No Mascot, No Problem: Stock Report 2/1

Marcus Delpeche '17 and Tom Palleschi '17 share a moment Saturday. (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
Marcus Delpeche ’17 and Tom Palleschi ’17 share a moment Saturday. (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

Amherst cemented its status as the top dog in the NESCAC with Saturday’s commanding victory over Trinity 89-82. The Purple and White led comfortably 84-70 with 1:31 left to play before the Bantams made a late push to make things a little dicey at the end. Trinity didn’t have quite enough offense to stay with the shot-making Amherst team. The game was a very physical one, with the teams combining for more than 50 fouls by the end of the game. When they make their threes, Amherst is hard to beat, and they made nine against the Bantams. The win pushes Amherst to 5-1 in conference and 16-3 overall.

Leading the way were Jayde Dawson ’18 and Johnny McCarthy ’18 with 45 points combined, 26 of those in the 2nd half. The two also combined for nine turnovers versus six assists, reinforcing that as talented players as they are, they are equally capable of sinking the team with their play. Connor Green ’16 was quiet finishing with just seven points on six shots. In times past, when Green was having a quiet game he would force the issue from three-point land, but on Saturday he let his younger teammates take the lead.

The win was a great one for Amherst, and the Purple and White now have the inside shot on hosting the NESCAC tournament. However, they are still a ways away from that happening, and the problems with this team are not going away. I think that Amherst drops another NESCAC in the coming weeks, and with Middlebury and Tufts still on the schedule, multiple losses would not be a huge surprise.

Stock Up

Point Guard Jack Bors ’19 (Bowdoin)

The Polar Bears survived in overtime against Colby in large part because of Bors coming out of nowhere to score 20 points. The 5’9″ lefty reminds Bowdoin fans of Bryan Hurley ’15 because of his toughness. Despite barely playing all season, Bors was not lacking in confidence the moment he entered into the game. Coming into Saturday, he had not scored more than four points in just one game. He wasn’t at all part of the rotation until Saturday, not playing in three of Bowdoin’s NESCAC games. Bors got time against the Mules in part because of a strong performance at the end of the blowout loss for Bowdoin against Trinity last Saturday. Coach Tim Gilbride wanted to shake things up, and with the early injury to Matt Palecki ’16, he rolled the dice with Bors. Bowdoin needed a spark to hold off the Mules in a battle that was big for both teams. Bors now will see if he can make Saturday’s performance carry over to the rest of the season.

Power Forward Rashid Epps ’16 (Wesleyan)

In a game where BJ Davis ’16 scored his 1,000 point, Epps led the way with 19 points as Wesleyan got past Conn College 87-79. Early in the season, Epps was fazed out of the offense, but he has come back in the past few weeks with very strong performances. In NESCAC games, Epps is averaging 12.3 ppg while making shots at an awesome 64.0 percent rate. A little undersized for a power forward at 6’4″, Epps is powerful enough to gain positioning against anybody. The Cardinals won again to make their NESCAC winning streak three games now. At 4-3 they are above .500 for the first time all season and suddenly are eyeing a home playoff game. Committing to getting Epps the ball is a big reason why.

Center Chris Hudnut ’16 (Colby)

One of the best players in the league, Hudnut’s past season and a half has been tough to watch because of various injuries knocking him out of games. Hudnut had not scored above 20 points in a game since December 28, missing three games since then and laboring through the rest. He looked like his usual self Saturday, dominating in the second half and scoring 33 points on just 17 shots. Twenty-four of his points came in the second half. The problem is that Colby still lost to drop to 1-5 in the NESCAC. Getting into the playoffs is not going to be easy. They lose the head-to-head tie breaker against Bates and Bowdoin, and their one win against Amherst does them no favors. The thing is, if Hudnut plays as well as he did Saturday, they have more than enough to win at least two of their final four games and give themselves a shot of making the NESCAC tournament. And if they do get in, they would scare the living heck out of whichever team would draw them in the first round.

Stock Down


The Bobcats have now lost four straight NESCAC games, all of them by double digits. Trying to figure out what is wrong with Bates is not easy, but I think it’s just a problem of the pieces not fitting well together. Mike Boornazian ’16 has struggled to find his footing as the lead man. He is averaging 15.1 ppg in NESCAC games, but he is shooting 35.2 percent from the field and 26.2 percent from three-point land. As a team the Bobcats have the worst three-point shooting percentage at 32.0 percent, and the number drops below 30 percent when you look just at NESCAC games. Obviously the loss of Graham Safford ’15 has hurt, but it is also the absence of key perimeter players Billy Selmon ’15 and Adam Philpott ’15 that is hurting this team. Those two averaged 13.1 ppg combined last year while also being two of the team’s better perimeter defenders. Without glue guys like that, Bates has not been able to do the little things to stay in games.

Conn College’s Second Half

At halftime, the Camels owned an eight-point lead over Wesleyan. However, the wheels fell off on defense as the Cardinals pounded the ball inside and shot 66.7 percent from the field in the second half. Conn College is now 3-4 in the league, but they have led at halftime for three of their losses. Blowing a second half lead is a sign of the Camels youth most likely. Closing games out in the NESCAC is hard, and Wesleyan beat Conn College on Saturday because of their experience in important games. For example, in the second half playing at home, Conn College made just ONE free throw the entire second half, going 1-6 from the charity stripe. These games are learning experiences for Conn College, and that they have them this season with so many talented youngsters is a good thing.

Middlebury Scoring

The Panthers, playing without forward Zach Baines ’19, absolutely let one get away on Saturday. A Matt St. Amour ’17 layup with 6:04 left in the game made the score 62-58 in Middlebury’s favor. The Panthers didn’t score again! Hamilton scored with one second left to win 64-62. Middlebury blew a 15 point second half lead, and the lack of scoring was tough to watch. Going cold for that long down the stretch is a freaky thing, and it won’t happen again. Middlebury relies on a balanced and deep attack, and it is usual St. Amour who hits the bucket when the Panthers absolutely need one. However, it didn’t happen on Saturday. The issue is the damage is done for the young Panthers. They will have chances to make it up, but in this year’s NESCAC where no victory is an easy one, letting a win like this one slip away hurts.

Holiday Power Rankings

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

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

1. Amherst (7-0)

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

2. Wesleyan (7-1)

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

3. Tufts (6-2)

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

4. Colby (5-1)

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

5. Williams (5-2)

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

6. Trinity (4-2)

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

7. Bowdoin (4-3)

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

8. Bates (4-2)

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

9. Conn College (5-2)

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

10. Hamilton (5-3)

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

11. Middlebury (4-5)

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

Next Year’s Cats Will Have Historic Shoes To Fill: Bates Basketball Season Wrap-up

The Bates faithful made Alumni Gym a tough place to play, and they travelled in droves to Babson College to watch their Cats face Trinity in the Sweet 16. (Courtesy of Mark Box/Babson College)
The Bates faithful often made Alumni Gym a tough place to play, and they travelled in droves to Babson College to watch their Cats face Trinity in the Sweet 16. (Courtesy of Mark Box/Babson College)

Season Record: 21-7 (7-3), lost in First Round of NESCAC Championship to Wesleyan, lost in Sweet 16 of NCAA Tournament to Trinity

It really was a magical season for the Jon Furbush-led Bobcats in 2014-15. The team won 21 games, topping the program’s previous record; won seven NESCAC games, also a record; hosted Bates’ first home playoff game since 2010; made its first-ever trip to the NCAA Division-III Tournament; won the CBB by sweeping Colby and Bowdoin in early December; and two guards, Graham Safford ’15 and Mike Boornazian ’16 joined the 1,000 point club. Unfortunately, all of those good vibrations did not result in a NESCAC or an NCAA Championship.

