The Ephs kept their late season magic going against the Jumbos in a David (Aronowitz ‘17 and Kyle Scadlock ‘19) meets Goliath matchup in Medford, MA. Williams played just like they did against Amherst the weekend before – they put up solid, yet repeatable shooting numbers (46.8% FG, 32.0% 3-point, and 71.4% FT) which allowed them to build a steady lead in the second half. Tufts shot just 37.3% FG in this semifinal with their five starters going 11-34 from the field and 4-18 from deep, significantly worse than their bench. Everett Dayton ‘18, Vinny Pace ‘18, and Drew Madsen ‘17 were stopped from putting up any real rebounding numbers while Scadlock and Aronowitz ran the floor effectively for the Ephs. The Jumbos got away from their game plan as a result of their poor shooting, as just three players were able to score in double-digits. This came in stark contrast to the recently balanced Jumbo offense. Mike Greenman was able to do what the Jumbos couldn’t and controlled the offensive side of the ball for the underdogs with nine assists, a key to Williams’ success. High percentage shots stemmed from their balanced and efficient attack, and five Ephs tallied double-digit points as a result. Williams built their lead in the second half, and a quick three by Greenman with 3:58 to go put the Williams lead out of reach. While this game appeared to be a bit one sided, it was tied at 65 with 4:23 to go. Isn’t that exactly how many points Tufts scored? It is. Williams ended the game on a 16-0 run, capitalizing on free throws and protecting the ball. Tufts, on the other hand, finished the game on an 0-8 shooting run (including free throws). It’s definitely concerning for the Jumbos that they couldn’t muster any sort of last minute comeback in their home gym in a playoff game, but maybe Tom Palleschi ‘17 will be able to change that. Early in the season there is no question that Tufts was the top dawg in the NESCAC, as beating Middlebury didn’t surprise anybody. However, they limp into the NCAA tournament off of a loss without any guarantees from their star senior Palleschi. Palleschi played eight minutes against Williams, the first action he’s seen since January 20th. If he can return to form and play significant minutes his defensive presence will be a huge upgrade for the Jumbos.
Trinity at Middlebury:
Double-teaming Ed Ogundeko ‘17 was Middlebury’s formula to beating the Bantams. It worked. Ogundeko was forced to shoot without a clear look at the basket and couldn’t do enough with the ball when he had it. His 1-11 shooting left Trinity without any hope, as Eric McCord ‘19, Nick Tarantino ‘18, and Adisa Majors ‘18 played tough basketball to grind out a win. Unlike most Trinity games, Chris Turnbull ‘17 and Eric Gendron ‘18 shot well and carried the Bantam offense, which usually would spell out a big win for this team, but without the addition of Ogundeko’s ~17 PPG average, there was a big piece missing. Majors’ nine boards, McCord’s five, and Tarantino’s eight were enough to give the Panthers a presence down low that was willing to scrap for every possession. McCord plays dangerously at times, often making unnecessary foul (he had four on Saturday), but it was just the right style of play to slow down Ogundeko, who is used to having his way with NESCAC opponents. Matt St. Amour ‘17 did his thing, and even though he only had 18 points (haha, only), he shot the ball efficiently. Jake Brown ‘17 had the chance to shake off the rust from his recent spell on the bench with ankle injury. Brown came back in full force, competing for 31 minutes and getting his feet wet before the championship. Matt Folger ‘20 was huge off the bench for Midd as the first year Panther went 4-4 from the field and 3-3 from deep, totaling 11 points. For Trinity, Turnbull’s 23 points were the most he had scored since November 22nd. While the senior did everything he could to carry the Bantams in the big anomaly of a game for Ogundeko, it would turn out to be his last college performance. While it was a tough last game for Ogundeko, he still led the league in REB/G this year, averaged a double-double, and finished in Trinity’s top ten all-time for rebounding. What a career. For Midd, the fun was only just beginning.
Williams at Middlebury:
There’s no question that Williams kept their magic going into Sunday’s contest as they took a quick lead on the favored Panthers. In fact, a four point Williams lead and just three points out of Matt St. Amour at the half would’ve shocked anybody. Kyle Scadlock lit up the scoreboard for 15 in the opening frame, shooting 6-7 from the field and 3-3 from the charity stripe, with James Heskett ‘19 going 3-3 FG and 2-2 from deep en route to a perfect eight points. Scadlock added ten first half rebounds, enough to carry the Ephs to a 40-36 early lead that gave them hope that they could put a ring on after the season. Unfortunately for the Ephs, they weren’t able to hold off St. Amour the whole game, as this game was a tale of two halves. In fact, St. Amour went off in the second half and you wouldn’t even be able to tell he started off slowly unless you took a closer look at the box score. St. Amour dropped 17 after the break, going 6-9 in FGs and 4-7 in 3’s. Scadlock still put up a solid nine points in the second, but only had one rebound as Williams got dominated in the paint. Seven Panthers had three or more rebounds in the second half compared to just two for Williams, leading to a 26-13 boards advantage for Midd. Midd took 11 more shots in the second half and Williams shot to the tune of a terrible 20.0%. While the underdogs came out firing, their cinderella story came to an end. Middlebury simply couldn’t be held back for a whole 40 minutes. The 48-22 line in the second half shows what kind of team Middlebury is—which bodes well for the Panthers heading into the NCAA tournament. Those games always seem to come down to the final seconds. Clutch is the name of the game and Williams couldn’t keep it going throughout the contest.
With that being said, Williams played well enough to earn them an at large bid, along with three other NESCAC teams: Amherst, Tufts, and Wesleyan. Winning the NESCAC earned Middlebury the conference’s automatic bid. Five teams from one conference are in the NCAA tournament. That is an absurd number of NCAA tournament teams from the NESCAC. Five teams is nearly half of the conference. There are only 64 teams in the tournament so therefore the NESCAC makes up just under 8% of the bracket. Talk about conference depth. It’s time to go dancing.
Taking a glance at season-long statistics, when Trinity heads to Middletown this Saturday to play Wesleyan, they’ll be facing an equal opponent. Wesleyan has allowed just over 66 points per game this winter. Trinity’s competition has put up an average of 65.5. While Wesleyan is averaging just over 76 points a game, which is four more than the Bantams, both teams are shooting 40% from the field, and from deep, both Wesleyan and Trinity are shooting 35% and 35.2% respectively. Where the disparity between the two lies – so that I can have a take on the game, rather than just throwing evidence in front of you that says the game will be a tie – is in the final stretch of the regular season.
After a last-second OT win at Amherst, Wesleyan coasted through Bowdoin and Colby – as expected, I should add – with 93-73 and 83-67 wins at home. In both those games, 4 of Wesleyan’s five starters scored in double figures. Wesleyan, who it seems can depend on consistent output from senior and member of the 1,000 point club Harry Rafferty, as well as from fellow senior Joseph Kuo, who is on the brink of membership, as he currently sits with 978 career points. This streak of balanced perimeter scoring bodes well for the Cardinals, especially against a Trinity defense that allowed Bates to shoot 46.7% from the field, and Middlebury to shoot 57% from the field and 52% from deep. The Cardinals’ chances look good if they can get balanced offensive production, especially because they can rely on strong perimeter defense.
The Cardinals held a perimeter-scoring heavy Amherst to shooting just 32% from deep, while Bowdoin shot 34%, and Colby, despite an absolute lights out first half, were cooled down by the Cardinals to shoot just over 35% from beyond the arc. Yet the thing that makes this matchup so interesting is that Trinity knows that they can’t beat Wesleyan by jacking up threes, and they wouldn’t have tried to anyways. Wesleyan’s biggest weakness is rebounding, and they’ll need solid performances on the glass from more than just Kuo and Jordan Sears, who pulled down 11 against Bowdoin, if they hope to match Trinity’s far-from-secret weapon. If the Bantams are to win this game, it will be on the shoulders of senior Ed Ogundeko.
That sounds like an aggressive take, but it’s certainly not a hot one. The senior forward has led Trinity in either points, rebounds, or both in every one of the Bantam’s wins since mid-December. He pulled down 23 boards against Williams. He had 20 points and 20 boards in a win over Bowdoin. But in Trinity’s 97-80 loss in Middlebury this past weekend, Ogundeko was only good for 14 points and 9 boards. This is still a solid line, but it shows that Trinity’s success is contingent on his individual domination, especially on the glass. When Wesleyan and Trinity squared off earlier in the season, the senior POY candidate had only 8 rebounds, and the Cardinals won the game 65-61.
Saturday’s game will be won or lost on the glass. Wesleyan will look to defend well, and they certainly hope for the balanced production they’ve been getting from their starters over the course of their current three game win streak. The question is Ogundeko. If he isn’t attacking under the rim, or the likes of Jeremy Arthur and Chris Turnbull aren’t pulling the ball down, then perhaps Wesleyan won’t need anyone to step up and grab 10 boards. But if Trinity can command the paint while the ball stays down low, Wesleyan will need some serious hustle for their perimeter D to have the impact it does against less-aggressive opponents. Wesleyan’s perimeter play against Trinity’s strength in the paint should combine for one heck of a first round matchup.
