Coaches Come and Coaches Go: Middlebury vs Bates Playoff Preview

Overview:

This match-up has Mike Leonard’s fingerprints all over it. The former coach of Bates has reshaped the Middlebury program with the kind of efficiency usually reserved for college students with a final due the next morning. But, as evidenced by their playoff spot, Leonard didn’t leave Bates wanting for talent. Both teams are loaded with good young players, and have seen those players lead them to playoff spots that no one predicted before the season began. The teams are trending in different directions though. After a scorching 7-0 start in league play, Bates has dropped their last five, while Middlebury has played well the whole second half and finished at 8-4 in NESCAC play.

Bates’ strength all year has been their pitching. The have the second best team ERA in the league at 3.60, and during league play that number has dropped to 2.65, best in the league. They also are the third best fielding team in the league, with a .962 fielding percentage and 41 errors in 31 games. Bates doesn’t beat themselves, and is well suited to shut down the best offenses in the league. However, the Bobcats simply can’t score. They are last in the league in batting average and slugging percentage (.229 and .275 respectively.) Four of their five losses in league play have been by one run, and that trend is entirely due to an inability to get a big hit, particularly with runners in scoring position.

Middlebury has been a far more consistent team this season, but offense is certainly their strong suit. They have a .302 team average and a .434 slugging percentage, good for second and third in the league. Ryan Rizzo ‘17 sets the table at the top of the order and is a terror on the basepaths with 19 steals. And then fellow senior Jason Lock ‘17 knocks him in (30 RBI on the season.) Justin Han ‘20 provides good power with four home runs, and Sam Graf ‘19 rounds the lineup out with a combination of power, contact and speed that is rare in the league. The Panthers’ pitching was a problem early in the season, but has come together of late. Colby Morris ‘19 is coming off a Pitcher of the Week award, and Spencer Shores ‘20 has been stellar all throughout league play with a 2.29 ERA.

(Likely) Pitching Matchup:

Bates: Connor Speed ‘19 (1-5, 2.17 ERA, 40 K in 49.2 innings)

Connor Speed
Connor Speed ’19 (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

Speed gets two awards here. He is the runaway winner of the “Most Appropriate Name” award, and also the “Unluckiest Pitcher” award. He has gotten miniscule run support all season, finishing with only one win despite a 2.17 ERA. He also has gotten weirdly poor defensive effort behind him. He has allowed 25 runs on the year, and only 12 of them have been earned. All this to say that Speed is an ace; he just doesn’t have the won-loss record to back it up. He strikes out a fair amount of batters (over seven per nine innings) and has good control. Speed is one of the few pitchers in the league who have the ability to shut down an excellent Middlebury lineup.

Middlebury: Spencer Shores ‘20 (4-0, 4.25 ERA, 42 IP, 39 K)

Spencer Shores
Spencer Shores ’20 (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

The Panthers have a tough decision to make here. Colby Morris has had several rough performances in league play, but is the reigning Pitcher of the Week after out-dueling Tufts ace Speros Varinos ‘17 4-0 last weekend. Shores, on the other hand, has peaked in league play and has been more consistent throughout the season. But he is a first year, and starting an inexperienced pitcher in such a big game would give any coach pause. The thing that I think puts Shores over the top (in addition to the fact that he’s earned it by pitching very well) is that he is well rested. He hasn’t pitched since a rain shortened game against Bowdoin two weekends ago. Unfortunately, he did not pitch well in that game, giving up four runs in just 2.2 innings. Middlebury will have to choose between these two young starters.

Middlebury X-Factor: RP Connor Himstead ‘19 (1.56 ERA, 7 SV)

Conor Himstead
Connor Himstead ’19 (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

Middlebury’s starting pitching inconsistencies have been mitigated by having maybe the best closer in the league. Middlebury, like Bates, has the tendency to end up in a lot of close games, so having a closer who they can rely to hold a lead has been one of the most important parts of their season. He  strikes guys out (17 in 17 innings) and only gave up 12 hits in those 17 innings as well. Bates’ terrific pitching signals a potential close game here; meaning that Himstead will get some work. He will be called on to hold a lead for Middlebury, or possibly to keep the game close to give the offense a chance to come back. Either way, he will be very important come Friday.

Bates X-Factor: OF Will Sylvia ‘20 (.306/.457/.389, 18 BB)

Will Sylvia
Will Sylvia ’20 (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

As I said above, Bates’ offense has been mediocre (to put it lightly) all season. Sylvia has been one bright spot. Despite being a freshman, he has shown incredible plate discipline all year and has had a hand in most of Bates’ rallies on the year. His role in the lineup in primarily as a table setter due to his ability to get on base. Unfortunately, he is often stranded on base because Bates doesn’t have a run producer who is a threat to knock him in. To score in this series, Bates will have to manufacture runs, and they certainly won’t do that without Sylvia having a big series.

Final Thoughts:

The location of the game (Colby College) would seem to benefit Bates. They should bring a fairly good crowd with them, and should have less travel fatigue than the Panthers, who have a five hour drive.

The coaching change, however, should benefit the Panthers. Leonard might be able to give scouting reports on his former players, including likely starter Connor Speed. Middlebury’s reliance on first years may help them as well, as Bates will not have as much information on them as they do on the older players.

Prediction:

I think the game will remain close the whole time, as the strong pitching of both teams should keep the offenses at bay. However, Bates does not have the offense to break the game open, while Middlebury does.

Middlebury 3 – Bates 1

Merrily We Roll Along: Power Rankings 4/21


As we reach the final third of the season, a look at the NESCAC baseball landscape reveals the fierce competition throughout the conference. No team has locked up a bid and the final few weekend series’ hold more weight than ever before. Some teams are in must win situations with others have played themselves into good positions. This iteration of the Power Rankings shows movement from eight of the ten teams after a little over a week of games and a surprising weekend.

  1. Tufts

Despite a tough weekend for the Jumbos, Tufts still maintains its number one spot in the power rankings. A loss to 7-17 (2-7) Colby team brought this team back to reality after a scorching hot start including their run last season. However, still posting a 19-4-1 overall record and sitting in second place in the NESCAC East, Tufts has little reason to worry. Reigning NESCAC Pitcher of Year Speros Varinos ’17 is defending his title with an essentially perfect season thus far at 6-0 in 6 starts with a 1.50 ERA and league leading 46 strikeouts, 10 ahead of the next closest total. The lineup, hitting a combined .325, is led by Nick Falkson ’18, who is in the running for a title of his own – NESCAC Player of the Year. The infielder is hitting .402 and leading the league with 28 RBI’s. However, a crucial part of this lineup is filled with sophomores Casey Santos-Ocampo ’19 and Will Shackelford ’19 . Santos-Ocampo has provided clutch at bats and speed on the base paths, scoring 18 runs and knocking in 20 more. Shackelford has added a hot bat to his defensive soundness, hitting a phenomenal .434 with only 4 strikeouts in 53 at-bats. The Jumbos have a huge weekend series at home against Bowdoin, which could ultimately decide who makes the NESCAC playoffs, but as long as Tufts sticks to what they do best, they’ll be in a good spot heading forward toward the playoffs.

  1. Bates

Bates has been the San Antonio Spurs of the NESCAC so far this spring. They have no league leaders and no standout superstar, but are a fundamentally sound team. The Bobcats get the job done, which is why they jump to number two in this week’s power rankings. Holding Conference best 6-0 record, Bates has its eyes set on the playoffs. A convincing sweep of Bowdoin, in which the staff allowed only 8 runs total,

Connor Speed ’18 has carried an excellent Bates pitching staff this season.

proved that Bates is ready to compete with the higher echelon of the conference and make some noise in the postseason. The Bobcats will rely on their pitching staff to do so. With a league leading team ERA of 3.12 (2.47 in conference), this staff has to potential to shut down any offense in the league. Only giving up slightly over 3 runs a game has allowed the team to win 11 of 16 so far despite their struggling offense. However, these numbers come with a big asterisk, as their two series sweeps have come against weaker offenses in Colby and Bowdoin. Look for Connor Speed ’18 to lead the staff as the team aims to continue their dominance on the mound. For now though, Bates has put themselves in a good position for a postseason bid.

  1. Wesleyan

Wesleyan holds a slim .5 game lead in the West Division and are tasked with facing a hot Middlebury squad this weekend. So far this season has been not up to Wesleyan’s standards at the plate. Hitting a mediocre .291, the Cardinal bats look to heat up to their potential as the season progresses. Will O’Sullivan ’17 is starting the charge hitting an impressive .360 and team leading 8 doubles. Adding power to lineup is Junior Matt Jeye ’18 who is tied for the league lead with 3 homeruns. On the mound, the Cardinals have been consistent if anything as they have been racking up strikeouts. In conference, they strike out 7.30 batters per nine innings – nearly a strikeout an inning. Leading the bullpen is two-way player Ryan Earle ’19 who has a league leading 4 saves along with a minimal 1.06 ERA. Wesleyan hasn’t had exactly the start they were expecting but have been playing well enough to stay atop a tight division. As the Cardinal bats start hitting up to their potential, look for this team to be dangerous towards the end of the season.

