#11 Williams (12-3, 3-1) @ #16 Middlebury (11-3, 3-1), Saturday, January 20, 3:00 PM, Middlebury, VT
The Ephs and the Panthers have become the NESCAC equivalent of the Cavs and Warriors in recent years. The teams met three times last season, including for the NESCAC Championship and in the NCAA Elite Eight. Williams ultimately got the last laugh, beating Middlebury in Pepin Gymnasium to advance to the Final Four. Both teams have carried over that success into this season. They are each ranked in the top 20 in the country, and have battled it out for the top spot in the league all season, along with Wesleyan and Hamilton.
However, both teams are far from unbeatable. Williams is without their star player, Kyle Scadlock ’19, for the rest of the season with a knee injury, and Middlebury’s shooting struggles are starting to become incredibly worrying. Middlebury’s NESCAC loss is to Wesleyan, whom Williams beat for their best win. And Williams’ lone NESCAC loss is to Tufts, whom Middlebury just beat handily at home for their best win. All this is to say that both these teams are again tremendously evenly matched, and this game should have huge ramifications for league standings and the playoff picture overall.
Middlebury X-Factor: G Max Bosco ’21
At first glance, this pick might seem to be coming out of left field. Bosco has played fewer minutes than his fellow first year guards Jack Farrell ’21 and Griffin Kornacker ’21, primarily due to his smaller stature and struggles to create shots for others off the dribble. Farrell and Kornacker are both miles ahead of Bosco defensively at this point, and Joey Leighton ’20 is certainly more confident offensively. But Bosco can really shoot the ball. He hasn’t gotten a lot of chances yet, but his stroke is as sweet as anyone’s. Middlebury is the worst three point shooting team in the league, and second worst overall from the field. The clutch heroics of Jack Daly and excellent team defense will not be able to save the Panthers against Williams; they have to hit some outside shots to match Williams’ three point heavy attack. Bosco is capable of doing so. Additionally, his defensive struggles will not be as pronounced against the Ephs. Bobby Casey ’20 and Mike Greenman ’18, and even Cole Teal ’18, are an excellent group of players, but they are not large. Casey and Teal will be handled by Daly and Hilal Dahleh ’19, leaving Bosco matched with the 5’8″ Greenman. Bosco has a great opportunity this game to do what he does best; hit shots.
Williams X-Factor: F Matt Karpowicz ’20
We gave Karpowicz a lot of love in the stock report earlier this week, and that’s not just because he wrote some average football articles for us in the fall. Karpowicz is often unstoppable on the block, shooting 73% from the field, almost all in the paint. He splits time with Michael Kempton ’19, another very large person. As longtime reader Howard Herman pointed out, the two players offer very different looks for the offense. Kempton is a distributor, averaging 2 assists per game despite only playing 15 minutes. However, he is not a scoring threat, only shooting 42% from the field. Karpowicz is a game-changing scorer, and draws a lot of attention on the block, freeing up dominant shooters like Casey and James Heskett ’19. Indeed, in Williams’ closer games he ends up playing most of the crunch time minutes. I expect Middlebury to get a far heavier dose of Karpowicz than Kempton. Middlebury’s Nick Tarantino ’18 is a great athlete, but struggles with strong post scorers who can back him down and neutralize his length and leaping ability. And Adisa Majors ’18 is simply undersized, no matter which big man Williams has in. This means that Eric McCord ’19 is the guy, and has to avoid the foul trouble that hurt him against Albertus Magnus. In a game in which Middlebury must game plan heavily for Casey and Heskett, Karpowicz is the guy for whom Middlebury has no answer for on their roster.
James Heskett is certainly on the short list for Player of the Year, along with his teammate Bobby Casey, Jack Daly and Hamilton’s Kena Gilmour. He’s very long, with a gorgeous jump shot and incredible quickness for his size. Indeed, he’s been arguably the best shooter in the league this season, hitting 51% from the field and 43% from three. Luckily for Middlebury, however, they have one of the only players in the league who can match his skill set, if not his efficiency, in Matt Folger ’20. Along with the rest of the Panthers, Folger’s shooting numbers have taken a hit of late, but he is still a deadly scorer inside and out. And more importantly for this match up, he is miles ahead of Heskett defensively. Heskett’s skill set and athleticism have not yet translated to that end, as he averages just 0.3 blocks per game and 0.9 steals. Even more jarring is that he averages just 3.8 rebounds a night, despite being 6’8.” Folger, on the other end, has clearly focused on the defensive side of the ball. He is second in the league in blocks at 2.4, and grabs 8.1 rebounds a night. If Folger can outscore Heskett, Middlebury has a good chance to win.
Rebounding may well be the key to Middlebury’s chances in this game. The Panthers are a bona fide dominant team on the glass. Their numbers are skewed by pulling down a ridiculous 70 against Tufts, but they still lead the league in total rebounds, offensive rebounds, and are second in rebounding margin. Williams is towards the bottom of the league in all of those categories. For a team that struggles shooting like Middlebury does, offensive rebounds are a must have statistic, and were what kept them in the game against Tufts until they pulled away in the second half. Williams is a team Middlebury can bully on the glass, creating second chances if shots aren’t falling.
Last thing: this could be a huge game for Jack Daly. He historically raises his game against Williams, but this isn’t just his already covered “clutch gene.” Williams doesn’t really have an answer for his strength at the guard spots. Greenman is far too small, and Bobby Casey isn’t particularly strong defensively. In fact, Williams doesn’t have a single player averaging more than one steal per game. Even their big men are occaisionally timid inside, with the notable exception of Karpowicz. This means that Daly is usually able to get to the basket easily against the Ephs. He’ll draw attention to the paint, and he’s the best in the country at finding open players once he gets around the basket. The key will be how many shots those players can hit.