The Wesleyan Cardinals came into Alumni Gym and upset the host Bobcats in the NESCAC Quarterfinals, and the Cats fell short against Trinity in the NCAA Sweet 16. Nevertheless, the season ought to be considered a success for Coach Furbush. The question now becomes how Furbush replaces Safford, number 10 on the all-time scoring list, pesky guard Billy Selmon ’15, valuable sixth man Adam Philpott ’15 and fellow captain Cam Kaubris ’15. Luckily for Bates, Marcus and Malcolm Delpeche ’17 will be back to cause havoc yet again, and expect them both to spend a lot of time on their offensive games this offseason. The addition of a 10-foot jumper to the twins’ repertoire that already features high-flying dunks and stout rim protection would be scary for opposing teams. There will be a significant void in the backcourt that begs for a rising star to emerge.

High point: NCAA Tournament victories March 6-7

For a team that was very close to being left out of the tournament field, to best St. Vincent, a team with NCAA Tourney experience, and #17 Stockton was a monumental statement. The Sweet 16 game against Trinity has to be among the most important games in program history. If the Bobcats’ season had ended with a loss in the first round of the NESCAC Tournament it still would have been a nice year, but not the type of campaign that gets remembered. With the pair of NCAA victories, basketball players at Bates will be discussing and looking up to the 2014-15 squad for the foreseeable future.

MVP: PG Graham Safford ’15

Graham Safford '15 in front of the list of 1,000 point scorers in Bates history, a club that he joined on Jan. 6, 2015 in a 60-55 win over Brandeis (Courtesy of Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)
Graham Safford ’15 in front of the list of 1,000 point scorers in Bates history, a club that he joined on Jan. 6, 2015 in a 60-55 win over Brandeis (Courtesy of Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

The work that NbN All-NESCAC First Teamer Graham Safford did this season and in his career transcended the stat sheet. Safford was like a coach on the floor, making life a bit easier for Coach Furbush. And he was pretty good statistically, too: first in the NESCAC in steals per game, third in assists per game, sixth in scoring, and he tallied 5.0 rebounds per game. It’s hard to explain what a player like Safford means to a program, and like the great point guards in the NESCAC from the 2014 class like Aaron Toomey ’14 and Joey Kizel ’14, they really are irreplaceable.

Player to Watch in 2015-16: PG Shawn Strickland ’18

Shawn Strickland '18 (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)
Shawn Strickland ’18 (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

With Selmon and Safford departing, there is a significant need for someone to step up as the point guard for Coach Furbush next season. Expect there to be growing pains. Strickland didn’t play much this season, but neither did any underclassman guard not named Boornazian. Strickland doesn’t have the size that you’d like to see in a starting point guard at 5’8″ 160 lbs., so it might be too much to ask for him to replace Safford’s production from a scoring perspective, but Strickland displays top-notch quickness so he could be a problem for opponents’ point guards on both ends. He didn’t really take enough shots to put any stock in his percentages, but his 19.0 percent rate from the field and 20.0 percentage from deep does not inspire confidence. I’m not sold that Strickland is ready (or will be by next November) to run a NESCAC basketball team, but he very well could be forced into that role.

Feedback and Forecast: A Brief Look at What Went Wrong for Bates and Trinity in the Elite Eight

The Trinity defense made life really tough for Graham Safford '15 in his last game as a Bobcat. (Courtesy of
The Trinity defense made life really tough for Graham Safford ’15 in his last game as a Bobcat. (Courtesy of

Sometimes real life and other commitments get in the way of our NESCAC coverage, so we don’t have the time to put forth our usual comprehensive preview. Here’s a few brief thoughts about Friday’s action and Saturday’s matchup.

So, the Sweet 16 matchup between Trinity and Bates played out almost exactly as we had anticipated. Ugly basketball (27 turnovers combined), awful shooting (36.4 FG% combined), physical post play, foul trouble (50 combined), and a final score that would have been in the mid-sixties but for bunches of free throws at the end of the game (79-62). But damn was it entertaining. The margin didn’t stray beyond three points either way until late in the first half, when a Chris Turnbull ’17 triple started an 11-3 run for the Bants on which the half ended. Bates battled back a few times to keep it interesting, but the defense was too good and the shooting too bad for Trinity. Even though Bates went to the free throw line an astounding 42 times, they couldn’t make enough of those freebies to close the gap. Trinity now looks forward to Babson, a top-five team and the host of this Sectional, at 7 PM Saturday night.

What went wrong for Bates – The Facts

As the second half ticked away, Bates started feeling like they need to score points in bunches, but the Bobcats were unable to do that and ended up an abysmal 2-20 (10 percent) from three point range. All game long the Bobcats attacked the basket, but couldn’t hit free throws, finishing 28-42 (66.7 percent) from the stripe. Graham Safford ’15, who played much of the second half with his right knee in a wrap after coming down awkwardly – who knows how much that affected him – and Mike Boornazian ’16 shot 8-32 (25 percent) from the field. Hart Gliedman ’15 absolutely neutralized Safford in this one. We knew that the Bates guards had to play well and account for a lot of the team’s scoring if Bates was going to win. But they didn’t get much help, either. The Delpeche brothers tallied 26 points, but the rest of the team added up to just nine points (six for Billy Selmon ’15, three for Mike Newton ’16). And just like last time these two teams played, Trinity dominated the rebounding battle, grabbing 45 boards to Bates’ 32.

Looking forward to Trinity (23-6) at #4 Babson (28-2)

I’ve watched Trinity probably half a dozen times this year, and I’ve watched Babson for probably half a dozen minutes. I’m exaggerating, because I saw about a half of Babson’s game with Johns Hopkins last night, but in any case I don’t feel qualified to make a prediction of such an important game when I barely know one team. What I can say from the little bit I watched of Babson last night is that 1) they play really, really good man-to-man defense and 2) they pass the ball incredibly well.

Granted, most of that passing was against Hopkins’ 2-3 zone, so I don’t know how the Beavers will fare against Trinity’s tough man-to-man, but Babson should be used to that kind of intensity because they practice against themselves every day. Bates beat Babson earlier this season, but it would be a mistake to predict this game based off of common opponents. Trinity should still have an edge in the front court, as usual, but it’s not by much. I saw some nice moves from Babson’s 6’7″ senior forward John Wickey tonight, and I think the Beavers big men bring a much more skilled offensive game than the young Delpeche twins. On the other end, I wouldn’t be surprised if George Papadeas ’15, Alex Conaway ’15 and Ed Ogundeko ’17 account for less than 15 points combined.

I’m going to be pulling hard for the Bants tomorrow. I want to see a NESCAC squad in the Final Four. But from watching a little bit of Babson last night, I would have to say that the Beavers are favored. Again, I’m not making an official prediction. But if I were…

NCAA Sweet 16 Preview: Bates College vs. Trinity College

Game Information: Bates (21-6) vs. Trinity (22-6)

Friday, March 13, 5:30 PM

Staake Gymnasium, Babson Park, MA

Live Stats  Video

In other words, there is work to be done.