Both Amherst and Trinity come in to this matchup riding three game winning streaks. Amherst most recently took down conference rival Williams in a non-conference matchup while Trinity took down non-conference opponent Vassar on the road. Amherst holds a better record at 13-4 compared to the Bantam’s 13-6 mark. Conference play has been a different story however, with Trinity 4-1 and Amherst 3-2 during NESCAC weekends. The preseason #1, Amherst has been shaky in the new year. Two conference losses had the Purple and White reeling until they posted (shaky) back to back wins over Bowdoin and Colby. Trinity began conference play by squeaking out a two point W over Williams. They then handled Conn College by double figures before jumping out to a 21PT halftime lead against Colby and beating Bowdoin by 18. Given that both teams have played the same conference opponents, it is fair to say that Trinity has looked like the better team. In the words of Bill Parcells, “You are what your record says you are.” Given Amherst’s recent scoring woes and Trinity’s stifling defense (a ridiculous 57.8PTS/Game in the offense-happy NESCAC), this game should be a rather low-scoring affair. Amherst has a chance to reclaim their spot among the NESCACs elite while Trinity can put to bed the claims that they are just beating up on the NESCAC cellar-dwellers.
Amherst’s X-Factor: Backup Point Guard-Reid Berman ’17
Jayde Dawson ’18 and Jonny McCarthy ’18 have proven to be two consistent scorer’s for Amherst all year long. In a potentially season-saving win over Bowdoin, Dawson carried the team with a game-high 27 and McCarthy clinched it with a buzzer beating three. The problem has been finding consistent options outside of these two. Enter Berman (RB12). One of the surprises of the most recent Williams matchup was his season-high 12 points on an efficient 5-9 shooting. A pass-first PG who has struggled shooting the ball thus far, Berman sometimes plays as if there only his teammates can see the basket. A more aggressive Berman could give the second unit an additional scoring punch while also opening up other guys. He does not need to be the scoring threat that Dawson is, but showing Trinity that he is willing to shoot it would spread the defense allowing more open looks for guys like Jeff Racy ’17, Jacob Nabatoff, ’17, and Michael Riopel ’18.
Trinity’s X-Factor: C Ed Ogundeko
People may say, “Hey, isn’t it kind of obvious that Trinity’s best player would be an important player in this game? Do you think you are making some big statement? Who let’s you write for this site anyway?” All great questions. Yes, to beat good teams, your best players need to play well. Yes, someone else will need to step up. But when it comes to beating a perennial NESCAC powerhouse in their own building, where they haven’t lost in over 2 years, your star has to be even that much better. Ogundeko has the ability to impose his will on a game averaging 17 PTS and just under 11 boards a game. In fact, the last team to come out of LeFrak with a W included a second-year Ogundeko who had 9 PTS and 16 rebounds in the game. The outcome of this game will depend largely on Trinity’s star big man. As Ogundeko goes, so will the other Bantams.
Can Amherst get the deep ball going again?
Since the old calendars were thrown out and were replaced with the 2017 version, Amherst has shot just 30% from beyond the arc. While this has not deterred them from continuing to take
them (only Colby shoots more per game), it has lowered their offensive output. They have plenty of capable shooters, but have been able to consistently knock down shots. Sometimes the pause between first and second semester can break up a team’s rhythm and I think this is part of the Purple and White’s struggles. A return to the monotony of classes, practice, sleep may allow for Amherst to play a little looser and return to early season form. The team is due for a barrage from the outside. Look out for this, especially if the first few shots start falling. As the old saying goes, “sometimes shooters just need to see one go in the net.”
Who else scores for Trinity?
Coming off his lowest scoring output since Dec. 10th, expect Ed Ogundeko to get his. As previously mentioned however, somebody else will have to score for the offensively challenged Bantams. Senior F Chris Turnbull ’17 is the second leading scorer on the team at over 11PPG and offers one option. However, he has been inconsistent of late. In his last 5 games, Turnbull has scored 0, 13, 13, 3, and 17 points respectively. He shoots it at almost 46% from range so Amherst will look to chase him off the 3PT line. Senior Jeremy Arthur and Junior Eric Gendron both average around 9PTS a game and will need to keep this up on Saturday. Also, look out for Freshman Christian Porydzy, who has seen very limited action but is shooting an impressive 67% from 3PT land and in a game like this, one or two big threes can be the difference.
Who Rebounds the Basketball?
It may seem mundane, but rebounds are the beginning of a possession and in a game where scoring may be at a premium, every possession will be key. Trinity leads the NESCAC in rebounding margin at over 5 a game while Amherst has been slightly out rebounded by opponents with a margin of -0.6 a game. In Amherst’s last loss at home, 3 of Ogundeko’s 16 rebounds came on the offensive end. Offensive rebounds often lead to outback layups and are demoralizing for the defensive unit. Amherst will look to seasoned veteran David George ’17 to keep Ogundeko off the boards. Amherst relies heavily on momentum and needs to control the glass. Trinity will look to exploit this and create extra possessions to supplement their initial offense. The Battle of the Boards may very well determine the victor.
Trinity’s defense poses a bad matchup for the suddenly struggling Amherst offense. At 4-1, the Bantams have proven themselves in the league and are the last team to leave Amherst with a win. That being said, Amherst is primed for a breakout game. Although Amherst has looked sluggish for the past couple weeks, this team does know how to win big games (see: Babson). As a team that has been together and seen it all, it sometimes takes a little extra to get them buzzing. With the students back on campus, expect LeFrak to be rocking for this one. Amherst’s offense is a little too much for the Bantams to keep up and the Purple and White take this one 77-71.
This weekend brought tight games, upsets, and standings shake-ups. Some players rose to the occasion in times of need, while others shrunk from the spotlight. One thing that is certain about the NESCAC this year is that it is competitive through and through. Here are this week’s power rankings: 1.) #4 Tufts (13-2, 4-0) Tufts’ victories against Middlebury and Hamilton cemented them at the top spot this week as the only undefeated team in NESCAC competition. Tufts barely beat Middlebury, up by just one point with 21 seconds remaining, but were able to make their free throws and keep the lead in what could be a playoff preview. Other than their two back to back losses to #1 Babson (then #2) and UMass-Boston on December 3rd and 6th, the Jumbos have been perfect all season and are now the highest ranked team (#4) in the conference after Amherst’s two losses this past weekend. The Middlebury game was a great display of Tufts’ balance as all five starters scored double-digit points, with Everett Dayton leading the way with 16. Tom Palleschi continued his hot play and had a well rounded game with three blocks, three assists, six boards, and 10 points. Eric Savage went off against Hamilton on Saturday with a double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds) and a season high in boards that shows how versatile this Tufts team is and why they shouldn’t have many issues this weekend against a resurgent Wesleyan team and a decent Conn College team. Tufts should continue to climb in the national rankings. 2.) #15 Middlebury (13-2, 3-1) The Panthers would be #1 if Eric McCord made a final minute layup and they held on afterwards in Medford last Friday, yet the Jumbos held off McCord and Middlebury to give Midd their first loss in conference play. With that being said, Middlebury has found something in McCord that can help fill the hole that Zach Baines left when he departed from Vermont. McCord broke out against the Jumbos as he matched his season high in rebounds with eight and found a new season high of points with 22, 10 more than his previous high. He then added 11 points and six rebounds against Bates on Saturday, really cementing himself as the sixth man and as a force in the paint as the 6’7’’/255 pound beast is now a force to be reckoned with. Coach Brown also has to be happy that Nick Tarantino ’18 is holding his own in the starting lineup after struggling his first few starts beginning on December 29th. He has averaged nearly 10 rebounds and 10 points a game these last three contests and is shooting at over 50% in those games too, much better than the 1-6 he went against the Camels. Williams should be another team that the Panthers beat so long as these guys continue to produce – Matt St. Amour and Jake Brown can do the rest. 3.) #16 Amherst (10-4, 1-2) Yes, Amherst got swept this past weekend and are still ranked 3rd this week. Unfair? Maybe but they are still one of just four nationally ranked NESCAC teams and did knock off #1 Babson earlier in the season. Now, they lost to Wesleyan last Friday who was ranked earlier in the year and desperately needed the win in their home gym to remain relevant in the NESCAC. However, a 14 point loss to an unranked team isn’t really indicative of a championship caliber season. On top of that, Jayde Dawson had the best game and he did not play well. He did score 17, but 6-19 from the field and 1-7 from 3-point range is 2016 Kobe-esque in his send off game. Amherst followed up Friday with an OT loss to Conn College, who hasn’t been overly impressive thus far, giving the Camels their first ‘CAC win of the year. This is not a good sign for the Purple and White. Johnny McCarthy played well and got back to his consistent form with 19 points after just five against the Cardinals. So while Amherst might no longer host the NESCAC tournament, they are in no danger of falling out of the playoff race. They need to get it together this weekend against Bowdoin and Colby as a loss to either will certainly boot them out of the top-25 and push them farther down the power rankings. 4.) Bates (12-4, 3-1)