No longtime readers will be surprised by this, but I think Middlebury, on the backs of Jack Daly and an assuredly raucous home crowd, pulls this one out.
It’s never easy to rank teams. The CFP committee (despite being paid professionals) couldn’t do it, and now we have two schools celebrating national championships in Division I football. When it comes to NESCAC basketball, it isn’t any easier. We’ve had just one weekend of conference play, and there weren’t too many surprises, but there were some big results like Williams over Wesleyan and Wesleyan over Middlebury. In these rankings I am almost entirely looking at conference games, as these are the best indication of where teams truly stand when compared to each other. Look for these rankings to change a ton in the coming weeks, before we start to get some real shape to the standings come February.
#4 Williams (11-2, 2-0)
Last Week: 76-68 W @ Wesleyan, 91-57 W @ Conn College
This Week: vs. Tufts, Bates
It was a huge weekend for the Ephs as they snuck away with a win in Middletown – avenging one of their two losses on the year – and defeating the Camels in convincing fashion to finish 2-0. It looks like for now, they are finding ways to win without Kyle Scadlock ’19. The win over #14 Wesleyan was a huge win because the Cardinals are looking very dangerous after taking down Middlebury on Saturday. Bobby Casey is one of the most dangerous sharpshooters in the league, scoring 24PPG this weekend on 78% shooting and 75% from behind the arc. Alongside him, James Heskett ’19 is scoring 17.5PPG and putting up 5.5 assists, but at 6’8” we should expect to see Heskett putting up a bit higher rebounding numbers if Williams is going to stay hot.
Tufts (11-3, 2-0)
Last Week: 94-83 W vs. Colby, 87-65 W vs. Bowdoin
This Week: @ Williams, @ Middlebury
Well here we are in NESCAC play and we find ourselves saying that yet again, the Jumbos are among the best. They are scalding hot, winners of 8 in a row including convincing conference wins over Colby and Bowdoin that are what is expected of a top tier team. Vincent Pace is loudly making his case for POY, averaging 19PPG, 12REB/G, and 4.5AST/G in their wins over the Maine schools. It should also be noted that although KJ Garrett returned to play in the games out in California, he did not play in either of their NESCAC openers. If he is able to return soon for league games then Tufts has another very deep lineup
#18 Hamilton (12-0, 1-0)
Last Week: 78-55 W @ Trinity
This Week: vs. Wesleyan, vs. Conn College
Hamilton continues to do everything they can do to prove that they have what it takes to be in the top of the league with a statement win in a 78-55 drubbing of Trinity. Kena Gilmour ’20 still looks like one of the NESCAC’s best, pouring in 23 points and grabbing 8 rebounds in the victory. We’ll wait and see if the high-scoring strategy used by the Continentals continues to prove effective in conference play. The win over Trinity was a start, but Hamilton has a chance to make some noise when the Cardinals and Camels come to town this weekend.
#14 Wesleyan (10-2, 1-1)
Last Week: 76-68 L vs. Williams, 80-70 W vs. Middlebury
This Week: @ Hamilton, @ Amherst
It’s still hard to get a good read on this Wesleyan team. They are definitely good, having already beaten Williams in a non-conference game and now Middlebury in a game where they played very well. A loss to Williams may simply prove to us that Williams is better than we thought, but the Cardinals had a chance to really do some damage, and they couldn’t finish a hard fought game at home. Wesleyan’s strength is their balance. Jordan Bonner ’19, their leading scorer, scored 28 points on a poor 10-33 shooting against Williams. Then in the win over Middlebury, he scored just 7 points on 1-5 shooting, allowing the shots to be attempted more evenly. Wesleyan doesn’t have a true “star,” but their efficient style still puts them in the top of the league.
#16 Middlebury (9-3, 1-1)
Last Week: 82-60 W @ Conn College, 80-70 L @ Wesleyan
This Week: vs. Bates, vs. Tufts
The Panthers are good, but how good are they? Well, they had a chance to make a statement against Wesleyan but couldn’t, and did what they needed to do in taking care of Conn College. Time will tell for the Panthers but for now I’ll give them 5th. Jack Daly consistently shows why he is among the conference’s best, putting up 21 points, 15 rebounds, and 8 assists despite the loss against Wesleyan. They will get another chance to prove themselves in a matchup to watch when they host Tufts this weekend.
Trinity (10-3, 1-1)
Last Week: 69-63 W vs. Amherst, 78-55 L vs. Hamilton
This Week: @ Bowdoin, @ Colby
Trinity is another team that I’m not completely sold on. A win against Amherst looks good, although the Mammoths have been trending in the wrong direction as of late. They then traveled to New York and were destroyed by an impressive Hamilton team. A poor effort like the one against Hamilton is not a good step as Trinity looks to force their way to the top. Eric Gendron had the best game in the win over Amherst, posting 6 assists and 5 rebounds to go along with 15 points. It is still unclear who the “go-to” scorer is in West Hartford, as the Bantams will get a chance to prove that they’re out of the cellar of the league.