It’s not unheard of for two NESCAC teams to be meeting this late into the NCAA Tournament. As a matter of fact, it happened just one year ago when Amherst and Williams duked it out in the national semifinals. What is unusual, though, is to see Bates and Trinity, two schools not known for their basketball pedigree, still alive and starting to believe that a National Championship isn’t that far-fetched of an idea.

Let’s take a moment and think about where these two teams came from. You might have heard already, but Bates College is playing in its first-ever NCAA D-III Tournament, which has brought Bates alums out of the woodwork to support the current team.

“I’ve heard from players from the 1950s right up to last season. You win a few games and people become very aware of your basketball program.” – Bates Coach Jon Furbush to the Portland Press Herald,

Also, consider this: Bates was 1-9 in the NESCAC last year, the worst record in the league. Now, just over a year later, they are one win away from being the last NESCAC team standing. And when they look back on this season, there will be plenty of highlights from their NCAA Tournament run to remember. Bates’ players hope to add a few more before it is all said and done.

On the other side, Trinity had some experience with NCAA Tourney basketball before the season began. The only problem was that none of that experience came from the players. Head Coach James Cosgrove led Adelphi University to the D-II Tournament four times and Endicott to the D-III Tournament once as head coach. Assistant Coach Tyler Simms played on back-to-back NCAA Tournament teams at Trinity in 2007 and 2008, but never advanced past the first round. Now, the Bantams’ players have almost as much NCAA Tournament experience as their coaching staff.

Last time they met: Jan. 16 at Trinity. Trinity 66 – Bates 59

From 1-5, including #21 Alex Conaway '15, Trinity can defend with the best of them. (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
From 1-5, including #21 Alex Conaway ’15, Trinity can defend with the best of them. (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

In a game that started a miniature two-game skid for the Bobcats that seems to have been the turning point for Bates, Trinity dominated the first half and held on for a six-point lead at home. It was an off shooting night for Bates’ two top scorers, Graham Safford ’15 and Mike Boornazian ’16 (6-21, 28.6 percent, combined). Meanwhile, Trinity spread the wealth, per usual, with three players in double figures, and played its patented shutdown defense.

“Trinity has proven all season long what a great defensive team they are and against us was no exception. They did a good job scouting us and identifying some of our tendencies, but we also didn’t shoot the ball anywhere near the level we’re capable of.” – Mike Boornazian

The game was incredibly evenly-matched statistically. The only differences came in the rebounding and free throw shooting departments, both of which Trinity dominated. The Bants outrebounded Bates 42-32, and hit 20-26 free throws, compared to 11-14 for the Bobcats.

A last bit of Trinity-Bates history to nibble on. Trinity leads the all-time series 31-13, dating back to 1947. The last Bobcat victory came in February 2013.

Storylines to Watch

1. Have student fan bus, will travel

Alumni Gym in Lewiston, ME gets pretty crazy sometimes for men’s basketball games. The Staake Gymnasium is going to feel a lot like Alumni on Friday night. The tiny Babson home court (650 seats, 1,000 capacity) will provide the ideal setting for the scores (dare I say, hundreds?) of Bobcats fans who will be traveling down via a school-organized fan bus. The bus seats 55 students, and the College sold an additional 50 for students who wanted to organize their own transportation. Trinity, meanwhile, goes on spring break starting on Friday, and many students have already taken off to enjoy better weather elsewhere.

Adding to the Bobcats’ home court advantage, potentially, is that Bates has already won two games at Staake, to open the season, at the Babson Invitational, including a three-point victory over the host Beavers.

“It’ll definitely be nice to get back on the court that got us off to a 2-0 start earlier this year. We all really liked the atmosphere that the gym provided, and we have a lot of Bates supporters in the area, as well as people who will be making the trip down.  It’s going to be a fun time and always nice knowing we have Bobcat Country supporting us.” – Mike Boornazian

Trinity center Georgios Papadeas ’15 doesn’t see Babson Park as presenting a home court advantage for Bates.

“I don’t believe playing in Babson gives Bates an advantage. They didn’t win against us at that court so I believe that those two wins are irrelevant to Friday’s game.” – Georgios Papadeas

2. Frontcourt physicality

There were 42 fouls committed the last time these two squads competed, 25 by Bates. Max Eaton ’17 even earned four in just 13 minutes! Bates alone has committed 40 fouls in their two NCAA Tournament games. Both Delpeche brothers fouled out late against St. Vincent in the first round. For Trinity, they’ve faced some foul trouble in the Tournament but have managed to keep everybody on the floor. The personal foul numbers will be important to monitor in this one, though, as both teams feature tough front courts.

“I think both teams are very talented in that department.  Trinity has an impressive front court, but I also think Malc and Marc [Delpeche] have consistently proven that they are two of the best big men in the conference. It’s going to be a great battle.” – Mike Boornazian

Statistically, both teams are similar in blocks per game (Trinity, 3.9; Bates, 3.3) and rebounds per game (Trinity 39.0; Bates, 38.4), but the Bantams had a significant margin in rebounding margin (7.3, compared to 4.9 for Bates). Nevertheless, Trinity recognizes the dangerousness of the Bates big men.

“The twins are a dynamic combo. I respect their toughness. From our part we will try to be physical and block them out. They are long and athletic and extremely dangerous. We can’t let them get going.” – Georgios Papadeas

Forward Mike Newton ’15 has a more aesthetic view of what makes the Delpeche duo so formidable.

“The best part is that  they aren’t scared to bang on anyone.” – Mike Newton

When you get this look from Marcus Delpeche '17, you know that you're in trouble. (Courtesy of Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)
When you get this look from Marcus Delpeche ’17, you know that you’re in trouble. (Courtesy of Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

That kind of protection at the rim allows Billy Selmon ’15 to pressure ball handlers on the perimeter and changes the offensive attack.

3. The efficiency of Bates’ guards

Even though Safford was an NbN All-NESCAC First Teamer and both he and Boornazian are 1,000 point scorers, no one would mistake the pair for a couple of Luke Westmans. Of NESCAC players that attempted at least 12.5 field goals per game (Safford has attempted exactly 12.56 FG per game, Boornazian approximately 12.7), Safford was the only player under 40 percent from the field, and Boornazian ranks fourth out of sixth. They’re both great players and among my first choices if I need to take a shot to win the game, but I think their below average shooting percentages will be particularly hurtful in this game where I don’t anticipate the Delpeches, Newton and Eaton grabbing many O boards.

4. The Trinity offense with Andrew Hurd ’16 on the court

Jaquann Starks '15 is comfortable with the ball in his hands, but Trinity's O runs smoother with Starks at the two-guard. (Courtesy of Hartford Courant/Peter Casolino).
Jaquann Starks ’16 is comfortable with the ball in his hands, but Trinity’s O runs smoother with Starks at the two-guard. (Courtesy of Hartford Courant/Peter Casolino).

