton. Either way, they will be THIRSTY, and it is up to Middlebury’s guards to stave off the likes of Tyler Rowe ‘19 and David Labossiere ‘19, two of Conn’s top weapons. Meanwhile, Adisa Majors ‘18 and Nick Tarantino ‘18 will be tasked with stopping Conn’s rock, Zuri Pavlin ‘17, who leads the Camels in scoring and is 3rd in the league in offensive rebounding (2nd in overall rebounding). This should be a good one, and we will see how real Conn is on Saturday. I think the thirst is real, and Conn sneaks out of Vermont with a W.

Writer’s Pick: Conn College

 

Sunday Game

Trinity @ #25 Williams, 2:00 PM, Williamstown, MA

Ed Ogundeko ’17 hits a runner (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics).

Looking at these two teams’ overall performances thus far, this game shouldn’t be too close. Trinity has been unimpressive, and Williams has been pretty damn impressive. But basketball is a game of matchups, and the fact is, Trinity matches up well against Williams. Williams’ strength is in their guards. They shoot A LOT of threes, the most in the league actually, but they haven’t exactly shot well from beyond the arc so far. The Ephs hit just 33.5% of their threes, but they have some great shooters (see: Cole Teal ‘18), so these shots are going to start dropping sooner rather than later. Where the Ephs are somewhat lacking is down low, but Kyle Scadlock ‘19 has been a formidable big so far in his sophomore campaign, and he ranks second in scoring on the Williams roster behind POY candidate Dan Aronowitz ‘17. Trinity, on the other hand, is weaker on the perimeter and stronger inside. Ed Ogundeko ‘17 has been the primary source of consistency for the Bantams, and he should beat up on Williams’ rotation of centers. If the Bants pound the ball down to Ogundeko and get him to the free throw line, it will force Williams to sag in off of Trinity’s shooters, which could be deadly. Expect senior Chris Turnbull to have a day for Trinity on the offensive end. All in all, however, I think Aronowitz will feast on Trin – he should have a field day on pretty much any matchup that gets thrown at him, kind of like he’s done all year. The potent Williams attack will be too much for the Bantams.

Writer’s Pick: Williams

Hamilton Basketball Pre-NESCAC Schedule Update

Leading scorer Peter Hoffmann ’19 drives baseline (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics).

Perhaps Hamilton’s losses to Middlebury 64-62 and to Trinity 96-86 in OT were their best played games of last season. These were just two of many close conference contests that the Continentals dropped in the last few minutes, both to 2016 powerhouses. Their overall record of 11-13 was not quite telling of how they fared in conference (2-8), only one of three squads to miss out on the playoffs. Fortunately for Coach Adam Stockwell’s squad, they return all but one starter in Jack Donnelly ‘16, and lose just one other graduate in sixth man Ajani Santos ’16. The Continentals have used last year’s woes and close losses to develop and help them along the way to what has been a solid start to the year, good for a 8-2 record and a #6 spot in our first power rankings of the season, which definitely puts them in the playoff race. We know it, you know it, and we write it all the time: The NESCAC competition is no joke, and because of that Hamilton won’t be truly tested until they hit the expert only double black diamond slopes. They are looking to improve, touch up the details, and use last year’s NESCAC season as a learning experience.

From last year, the young, immature team learned that they needed to have more consistency and close better after playing six conference games that were decided in the final minute, going 1-5 in such contests, frustrating for any team. They needed to improve on rebounding, playing in transition, and overall defensive consistency, which has been aided by a much more stable starting lineup this year. In 2016 Hamilton had 11 players start a game, with eight of those players starting less than half of the games. In other words, there were a lot of moving parts for a team that never really hit its stride. While the Continentals certainly needed somebody to step up last year, after this sample of the preseason, it is clear that Michael Grassey ’19, Peter Hoffmann ‘19, and Andrew Groll ’19 are really coming into their own as leaders on the team to supplement Jack Dwyer ’18 who runs the team and currently ranks third in the NESCAC in assists. Grassey had a great winter in the NESCAC and finished the last five games by averaging 16 PPG and vaulted from a bench player (20 games played, 0 starts) to a starter, second-leading Hamilton scorer, and irreplaceable staple in the lineup this year.