Bowdoin (10-3, 1-1)
Last Week: 71-50 W @ Bates, 87-65 L @ Tufts
This Week: vs. Trinity
Things went very well for the Polar Bears last Friday as they kept Bates to a cold shooting night from the floor. Tufts is a good team, but Bowdoin is not making a great case for themselves losing by 22. Bowdoin’s leading scorer, David Reynolds ’20, actually comes off the bench, but puts up 15.4PPG, as well as 5.2REB/G and 2.1AST/G. Zavier Rucker ’21 is looking like one of the most steady point guards in the league in just his first year, and helps maneuver a quiet but dangerous Polar Bear offense. They welcome the Trinity this weekend in a game that will certainly tell us a lot about each team.
Amherst (8-4, 0-1)
Last Week: 69-63 L @ Trinity
This Week: vs. Conn College, vs. Wesleyan
After the game against Trinity there have been whispers about Amherst not being as good this year. And most of those whispers came from me. Trinity is not one of the best teams in the NESCAC, and Amherst wasn’t able to pull out a close win, a game that they have traditionally won over the years. They didn’t play poorly by any means, but the fact that they didn’t play poorly and still lost to a middle-of-the-pack team shows that they are down this year. They could turn things around this weekend by stealing a win against Wesleyan.
Bates (8-6, 1-1)
Last Week: 71-50 L vs. Bowdoin, 83-76 W vs. Colby
This Week: @ Middlebury, @ Williams
This week made it difficult to judge a Bobcat team because they really showed both sides of who they are this year. Against Bowdoin they simply couldn’t score, and they had no offensive threats at all. Against Colby the shots were falling, and Nick Lynch ’19 looked like the type of big man they need in Lewiston when he posted a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds. It really looks like Jeff Spellman ’20 and Tom Coyne ’20 are the only scorers in this Bates lineup and if they have off nights, the rest of the lineup can’t provide the firepower they need. They would really impress this weekend if they were able to steal a win from either the Panthers or the Ephs.
Colby (7-5, 0-2)
Last Week: 94-83 L @ Tufts, 83-76 L @ Bates
This Week vs. Trinity
Colby played well at times against Tufts, but lacked the star power to be a team as good as the Jumbos. They were hoping for a bounce-back win against Bates, but were denied at the hands of Nick Lynch and the Bobcats. Dean Weiner ’19 is having an outstanding junior campaign. He is a double-double machine, posting 17 points and 10 rebounds against Tufts, followed by a 19-point, 11-rebound effort against Bates. He isn’t getting a ton of help, so the Mules have struggled. They’ll look to turn it around this weekend against the Bantams.
Conn College (5-8, 0-2)
Last Week: 82-60 L vs. Middlebury, 91-57 L vs. Williams
This Week: @ Amherst, @ Hamilton
Things look bleak in New London. As we’ve mentioned, David Labossiere ’19 is having a breakout junior season and Dan Draffan ’21 is making a case for Rookie of the Year, but they don’t really have much else. They defeated Fisher in a non-conference affair on Tuesday. They’ll face a struggling Amherst squad and then Hamilton, so hopefully that win is just the spark they were looking for.
An unnamed coach recently told me that this NESCAC season is the most wide-open one he’s seen in years. And it’s really true; there is no clear cut number one, and even the Maine teams had moments of excellent play. If anything, the first weekend raised more questions rather than providing answers.
Williams G Bobby Casey ‘19
We’ve written quite a bit about how F James Heskett ‘19 has elevated his game to help the Ephs overcome a potentially devastating injury to Kyle Scadlock ‘19, but we might have been missing the biggest (height nonwithstanding) factor. Casey is in the midst of one of the most efficient shooting seasons the league has seen in several years. He’s shooting 50% from the field and 49% from three. And he’s raising his game when it matters most. In Williams’ impressive 2-0 weekend, Casey was in an absolute zone. He was 18-23 from the field, including a 12-16 mark from downtown. He added four rebounds and two blocks in their win over Wesleyan, the biggest win of any team last weekend. If Casey can continue to raise his game in league play under these strenuous circumstances, an All NESCAC selection is not impossible.
The Continentals are to me what Robin Wright is to Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump. They always lead me on and make me believe that this is the year, and then they disappoint me. But, at the risk of getting fooled again, this might be the year that Hamilton and I have a “smart” child together. The Continentals are still undefeated, and passed their first mini NESCAC test by trashing Trinity 78-55 on Sunday. They were able to weather an uncharacteristically average shooting night (40% from the field, 30% from three) and used their versatile defense to pick up 10 steals and hold Trinity to just 34.4% shooting. This game was Hamilton’s third straight with at least 10 steals. Creating turnovers is an essential part of their high octane offense, as it allows them to get out on the break and get layups and easy three pointers. The fact that they did it well in league play is a great sign for them, and a bad sign for the rest of the league.
The Panthers dropped the marquee matchup against Wesleyan 80-70, and correspondingly dropped 12 spots in Top 25, from 4 to 16. And it is Middlebury’s offense that deserves most of the blame for their struggles. Offense hasn’t been something Middlebury has had to worry about in several years, but they have real problems finding scoring behind Jack Daly ’18 and Matt Folger ’20. Daly’s three point shot, while better than people give him credit for, is still not a consistent enough weapon for teams to really worry about it. They’d rather go under ball screens and give him jump shots. And Folger’s ball handling isn’t good enough yet for him to punish quickness mismatches on the perimeter. His terrific midrange game allows him to score without getting to the basket, but he isn’t utilizing his full range of skills, and when he isn’t hitting jump shots Middlebury’s offense is troublingly stagnant. This forces Daly to try and do too much at the rim.