Point guard Jaquann Starks ’16 gets all the press, but the Trinity offense is actually better when Hurd handles the ball and Starks shifts to the two-guard. I wish I had the advanced statistics to back up that claim, but keep an eye on this backcourt combination tonight and see for yourself. Starks isn’t much of a distributor and is probably Trinity’s best three point shooter. Hurd also brings some underestimated pesky defense to the floor with him, and can frustrate the opposing team’s point man. He gives up quite a bit of size and strength to Safford, though, so Hurd may be better suited to keep Selmon from making an impact on offense.  For Selmon’s part, he will be blanketing Starks all day, which means that the pressure is on Hurd to make an impact offensively.

5. Late game execution

Bates is looking for a shot at redemption against Trinity. (Courtesy of Portland Press Herald/Gabe Souza)
The Bobcats are looking for a shot at redemption against Trinity. (Courtesy of Portland Press Herald/Gabe Souza)

I would be shocked if this game turned into a blowout. Therefore, it will come down to which team executes better in crunch time, and who makes their free throws. Neither team was fantastic hitting free throws this season, but Trinity held a slight edge. When it comes to closing out ball games, the general perception is that Bates has the advantage because of the heroics of Safford and Boornazian. Sometimes nerves get in the way when players are unsure of what to do as the seconds tick away. That doesn’t happen with Safford.

“It’s amazing. There are times when I want to make a call in the game, and he’s bringing the ball up and before I even say it, he calls it. … He’s absolutely another coach on the floor. … I think what he does from a sheer leadership standpoint is the reason why we’re successful.” – Bates Head Coach John Furbush to the Sun Journal.

However, of the Bantams’ 22 wins, 10 have come by six points or less. And I don’t think that is because Trinity isn’t dominant. I think it’s because they enjoy playing in close games. When the going gets tough, the defense gets tougher, and teams have a brutal time getting buckets. Additionally, if Bates wants to put its best free throw shooting team on the floor, they’d have to take off a lot of the starters. Safford, is the only starter for Bates that shot over 80 percent from the stripe. Meanwhile, Trinity can put Starks (89.5 percent), Hurd (88.9 percent), Chris Turnbull ’17 (85.7 percent), Papadeas (78.1 percent) and Rick Naylor ’16 (77.8 percent) or Shay Ajayi ’16 (71.3 percent) on the court and not give up too much defensively.

Trinity X-Factor: Ed Ogundeko ’17

It had to be a big guy, right? Ogundeko was playing like a grown man down the stretch this season, putting up huge rebounding numbers and a couple of nice offensive performances despite not playing much more than 20 minutes per game. In the NCAA Tournament Ogundeko has played 24 minutes total. Coach Cosgrove has basically relied on his starting five plus Hurd to win ball games. But, in a matchup where both front lines go deep and I could foresee a flurry of fouls on either side, I think the time is ripe for Ogundeko to step back up. I don’t need big scoring out of him, I just need him to stop whichever Delpeche is feeling it at the time.

Bates X-Factor: Adam Philpott ’15

For Bates, it’s no secret that the starting five does most of the heavy lifting, but Philpott does a lot of the little things that make a team go. He can do a little bit of everything offensively, and fits right in with Coach Jon Furbush’s feisty defense. Boornazian called Philpott the best sixth man in the NESCAC. He’ll have to play like it to best the Bantams on Friday.

“For me embracing the role of sixth man with the talent that we have was very easy. … [Graham Safford’s and Mike Boornazian’s] ability to beat their defender and get into the lane creates a lot of open opportunities for me on the perimeter and it’s my job to knock them down.” – Adam Philpott


Before we go any further, let me say a big congratulations to both teams for making this unexpected run to the Sweet 16. That being said, I don’t think either squad would be content with calling it quits now. Both squads believe that they can win a national title for the first time in school history. And these have to be two of the toughest, grittiest teams in all of Division-III, which should make for some must-watch TV.

How is this one going to play out? Expect it to be back-and-forth all day. If Bates can grab some offensive rebounds that will lead to some easy buckets and make up for some of the guards’ missed jumpers. I don’t expect Trinity to shoot much better, though. This one could be ugly.

Don’t expect the crowd noise to get into the Bantams’ heads too much.

“As athletes though we have trained to focus on the game and block  all other factors that don’t contribute to the game.” – Georgios Papadeas

I really don’t think, even down the stretch, that 100-plus screaming Bobcats fans will change the outcome of this game. Whether the crowd is cheering for or against you, there are bound to be jitters when you’re in a single possession game as the clock ticks down.

All right, enough preamble. I’ve gone back and forth on this game all day, so let me just make a pick and stick to it. I’m going with the Bantams, partly because they’ve beaten Bates before, partly because they’ve given up just 51.0 points per contest in the NCAA Tournament. Partly because, as Sean Meekins reported, Bates basketball wears seat belts on the bus. I jest, of course. Everyone should wear seat belts all the time.

So there it is. We’ve picked against Bates twice now, and gotten it wrong both times. We’ve also picked in favor of Trinity, and gotten it right both times. Something’s gotta give.

Final Line: Trinity 59 – Bates 52

NCAA Second Round Preview: Bates College at No. 17 Stockton University

Game Information: Bates (20-6) at Stockton (23-5)

Saturday, March 7, 7:00 PM

Sports Center at Stockton University, Galloway, NJ

Live Stats   Video

The prize for winning in the first round is turning right around 24 hours later and doing it all over again. In Bates’ first NCAA tournament in more than 50 years, The Bobcats turned on the jets and shook off some late turnovers to win 92-80 over St. Vincent. In the late game Stockton, the host of the regional, took care of business easily against Endicott winning by 20. This will now be the second straight year that Stockton will take on a NESCAC team. Last season Stockton (then called Richard Stockton … that took us a while to figure out.) beat Bowdoin in the first round of the tournament before going on to shock a highly ranked Cabrini team and making the Sweet 16.

Josh Blamon '15 dropped 24 points and grabbed five boards in Stockton's opening round victory. (Courtesy of Stockton Athletics)
Josh Blamon ’15 dropped 24 points and grabbed five boards in Stockton’s opening round victory. (Courtesy of Stockton Athletics)

However, much more than just the university name has changed. Bates shouldn’t even bother asking Bowdoin Coach Tim Gilbride about the Ospreys because only two players who scored for Stockton last year are still on the roster. Most of the players from last years team either graduated or or no longer with the team for some reason or another. Yet, one of the two remaining players was Josh Blamon ’15 who just won the NJAC Player of the Year Award. The junior will likely receive All-American honors of some sort at the end of the year. He will be a challenge for Mike Boornazian ’16 and Billy Selmon ’15 to guard.

Three Storylines to Watch

1. Who Steps up for Stockton?

Stockton is pretty much a two-man show with Blamon and junior transfer Armin Cane ’16 being the only two consistent scoring threats. The third highest scorer is Marcus Harmon ’18 with only 7.3 PPG. The Ospreys have managed to deal with the loss of the starting point guard Nate Pacius ’16 for the year, but they will need others to step up. Cane and Blamon will score points, I am sure of that, but if Bates gets anywhere close to the 92 they put up yesterday, there is no way those two alone can carry the load. Whoever it is doesn’t need to go off, but they need to hit a couple of threes and maybe get to the line a couple of times just so that Bates can’t gear its defense at two guys.