  1. Amherst

Since last power rankings, Amherst has gone 4-0 including a sweep against a tough Williams squad. This is partly in thanks to the recent success of its lineup. In his last season, Yanni Thanopoulos is in the running for NESCAC Player of the Year, hitting .400 with 26 RBI’s. Harry Roberson has also contributed power to the lineup slugging an impressive .627 with 10 doubles, 2 triples, and 2 homeruns. However, despite hitting a conference best .330, Amherst has only a .500 record at 10-10. This is  due entirely to their disastrous pitching. The staff has a combined 5.82 ERA (which has improved since last week), which includes 9 homeruns and nearly 200 hits in only 173.1innings. The only bright spot is consistent starter Jackson Volle ’17 who has gone 4-0 with a 1.82 ERA in team leading 24.2 innings pitched. Volle has kept this Amherst team relevant with his impressive performances and routine domination of the NESCAC bats. After him though, Amherst’s arms need to step up their game. With a dangerous lineup, this team is never out of any game, but in order to keep their current postseason bid, Amherst will need to find support from their staff.

  1. Williams
Kellen Hatheway
Kellen Hatheway ’19 could follow up is ROY season with a POY trophy this year.

Williams has had a similar start to the season as Amherst. Their offense is hard to stop, with a team average of .310. Kellen Hatheway ‘19, one year removed from his NESCAC Rookie of the Year campaign now is gunning for NESCAC Player of the Year. The sophomore is hitting a conference leading .446 highlighted by 7 doubles and 3 triples. He has additionally added 7 stolen bases to his outstanding numbers. Not to be shadowed by the young star, Junior Jack Roberts ’18 has put together a solid season at the plate as well hitting .391 for the Williams squad. However, despite this strong lineup, Williams has struggled due to the inconsistency of the rotation. The 4.72 team ERA shows the difficulty Williams arms have had. The reason behind this though, could be due to Coach Barrale’s decision to ride his young arms. Standout rookie John Lamont ’20 has had a very successful start to the season, having gone 2-1 with a 2.77 ERA. Additionally, classmate Kyle Dean ’20 has proven he can compete with the best of the ‘CAC, as he has gone 17.2 innings giving up only 2 runs. Williams’s success depends heavily on its young core, but the veterans, especially in the bullpen need to perform for Williams to compete with the top of the league.

  1. Middlebury

Middlebury’s sweep of Hamilton gave them a much-needed jump in the West Division. The Panthers in-conference and overall record perfectly reflect the games they’ve played so far. Sitting one game above and below .500, respectively, Middlebury has kept their games close, as 15 of the 19 games played have been decided by 3 or less runs. New coach Mike Leonard has relied on his senior talent in Jason Lock ’17 and Ryan Rizzo ’17, who are hitting .397 and .355 respectively. These leaders are the heart of a productive Middlebury lineup (hitting .313 as a team.) Similar to other teams in the Conference, Middlebury has found that its weakness is in the pitching staff. The Panthers have the second worst ERA in the NESCAC for both in-conference and overall play. The star in the rotation has been freshman Spencer Shores ’20 who has gone 2-0 in 28.2 innings pitched with a 2.51 ERA. It will take a strong performance for the rest of the season, but Middlebury is back in the race for one of the two playoff spots in the West Division. If the veterans in the rotation can sharpen their game, Middlebury can sneak its way into the postseason.

  1. Bowdoin
Brandon Lopez
Brandon Lopez ’18 (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

Bowdoin is quietly riding a 5 game winning streak going into a crucial matchup against Tufts this weekend. Included in this streak is a sweep of Trinity College which brought their in-conference record to 3-3, only one game behind Tufts for the second spot in the division. The winner of this series will have control over the second bid for the playoffs. Bowdoin’s success has not come from any star power, but just clutch play and solid pitching. All three Trinity games were close, despite a lineup that is hitting is measly .270 and has scored only 83 runs in 23 games. Brandon Lopez ’19 is by far the team’s MVP thus far. He is one of the few Polar Bears who has found success at the plate, hitting .328 with team leading 10 RBI’s. Lopez also has led the pitching staff with a 3-0 record and a 1.29 ERA. Behind him is Max Vogel-Freedman ’18 who has a 2.16 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 25 innings pitched. This Bowdoin staff has brought the team into the race for a playoff bid. Their in-conference ERA sits at a meager 2.68. However, the Polar Bear arms will face their toughest test yet against the dynamic Tufts offense. Winning the series against Tufts would solidify Bowdoin’s relevancy in NESCAC baseball.

  1. Trinity

Trinity lost a tough series to Bowdoin, which severely hurt their opportunity for a playoff bid and dropped them steeply in the power rankings. A lot must go Trinity’s way, starting with a series sweep over first place Bates this upcoming weekend. To complete this daunting task, the Bantams must hit a hot streak at the plate. After Brendan Pierce ’18, this lineup, while it certainly can hit, doesn’t have too much power in their bats. Trinity must string together hits and not leave men on base. When the offense is rolling, it is usually due to senior Nick Dibenedetto ’17. His season has satisfied the high expectations going into the year. He is hitting .366 with a .512 slugging percentage. On the bump, Erik Mohl ’19 has put together a breakout year thus far. In his 12 appearances, Mohl has a 6-1 record and a 2.62 ERA in team high 34.1 innings. After the sophomore, however, Trinity has run into issues. Coach Bryan Adamski continues his search for a solution, as 10 pitchers in the staff have 7 or more appearances. While unlikely to earn a playoff bid after losing the series to Bowdoin, Trinity has the potential to shake up the standings with the potential talent on the team.

  1. Hamilton

Hamilton’s out-of-conference record, 11-7, varies drastically from their in-conference record, 0-5. This slow start has already dug them a deep hole in the tough West Division. The future doesn’t look too bright either as the team’s top six hitters are graduating this spring. One of them, Kenny Collins ‘17 has shown his versatility hitting .400 while also leading the league with 15 stolen bases (caught only once). Ryan Wolfsberg ’17 has also put together a strong final season, hitting .387. The pitching staff is in a much different position. After Finlay O’Hara ’17 who has a 1.50 ERA, the rest of the rotation and bullpen is returning next season. Dan DePaoli ’18 has put together a successful season behind O’Hara. However, his 2.21 ERA has resulted in a mediocre 3-3 record. Hamilton is better suited off getting young guys experience for next season, as this year’s team will likely miss out on the playoffs.

  1. Colby

Despite stealing a game against a strong Tufts team, Colby has struggled in conference play, compiling a 2-7 record. This record, is described perfectly by the run differential in these game: -40. One of the major factors in this statistic is the inability of the Mules team to hit the ball. The team is hitting a mere .265, despite junior Matt Treveloni’s efforts at the plate, hitting .353. In order to climb out of last place, the Mules bats must heat up. On the opposite side, the Colby staff has shown some bright spots. First year player Taimu Ito ’20 has impressed with team leading 27 innings pitched and a 3.33 ERA. Additionally, John Baron ’18 has relied on his curveball to pitch 14.2 innings with a 1.84 ERA. However, the relative success of the Mules’ bullpen hasn’t been enough to make up for an inefficient offense. A four game series against Williams is approaching and Colby will look to get out of last in the East with a series win.

Love (and Playoffs) are in the Air: Stock Report 2/14

And then there were eight. The NESCAC field is narrowed down to the quarterfinals of the conference as three squads have fallen into the abyss of the offseason. For some, their college careers are over, for others, ultimate glory awaits. While I like to think NBN is pretty democratic in our reporting, I’m not going to spend much time on Colby, Bowdoin, or Conn College as it’s safe to say that their stocks are all down with their failure to make the conference tournament.

I’ll focus on the stocks of the collective other eight teams, ordered by their first round playoff match-ups this weekend in the highly anticipated start to the March Madness merry-go-round as the dominoes are starting to fall towards the national championship. 

Hamilton (15-8, 4-6) – Stock Down

Hamilton started out hot in the NESCAC season at 3-2, a 1-4 finish heading into the playoffs isn’t what the Continentals had in mind. Consecutive losses to Amherst and Trinity were expected at this point, but still pivotal for this team as they are now stuck with #1 seed Tufts. While this is actually more favorable a match-up than if against Middlebury or even Amherst, Hamilton seems to be scrambling to figure a plan of attack out. Switching up their starting lineup against Amherst didn’t do the trick as Carlos Fineman and Kyle Pitman had little production. They don’t have the same consistent output from Tim Doyle, Joe Pucci, or Andrew Groll as they did earlier in the year and are increasingly reliant on freshman sixth-man standout Kena Gilmour who is now second on the team in PPG with 13.3. Peter Hoffmann is still doing well but without the whole starting five shooting well, they will have a tough time in Medford.