I’ll admit that I either underestimated the Bobcats or overestimated the Continentals. I fully expected Bates to fall to Hamilton last weekend, but here they are at #4 in the rankings already with three wins in conference, more than all of last year. Their performance so far has all but cemented them as a NESCAC playoff team. Bates defended four of six of Hamilton’s big scoring threats well (Gilmour, Doyle, Pucci, and Groll) which forced PG Jack Dwyer to shoot more than he generally likes to. While this allowed Dwyer to score a season high of 19, the other key players found themselves neutralized, allowing the Delpeche twins to have a day. Marcus scored 17 and hauled in 14 boards and Malcolm scored 12 and had 17 rebounds of his own. Jeff Spellman was a key player off of the bench too as he added 16 points in 25 minutes. Bates also played Middlebury in a tight game, falling behind early but clawing their way to within a 10 point margin by the end. Marcus Delpeche found less shooting success in this contest and Middlebury controlled the rebounds (45-31), giving the Panthers an upper hand, especially in the first half. Bates should beat Conn College on Friday if they keep playing with this intensity and their matchup against Wesleyan will tell who should be higher in the rankings. 5.) Wesleyan (13-3, 2-2) Two shocking losses to open up conference play and drop the Cardinals out of the top-25 were not part of the plan. These 18 and 16 point losses to Middlebury and Hamilton respectively had to hurt, but Wesleyan really bounced back against previously #5 Amherst and a solid Trinity team at home, preventing a bottom half ranking this week. The victory over Amherst is especially surprising. Amherst had been dominant all year up until that point and didn’t show any signs of slowing down. But Wesleyan’s defense shined on Friday, holding the Purple and White to just 30% shooting from the field and 24.1% from beyond the arc. Kevin O’Brien led the way with 19 points, nine boards, four assists, four steals, and two blocks. Jordan Sears also had a big 10 rebounds off of the bench and Amherst just couldn’t put anything together. The most remarkable stat from the weekend is that both O’Brien and Joseph Kuo had more rebounds at 11 and 10 respectively than Ed Ogundeko did, who had just eight on Saturday. Kuo also added 14 points and the Cardinals narrowly pulled out the win, reestablishing themselves as a contender. They have a tough weekend against Tufts and Bates and if they can go 1-1 that should be considered a success. 6.) Hamilton (11-4, 2-2) I’m a big fan of the Continentals’ resurgence similar to Bates from last place to a position of relevance in the conference. Their youth will still shine through from time to time as consistency and closing out games is a big focus for the team, but at 2-2 they still have a lot of potential upward mobility ahead of them if they seize the opportunity. Dwyer showed last weekend against Bates that when other teammates get shut down he can still shoot, although it wasn’t quite enough on the road on Friday. They did keep the game close and nearly managed to come back, but Kena Gilmour, Joe Pucci, and Andrew Groll weren’t themselves as they shot a combined 6-24. Their loss against Tufts was expected, but Groll and Gilmour had bounce back games while Pucci and Jack Dwyer couldn’t get it going. Tufts’ 46.3% from the field is what killed the Continentals. They will need a strong game, especially defensively, if they want to beat a desperate Williams team. 7.) Trinity (10-6, 2-1)
While the gap between Trinity and Hamilton and Wesleyan isn’t huge, their two conference wins against Williams and Conn College are hardly justification for a higher spot. Their loss to Wesleyan cemented them at #7 this week, and barring upset wins elsewhere in the conference, wins against Colby and Bowdoin this weekend shouldn’t move them too much higher. Ogundeko is averaging a double-double with 17.4 points and 10.6 boards, top-5 in the league in both. However, Ogundeko showed against Wesleyan that he is human as he was out rebounded by two Cardinals. The Bantams are reliant on him to dominate in the paint as potential dud performances like Chris Turnbull’s against Conn College (0-7, zero points) could put easy wins in jeopardy. Despite the winning conference record, Trinity has issues as Langdon Neal hasn’t been too impressive shooting the ball, averaging just over four points in NESCAC games. Also, Trinity’s bench hasn’t produced much at all and compared to Middlebury and Hamilton’s bench players as an example, the Bantams don’t compare. Look for them to win this weekend but the Bowdoin game could be closer than people expect for the third place NESCAC team. 8.) Conn College (10-5, 1-3) Erasing a 17 point halftime deficit against Amherst bodes well for the Camels heading into the rest of the season. They just saved their NESCAC first half with that win as an 0-4 start could’ve sent them towards the offseason as playoffs would be a much tougher achievement at that point. 1-3 still isn’t good, but knocking off any ranked team is a feat worth mentioning. They played Middlebury closely on January 7th, lost big to both Trinity and Hamilton, and won by seven in OT to the Purple and White. Last weekend was a tale of two different Conn College teams. While the Camels usually rule the rebounds due to two big men, Daniel Janel and Zuri Pavlin (Pavlin recently broke the Conn College all time rebounding record), the pair notched only nine combined boards against Trinity compared to Ogundeko’s 12. On top of that David Labossiere shot just 2-8, Colin Pascoe didn’t take a shot, Isaiah Robinson only scored two points compared to his normal 9.5…you get my point. When that many players have down games, this team likely isn’t going to win. However, like they showed against Amherst, when both of their big men have incredible games, they win. It’s a tale of consistency and for a team that lost so many close games in the final minutes a year ago, they should be sick of these ups and downs. Not so bold prediction: anytime Janel and Pavlin score 20 each and have 18 rebounds combined, they’ll win. This weekend will be a good test to see is they can keep pace with the big dogs as Bates and Tufts are both challenges steep challenges, especially in those rowdy environments. 9.) Bowdoin (9-6, 1-2) The Polar Bears have the NESCAC scoring leader in Jack Simonds (21.9 ppg) and they can shoot as Hugh O’Neil ranks fourth in FG% (57.9%) and David Reynolds ranks fourth in 3PT% (43.3%). O’Neil is also in the top five in rebounds with 9.6 per game, but other than that, Bowdoin doesn’t have a whole lot going there way. The game against Tufts summarized this well as those three accounted for 25/42 rebounds, 40/54 points, and the rest of the team shot 6-30 from the field. Against Bates, again, these three were the only ones to score in double digits, had the majority of the rebounds, and only lost by five. While it was a close game, Bowdoin needs another element to complement these guys as the load can’t all fall on their shoulders. Neil Fuller could be that guy – he put up 10 against Williams along with five rebounds, helping out Bowdoin’s big three despite Reynolds’ down game. Of course, they will have a good chance if Simonds drops 32 every contest. This team needs more balance, and if they continue playing more like they did against the Ephs, they should have a better shot at making the playoffs. 10.) Williams (12-4, 1-3) Williams’ only conference win came against Colby who is right below them in the rankings, so it doesn’t say too much. It’s hard to believe but the Ephs were ranked this season in what seems like ages ago. Their recent drop off is a product of better competition in the conference and the lack of a big rebounding presence. Kyle Scadlock and Daniel Aronowitz are their best chance at matching the league’s best, but a team high of 6.0 reb/g isn’t exactly noteworthy in a positive light. To emphasize this further, Ogundeko hauled in 23 rebounds against Williams, and while Aronowitz had a great game and had a double-double, they simply couldn’t stop the Bantam’s big man. In a two point loss like that, every possession is key, and if they could’ve gotten some offensive boards they would’ve been able to get over the hump. It was the same story against Bowdoin as the Polar Bears hauled in 40 rebounds compared to just 27 for the Ephs, while no individual had more than five and they had just six offensive rebounds. Williams can score well – Aronowitz, Scadlock, and Cole Teal all score over 10 per game – but unless they can stop other teams from controlling the ball, they won’t make the playoffs. 11.) Colby (7-7,0-3) 0-3 is obviously a tough start for any team, but especially for the underdog. Colby has a lot of ground to make up over these next few weeks as at least three or four wins will be needed to sneak into the NESCAC playoff picture. They have kept all three losses within 15 points, but Patrick Stewart is just about the only bright spot here. The senior is averaging 16.2 ppg while the next closest player is at just 7.9 ppg. His 6.2 rebounds also lead the team, and nobody has more than Joseph Connelly’s 2.4 a/g, which isn’t exactly impressive. First year Ethan Schlager has played well in conference games, with 11.3 ppg over these three contest in just 21.0 min/g, and the Mules will need more help from him and other rookies Ronan Schwarz and Sam Jefferson if they are going to have a chance at climbing out of the cellar. Away games at Trinity and Amherst are going to be tough contests, and I’d be shocked if they pulled off an upset.
Being a Tufts student, I think it’s important that my first order of business is to address the elephant in the room. Pete definitely hates Tufts, no matter how much he denied it yesterday in his preview of today’s games. To be honest, I don’t blame him, it’s just his Middlebury inferiority complex kicking in. Take it easy on him, guys, Middlebury Athletics is all he has. That being said, whoever made this comparison between Pete and Skip Bayless in the comment section: bravo.
More importantly, let’s take a look at the Saturday/Sunday games. Overall, the contests appear to be a bit less interesting than Friday’s games, but it’s the opening weekend of NESCAC play – anything can happen.
GAME OF THE DAY: #9 Wesleyan @ Hamilton, 3:00 PM, Clinton, NY
I would guess that most Cardinals fans looked past this game on their schedule due to Hamilton’s performance in recent years. For Wesleyan’s sake, I hope the players are not looking past this game. Obviously, they’ve got a battle on Friday night against Middlebury, but this new and improved Hamilton squad can definitely take advantage of that. Hamilton has been led by a cast of youngsters thus far, and this early season matchup is vital if these pups want to prove they can hang with the big dogs. Last year, the Continentals took Wesleyan to overtime before losing 82-76, and it actually took some clutch free throws by Wesleyan’s Joseph Kuo ‘17 down the stretch to avoid losing in regular time. Impressive performances will surely attract more attention to Michael Grassey ‘19 and Jack Dwyer ‘18 from the Wesleyan defense on Saturday, who had 16 a piece last year. It was the seniors that led the way for the Cardinals, as BJ Davis, Jack Mackey, and Joe Edmonds combined for 42 of Wesleyan’s 82 points. While this Wesleyan team has certainly figured things out so far this year on their way to a #9 national ranking, they will need someone besides Kuo to embrace the moment and put the ball in the bucket on Saturday if they want to keep up with high-scoring Continentals.