 2. Does Bates shoot well again?

Nobody on the Bates roster is really a knockdown shooter. But it feels like when one player starts to see the ball go through the hoop, other Bobcats gain a little more confidence and hit more shots too. Yesterday, Boornazian, Safford and Adam Philpott ’15 each hit multiple threes, but nobody else was able to hit shots from deep. The Bobcats should be comfortable in the Stockton gym after having a couple of practices and a game there the last few days. Hitting threes is critical for Bates in the half court offense where they can sometimes become too reliant on Safford driving and him scoring or someone else getting an offensive rebound underneath. Selmon did not hit a three yesterday, and he is a guy capable of hitting a bunch in a row if he gets going.

The Stockton faithful will be louder than ever as the Ospreys play for a Sweet 16 berth. (Courtesy of Stockton Athletics)
The Stockton faithful will be louder than ever as the Ospreys play for a Sweet 16 berth. (Courtesy of Stockton Athletics)

3. Will fatigue be a factor?

Midway through the second half when Bates was up 20, I was hoping that they would be able to extend the lead a little more so that guys like Safford and Boornazian would be able to get just a little more rest than usual. That didn’t happen, but both of them looked fresh down the stretch. The turnaround for NCAA games is very quick. Bates might actually might have a slight advantage in that they get to sleep at a quiet hotel while Stockton players had to sleep around friends celebrating their Friday nights. It will be hard to tell by watching the game how fatigued players are because they will be loathe to not play hard. Instead look at how each team shoots and how many turnovers they have to get some a handle on really how much gas they have in the tank.

Bates X-Factor: Point Guard Graham Safford ’15

As good as Safford has been at points this season, yesterday was his first time scoring 30 points this season. Granted, he only got to that mark because St. Vincent kept fouling and sending him to the free throw line in the waning minutes. Still, he looked comfortable getting into the lane and scored on a number of nice layups. He also managed to hand out 10 assists compared to three turnovers. He was also able to get just a little bit of rest. As we mentioned before, the fact that the NCAA insists on every game having media timeouts every four minutes of game time is a huge boon for Safford. The senior certainly knows that this could be his last game, but it is hard to tell because he maintains such a cool demeanor most of the time.

As always, Graham Safford '15 will be the driving force behind the Bobcats attack. (Courtesy of Daryn Slover/Bates College Athletics)
As always, Graham Safford ’15 will be the driving force behind the Bobcats attack. (Courtesy of Daryn Slover/Bates College Athletics)

Stockton X-Factor: Forward Anthony Woodward ’15

Marcus and Malcolm Delpeche ’17 both enjoyed solid games before both fouling out down the stretch. They will once again enjoy a height advantage over Stockton, but it will not be nearly as pronounced Woodward is one of several 6’5″ players for Stockton, and he is their best rebounder. After coming off the bench last season, he has started almost every game and averages 5.9 RPG in 26.6 MPG. The NJAC is known as a hard-nosed league so Woodward will be ready to use his body down low. Stockton is not a great rebounding team overall, and Bates just had a rebounding margin of +11 yesterday. Woodward needs to be a force in the paint to neutralize the advantage Bates has inside.


Bates certainly looked better yesterday than they had in a couple of weeks, but their inability to put St. Vincent away left a sour taste in my mouth. Without one of the Delpeche brothers in the game, the Bates interior defense melted away.  Obviously it was somewhat flukish that both of them fouled out, but there were way too many easy layups in the second half for St. Vincent. Bates has already exceeded our expectations for them by winning their first round game. They relied heavily on Boornazian and Safford yesterday in pretty much every facet of the game. The two combined for 52 points, and we know they are capable of doing that again.

The Bobcats proved us wrong yesterday, and we hope they prove us wrong again, but Stockton is too good of a team to lose on their home-court in this situation. Even though if you look at the statistics Stockton does not look like a 23-5 team, they know how to win close games. With a go-to scorer in Blamon and a home crowd behind them, Stockton should be able to get past the Bobcats.

Prediction: 71 Stockon – 64 Bates

NCAA First Round Preview: Bates College vs. St. Vincent College

Game Information: Bates (19-6) vs. St. Vincent (22-6)

Friday, March 6, 5:30 PM

Stockton Sports Center at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, Galloway, NJ

Live Stats  Video

Adam Philpott '15 (22) and Cam Kaubris '15 (13) haven't had much to cheer about recently. Bates hasn't played since February 21, a NESCAC Quarterfinal loss to Wesleyan. (Courtesy of Daryn Slover/Bates Athletics)
Adam Philpott ’15 (22) and Cam Kaubris ’15 (13) haven’t had much to cheer about recently. Bates hasn’t played since February 21, a NESCAC Quarterfinal loss to Wesleyan. (Courtesy of Daryn Slover/Bates Athletics)

Now in their fifth year being eligible for the NCAA Tournament, the Saint Vincent College Bearcats are going to the dance for the third time. For the third year in a row, St. Vincent, under the tutelage of D.P. Harris, won the Presidents’ Athletic Conference title game and earned an automatic bid to the tournament. The Bearcats beat some highly ranked teams this year in Catholic (25-3) and Mount Union (22-6), and their two conferences losses came by a total of six points. Like the majority of the opponents of NESCAC teams in the NCAA tournament, St. Vincent hasn’t played as strong of a schedule as their opponents, but they also come into the Tournament on an eight-game winning streak.

For Bates, the chance to dance is the College’s first since 1961, when Bates played in the NCAA College Division Tournament. The Bobcats and Coach Jon Furbush were holding their breath while waiting to see if they would get invited to the NCAA Tournament.

“I didn’t get a lot of sleep, which I know was the same for a lot of the guys on the team; we were real excited,” Mike Boornazian ’16 said, “Hearing the news, we all just went nuts. I kind of blacked out for about 10 seconds after that. It’s just an honor to be a part of the first team in Bates history to make it. I’m just real excited for this opportunity.”

Three Storylines to Watch:

1. The Resilience of Pat Jones ’16

Strictly speaking on-the-court, Jones has improved leaps and bounds as a player this season, improving on last season’s totals of 5.3 PPG and 3.5 RPG to playing nearly 30 minutes per game and averaging 13.3 PPG and 4.9 RPG in 2014-15. What’s more incredible, though, is that Jones’ mother passed away from cancer at the beginning of this season and that he’s been able to set that aside and, as Coach Harris said, find solace in the game of basketball. Pat Jones’ strength and the way in which his teammates have come together around him is truly inspiring.

2. How many minutes will Graham Safford ’15 and Mike Boornazian ’16 play?

Both players went the distance in the Bobcats’ Quarterfinal loss to Wesleyan in the NESCAC Tournament and seemed worn out by the end. Safford is used to playing nearly the entire game (36.6 MPG), and surely he would never ask to be taken out, but there is no doubt that both his and Boornazian’s legs got a little weary down the stretch. Safford is shooting just 35.1 percent from the field (26-74) in his last six games. Boornazian has kept his production up over that stretch, though. Making Safford work on the defensive end of the floor is also critical in wearing him down over the course of the game. A full two weeks of rest and the extra media timeouts that exist only in the NCAA tournament should keep both guards pretty fresh.

3. Can Bates defend the three?

The Bobcats did a great job of this during the season, holding teams below 30 percent from the arch. But, Jones, Ben Klimchock ’16 and JC Howard ’16 are all deadly from three, so the onus will be on Safford, Boornazian and defensive whiz Billy Selmon ’15 to shut down the long-range shooting attack of the Bearcats. As a team, the Bearcats shot 37.2 percent from three with Jones, Klimchock, and Howard doing the vast majority of the damage.