 

2015-2016 Record: 11-13, 2-8, Did not make NESCAC playoffs

Head Coach: Adam Stockwell, 6th year, 66-56 (Through 2016)

Returning Starters:

Guard Jack Dwyer ‘18 (11.0 PPG; 5.5 A/G; 40% FG; 2.0 REB/G)

Forward Andrew Groll ‘19 (9.5 PPG; 7.8 REB/G; 1.8 BLK/G)

Guard Peter Hoffmann ‘19 (12.7 PPG; 4.3 REB/G; 40.0% FG)

Key Losses:

Guard Jack Donnelly ’16 (8.9 PPG; 39.3% 3-PT; 2.9 REB/G)

Forward Karl Koster ‘18 (2.9 PPG; 60.0% FG; 2.8 REB/G)

 

Starting Lineup:

Guard Jack Dwyer ‘18

After leading the league in assists with 5.5 per game and adding on 11.0 PPG in 2016, Dwyer is off to another hot start with 6.1 AST/G, 7.4 PPG, and 3.0 REB/G through the first ten games. The leader of this team is one of just two upperclassmen in the starting lineup and will use his experience as the point guard and shot caller to help get the younger players into position, dishing out passes like usual. He should help them improve in transition and will likely start scoring more too as his consistent shooting percentage (37.5%) should lead to a similar 11 PPG once he starts taking more shots. He is currently only on pace to shoot about 180 times this year compared to 235 last year, not just showing Hamilton’s added offensive depth, but also Dwyer’s ability to run the team and not just fire up shots. Because of his ability to spread out the court, four of his teammates are averaging over 10.0 PPG compared to just two last year (which included Dwyer), emphasizing this added offensive depth and the way in which Dwyer is coaxing it out of his teammates.

 

Guard/Forwards Tim Doyle ’19/Peter Hoffmann ‘19

Doyle got off to a blistering hot start, averaging 20 PPG through the first three contests, before going down to injury after Hamilton’s 11/22 game against Cazenovia. He really jumped out of nowhere after only playing in 12 contests last year, averaging a meager 3.0 PPG. His 3.0 REB/G and 2.3 A/G are solid to back up his shooting ability. Unfortunately for the Continentals he will likely be out until the end of January, handing the reins into Hoffmann’s hands for the time being. The sophomore guard was an everyday starter last year for coach Stockwell’s squad and played well, averaging 12.7 PPG, rebounding well for the shooting guard position, and played nearly 28 minutes per contest. Since he took over for Doyle, he has greatly improved from a season ago and has upped his totals to 17.6 PPG (a team-high), delivering a huge 24 point performance that made the difference against Clarkson on November 26th. If he can put together more games like that and continues to become a force in the paint, and Doyle returns in full force, the Continentals could have a powerful 1-2 punch at this spot as the 6’ 5’’ Hoffmann and 6’ 4’’ Doyle are sure to rain down points to get more minutes. If these two step on the court at the same time, NESCAC defenses better look out.

 

Forward/Guard Joe Pucci ‘18

Pucci has to be the biggest player listed as a guard in the ‘CAC. The 6’6’’ junior is the second of the Hamilton upperclassmen starters, and like both Grassey and Doyle, he has made a big jump from last season into the starting lineup where there was little turnover in terms of graduates, and has nearly doubled his REB/G from 2.5 to 4.7. His scoring has gone up to 7.5 PPG from 5.3 in 2016, but because his shooting percentage has sunk by nearly 4%, these offensive numbers likely aren’t sustainable once Hamilton starts facing tougher opponents like Amherst and Wesleyan. However, as was the case in 2016, consistency is a big factor here with Pucci. He has thrown up some good shooting games (over 30% FG) and some real duds (under 20% FG) like in the 9-point loss to Catholic University and a win over Oswego. Every team would be great if their best players played their A-game every day, but there is a reason why Hamilton was only 2-8 in the NESCAC last year, and they need more of that A-game out of Pucci.