#17 Tufts (19-5, 8-2) – Stock Up

While beating Williams isn’t something that will necessarily improve Tufts’ national ranking, it is a big confidence booster heading into this weekend. After weeks of struggles since Tom Palleschi’s injury, the Jumbo’s finally put it all together against a NESCAC playoff team. In their #1 seed clinching win the Jumbo’s showed the depth and difference in style needed to take them all the way. Since their big man has gone down, Tufts’ identity as a team has shifted. They needed to find a rebounder to replace their center, but Drew Madsen hasn’t stepped up into the same role. Against Williams, they managed to play a different type of game, losing the rebounding struggle (35-32) to the Ephs, but nailing shots with great accuracy at 50% from deep  and 52.4% from the field. Eric Savage, KJ Garrett, and Ethan Feldman all had double digit points off of the bench, and in order to keep their NESCAC championship hopes alive, the Jumbos will have to keep seeing production from non-starters. Hamilton hasn’t been playing well, but they have still had great moments this year. However, if Tufts brings the same accuracy as this weekend they will be in good shape.

Trinity (15-9, 6-4) – Stock down

 Though Middlebury is seeded higher than Trinity, a poor showing on Saturday must’ve had to sting. After losing to Midd in the NESCAC playoffs last year, the first rematch brought on that familiar feeling of defeat. A 14 point halftime deficit was too much to overcome as Langdon Neal and Eric Gendron couldn’t stop Matt St. Amour. While Wesleyan’s guards aren’t as quick and don’t have as nice of a jump shot as St. Amour, they played exceptionally against Amherst last week and if the Bantams stay as a team ruled by one player, Ed Ogundeko, then they could give up a couple 20-spots to Harry Rafferty and Kevin O’Brien. Ogundeko only had nine boards against Midd and only had eight last time they played Wesleyan. Without a big game from Ogundeko, the Bantams don’t have a great shot at winning, so he needs to play like it’s the finals and get some help from his teammates for a change. I’d say they are an underdog, but everybody knows #5 seeds always win in tournaments (see: my D1 bracket from last year.)

Wesleyan (19-5, 6-4) – Stock Up

The Cardinals did nothing wrong this past weekend, but Colby and Bowdoin were heavily predicted wins and won’t change their stock at all. A home game against Trinity offers a rematch of the January 14th game that Wesleyan won 65-61. After beating Amherst in OT last Tuesday, riding a three game win streak into the playoffs is the best case scenario this team could see. While their win against Amherst isn’t technically a league game (the NESCAC is weird) it still showed enough to bump this squad’s stock up. Their perimeter defense against Amherst was great, helping to limit them to just 37.7% from the field and 32.0% from three point range, but their lack of rebounds is still concerning. Harry Rafferty and Kevin O’Brien are rolling recently, with Jordan Bonner adding a double-double against the Purple and White. While their early season turbulence is behind them, the Cardinals still need to neutralize Ed Ogundeko to take their quarterfinal game. If they can defend the outside like they did against Amherst, while keeping Ogundeko near the eight rebounds he got against them on Jan. 14th, then they could dribble straight into the semifinals.

 #13 Middlebury (20-3, 8-2) – Stock Up

Matt St. Amour
Matt St. Amour ’17 might have ended the Player of the Year conversation with his 31 and 28 points in Middlebury’s two games last weekend.

Midd knocked off higher ranked Amherst and put down Trinity in back to back home games, giving them a share for the league’s best record and the #2 seed in the ‘CAC tourney. They forced some key turnovers late in the second half against Amherst and forced them to shoot from deep, creating a quick scoring gap after the Purple and White’s missed opportunities. Eric McCord was able to body up Ogundeko against Trinity and Matt St. Amour continued to do his thing and make ridiculous jump shots with no angle on the hoop. Let’s hope Jake Brown’s twisted ankle doesn’t slow him down as this team is firing on all cylinders heading into the playoffs, and with Palleschi’s injury for Tufts, there is no reason why the Panthers shouldn’t be the favorite heading into the quarterfinal games. 

Bates (15-9, 4-6) – Stock Down

Bates did not help themselves out last weekend. Instead of finishing in conference at 5-5, heading into the playoffs with a confidence boosting win and a matchup against a lower seed in Amherst, they travel to snowy Vermont to take on Middlebury in what should be a loud and packed gym. The Delpeche twins had noteworthy senior seasons, but they couldn’t get it going last time against the Panthers and couldn’t find a way to win against the Ephs. Williams didn’t really stop the twins, but since nobody else on Bates showed up to play, the two on five game didn’t fare in the Bobcats’ favor. Without monster performances from the Delpeches this weekend, others like Jeff Spellman (1-7 from three on Saturday) and Nick Gilpin (29 minutes, two points) are going to have to step up in a major way and drain some shots. 

#8 Amherst (17-6, 7-3) – Stock Down

Jayde Dawson ’18 surveys the court against Tufts.

Despite their (unreasonably in our eyes) high national ranking, Amherst played sloppy basketball against Middlebury last weekend. Getting their pockets picked and missing straight on unguarded threes spelled out their doom as any comeback attempt was quickly halted by quick and concise offensive execution. Lacking major power down low, Amherst is going to need to hit their open shots as Michael Riopel and Jayde Dawson didn’t get their inner Steph Curry going on last weekend. Despite Dawson’s 24 points, he had slow second half production and performed in waves that hurt the Purple and White when they needed to go on a run. They were able to turn it around against Hamilton as Dawson found his shot going 6-8 from deep and Riopel added a 3-5 line, but lack of consistency is deadly in the playoffs. They better find a way to keep replicating their A game.

Williams (17-7, 5-5) – Stock Up

The Ephs suffered a beatdown against Tufts, but an expected loss won’t hurt them too much. Finishing at 5-5 coming from nowhere to reach the .500 mark in NESCAC bodes well for the confidence of a young team heading into an underdog stretch run. Their narrow win over Bates put them in the conversation as a bracket-buster even in a road game at Amherst. If Daniel Aronowitz can rain fire like he did against Bates (8-10 FG and 3-5 from deep) to match Johnny McCarthy and if Cole Teal can put up a double double to match Jayde Dawson, then anything is possible. Everybody likes a good upset and I nearly counted Williams out of the playoff race a while back. A 5-5 team against a 7-3 team? It seems like that kind of upset happens all the time. It might not be quite that simple, but the Ephs have weapons and it is the playoffs.

 Conn College (13-10, 3-7), Colby (10-14, 1-9), Bowdoin (12-11, 3-7)

Their seasons are over and stocks are down.

The Last Chance Before the (NESCAC) Dance: Saturday/Sunday Preview, 2/12

Tarik Smith ’17 and Tufts clinched the regular season title for the first time in school history last night in their win over Williams (Courtesy of Alonso Nichols/Tufts University)

Editor’s note: this article was written before Friday’s games and therefore does not take the Friday results into account.

Colby at Wesleyan

The 2016-17 season has been a tough one for Colby. They’re 1-7 in conference and haven’t had a realistic shot of making the playoffs for at least a couple of weeks. At this point, they’re only playing for their dignity. Wesleyan on the other hand, could vault themselves into a top four seed with a couple of wins this weekend. Colby only has a single player averaging at least 8 points a game in Senior Patrick Stewart, and he gets 16.3. Unfortunately for Colby, Stewart hasn’t had the weapons around him to make the Mules much of a threat. Wesleyan, on the other hand, has benefited from a balanced attack with five players scoring ten points per contest. Backing up their offense has been their stifling defense, which allows their opponents to shoot a league leading (and second in all of DIII) 35% from the field. Colby’s only shot here is to capitalize on Wesleyan’s propensity to turn the ball over as they do so a NESCAC leading 15.4 times per game. If the Mules can convert sloppy turnovers into fast breaks, they could pick up a couple of easy buckets and score without bearing the brunt of Wesleyan’s stingy defense. However, chances are, this is not going to happen, and Colby (with a Friday loss) will end the season with a single NESCAC victory. :’(

Pick: Wesleyan

Bowdoin at Connecticut College

This season, Bowdoin’s Forward Jack Simonds ‘19 has been phenomenal. He’s averaging nearly 19 points per game and he’s dropped 30+  four times this season. Don’t forget, he’s only a sophomore. He has carried a huge load for his team, leading the NESCAC in minutes played. However, as a whole Bowdoin has not been able to put together wins as often as they’d like. The Polar Bears are in line to finish with one of the three worst records in the NESCAC. Looking at the home team, Conn hasn’t been much better; they too have a very slim chance of making the playoffs, and have only fared one game better than the Polar Bears this season. Though this game may not matter for the playoffs, a win would allow either team to end their season on a positive note. Despite Bowdoin’s lack of success in the win column, they don’t foul, and they don’t turn the ball over. Their team is young and there should be optimism moving forward. They’re going up against a Conn team who’s used to taking their lumps (pun intended) as the Camels are last in the ‘CAC in FG defense and they give up the most points per game. I think Bowdoin’s defensive struggles  put Jack Simonds in a great position to lead his team to end the season on a positive note and possibly hang up his fifth 30-spot, despite losing five of their last six NESCAC games. Bowdoin has a terrific scorer in Simonds who I think gives them the edge over the Camels.