Bates X-Factors: Take Care of the Ball

The Bobcats are tied for the second most turnovers per game in the NESCAC. Though often an under appreciated part of the game, not turning the ball over is a huge part of being efficient on offense. Bates tends to play at a slower pace making turnovers all the more important for the Bobcats to not give up possessions. For everything great that Safford does for Bates, he led the NESCAC in turnovers with 3.7 per game. He tends to press sometimes and get too deep into the paint without having a great idea of where he is going with the ball. The time off means Bates is more rested, but we also tend to see teams show early signs of not having played in a while. It is unlikely that the extra week off has added much rust, but if it has then Bates will struggle to keep up.

St. Vincent X-Factor: Control the Glass

Compared to Bates, St. Vincent has a smaller front court, but they are still a strong rebounding team with an overall differential of +6.4 RPG. Although we think of Bates of having a significant advantage because of the Delpeche brothers, they actually finished pretty middle of the pack in rebounding differential. St. Vincent does a really good job of rebounding as a team which is why so many different players get rebounds. Somebody like Swartwout usually only plays about 13 MPG, but he still pulls down 3.6 RPG. If the Bearcats are able to get into the lane, their weak side rebounders will work hard to get offensive boards.

What to Expect

Will experience play a role in the outcome of this game? Possibly. Bates obviously didn’t play its best basketball in the NESCAC Quarterfinals, but maybe that disappoint will actually help the Bobcats. And St. Vincent, though they’ve been two the NCAA Tournament the last two seasons, has yet to win an NCAA Tournament game.

Expect St. Vincent to throw a myriad of defenses at Bates as they like to mix up their looks on that end. The Bearcats have a very deep bench as well. They can throw a bunch of different looks at Bates. Bobby Swartwout ’16 is 6’6″ 270 lbs. and can bully the Delpeche brothers. Sean Kett ’15, the team’s lone senior, is a high-motor, no-quit type who scores 13.0 PPG and shoots well over 50 percent. Klimchock, Jones and Howard can stretch the floor. Realistically, though, the offensive capabilities of the Bearcats players significantly falls off after Kett, Jones, Howard and point guard Jaylon Bell ’16. With both Delpeche brothers on the floor, Bates will try to neutralize Kett, forcing the Bearcats to take threes and long twos, something that the Bobcats have been fantastic at defending all season long.


In their third try at the NCAA Tournament, I feel as though St. Vincent will finally figure it out. Their ability to go deep in the rotation is something that Bates will struggle with. Fresh legs will keep the tempo up and Bates will start to fade. Jones’ diverse game will be a problem for Bates, and on the other end I see Bates fighting to get into a rhythm while St. Vincent mixes up its looks. Too often this season the Bobcats have handed the ball to Safford and gotten out of the way. I don’t think that flies against this team. If we land all of our predictions, Bates will be the only NESCAC team not playing on Saturday, which would have been a surprise before two weekends ago when the Bobcats could have been considered the favorites to win the NESCAC Tournament.

St. Vincent 75 – Bates 68

How They Stack Up: Power Rankings 2/18

Our usual Power Rankings writer, the esteemed Dave Peck, is busy this week with work and other endeavors so I am going to fill in for the week. Keep that in mind if these rankings look very different from the ones last week. However, I think Dave has been doing a fantastic job and have not made too many changes, though one of my decisions near the bottom might surprise you.

1. Trinity (19-5, 9-1) Last Week: 1

This Saturday will mark exactly one month since the Bantams lost a game. Trinity fell to Fisher, an NAIA school, on January 21 and has won six NESCAC games since then. Nothing much has changed since last week for them. They handled their business against Middlebury for 38 minutes, but the Panthers did make a late comeback to make things interesting. Trinity continues to get little respect nationally, as they are not ranked in the D3Hoops poll and were below Amherst and Bates in the first NCAA regional rankings.

Captain Hart Gliedman '15 made life miserable for the Panthers' Dylan Sinnickson '15 in Trinity's last regular season game, a 90-85 win at Middlebury. (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
Captain Hart Gliedman ’15 made life miserable for the Panthers’ Dylan Sinnickson ’15 with outstanding perimeter defense in Trinity’s last regular season game, a 90-85 win at Middlebury. (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

2. Bowdoin (17-7, 7-3) Last Week: 6

The Polar Bears rocketed up the standings this weekend, and now they rocket up the Power Rankings. Plenty has been said about back-to-back NESCAC Player of the Week Lucas Hausman ’16 and his improvement this season, but one should not overlook the improved quality of play from his classmates Matt Palecki ’16 and Jake Donnelly ’16. Palecki has settled into the power forward position and is even providing some needed three point shooting, and Donnelly is also now in the starting lineup as a third guard. His contributions do not always come through on the stat sheet, but he is the best perimeter defender for Bowdoin and is the primary ball-handler when Bryan Hurley ’15 needs a rest.

3. Amherst (18-6, 6-4) Last Week: 3

The Jeffs bungled their chance to get the number two seed in the NESCAC tournament and subsequently hurt their NCAA at-large chances with a loss Sunday to Middlebury. Yet the loss does not really change our opinion of the Jeffs. Besides Connor Green ’16, nobody played well for Amherst, and there is way too much talent on the roster for that to happen again. The key for Dave Hixon will be figuring who has the hot hand and get them on the court as much as possible Saturday.

4. Bates (19-5, 7-3) Last Week: 2

The Bobcats second game against Bowdoin went completely differently than the first one which was a rout for Bates. Do not put too much stock into this loss because the Bobcats ran into the perfect storm for Bowdoin. The important thing is that they took care of business Saturday against Colby and now have a home game against Wesleyan in the first round of the NESCAC tournament. This is most likely the final home game for Bates this season, and seniors Graham Safford ’15, Adam Philpott ’15, Cam Kaubris ’15 and Billy Selmon ’15 would love to finish their final season at Alumni Gym undefeated.

5. Tufts (13-11, 6-4) Last Week: 5

It is starting to seem like Tufts has simply been treading water the last couple of weeks since Hunter Sabety ’17 got hurt. The Jumbos went 3-3 in their final six NESCAC games without him. To be fair, those three losses were all by single digits and Tufts was either winning or tied at halftime of each of them. Tom Palleschi ’16 has benefited from the extra space on the inside and has been scintillating to watch lately. However, he went cold down the stretch against Bowdoin, a big reason why Tufts could not keep up at the very end.

6. Wesleyan (16-8, 5-5) Last Week: 9

No team made a bigger statement in their two games last weekend than the Cardinals. They went from squarely on the bubble of making the tournament to the sixth seed and a chance to redeem a close lose against Bates. The Cardinals are a very unselfish, balanced team that had four players finish with 11 or more PPG over the course of the regular season. No other team did that, even though as a team Wesleyan was only the fifth highest scoring team this season.

7. Williams (15-9, 5-5) Last Week: 4

The final weekend did not treat Williams as well as they might have hoped. Wesleyan ended up blowing out Williams at Chandler Gym in what was one of the worst shooting performances for the Ephs all season. In fairness, a lot of the shots they missed seemed to rattle in and out, but the fact remains that Williams lives and dies by the three. While that makes them a terrifying opponent to play against, the chances of them having three straight great shooting games in a row to win the NESCAC tournament are long.