 

Forward Michael Grassey ’19

Grassey is a good inside scorer and a great compliment to the rebounding-dominant Groll playing the big man, greatly improving on last year and cementing himself as a starter. This allows Hamilton to gain the rotational consistency that Coach Stockwell focused on when defining how the 2017 squad would make the leap to finish out close games and take the non-conference success to the ‘CAC. The relatively undersized 6’3’’ power forward is comparable to Draymond Green in that size plays little role in how he can play in the paint. He is dominating thus far after not starting a single game in his rookie campaign. He came into his own in the winter portion of last season, and he has earned a starting position this year as a result of his hard work on the court and in the weight room. Grassey is hitting his stride right at the optimal time, putting up over 20 points for three straight games in December and averaging 15.8 PPG overall thus far. His shooting percentage has been off the charts recently, and Hamilton is going to have a shot in a lot of conference games if Grassey keeps this up.

 

Forward Andrew Groll ‘19

The Hamilton big man is bringing down boards with Grassy at 7.8 per game in 2016 and 7.4 per game thus far through ten games. The 6’7’’/230lb. New York native is a great second half to a two headed rebounding monster, but Groll doesn’t quite score the same way in the paint that Grassey has been able to. Grassey’s shooting accuracy trumps Groll’s as the latter big man, albeit he takes consistently about half the amount of shots. In Hamilton’s narrow loss to Middlebury last January, Groll hauled in 14 boards, showing that he is a big defensive force and is certainly one of the biggest playmakers on this team. Keep in mind that he was having many double-digit rebounding performances against these ranked NESCAC teams as a freshman, and while he might not be a shooter, Dwyer has made sure that the issue of distributing to other scorers is taken care of. Groll should begin to blossom as a force in the paint and will come into his own as a defensive weapon in his sophomore conference-season.

 

X-Factor: Guard Kena Gilmour ‘20

Pretty much all of the starters except for Dwyer who is a staple of consistency are going to be X-Factors for the Continentals as they are still younger and less experienced in big games than some of the top NESCAC opponents. However, with Pucci, Groll, and even Dwyer not representing big scoring threats, freshman Kena Gilmour has stepped up as a big time scorer off of the bench. Gilmour dropped 26 against Clarkson, one of two games where he played more than 20 minutes, and has been consistent other than one poor game against Eastern where he went 0-4 in a four point loss. He is putting up 10 PPG off of the bench, with a 55.6% FG and should fit into coach Stockwell’s system well as the season ages. The smooth lefty guard was a two time All-New England player in high school, and he should be a big time player in his time at Hamilton.

 

Everything Else

Hamilton undoubtedly has a strong core here between Dwyer, Doyle, Hoffmann, Grassey, Pucci, Groll, and Gilmour and won’t lose any of them until after next season. Their 8-2 start is clearly a big step in the right direction, coupled with several of their starters making huge improvements from a season ago. While all of that is great news for any Continental fan, keep in mind that the jump from 2-8 in conference to a NESCAC contender is even bigger. Coach Stockwell is experienced in this league, has been to the playoffs twice, and obviously won’t take anything for granted from this talented group. However, since just eight teams make the playoffs, Hamilton is going to need to pull off a couple upsets if they want to make there way into the NESCAC tournament. They have the talent, but it is their youth that provokes a question mark.

Hamilton’s experience in close losses from last year should give them an edge in similar situations this year, and if they can close in the final minutes, the Continentals should very well snatch one of those eight golden NESCAC tickets. Their 8-2 record may be slightly misleading, as even though Catholic and Eastern are solid teams, the best achievement of either is that Catholic played Notre Dame in an exhibition match (and then lost 103-48…). Other NESCAC teams are playing tough competition, gearing up for what should be a close and hard-fought regular season, and Hamilton could potentially struggle to keep up. If their players can play the same way against better teams, they will be just fine. In theory, Hamilton’s talent should be enough to propel them into the middle of the NESCAC standings, but any fan of NESCAC basketball knows that it is the intangibles that separate good teams from great teams in this conference. Who is going to step up as leaders in crunch time? Who is going to rally the troops when their backs are against the wall? Hamilton has what it takes to beat some of the top teams in this conference, it’s just a matter of whether or not they can put everything together and make it happen.