Pick: Bowdoin

Trinity at Middlebury

This is probably the best Saturday matchup as both teams are in the top half of the NESCAC and enter the game with their best players being tried and true veterans. Shout it from the mountaintops Panther fans, like the Chicago Cubs, you are good. Entering the weekend, they’ve won 5 in a row and have shown no signs of slowing down, vaulting themselves into the conversation for best team in the NESCAC. This charge has been led by their incredibly potent backcourt play. In their senior campaign, backcourt duo Matt St. Amour and Jake Brown have been dynamite. St. Amour leads the NESCAC in scoring (20.6 PPG) and Brown holds the conference lead in assists (6.7 AST/G). Trinity, on the other hand, has probably the most prolific double double machine in the NESCAC in Ed Ogundeko ‘17, who averages 17.7 and 11.5 from the center position. Without a real rim protecting big the Panthers can lean on, Ogundeko is liable to cause some havoc in the paint on Saturday. Trinity likely will not be able to outscore Middlebury’s uptempo attack, so they’ll need to find a way to either slow them down and take them out of their rhythm or try to coax the Panthers into some sloppy play. The latter is unlikely since Middlebury holds the best turnover ratio in the conference, so Trinity’s best bet to limit Middlebury’s outside attack is to try to control the tempo early and pound the ball inside to their star. With Middlebury at home and on such a roll, I think Brown and St. Amour get a little saucy and lead the Panthers to victory in Hartford.

Pick: Middlebury

Amherst at Hamilton

This game is undoubtedly a huge undertaking for the Continentals. Amherst has had an excellent regular season and they are sitting pretty for home-court in at least the first round of the playoffs. Their leading scorer is Guard Jayde Dawson ’18, who’s getting almost 18.6 per contest in under 30 minutes of action. Despite his prolific scoring, he’s only started two games this year, and that’s not a knock on him, it just goes to show how deep this team is. Also, wing Johnny McCarthy ’18 is coming off of a Player of the Week award averaging 15.5 points and 13.5 boards. He’s one of the best rebounders in the NESCAC, averaging 8 per game on the year, especially impressive considering he spends much of his time around the perimeter. Hamilton’s wing play has been equally impressive. Underclassmen Peter Hoffman ’19, Michael Grassey ’19, and Kena Gilmour ’20 all present significant threats on the wing for the Continentals. All have been solid, but Hoffman’s performances have been consistently above and beyond. Another great rebounding and scoring wing, he has reached double digit scoring in all but two games this year and shoots 55.8% from the field. Hamilton is a strong team and has been even better at home, but Amherst’s consistency and pedigree is hard to deny. In a couple years, as Hamilton’s young stars mature, and their bench gets deeper, this might be a different story. However, as long as Amherst brings their A game, they should be able to come out on top.

Pick: Amherst

Williams at Bates

In Sunday’s only game, two middling teams meet in icy Maine to try to right their ships. Both teams are likely playoff bound, but are neck and neck for the opportunity to avoid juggernaut Tufts in the first round. Bates’ success this season is due in large part to their literal twin towers. Twin big men, Marcus and Malcolm Delpeche ’18, put up nearly 30 points and 20 boards between the two of them, and both rank in the top five of NESCAC rebounding. They are a force to be reckoned with, as just a couple weeks ago, Marcus was named the NESCAC player of the week. These two should be a tough challenge for Williams to handle come Sunday for the Ephs. Though they tote a near seven-footer in sophomore Michael Kempton, he lacks the athleticism and identical twin to contain them both. Every time I watch Williams I come away with more confusion than clarity as to their level of play because they play very slowly, but take so many threes (almost half of their total field goal attempts). Generally speaking, the less you play in transition, the harder it is to get good looks at three pointers because you allow the defense to get set. Despite this, the Ephs continue to fire away in their half-court sets and still make a somewhat respectable 35% as a team. With an impressive win against Amherst, and a confounding loss to Bowdoin, it’s really hard for me to tell where they stand. Williams is gonna take their threes, but they’ll need to figure out how to contain Bates’ inside threat. If the Ephs can drain from beyond the arc, they’ll have a great chance to win, but I think Bates’ home-court advantage and opportunity for rest while Williams plays on Friday should set them up for a victory on Sunday.

Pick: Bates

It’s All Coming Together: Weekend Preview 2/4-2/5

I’ve been pretty bad about predicting the correct winners for games in my last few pieces, and I’m not sure how much better I’m going to get. The nature of the league this year is too unpredictable and the parity between teams is too small to know who is going to show up. Wesleyan had a huge drop off earlier in the year and have since come roaring back, Middlebury has been consistent in every game except in a blowout loss to Williams, Tufts lost to Bates, albeit without their best player, and Amherst has had their share of duds too. Trinity and Bates seem to be just sticking around, winning against weaker opponents, save the upset win over Tufts. Those are the top six teams in the league, all riding this rollercoaster of a NESCAC season. What does it all mean with just 3-4 conference games left for each squad? The top seed is the ultimate prize to host the playoffs, but once the postseason begins, it’s anybody’s to take.

GAME OF THE WEEK: Tufts @ Amherst, 3:00 PM, Amherst, MA

Overview:

Tom Palleschi ‘17 has been a big focus in the last few mentions of Tufts basketball. The All-NESCAC big man’s absence leaves a big vulnerability down low. Amherst doesn’t have a player like Bates’ Marcus Delpeche, but Johnny McCarthy will still pose a rebounding threat. The Jumbo’s two straight losses are unexpected and clearly a result of their starting center going down, but if they can manage to right the ship against Trinity, they could easily bring the fire back to Amherst. At 6-1 in NESCAC, the Jumbos are comfortable in first place, but hosting the NESCAC tournament isn’t to be taken lightly. The home field advantage could easily slip from Tufts’ grasp if Ogundeko dominates on Friday, bringing in a must-win situation against the Purple and White.

If the NESCAC basketball season is an amusement park, with each team as its own dipping, twisting, and turning rollercoaster, then Amherst is the Tower of Terror. At fourth in this week’s power rankings and #11 nationally, there are conflicting opinions as to how legit this team is. Losses to Conn College and Wesleyan nearly derailed their NESCAC season, but a four game hot streak has put them within striking distance of the top spot if the ball rolls their way this weekend. Johnny McCarthy ’18 is going to be huge this weekend, and as the #1 rebounder with 8.8 REB/G and a 46.4 FG% in conference, Tufts is going to have a lot to handle without their star player. Center Drew Madsen ’17 will have a lot to handle. 

Tufts X-Factor: Drew Madsen ‘17

Drew Madsen ’17 (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

Perhaps Madsen will be a bigger make-or-break player against Trinity’s Ogundeko, but he might just have the length to handle McCarthy against Amherst. In his four starts at center these past two weeks, he is averaging just over five PPG and five REB/G. His shooting isn’t the issue here—the guards will need to pick up the slack as Pete mentioned in Part One. He needs to bring down the boards to replace Palleschi’s 7.2 REB/G and 2.6 blk/g in conference. Madsen will come in key on defense as McCarthy could have a huge game if left free in the paint. Delpeche’s 28 points can’t be repeated here as Tufts has been ice cold from 3-point range of late. Madsen certainly doesn’t need to play as well as Palleschi, but if he can stop Amherst’s top threat, then Vincent Pace can do his thing and carry the Jumbos again offensively.

Amherst X-Factor: Jayde Dawson

Jayde Dawson
Jayde Dawson ’18 (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

While McCarthy is Amherst’s most dynamic player, Dawson’s team leading 17.0 PPG in NESCAC games drives the offense.In Amherst’s worst loss of the season against Conn College, Dawson scored just nine points. In all of their other ‘CAC games, he hasn’t scored less than 13, with 17 and 21 in their last two games. He had four steals in a two point win against Bowdoin and four more against Trinity and could have a big rebounding day against the hobbled Jumbos. McCarthy should be big down low on Saturday, but Dawson will have to keep up with Pace as I’m not fully convinced Amherst deserves their #11 ranking at this point in the season.