It has been Wesleyan’s depth and balance that has proven quite effective so far this year, but against this young Hamilton team, senior leader Harry Rafferty is going to need to take the reigns. Throughout his career, Rafferty has been a threat whenever he throws on the black and red jersey, and one main reason for that is because of his outside shooting. Take a second and digest this: Rafferty has shot 106 times this season, and while he is shooting 39.6% from the field, this number is somewhat skewed. Of those 106 shots, Rafferty has attempted 77 three-pointers. The senior shoots 37.7% from the field (29-77), which means he has hit as many threes as he has taken twos. That’s a bit ridiculous. If that’s the way Wesleyan’s offense works, great, but this clearly gives Hamilton an idea of how to play Rafferty: run him off the three-point line. Rafferty’s production is very important in this game, so if he is unwilling to move off the arc, Wesleyan could be in trouble.
For the home team, success is going to be dependent on the ability (or inability) to stop Kuo down low. That’s where Andrew Groll ‘19 steps in. Groll is a 6’7” forward that dominates the boards, pulling down 7.4 REB/G, which is right on pace with Kuo’s 7.3 REB/G. They both average over 2 offensive rebounds, so the key for Groll on the boards is making sure that Kuo is unable to provide his team with these extra opportunities. Defensively, Groll faces a tall task due to the innate ability of getting to the hoop that Wesleyan’s perimeter players possess. Wesleyan’s quartet of sophomore guards (Salim Green ‘18, Jordan Bonner ‘18, Kevin O’Brien ‘18, and Andrew Gardiner ‘18) can all drive the ball to the rim, which will force Groll to decide whether he is going to help off of Kuo or stay at home. It’s Groll’s decision-making and execution in these situations that will determine whether or not the Cardinals eat Hamilton alive in the paint.
One of the most interesting dynamics of this game is the difference in offensive pace. Hamilton averages about eight points more per game than Wesleyan, and though they have played two less games than Wes, the Continentals shoot a higher percentage from the field and from deep. The biggest offensive advantage that I see for Wesleyan is their knack for getting to the foul line. Wesleyan shoots more free throws than any other team in the league, with about 26 per game, as opposed to Hamilton’s 23. They both shoot just about 70% from the strike, so in a close game (as I expect this to be), those 3 extra free throws could be crucial. Both teams are pretty deep, but Hamilton’s scoring is much more top-heavy than Wesleyan’s. If one of their big-time scorers like Peter Hoffmann ‘19 or Michael Grassey ‘19 gets in foul trouble, Wesleyan may be able to pull away. This will be a tough and physical game that depends highly on execution down the stretch. For this reason, I’m giving Wesleyan the advantage. They have simply had more experience in these types of games.
Writer’s Pick: Wesleyan
#8 Tufts @ Colby, 3:00 PM, Waterville, ME
This game could go one of two ways, and it’s all about which Tufts team shows up. Throughout this season, it has been a tale of two teams. The Tufts that walked into the gym against MIT and WPI was legit. They shot well, they had 32 and 35 points off the bench respectively, and they forced their opponents into difficult shots. Then there is the Tufts team that made an appearance against UMass Boston. They were outrebounded by a significantly smaller team, they had more turnovers than their opponents (albeit by just 1 turnover), and they allowed UMB’s center to dominate them. This Jumbos team is good because they are deep, but when they don’t get production from their bench, they simply aren’t as good a team. Now, it’s definitely worth noting that Vinny Pace ‘18, Tufts’ best scorer, was coming off the bench until the UMB game, but overall, they just need more consistency. Colby may be able to capitalize on this, but their margin of error is slim. Colby ranks last in the conference in scoring with just 70.7 PPG, a product of their league-worst shooting percentage and shot attempt numbers. Patrick Stewart ‘17 is currently the only double-digit point-getter on the Mules’ side of the ball, and that will be an issue against Tufts who has pretty favorable match-ups on their own offensive end. I don’t see Colby slowing down the Tufts offense too much, but you never know. Maybe the Mules will take down the #8 Jumbos. I’m not banking on that.
Writer’s Pick: Tufts
Bates @ Bowdoin, 3:00 PM, Brunswick, ME
Every year, I wait for NESCAC play before judging Bates because every year, their out of conference schedule is filled with teams that I know little to nothing about. However, I was impressed by Bates’ win against Brandeis recently, and before that they blew out Framingham State like they were supposed to. Maybe Bates is better than I predicted? Though both were non-conference games, Bates has fared 1-1 against NESCAC opponents this season with a buzzer-beater loss to Colby and a 14-point win against Bowdoin. Bowdoin will certainly be looking for revenge this time around, and so will Jack Simonds ‘19, who was held to just 12 points the first time these two met. Simonds, as anyone reading this blog knows, is Bowdoin’s leading scorer, and also the NESCAC’s leading scorer, but that hasn’t necessarily translated into success for the Polar Bears. I knew at the beginning of the season that Bowdoin would struggle if they didn’t diversify their scoring, and it looks like that’s exactly what’s going to happen in league-play unless they get some other guys involved in the offense. This is partly because Bowdoin’s defense is pretty porous. They allow the second-most PPG in the ‘CAC, and against Bates, they allowed the Bobcats’ starting lineup to tally 62 of their 74 points. The key for Bowdoin this time around is forcing the Bates bench to score. However, the Bobcats are in luck, as newly found offensive weapon Jeff Spellman ‘20 has been playing very well recently. Per usual, it’s up to the twin towers of Marcus and Malcolm Delpeche to anchor the load offensively. If these two dominate like last time (combined for 37 points), then Bates is in good shape. If not, then Simonds might just will Bowdoin to the promised land in this in-state rivalry.
Writer’s Pick: Bowdoin
Conn College @ #22 Middlebury, 3:00 PM, Middlebury, VT
Unlike Pete, I’m able to write about Middlebury in less than twelve lengthy paragraphs, so enjoy this conciseness for a change. Conn-Midd is another subtle yet intriguing game, one which strongly resembles the Wesleyan-Hamilton matchup. Conn College has been gaining steam the last couple years, and they hope that this is finally the year they get over the hump (lol, camels). Middlebury, on the other hand, is looking to once again get off to a hot start in conference play just a year after I called them a rebuilding team and one without playoff hopes. This, of course, propelled the Panthers not only into the playoffs but also the the NCAA tournament after winning the NESCAC championship. En garde, Middlebury. In any event, I see one clear problem for Conn, and that is their defense. Middlebury has offensive weapons – namely, Matt St. Amour. The Panthers have compiled some nice wins against Southern Vermont and Skidmore already, but they did so with Zach Baines ‘17 in the lineup. As Pete mentioned, Midd is likely without Baines and Hilal Dahleh ‘19 this weekend, which makes their bench much thinner. This bodes well for Conn, a team that will either be thirsty for a win after a tough loss to Hamilton, or thirsty to continue their win streak after a solid win against Hamilton. Either way, they will be THIRSTY, and it is up to Middlebury’s guards to stave off the likes of Tyler Rowe ‘19 and David Labossiere ‘19, two of Conn’s top weapons. Meanwhile, Adisa Majors ‘18 and Nick Tarantino ‘18 will be tasked with stopping Conn’s rock, Zuri Pavlin ‘17, who leads the Camels in scoring and is 3rd in the league in offensive rebounding (2nd in overall rebounding). This should be a good one, and we will see how real Conn is on Saturday. I think the thirst is real, and Conn sneaks out of Vermont with a W.
Writer’s Pick: Conn College
Trinity @ #25 Williams, 2:00 PM, Williamstown, MA
Looking at these two teams’ overall performances thus far, this game shouldn’t be too close. Trinity has been unimpressive, and Williams has been pretty damn impressive. But basketball is a game of matchups, and the fact is, Trinity matches up well against Williams. Williams’ strength is in their guards. They shoot A LOT of threes, the most in the league actually, but they haven’t exactly shot well from beyond the arc so far. The Ephs hit just 33.5% of their threes, but they have some great shooters (see: Cole Teal ‘18), so these shots are going to start dropping sooner rather than later. Where the Ephs are somewhat lacking is down low, but Kyle Scadlock ‘19 has been a formidable big so far in his sophomore campaign, and he ranks second in scoring on the Williams roster behind POY candidate Dan Aronowitz ‘17. Trinity, on the other hand, is weaker on the perimeter and stronger inside. Ed Ogundeko ‘17 has been the primary source of consistency for the Bantams, and he should beat up on Williams’ rotation of centers. If the Bants pound the ball down to Ogundeko and get him to the free throw line, it will force Williams to sag in off of Trinity’s shooters, which could be deadly. Expect senior Chris Turnbull to have a day for Trinity on the offensive end. All in all, however, I think Aronowitz will feast on Trin – he should have a field day on pretty much any matchup that gets thrown at him, kind of like he’s done all year. The potent Williams attack will be too much for the Bantams.
