NESCAC’S Most Wanted: Men’s Basketball Power Rankings 1/17

Finally the order of teams is starting to have some clarity. Hamilton finally saw their first ranked opponent in Wesleyan and took care of business, cementing themselves as the team to beat at this point without a blemish on their record. Middlebury knocked off Tufts who knocked off Williams, putting into question the 2-5 spots in these rankings. However, this weekend should bring more clarity as Williams’ true talent level without Kyle Scadlock will be tested against Middlebury. The teams in the bottom half have largely only played each other, with Trinity looking like the “best of the rest.”

1. #14 Hamilton (14-0, 3-0)

Last Week: 76-70 W vs. Wesleyan, 102-77 W @ Conn College

This Week: @ Amherst

And now they are legit. After knocking off Wesleyan at home, the Continentals are proven to be the real deal. While this spot at the top of the Power Rankings may be temporary, their spot in the D3 Top 25 is well deserved despite an easy preseason schedule. Wesleyan was the first difficult NESCAC opponent that Hamilton beat (Trinity and Conn are the other two), and with Wesleyan’s opening weekend win against Middlebury, Hamilton is further cemented as a real NESCAC contender. Their game against Amherst should be a high scoring win with a large margin of victory if all else remains the same with Kena Gilmour the centerpiece of Hamilton’s offense. He poured in 20 points in a defensive heavy game against the Cardinals despite only shooting 1-7 from deep.

2. #11 Williams (12-3, 3-1)

Last Week: 69-63 L vs. Tufts, 79-68 W vs. Bates

This Week: vs. Amherst, @ Middlebury

There is no doubt that Williams is weaker without Kyle Scadlock, however, they have managed to show their depth and remain afloat thus far in NESCAC play. They went from NESCAC favorites to just another team in the running for the title, seeing their first loss at the hands of Tufts this past weekend. In Scadlock’s place, Bobby Casey ’19 and James Heskett ’19 continuebear the brunt of the scoring load as Casey scored 11 and Heskett 21 in the loss against the Jumbos. Heskett added 23 against Bates in the following game, settling in as a reliable power forward that Williams will need down the stretch.

3. #16 Middlebury (11-3, 3-1)

Last Week: 82-76 W vs. Bates; 78-63 W vs. Wesleyan

This Week: vs. Williams

Jack Daly ’18 continues to dish and drive to the rim as Middlebury’s balanced offense before was too much to overcome for both Bates and Tufts. While the Bates game ended up only being a six point win—closer than expected—Daly dropped 26 points, nine boards, and eight assists, a stat line we are becoming all too familiar with. Matt Folger is a lengthy player who can shoot from deep, accompanied by Joey Leighton and Hilal Dahleh on the perimeter. Nick Tarantino, Eric McCord on fire in the paint of late, and Adisa Majors all play down low and bring in the boards evenly, while G Jack Farrell ’21 is playing a lot like Jake Brown ’17 from a season ago, distributing and opening things up on the wings and for Daly. Middlebury will need to find some three point shooting from somewhere, however, if they want to continue winning.

Jack Daly ’18 had another game winner last night against Albertus Magnus, and is carrying the panthers despite struggling with his outside shot.

4. Tufts (12-4, 3-1)

Last Week: 69-63 W @ Williams, 78-63 L @ Middlebury

This Week: vs. Bates

Their win against Williams put them in a position to surpass Wesleyan in the rankings, beating what was previously the best team in the conference. Tufts’ size and athleticism are their greatest strengths, led by Vincent Pace ’18, Eric Savage ’18, and KJ Garrett ’19 who was all over the floor against Middlebury. Pace slipped a bit last weekend, shooting 5-21 against Williams and 1-9 against Middlebury. Lucky for him, Garrett emerged as a potential force going forward, scoring 20 and bringing down nine boards against the Panthers in just his fourth game of the season. After increasing his workload to 24 minutes last Saturday, he should play an even bigger role against Bates this coming weekend.

5. #19 Wesleyan (11-3, 2-2)

Last Week: 76-70 L @ Hamilton, 70-66 W @ Amherst

This Week: vs. Conn College

Austin Hutcherson
Austin Hutcherson ’21 (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)

Wesleyan is in danger of falling in the rankings after an 1-1 weekend which dropped them farther down in the national rankings. While they lost to a team ranked above them now, they needed to beat Hamilton to cement themselves as a real championship contender. They should roll over Conn College this weekend, but after narrowly beating the falling Amherst Mammoths, they should be a bit worried going forward. Jordan Bonner ’19 still hasn’t quite found his shot, shooting 3-9 against Amherst, and despite first year Austin Hutcherson’s 19 points and solid shooting, Kevin O’Brien did not play and needs to make it back into the lineup quickly for the Cardinals to have a chance.