Final Thoughts:

Both teams will walk into Saturday’s matchup after a good test the day before. Bates and Trinity could easily knock off both teams, leaving this as a battle for seeding with so few games to play. Trinity should be a great test for Tufts, offering a similar big threat to Delpeche, which could better prepare them for an Amherst team that hasn’t beaten anybody in the top seven except for Trinity. In that lone win against Trinity, the Bantams shot just 7.1% from three (1-14), more a sign of bad shooting than good defense, a clear anomaly. Their loss to Conn College and their two point win against last place Bowdoin really stick out as reasons why the Purple and White won’t win despite Palleschi’s absence.

Tufts also has had it pretty rocky of late with their tough loss to Bates, but if they can figure out how to play without Palleschi—it makes sense that it would take a few games—then they should be able to handle Amherst. The #9 team in the country is much more deserving of their ranking than Amherst—and if not for their center’s injury, they would be a clear favorite. The level of play of both teams will be much clearer after Friday’s match ups, but for now I still think the Jumbos can figure it out. 

Writer’s Pick: Tufts

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

While I haven’t been accurate on my predictions, I really think the Panthers are going to win this one. Last place Bowdoin against #16 Middlebury doesn’t leave a lot to fear as a Midd fan, but Jack Simonds always poses a big threat. Simonds’ ridiculous point totals have come down to earth a bit recently with just eight and 13 against Trinity and Colby, but others have stepped up. Jack Bors had a huge 24 point outburst against Colby and added 19 more in a win against Husson, although neither opponent is as strong as the Panthers.

With Bryan Jones’ blowup performance against Hamilton last weekend, Middlebury added another big offensive weapon. Matt St. Amour, Jake Brown, Jack Daly, Adisa Majors and now Eric McCord and Jones? The Panthers have a plethora of offensive and defensive weapons that led to 115 points against a good team, and they could easily put up triple digits against the Polar Bears. If Bors and Simonds have the games of their lives and Middlebury forgets how to shoot, then it could be close…maybe.

Writer’s Pick: Middlebury

Hamilton @ Colby, 3:00 PM, Waterville, ME

Hamilton was really starting to emerge as a potential contender, and then they had to go and lose by 33 to Middlebury. Ouch. That game definitely put a lot of question as to how the Continentals can hold up against the stronger league opponents, but at 3-3, they are still sticking around. Bowdoin should pose a similar threat to the Continentals as the Mules will, so my pick in this one will be the same as Pete’s for Hamilton’s Friday game.

Colby did put up a solid and surprising performance against Bowdoin with Patrick Stewart putting up 28 points out of nowhere. Stewart should be rested heading into the weekend, playing just 13 minutes in a blowout win against Southern Maine, and if he can get it going, maybe Colby can too. Hamilton has lost all of their games on the road this year and their starters played terribly against the Panthers last weekend. Kena Gilmour could crack the starting lineup soon enough as his 19 points on 19 shots last weekend were both team highs, with only one starter, Andrew Groll, putting up double digit points. I’m still a big fan of Hamilton’s even depth and Jack Dwyer’s court vision, but he needs to play better than he did last weekend. Hamilton is the favorite here, but they aren’t a lock.

Writer’s Pick: Hamilton

Bates @ Trinity, 3:00 PM, Hartford, CT

Malcolm Delpeche ’17 (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

This should be a great matchup between three of the best big men in the NESCAC. Marcus Delpeche showed his star talent last weekend and Ed Ogundeko shows it nearly every game. Neither team has really been able to separate themselves from the middle of the pack and neither has a ton of offensive depth. Malcolm Delpeche offers another star rebounding presence and is a good scorer too—just short ofMarcus’ scoring and rebounding, and averages 3.5 BLK/G to lead the league. Bates should have an upper hand in the boards department with two of the top five rebounders in the league, but Trinity has potential big game players who don’t always show up.

Marcus Delpeche ’17 has been asserting himself offensively for the Bobcats of late.

Eric Gendron and Chris Turnbull have traded off with good performances the past two games while Jeremy Arthur has really hit a wall lately. Gendron and Turnbull are going to need to bring it and are the keys to the Bantams’ game as Marcus should match Ogundeko and Malcolm should be a big advantage to the Bobcats. Coming off an upset win against Tufts (and maybe another upset win against Amherst?) the Bobcats will be ready to go. If it wasn’t for their loss to Conn College earlier this year I would say Bates should definitely be ahead of Trinity in the power rankings. It should be a close one, but Bates should pull it out.

Writer’s Pick: Bates

Conn College at Williams, 2:00 PM, Williamstown, MA

I don’t think I’ve been giving the Camels quite as much credit as they deserve. I keep knocking on teams that have lost to them as they were upset losses, but Conn has pretty much lost to everybody they were expected to lose to. What I mean is they have really only played good teams. Wins against Bates and Amherst are huge for this team heading into the playoff run as this game against the Ephs has huge playoff implications. Currently at 2-4, Williams holds the final spot in the NESCAC playoffs, but at 2-5 the Camels are clawing at that eighth spot. With their final three games against Williams, Colby, and Bowdoin, the Camels could easily end up 5-5.

Williams offers a typically confusing case for the NESCAC. A blowout win against Middlebury really confuses me. The Ephs shot a blistering hot 58.5 FG% and 48.1% from deep, shown to be unsustainable against Amherst where they really fell back to earth. Zuri Pavlin and Daniel Janel down lost coupled with Tyler Rowe and Lee Messier offer a much more consistent arsenal of weapons that should be able to knock off the Ephs. No doubt the Williams team could pull this game off, but this is Conn’s easiest conference game thus far and they have played nearly every team closely.

Writer’s Pick: Conn College

Hitting the Home Stretch: Weekend Preview 2/3

Every NESCAC game is important. That is the nature of the league; since every team (give or take a couple outliers) can get hot and pull off an upset at any time, there are few opportunities to take a game off. And as we wind down the 2016-2017 regular season, the games become even more crucial. This weekend and next, one loss can be the difference between hosting a playoff or going on the road. For some teams, it can even be the difference between making the playoffs or getting a chance to catch up on their homework. The Friday night games kick off a critical weekend, and there are some very important match-ups to keep an eye on, particularly Tufts’ game against Trinity and Bates game in Amherst.

GAME OF THE WEEK: Tufts @ Trinity, 7:00 PM, Hartford, CT

Overview

Although they’re still the top team in NESCAC record-wise, Tufts has some real work to do if they want to stay there. The loss of starting center and team leader Tom Palleschi ‘17 has the Jumbos reeling on both sides of the ball. Against Bates, they weren’t able to stop Marcus Delpeche ‘17, who destroyed them to the tune of 28 points on 10/16 shooting. They also settled for jumpshots, leading to a low shooting percentage (36.1%.) They then came out flat against Umass-Dartmouth, losing 91-82. Again, interior defense was a problem, as the Jumbos allowed 14 offensive rebounds and couldn’t get stops down the stretch to support their Vincent Pace-led comeback. Although it was not a league game, the Umass-Dartmouth loss in conjunction with the Bates loss point to deep problems for Tufts. They need to find a way to defend at a high level without Palleschi.

Unfortunately, Trinity is not the best team to play if interior defense is your issue. Ed Ogundeko ‘17 has shown himself to be fully capable of ending a game himself if a team doesn’t have a post presence to match him (see his 20/20 game against Bowdoin earlier this year.) Marcus Delpeche proved that Tufts is vulnerable to big performances from dominant inside players. However, Trinity doesn’t exactly come into this one firing on all cylinders either. They only put up 53 points on 32% shooting against Amherst, and that’s including 19 on 8/11 shooting from Ogundeko. The rest of the team shot 11/48 from the field, which is about the same percentage that I shoot when I throw paper at my recycling bin from my bed. Both teams enter this game needing to prove themselves if they hope to contend for top spots come playoffs.

Tufts X-Factor: Guard Rebounding

With Palleschi out, Tufts has a `very large hole in the middle of their defense. To fill that hole, the Jumbos will need help from up and down the roster. Of course new starter Drew Madsen ‘17 has the biggest job (particularly this weekend when he matches up with Ogundeko) but he can’t do it alone. Tufts’ guards have to take some of the rebounding load off of the suddenly-thin Tufts frontcourt. Vincent Pace ‘18 has always been adept at this, averaging 5.7 rebounds per game, but he holds too much offensive responsibility to spend all his time battling Ogundeko in the paint. KJ Garrett ‘18 and Ben Engvall ‘18 will have to use their size and strength to crash the boards, freeing up Pace to carry the offense and taking pressure off Tufts’ untested big men.

Trinity X-Factor: Anyone Besides Ogundeko

Eric Gendron
Eric Gendron ’18 (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

I apologize for sounding like a broken record here, but Trinity needs a second scoring option. Amherst was able to basically dare anyone else on the Bantams roster to beat them, and no one else could. Chris Turnbull ‘17 has shot well from three on the year at 43%, but has a tendency to disappear in big games and struggles to score inside. The same goes for Jeremy Arthur ‘19, who has struggled in league play. Eric Gendron ‘18 represents another candidate to be the Christopher to Ogundeko’s Tony Soprano. Gendron has averaged 11.2 points per game on 43% shooting in league play. To knock off Tufts, Trinity will need solid games from at least one (and more likely two or three) of those possible second bananas.