8. Middlebury (17-7, 4-6) Last Week: 8

I know that Middlebury did not make the playoffs, but after watching them play Amherst, you think Trinity is thankful that they are playing Colby and not Middlebury? That is no disrespect to Colby, but the Mules are a different team without Chris Hudnut ’16. The improvement of Matt St. Amour ’17 (19.6 PPG, 62.7 percent FG [32-51] in his last six games) as the year went along is an encouraging sign for a Middlebury team that will look to get the program back quickly to the high level it was performing at a few years ago.

Once he recovered from an ankle sprain suffered in late January, St. Amour looked like a different player. The Vermont native will be at the center of Middlebury's reloading effort in 2015-16. (Courtesy of Michael O'Hara/Middlebury Campus)
Once he recovered from an ankle sprain suffered in late January, Matt St. Amour ’17 looked like a different player. The Vermont native will be at the center of Middlebury’s reloading effort in 2015-16. (Courtesy of Michael O’Hara/Middlebury Campus)

9. Colby (13-11, 4-6) Last Week: 7

Give credit to Colby: they are fighting like crazy and having a lot of guys step up in order to stay competitive right now. Not many teams could have lost their projected starting power forward and center and still lose to Tufts and Bates by single digits. While an upset of Trinity is a longshot, it certainly is not impossible. Luke Westman ’16 and Ryan Jann ’16 are right up there as one of the top backcourts in the league. Both of them need to play superbly Saturday.

10. Hamilton (14-10, 2-8) Last Week: 10

The Continentals closed out their season with a victory over the Mules. Despite the 2-8 record, there were a lot of positives for the Continentals who had to deal with the unexpected loss of Matt Hart ’16 to transfer. Joseph Lin ’15 was one of the best stories of the season, but he suffered an unfortunate injury that cut short his campaign. On Saturday for his final home game, Conn College allowed Lin one last basket at home.

11. Conn College (7-16, 0-10) Last Week: 11

For the second time in three seasons, the Camels finished the season without a win in conference. The good news is that everyone should be back next year for Conn, barring any transfers. There appears to be a foundation for at least respectability in place in New London, but winning will not come easy for Conn. The current sophomore and freshmen classes are both big so Conn will rely on the growth of those players next year.



A New Number One: Power Rankings 1/30

Jaquann Starks '16 and Trinity are at the top of the rankings. (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
Jaquann Starks ’16 and Trinity are at the top of the rankings. (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

Like most power rankings this season, the position of each team will more than likely switch by the end of the weekend. After several years of consistency in the NESCAC, this year has throw history out the window. This weekend will we see the league finally settle down, or will the last two and a half weeks exhibit the same amount of turbulence that we’ve seen all season long? One things for certain, there is room for any team to gain ground.

1. Trinity (14-5, 4-1) Last Week: 2

Trinity is at the top, but they shouldn’t get too comfortable. Their next two opponents, Bowdoin and Colby, have been playing solid basketball and are hungry to break through against one of the top teams. With a 70-54 win against Amherst, Trinity is tied for the top record in the NESCAC, and they get the top spot because of the quality of competition they have played in conference thus far.

2. Middlebury (13-3, 2-2) Last Week: 1

Middlebury, who had appeared to be in a good spot last week lost to non-conference opponent Maine-Fort Kent 71-62. The production, other than seniors Dylan Sinnickson ’15 and Hunter Merryman ’15 (20 and 15 points respectively), was lacking. The Panthers will have a good test of their resilience on Friday when they face Williams. The Panthers are hungry for this one after last season when they let a big lead slip away both times they played. It’s only one game, but the once long season now has under three weeks left. Right now they need consistency from more than just their seniors.

3. Tufts (8-8, 3-1) Last Week: 6

Tufts rises despite losing their only conference game to Bates last weekend. The Jumbos have shown that they should be among the top this year. These past few weeks they’ve taken down previous number one ranked teams, such as Amherst, Middlebury, and Trinity, putting them in an excellent position in the conference. Where I am hesitant to ramp up Tufts’ stock beyond this comes from the fact that they hold an 8-8 record. Yes, they have proven they can beat the “best” (term used loosely given the inconsistency this year) in the league, but their slow start puts them in a difficult spot to make the playoffs if they are unable to win the NESCAC tournament.

4. Amherst (12-5, 2-3) Last Week: 2

Amherst has dropped since last week after their tough 54-70 loss to Trinity. Seeing as Trinity is ranked No. 1 this week, I’m not going to look too far into that one game. That being said, their 2-3 conference record speaks for itself. Given that, I think the Lord Jeffs will still be a force to be reckon with down the stretch. Their schedule, like Trinity’s includes Colby and Bowdoin in their next two games, two teams that will surely be ramped up to have the chance to take a shot at the revered Lord Jeffs in LeFrak gym. Given their past, I can’t see Amherst finishing the season poorly. Call it a visceral reaction, but I’ll stand by them remaining in the top 5.

5. Bowdoin (13-4, 4-1) Last Week: 5

As a fellow Polar Bear, I’ve been tough on Bowdoin all year as far as where they have ranked on my list. That will continue. Right now, after beating a tough Colby team on the road 68-65, due largely in part to the play of senior Bryan Hurley ’15 and junior Lucas Hausman ’16 (combined 47 points in the win), Bowdoin seems to be playing their best basketball, and at the right time. In the coming weeks, they’ll go against Trinity, Amherst, Bates, Middlebury, and Tufts to finish out their conference play. In one week, you and I both will know how serious Bowdoin is this year. Right now, they have the potential to go way up in rankings, but then again, that is the case with most teams this year.

6. Bates (12-4, 2-2) Last Week: 4

After losing two straight to Amherst and Trinity, Bates was able to bounce back and beat Tuft. Bates will for sure be a playoff team, and the formula for success has been clear- if Graham Safford ’15 and Mike Boornazian ’16 play as well as they’re capable of playing, Bates has enough depth in the Delpeche brothers and Billy Selmon ’15 to make a run. Still, they are ranked second to last in points per game scored with 67.2. The Bobcats have also gotten through the toughest part of their schedule. They should be able to gain ground on the rest of the league in the coming weeks.

7. Williams (11-7, 2-3) Last Week: 7

Williams is a team that sits on the fringe of the top eight, and similarly to Amherst, has a 2-3 record in the conference. What gives Amherst the edge is based on the fact that the Ephs have tough opponents these coming weeks in Middlebury, Bates, and Tufts. A loss to Hamilton last weekend hurts Williams, but they shouldn’t be too concerned with one game; Williams has all the pieces in place and are just looking to find their groove.

8. Colby (11-7, 3-2) Last Week: 8

Colby sits in an intriguing spot right now because they have not truly been tested yet. Yes, they split the series against Bowdoin (losing the conference matchup), but that is it. The three conference wins the the Mules have this year come against the three teams that are below them in this weeks power rankings, Wesleyan, Hamilton, and Conn. That means one thing- it’s going to be an uphill battle from here on out.

9. Wesleyan (13-5, 2-2) Last Week: 9

The Cardinals fall out of my top eight for one reason in particular- the next six games for Wesleyan all come against conference opponents. The way that the league has played out thus far, anything can happen, making it particularly difficult to rally off a wining record. I’m not saying they can’t do it, I just think things would look better for Wesleyan if there were one or two out of conference games in this final stretch in order to give them a breather.

