Back for More: Williams Men’s Basketball 2018 Preview

Williams College Ephs:

The success of the 2017 Williams season will be difficult to replicate, but the Ephs can do it. Coming off of a cinderella run to the Final Four as an at large team, kocking off Middlebury 79-75, the Ephs lost just one major part of their team. Referring to Daniel Aronowitz as ‘just one’ is a modest way to put it, seeing as he led the team in points per game (17.3), three pointers per game (2.1), and minutes per game (29.8). He was the leader, heart and soul, and mesh player of the Williams offense, able to drive to the hoop and shoot the deep shots. Luckily for Williams, they have depth and saw six returning players start 14 games or more, with James Heskett as the likely replacement in the small forward position. Both the sophomore and junior classes in this team are looking to break out with forward Kyle Scadlock leading the way. Scadlock had a monster performance in the sweet-16 round against Susquehanna last year, dominating the floor with his size and athleticism, dunking triumphantly en route to a 22 point, 12 rebound double-double. He is likely to take Aronowitz’s spot as the on court leader of the team despite only being a junior. Guard Cole Teal ’18 is the only senior returning starter, boding well for the longevity of the Ephs’ success. Aronowitz’s leadership will continue to work its magic this year as the departed Eph provided these young players—all underclassmen last year except for Teal—with experience and a base for how to conduct their business. After playing with such an experienced NESCAC veteran, they will not let their youth show.

Matthew Karpowicz and company are excited about where they stack up headed into the season

Teal is joined by fellow returners PG Bobby Casey ’19 and Center Marcos Soto ’19. Michael Kempton will look to make a push for additional playing time at center too after losing his starting spot to Soto halfway through the season.MbN’s own C Matthew Karpowicz ’20 will also challenge for playing time after putting up double digit point totals in several NESCAC games in under ten minutes played. A wild card for this team is Henry Feinberg ’20 who broke his hand in 2017 and was hampered by injury but is a physical, defensively oriented SF with the size to make an impact in the paint. With so many returners and options, Coach Kevin App should play 10-11 players significantly this year and might not need one player to replace Aronowitz. The Ephs’ depth and past experience should carry them early in the season, and if the junior class develops into the cohesive force they are capable of, they will be tough to shut down. They are ranked #3 in the country by D3hoops.com going into the 2018 season and are capable of making a return trip to the Final Four.

Projected Record: 21-3, 9-1

2016-2017 Record: 23-9, 5-5, Lost in NESCAC Finals, Lost in Final Four

Head Coach: Kevin App, 4th year, 53-29 (Through 2017)

Returning Starters:

Guard Bobby Casey ‘19 (8.5 PPG; 2.2 A/G; 38.4% FG; 2.2 REB/G)

Guard Cole Teal ‘18 (9.7 PPG; 3.5 REB/G; 38.9% 3-PT)

Forward Kyle Scadlock ‘19 (12.9 PPG; 6.3 REB/G; 53.6% FG)

Center Marcos Soto ’19 (5.4 PPG, 2.6 REB/G; 50.4% FG)

Key Losses:

Guard/Forward Daniel Aronowitz ‘17 (17.3 PPG; 37.3% 3-PT; 6.2 REB/G)

Starting Lineup:

Guard Bobby Casey ‘19

Bobby Casey ’19 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Contrary to many of the NESCAC PGs, Casey doesn’t control the Ephs offensive attack in that he has modest scoring and assisting numbers. He does, however, set the pace of the offense bringing the ball up the court and doesn’t force opportunities. The one fault is that he only shot 38.4% from the field, a number significantly lower than many of his teammates’ marks. If he can improve on his shooting and ball distribution, he could really make a leap in his junior season, especially with Aronowitz gone. Despite Aronowitz’s position as more of a small forward, he ended up controlling the ball on offense most of the time, and because Scadlock is more of a PF, Casey should have an increased role in the attack this year. Coach App doesn’t think one player will replace Aronowitz’s production, something that will lead to much more balance in the front court this year for the Ephs instead of an offense centered around Aronowitz. Casey will help balance this effort and increase his offensive production this year.

Guard Cole Teal ‘18

Cole Teal ’18 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Teal is the leader by elimination of this team as he is the only senior returning starter. While Scadlock will lead the team on the court due to his physical dominance, Teal will be the off the court leader, captain, and one of the top scorers. In fact, I predict he will be the second leading scorer behind Scadlock, not bold considering he ranked second last year. However, he won’t be particularly helpful in replacing Aronowitz’ rebounding. Instead, I think Scadlock and the trio of Williams centers will take on the bulk of the rebounding with Teal focussing more on 3-PT production as he will be the go to outside shooter for the Ephs. After losing Aronowitz, the leading 3-PT scorer of 2017, James Heskett and Teal will need to step up, and with more experience, Teal could see a drastic increase in scoring opportunity from downtown.

Forward James Heskett ‘19 

James Heskett ’19 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Heskett will likely see the bulk of the starts here because G Mike Greenman was more of a sixth man and Bobby Casey’s sub. This is the position left by Aronowitz, and although Greenman made 15 starts last year, he played PG when he saw his time. Of course against a smaller lineup, coach App could roll with three guards, but Heskett fits into this spot much better. Heskett’s 6’8″ length will be yet another weapon for the Ephs on both sides of the ball. Although he didn’t start in a single game last year, he had a consistent role off the bench, averaging 20 minutes per game, 7.2 PPG, and 2.8 REB/G. He shot lights out from deep, to a tune of 43.6%, but didn’t attempt as many shots as Aronowitz or Teal. He lacks the experience of some of the other players but could make a big jump in his junior season as the door is wide open for him.

Forward Kyle Scadlock ’19 

Kyle Scadlock ’19 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Scadlock is the future MVP of this team and is on my projected All-NESCAC second team. He influences the game in unique ways with his size and impressive ups, able to shoot well from the field and take over a game. He had a remarkable breakout period in the playoffs, throwing down some deafening dunks, exciting his fans, and putting up huge numbers against ranked teams. He’s not always going to have the ball in hands as he is more of a power forward, but he should dominate down low. His weakness is his outside shooting, turning in low 3-PT numbers and free throw stats (56.7%). If he could shoot from deep, he might turn into the NESCAC’s Lebron, but he has a ways to go. His potential is through the roof, but let’s not forget that for the bulk of the season, he played like his final stat line suggested (8.5 PPG, 5.0 REB/G)—solid but not a game changer. I’m betting that breaking out in the playoffs against tougher competition is no coincidence though. He improved from the charity stripe, from deep, and down low all at the right time and will bring that into the 2018 season.

Center Marcos Soto ’19

Marcos Soto ’19 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

The big man spot on the Williams team is filled by a combination of Soto, Michael Kempton, and Matthew Karpowicz. As Kempton and Soto saw the bulk of the playing time, they are likely the starters—at least for the preseason. Soto made a transition into a starting role over the second half of the season, effectively winning the majority of the playing time from Kempton, but didn’t dominate by any means. He rarely scored double digit points or collected over four rebounds despite 17.2 minute per game. Kempton ran into similar troubles, averaging under four points and rebounds per game. Granted, neither big man shot the ball much (less than seven times per game, combined) and both shot over 50% from the field. This says that they didn’t need to score and didn’t try to–not exactly a fault. They never really controlled the ball off the glass though, and because of that, Williams didn’t have any players in the top-10 in NESCAC rebounding and finished tenth overall with 37 boards per game. They don’t play with a traditional center, but unless one of these two steps up, they could be usurped by Karpowicz who has a much higher ceiling.

X-Factor: Center Matthew Karpowicz

Matthew Karpowicz ’20 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

As mentioned above, Kempton and Soto lack the big game capabilities that top NESCAC centers have. Karpowicz has that potential, scoring double digit points in three conference games where he played less than ten minutes (vs Amherst, Trinity, and Colby). He averaged 4.2 PPG and 2.1 REB/G in just 7.2 minutes per contest in 2017, showing the ability to breakout if given a chance to start. His rebounding could really be what sets him up as the X-Factor here, as Williams has plenty of scoring weapons, but little defensive prowess other than Scadlock. His 2.1 REB/G in such limited playing time projects to over eight in a full game. If Karpowicz can break out, given the depth in the other four positions, the Ephs will be nearly unstoppable.

Everything Else:

Due to the depth of this team, there should be ample opportunity for different players to show what they’ve got. This means that 10-11 players should receive significant time in many different lineups. Especially in the early season, Karpowicz and others in the 2020 class should be able to step up and earn some playing time even with the experience of the other players. Henry Feinberg will be one of the guys looking to make a leap from obscurity in his sophomore year into the small forward position, offering a different look from Heskett. He should be the first wing off of the bench, bolstering the front court on defense. Scadlock will dominate the front court of Williams, finding plenty of chances early on to take over games. This is exciting for Williams as they could soon find their next superstar heading into a season with lofty expectations. They’re ranked as the highest team in the NESCAC after making an improbable run into the NCAA tourney.

Scadlock will have plenty of moments like this in 2018

While they lost in the NESCAC championship to Midd, eventually knocking them off in the elite-8—not too shocking of an upset—I didn’t even think they would get an at large bid. Of course, I failed to consider the importance of making the run to the conference championship, but they only went 5-5 in conference and started off badly (1-4 in NESCAC play to start 2017), jeopardizing a chance to even get into the postseason. They proved that they deserved to get the call to the tourney and then some, showcasing talent and depth—most of which returns for the 2018 season. Unlike Tufts, Trinity, Wesleyan, and Middlebury who lost so many key components of their teams, Williams is sitting pretty with four familiar places in their starting lineup. I hear they have been practicing their dance moves. March Madness, here they come; NESCAC teams, watch out.