6. Amherst (9-5, 1-2)

Last Week: 72-57 W vs. Conn College, 70-66 L vs. Wesleyan

This Week: @ Williams, vs. Hamilton

A sub .500 conference record at this point with their only win against the lowly Camels is not a good start for a formerly great Amherst team. Johnny McCarthy ’18 and Michael Riopel ’18 are still leading the way in scoring, but they need more depth in order to compete against the likes of Middlebury, Williams, and Middlebury as Riopel is the only Mammoth with the ability to shoot the deep ball. While they rank second in the conference in rebounding per game, they are in the bottom half in scoring and need to improve going forward.

7. Trinity (11-4, 2-2)

Last Week: 73-68 W @ Bowdoin, 61-51 L @ Colby

This Week: Non-Conference

The bottom half of these rankings get pretty confusing as Trinity’s overall record helps them out here, however, a loss to Colby certainly dampens their overall legitimacy as any sort of contender. They had some terrible individual performances in the road game last weekend as Jeremy Arthur put up a complete dud, going 0-10 shooting, Eric Gendron 2-8 FG, and Kyle Padmore 0-3 FG. There isn’t a whole lot else to say, they need to make more baskets to win games and 31.3% overall in the contest isn’t going to cut it. They should press the reset button this weekend without a NESCAC game and look to bounce back the following weekend.

8. Bates (8-6, 1-1)

Last Week: 82-76 L @ Middlebury, 79-68 L @ Williams

This Week: @ Tufts

James Mortimer
James Mortimer ’21 (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

Bates put up two decent performances against the NESCAC’s best teams, narrowly losing to Midd and competing against the Ephs. James Mortimer ’18 and Jeff Spellman ’20 are a great 1-2 punch, combining for 41 points against the solid Panther defense. Max Hummel added 13 off the bench, and despite not doing well the next game against Williams with just three points in 15 minutes, has shown some promise. Spellman is the leader of this team and a work horse, putting up 24 the next day against the Ephs and playing over 30 minutes in four games straight. He has the ability to win this team enough games to make it to the playoffs, and in March, anything can happen.

9. Bowdoin (10-4, 1-2)

Last Week: 73-68 L vs. Trinity

This Week: vs. Colby

Losing to a reeling Trinity team certainly won’t aid the Polar Bears going forward. Jack Simonds ’19, as always, can put up huge scoring numbers, supported by David Reynolds’ shooting and Hugh O’Neil’s impressive defense in the paint (17 rebounds against the Bantams). The Polar Bears have good overall numbers as a team and were really hurt by poor three point shooting numbers against Tufts (sub 25%) and heavy turnovers against Trinity—15 compared to the Bantams’ six. Look for the weapon heavy Bowdoin team to start climbing the rankings soon.

10. Colby (10-5, 1-2)

Last Week: 61-51 W vs. Trinity

This Week @ Bowdoin

Colby got a huge win against Trinity to put themselves on the board and in the conversation of relevance for the NESCAC playoffs. While it was a low scoring affair, featuring some awful shooting from Trinity, some of that had to be attributed to the Mule defense, right? Double-doubles from both Dean Weiner ’19 and Sam Jefferson ’20 are a great sign going forward, giving the Mules reason to believe that they can compete with some of the stronger teams.

Sam Jefferson ’20 is putting up a very solid season for the gritty Mules.

11. Conn College (6-10, 0-4)

Last Week: 72-57 L @ Amherst, 102-77 L @ Hamilton

This Week: @ Wesleyan

Conn College is beginning to look like a guaranteed win for other NESCAC teams after several blowout games to begin their 2018 conference campaign. In their most recent game, allowing more than 100 points to Hamilton, they clearly had little defense and were nearly out of the game from the beginning. David Labossiere ’19 is doing all he can to prevent the Camels from remaining in the cellar, dropping 18 points and seven boards in that loss, although he is pretty helpless after four losses by over 20 points in NESCAC play.

Perfection on the Line: Men’s Basketball Game of the Week

#14 Wesleyan (10-2, 1-1) @ #18 Hamilton (12-o, 1-0), 7:00 PM, Clinton, NY

And as we dive into the second weekend of NESCAC play there is already a game that will test two teams’ long term capabilities. Hamilton and Wesleyan are due to square off in this marquee matchup on Friday January 12th in Clinton, NY. The home team, Hamilton, has dominated their non-conference schedule and carried that momentum into their first NESCAC game against Trinity, and Wesleyan conquered the mighty Middlebury Panthers and nearly toppled Williams in an OT loss last weekend. In what has been an obscure first conference weekend in terms of power rankings (although you can read all about how Cameron deciphered last weekend’s results in the 1/10 rankings here:) this game should help clear up what the tumultuous beginning has left unclear, and be our best evidence yet as to whether or not Hamilton is legit.

Wesleyan relies on a dominant defense and timely scoring from players like Kevin O’Brien ’19.