Editor’s Note: While 99% of the work on these previews is done by the writers, the projected records for all NESCAC Men’s Basketball teams were decided upon by the editors collectively, not decisions of the writers themselves. So, if you want to be mad at someone about the record projections, be mad at us. Also, now that the season is under way, treat this as our thoughts on what we’ve seen so far, not just a regular preview.
Trinity suffered a heartbreaking loss to Middlebury in the NESCAC finals. After a nearly perfect regular season in conference, only losing to Amherst on January 30th, the Bantams, hampered by injuries, fell in the final 70-58. They were pretty much the best team in the conference all year, completing the 1-2 NESCAC punch with Amherst at the top, but didn’t perform quite as well at the tail end of the season. They were an experienced, well seasoned, and dynamic team. However, four out of the five of Trinity’s starters graduated and moved on to the real world. Their only returner is Ed Ogundeko ’17. For most teams this would leave a bleak outlook for the year and a plan for rebuilding, however, Coach James Cosgrove and the Bantams have other plans. Ogundeko is no ordinary player. He led the league in boards and is plenty to build a team and a season around.
The Bantams still stare down several holes in their lineup left by the class of 2016 at the guard and forward positions. Shay Ajayi, Rick Naylor, Jaquann Starks, and Andrew Hurd combined to average 37.3 PPG and 9.5 assists/game, making up most of the Bantams’ production. However, the four only averaged 13 REB/G combined, which barely bests Ogundeko’s 10.6 REB/G, leaving less of a hole down low. Trinity’s Coach Cosgrove clearly planned out the transition from one era to the next as he brought in six first year players to aid in adding depth and production that will help the returners cope for the holes in the lineup. Joe Bell, Kyle Padmore, and Nick Seretta should be the major contributors from the class of 2020, offering help to returners Jeremy Arthur ’19, Eric Gendron ’18, Langdon Neal ’17, and Chris Turnbull ’17 who are likely starters for the Bantams. These inexperienced players have struggled so far, as Trinity has struggled to a 1-3 start. The Bantams need some production outside of Ogundeko in order to continue to be a top tier NESCAC team.
Projected Record: 7-3
2015-2016 Record: 19-8, 9-1, Lost in NESCAC finals, Lost in first round of NCAA Tournament
Head Coach: James Cosgrove, 7th year, 90-67
Center Ed Ogundeko ‘17 (19.5 PPG, 5.2 REB/G, 2.3 A/G, 40.1% 3PT)
Guard Andrew Hurd ’16 (6.1 PPG, 4.8 AST/G, 2.1 REB/G)
Projected Starting Lineup:
Guard Langdon Neal ‘17
Neal enters his senior season as the clear replacement for Andrew Hurd ’16 as he played in all of the Bantams’ 27 contests and averaged 14.1 minutes/game in 2016. He shot 39% from the field last year en route to a modest 3.7 PPG, 1.6 REB/G, and 1.6 A/G. Neal, a former walk-on player at American University, transferred to Trinity last year and should find his groove after one year in Cosgrove’s system. His D1 talent should translate over well to a starting position after sitting behind Hurd last year and one of four major contributors off of the bench a year ago. The Bantams will look for him to improve from beyond the arc as he shot just 1 of 4 from three-point range in 2016. Hurd had incredible 3-point efficiency as he shot 46.9% from deep and was a threat, whereas Neal’s range was limited. If Neal can become more of a shooting threat, it should open up the court for Ogundeko, who should be the clear target for opposing defenses.
Guard/Forward Eric Gendron ’18
Gendron enters as pretty much a lock to start this year after finishing fourth on the team last year with 8.2 PPG. He led the team in free-throw percentage and 42.2% from 3-point range last season, good for 7th in the NESCAC. He will likely play at the 2 position after Jaquann Starks’ departure (three guards in total graduated last year) leaving Trinity with a bigger lineup than most teams. At 6’4’’ Gendron should be one of the bigger shooting guards in the league, but has the ability and touch from deep range to back it up. The junior averaged 20.2 minutes a game last year and was a clear sixth man on a team that was dominated by upperclassmen. His 92.7% clip from the charity stripe led the team, and his eight double-digit point performances suggest that he could easily become the second leading scorer behind Ogundeko.
Forward Chris Turnbull ’17
Senior captain, leader, and four year player Turnbull looks to transition into the starting lineup as he was another major contributor off of the bench a season ago, averaging 16.5 minutes per game. His 3.8 REB/G and 5.7 PPG were solid for the time he got, especially considering Ogundeko’s ability to grab nearly every rebound in a game. The 6’4’’ player should fit well into the small forward position as he is backed up by plenty of bigger players down low. This should give him some opportunity to shoot as he showed flashes of big game capabilities after raining down 14 points twice last season. His veteran and experienced presence should offer the generally young Bantam team some guidance and an example of how to stick out the bench for a few years and earn a captainship and a spot in the starting five. Turnbull isn’t going to make or break the Trinity season, but he should still play as a staple and consistent contributor in the lineup, offering reliability and a solid amount of rebounds, probably coming in right behind Ogundeko on the team’s leaderboard, in a lineup that is filled with questions and intrigue heading into 2017.
Forward Jeremy Arthur ‘19
Arthur is one of the aforementioned question marks headed into this winter. Arthur transferred to Trinity last year from Westchester Community College and because of his late arrival didn’t make his debut until January 7th against Elms College. Coach Cosgrove played Arthur sparingly, averaging just 10.3 minutes in the games he played, but he performed well towards the end of the year and scored nine points against Middlebury in the NESCAC semifinal game. He is a big 6’4’’/210lb. and should be able to handle himself well down low with the help of Ogundeko. Arthur’s consistency will be a major factor in how much he helps out the Trinity offense, but he should be able to rack up the boards with the big men. Someone needs to replace Ajayi, who grabbed 7.3 boards per contests last season, creating a big gap in the Bantams defense. Arthur might just be that guy.
Center Ed Ogundeko ‘17
This guy is a beast. There’s nobody in the league who is even close to as good as him down low. His ability to get rebounds outperformed all other competitors by over 2 REB/G, an incredible difference. I’ve already mentioned him in most of the other blurbs and that’s because the team is going to rely on him to have any chance to compete this year. Sure, there are some solid newcomers and pretty good returners from the bench last year, but Ogundeko is the clear shining star on this squad. Without him, the Bantams just don’t have much of a chance. Lucky for them, he should be able to carry the team as much as one player can – Ogundeko will likely lead Trinity in points and rebounds, getting close to the NESCAC league lead in both too. His double double capabilities will be nightmarish to opposing centers who have to deal with the 6-6 230 pound beast down in the front court. This preseason All-American, captain, and center was the NESCAC defensive player of the year and should increase his rebound totals without a major defensive presence in the lineup with Ajayi gone. His season high of 22 points last year against UMASS-Boston should be eclipsed in nearly every contest and he should also score well over 50% of the time from FG range. Opponents’ game plans will center around how to stop Ogundeko, and for good reason. I’d be shocked if he wasn’t at least 1st team All-‘CAC at the end of the year.
Diamond in the Rough:Guard Nick Seretta ‘20
I’m not going to lie here, I’ve been pretty lazy about writing this article. It took me a while to find a time to interview Coach Cosgrove and I kind of put the preview on hold for a while with football season wrapping up. On top of that, as many college students could agree, going home for Thanksgiving had me feeling some type of way [Editor’s note: and then I slacked pretty hard on the whole editing part of the process, pushing back the publishing date even further]. On the bright side though, this has allowed me to see what Trinity’s playing time distribution looks like after their first two games, and it’s evident that Seretta should be a major contributor from his contributions early in the young season. The 6’3’’ swingman from Middlesex, CT is averaging a huge 24 minutes per game and scored 11 points against Southern VT in his first collegiate contest. Since then, he is averaging 7.5 PPG and 3.3 rebounds per contest too. The high flying first year can dunk with the best of them too, and he should be a big playmaker and an exciting weapon down the road for the Bantams. Cosgrove highlighted how Seretta should be one of the major first year players to make an immediate impact at the college level, especially considering Trinity’s lack of guards. Youth is in quantity in Hartford, and Seretta is just one of many young guns Cosgrove looks to unveil in 2017.
Between Neal, Gendron, Arthur, and Turnbull, Trinity looks to have a solid lineup as they will be led by senior sensation Ogundeko. However, the four replacements from last year’s NESCAC regular season winning team might not be up to the task. Yes, they have experience and great coaching, but none of them really standout as big playmakers and guys who can go off during a game the way that Ajayi or Starks could. Arthur in particular has had some big games, but other than Ogundeko, the Bantams have struggled to score during their 1-3 start.
This hole will hopefully lead to big impact seasons from several of the first years, including the aforementioned Seretta as well as Joe Bell ‘20 and Kyle Padmore ‘20. Bell has struggled thus far, only playing in 8.3 minutes per game and going 2-14 shooting, but his time will come as the season progresses. Padmore should have a bigger role at the guard spot evidenced by some early big minutes off of the bench. So far he is averaging 14.3 minutes per game. Padmore has shot efficiently, but only has 5 points so far this season, a number I suspect will rise as the season progresses. He has racked up a total of four boards in the first two contests though and should only increase his production as he finds his role and gets comfortable at the college level.