Williams Coach Kevin App doesn’t have much to worry about–his team’s talent should carry the Ephs deep into the playoffs

Can the Jumbos Trample the Ephs?: Williams at Tufts NESCAC Semifinal Preview

Vinny Pace ’18 looks to lead the Jumbos to Sunday’s NESCAC Championship game (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics).

#6 Williams (18-7, 5-5) at #1 Tufts (20-5, 8-2), Saturday, February 25, 2:00 PM, Medford, Massachusetts

Though they made it to this weekend last year, Tufts once again has a chance to win their first NESCAC Championship this weekend. The difference is that Tufts is hosting the remainder of the tournament this year, something the Jumbos have never done before. Just a couple weeks ago, Tufts hosted the Ephs in the very same Cousens Gymnasium that tomorrow’s game will be played in. As a Jumbos superfan, I can proudly say that Tufts smacked Williams in that game, but that does not mean Saturday’s matchup will be a rout. Honestly, I see this game going down to the wire, especially after watching Dan Aronowitz ‘17 and Kyle Scadlock ‘19 step up the way they did against their rivals. I am anticipating similar performances out of these two studs, and NESCAC hoops fans should be prepared for a barn burner out of the first game of the doubleheader.

 

Last Time They Met:

Dan Aronowitz ’17 is hoping to bounce back after a tough game against the Jumbos two weeks ago (Courtesy of Williams Athletics).

As mentioned above, the February 10th matchup between these two squads was not very close. Tufts walked away with a 93-68 victory catalyzed by their 18 three-pointers. With a silent first half, Eric Savage ‘20 came out of the locker room as a different beast in the second half, dropping 17 in 12 minutes of action. Now that sounds pretty good, but until you realize how he scored those 17 points, it’s just that – good. From the 12:06 mark to 6:42 left in the game, Savage knocked down five straight threes. He finally showed the crowd that he is a mere mortal on his next attempt, but that ~5 ½ minute stretch pretty much sums up the entire game. Tufts couldn’t miss from three. Meanwhile, Williams struggled from deep, much more than the box score shows at least. Sure, they ended up 8-25 from beyond the arc, but seven of those makes came in the second half when playing out the rest of the game was simply a formality. The Ephs were 1-9 from three in the first half, clearly missing Cole Teal ‘18, who sat out with some sort of illness. Tufts never trailed or allowed Williams to tie the game up after the first basket of the game, proving their pure dominance on that day.

 

Last Year:

Stephen Haladyna ’16 became a superstar in Tufts’ playoff run last year (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics).

Tufts played Williams in their last game of the 2015-2016 regular season just like they did this year, only to face them again a week later in the NESCAC quarterfinals. In game one at Williams, Tufts escaped with a gritty four point victory on the backs of Tom Palleschi ‘17 and Stephen Haladyna ‘16 despite a valiant effort out of Aronowitz. The playoff game the following weekend featured a much more balanced Tufts attack, with four of the five starters scoring in double-digits. Aronowitz did all he could, dropping 32 while just one of his teammates reached the double-digit mark, but at the end of the day, Tufts was too much, and they once again walk away with a victory, this time by six points. The two games featured much of the same type of strategy, but differed in who produced. If history has any bearing on tomorrow’s game, we will likely see similar strategy to their first meeting of the season, i.e. attempts by both teams to prove their dominance behind the three-point line, a lot of halfcourt offense and a much more conscious effort to share the wealth offensively by Tufts than Williams.

 

Williams X-Factor: Forward Kyle Scadlock ‘19

Kyle Scadlock ’19 dominated in the 2nd half against Amherst last week – Williams needs a similar performance tomorrow (Courtesy of Williams Athletics).

Last time these two played, I predicted that Cole Teal would be the x-factor and he didn’t step on the court, so I could be very, very off on this prediction. However, Scadlock has been playing some of his best basketball recently, and he is a big reason why Amherst was able to pull off the upset against Amherst last weekend. 14 of Scadlock’s 16 points came in the second half last Saturday, including a 7-0 run by the sophomore himself that gave the Ephs a nine point lead. Williams never looked back after Scadlock’s two minute stretch of dominance, and his emphatic dunk with nine seconds left capped off a well-deserved Williams victory. Against the Jumbos, the forward played pretty well, scoring 15 on 7-10 shooting, and with the post presence of the host team laden with injuries, a strong performance from Scadlock could be the difference. Not only can Scadlock take advantage of a size advantage on offense, but his success doing so will force the Jumbos to sag in to help, leaving shooters open on the perimeter. Aronowitz cannot shoulder the entire load in this game, so Scadlock needs to step up unlike his performance in the playoff matchup between these two sides last year.

 

Tufts X-Factor: Guard Ben Engvall ‘18

Tufts guard Ben Engvall ’18 is known for gritty transition buckets like this one (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics).

What’s one word I would use to describe Ben Engvall? Tough. The kid does not back down on the court, and that is going to be key against Williams. With Madsen banging around with a mix of Williams centers on the boards, Engvall is likely going to be tasked with keeping Scadlock in check. If he can keep Scadlock off the boards and force him into tough shots on the offensive end, Tufts will be in very good shape. Offensively, Engvall thrives off of fastbreak buckets, especially after an opposing team basket. He’s not going to light up the scoreboard necessarily, but these transition hoops are momentum plays, especially when he can turn them into and-one opportunities (which he does quite often). In the halfcourt offense, Engvall is a bit more limited. He is a good shooter that has shown the ability to knock down big shots, and when defenders close out poorly on him, the junior can get to the hoop. If Engvall can put up his standard 8-12 points, grab 5-6 boards and give Scadlock a hard time, Tufts should be golden.

 

Three Questions:

Will Dan Aronowitz go off?

I’m leaning towards yes. Aronowitz is a senior captain and Williams needs to win this tournament if they want to make an NCAA appearance. He showed last weekend that he means business, and the last time he played a playoff game in Cousens he put on a clinic. The reason I’m only leaning and not taking a stronger stance on this question is due to matchups. Tufts switches everything amongst their four non-post players, which makes it difficult to get open for opposing players. When Aronowitz does find the ball (which he inevitably will), he will likely see a combination of Vinny Pace ‘18, KJ Garrett ‘18 (assuming Pat Racy ‘20 is back and healthy), Everett Dayton ‘18 and Eric Savage. The length of all these guys, especially Pace and Dayton, is an issue, and the athleticism between the latter three guys will present problem for Aronowitz. Still, Aronowitz is one of the best players in the conference. I don’t think he’ll shrink in the bright lights of his biggest game since he became ‘the guy’ for the Ephs.

 

Will Tufts get a crowd?

As I mentioned before last weekend’s game versus Hamilton, the Tufts crowd is inconsistent at best. Despite the quarterfinal game being the slowest, most boring conference game that I have watched since I arrived at Tufts, it was still disappointing that the Tufts student population couldn’t bring forth a better effort for their Jumbos in the playoffs. The reason this question matters, however, is because at times, the Tufts crowd can be a huge factor. When Tufts faced Williams in the quarterfinals last year, for example, the crowd was completely into it. Every time Bobby Casey ‘19 touched the ball, “BOBBBBBY, BOBBBBBY, BOBBBBBY,” echoed through Cousens. I’m not saying the chanting did or did not affect Casey, but he was 3-9 from the field with 10 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists and 4 turnovers. You tell me. In any event, the crowd only increased in size throughout the Tufts NCAA tournament run last season, and I have a feeling that the thirst to be part of a championship run could bring the Jumbo faithful down to Cousens on Saturday.

 

Will Tufts have more than one big man?

Honestly, I’m not sure, but it matters one way or the other. Drew Madsen does not demand the ball offensively like Palleschi or even Racy. Madsen gets his points more primarily off drive and dish plays or put backs. This means the Tufts offense is much more reliant on its wing players, but the important thing to remember is that the ‘Bos have spread the ball around very evenly when they’ve been successful. While it’d obviously be great to have Racy and Palleschi back, the Jumbos are in fine shape with just Madsen, it just changes the strategy a bit. Instead of pounding the ball into the post, Tufts will rely more heavily on pick and rolls and drive and kick plays. If they shoot like they did last time Williams visited Medford, the Jumbos have nothing to fear, but I don’t quite seeing them hit 18 three-pointers. The one-post lineup worked against Williams last time – will it work again?

 

Summary

Overall, I simply believe that Tufts has too many weapons for the Ephs. Every guard in the lineup has a different skillset, which equally as unique as it is deadly. I know that Williams is hot right now, and I’m not counting them out, but Tufts is the better team, and at home I don’t think they will flop like Amherst did.

 

Writer’s Pick: Tufts

Weekend Preview 2 Part 2: Saturday’s Games

Zuri Pavlin lifts (Courtesy of Conn College Athletics)

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

 

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

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

 

Writer’s Pick: Tufts

 

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

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

 

Writer’s Pick: Middlebury

 

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

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

 

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

 

Writer’s Pick: Amherst

 

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

Joseph Kuo ’17 (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics).

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

 

Writer’s Pick: Wesleyan

 

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

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

 

Writer’s Pick: Williams

An Intriguing Start: Week 1 Power Rankings 1/12

Johnny McCarthy ’18 was up to his old tricks this weekend leading Amherst to a 1-0 start in conference play (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics).

This was a very fun weekend of NESCAC basketball. There were some predictable results, some upsets, and some up-and-comers made statements. I’ll save my talking for the individual team write-ups, but this league looks pretty competitive after the first weekend. Time will tell, but it’s good to see that the depth of the NESCAC is here to stay. Enjoy the power rankings.