There are a few candidates who may have to step up if Middlebury wants to remain in the top tier. G Hilal Dahleh struggled mightily against Wesleyan (3-15 FG) and needs to be at least a spot-up threat, if not more, for Middlebury to beat the best NESCAC teams. And then there are the first years. G Jack Farrell ’21 has hit a shooting wall. He is a valuable defender, but Middlebury may want to consider starting Joey Leighton ’20 (40% from three) to provide more outside punch. A potential wild card is the sweet shooting G Max Bosco ’21. He has looked far more confident in the last few games, and his offensive ceiling is the highest of any of the first years. Middlebury has to, and probably will, figure something out. But it had better be soon.
Wesleyan F Jordan Bonner ’19
While Wesleyan had a pretty good weekend, including a win over Middlebury, Bonner came back down to earth in a big way. In their loss to Williams, he took an unfathomable 18 the pointers and made only five, a stat that confuses me more every time I read it. He was 10-33 from the field overall. And then against Middlebury, he pretty much disappeared, shooting 1-5 from the floor for 7 points. Obviously they won, which bodes well for their ability to succeed without the consistent scoring Bonner had thus far provided, but Wesleyan has collapsed recently in NESCAC play due to a lack of crunch time scoring. If Bonner can’t score efficiently against NESCAC defenses, Wesleyan may not be able to hang with Tufts and Williams.
The last week has been a fascinating one from a power rankings perspective. The preseason top two teams, Middlebury and Williams, both suffered losses in which multiple pervasive problems were revealed. Amherst has also been struggling, while surprise teams like Bowdoin and Hamilton have continued to play well. The league is very hard to read heading into NESCAC play, and that’s definitely a good thing. Let’s get to the rankings.
1: #14 Wesleyan (9-1)
The Cardinals have two of the best wins in the league, over #11 Williams in a non conference game and over #21 Nichols. Wesleyan’s defense has always been dominant, but in recent years they have lacked the outside shooting (and scoring overall) to compete with the elite NESCAC teams like Middlebury, Williams and Amherst. This season, they have been able to score when they need to. Jordan Bonner ‘19 (16.8 PPG) has had a lot to do with this, but Austin Hutcherson ‘21 has emerged lately as the kind of X-Factor that could carry Wesleyan to the top of a wide-open league. In a three game stretch that featured wins over Vassar, Brandeis and Fitchburg State, Hutcherson had 14, 27 and 14 with 12 three pointers. However, he was held to zero points during Wesleyan’s loss to an inferior Springfield team on Tuesday night. That loss featured many of the scoring woes that have plagued the Cardinals in recent years, so it seems that Hutcherson will be a crucial factor in determining whether their success will continue in NESCAC play. A back-to-back home matchup with Williams and Middlebury this weekend will be the best possible test of Wesleyan’s legitimacy.
2: Tufts (9-3)
Don’t look now, but Tufts is figuring it out. They’ve won five games in a row, and are the hottest team entering league play outside of undefeated Hamilton. Cam wrote a good deal about them in the Stock Report, but the return of KJ Garrett ‘18 makes the Jumbos dangerous again as contenders for the league crown. An electric athlete who can score in bunches and defend multiple positions, Garrett is the kind of player who can swing games all by himself on either end of the court. And he did just that in their tournament. Garrett had 30 points in the two games (18 in a Game One win over Pomona) and added 12 rebounds and five steals. With Vinny Pace back in form and Eric Savage making a big leap (15.6 PPG,) Tufts is as deep on the perimeter as anyone. And there aren’t too many big men in the league who can really exploit their lack of size, so Tufts is right back in the top tier.
3: #4 Middlebury (7-2)
The Panther’s ride to a three-peat has hit a classic New England speed bump. The Panthers have lost two of their last three games, the last one a blowout at home, something that has happened maybe once or twice in the last five years. It must be noted, however, that the losses were to #12 York and #13 Swarthmore. Middlebury has played the toughest non-league schedule of anyone, and they just paid for it. However, Middlebury should still be able to win those games, especially at home. The culprit has been scoring, particularly from the perimeter. Middlebury was relying a great deal on relatively unproven quantities like Jack Farrell ‘21, Joey Leighton ‘20 and Hilal Dahleh ‘19 to aid Jack Daly ‘18 and Matt Folger ‘20 in scoring. And honestly, no one has been hitting and outside shots. In this rough three game stretch, Middlebury is just 16-69 (definitely NOT nice) from three. That’s about 23%. As a result of this, teams are throwing all their defenders at Daly, who is trying to do a little too much against that pressure due to his own struggles from three. Middlebury still has a lot of talent, and should benefit from this early exposure to high level competition. But they have to hit more shots this weekend, especially in their marquee Saturday matchup with Wesleyan.
4: #24 Hamilton (10-0)
First of all, congratulations are in order. Hamilton is nationally ranked for the first time since 2004. And yet, they can still claim that they’re underrated. 10-0 and fourth in the power rankings? Tough break for the Continentals, who have been by far the most impressive team in preseason (albeit with a bad schedule.) Hamilton’s offense is firing on every cylinder right now. They average nearly 100 points per game on 50% shooting and 39% from three. They have four players averaging over 13 points per game, and none of them are seniors. However, their defense will need to improve if they are to buck their recent trend of fading in NESCAC play. Hamilton’s big starting lineup (the smallest starter is athletic Kena Gilmour ‘20 at 6’3”) should lead to versatility, but their forwards are undersized and they often get killed in the paint. Hamilton is last in the NESCAC in opponents field goal percentage at 44%. They will not be able to simply outscore NESCAC teams.