Season Round Ups of the Non-NCAA NESCAC Squads

Bobby Casey '19 and the Williams College Ephs were one of seven NESCAC teams blocked, if you will, from making the NCAA tournament this year. (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
Bobby Casey ’19 and the Williams College Ephs were one of seven NESCAC teams blocked, if you will, from making the NCAA tournament this year. (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

Unfortunately, all 11 NESCAC teams didn’t make it to the NCAA field this year. I feel like a gung ho Hamilton team might have surprised some people, but I guess that’s a moot point now. Check out our brief season reviews for each team and a look at what next season might bring.

Hamilton College Continentals (11-13, 2-8)

It wasn’t a pretty season for the Continentals. While they managed to finished just one game below .500, they only won two NESCAC match ups. They finished tied with Bates for last in the NESCAC in the standing and were 10th in points per game and field goal percentage. Their three point shooting was better – eighth in the NESCAC – but this is a Hamilton team that really struggled to score, but they managed to play some NESCAC teams tough throughout the year, and even bested eventual NESCAC champion Middlebury.

The Conts were much better defensively. In their last game of the year, they held Amherst to 65 points. Their field goal percentage allowed was good for sixth in the league, and they rebounded well, with big man Andrew Groll ’19 leading the way with an impressive 7.8 rebounds per game.

2016-17 Outlook:

Coach Adam Stockwell changed the starting five often throughout the year, so their returners will mostly all have starting experience. Hamilton has youth on their side, as they will only be graduating two players who started as many as nine games. There are only two rising seniors in the rotation, so this roster still has a lot of room to grow. Guards Jack Dwyer ’18, who led the NESCAC in assists at 5.5 per game, and Peter Hoffmann ’19 will be the top scoring returners. Other players who could develop include Michael Grassey ’19, fourth in the conference with 46 percent from 3PT range, and Groll, fourth in the league at 7.8 rpg and third with 1.8 blocks per game.

Bates College Bobcats (10-14, 2-8)

Bates was the worst team in the NESCAC this season. Let’s take a look at some of their NESCAC rankings.

  • Ninth in ppg and last in field goal percentage
  • Tenth in 3PT percentage, but they took the most threes in conference games
  • Ninth in free throw percentage.
  • Eleventh in defensive rebounding
  • Tenth in turnovers.
  • Eighth in personal fouls

What’s worse for the Bobcats is that they will lose captain Mike Boornazian ’16, who finished seventh in the NESCAC in minutes, and was named to the Maine All-State team for the third time. Although he struggled shooting the ball this year, with a 36.5 field goal percentage and a 29.5 mark from deep, he still led the team in points, and was a reliable 15 ppg player the last three years for Bates.

2016-17 Outlook:

There aren’t many positive things to focus on for Bates. Bates players are hard to find among the NESCAC individual stat leaders. One area of note is that the Bobcats will rely heavily on the Delpeche twins next season. Center Malcolm Delpheche ’17 was fifth in blocks in the NESCAC at 1.1 per game, and forward twin brother Marcus Delpeche ’17 was also an important starter for the Bobcats. The growth of sophomore guard Shawn Strickland ’18, coming off of a solid season, will also play a significant role in Bates’ success next year. Their next batch of freshman will likely play a large role in determining their fate in 2016-17. They have a lot they need to improve before they can be competitive in the NESCAC again.

Connecticut College Camels (12-12, 3-7)

Zuri Pavlin '17 and the Camels have plenty of time to reflect on this season before they make a NESCAC run next year. (Courtesy of Conn College Athletics)
Zuri Pavlin ’17 and the Camels have plenty of time to reflect on this season before they make a NESCAC run next year. (Courtesy of Conn College Athletics)

The NESCAC’s southernmost team finished 12-12 overall, and went 3-7 in conference play in 2015-16. They had fine averages across the board offensively, with 79.3 ppg and an efficient 46.1/37.7/73.8 percent slash line. No single player ran their offense, as seven Camels players averaged over 6.5 ppg, and each of their top six averaged 9.5 ppg or more. The 2015-16 Camels lacked a star, however, with top scorer Lee Messier ’18 averaging 13.8 ppg. Connecticut won’t be scrambling to replace seniors next year. Their only graduating starter is Bo McKinley ’16, and he was essentially their sixth man. They’ll still have forward Zuri Pavlin ’17 (8.6 rebounds per game, good for third in the league), Lee Messier (44.9 percent from 3PT range, fifth in the NESCAC), and Tyler Rowe ’19 (fifth in the league in steals, with 1.5 per game).