Final Thoughts

From a playoff seeding standpoint, Trinity probably needs this game more. At 4-2, they are currently mired in the swamp of teams behind Tufts. Furthermore, they have one of the toughest remaining schedules of any of those teams. After Tufts they still have Hamilton, Middlebury and Bates, all of whom will be battling hard for the best possible playoff spot. I could see Trinity playing very well in these last four games and setting themselves up for a long playoff run. However, I could also see them falling back in the face of this tough schedule. This game is a terrific chance for them to kick this tough stretch off right.
Tufts hasn’t clinched anything either. Although they’re 6-1 now, Middlebury has been playing better than them lately, and Amherst always seems one strong game away from returning to the top. Both those teams have a chance of winning out, and therefore could take the top spot away from Tufts. The Jumbos need to figure out a way to survive without Palleschi, or their season could end disappointingly early. And unfortunately for Tufts, I don’t think this is the game in which they figure it out.

Writer’s Pick: Trinity

Hamilton @ Bowdoin, 7:00 PM, Brunswick, ME

Although Hamilton is certainly loaded with talent, they are very young. Middlebury showed the rest of the league just how much that matters last weekend. The Panthers threw up a cool 115 points against the Continentals, and pressured them into 19 turnovers. Hamilton is 0-3 on the road in league play, a stat which makes sense considering that the vast majority of their rotation is composed of sophomores (and freshman Kena Gilmour ‘20.) Hamilton has to grow up fast this year if they want to keep any hope of hosting a playoff game.

Bowdoin comes off giving Colby their first win last weekend in a surprisingly thrilling game. Bowdoin fell 87-82, despite 24 points off the bench from Jack Bors ‘19.Jack Simonds ‘19 has fallen from the league lead in scoring. This may be good for Bowdoin’s offense, as it now looks considerably more balanced than it did early on, but they need to be able to rely on Simond to get them a bucket when needed. I don’t see the Polar Bears being able to catch up to Hamilton like Middlebury did.

Writer’s Pick: Hamilton

Middlebury @ Colby, 7:00 PM, Waterville, ME

Image result for jake brown middlebury
Jake Brown is the best point guard in the league and if you disagree you can FIGHT ME.

Middlebury was unrecognizable against Hamilton and Keene if you watched their performance against Williams. Middlebury’s offense has been balanced and deadly, leading the league in points, field goal percentage and three-point shooting percentage during league play. The Panthers have particularly benefited from the play of Jake Brown ‘17. Longtime readers will know that my lifelong conquest has been to get Jake Brown on the First Team, and if it doesn’t happen this year I’ll have to take my battle straight to the Supreme Court. Brown leads the league in assists and averages 11.7 points per game, developing a deadly pull up jump shot which has added a whole new dimension to his game and the Middlebury offense. With Matt St. Amour leading the league in scoring, Brown hitting his jump shots and Jack Daly doing pretty much everything else, the Panthers might well be the best team in the league in the wake of Tufts’ struggles.

Image result for patrick stewart green room
“Green Room” is a movie that Patrick Stewart was in. That’s the joke!

Colby also enters this game with momentum. They picked up an emotional first win of the season against Bowdoin. They owe the win primarily to Patrick Stewart ‘17, who went Green Room on the Polar Bearswith 28 points on 8/14 shooting. Colby will most likely try to follow Williams’ formula for beating the Panthers. They will shoot a lot of threes and stack the paint, daring the Panthers to match them from outside. Unfortunately, they’re not good enough from three or on defense to make that strategy work for them. Middlebury should take this one easily.

Writer’s Pick: Middlebury

Bates @ Amherst, 7:00 PM, Amherst, MA

This is another game which has major playoff implications. Amherst has been inconsistent this season, but the existentially depressing fact remains that they’re 4-2 and are within striking distance of the top spot thanks to Palleschi’s injury. Amherst still has offensive struggles, but they have quietly developed an excellent defense to make up for it. They gave up under 70 points to both Trinity and Williams last weekend, and can still rely on Jayde Dawson ‘18 to bail them out in close games. Amherst is not pretty this year, but if they can keep winning it could work out for them. Also important to note; they are 12-0 at home this season.

Bates is not pretty either, but they are well equipped to give Amherst’s offense fits. The Delpeche brothers are adept at clogging up driving lanes, which should limit the amount of space that Dawson and Johnny McCarthy ‘18 have to score. And on offense, Bates has lately been hitting just enough threes to give the Delpeche brothers some help. Amherst doesn’t exactly have a stable of big men to throw at Malcolm and Marcus, so I see the Bobcats upsetting Amherst at home.

Writer’s Pick: Bates

Wesleyan @ Williams, 7:00 PM, Williamstown, MA

Wesleyan beat Williams earlier in the season, thanks in large part to the contributions of Nathan Krill ’18.

Wesleyan appears to be peaking at exactly the right time. They put up maybe their best offensive performance of the season against Connecticut College, scoring 85 points on 48.3% shooting. The Cardinals have been experimenting with different starting lineups, and brought Joseph Kuo ‘17 off the bench against the Camels. They had tried this with Nathan Krill ‘18 earlier. This gives Kuo the freedom to beat up on second unit big men and gives them the freedom to play a more mobile starting lineup with Jordan Sears ‘18 acting as a small ball, defensive-minded center. With Williams perimeter-oriented big men, watch for this lineup change to continue.

Williams hasn’t played a league game since their shellacking of Middlebury, but dropped a non-league matchup to Amherst last week. In that game, they got 26 from Daniel Aronowitz ‘17, but little else, losing 72-64. The Ephs have yet to replicate the shooting display they presented Middlebury, and the top field goal percentage defense in the country isn’t a great team to get hot against . This should be a low scoring matchup, with Wesleyan slowing down the pace and pounding the ball into Kuo and Nathan Krill ‘18. Wesleyan is simply better at winning low-scoring, ugly games.

Writer’s Pick: Wesleyan

NESCAC The Third: Weekend Preview Part One

This weekend is a very important weekend across the board in the NESCAC. Tufts is thinking about remaining undefeated in the ‘CAC, while Colby looks to achieve their first conference W. Amherst and Hamilton are both looking to put halts to their 2-game skids as Conn College hopes to knock off at least one other team towards the top of the NESCAC standings. The great thing about the third weekend of NESCAC play is that everyone is still in the running, but the unfortunate aspect of this is that some hopes of a playoff berth will likely be all but destroyed by Sunday. One of our newest writers, Cooper, is going to be putting out his game of the week preview for Williams-Hamilton later in the day, but here are the rest of Friday’s game previews.

#24 Wesleyan (14-3, 2-2) at #4 Tufts (13-2, 4-0), Medford, MA, 7:00 PM

There are definitely plenty of arguments for this to be the game of the week based on the two sides facing off, it’s just pretty tough(t) to make that call when there are so many good teams playing tonight. A few storylines of the game to keep in mind for in Medford tonight:

Tarik Smith ’17
(Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

1.) Will Vinny Pace ‘18 play? He exited last Friday’s game with what looked like a rolled ankle of some sort and did not play on Saturday. Losing him for this weekend will definitely change the Jumbo gameplan, but they have already exemplified their depth, so maybe it won’t hurt them too much. This is definitely an interesting storyline to watch. 2.) Who wins the matchup between Joseph Kuo ‘17 and Tom Palleschi ‘17? It was a battle last year on the low block between these two, with Kuo putting up 20/8 and Palleschi tallying 19/5. The Cardinals just edged the Jumbos in OT, but without BJ Davis ‘16 and Rashid Epps ‘16 to dice up the Tufts defense, Wesleyan is going to need to figure out how they are going to put points on the board. 3.) Can Wesleyan’s bench match the production of the Tufts bench? Last weekend KJ Garrett ‘18 stormed off the Tufts bench and dropped 11 points on Middlebury on Friday, only to drop another 19 against Hamilton on Saturday. The Jumbos have also seen strong contributions from Eric Savage ‘20 (who will start if Pace is out) and Thomas Lapham ‘18 lately. Meanwhile, Wesleyan relies very heavily on their starting five for their point production. Jordan Sears ‘18 is going to need to have a big game for the Cardinals in order to help them keep up on the offensive end. All in all, I think Tufts is a much deeper and more well-rounded team than Wesleyan, and their balance has propelled them to their hot start. Nonetheless, they will need their A Game in order to come out on top tonight.