5: #11 Williams (9-2)
The Ephs may be finally starting to notice that Kyle Scadlock is not on the court. Their 73-71 loss to 4-5 Hamline is the worst one of the recent rash of top tier NESCAC losses. Williams has a real problem with finding a secondary scoring option alongside the rising star of James Heskett ‘19. Heskett has done a terrific job taking on the go-to-guy mantle, averaging nearly 23 points per game on over 50% shooting in their last three games. But other players who had been scoring well, such as Bobby Casey ‘19, have recently fallen off. Obviously, one game is no reason to panic. But league games are looming, and Williams starts off on Friday with a road game at Wesleyan, the toughest opening game of any team. Teams will be on notice now about Heskett’s emergence, and Wesleyan (and Tufts and Middlebury for that matter) have plenty of athletes on the perimeter to throw at Casey. As always, I think Williams should up the minutes of Matt Karpowicz ‘20. He’s a scoring threat down low and could force defenses to move around more instead of sitting on the three pointer. We’ll see how they handle Wesleyan on Friday.
6: Amherst (7-3)
Amherst is entering league play on a decidedly downward trajectory. They’ve lost two in a row with opposite problems contributing to each loss. In a 76-65 loss to Southeastern, Amherst shot only 37% from the field, including a 2-13 showing from Johnny McCarthy ‘18. And then in their next game, a 95-92 loss to Eastern Connecticut, Amherst shot 57% from the field and got 25 points from McCarthy and 22 from Michael Riopel ‘18. However, those two players combined for over half of their points, and they still gave up 95 to the other team. Amherst’s offense goes as McCarthy goes, and like McCarthy, they are struggling for consistency. They still lack a third scoring option that can be trusted every night, just as they did last season. Every year people are waiting for Amherst to turn it on. Their success rightfully makes them a perpetual sleeping giant. But it might be the case that they just don’t have enough talent this season.
7: Trinity (9-2)
I feel like no one, especially us, has said a single word about Trinity yet this season. But as quietly as possible, the Bantams are 9-2 and have won five games in a row. They’ve done it, as is their way, with defense. They are second only to Wesleyan in opponent’s field goal percentage and points per game. Additionally, they absolutely handled Springfield (the team that recently handed Wesleyan their first loss) earlier this season 71-54. Like the Cardinals, Trinity’s strength on defense is balanced out by struggles on offense. In the preseason, Trinity has gotten fairly consistent scoring from Jeremy Arthur ‘19 (13.7 PGG) and Eric Gendron ‘18 (10.3 PPG.) However, Gendron only shoots 22% from three, and Trinity as a team only shot 31% from downtown. Their offense will need to be more versatile in NESCAC play.
8: Bowdoin (8-2)
The Polar Bears have rebounded nicely from their two game losing streak,
winning their last two in impressive fashion. This mini-streak including a non-league win over Bates. Bowdoin has been shooting the ball very well lately, hitting over 50% of their shots in both of those wins. Despite having only started one game, David Reynolds ‘20 has taken over for Jack Simonds ‘19 (who is struggling mightily from the field at 39.5%) as the go to scorer. But the key to Bowdoin’s league success may well end up being a first year. PG Zavier Rucker is still shooting 66.7% from the field in 31.1 minutes per game. He has also shown tremendous maturity in running the offense, especially for a first year. His assist to turnover ratio is 2.5, fifth best among players with over 30 assists. And his size (6’2”, 187) and strength have made him an elite defender already. He averages 1.5 steals per game, and will be essential in guarding the variety of excellent guards in the NESCAC. Bowdoin has the talent to reach heights they haven’t seen in years, and Rucker is a huge part of that chance.
9: Colby (7-3)
The best big man you haven’t heard about plays for the Mules, and his name is Dean Weiner. Yes, I know he sounds like the bad guy in a raunchy college comedy, but he is quietly putting up one of the best stat lines in the league. He averages 10.3 PPG, and leads the league in rebounds (9.4) and blocks (2.8.) But what really sets him apart is his passing. He averages four assists per game, with an A/TO ratio of 2.5. That’s better than many guards. In a league somewhat devoid of star big men, Weiner could be a problem for many teams come league play. His versatility could give traditional big men like Williams’ Karpowicz and Middlebury’s Nick Tarantino ‘18 problems, and he’s good enough around the rim (58.3% from the field) to punish smaller players in switches. Colby may not have enough shooting around him to be really dangerous, but they’ve got a star, the first key to NESCAC success.
10: Bates (7-5)
Bates still simply cannot shoot. They are shooting 39% from the field as a team, and 29% from three, both far and away the worst marks in the league. And this is in non-conference play: they still have to face the elite defense of the NESCAC. Jeff Spellman ‘20 carries the most offensive burden of any player in the league, and as a result, defenses are throwing everything they have at him. He’s only shooting 30% from three, and that is simply because he is forced to take many tough shots. Given this trend, it is surprising that Max Hummel ‘19 doesn’t play more. He is far and away Bates’ best shooter (indeed, one of the best in the league) at 45.5% from three, and yet he only plays 17 minutes per game. In league play, Hummel might and should be forced into a sixth man or even starting role, in order to find some shooting and free up Spellman.
11: Connecticut College (5-6)
The Camels have lost four of their last five games, and it’s kind of unclear as to why. Their teams shooting numbers are excellent (second in the league in three point shooting at 37%,) they have a star in David Laboissiere ‘18 (17 PPG on 45% shooting from three) and a strong secondary scorer in Dan Draffan ‘21. For more on Draffan, check out Colby’s (the writer, not the college) Awards Preview. Generally speaking, the culprit behind the Camel’s struggles is defense, but it seems more that they have a lack of toughness. All of their losses have been by at least 9 points, suggesting that when they get down, they are not good at managing runs by opponents. However, their shooting ability means that they could be a problem if they get hot. They have a good chance to turn it around on Friday night when the shaky Middlebury Panthers come to town.