2016-17 Outlook:

A full season out of Lee Messier could help the Camels become more of a NESCAC threat. They’ll also benefit from a balanced starting lineup next year, potentially heading into 2016-17 with a nice balance of two seniors, a junior, and two sophomores. They had the fifth-best offense in the NESCAC this year, and because they won’t lose any high impact seniors, they’ll have a good chance to repeat or improve on that ranking next year. Their key will be improving a defense that finished second to last in the NESCAC.

Colby College Mules (16-9, 4-6)

Predicting 2016-17 for the Mules is problematic for one very obvious reason: They will graduate their top five scorers. Their starting five was purely seniors this year.

What does that say about the team’s outlook going forward? Did head coach Damien Strahorn not trust any of his underclassmen in starting roles? Was this a failed “win now” attempt? Whatever the reason, finding a new starting five is going to be a challenge for the Mules.

2016-17 Outlook:

This Colby team has more questions and more unknowns going into next year than any other team in the league. Their returning players simply didn’t get extensive playing time, so it’s difficult to know what to expect, except for regression. It’s always hard to replace a 15 ppg player, let alone two of them (Chris Hudnut ’16 and Ryan Jann ’16), and on top of that they’ll lose Patrick Stewart ’16, who led the league in three point shooting this season (52.3 percent).

Bowdoin College Polar Bears (12-11, 4-6)

The Polar Bears boasted arguably the best senior and best freshman in the NESCAC this season, but even all of that firepower wasn’t enough to make any kind of legitimate run at the NESCAC title. Bowdoin snuck its way in to the NESCAC tournament with a two-win weekend at the end of the season, but were dispatched by Amherst in the first round. While losing the scoring punch of Lucas Hausman ’16 will be tough to overcome, perhaps more worrisome is that the Polar Bears were a very bad defensive team this season, and that’s a systemic problem. Hausman himself wasn’t a great defender, so his replacement should provide a plus on that end, but the majority of a rotation that gave up 76.0 ppg will be back. Graduating with Hausman are starters Matt Palecki ’16 and Jake Donnelly ’16. The other starters and role players will be back.

2016-17 Outlook

Prepare for the Jack Simonds ’19 Show to begin. What was once Hausman’s team will now become Simonds’. With his size and shooting ability (45.7% FG, 35.8% 3PT, 89.7% FT), Simonds has POY potential. Surrounding Simonds will be the tough rebounding Neil Fuller ’17 and a couple of freshmen that showed promise but will need to make huge leaps forward in point guard Tim Ahn ’19 and forward Hugh O’Neil ’19. The immediate future isn’t particularly bright for Bowdoin, but with Fuller the only rising senior set to play significant minutes, 2017-18 could be the Polar Bears’ turn to strike.

Williams College Ephs (15-10, 5-5)

The Ephs did several things very well this year, allowing the lowest field goal percentage and shooting the highest percentage from the field in league games. They were the NESCAC model of efficiency. On top of that, they made the second most three pointers in NESCAC games. Surprisingly, the Ephs struggled overall statistically, ending up 10th in rebounding, last in steals, and seventh in blocks. Despite those areas of concern, Williams only allowed 66.2 ppg, the best mark in the league.

Williams enjoyed an incredibly balanced starting five this year, going with a senior, a junior, two sophomores and a freshman, so they’re well set for 2016-17. Essentially, the only senior they will lose is center Edward Flynn ’16 who averaged 7.1 ppg and 5.4 rpg.

2016-17 Outlook:

Their senior losses are very manageable, and by the numbers, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be very competitive next season. The best news for Williams? They return Daniel Aronowitz ’17, who was third in the NESCAC at 18.2 points per game, fifth with 7.4 rebounds per game, and fifth in minutes. With their strong percentages across the board, and a NESCAC stud in Aronowitz, Williams should be able to top their 5 -5 record from this season. They struggled in their two games against Amherst, but Williams’ other NESCAC losses against Tufts and Middlebury were close games. Williams might not be far off from returning to the top of the heap.