1.) #5 Amherst (10-2, 1-0)

Amherst was one of two teams with just one win this weekend, but that is also because they were one of two teams with just one game. The Purple and White took down hated-rival Williams on Friday night 80-72 behind the play of usual suspects Jayde Dawson ‘17 and Johnny McCarthy ‘18, who had 19 and 15 points respectively. However, as is also the norm with Amherst, it was a full team effort that powered them to victory – six total players had eight points or more, and Coach Hixon received 30 points off the bench. Meanwhile, Williams had more of a two-pronged attack between Dan Aronowitz ‘17 and Cole Teal ‘18. Aronowitz put up what has become his standard 21-point/6-rebound performance, while Teal provided the Ephs with a deep threat, knocking down six three-pointers en route to 26 points on 9-16 shooting. Despite Teal’s efforts, it was the three-ball that killed the Ephs, as they were unable to keep up with Amherst’s deep-threat: Amherst hit 11 threes, while Williams sunk just eight, which proved to be the difference in the game. The Amherst offense was clicking on all cylinders on Friday, earning them the #1 nod in the power rankings.

2.) #6 Tufts (11-2, 2-0)

Tufts got back to playing the type of basketball they know how to play this weekend with two pretty stress-free wins over Bowdoin and Colby. Tom Palleschi ‘17 and Tarik Smith ‘17 led the way for the Jumbos: Palleschi earned a double-double on Friday night with 16 points and 11 boards, which he followed up with a 10-point/9-rebound performance at Colby on Saturday. Meanwhile, Smith, who has consistently been the leader of the Jumbo offense this season, put up 17/6/7 on Friday and 11/7/3 on Saturday. Smith has been there for Tufts thus far, and different guys have rotated in with big games here and there, but Coach Sheldon has to be happy to see Palleschi starting to get hot. More importantly, as a team the Jumbos scored 82 points in the paint this weekend (out of 161 total points). That is a great sign for a team that plays best when they get to the basket. One Achilles Heel for Tufts is their performance from the charity stripe. Though the Jumbos are often towards the top of the league in free throw attempts, they are currently shooting 67.4% from the line, good for the second worst mark in the league. However, there may be a correlation here between poor free throw shooting and winning games, because Amherst is ranked last in the league in free throw percentage – I may be onto something here…In any event, with Tufts’ fast-paced offense and ridiculous number of FGA/G (~64), increasing that FT percentage by even a few percentage points could be the difference down the stretch of a couple tight games this weekend.

3.) #15 Middlebury (11-1, 2-0)

Now I still don’t know the reason why, but some interesting news about Middlebury Basketball came to me NBN over the weekend (which Colby mentioned yesterday in his weekend review): Zach Baines is no longer a Panther. I don’t know why this is the case, and I don’t quite possess the sources that Chris Broussard and Adam Schefter do, so I don’t know if I’ll ever hear the full story. However, what I can tell you is that Baines is now an Occidental College Tiger

It’s unclear at this point how this will affect Middlebury in the long-run, but I can tell you this much: it did not affect them this weekend. The Panthers put up one of their most complete team performances of the season against Wesleyan on Friday, something that Wesleyan just couldn’t match. While their scoring was pretty widespread, Middlebury excelled on the defensive end by baiting Wesleyan into bad shots and feasting on their carelessness with the ball, the combination of which led to the eventual 18-point blowout. Saturday proved to be just as impressive for Midd, however this was more of a show of their offensive prowess than their defensive play. While the Panthers allowed a number of Camels to score pretty frequently, Middlebury really stuck it to Conn’s defense, especially Matt St. Amour ‘17, who followed up his 21-point performance on Friday with a 31-point special on Saturday. Frankly, the Panthers just shot the lights out, which was largely a result of their comfort sharing the rock. The 97-89 victory capped a nice weekend for the Panthers, who now head into their biggest test yet at Tufts on Friday.

 

4.) Hamilton (10-2, 2-0)

Well, well, well, it appears Hamilton is for real for real. The Continentals led the NESCAC in scoring before the break, which I thought was due to a less difficult out of conference schedule than some other teams play. I was wrong. Hamilton posted a pair of 16-point victories this weekend against Conn (86-70) and Wesleyan (92-76), proving that they are in fact ready to make a push in the ‘CAC. Their 87.3 PPG leads the league, while they do so at a pretty efficient rate of 47.5% shooting. Though they are a big deep threat, Hamilton has shown the ability to hit open shots from outside at times, allowing them to get into the paint, an area where they do quite a bit of damage. This past weekend’s success stemmed from an even distribution of scoring, as six players scored in double-digits on Friday and four did on Saturday, including two players off the bench each day. The trust of this young squad in one another screams maturity, and it certainly bodes well for the Continentals moving forward. They will face two other 2-0 squads this weekend at Bates and Tufts, which will be a big test for the Hamilton youth.

 

5.) Trinity (9-5, 1-0)

Ed Ogundeko (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

Like last year, the Bantams looked a lot more impressive on the opening weekend of NESCAC play than they did during their non-conference schedule. As predicted, Trinity kept their sole contest of the weekend low-scoring, beating Williams by a score of 65-63 in Williamstown. On the year, Trinity is allowing just 66.4 PPG, while they are scoring 74.7. Seems like a formula for success, right? Well, their lack of playmakers definitely pointed towards a lower scoring output this weekend against the Ephs, but their ability to force Williams into tough shots is what won Trinity the game. They held Teal to just 3 points on 0-4 shooting, and Aronowitz was only able to drop 10 on the stingy Bantams defense. Meanwhile, Trinity’s slow-it-down style on offense proved to be very effective. While the Bants didn’t shoot the ball exceptionally well, they turned the ball over just 9 times. If Trinity can continue to take care of the ball like this and avoid empty trips on the offensive end, they are going to be alright. Oh, and I guess I should mention that NESCAC POW Ed Ogundeko ‘17 scored 15 and grabbed 23 boards. Not too shabby, Ed. If Ogundeko can maintain his high level of play, Trinity will continue to rack up wins against teams that lack a dominant big man.

 

6.) Bates (11-3, 2-0)

Tom Coyne had a big weekend for the Bobcats (Courtesy of Bates Athletics).

I honestly feel like this is too high for Bates, but until they prove to be unfit for the position, I can’t argue that Bates is deserving of the #6 ranking in the power rankings. Bates took care of business at Colby and at Bowdoin this weekend. Though the opponents are not the most impressive, any time you can sweep a road trip in the NESCAC, you are doing something right. The outside shooting on Friday night was pretty remarkable, as the Bobcats drained 9-19 three-pointers en route to a 13-point victory. Add that to their solid defense and the Colby game had ‘Bates W’ written all over it. On Saturday, the offense was stifled by the Bowdoin D a bit, but Tom Coyne ‘20 stepped up in a big way by adding 23 points for the Bobcats. Despite these two solid victories, one thing jumps out as a concern about Bates in the long-run. First of all, they don’t really get to the free throw line. Bates only shot 22 free throws this weekend – that is bad. On a team where your two big men are supposed to be the dominant forces, it’s just unacceptable to only be attempting 11 FTA/G in NESCAC play. You can’t argue that it was the matchups either, because while Bates is tied for most games played in the conference, they have attempted the second-least free throws in the league! Bates is not going to beat teams in transition, and frankly, they have no desire to (they scored zero fastbreak points this weekend). That’s fine. But Bates cannot rely on the three-ball like they have so far as they face more and more teams that are very familiar with their style of play. Bates is doing fine for now, but they are going to need a more consistent effort out of their interior players if they want to make things happen throughout the rest of the NESCAC season.

 

7.) Williams (11-3, 0-2)

Williams was dealt a tough hand to start conference play, and they were not able to perform. On Friday night, the Ephs lost a close battle to Amherst simply because they allowed Amherst to outshoot them on the perimeter. Teal did all he could, but the Ephs simply couldn’t muster up the same type of outside shooting that their bitter rival did. Williams also did a pretty poor job of getting to the foul line, attempting just 12 free throws compared to Amherst’s 20, and if not for the ugly performance of the Purple and White at the free throw line, this game probably wouldn’t have been too close. It was a completely different story on Sunday, Williams simply couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn from three-point range, shooting a measly 26.1% from beyond the arc. The issue for Williams right now is that their big men are not doing their job as well as they could be. The Ephs were posted a rebounding margin of -14 on the weekend, highlighting their shortcomings inside. There are some positives, however. Williams played two very strong teams this weekend. Amherst is ranked #5 in the nation, while Trinity is starting to come into their own as of late and just so happens to be the biggest matchup nightmare that Williams will encounter in Ogundeko. While this doesn’t make Williams feel better, necessarily, it makes their losses more understandable. Another encouraging sign is that Bobby Casey ‘19 stepped up on Sunday when Teal and Aronowitz didn’t, so they have other guys that can get the job done. Williams is still growing, and once they learn to put it all together, they will be very good.

 

8.) Wesleyan (11-3, 0-2)

Now I admit, Hamilton and Middlebury are two of the better teams in this league, but getting blown out by 18 in the NESCAC opener is not ideal. Wesleyan, a team that had looked pretty dominant through their first 11 games, has now fallen into a three-game slide. Against Middlebury, the root of Wesleyan’s problems was their inability to take care of the rock. 21 turnovers and a -8 turnover margin is not conducive to winning basketball games, plain and simple. Not to mention they shot 4-17 from deep. You know that saying, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”? Well, Wesleyan, your jump shots were broken beyond repair on Friday night – when that is the case, you’ve gotta take the ball to the hoop, especially when it’s working! Aside from those four threes, every single point was scored in either the paint or at the free throw line. It was pretty much the same story on Saturday against Hamilton: 5-17 from beyond the arc, 53 points at either the free throw line or in the paint, and an L in the turnover battle. It may not be the change Wesleyan needs, but it couldn’t hurt to mix in a mid-range jumper from time to time. Or just to stop shooting threes altogether. Wesleyan is best when they go to the rim, and I think they need to do so this weekend if they want to bounce back from their 0-2 start.