A short disclaimer before this article: This month of non-league games doesn’t really matter. Obviously it’s better to be undefeated (like Middlebury, Wesleyan, and Hamilton) than 4-5 (like Connecticut College) but for the most part the competition is lower-quality than league play. Come January, rotations, league leaders and indeed these rankings will all change pretty much immediately. But I haven’t written anything in forever and I’m already impossibly bored here at home, so let’s round out 2017 with these premature and probably inaccurate rankings. As always, feel free to kill me for them in the Twitter dm’s.
1) #2 Middlebury (6-0)
The Jack Daly ‘18 show has been incredible to witness this season. Daly is fourth in the leangue in scoring (17.5) first in rebounding (10.0) and first in assists (9.2.) Leading the league in rebounding and assists is simply ridiculous; I can’t remember it happening at any level of college basketball. But Middlebury’s undefeated record despite playing arguably the hardest non-conference schedule (Skidmore and Endicott were both tournament teams last year) is do in large part to the supporting cast as well. Matt Folger ‘20 is making a leap, averaging 17 points per game and contending for DPOY with 1.3 steals and 2.3 blocks per game. And the other guard spots, vacated by St. Amour and Brown, have been filled admirably by a committee. Hilal Dahleh ‘19 gets healthier every game after missing all of last season with a back injury, and has averaged 13 PPG on 8-13 three point shooting over his last three games. And first year Jack Farrell ‘21 just broke out with a 22 point showing against Skidmore. Add in fellow first year (and Hogwarts student) Griffin Kornacker ’21 and the experienced frontcourt rotation of Tarantino, McCord and Majors, and Middlebury is loaded. The Panthers play two more tournament teams in Swarthmore and York before league play begins, but they’re certainly riding high at the moment.
2) #14 Wesleyan (8-0)
Wesleyan is attempting to win despite not following the “run and shoot threes” style that the Warriors have made the norm throughout basketball. The Cardinals are fifth in the conference in scoring at 81 PPG and have taken the fewest threes with 153. And yet, they sit at 8-0 and beat Williams in Williamstown. How? One word: defense. Well actually, two word: defense and Bonner. They are averaging a ridiculous 11.5 steals per game, far and away tops in the league and have five players averaging at least one per game. They also lead the league in blocks per game at 6.5 and are second to Amherst in opponents points per game. But Wesleyan’s defense is always good, and it hasn’t always translated to success. This year, at least so far, Wesleyan finally has the go-to scorer they’ve lacked in recent years in Jordan Bonner ‘19. Bonner is averaging 17.5 PPG and has four 20 point games already. As Amherst gets into league play and the games get closer, they will need Bonner to get buckets at the end of games. The defense can take care of the rest.
3) #5 Williams (8-1)
Obviously, the Ephs’ strong start has been overshadowed by the loss of star forward Kyle Scadlock ‘19 to a torn ACL. Scadlock was building a POY case when he went down, and his injury is sad both for Williams and for the league as whole. But don’t count them out just yet. Williams is very deep, especially at forward, and have shown the signs of being able to weather this storm. Since Scadlock got hurt, they have relied largely on James Heskitt ‘19 and Bobby Casey ‘19 to pick up the offensive load. Both players have averaged over 15 points per game since his injury. And Williams’ greatest strength has always been the size that they bring off the bench. Matthew Karpowicz ‘20 is a terrible sportswriter, but he’s one of the best players in the league to come off the bench. It wouldn’t be a shock to see him start in league play, or at least see an increase in minutes when Williams faces other big teams like Middlebury and Amherst. Williams is still one of the teams to beat.
4) #23 Amherst (7-1)
Here’s a ranking I might get killed for if the Amherst football parents are any indication. The Mammoths are well on their way to making all of us look dumb for thinking they might be down this year. They are 8-1, and have the best scoring defense in the league at 61 PPG, a huge reversal from last year’s team. But it should be pointed out that they are continuing the time-honored Amherst tradition of playing a terrible non-conference schedule. The Mammoths haven’t played any tournament teams yet this season, a fact that contributes somewhat to their terrific team stats. Indeed, it’s hard to get a read on Amherst’s key players because they’ve played some many blowouts in which everyone on the roster sees time. However, the struggles of Johnny McCarthy ‘18 cannot be explained by inconsistent minutes. McCarthy, who was expected to make a POY-type leap this year, is averaging 10 points per game on 38% shooting, 21% from three. Michael Riopel ‘18 and stellar first year Fru Che ‘21 have picke up the slack, but in league play, star power helps. Maybe McCarthy needed Jayde Dawson more than we thought, or maybe he’s just waiting until they need him more, but Amherst can’t compete with Middlebury if McCarthy isn’t an offensive threat.
5) Hamilton (8-0)
Hamilton always gets us with this trick. They play great before league play, and everyone (especially me) gets all excited thinking they might finally be ready to challenge the big boys. Then they get smoked in NESCAC games. At the risk of falling into that trap again, Hamilton has look REALLy good thus far. They are averaging 95 points per game (albeit against the same level of competition as Amherst) and lead the league in shooting, both overall and from three. Hamilton has one thing that they didn’t have last year, however, when they started strong and then faded spectacularly in league play: experience. All the young players that made Hamilton exciting last year are a year older and have improved noticably. Michael Grassey ‘19 has become a deadly three point shooter and overall scorer, and the backcourt of Tim Doyle ‘18 and retired mobster Joe Pucci ‘19 shoots over 50% from three and provides leadership. But Hamilton’s star is Kena Gilmour ‘20. Gilmour averages 17 points and seven rebounds per game, and is exactly the kind of versatile, athletic wing that tends to dominate NESCAC (see Bowdoin’s Lucas Hausman.) This has been said each of the last three seasons, but this might be Hamilton’s year.