Wesleyan (18-7, 5-5)

This is a Cardinals team that really struggled to score, finishing near the bottom of the league in most offensive categories, but their strong defense buoyed them throughout the year. They were the fourth-best scoring defense in conference games and had a +2.5 rebounding margin in NESCAC games.

The loss of BJ Davis ’16 will hurt the Cardinals, potentially more than the loss of any player in the NESCAC. He was an all-around player, and a workhorse for Wesleyan, leading the league in minutes. He didn’t miss a game in 2015-16. His overall production put him among the NESCAC elite, with 16.4 ppg – fifth in the NESCAC – and 1.4 steals per game – seventh in the conference.

2016-17 Outlook:

Kevin O’Brien ’19 was the only freshman or sophomore to get a start for this Wesleyan squad. They graduate three contributing seniors, but PJ Reed ’17, Harry Rafferty ’17 and Joseph Kuo ’17 all have significant experience. Kuo was second in scoring at 11.1, so offense will be a big concern for the Cardinals. Without Davis, the Cardinals will probably have to go back to the formula of a year ago, sharing the scoring equally among half a dozen players. It’ll be a tall order to replace the talented point man.

2016 NbN All-NESCAC Basketball Teams

Lucas Hausman '16 was an easy choice for the NbN NESCAC Player of the Year, and teammate Jack Simonds '19, seen here mesmerized by a Hausman drive, was a nearly as easy pick for Rookie of the Year. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)
Lucas Hausman ’16 was an easy choice for the NbN NESCAC Player of the Year, and teammate Jack Simonds ’19, seen here mesmerized by a Hausman drive, was a nearly as easy pick for Rookie of the Year. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

So the NESCAC beat us to it by a day (though we actually made decisions on our team Tuesday night), releasing its All-Conference teams yesterday, but let’s be honest, no one really cares about that. The NbN All-NESCAC team is really where you want to be. What do all those silly coaches know anyway? They probably all vote for their starting five and then some dude in Hadley, MA, where the NESCAC headquarters is (by the way, is that like some guy’s really nice garage?), just fudges a few numbers and picks whomever he likes for the All-NESCAC team. Well we think we can do just as good of a job at throwing darts at a board of names. So here it goes.

First Team: 

G Lucas Hausman ’16, Bowdoin (Player of the Year)

The NESCAC decided not to make Hausman the back-to-back Player of the Year, and we find that decision a little puzzling. We understand that Bowdoin didn’t have a great season at 4-6 in conference and a quarterfinal tournament exit, but C’MON MAN! Hausman gets buckets like nobody else in the NESCAC has ever. He scored 25.3 ppg, 2.5 more ppg than anybody else in NESCAC history. If you isolate for NESCAC games, the number rises to 26.0 ppg. All season long Hausman was performing a veritable Kobe Bryant impression, hitting fade-away and step-back jumpers at an unbelievable rate. He made an astounding 8.1 free throws per game during the NESCAC season. The next highest total was 5.1. I understand that Hausman is not a great defender or facilitator, but you can’t deny his greatness as a scorer. The NbN Player of the Year award doesn’t make up for losing out on the NESCAC Player of the Year, but I hope that it helps a little bit. -Adam

G Matt St. Amour ’17, Middlebury

Trying to not be too much of a homer, I started criticizing St. Amour’s one-on-one defense when Adam and I broke down our All-NESCAC teams. Then Adam reminded me that the Vermont native was the only go-to scorer on his team all long, the second-highest scorer in the conference, the leader in steals, great at getting and making free throws, takes charges at the biggest moments, and a darn good rebounding guard. He’s a nice guy, too.