 

9.) Conn College (8-4, 0-2)

Now I admit, Hamilton and Middlebury are two of the better teams in this league, but getting blown out by 16 in the NESCAC opener is not ideal. Wait, didn’t I just write that about Wesleyan? The answer is yes, but that’s because the two had pretty similar opening NESCAC weekends. Like Wesleyan, Conn lost to Hamilton and Middlebury this weekend. Unlike Wesleyan, however, they managed to keep the game against Middlebury pretty close. Conn also couldn’t hit water from a boat on Friday, shooting 5-25 from three, but they turned it around on Saturday against Middlebury, shooting 10-27, leading to a much higher scoring and closer game. There are two areas that I’m most impressed by in Conn. First, they are second in the league in assists, showing a willingness and ability to share the ball and play as a team. As a result, there is no single Camel that scores far more than the rest, but rather there is a 6-player cluster scoring between 9.7 and 13.7 PPG. Second, Conn is also ranked second in offensive rebounds, demonstrating their competitive desire and toughness. While this Camels roster is still flooded with youth, they are working very hard, which is going to pay off at some point. They had a tough opening weekend, but Conn is undoubtedly a playoff contender.

 

10.) Bowdoin (8-6, 0-2)

Like I foresaw, Bowdoin’s lack of depth is already proving to be somewhat of an issue. While David Reynolds ‘20 is proving to be a pretty significant contributor for the Polar Bears, it stems more from a necessity than a bonus. The starting lineup is struggling to support Jack Simonds ’19 in the scoring department, and as we saw on Friday, when teams shut down Simonds, they shut down the Polar Bears. Simonds was held to 11 points on 4-11 shooting against Tufts, and the other four starters combined for just 20 points. Had Reynolds not come off the bench and dropped 14, this could have been an even wider margin than the 23 point deficit the Polar Bears ended up with when the final buzzer sounded. On Saturday, the scoring was a little more evenly spread, but on their better offensive day of the weekend, Bowdoin scored just 59 points. This could stem from the -10 rebounding differential the Polar Bears ended up with. They just weren’t able to put together a complete game this weekend, which is why they ended up with an 0-2 conference record. It doesn’t Bowd (bode) well for the Polar bears this weekend as they host Williams, who is equally hungry for a win.

 

11.) Colby (7-6,0-2)

After beating the Bobcats on a buzzer beater in a non-conference contest back in December, the Mules threw up a goose egg this weekend and received two tallies in the L-column with losses to Bates and Tufts. In their two weekend games, Colby shot 18-69 from deep. 69 three-point attempts in two games! That’s ludicrous. Especially when you shoot just 26.1% from three on the weekend, it’s just bananas to imagine jacking up that many shots from beyond the arc. No wonder they only went to the foul line 15 times this weekend. Don’t let their 14-point loss to Tufts fool you either, this game was not close. Tufts was up by 33 at one point, but they got lazy and let Colby creep back a bit – this game was never in question though. Colby has the worst field goal percentage in the NESCAC, and that is not going to change if they don’t improve their shot selection. It could be a long year for the Mules unless they make some big changes offensively.

I’ve Herd Enough About How Young the Ephs Are, They’re Still Good: Williams Basketball Season Preview

Williams the awesome opportunity to travel to Spain as a team this summer, a big advantage heading into the season (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)
Williams the awesome opportunity to travel to Spain as a team this summer, a big advantage heading into the season (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Editor’s Note: While 99% of the work on these previews is done by the writers, the projected records for all NESCAC Men’s Basketball teams were decided upon by the editors collectively,  not decisions of the writers themselves. So, if you want to be mad at someone about the record projections, be mad at us.

Projected Record: 7-3

2015-2016 was a rebuilding year for the Ephs after losing Hayden Rooke-Ley ‘15 and Dan Wohl ‘15, and youth was definitely an inhibitor at times for Coach App’s squad. Well, there are two sides to the youth coin. When you flip that coin, you’ll realize that Williams gained a bundle of experience last season preparing them well for a title run this winter. If the 2015-2016 season wasn’t enough time for some of the Williams calfs like Cole Teal ‘18, Chris Galvin ‘18, Kyle Scadlock ‘19, Bobby Casey ‘19, Marcos Soto ‘19, and James Heskett ‘19 to develop some familiarity and comfort playing with each other, the squad had the rare opportunity to travel to Spain this summer. Coach App thought the trip was an awesome experience for his players. Obviously it’s great that they got a chance to play together as a team over the summer, but more importantly, the team had time to just focus on building team chemistry and enjoying each other’s company, all while exploring a different culture. This seems to have translated to comfort on the court, something the staff is super excited about as they head into this year looking to improve on their first round exit in the NESCAC tournament as the #6 seed.

2015-2016 Record/Playoff Appearance: 15-10, 5-5, lost to #3 seed Tufts in quarterfinals of NESCAC tournament

Coach: Kevin App, 3rd season, 30-20 (.600)

Starters Returning: Four

Guard Mike Greenman ‘18 (7.8 PPG, 1.8 AST/G, 2.3 REB/G, 0.8 STL/G)

Guard Cole Teal ‘18 (10.5 PPG, 1.4 AST/G, 3.5 REB/G)

Guard Dan Aronowitz ‘17 (18.2 PPG, 2.3 AST/G, 7.4 REB/G, 0.9 STL/G)

Forward Kyle Scadlock ‘19 (11.1 PPG, 1.0 AST/G, 6.2 REB/G)

Key Losses:

Center Ed Flynn ‘16, started 25/25 games, (7.1 PPG, 1.6 AST/G, 5.4 REB/G)

Projected Starting Five:

Guard Mike Greenman ‘18

Mike Greenmail '18 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)
Mike Greenmail ’18 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Greenman spent essentially all of last year on the shelf, but he is back this season, and I can’t emphasize enough how big that is for Williams. Bobby Casey ‘19 did a fine job of running the point in Greenman’s absence, but the kid was just a freshman after all, and with immaturity comes mistakes. Greenman is just 5’8” (such a classic NESCAC point guard height), but he is quick, smart, and knows how to distribute the basketball. As a sophomore, Greenman played 31.4 MIN/G, averaging 8.6 PPG and 4.4 AST/G. After basically an entire season off from basketball, it will be interesting to see how Greenman adjusts to getting back into game-shape, but I have no doubt that he will be back to his normal self by the time NESCAC play rolls around. Getting Greenman back gives Williams a giant edge since they now have two point guards with big-minute experience – look for the 4th year junior to have a great year for the Ephs.

Guard Cole Teal ‘18

Cole Teal '18 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)
Cole Teal ’18 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Every team needs their shooter, and guess what, Cole Teal is that guy. Teams had success against Williams when they could chase Teal off the three-point line, but as the team has progressed, I just don’t know how much opposing defenses will be able to focus on that this winter. Teal is knockdown from deep…I mean seriously, as a sophomore, he shot 41.3% from three-point land…AND 52.3% IN CONFERENCE PLAY. That’s absurd. Though he only averaged 10.5 PPG over the course of last season, he would have had a much higher average if not for his slow start. Teal showed the ability to go off for 20+ a couple times, and 15-17 points pretty frequently. It’s consistency that has held Teal back, but if he can avoid those games where he is completely shut down, it will only open things up for his teammates.

Guard Dan Aronowitz ‘17

Dan Aronowitz '17 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)
Dan Aronowitz ’17 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Team MVP last year, league MVP this year? Seriously, Dan Aronowitz might be the best all-around player in this league, and what’s awesome for him is he has a chance to be the go-to-guy two years in a row for the Ephs. His 18.2 PPG ranked third in the league behind Bowdoin’s Lucas Hausman ‘16 and Middlebury’s Matt St. Amour ‘17, and Aronowitz was also one of just two guards in the top 10 in the NESCAC in rebounds (the other being Tufts’ Ryan Spadaford ‘16). The kid did it all for Williams this year, and the game should be easier for him now that the rest of his team is more experienced. I wouldn’t be surprised if his scoring drops due to the improvement of the players around him, but I could also see Aronowitz averaging 20+ this year pretty easily given his knack for putting the ball in the bucket. He is a tough matchup at an athletic 6’5”/200 lbs. because he’s bigger than most guards, but quicker than most forwards/centers. I’d be surprised if Aronowitz had anything less than a First Team All-NESCAC type of season.

Forward Kyle Scadlock ‘19

Kyle Scadlock '19 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)
Kyle Scadlock ’19 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Scadlock is one of the most agile big men in the league, which is definitely his biggest strength. While he is nearly as tall as most NESCAC centers, Scadlock has the athleticism and quickness of many wing players, making him a big threat for this Williams offense. The sophomore had a solid freshman campaign by all accounts, and I expect him to take off this year now that he knows what to expect. Scadlock’s 11.1 PPG was the second highest on the team behind Aronowitz, but what was more impressive was his usage as a freshman: 27.2 MIN/G overall, 29.3 MIN/G in-conference. Scadlock was also the second-best rebounder for Williams, and he will need to shoulder the load on the boards once again as the Ephs boast some very young big men this winter. If Williams is going to make some noise this year, it’s not going to be without contributions from Scadlock — keep an eye on this kid for an All-conference type of season.