6) Tufts (7-3)
Expected to compete for the league title at the beginning of the year, Tufts is just now getting healthy and rounding into form. They have three losses, but two of them came in their first three games and both were against tournament teams (MIT and WashU-St. Louis.) Since those games, they are 6-1. Tufts has been without two key contributors all season in KJ Garrett ‘18 and Ben Engvall ‘18. Both players made a big difference last season, and has led to a crisis of depth for Tufts. The Jumbos rely heavily on Vincent Pace ‘18 and Eric Savage ‘18 to carry the offense. The senior duo has combined to average 33 points per game, 19 of those coming from Pace. As Amherst proved last year, relying too much on two players is not a sustainable way to win NESCAC games. Defenses are too good; Wesleyan, Amherst, Williams and Middlebury all have enough depth to throw multiple defenders at both guys. Tufts will need one or both of Savage and Garrett to return during league play if they hope to live up to preseason expectations.
7) Bowdoin (8-2)
There was brief pandamonium (or should I say…Polar Bear-monium? I shouldn’t? Okay) a few weeks ago when Bowdoin briefly climbed as high as number 22 in the national rankings. Back-to-back losses to Colby and St. Joseph’s ended that brief love affair. But as Landry Clarke must have thought after Tyra dumped him, just because it was brief doesn’t mean it was a fluke, and it doesn’t mean it can’t happen again. Bowdoin has a lot of talent. David Reynold’s ‘20 is a bona-fide super sub, averaging 15 points per game on over 50% shooting off the bench. First year guard Zavier Rucker ‘21 is shooting 66.7% from the field and has turned what was expected to be a weak spot (PG) into a strength. And Hugh O’Neil ‘19 provides size and toughness inside. Jack Simonds ‘19 still hasn’t gotten going, only shooting 39% from the field and 28% from three. He seems to be having a little trouble meshing with a suddenly-balanced team, after being very much the go-to guy last season. Once he figures it out, Bowdoin really could be scary.
8) Trinity (6-2)
As always, it’s hard to get a read on the Bantams. After losing Ed Ogundeko, Trinity has gotten off to a solid 6-2 start. However, they got pasted by Nichols, their best opponent by far, 89-75. In that game, as well as their other loss to Western Connecticut, they showed many of the offensive problems that have plagued previous Trinity teams. Those problems are primarily related to floor spacing. The Bantams are the second worst three-point shooting team in the league, trailing only Bates. Their leading three point shooter (and overall scorer) is Jeremy Arthur ‘19, and he shoots only 36%. When Trinity plays against good defenses who can handle their size inside, those teams can pack the paint and Trinity really struggles to score. Arthur has been a good player for a while and is flourishing without Ogundeko, but Trinity won’t win league games if they don’t find someone else to hit some threes.
9) Bates (5-2)
Bates is shooting, as a team, 38% from the field and 24.5% from three. According to my “Basketball For Dummies” reference book, that is not very good. It speaks very highly of their defense that they are 5-2 despite shooting that poorly. They force nearly 17 turnovers per game, and allow teams to shoot almost as poorly as they do from three at 27%. Bates has relied largely on that defense and the clutch play of Jeff Spellman ‘20, who is averaging over 18 points per game. Most of those came in a 38 point outburst against UNE, but he has shown a knack for getting a big hoop when they need one most. Obviously, during league play, they will have to shoot better than this, or else teams will pack the paint even more than they will against Trinity.
10) Colby (6-2)
Colby may be the team that has the fairest gripe with these rankings. They have a 6-2 record and a signature win over Bowdoin. And yet here they are, two places behind the Polar Bears. In contrast with the Bobcats, much of Colby’s success is due to their three-point shooting. Colby shoots 34% from three, which isn’t amazing, but their numbers are slightly skewed by two games where they shot 22%. Colby is also young. Their leading scorer is impressive first year Michael Hanna ‘21, who averages over 13 PPG. Colby has a chance to contend for the CBB title, and maybe climb into the tournament.
11) Connecticut College (4-5)
David Laboissiere ‘19 (don’t ask me to pronounce that) has put up one of the most efficient first months we’ve seen in a while. He leads the league in scoring at 18.3 points per game, and is shooting 52% from the field and 51% from three. Unfortunately, he’s not getting a ton of help. And his team’s record reflects that. They are a league-worst 4-5, and have lost three in a row heading into break. The main culprit is certainly turnovers. They average 19 per game, by far the most in the league. They do try to play fast, which leads to some sloppiness, but that is simply not a sustainable way to play. In NESCAC play, Labossiere won’t be able to bail them out every night.
This past Saturday, I got to travel to Colby to watch Bates take on the Mules in Waterville. Bates pulled off the win, 82-79 in a tightly contested matchup that I believe was an instant classic. In front of an unusually raucous crowd for this early in the year, the two teams put on a show. This game had absolutely everything. We saw Matt Hanna hit four consecutive threes and give the crowd an awesome, Russell Westbrook-esque celebration. We saw the players getting chippy. We saw the fans getting chippy. We saw the lead never get above 3 for either team in the final 12 minutes of the game (until Bates hit a few free throws at the very end). We saw a technical foul. We saw Tom Coyne bank home two three pointers from 30+ feet to seal the win for the Bobcats. It was the stuff of legends.