The 6’4’’ guard saw the opening in the lineup from a season ago and is hungry to take minutes away from the returners, as any competitive player should be, but drastic improvement throughout the course of the season is not out of the question here. He drilled a three pointer against Southern Vermont in a tough overtime loss, and should only drain more as the season goes on. Guards for the Bantams will be flying in and out of the game as they don’t have any clear stars taking the ball up the court, but they might be fine with a dribble-by-committee approach.
There are a lot of things up in the air for Trinity in this young season as they look to repeat as NESCAC regular season champs and overcome upset losses last year to win some rings. They have a long road ahead of them with ample transition into what is a new era in Hartford. Ogundeko is going to do everything he can to end his college career with a bang, and the seasoned Coach Cosgrove shouldn’t roll over easily either. Regardless of how they stack up, Trinity won’t go down easily; they are always a player in the title race, and if the young Bantams can adjust to the college level and complement the elderly Trinity ballplayers, they will be dangerous.
Trinity comes into Saturday’s matchup undefeated in February, winning all four of their conference games by 10 or more points, while Colby is coming off a three-game winning streak. Despite being the top seed, this by no means will be an easy win for Trinity. This is a rematch from last year’s quarterfinal, which proved to be a challenge for Trinity as they scraped by with a 66-63 victory.
Last time they played: Trinity 62 – Colby 60
Colby hosted Trinity on January 22, when they blundered and handed the Bantams their 13th win in a 62-60 final. This came one night after the Mules upset No. 16 Amherst 66-64. This game stayed nick and tuck all the way through, the lead trading nearly 20 times. Trinity’s Shay Ajayi ’16 and Ed Ogundeko ’17 each earned a double-double accounting for 24 points and 21 rebounds. Colby’s Sam Willson ’16 and Patrick Stewart ’16 each had 17 points and five boards. The Mules were outrebounded by a margin of 39-33; this is a result of Colby’s lack of size, which also led to Trinity’s four blocks and Colby’s one. Colby did have some points to build on, as they were efficient with turnovers and personal fouls, turning it over eight times to Trinity’s 12 TO’s and registering 10 fouls as opposed to Trinity’s 15. Off the bench, Eric Gendron ’18 got hot, scoring 16 points on 50 percent shooting. Chris Turnbull ’17 also racked up 25 minutes, five boards and six points coming off the bench, which speaks to the depth of Trinity, whose bench contributed 83 minutes to Colby’s 63 minutes. Colby has some scorers, particularly in Chris Hudnut ’16, Ryan Jann ’16 and Stewart, but Jann was virtually nonexistent in this game, going 0-7 from the field, cracking his goose egg from the free throw line with 1:41 left to go in the game. While giving credit to the Bantam defense, this was a fluke performance from Jann, and he will certainly have a bigger impact on Saturday.
Trinity X-factor: Power Forward Shay Ajayi ’16
Earning a double-double in the past two matchups against Colby, Ajayi led his team to two important victories, the more important of the two coming 364 days ago in the quarterfinal at Trinity. He is one of Trinity’s senior leaders, and knows better than anyone how to perform in this situation. Besides feeling comfortable with the home-court advantage and success against Colby, Ajayi comes into this game with the hot hand shooting 57 percent from the field in February, breaking his season high in points twice; first with 26 points against Tufts, then with 29 points against Hamilton. Expect him to haul in a ton of boards and be effective from the field as the Bantams look to roll through to the semifinal.
Colby X-factor: Center Chris Hudnut ’16
Hudnut played tattered for their meeting in January, so his presence was undermined coming off the bench and accounting for eight points in 13 minutes. At 6’8″, he has the ability to rebound the ball, and is coming off a double-double against Wesleyan where he scored 19 points and had 15 rebounds. Hudnut was not on the playoff roster last year, but he has been an essential piece to the puzzle throughout his career. A healthy Hudnut may have spoiled the Bantams from attaining another #1 seed this season, but that is neither here nor there. With Hudnut in the lineup Saturday, this game becomes a lot closer and screams upset. He will help patch up the Mules hole of rebounding margin, while adding a serious offensive threat as he is 7th in the league in scoring.
Can Ed Ogundeko shut down Chris Hudnut ?
Chris Hudnut can shoot the basketball, and he is crafty and smooth down low with a nice hook. Hudnut, playing hurt, scored eight points in just 13 minutes in their last meeting. Ogundeko will compete with Hudnut, who is bound to make some magic happen. On his home floor, Ogundeko will challenge him with his brute strength and athletic ability. If Hudnut gets a ton of buckets, Ogundeko will make up for it on the boards. It will be a real battle down low on Saturday and expect Ogundeko to rise to the occasion. Ogundeko is at the top of his game right now, while Hudnut is coming off an injury.
Who will show up? Colby’s shooters or Trinity’s defense?
Colby ranks first in the NESCAC in field goal percentage and third in scoring offense, boasting three of the league’s top 17 scorers. Of the starting five, each has gotten hot in the past three games scoring at least 19 points. While this is all important in winning a basketball game, they are taking on Trinity who has the best defense in the league. They rank second in scoring defense and field goal percentage defense and first in rebounding margin. I’ll say it time and time again, DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS. The Bantams depth will keep fresher legs in the game, and the defense will be breathing down Colby’s neck the whole game.
How will Trinity match Colby’s offense?
Colby’s offense clearly has a lot of threats, and if they do show up Saturday, Trinity will need to put up some points of their own. Trinity’s defense will surely limit Colby’s scoring, and they will be looking for offensive support from Jaquann Starks ’16 and Eric Gendron. Ajayi and Ogundeko will need to make their contributions as well. With the help of a healthy Chris Hudnut, it will be that much harder for the Bantams to get points in the paint.
What to Expect
Expect a battle. These two teams have met twice in the past year, and both games have been nail biters. Trinity has gotten the upper-hand each time, but the game changes when you add a healthy, beast of a center. Both teams are going to look really good, and Colby will look more like a top tier team than an eighth-seeded team. With Hudnut filling the center position, it will take away from the effectiveness of Ogundeko, who has been a substantial player all season. Hudnut has the potential to bully Ogundeko with his height, but don’t be surprised if Ogundeko pushes right back.
Trinity held Colby to a 36.4 percent field goal percentage, a far cry from Colby’s 46.8 percentage on the season. With Jann being ice cold in that game and Hudnut banged up, it will be a different Mules team that comes into Hartford on Saturday. Trinity was fortunate to beat Colby in NESCAC play this season, so they will need to be in top form to move on to the semifinal. Stewart will do his best to get in Trinity’s way as he is the best three point shooter in the ‘CAC. Trinity will be ready to fire back with the third- and fourth-best three point shooters in the league, by percentage, in point guard Andrew Hurd ’16 and Gendron.
Trinity coach James Cosgrove and Colby coach Damien Strahorn will have an amplified role in this game as it will likely be tight to the finish. Adjustments are going to be huge, especially for the Bantams who will be facing a much different Colby team than they saw in January. Though Colby flaunts a starting lineup of all seniors, they don’t have near the playoff experience that Trinity has.
Colby might get off to an early lead with Trinity making a push going into the half. The second half will be a back and forth battle that the Bantams get the best of.
At the end of the 2014-15 regular season, Trinity stood at 19-5 and atop of the NESCAC with a 9-1 conference record. After beating Colby in a close NESCAC Quarterfinal matchup, the Bantams fell to Wesleyan by 3 points in the semifinals. Trinity posted a good enough record and strength of schedule to be granted an NCAA Tournament at-large bid by the NCAA selection committee, and Coach Cosgrove and the boys went dancing. They grooved their way to the Elite 8 beating Colby-Sawyer, Salisbury, and Bates — only to hear the music fade in a heart wrenching overtime loss to Babson. The NCAA March Madness run was Trinity’s best since 1999 when they lost to Connecticut College in the Elite 8. Their lone Final Four run came over a decade ago, and the 2015-2016 Bantams have plans to top that ’95 Final Four banner hanging in Oosting Gymnasium this year.
In the off-season, Head coach James Cosgrove was awarded NESCAC Coach of the Year, while assistant coach Tyler Simms took an assistant job with Brown basketball, and three new assistant coaches have hopped on in Sean Flynn, Ed Quick, and Alex Conaway ’15. Despite the Bantams losing some size after graduating six seniors, they return their most talented players and acquired some up and coming talent to help replace those losses. Trinity came into the season ranked as the 12th best team in the nation, but dropped to 18th in the most recent “D3hoops.com” rankings.
“We recognize it as a good and a bad thing […] based on the fact that every team wants to play their best against us and beat us […] This group is very different from last years group, and we have to actually accomplish something and not be complacent with what we accomplished last year. […] the vets know what’s expected by leading with positivity, as well as addressing things that people have to improve upon for us to have the successful year that we look forward to.”
-Ed Ogundeko ’17
23-7 overall; 9-1 NESCAC (1st); Lost to Wesleyan in NESCAC Tournament semifinals; Lost to Babson in NCAA Elite 8.
Head Coach: James Cosgrove, 6th season, 71-59 (.546)
Returning Starters: Two
G Jaquann Starks ’16 (14.1 ppg, 2.1 apg, 43.6% 3PT) F Shay Ajayi ’16 (10.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.6 spg)
At this point, Coach Cosgrove seems set on his starting lineup, which will feature four proven seniors along with experienced junior center Ed Ogundeko ’17, who started the first 10 games last season. Andrew Hurd will be running the point; he was effective down the stretch getting starter minutes and proved he can distribute and handle the ball with ease. With Hurd at point guard this year and Starks holding down shooting guard, it will allow Cosgrove to get the most out of his starting five. It is tough to win with just five guys though; Chris Turnbull ’17 will serve as a spark plug off the bench.