G/F Dan Aronowitz ’16, Williams

Last season we got a glimpse of what Aronowitz can do when Hayden Rooke-Ley ’15 was out with an injury. This year, Aronowitz was the best and most consistent player on the Ephs. He scored in double digits for 22 of the Ephs’ 25 games, and he was the best non-big man rebounder in the league pulling in 7.4 rpg, fifth best in the NESCAC. Aronowitz was also efficient, shooting 48.7 percent from the field and 40.7 percent from three. The year-to-year growth for Aronowitz from a seldom-used freshmen on an insanely talented team to junior leader on both ends of the court has been fun to watch. Next year he could make a strong push for POY honors. –Adam

F Shay Ajayi ’16, Trinity

All of those points that Hausman scored were just too eye-popping for us, but Ajayi made quite the case for POY laurels – after all, you add on what we saw as All-Defensive team caliber defense, and it’s hard to find a more complete player in the league. Ajayi tallied 14.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 42 steals (fourth in the NESCAC), 26 blocks (sixth) and was very efficient at 48.9 percent from the field.

C Tom Palleschi ’17, Tufts

Palleschi doesn’t look like much when he steps on the court – no offense, big guy – but he’s got some moves. Plus, he can stretch the floor all the way to the three-point line offensively. Defensively, there is a question about his ultimate impact, given how bad Tufts was as a unit, but his league-best (by far) 3.6 blocks per game suggest that he altered his fair share of shot attempts.

Second Team:

G BJ Davis ’16, Wesleyan University

Davis was headed for First Team status early on, but he and the Cards sort of petered out in the second half. Still, to elevate his game from just another option in the Cardinals rotating back court to “the guy” is a testament to his abilities. He’s remarkably quick, but could also shoot from anywhere, and hit 39.9 percent of his three pointers while scoring 16.4 ppg.

G Jake Brown ’17, Middlebury College

I’m happy to put another Panthers on the map here, and honestly I didn’t have to push too hard. Brown only scored 9.8 ppg, and All-League teams are usually just a mishmash of the highest scorers, but Brown really deserves this nod for his perimeter defense and control of the offense. Jack Daly ’18 is a good point guard in his own right, but Brown is truly elite at running a transition offense, and Middlebury would not be where they are right now without him. If you’re going by stats, Brown had 5.3 apg and a 2.8 assist-to-turnover ratio, both near the top of the league.

G Vinny Pace ’18, Tufts University

Pace burst on the scene this season by going for 25, 22, 22, 20 and 18 in his first five conference games after a strong early season non-conference showing. And even though Tarik Smith ’17 was the primary point guard, Pace racked up 2.8 apg and initiated the offense nearly as much as Smith.

G Connor Green ’16, Amherst College 

Green was a First-Teamer a season ago, but got pushed by some great players this year to the Second Team. Still a great accomplishment, and one that Green can add to a long list of achievements, including being the third leading scorer all-time at Amherst with 1,679 points, 29 behind Steve Zieja ’03 for the second spot. He’s a match up problem for any team because of his ability to shoot, height and size, and averaged 6.3 rebounds per game.

C Ed Ogundeko ’16, Trinity College

Ed Ogundeko '17 (52) and Shay Ajayi '16 (44) are both NbN All-NESCAC and All-Defensive players. (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
Ed Ogundeko ’17 (52) and Shay Ajayi ’16 (44) are both NbN All-NESCAC and All-Defensive players. (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

If we gave out a Most Improved Award, it would have gone to Ogundeko, hands down. Last season the big guy looked clunky and awkward around the rim, but this year he was downright silky with the ability to step away from 10-15 feet and make a couple of shots. Mainly, though, he just did work around the rim. At 6’6″, 235 lbs, not a lot of guys could move him off the block, and he used that advantage to pace the NESCAC in rebounding. He only played just over 22 minutes per game, but he was fifth in the conference in points per 40 minutes. That’s efficiency.

All-Rookie Team:

F Jack Simonds, Bowdoin (Rookie of the Year)

It’s crazy that Bowdoin has the Player and Rookie of the Year on their team, but you certainly can’t argue that Simonds is worthy. The 6’6″ Maine native came in and from day one showed he could shoot the rock. He finished sixth overall with 16.3 ppg. His size makes him a nightmare to cover, and down the stretch he got into the lane and finished more and more. Simonds had one of the best freshman seasons in recent history, and he missed out on our second team by just a hair. As good as Hausman has been over the past two years, Simonds has a chance to have an even better career. -Adam

G Tyler Rowe, Conn College 

Well, he got into Sports Illustrated, and that’s good enough for me. But in all seriousness, Rowe might have been Conn’s MVP, and that’s on a team with Zuri Pavlin ’17, the guy who had like 1,000 rebounds in two seasons. The weight has been lifted off of Pavlin somewhat because of this talented freshman crew that Rowe headlines. After scoring 12.8 ppg and shooting 41.7 percent from the field (and 85.1 percent from the line) the sky is the limit for this kid.