That is what NESCAC basketball is all about. There is nothing like getting to travel to any school for a game and watch their loyal fans pack the gym to watch more drama than a Shakespearean tragedy. Fortunately truth is stranger than fiction, and we get an entire season of games featuring players whose legacies will surely outlast those of Macbeth or Hamlet. Anyways, let’s take a look at how foul or fair each team is looking heading into exam week and a blissfully long winter break.:
Bates G Tom Coyne ’20
Bates got a chance to play both Colby and Bowdoin this week, and each time Coyne put on a show. Despite the 70-63 loss against Bowdoin, he led the game in points with 22, and grabbed 9 rebounds. In the 82-79 win against Colby, he went off for a career-high 30 points on 11-16 from the field, including 6-8 from three-point range. One of the greatest things about the game against Colby was that for the final minutes of the game, the players on the court were Nick Gilpin ’20, Jeff Spellman ’20, Tom Coyne ’20, Kody Greenhalgh ’20, and James Mortimer ’21. This lineup is one that has already shown improvements this year, and they will get to see three full seasons playing on the floor together. Bates is only getting better from here as Coach Furbush has the pieces he needs to develop and build around for the future.
Middlebury F Nick Tarantino ’18
Middlebury has been on a tear this season, starting off 6-0 and receiving the #2 national ranking in last week’s poll. They have many weapons, but senior Nick Tarantino ’18 has stood out as exceptional recently. He recorded a double-double against Endicott (an NCAA tournament team from last season), putting up 17 points and 10 rebounds, while dishing out 4 assists. In their last game against national #16 Skidmore (another 2017 NCAA tournament team), he channeled his inner-Ed Ogundeko, posting 20 points (on 9-13 shooting) and 17 rebounds. This type of production is ridiculous alongside weapons like Jack Daly ’18 and Matt Folger ’20. The Panthers are showing us yet again why they belong in the conversation not only for best in the NESCAC, but potentially best in the nation.
Tufts G Vincent Pace ’18
Vincent Pace ’18 is definitely living up to his POY-candidate hype (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
Selected as NESCAC Player of the Week, Pace led the struggling Jumbos to a much-needed 2-0 week. He torched Emerson to the tune of 30 points and 8 rebounds, shooting 13-21 from the field. Pace tied the game with a three, then hit the game winning layup with under a minute left as the ‘Bos erased a 16-point second half deficit. Against UMass-Boston, he guided Tufts to a jaw-dropping 29-1 lead with 13 points and 7 rebounds on the way to a 73-58 win. He has clearly developed as the top scoring threat for a team that looks to gain some traction as they head out to Los Angeles to take on a few of the Claremont schools. If he continues this type of performance and the Jumbos continue to improve, Pace certainly remains in the conversation for NESCAC POY.
The Continentals are now 8-0 (tied for the best record in the NESCAC) and have been playing incredibly well this season. To be honest I believe they deserve a little more credit, only receiving 18 votes in the last national rankings. Only three of their eight wins have been decided by less than 10 points. They are blowing teams out, and putting up a lot of points in the process. Kena Gilmour ’20 leads the team with 17.4PPG and 7REB/G, and Michael Grassey ’19 has shown that he is a huge piece of this Continentals team. Grassey ’19 is putting up 14.1 points per game to go along with 6.5 rebounds,C especially having huge games against Utica and Eastern. Keep an eye on this underrated and young Hamilton squad, because they are a force to be reckoned with in New York.
It has been a tough stretch for the Camels, who are in the midst of a three game losing streak. They lost to both Mitchell and Western New England, neither of whom is particularly good. They sit at 4-5, which makes them the only NESCAC team below .500, with Bates having the second worst record at 5-2. Not to say that they don’t have any good players, because David Labossiere is averaging 18.3 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. They are suffering from the loss of Tyler Rowe ’19, who was 4th in the NESCAC in scoring, but transferred to Western Connecticut this year. Conn College still has matchups with City College of New York and Maine Presque-Isle before they gear up for their first conference matchup with Middlebury. Hopefully the Camels start to turn things around because you never know what can happen in NESCAC play.
Williams’ Title Chances
Things took a turn for the worst in Williamstown last week when Kyle Scadlock ’19 suffered a torn ACL in the first half of their game against Westfield State. Obviously, this is a crushing blow to both Williams and the league as a whole. Scadlock is one of the most exciting players in the league, as well as the team’s leading scorer and rebounder. Williams is certainly still one of the best teams in the conference and perhaps the nation, but they have a much steeper hill to climb now. Look for players like Bobby Casey ’19 Michael Kempton ’20 to take on bigger roles, as well as forward James Heskitt ’19. Heskitt may be best suited to take on some of Scadlock’s myriad responsibilities both offensively and defensively, as he is another versatile forward with quick feet. It will take a team effort for Williams to keep pace with Middlebury, Tufts and suddenly hot teams like Wesleyan or Hamilton. Scadlock is only a junior, so hopefully he will return to full health so that we can see what Williams is truly capable of. Best of luck on a speedy recovery, Kyle.
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.
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)
Center Marcos Soto ’19 (5.4 PPG, 2.6 REB/G; 50.4% FG)
Guard/Forward Daniel Aronowitz ‘17 (17.3 PPG; 37.3% 3-PT; 6.2 REB/G)
Guard Bobby Casey ‘19
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
#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:
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.
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
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
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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)
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.