Writer’s Pick: Tufts

Bowdoin (9-6, 1-2) at #16 Amherst (10-4, 1-2), Amherst, MA, 7:00 PM

This is sneaky a huge game for both teams. Bowdoin is looking to show that they belong in the discussion, and a win on the road against an Amherst team that started the year ranked #1 in the nation would not be a bad way to show that they deserve more credit. On the other side of the scorer’s table, Amherst is reeling, and this is a bounce-back game that they desperately need. Frankly, Amherst’s issue is their over-reliance on Jayde Dawson and Johnny McCarthy. Both players are very talented, there is no arguing that, but they are both at their best when they are not the only scoring options. Jeff Racy ‘17 and Michael Riopel ‘18 need to have big games tonight and Amherst needs to bury Bowdoin in order to show that last week was nothing more than a fluke for the Purple and White. However, they are also going to need to neutralize the threat of Jack Simonds ‘19, who will be thirsting for a win against Coach Hixon and company. Amherst has the personnel to do it – McCarthy matches up very well against Simonds. McCarthy is long, athletic, and will not be intimidated by Simonds’ uncommon combination of size and quickness. McCarthy can play super aggressively on defense if David George ‘17 steps up and defends the paint like we know he can, but if the David George of last weekend shows up (the one who got dominated by Joseph Kuo and Zuri Pavlin), then Amherst might have trouble with the Polar Bears. Still, I think Amherst figures it out and gets the W tonight.

Writer’s Pick: Amherst

Conn College (10-5, 1-3) at Bates (12-4, 3-1), Lewiston, ME, 7:00 PM

This is quite the trap game for Bates, who has been pretty hot so far this year. Conn, however, is coming off a big upset vs. Amherst last weekend in which they showed both their depth and their versatility. This game is

Marcus Delpeche ’17 surveys the paint.

going to be won down low. If the Brothers Delpeche can dominate the paint and keep Zuri Pavlin ‘17 and Daniel Janel ‘17 off the boards, things look good for the Bobcats. On the other hand, if the two Camels combine for 40/18 like they did against Amherst, I just don’t think that Bates has the firepower on the perimeter to withstand the Conn attack. The Delpeche twins NEED to have a big game in this one. Additionally, Bates needs Jeff Spellman ‘20 to have a strong game off the bench. Conn can usually count on Isaiah Robinson ‘18 for 8-10 points off the bench, so Bates’ freshman phenom needs to counteract that bench play with his own contributions. I know the Bates gymnasium is known as one of the toughest places to play in the ‘CAC, but I think that between the play of the Conn big men and the ever-consistent Tyler Rowe ‘19, the Camels will leave Lewiston with an upset win.

Writer’s Pick: Conn College

Colby (7-7, 0-3) at Trinity (10-6, 2-1), Hartford, CT, 7:00 PM

This one looks to be the most uneven game of the weekend, as Trinity appears to be the much stronger team this year. First and foremost, Colby just doesn’t really have anyone that can match up with Ed Ogundeko ‘17 down low. That’s just a fact. Ogundeko, who is 5th in the league in scoring (17.3 PPG) and leads the league in rebounding (10.3 REB/G), should feast on the Mules inside. Mix Ogundeko’s overwhelming presence with the consistent play of perimeter threats Chris Turnbull ‘17 and Jeremy Arthur ‘19, and this game reeks of a big Trinity win. On the other half of the court, I think Colby will struggle to score the ball. Trinity is known as one of the stingiest defenses in the league for a reason (65.4 OPPG), and when mixed with Colby’s league-worst 70.6 PPG, I just don’t think the Mules really have a shot in this one.

Writer’s Pick: Trinity

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

An Ungodly Amalgamation of Styles: Week Eight Weekend Preview

Trinity Vs. Wesleyan Football
This picture is from several years ago, but Trinity and Wesleyan meet again tomorrow in the game that decides most of the championship scenarios. Also, this is a really fly picture. (Courtesy Hartford Courant)

Here we are, the final weekend preview of the season. It’s been a lot of fun tag-teaming these posts with Rory; he does a nice job of making my writing look better by forcing terrible puns. We did it one last time this weekend, with Rory analyzing the championship scenarios for each of the top teams, while I handled the games in the bottom of the league in a more traditional weekend preview style. Think of this as a “Post-Modern Preview,” a pastiche of different styles that ultimately reflects the chaos and unreliability of NESCAC football and the insane lack of a head-to-head playoff system.

Championship Scenarios:

Trinity – I think it’s pretty clear that the Bantams need to win to take home a solo championship belt. No one else has a 7-0 record, and only 3 other teams have the potential to end the season with a 7-1 record, so Trinity will be NESCAC champs no matter what. But that right there is the trap for Trin. If they play this game to not lose instead of playing it to win, Trinity will be in trouble. And guess what, Wesleyan is waiting for just that. The Bantams have an opportunity to finish out another undefeated season tomorrow, but they have to come out flying if they want to be the lone champions of the NESCAC this year

Wesleyan – also pretty obvious, Wesleyan needs to win in order to become NESCAC champs. The Cardinals’ last win against Trinity came in a 20-19 battle back in 2014 when Wesleyan finished in a 3-way tie for first place. If Mark Piccirillo can will his team to a win this weekend, they will once again prompt a 3-team tie for first place. I’m going add in my two cents here: the fact that head-to-head is irrelevant in the NESCAC football standings is bananas. Mix in some common sense over there at NESCAC HQ so we don’t have 3 champions every other year.

Middlebury – while the Panthers need to win in order to be in consideration for a championship, they will need a bit more help than that on Saturday. Midd also needs a Wesleyan W. Not too crazy, right? But Middlebury needs to take on the Jumbos, and Wesleyan needs to beat Trinity, so Middlebury winning a championship is a little easier said than done. They’ll surely try to beat Tufts via aerial attack, but Jared Lebowitz better be careful if he throws to his man Conrado Banky, as he will likely be matched up with Jumbo ball-hawk Tim Preston. This should be a thriller.

Tufts – same thing here for the ‘Bos, they need a Wesleyan win and a win of their own. No easy task, Middlebury is a solid squad, but the Panthers also struggled defending the run against Trinity a couple weeks ago. Maybe Chance Brady can take Tufts to the promised land? Regardless, a 7-1 season for a Tufts team that had lost 31 games in a row just two years ago would be pretty unbelievable. You can bet Brady and crew will be fired up for this matchup

The Best of the Rest: Lower Tier Games in Week Eight

Hamilton at Bates, 12:00 PM, Lewiston, Maine

Bates has quietly been on a real tear to end the season, overcoming a slow start to be within one win of finishing .500. Sure, they haven’t exactly been playing the Dillon Panthers lately (their wins are over Williams,

Matt Golden
Matt Golden ’20 gives the Bobcats a weapon out of the backfield. (Courtesy Bates Athletics)

Bowdoin and Colby) but they also only lost 12-7 to Tufts, who has a chance now to finish tied for the league championship. Bates may have discovered a new offensive weapon last weekend in Matt Golden ‘20, who passed for 50 yards and a touchdown and also rushed for 126 yards and a touchdown. Golden offers a valuable change of style from starter Sandy Plashkes ‘19, whose penchant for big plays is often overshadowed by a lack of accuracy. It will be interesting to see how much Golden plays this weekend. If he has another strong week, Bates will have a fascinating quarterback battle brewing next season.

Hamilton, on the other hand, has been something of a disappointment this season. At the beginning of the season they seemed primed for a big step forward this season, and they have had some impressive performances. But the Continentals have ultimately been unable to shake the stink of the last few seasons. A road win here would be nice way for Hamilton to close the season, but Bates has all the momentum. I see Bates finishing this season off strong at home.

Williams at Amherst, 12:00 PM, Amherst, Massachusetts

It’s strange to write about NESCAC’s fiercest rivalry when neither team is in contention for the league title. However, this may well make for an even more exciting game. Both these teams are playing for nothing but the glory and bragging rights that come from winning this historic match-up. To me, that’s thrilling. These teams will be unhinged, with nothing but animal intensity to guide them. Amherst should have the edge in this game on paper, despite all their injuries. But games are not played on paper, and Amherst has been reeling, losing three in a row including a crushing loss last weekend to Trinity in which they blew a 14-3 lead in the second half. Williams, of course, comes in on a seven game losing streak. But if they can perform like the did for the first three quarters against Middlebury earlier this season, when they were only trailing 28-23, they have a chance to turn this from a disappointing season for Amherst to a truly disastrous one. And one can only imagine how gratifying that would be for the Ephs during this difficult year of transition.