G Peter Hoffmann, Hamilton College

I think it’s pretty clear that Head Coach Adam Stockwell was committed to the rebuild this season. That’s not to say he did anything less than try to win, because playing his freshmen was probably the best way to do just that. Hoffmann started 18 games, played 27.7 mpg, and pretty much shot the ball any time he touched it. Usually they went in (40.0 percent from the field), but he needs to sharpen up that long range game. Still, Hoffmann looks destined to be a great scorer in this league.

F Kyle Scadlock, Williams College

Watching Scadlock early on, I was sure he would be a shoe-in for NESCAC Rookie of the Year. Unfortunately, his production really trailed off with eight single-digit point games in his last 11, but Scadlock is truly an elite talent with a unique skill set. He’s kind of built like Ben Simmons, except with the potential to shoot the ball. More than anything, the way he assumed a pivotal starting role and still maintained productive play tells me that he deserves this.

F Andrew Groll, Hamilton College

Groll was a workhorse, pulling down 7.8 rpg, fourth-most in the NESCAC. He also made the game-winner against Middlebury. Kid’s got ice in his veins!

All-Defensive Team:

F Shay Ajayi, Trinity College (Defensive Player of the Year)

Length, athleticism, effort, it’s all there with this kid. The NESCAC had him as the POY, we’ve got him as the DPOY. Fifty years from now he’ll be telling his grand kids that he was the D-III National Player of the Year.

G Jack Daly ’18, Middlebury College

As if we haven’t praised the Panther backcourt enough, this should really go 50 percent to Daly and 25 percent to Brown and St. Amour, each. Daly gets the nod because one Middlebury teammates called him the toughest kid in the league, and he takes the opponent’s best perimeter player on most possessions. Did you know that St. Amour, Brown and Daly went Nos. 1, 2 and 4 in steals per game this season? Crazy.

G Johnny McCarthy ’18, Amherst College

Speaking of stealing the basketball from unsuspecting victims, no one sneaks into a passing lane quite like McCarthy. Once again, length is the key. He’s 6’5″, but I’m sure his wingspan stretches beyond that.

C Ed Ogundeko, Trinity College

What more can we say? You can’t go inside on him without getting knocked around. He blocked 39 shots and altered countless more, and was the league’s best defensive rebounder by a considerable margin.

C Tom Palleschi, Tufts University

The guy right behind Ogundeko in defensive rebounding is Palleschi, who’s got some girth to him in his own right. I’m scared to think what would have happened to the Jumbos defense without the imposing presence of Palleschi. Luckily, we don’t have to think about that.

Sixth Man of the Year: F Eric Conklin ’17, Amherst College and G Eric Gendron ’18, Trinity College

We just couldn’t decide on one Eric. I wanted Conklin, Adam wanted Gendron, so we split it to make everyone happy (we might be getting a little soft in our waning days running the site). Conklin didn’t play a whole lot, just 16.1 mpg, but they were always important minutes, and his role as David George’s ’17 offensive half was crucial for Amherst. He racked up 20.8 points per 40 minutes, good for 14th in the conference, which is impressive for a guy coming off the bench and trying to get into a rhythm, shot 60.6 percent from the field, and was a sneaky good rebounder with 4.3 per game in limited time. Gendron, meanwhile, matched Conklin with 8.3 ppg but did most of his damage from deep, sniping away at a 43.3 percent clip. He’s also a great free throw shooter, going 36-39 (92.3 percent) this year, which didn’t qualify for the leaderboards.

Coach of the Year: Jeff Brown, Middlebury College

I said it on Monday in the stock report, but this is probably Jeff Brown’s finest work. Without any All-Region or All-American type players, Brown took his team to its third NESCAC championship just one year after missing out on the playoffs. Of course, if Middlebury loses the NESCAC championship to Amherst we have a different story and Brown might not win the award, but that’s why you play the game.