Center Matt Karpowicz ‘20

Matt Karpowicz '20 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)
Matt Karpowicz ’20 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Though he is just a boy in terms of age, Matt Karpowicz is a man physically. The freshman center measures in at 6’8”/250 lbs., and he is just what the Ephs needed after the departure of Ed Flynn. Karpowicz is a big body that can band around down low with the Ed Ogundekos and the Tom Palleschis of the league, and he has a big interior presence on both ends of the court. Though Marcos Soto is definitely going to see big minutes this year, Karpowicz’s game complements Scadlock’s better due to the fact that they have such different styles of play. Expect an upward trend over the course of the season out of Karpowicz as he adjusts to the physicality of the college game. I know he comes from the elite New England prep league, but high school ball and college ball aren’t the same thing. Karpowicz’s advantage is his size, which will allow him to adjust much quicker than other first year players – I’m excited to see this kid play.

Breakout Player: Forward/Center Marcos Soto ‘18

Marcos Soto '19 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)
Marcos Soto ’19 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Soto is a sneaky weapon for Coach App this year. The 6’8” sophomore averaged 15.1 minutes off the bench last year behind Scadlock and Ed Flynn ‘16, gaining some valuable experience in his first season as an Eph. While Soto isn’t an enormous scoring threat, he is an efficient scorer. He takes care of the ball and is just an all-around smart player, something that complements the Williams scorers of Aronowitz, Teal, and Scadlock nicely. One thing that killed Williams last year was their lackadaisical ball security, but with an increased role in 2016-2017, Soto should play a part in decreasing the team’s turnover numbers. Coach App is looking for extra helpers on the boards this season after the loss of Flynn, so if Soto can demonstrate a strong effort rebounding the basketball, he should see lots of floor-time for the Ephs.

Everything Else

As I’ve mentioned numerous times, inexperience was clearly the biggest hindrance to success for the Ephs last season. I’m certain that after taking their lumps this past winter, Williams is in a perfect position to be the snake in the grass that takes the NESCAC championship. Now that they have had time to improve individually and become more comfortable playing together, these guys are going to have a much easier time scoring the basketball. Coach App hopes that they’ll actually be able to have a much less structured offense this year because of this heightened familiarity, allowing them to push the ball in transition and make quicker decisions. It’s a matter of knowing who to get the ball in certain situations, and Williams should be much more efficient now they’ve developed this presence of mind.

Like I noted above, getting Mike Greenman back is a huge boost for this Williams roster. Greenman is a great player, but the bigger difference maker for Coach App is that he can now take a starting point guard off the bench in Bobby Casey ‘19. Casey started 7 games last year, and if not for Greenman he’d probably be the starter this year. Casey is a great asset in that he is a 6th man that can come in and get buckets. As a freshman, he averaged 9.6 PPG, and put up a season-high 17 points against top-of-the-conference Trinity last winter. He has shown the ability to come in and make positive contributions off the bench, and his 2016-2017 season will be about Casey’s ability to be consistent with those contributions. Ball control was an issue for Casey down the stretch, but that can definitely be attributed “freshman year jitters.” Expect Casey to have a phenomenal year for the Ephs.

James Heskett ‘19 and Chris Galvin ‘18 were two other contributors for Williams last year, and they should see increased roles this winter. Heskett is a 6’8”/205 forward that saw some fill-in minutes off the bench when Scadlock and Flynn needed a rest, but with the absence of Flynn, Heskett will be relied on as an additional rebounding presence for the Ephs. Galvin is a solid guard that was more of a drive and kick type of player than a high-scorer, which will fit into the Williams offense very well this season. The junior will once again be a helper on the glass from the guard spot. Michael Kempton ‘19 and Jake Porath ‘19 should also see time down low for the Ephs.

The freshman class of Williams features a range of talents, which bodes well for the Ephs. Henry Feinberg ‘20 is a big wing player that possesses a knockdown jumper; Mickey Babek ‘20 is another sizeable guard that is very well rounded, and it’s his versatility that makes him such a threat; Vince Brookins ‘20 is a talented, athletic combo guard, and he fits very well into what Coach App and staff are trying to do with the team this year. It will be an uphill battle for this freshman class to get on the court because of all the experienced returners Williams has, but Coach App is not afraid to play freshmen, so don’t be surprised if we see some of these guys in the rotation when the season starts.

The biggest knock on the Ephs is that they lack a dominant center, something that many of the league’s elite teams possess. An quicker offensive tempo should allow Williams to hide this deficiency somewhat on the offensive end, but defensively, they will be vulnerable until one of their inexperienced big men shows that he can defend offensive powerhouses in the paint. If a Williams center emerges as a defensive weapon, or Coach App game-plans around this hole in their lineup, Williams will be a pretty scary team when league play rolls around.

NESCAC Quarterfinal Preview: #6 Williams at #3 Tufts

Tufts Roster

(Top: Courtesy of Tufts Athletics; Bottom: Courtesy of Williams Athletics)
(Top: Courtesy of Tufts Athletics; Bottom: Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

One of the late games this weekend matches up Tufts with Williams, two teams that played just last Friday. This is the first game for the Jumbos since then, while Williams had the chance to play a tune-up game in which they trounced Bates by 20 points. Williams comes in at 5-5 in conference play making them the No. 6 seed. Williams has been perfectly average this season. They’ve lost to every team ranked higher than them and beat every team ranked lower than them. Tufts’ 7-3 record varies slightly from this pattern, but it’s still somewhat accurate. The Jumbos beat every team ranked sixth or lower as well as Amherst, but lost to Trinity, Middlebury and Wesleyan, the first, fourth, and fifth seeds.

These two were separated by a margin of just four points when they played each other, so this should be a good one. Tom Palleschi ’17 has been hot for the Jumbos of late, averaging 21.6 ppg in his last six games, and he looks to continue that streak into the NESCAC tournament tomorrow. For the Ephs, Dan Aronowitz ’17 shook off a tough three game stretch and put together three outstanding games to round out league play, averaging 23.3 ppg against Conn College, Tufts and Williams.

Last time they played: Tufts 77 – Williams 73

When Tufts and Williams matched up just a week ago in Williamstown, the ability to protect the rock was the difference in the game. Tufts turned the ball over just four times last Friday, three of which came in the first half. Williams, on the other hand, committed 15 turnovers. Quite simply put, the lack of ball control Williams demonstrated lost them the game. Tufts didn’t shoot the ball very well from the perimeter (7-24 3PT) and got to the line 10 less times than their average of 26 free throw attempts per game. They were able to pull out a close victory, in large part due to the contributions of tri-captain Stephen Haladyna ’16. On 8-17 shooting from the field and 3-6 from deep, Haladyna matched Williams’ best scorer Aronowitz bucket-for-bucket on the way to his season-high 22 points. On a night where Vinny Pace ’18, Tarik Smith ’17, and Ryan Spadaford ’16 shot the ball pretty poorly, Haladyna’s leadership propelled the Jumbos to victory. Tufts Coach Bob Sheldon said, “Stephen has been due for a breakout game. Our team has done this all year: if one or two guys aren’t playing well, somebody else steps up.”

The other big duel of the game was between Tufts center Tom Palleschi and Williams guard Cole Teal ’18, both of whom dropped 17 points, but in very different ways. The Williams offense is centered on tons of on- and off-ball screens with the goal of creating chaos for opposing defenses, which leads to open shooters. Teal was able to get free beyond the arc and light up the scoreboard on five separate occasions, providing the Ephs with a huge boost. Meanwhile, Palleschi did most of his damage in the paint. He was able to rack up 14 points from field and another three from the free throw line, but Ed Flynn ’16 did not make it easy for him. Flynn is couple inches taller than Palleschi, something the Tufts big man does not usually see, and maybe this had something to do with his 7-16 shooting performance. Palleschi missed SEVEN lefty hooks in this game, a shot that he usually makes look easy.

When I asked Williams Coach Kevin App about Palleschi’s performance, he noted, “We held Palleschi to 17 points on 16 shots, that’s about a point per shot.” Williams is going to take that 10 times out of 10. Palleschi is a force inside, and holding him to under 50 percent from the field on almost all layups/hook shots is pretty good. The way Williams packed in the paint worked pretty well defensively, as it forced Tufts to kick the ball out and beat Williams from the perimeter, a strategy which would have been successful if Tufts hadn’t scored 12 more points off of turnovers than Williams did. I expect Williams to protect the ball better tomorrow, but I also expect Tufts to shoot better from the outside, so this will be another great matchup between the two squads.

Tufts X-Factor: Guard Ryan Spadaford ’16

(Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
(Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

Overall this season, Spadaford is the third highest scorer and rebounder on the Jumbos roster, but when Tufts traveled to Williamstown last weekend Spadaford did not play well. He shot just 2-9 from the field and shot 0-6 from behind the arc. Missing good shots early, Tufts’ “shooter” clearly became frustrated as the game went on, made evident by a few forced shots. However, last weekend’s game is EXACTLY why I think that Spadaford is going to come out hot on when his team hosts the Ephs in Medford. As one of three captains leading Tufts, Spadaford is not going to let his team get upset at home due to his playing poorly. Just two weeks ago, after a poor game against Trinity in which Spadaford shot 0-4 from three and scored just two points from the field, he bounced back against Amherst and rained down 3-5 from deep. Expect Spadaford to put up a lot of shots: this streaky shooter has shown that he can be pretty deadly when he gets the crowd behind him at home.

Williams X-Factor: Bobby Casey ’19

Courtesy of Williams Athletics
(Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Bobby Casey, like Spadaford, did not play particularly well last weekend. Casey also shot 2-9 from the field, and he added four turnovers to round out a subpar performance. However, Casey, also like Spadaford, showed that he has the ability to bounce back from poor performances. Just two days after the loss to Tufts, Casey dropped 16 points on 5-6 from the field and 4-4 from three-point land! Casey is young, and Tufts defense forced more mistakes out of him than any other NESCAC team has, but he has also demonstrated his ability to step up in big games. Against Amherst, Casey scored 13 points and didn’t turnover the ball once while dishing out three assists. When Williams faced Trinity just two days later, Casey dropped a season-high 17 points while recording two assists and just one turnover. The Ephs are going to need help from their role players, especially now that the Jumbos have had a chance to figure out a little more about Teal and Aronowitz. I think Casey is going to find some room to work, and this time, he’s going to take advantage of those opportunities.