Bowdoin at Colby, 12:30 PM, Waterville, Maine

Sebastian Ferrell
Sebastian Farrell ’19 has been burning secondaries all year, and should do the same to the Polar Bears on Saturday. (Courtesy Colby Athletics)

The final game of the CBB series features two teams who are looking for their first CBB win. Colby comes in having lost two in a row, including a demoralizing 21-19 defeat to Bates. However, the last two games have seen a rise in the star of wide receiver Sebastian Farrell ‘19, who has put up over 285 yards in the last two weeks. Bowdoin, of course, has been consistently the worst team in the league, especially on defense, where they give up over 450 yards and 35 points per game. This is not the sexiest game on paper, but we have a chance to see a real explosion out of Farrell, possibly catapulting him into All League team consideration.

After the Fall: Week Seven Power Rankings

It is not my job, nor is this blog the place, to preach any sort of political ideology. And more than that, it might not even be productive. We are all now on the same side, the side of America. I’m speaking now not from a political pulpit but from a mental health pulpit. To any readers who are feeling broken down, hollowed out and left cold next to the curb by the results of the election, then there are two things that I feel we should remember. Firstly, the sun rose yesterday morning. There are still sunrises, sunsets, puppies, period TV shows about the 80’s, hugs from your mom, pizza, that feeling of waking up and realizing you still have time to sleep, someone playing with your hair, pickup basketball games, toddlers wearing hilariously mismatched outfits, YouTube videos of babies sleeping on cats, and millions of other beautiful things in the world. They still exist, and we should treasure them now more than ever.

And secondly, the fight is not over. The results of this election will bring social issues to the forefront in a way that many have never been before. It is our job now to keep them there. Whether you picket every day on the lawn of the White House or just treat everyone you know with love and respect, there are many ways still to make the world a better place. And more than that, there are many people still who will try their best to do it. Nothing can silence them. Be one of those people.

Anyway, contrary to that long-winded and preachy opening, we are still a sports blog. Week Seven’s games were notable in that they offered absolutely no clarity heading into the final weekend. Trinity, Wesleyan, Middlebury and Tufts all won handily, putting several possibilities in play for the final standings. Trinity of course still controls their own destiny and can end all the drama by taking care of business against Wesleyan, but if they don’t, all hell could break loose.  There are also interesting scenarios in the second tier of the league, as Bates has a real chance to finish fifth in the league at 4-4.  And as if that isn’t enough, NESCAC’s oldest rivalry rises again, as Amherst and Williams battle for literally only pride at this point.  Here’s how the teams stack up heading into the dramatic final act.

Trinity's Donahue Earns Third NESCAC Football Defensive Player of the Week Honor
Spencer Donahue ’17 led the Trinity defense to huge comeback win against Amherst
  1. Trinity

The Bantams had by far their toughest test of the season last weekend against Amherst.  Trinity trailed 14-10 heading into the fourth quarter, as Amherst’s defense shut down the dynamic duo of quarterback (and leader of a lovable gang of street kids in 1930’s Brooklyn) Sonny Puzzo and running back Max Chipouras.  However, Trinity, as great teams do, capitalized on Amherst’s mistakes, scoring a fumble return touchdown and an interception return touchdown to escape with a 24-14 win. They kept the Chipouras-Puzzo pair to just one touchdown between them (a pass from Puzzo to Darrien Myers ‘17) just a week after they combined for five against Middlebury.  Amherst laid down a blueprint on how to shut down Trinity, and I’m sure Wesleyan was paying close attention.

  1. Tufts

Tufts has been the closest thing NESCAC has to a Cinderella story this year, riding the broad shoulders of running back Chance Brady to a 6-1 record this season. The Jumbos have also made use of tremendous team chemistry this year, as evidenced by their ELECTRIC contribution to the growing #mannequinchallenge trend:

Just terrific execution all around.  Tufts slaughtered Colby last weekend 44-12, with Brady putting up his standard 167 yards and three touchdowns. The Jumbos travel down to Middlebury this weekend for a matchup that will determine which team has a shot at sharing the league title. And having seen what Max Chipouras did to Middlebury when they played Trinity (186 yards and three touchdowns) you have to like Chance Brady’s—and the rest of the team’s—chances. Keep an eye on Brady’s pursuit of the single-season TD record…he needs 2 to tie, 3 to break it…very possible.

  1. Middlebury
Image result for jared lebowitz
Jared Lebowitz ’18 hopes to lead the Panthers to a share of the league championship this weekend.

After a demoralizing loss to Trinity, the Panthers were in dire need of a bounceback win heading into their showdown with Tufts. They got that and then some against Hamilton. Quarterback Jared Lebowitz rediscovered the form that made him a POY favorite early in the season (412 yards and four touchdowns,) and the powerful secondary recorded five interceptions and three sacks. These are the two most crucial areas for the Panthers against Tufts.  The offense will need to have long, sustained drives in order to keep Chance Brady off the field, and the defense will have to get

in the backfield to stop him from breaking off big plays downfield.  Stopping Tufts basically means stopping Brady, as their quarterback play is shaky at best.  Brady and Lebowitz’s matchup this weekend might well decide the POY race, depending on how well Max Chipouras and Sonny Puzzo play against Wesleyan. Should be worth checking out.

  1. Wesleyan

I have a bad habit as a writer of ascribing too much importance to my articles. I have absolutely no idea if the greater Wesleyan football community is reading these articles, but I assume they are, and I assume they’re royally ticked off at me for keeping them at #4 even though they’ve scored 98 points in their last two games.  But I would advise the Cardinals to use this as motivation, because they’re the other side in the biggest game of the year. Wesleyan put up the biggest offensive performance of the year last week in Williamstown, scoring 56 points in just the first half!  QB Mark Piccirillo accounted for five touchdowns in the half in by far his most impressive outing of the season. The Cardinals offense is really humming right now, making them well suited to match Trinity’s dominant defense.

  1. Amherst

Amherst put up a valiant effort last weekend, soundly outplaying Trinity for three quarters. But as has been their tendency during their recent struggles, turnovers undid their good work.  Trinity scored two defensive touchdowns off of an interception and a fumble by quarterback Nick Morales ‘17. That crushing loss pretty much sums up what has been a very disappointing season for the team that came into the season on a 19 game winning streak. For the Purple and White, pride is all that remains to play for.  But don’t underestimate the power of that motivator. Amherst takes on hated rival Williams as their final act of the season. The two teams are closer in the standings than is often the case, but that won’t change the passion with which each team plays. Amherst-Williams is always a must see, even if it has little effect on the final standings.

  1. Bates

I feel like I’ve written this 30 times in my last three columns, but it’s still blowing my mind.  Just listen to this sentence: “By the end of this Saturday’s games, Amherst and Bates could finish tied in the NESCAC standings.” Woah. Bates has won two in a row over Colby and Bowdoin, using a solid defense and rushing attack. Last week Bates added a new dimension to their offense, as freshman quarterback Matt Golden ‘20 tallied 126 rushing yards and a touchdown, as well as a passing touchdown.  Bates now has a quarterback to push and compete with Sandy Plaschkes ‘19. They have to take down Hamilton this weekend to finish at .500, proving that even the lower tier games have stakes.

  1. Colby

The Mules have a bona fide star in sophomore wide receiver Sebastian Farrell ‘19.  Despite only being tenth in the league with 28 catches, Farrell ranks fourth in yards with 510. By nature of basic mathematics, this places him first in the league in yards per catch at 18.2. With a knack for making big plays, Farrell has been instrumental in many of Colby’s wins and close losses.  The Mules have a winnable matchup with Bowdoin to close their season, and another big game from Farrell could position him to contend for some post-season hardware.

  1. Hamilton

Hamilton ran headlong into the Middlebury revenge machine in Week Seven, losing at home 45-10. Middlebury’s passing offense tore the Continentals apart, but turnovers from Hamilton’s quarterbacks didn’t help. The Panthers tallied five interceptions, making any chance Hamilton’s defense had of stopping Jared Lebowitz very difficult. Hamilton faces a difficult test in the final week, traveling to the den of the suddenly-hot Bates Bobcats. They certainly have a chance to win, but it looks like it’s another year towards the bottom of the league for Hamilton.

  1. Williams

The two highest scoring performances of the season have come against Williams: 49 points for Middlebury and 59 points last week for Wesleyan.  To use an understatement, this is not a stat of which the Ephs are very proud. The Ephs have one last chance to get a symbolically crucial win, and there would be no more gratifying team to get it against than hated rival Amherst. Williams has shown the ability to put up a fight against tough teams, forcing several turnovers against Jared Lebowitz when they matched up with Middlebury. As we saw last week from their game against Trinity, turnovers can be the great equalizer for all of Amherst’s weapons on defense.  Williams has a path to success. A thin one, to be sure, but a path nonetheless.

  1. Bowdoin

Bowdoin is 0-1 so far in the CBB series, and 0-7 overall on the year. The main undoing for the Polar Bears has been defense, as they give up a league-worst 459 yards per game. Bowdoin wraps up the CBB series and the season as a whole with a game against Colby. Bowdoin seems destined to finish the season at 0-8, as their rebuilding season reaches its natural conclusion.