10. Hamilton (12-6, 1-4) Last Week: 11

While Hamilton’s playoff hopes seem to still be distant, Continental fans had something to cheer about when Hamilton defeated Williams in a close 67-64 battle. Jack Donnelly ’16 and Kyle Pitman ’17 are top ten in the league in 3-pt percentage, giving Hamilton the ability to work outside in. Finishing out their season with five conference games, the Continentals hold some power in determining  end of the year rankings for the league.

11. Conn College (7-9, 0-4) Last Week: 10

The Camels have yet to get a win in conference play, and sit last in our rankings with an overall record of 7-9. This year Conn has ranked 10th or lower in both defense and offense- a stat makes it very difficult to muster up some wins. The seemingly leveled playing field of the NESCAC this year has hurt Conn. While previously low-ranked teams have been able to compete with the top, Conn was unable this year to make the jump into that next level of play.

Appearances Can Be Deceiving: Stock Report 1/20

Tufts is the best team in the league, Bates is in danger of the same free fall as last year, and Wesleyan might be good, but they can’t compete with the NESCAC’s best.

All of these arguments could be made after this weekend, but could also also look foolish in another week. Consider this: at this point last week Middlebury was in the process of being exposed as soft. The Panthers responded with a 2-0 weekend, including the best half played by any NESCAC team this season in the first half against Wesleyan on Friday night. We still do not know much about how the league is going to shake out.

What is clear is that all of the chaos has hurt the NESCAC’s reputation nationally. For the first time since 2002, no NESCAC team was in the D3Hoops Top 25 released on Monday. Amherst and Trinity received a couple of votes each, but it will take a team stringing together a couple of weeks without losing before someone will claw back into the poll. The chances of multiple NESCAC teams making the tournament continue to fade as the committee sees the wide-openness as mediocrity.

Stock Up

Hard Non-Conference Schedules: Colby and Tufts entered conference play with a combined record of 11-12, but so far the two are 6-1 in conference play, with the Jumbos the most impressive team thus far in NESCAC play. Both coaches, Damien Strahorn for Colby and Bob Sheldon for Tufts, went out of their way to schedule hard teams out of conference. The combined records of the teams Colby and Tufts lost to is 126-52 (.710 winning percentage), and that record includes a 4-10 Maine-Farmington team which Colby lost to without Chris Hudnut ’16. Both teams now have turned the corner and for now are at the top of the league standings. Tufts in particular looked poised down the stretch against Trinity after losing a number of close games early in the season. Keep in mind that this stock is only up in the short term. The hard early schedule could come back to hurt both teams. Unless either team wins out in the regular season and wins a game or two in the NESCAC tournament, their chances of getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament remains slim.

Class of 2016: Two weeks ago we noted how the current senior class could end with only two players crossing the 1,000 point mark. Last week saw two current juniors, Chris Hudnut ’16 (Colby) and Connor Green ’16 (Amherst) cross the same mark.

Chris Hudnut '16 (Courtesy of Bear Sports News)
Hudnut earned his second Player of the Week honor of the season by averaging 22.5 points and 11.0 rebounds in two conference games this week. (Courtesy of Bear Sports News)

Mike Boornazian ’16 (Bates) has 794 points currently and looks like a lock to reach 1,000 points. A recent explosion in points from Lucas Hausman ’16 (Bowdoin) means that with 630 points right now, he appears likely to cross the mark as well. Meanwhile, Luke Westman ’16 (Colby) is averaging 14.0 PPG while shooting an UNREAL 74.8 percent from the field. Westman never shoots from outside, but even still to shoot that well around the rim is exceptional, especially for a guard. Trinity is powered by their duo of Shay Ajayi ’16 and Jaquann Starks ’16. The junior class is not as deep or as star studded as the 2014 or possibly 2017 class, but it’s not far off, either.

Point Guard Tarik Smith ’17 (Tufts): A lot of different players have elevated their play in conference for the Jumbos, but Smith has unquestionably had the biggest impact. In three conference games Smith is averaging 17.3 PPG on the absurd shooting percentage slashline of 68.4/83.3/95.5. He scored nine points in the second half against Trinity, including the game sealing free throws in the waning seconds. However, big questions remain. First, there is zero percent chance Smith continues to shoot this well from deep and at the charity stripe so his efficiency is sure to go down. Second, this scoring binge is coming out of nowhere. In non-conference play Smith averaged 6.0 PPG and reached double digits only twice. Finally, Smith is only averaging one turnover per game during this stretch but is averaging over two per game on the year. But note that before conference play began, Smith had started all 11 games at the point for the Jumbos, while he has come off the bench in each NESCAC game so far. There is a chance that Smith moving out of the starting lineup has taken pressure off of him. More likely, Smith played a great three games, but regardless his play is representative of a wider trend for Tufts.

Stock Down

Traditional Powers: The Big Three of the NESCAC (Williams, Amherst, and Middlebury) are each sitting in the middle of the pack at 2-2. All three lost huge senior classes, but that does not fully explain how far back to the pack they have fallen. Consider that since 2001-2002 season, one of those three won the NESCAC regular season crown by going either undefeated or having only one loss. Since Middlebury still has to play Amherst and Williams, it is possible that all three finish with at least three losses. All three teams are more than talented enough to win the NESCAC tournament, but their rosters are not as flawless as in years past.

Wesleyan: As someone who was in the front row of the Wesleyan bandwagon, this was a very hard week. First the Cardinals went up to Amherst in a non-conference game and forgot how to shoot from deep in the process of a 21-point loss. Then after going up early in the first half against Middlebury 14-13, Wesleyan let up a 38-10 run by the Panthers to go into the half down 27 points. Their normally stout defense was unable to find a way to slow down any aspect of the Middlebury attack. Things got out of control quickly as the home Panthers just got in an offensive roll. Sixteen turnovers, with each starter having at least two, also was not helpful.

Wesleyan's Joseph Kuo '17 can't stop this finish from Matt Daley '16. (Courtesy of  Michael O'Hara, Middlebury Campus)
Wesleyan’s Joseph Kuo ’17 can’t stop this finish from Matt Daley ’16. (Courtesy of Michael O’Hara, Middlebury Campus)

Now Wesleyan is 1-2 in conference, and because of their schedule, they have to go on the road for five of their final seven conference games. The Cardinals just rebounded with a nice win last night over Baruch, but they now face an uphill battle in conference play.

Point Guard Graham Safford ’15 (Bates): Though a bit simplistic, as Safford goes, so go the Bobcats. Last Tuesday in order to keep him rested, Bates coach Jon Furbush did not play Safford at all, but the results this weekend were subpar. Safford scored 12.0 PPG on only 26 percent shooting, and he did not make a single two-point field goal against Trinity. Not coincidentally, Bates went 0-2 against Trinity and Amherst. Those are two very hard road games, but Tufts also went 2-0 as Bates’ road partner this weekend. The Bobcats need their leading man to figure out how to avoid another late season slide. Last season Safford had a similar falloff with his overall points per game 4.4 higher than his conference average while his shooting percentage plummeted at the same time. Keeping him fresh is crucial, and Bates might need to rely on Billy Selmon ’15 to become the primary ball handler for short stretches.