 Three Questions

1. Can Williams contain Tom Palleschi again?

As Coach Sheldon said, “Tom had 17 points, seven rebounds, and three blocks, and we’re not happy with his game.” That statement sums things up right pretty perfectly. Palleschi can play a lot better. I don’t see Tufts going 7-24 from outside again, so the Williams guards are not going to be able to sink into the paint to help out on Palleschi nearly as much. Frankly, I think Palleschi is going to have a mammoth of a game tomorrow.

2. Can Tufts force Cole Teal off the three-point line?

Obviously, Tufts is going to be locked in on Teal, but I’m sure they were when they faced off in Williamstown too. Teal showed off his elusiveness by ducking around option screens all over the place last weekend, and Tufts had a hard time communicating on those screens, leading to Teal sinking five threes-pointers. Basically, the answer to this question relies on a couple things: 1.) The ability of Tufts to switch more fluidly off of screens – when there is seamless switching and Teal is forced to attack the hoop, he is not nearly as effective. 2.) The ability of other guards to put the ball in the basket – obviously Aronowitz is going to get his points, but if guys like Bobby Casey, James Heskett ’19, Chris Galvin ’18 and Kyle Scadlock ’19 can score the ball efficiently, Teal will find himself open, too.

3. Will Tufts dominate the turnover battle again?

Like I noted above, Williams turned the ball over 15 times last weekend …Tufts turned it over just four times. Tufts scored 15 points off turnovers while Williams scored just three. For Williams to win this game, they NEED to take care of the basketball. It’s unlikely that the Jumbos will take care of the ball as well as they did last time, but limiting wasted possessions is vital for Coach App’s squad. Williams is a young team, but they are going to need to play wiser than their years if they are going to pull off the upset.

What to Expect

It’s no secret that Williams has a very hard test ahead of them. Tufts is a much more experienced team with some really tough players to guard in Palleschi, Pace, and Smith. Spadaford and Haladyna have shown their ability to step up to the challenge in must-win situations, and the Williams young guns like Scadlock, Casey and Heskett are going to be tested in their first NESCAC Tournament action. Aronowitz has been here before, but not as the go-to-guy, so this playoff game is going to be a bit different for him as well.

Not to be overlooked is how loud the Tufts crowd is going to be: the #6 Tufts women’s team plays before the men’s game, and if the Lady Bo’s get the crowd going with a big win (as they are favored heavily to do), Cousens Gymnasium could be a raucous arena come 4:00 pm on Saturday. The key for Williams is to come out hot to quiet the student section. If they can get on top early, then the crowd will play a minimal role in this one. Spadaford is known to be a guy who feeds off the energy of the fans, and since his shooting is going to be such a big factor in this one, Williams can’t sleepwalk their way through the first few minutes.

I think that Tufts is simply a better team than Williams, especially at home. The game last weekend could easily have been a blowout if any number of guys on Tufts hits the open shots they normally hit. I don’t think turnovers are going to play as big a factor in this one, but I do think Tufts is going to shoot the ball much more efficiently, especially Palleschi. If this one goes the way I think it will, Tufts will pull away at the end.

Prediction: Tufts 86 – Williams 72

One More Time, with Feeling: Weekend Preview 2/12

Middlebury is in a position to host the NESCAC tournament is they can sweep the weekend, and Jake Brown '17 plans to lead them there. (Photo Courtesy of Will Costello/Middlebury Athletics)
Middlebury is in a position to host the NESCAC tournament if they can sweep the weekend, and Jake Brown ’17 plans to lead them there. (Photo Courtesy of Will Costello/Middlebury Athletics)

With the final weekend of NESCAC basketball upon us, 10 games remain and the bottom five teams are fighting for the final two playoff spots. There is more on the table than clinching playoffs this weekend; for the six teams that have already clinched, these games will determine the tournament host and final seedings. Trinity currently stands as the favorite to host the NESCAC tournament, but a Bantam loss this weekend would open up the floor for Amherst to snag home court advantage.

Middlebury faces off against Amherst and then Trinity, and two wins will propel them to the top of the ‘CAC and set the stage for a chilling Vermont NESCAC tournament. The Panthers still have some questions about their legitimacy as a top tier team, and this will be their biggest test against the big guns. The Panthers have had a great season and could easily be undefeated in NESCAC games considering their losses were by one and two points respectively. On the other hand, many of their wins have gone down to the wire. The turnaround for the Panthers this season has been an impressive one. Middlebury was arguably the best team in the NESCAC from 2009-2014, battling against Williams and Amherst in games that rank as the best in NESCAC history.

Then suddenly, last season, despite entering NESCAC play 9-0 overall, the Panthers stumbled to a 4-6 NESCAC regular season and missed the playoffs by virtue of tie-breakers. The talent on the Panthers was clear given their home evisceration of both Wesleyan and Amherst. However, entering this season expectations were lowered given the loss of the two leading scorers from last season, Dylan Sinnickson ’15 and Hunter Merryman ’15.

We had Middlebury last in our Power Rankings at the beginning of January given their lackluster beginning of the season, but they have been a different team in NESCAC play. However, the weekend tandem of Amherst and Trinity has left many a quality team in a serious hurting. The Panthers can end up hosting the NESCAC tournament or heading on the road in the first round depending on how things play out this weekend.

Three to Watch

1. Guard Jaquann Starks ’16 (Trinity)

The senior has seen his role squeezed this season because of the growth of teammates Ed Ogundeko ’17 and Shay Ajayi ’16. Starks is averaging just 11.6 ppg, far below the 14.1 PPG he had last year. His shooting percentages have also dropped below 40 percent both from the field and three point line. With all the space taken up in the paint by his big men, Starks has done most of damage from beyond the arc. I think we see a vintage Jaquann Starks game before the season is over, even if it doesn’t come this weekend. I am also intrigued to see how Trinity matches up defensively when they play Middlebury. Will Starks guard the quicker Jake Brown ’17 or will he be tasked with slowing down Midd’s leading scorer, Matt St. Amour ’17? I would put Starks on Brown and Andrew Hurd ’16 on St. Amour. Also, this…

2. Guard Cole Teal ’18 (Williams)

The loss of Mike Greenman ’17 has forced Teal to become the starting point guard. His skill set isn’t quite right for the role, which is why Bobby Casey ’19 handles that role down the stretch. What Teal is doing exceptionally well is shoot the ball from deep. In NESCAC games Teal is shooting 50.9 percent from three while making 3.4 threes per game, the highest amount in the league. Eighty percent of his points come from beyond the three point line, a somewhat scary amount that can make him one dimensional. Last weekend Teal shot 13 shots from the field and 12 of them were threes. Teams need to start keying on Teal for the shooter he is.

3. Center Joseph Kuo ’17 (Wesleyan)

You won’t find a more herky-jerky player in the NESCAC than Kuo. His game is one of the uglier ones around, but no one can deny the relative effectiveness of it. Kuo is a constant, sometimes under-appreciated part of this Wesleyan team. His numbers, 11.4 ppg and 7.2 rpg, scream important contributor but not focal point. Kuo’s best game of the season came when he played Tom Palleschi ’17 to a standstill (Kuo had 20 points, Palleschi 19 in the game), and the Cardinals escaped with the overtime victory. He has been quiet but efficient in the four games since then. For Wesleyan to get a home court game, Kuo will have to slow down Chris Hudnut ’16 in the paint. One positive for Kuo is that the emergence of Nathan Krill ’18 means Kuo can play aggressively without worry of foul trouble.

Game of the Week: Middlebury at Amherst, Friday 7 PM

Both of Middlebury’s games this weekend will impact the top of the standings, but they have to get through this one for Saturday’s matchup to hold as much meaning. A Middlebury win and Trinity victory over Hamilton would make Saturday’s game a winner-takes-all for the No. 1 seed. If Amherst wins tonight, then Middlebury will be playing just to secure a home game in the first round on Saturday. Last season’s win over Amherst was the highlight to a disappointing campaign for the Panthers, but there was a sense that the Purple and White were coasting through that game while Middlebury was desperate for a win. That won’t be the case this year, as both teams know what’s at stake.

The guard battle will be a fun one to watch, as both teams can and will employ two point guards at times. I would expect Jack Daly ’18 to be tasked with shutting down Jayde Dawson ’18, but Johnny McCarthy ’18 provides enough of a scoring threat that Middlebury Coach Jeff Brown might chose to task Daly with McCarthy. Down low, David George ’17 will be critical in slowing down Matt Daley ’16. If George isn’t at his best, or Middlebury can get him into foul trouble, Daley could have 15 points easily. The advantage for Middlebury in this game will be their pace. The two teams that play at the highest tempo, aside from the Panthers, are Tufts and Colby, each of who have beaten Amherst this season. On the flip side, in the halfcourt Amherst has to have the advantage. Brown and Daly aren’t great scoring threats, which means McCarthy can focus on shutting down Matt St. Amour. That means a lot of responsibility could fall on frosh Zach Baines ’19 and Hilal Dahleh ’19 as well as forward Connor Huff ’16. In most of their losses, St. Amour has been made ineffective one way or another – 5-19 shooting at Hamilton, 5-16 at Endicott, 3-11 at RPI. Therein lies the key for Coach Dave Hixon.