Projected Starting Lineup:
Guard Andrew Hurd ’16 (5.0 PPG, 3.2 APG, 2.6 A/TO)
Andrew Hurd transferred to Trinity as a junior last season. While only starting 5 games last year, he did a good job handling the ball and got a lot of minutes off the bench (21.2 MPG). So far this year Hurd has been hot on 6-12 shooting and posting a 6.7 (20/3) Assist to Turnover ratio which is what you need out of your point guard. His quickness should add some spunk as he had 42 steals in his 2015-16 campaign.
G Jaquann Starks ’16 (14.1 ppg, 2.1 apg, 43.6% 3PT)
Jaquann Starks, a 2015 NESCAC First Teamer, will certainly be a key for the Bantams this year. No doubt about it—he can shoot the lights out, which is a big reason to why he is leading the team with 58 points this season. With Starks moving to shooting guard he is able to get more quality shooting looks, and it should prove beneficial for the Bantams down the stretch.
G Rick Naylor ’16 (5.4 PPG, 36.3% 3FG, 1.6 APG)
Rick Naylor played in every game last year and started 5 games, averaging 5.4 points per game. He was second on the team in 3-pointers shooting 36.3%. With Naylor starting at small forward and Starks at shooting guard, look for the Bantams to be a threat from 3-point land. Naylor is a strong 6’3 body at small forward and should play a much more prominent role this year.
F Shay Ajayi ’16 (10.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.6 spg)
Shay Ajayi’s senior leadership is seen on and off the court, and the Bantams will benefit from him staying consistent as the year progresses. He got off to a hot start this year posting a double-double in the first two games. His season totals for points sit at 9.8 PPG, third on the team. He is a body that is wasted on the bench, and his lengthy, athletic 6’6 physique makes him a staple down low. He is averaging 10.o RPG, and the Bantams need him to continue that production given the loss of other big men to graduation.
F/C Ed Ogundeko ’17 (9.3 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 1.4 BPG)
Ed Ogundeko is Trinity’s big boy standing at 6’6, 235 pounds with a powerful build. He has a lot of potential and will play a large role for the Bantams this year. Ogundeko is doing a good job supplying the team with buckets, as he is second on the team with 14.3 PPG in the first four games. Being solely a center this year is working out for the Bantams and Ogundeko, who is averaging a double-double so far.
Breakout Player: Chris Turnbull ’17
Bantam Junior Chris Turnbull, a small forward from New Jersey, has waited his turn. He is a threat from beyond the arc, and his 6’4 long build tailors him as a good defender and rebounder. He only averaged 14 minutes per game as a sophomore, but in his first game this year he spent 28 minutes on the hardwood compiling 9 points and 8 rebounds while showing some confidence attacking the basket. If Turnbull’s 3-point game heats up, he will be a big time help for the Bantams. If you flashback to exactly one year ago, Turnbull caught fire and dropped 17 points on Springfield, going 3-4 from distance helping Trinity to an 81-76 win.
Losing a couple key big men from last year in Alex Conaway ’15 and George Papadeas ’15 will certainly put pressure on Ajayi and Ogondeko. Expect a lot from the two 6’6″ bash brothers this year, as they have combined for a total of 5 double-doubles in their 1st four games back. There is a 3rd (little) bash brother in 6’5 freshman Connor Merinder who will get his minutes down low. Conaway’s presence on the bench as an assistant coach will help keep the big men in line. The return of Starks is going to be vital for this team. His ability to shoot the ball matches that of championship caliber scorers, and when Starks gets hot there is no stopping him. Hurd will take on a more prominent role as the point guard, which will allow for Starks to be a pure shooter off the ball.
Chris Turnbull ’17 and Eric Gendron ’18 have come into their own this year, and will be key players off the bench with Gendron averaging 7.5 ppg so far. Langdon Neal ’17 transferred from American University this year and has seen 13.3 mpg while averaging 4.0 ppg. Coach Cosgrove feels he is still adjusting to Trinity’s playing style, so look for him to gain presence as the season continues. Freshmen Erick Santana ’19 and Paul Colson ’19 have done well with their time on the court and Coach Cosgrove will keep them warm on the bench. With Trinity hanging on to their three top scorers from last year in Ajayi, Ogundeko, and Starks, they could match or even surpass last year’s great performance.
Sometimes real life and other commitments get in the way of our NESCAC coverage, so we don’t have the time to put forth our usual comprehensive preview. Here’s a few brief thoughts about Friday’s action and Saturday’s matchup.
So, the Sweet 16 matchup between Trinity and Bates played out almost exactly as we had anticipated. Ugly basketball (27 turnovers combined), awful shooting (36.4 FG% combined), physical post play, foul trouble (50 combined), and a final score that would have been in the mid-sixties but for bunches of free throws at the end of the game (79-62). But damn was it entertaining. The margin didn’t stray beyond three points either way until late in the first half, when a Chris Turnbull ’17 triple started an 11-3 run for the Bants on which the half ended. Bates battled back a few times to keep it interesting, but the defense was too good and the shooting too bad for Trinity. Even though Bates went to the free throw line an astounding 42 times, they couldn’t make enough of those freebies to close the gap. Trinity now looks forward to Babson, a top-five team and the host of this Sectional, at 7 PM Saturday night.
What went wrong for Bates – The Facts
As the second half ticked away, Bates started feeling like they need to score points in bunches, but the Bobcats were unable to do that and ended up an abysmal 2-20 (10 percent) from three point range. All game long the Bobcats attacked the basket, but couldn’t hit free throws, finishing 28-42 (66.7 percent) from the stripe. Graham Safford ’15, who played much of the second half with his right knee in a wrap after coming down awkwardly – who knows how much that affected him – and Mike Boornazian ’16 shot 8-32 (25 percent) from the field. Hart Gliedman ’15 absolutely neutralized Safford in this one. We knew that the Bates guards had to play well and account for a lot of the team’s scoring if Bates was going to win. But they didn’t get much help, either. The Delpeche brothers tallied 26 points, but the rest of the team added up to just nine points (six for Billy Selmon ’15, three for Mike Newton ’16). And just like last time these two teams played, Trinity dominated the rebounding battle, grabbing 45 boards to Bates’ 32.
Looking forward to Trinity (23-6) at #4 Babson (28-2)
I’ve watched Trinity probably half a dozen times this year, and I’ve watched Babson for probably half a dozen minutes. I’m exaggerating, because I saw about a half of Babson’s game with Johns Hopkins last night, but in any case I don’t feel qualified to make a prediction of such an important game when I barely know one team. What I can say from the little bit I watched of Babson last night is that 1) they play really, really good man-to-man defense and 2) they pass the ball incredibly well.
Granted, most of that passing was against Hopkins’ 2-3 zone, so I don’t know how the Beavers will fare against Trinity’s tough man-to-man, but Babson should be used to that kind of intensity because they practice against themselves every day. Bates beat Babson earlier this season, but it would be a mistake to predict this game based off of common opponents. Trinity should still have an edge in the front court, as usual, but it’s not by much. I saw some nice moves from Babson’s 6’7″ senior forward John Wickey tonight, and I think the Beavers big men bring a much more skilled offensive game than the young Delpeche twins. On the other end, I wouldn’t be surprised if George Papadeas ’15, Alex Conaway ’15 and Ed Ogundeko ’17 account for less than 15 points combined.
I’m going to be pulling hard for the Bants tomorrow. I want to see a NESCAC squad in the Final Four. But from watching a little bit of Babson last night, I would have to say that the Beavers are favored. Again, I’m not making an official prediction. But if I were…
It’s not unheard of for two NESCAC teams to be meeting this late into the NCAA Tournament. As a matter of fact, it happened just one year ago when Amherst and Williams duked it out in the national semifinals. What is unusual, though, is to see Bates and Trinity, two schools not known for their basketball pedigree, still alive and starting to believe that a National Championship isn’t that far-fetched of an idea.
Let’s take a moment and think about where these two teams came from. You might have heard already, but Bates College is playing in its first-ever NCAA D-III Tournament, which has brought Bates alums out of the woodwork to support the current team.
“I’ve heard from players from the 1950s right up to last season. You win a few games and people become very aware of your basketball program.” – Bates Coach Jon Furbush to the Portland Press Herald,
Also, consider this: Bates was 1-9 in the NESCAC last year, the worst record in the league. Now, just over a year later, they are one win away from being the last NESCAC team standing. And when they look back on this season, there will be plenty of highlights from their NCAA Tournament run to remember. Bates’ players hope to add a few more before it is all said and done.
On the other side, Trinity had some experience with NCAA Tourney basketball before the season began. The only problem was that none of that experience came from the players. Head Coach James Cosgrove led Adelphi University to the D-II Tournament four times and Endicott to the D-III Tournament once as head coach. Assistant Coach Tyler Simms played on back-to-back NCAA Tournament teams at Trinity in 2007 and 2008, but never advanced past the first round. Now, the Bantams’ players have almost as much NCAA Tournament experience as their coaching staff.