When there’s so few games in a conference schedule, one game that goes from an L to a W can significantly change our perception of a given team. Were Middlebury 5-3 right now, I think Amherst would be the heavy favorite, especially at LeFrak Gym. That being said, the reality is that Middlebury is 6-2, hungry to prove that they belong, and in a position to bring the NESCAC tournament back to Vermont. I don’t know if they will have enough fire power to pull off the weekend sweep, but I do think they have enough magic for a victory tonight.

Prediction: Middlebury 81 – Amherst 75

Two More Games to Watch

Conn. College at Colby, Friday, 7 PM

This isn’t quite a win-and-you’re-in game, but it’s darn near close. Conn. solidifies their place with a victory, while Colby would move to 3-6, and three wins might be enough to get in. The entire Mule lineup is healthy, at least for right now, and I’ve long said that that is a dangerous thing for opposing teams. This is probably the last weekend of basketball in the lives of the Mules’ starting five, unless they can win this game. Look for Tyler Rowe ’19 to have a big game for Conn (who’s going to stop him?), but for Colby to outscore their opponent.

Prediction: Colby 86 – Conn 76

Bates at Williams, Sunday, 3 PM

The final regular season NESCAC game. It could end up being a total nonfactor, depending on how things work out on Friday and Saturday, including the possibility of a Williams upset of Tufts, but it is possible that either team could be playing for a playoff spot. It’s more likely that Bates is in that position, but 2-0 weekends from Colby, Bowdoin and Hamilton would put those teams at 4-6 and Williams would be 4-5 going into Sunday, meaning a win would be necessary. The chances are slim, but the possible drama is exciting. If it does end up being an important game, I am going with the team that needs the win, plain and simple.

Last Ditch Effort: Power Ranks 2/10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Move Over, Jumbos: Power Ranks 1/27

Shay Ajayi '16 has his Bantams rolling off of seven straight wins and a 5-0 NESCAC record. (Courtesy of David B. Newman/Trinity Athletics)
Shay Ajayi ’16 has his Bantams rolling off of seven straight wins and a 5-0 NESCAC record. (Courtesy of David B. Newman/Trinity Athletics)

There was a big shake up in this week’s Power Rankings, but that’s become commonplace in the NbN ranks. Why? Because of the five rankings we’ve put out (including this one), we’ve had four different authors. We apologize for the inconsistency, but not for the knowledge.

1. Trinity (14-4, 5-0, Last week: 3)

The last NESCAC team standing a year ago in the NCAA tournament, this year’s edition of the Bantams might be even better. They’ve improved on the offensive end (76.9 ppg vs. 69.6 ppg in 2014-15), and they’re still fierce on defense (36.7 field goal percentage allowed, best in the NESCAC and the nation) despite losing top perimeter defender Hart Gliedman ’15 and center George Papadeas ’15. Eg Ogundeko ’17 is the team’s most improved player. Always a force defensively, Ogundeko has improved his touch by leaps and bounds and is averaging 14.0 points per game. Oh by the way, the Bants are on a seven-game winning streak.

2. Amherst (14-3, 4-1, Last week: 2)

The LJs have had a rough stretch recently, losing two of three, including an out-of-conference blowout loss to Wesleyan and Colby’s only NESCAC win. Nevertheless, Amherst’s talent hasn’t declined, and they have a history of winning. All of the pieces are there. Two point guards, one capable of scoring in bunches, the other a great distributor. Maybe the best perimeter defender in the league in Johnny McCarthy ’18. Connor Green ’16, the seasoned vet. A great rim protector in David George ’17. The best three-pointer shooter in Division-III, per NCAA.com through January 25. And some more solid bench pieces. They’ll be just fine.

3. Wesleyan (15-4, 3-3, Last week: 6)

Welcome back to the top, Wesleyan. The Cardinals fell victim early on to two things: injuries, and NESCAC rules. NESCAC teams are often at a disadvantage early in the season because of the limited contact they get with coaches before firing it up for real. Hence, the season-opening loss to Lyndon St. Then the Cards rattled off 11 straight wins, and though they’ve only gone 4-3 since January 8 against Middlebury, all of those games were against NESCAC teams, and there were no gimmes. Wesleyan played Amherst twice, Trinity, Tufts and Middlebury over that stretch, and when they drew Hamilton and Bates they took care of business as they should. They still haven’t totally found their mojo. As documented many times here, they went through one of the ugliest seven game three-point shooting stretches basketball has ever seen at any level, but they made 13-23 last game against Bates. Coach Joe Reilly just needs to find the right rotation. Should he go back to what worked a year ago with a six-man rotation and Harry Rafferty ’17 and Joe Edmonds ’16 being big factors? Maybe, but Kevin O’Brien ’19, PJ Reed ’18 and Nathan Krill ’18 have become so important this year. I think all of that will work itself out, and the Cardinals have an easier NESCAC slate ahead.

4. Middlebury (11-7, 4-1, Last week: 5)

It’s been a meteoric rise through the ranks for the Panthers, and it makes my heart swell. I won’t lie, I had my doubts after they lost their two best scorers from last year’s team. However, I think in some ways we’re seeing an addition by subtraction scenario. Middlebury a year ago relied on Dylan Sinnickson ’15 and Hunter Merryman ’15 to find a way to shoot them to victory. Now, their team is more balanced and contributions are coming from all over the place. They have two great point guards, and on any night one or the other could tack on double digit points. Matt St. Amour ’17 is obviously a top-notch scorer, and the biggest strength he has that goes overlooked is how good he is at getting to the foul line and scoring from there (though his percentage from there so far is below his standards, he has the third most attempts in the NESCAC). It’s been a revolving front court door, but Coach Jeff Brown is getting solid minutes from whoever steps on the floor, and Middlebury fans will continue to pray that center Matt Daley ’16 is healthy enough to give 25 or so minutes come playoff time.

5. Tufts (13-4, 4-2, Last week: 1)

They have a couple of stars, but I think it’s now fairly evident that they’re not terribly deep. We knew that Tom Palleschi ’17 staying in the game was key already, but that became really evident against Middlebury. Foul trouble kept Palleschi out for much of the second half, and the Panthers actually crushed Tufts on the boards (53-44). Ryan Spadaford ’16 was also out for that game, though, which factors in. The fact is, though, that outside of the starting five, there’s not much of a scoring threat, which is why, I think, you see the starting five from Tufts playing a big chunk of minutes – Spadaford is playing the last at 23.8 mpg. Health will be critical, as will someone stepping up from the bench who can put the ball in the hoop.

6. Colby (12-6, 1-4, Last week: 10)

Colby is a bit like Tufts, only with, in my opinion, a slightly lower ceiling despite more experience. They rely heavily on their starting five, as well, and they absolutely must stay healthy. The Mules went 1-2 in NESCAC games without center Chris Hudnut ’16 over the past week or so (although the win was against Amherst, go figure). Everyone looks good to go as it stands today, and if Colby had pulled off the win over a very good Husson team last night I was considering putting them as high as third in these rankings, despite the 1-4 conference mark. Alas, they couldn’t finish the job, but I still think this team is on the rise.

7. Conn College (12-6, 3-3, Last week: 7)

Another team – and a program – on the rise is the Conn College Camels. Do-it-all man Zuri Pavlin ’17 has seen his numbers decline, but that’s only because he has some really good players around him for the first time. PG Tyler Rowe ’19 is the truth, and in case you missed it he made it into Sports Illustrated in the Faces in the Crowd section a couple weeks ago. Forward David Labossiere ’19 has been just as impressive in his debut campaign. The unsung hero of the group is forward Dan Janel ’17 who has really stepped up his game. Conn’s website doesn’t list weights, but trust me, he’s thick, and he’s ripping down 6.4 boards per game in under 20.o mpg. Pretty nice stats.

8. Williams (12-6, 3-3, Last week: 4)

It’s hard to explain, but I just don’t get a great feeling in my gut about the Ephs this year. Believe me, I will never count them out until it’s all said and done, but I don’t think they have enough to make a deep run in the NESCAC tournament. They hung with Trinity and Middlebury but ultimately lost, and tonight’s game against Amherst will be a big statement one. The loss of point guard Mike Greenman ’17 was unfortunate, because the man that I think will be the best point guard on the roster, Bobby Casey ’19, isn’t quite ready for the limelight, though he hasn’t played badly. Kyle Scadlock ’19 is fun to watch, though, and this team could be electric next year. I hope that Coach Kevin App can get some of his big men, namely Michael Kempton ’19 and Jake Porath ’19, some valuable experience so that there is a center in place to take over for Edward Flynn ’16, otherwise the four-out-one-in system will have to change.

9. Bowdoin (8-7, 1-4, Last week: 9)

I guess losing center John Swords ’15 was a bigger loss than we could have anticipated. Lucas Hausman ’16 and Jack Simonds ’19 are doing everything they can, but it’s not enough. No one else is in double figures on offense, and they’re struggling on defense. I’ll stop here, because I don’t like to make Adam upset.

10. Bates (9-9, 2-4, Last week: 8)

At 2-4 in the NESCAC, they’re still very much alive for a playoff spot, but they have their question marks. Mike Boornazian ’16 is scoring a lot of points, but it’s also taking him a lot of shots to do it. Can someone step up and help him put the ball in the basket? If they can, pairing that with their ability to put two strong rim protectors down low could make for a tough team to beat. After all, this is almost the same team as the one that made an NCAA run last year, albeit one very big difference in the subtraction of Graham Safford ’15.

11. Hamilton (9-9, 0-5, Last week: 11)

We’re sort of treading water with the Continentals right now. Take out the Tufts game, and Hamilton has lost by an average of 5.75 ppg to NESCAC teams, which means that they’re competitive but just no quite able to close the gap. This freshman class is getting a great deal of experience, though. Peter Hoffmann ’19, Andrew Groll ’19 and Michael Grassey ’19 make up a great core, and getting a few NESCAC wins would be huge for their development.

New Number One: Power Rankings 1/21

Amherst prepares to break the huddle around Coach Dave Hixon. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
Amherst prepares to break the huddle around Coach Dave Hixon. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

We do Power Rankings every week in order to look beyond the simple story of wins and losses and really try to get an idea for how each team stacks to each other. Not all wins and losses are created equally obviously. The rankings near the beginning of the season are mostly a result of the eye test since teams in the non-conference schedule do not play that many common opponents. By the end of the NESCAC regular season the Power Rankings will look quite similar to the NESCAC standings because of all that data we get from the NESCAC games.

Right now though might be when the Power Rankings are at their most valuable because there is enough common opponents to grade each team roughly while the eye test still carries weight. So read on, and get angry about how much lower your favorite team is than you think it deserves to be.

1. Tufts Jumbos (12-3, 3-1, Last Week: 2)

Tufts just lost to Middlebury Friday night, but the game was on the road and went into overtime. They shot 16-29 (55.2%) from the free throw line and committed 20 turnovers even though they are 2nd in the NESCAC in free throw percentage at 75.1% and are averaging 13.2 TOs per game. The loss ended an 8 game winning streak, but it is a good loss, and the Jumbos responded well by blowing out Hamilton the next day. They have blown out Colby, Bowdoin, and Hamilton. Those three teams have a combined winning percentage of 1-9 in league play, but nobody else is blowing teams out like the Jumbos are.

However, Coach Bob Sheldon could end up being the Achilles Heel for this team. On Friday down the stretch and in overtime, he insisted on subbing out Tom Palleschi ’17 on defense because he had four fouls and Sheldon did not want to lose him on offense. I’m sorry, but you have to play the LEADING shot blocker in the NESCAC (and the all-time Tufts leader in blocks) on defense in a close game even if he ends up fouling out. Palleschi sat from the 3:10 to the 0:38 mark in overtime because there was no stoppage in play for Sheldon to get his big man back in the game.

2. Amherst (13-2, 3-0, Last Week: #1)

Amherst drops down a spot after getting shellacked by Wesleyan Monday night 71-44 in the non-conference Little Three game. Having to come back at home in the 2nd half against Conn College on Saturday also isn’t a great look. This is a better version of the team from last year since everyone is back, but it is frustrating for Amherst fans that the same problems still dog them. The defense is lackluster even though they have superior athletes at almost every position, and the team relies on outside shooters, many of whom are streaky.

The one shooter who is not streaky is Jeff Racy ’17. In conference, he is shooting the ball 7.3 times per game while averaging 15.7 PPG. So he is averaging more than 2.0 points per shot. Put another way, Racy’s points per shot is better than a dunk! Using true shooting percentage, a slightly better statistic, Racy comes in at .768 this season. At Michigan, Duncan Robinson is leading the country in true shooting percentage (that a former NESCAC player is leading the country in that category is pretty incredible) with the number .733. Basically, Racy is incredibly efficient. He is also the leading scorer for Amherst.

3. Trinity Bantams (12-4, 3-0, Last Week: #4)

Every week Trinity is looking more and more dangerous, putting their uneasy early season further into the distance. They pulled away from both Conn College and Wesleyan in games that were closer than the final score indicated. The ability of Trinity to finish games is a skill that they have shown a lot over the past two seasons. The team defense isn’t as good as it has been in years past in part because of the loss of ace perimeter defender Hart Gliedman ’15. It is still a really physical group that is not giving up a lot of easy buckets.

The difference from last year is they don’t have to rely on Jaquann Starks ’16 nearly as much on offense. Ed Ogundeko ’17 has made a big jump in his junior season, and Shay Ajayi ’16 is playing better also meaning that the Bantams have a legitimate three headed attack on offense. I just wish that Coach Jim Cosgrove would play his core guys more. Nobody on the roster is averaging more than 25 minutes per game. Even in conference games, no Bantam is playing more than 30 minutes per game.

4. Williams Ephs (11-5, 2-2, Last Week: #6)

The win for Williams Sunday against Bowdoin to get back to 2-2 in conference was a big one. The Ephs didn’t play great and they still did enough to beat a quality team without too much drama. They are shooting the ball much better in conference: 40.0% 3FG in conference vs. 33.9% 3FG overall. I’m a little surprised that the Ephs rank second to last in assists per game even though their offense is built on moving the ball from side to side and frequent back cuts. The good news is they aren’t turning the ball over that frequently: just 12.0 TOs per game which is the third best mark in the league. Point guard Bobby Casey ’19 has become the third best player on the team behind Dan Aronowitz ’17 and Kyle Scadlock ’19. For what was supposed to be a rebuilding year, the Ephs are pretty darn good.

5. Middlebury Panthers (9-7, 3-1, Last Week: #10)

The biggest movers this week backed up the big overtime win over Tufts by controlling the entire way to beat Bates 73-61. The Panthers did it without center Matt Daley ’16 too. The downside is that Daley, unfortunately injury riddled his whole career, might be dealing with something that won’t go away. If that is the case, the Panthers will have to double down on playing aggressive perimeter defense and pushing the ball in transition at all times. Point guard Jake Brown ’17 is the x-factor for them: he was good last weekend. He even is shooting pretty well from three this season, even if his attempts are still really low. One concern is that he is too aggressive on defense. He leads the league in fouling out, especially bad as a perimeter player. He has to figure out how to hound his opponents without picking up ticky-tack fouls.

6. Wesleyan Cardinals (13-4, 1-3, Last Week: #3)

What a weird team. Just three days after getting run out of the building at Amherst and having nobody on the team make more than two shots from the field, Wesleyan turned around and put the beatdown on Amherst. Squeezed in between was the Cardinals battling Trinity for 32 minutes before scoring just 10 points in the final 8:46 and losing to the Bantams. That offense has been oddly ineffective. Stalwarts Joe Edmonds ’16 and Harry Rafferty ’17, the two leading scorers for Wesleyan in 2013-2014, have been relegated to minor roles. Edmonds has lost his starting spot at least temporarily to Kevin O’Brien ’19, and Rafferty has continued to not shoot the ball efficiently. Getting those two straightened out is necessary.

This group is going to continue to fight as Monday night showed. The tweet from point guard Jack Mackey came after the game on Monday and is in response to a Twitter account that was mercilessly mocking Wesleyan’s performance during the game Friday.

7. Conn College Camels (11-5, 2-2, Last Week: 5)

Alright, so the Camels aren’t going from winless to undefeated in NESCAC play. Yet, I feel better about them this week than I did last because of the way they played vs. Amherst and Trinity. For a young team, there is such a thing as a moral victory. Going into LeFrak Gym (Amherst’s home court) and nearly coming away with the win is going to help this group in the next few weeks. Point guard Tyler Rowe ’19 has been a handle for everybody who has to guard him. He hasn’t even been shooting the ball well from three recently (an atrocious 1-12 in conference). Rowe and other young guns like forward David LaBossiere ’19 and sharpshooter Lee Messier ’18 are making the Camels tons of fun to watch. A huge weekend with visits from Bates and Tufts awaits them.

8. Bates Bobcats (9-7, 2-2, Last Week: #7)

Another 1-1 week for Bates as they continue to tread water. The problem is that the two wins were against Colby (a healthy Colby team though) and Hamilton so a lot of hard games still remain on the schedule. Josh Britten ’16 has stepped up in a big way in his senior year. Last season he averaged just 5.5 MPG. Now he is starting, averaging 17.9 MPG, and is the top three point threat on the team making 2.2 threes per game at a 42.2% clip. Mike Boornazian ’16 has to play at a higher level than he has so far in conference for Bates to make a run.

9. Bowdoin Polar Bears (8-5, 1-2, Last Week: #8)

I’ll be writing a lot more about my dear Polar Bears soon, so I’ll keep it brief. The loss to Williams was tough because now Bowdoin has to follow it up with visits from Trinity and Amherst. Lose both those games and suddenly they are 1-4 even if none of the losses are bad ones. Against Williams, Bowdoin missed their final 13 three-pointers. The margin for error is small on this team, and the shots didn’t go in at exactly the wrong time for them.

10. Colby Mules (11-4, 0-3, Last Week: #9)

My goodness does that 10 game winning streak Colby had feel like forever ago. A team that was a potential dark horse this year is staring down the barrel of an 0-5 start with Amherst and Trinity this weekend. Both forward Pat Stewart ’16 and center Chris Hudnut ’16 were in street clothes for the game Friday against Williams. Stewart was back in limited action on Tuesday in a win over Maine Maritime, but Hudnut was conspicuously absence. Without Hudnut, the Mules simply don’t have the size to keep pace with teams. They will fight and claw like crazy with Ryan Jann ’16 leading the way, and they will scare teams a lot. Still, Hudnut is a NESCAC First Team type player, and nobody on the roster can replicate at all what he does.

11. Hamilton Continentals (8-8, 0-4, Last Week: 11)

I feel like I wrote the exact same thing last year, but Hamilton really is pretty good for a team that is winless in conference. Their problem is the lack of any player who is capable of creating his own shot on offense. That coupled with a suspect defense is holding them back for now, but if they keep laying this way then good days are coming. They are out-rebounding teams by 5.0 boards per game in NESCAC play (best margin of anyone), a surprising but encouraging stat considering that Hamilton has not shot a good percentage meaning their opponents should have lots of easy defensive rebounds against them. Instead, guys like Andrew Groll ’19 and Ajani Santos ’16 are getting after it on the offensive boards. Hamilton will get their first win soon.