Last time they met: Jan. 16 at Trinity. Trinity 66 – Bates 59
In a game that started a miniature two-game skid for the Bobcats that seems to have been the turning point for Bates, Trinity dominated the first half and held on for a six-point lead at home. It was an off shooting night for Bates’ two top scorers, Graham Safford ’15 and Mike Boornazian ’16 (6-21, 28.6 percent, combined). Meanwhile, Trinity spread the wealth, per usual, with three players in double figures, and played its patented shutdown defense.
“Trinity has proven all season long what a great defensive team they are and against us was no exception. They did a good job scouting us and identifying some of our tendencies, but we also didn’t shoot the ball anywhere near the level we’re capable of.” – Mike Boornazian
The game was incredibly evenly-matched statistically. The only differences came in the rebounding and free throw shooting departments, both of which Trinity dominated. The Bants outrebounded Bates 42-32, and hit 20-26 free throws, compared to 11-14 for the Bobcats.
A last bit of Trinity-Bates history to nibble on. Trinity leads the all-time series 31-13, dating back to 1947. The last Bobcat victory came in February 2013.
Storylines to Watch
1. Have student fan bus, will travel
Alumni Gym in Lewiston, ME gets pretty crazy sometimes for men’s basketball games. The Staake Gymnasium is going to feel a lot like Alumni on Friday night. The tiny Babson home court (650 seats, 1,000 capacity) will provide the ideal setting for the scores (dare I say, hundreds?) of Bobcats fans who will be traveling down via a school-organized fan bus. The bus seats 55 students, and the College sold an additional 50 for students who wanted to organize their own transportation. Trinity, meanwhile, goes on spring break starting on Friday, and many students have already taken off to enjoy better weather elsewhere.
Adding to the Bobcats’ home court advantage, potentially, is that Bates has already won two games at Staake, to open the season, at the Babson Invitational, including a three-point victory over the host Beavers.
“It’ll definitely be nice to get back on the court that got us off to a 2-0 start earlier this year. We all really liked the atmosphere that the gym provided, and we have a lot of Bates supporters in the area, as well as people who will be making the trip down. It’s going to be a fun time and always nice knowing we have Bobcat Country supporting us.” – Mike Boornazian
Trinity center Georgios Papadeas ’15 doesn’t see Babson Park as presenting a home court advantage for Bates.
“I don’t believe playing in Babson gives Bates an advantage. They didn’t win against us at that court so I believe that those two wins are irrelevant to Friday’s game.” – Georgios Papadeas
2. Frontcourt physicality
There were 42 fouls committed the last time these two squads competed, 25 by Bates. Max Eaton ’17 even earned four in just 13 minutes! Bates alone has committed 40 fouls in their two NCAA Tournament games. Both Delpeche brothers fouled out late against St. Vincent in the first round. For Trinity, they’ve faced some foul trouble in the Tournament but have managed to keep everybody on the floor. The personal foul numbers will be important to monitor in this one, though, as both teams feature tough front courts.
“I think both teams are very talented in that department. Trinity has an impressive front court, but I also think Malc and Marc [Delpeche] have consistently proven that they are two of the best big men in the conference. It’s going to be a great battle.” – Mike Boornazian
Statistically, both teams are similar in blocks per game (Trinity, 3.9; Bates, 3.3) and rebounds per game (Trinity 39.0; Bates, 38.4), but the Bantams had a significant margin in rebounding margin (7.3, compared to 4.9 for Bates). Nevertheless, Trinity recognizes the dangerousness of the Bates big men.
“The twins are a dynamic combo. I respect their toughness. From our part we will try to be physical and block them out. They are long and athletic and extremely dangerous. We can’t let them get going.” – Georgios Papadeas
Forward Mike Newton ’15 has a more aesthetic view of what makes the Delpeche duo so formidable.
“The best part is that they aren’t scared to bang on anyone.” – Mike Newton
That kind of protection at the rim allows Billy Selmon ’15 to pressure ball handlers on the perimeter and changes the offensive attack.
3. The efficiency of Bates’ guards
Even though Safford was an NbN All-NESCAC First Teamer and both he and Boornazian are 1,000 point scorers, no one would mistake the pair for a couple of Luke Westmans. Of NESCAC players that attempted at least 12.5 field goals per game (Safford has attempted exactly 12.56 FG per game, Boornazian approximately 12.7), Safford was the only player under 40 percent from the field, and Boornazian ranks fourth out of sixth. They’re both great players and among my first choices if I need to take a shot to win the game, but I think their below average shooting percentages will be particularly hurtful in this game where I don’t anticipate the Delpeches, Newton and Eaton grabbing many O boards.
4. The Trinity offense with Andrew Hurd ’16 on the court
Point guard Jaquann Starks ’16 gets all the press, but the Trinity offense is actually better when Hurd handles the ball and Starks shifts to the two-guard. I wish I had the advanced statistics to back up that claim, but keep an eye on this backcourt combination tonight and see for yourself. Starks isn’t much of a distributor and is probably Trinity’s best three point shooter. Hurd also brings some underestimated pesky defense to the floor with him, and can frustrate the opposing team’s point man. He gives up quite a bit of size and strength to Safford, though, so Hurd may be better suited to keep Selmon from making an impact on offense. For Selmon’s part, he will be blanketing Starks all day, which means that the pressure is on Hurd to make an impact offensively.
5. Late game execution
I would be shocked if this game turned into a blowout. Therefore, it will come down to which team executes better in crunch time, and who makes their free throws. Neither team was fantastic hitting free throws this season, but Trinity held a slight edge. When it comes to closing out ball games, the general perception is that Bates has the advantage because of the heroics of Safford and Boornazian. Sometimes nerves get in the way when players are unsure of what to do as the seconds tick away. That doesn’t happen with Safford.
“It’s amazing. There are times when I want to make a call in the game, and he’s bringing the ball up and before I even say it, he calls it. … He’s absolutely another coach on the floor. … I think what he does from a sheer leadership standpoint is the reason why we’re successful.” – Bates Head Coach John Furbush to the Sun Journal.
However, of the Bantams’ 22 wins, 10 have come by six points or less. And I don’t think that is because Trinity isn’t dominant. I think it’s because they enjoy playing in close games. When the going gets tough, the defense gets tougher, and teams have a brutal time getting buckets. Additionally, if Bates wants to put its best free throw shooting team on the floor, they’d have to take off a lot of the starters. Safford, is the only starter for Bates that shot over 80 percent from the stripe. Meanwhile, Trinity can put Starks (89.5 percent), Hurd (88.9 percent), Chris Turnbull ’17 (85.7 percent), Papadeas (78.1 percent) and Rick Naylor ’16 (77.8 percent) or Shay Ajayi ’16 (71.3 percent) on the court and not give up too much defensively.
Trinity X-Factor: Ed Ogundeko ’17
It had to be a big guy, right? Ogundeko was playing like a grown man down the stretch this season, putting up huge rebounding numbers and a couple of nice offensive performances despite not playing much more than 20 minutes per game. In the NCAA Tournament Ogundeko has played 24 minutes total. Coach Cosgrove has basically relied on his starting five plus Hurd to win ball games. But, in a matchup where both front lines go deep and I could foresee a flurry of fouls on either side, I think the time is ripe for Ogundeko to step back up. I don’t need big scoring out of him, I just need him to stop whichever Delpeche is feeling it at the time.
Bates X-Factor: Adam Philpott ’15
For Bates, it’s no secret that the starting five does most of the heavy lifting, but Philpott does a lot of the little things that make a team go. He can do a little bit of everything offensively, and fits right in with Coach Jon Furbush’s feisty defense. Boornazian called Philpott the best sixth man in the NESCAC. He’ll have to play like it to best the Bantams on Friday.
“For me embracing the role of sixth man with the talent that we have was very easy. … [Graham Safford’s and Mike Boornazian’s] ability to beat their defender and get into the lane creates a lot of open opportunities for me on the perimeter and it’s my job to knock them down.” – Adam Philpott
Before we go any further, let me say a big congratulations to both teams for making this unexpected run to the Sweet 16. That being said, I don’t think either squad would be content with calling it quits now. Both squads believe that they can win a national title for the first time in school history. And these have to be two of the toughest, grittiest teams in all of Division-III, which should make for some must-watch TV.
How is this one going to play out? Expect it to be back-and-forth all day. If Bates can grab some offensive rebounds that will lead to some easy buckets and make up for some of the guards’ missed jumpers. I don’t expect Trinity to shoot much better, though. This one could be ugly.
Don’t expect the crowd noise to get into the Bantams’ heads too much.
“As athletes though we have trained to focus on the game and block all other factors that don’t contribute to the game.” – Georgios Papadeas
I really don’t think, even down the stretch, that 100-plus screaming Bobcats fans will change the outcome of this game. Whether the crowd is cheering for or against you, there are bound to be jitters when you’re in a single possession game as the clock ticks down.
All right, enough preamble. I’ve gone back and forth on this game all day, so let me just make a pick and stick to it. I’m going with the Bantams, partly because they’ve beaten Bates before, partly because they’ve given up just 51.0 points per contest in the NCAA Tournament. Partly because, as Sean Meekins reported, Bates basketball wears seat belts on the bus. I jest, of course. Everyone should wear seat belts all the time.
So there it is. We’ve picked against Bates twice now, and gotten it wrong both times. We’ve also picked in favor of Trinity, and gotten it right both times. Something’s gotta give.