Overview:

Wesleyan sits at 14th and Hamilton at 18th in the national poll. One year removed from being a disappointing last seed in the NESCAC playoffs, the Continentals are living up to their incredible talent this season. With versatile scorers like Michael Grassey ’19 and Peter Hoffmann ’19 surrounding stud Kena Gilmour ’20, Hamilton has, on paper, the strongest starting five in the league. Wesleyan, who was more expected to succeed in 2018, is also deep with experienced talent and their position in 2017 as a NESCAC semifinalist and NCAA tournament team would’ve favored them in this game a month ago. However, following losses in two of the Cardinals’ last three games, the home Hamilton squad can hardly be considered an underdog. After returning all of their 2017 starters, the system is in place for Hamilton’s continued success and it shows in their balanced stat sheet and in their win over Trinity last weekend 78-55. And Trinity beat Amherst the previous day 69-63, proving that they weren’t going to just roll over. Wesleyan has weapons on all parts of the floor too, although Jordan Bonner ’19 has seemed to have lost a bit of accuracy shooting lately. Hamilton averages almost 95 points per game, but they should be limited by Wesleyan’s defense, ranking third in rebounds, turnovers, and points allowed per game (64.5) in the conference. 

Wesleyan X-Factor: G Jordan Bonner ’19

Jordan Bonner
Jodan Bonner ’19 (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)

I’m not trying to pick on Bonner here, as we already did that a little bit in our most recent stock report, but in the last five games (Wesleyan is 3-2 in that span, including their only losses), his shooting totals have fallen off of the table. The stock report discusses his ridiculous 10-33 performance, looking like Kobe during his retirement tour, but that isn’t the only blemish. Cumulatively in the last five games, Bonner is 22-71 from the field (31%) and 10-40 from beyond the arc (25%). He started off the year hot and owns respectable numbers from the entire season (40% FG; 33.8% 3 PT), but the league is littered with players who started off hot and then fell off the face of the earth once league play began and defenses adjusted. Sure, Wesleyan has Kevin O’Brien ’19, Nathan Krill ’18, and Austin Hutcherson ’21 who are having solid seasons, but Bonner still leads the team in points at 16.9 PPG, and if he doesn’t improve his shooting given the pure volume of attempts he takes, Hamilton’s offense will be too much to overcome.

Hamilton X-Factor: G Kena Gilmour ‘20

Kena Gilmour
Kena Gilmour ’20 (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)

Albeit not a particularly exciting pick, Gilmour completes the matchup to watch of this game. Likely to guard Bonner for at least part of the contest, the Continental scoring leader should have his hands full if he is to help limit the Wesleyan offense. With two blocks and eight rebounds against Trinity last weekend, Gilmour is nearly as much of a defensive force as an offensive one, leading his team with 18.5 PPG. In this breakout season, his shooting numbers have been excellent, at 37% 3 PT on the season and over 50% from the field, he is nearly a lock to score over 20 points, tipping the scales in favor of the home team. Gilmour is the catalyst of the offense that ranks ninth in the nation in points per game and will see his toughest test this weekend against a strong Wesleyan defense. This matchup should reveal just how legit Hamilton’s offense is, and if Gilmour rolls on, the team will too.

Final Thoughts:

Despite being one of only four undefeated teams remaining in all of Division 3 basketball, Hamilton still has not joined the teams that are considered the ‘real deal.’ The Continentals are top-10 in the nation in two statistical categories, including the aforementioned points, along with scoring margin (8th). And yet, they still have to prove themselves in league play. This is their chance, and boy do they have the tools. They play as a unit, and after developing together for a season, now that all of their starters are back for a second season, they should be able to maintain this success into at least a top-4 NESCAC finish. I’ve been on the Hamilton train since the beginning of the 2017 season–showing that I was a bit premature with my support–and am a believer that they are a force to be reckoned with. However, they will be heavily tested by the best teams in the conference.

While I have talked plenty about Hamilton’s hot start, I need not forget that Wesleyan knocked off former national #2 Middlebury, and came dang close to doing the same against Williams. Kevin O’Brien is the most dynamic player on the court for either side in this game, averaging over six assists and rebounds per game, while also shooting at a 61.7 clip. Despite only averaging 8.4 PPG, he is certainly capable of scoring more, showing in 16 and 18 point performances earlier this year against Mitchell and Nichols, respectively, settling into a more pass happy role ever since. If Bonner continues to struggle with accuracy, look for O’Brien to pick up the intensity and bear some of the scoring burden. The Cardinals have undoubtedly played a harder schedule thus far, but despite their opponents, their 78.9 PPG average doesn’t quite keep up with the 94.8 PPG of Hamilton. So, two questions remain: Will Wesleyan’s defense be able to stifle the Hamilton offense? Do Hamilton fans understand how hot their team has started off and how to give them an edge in their home gym (this is a challenge)? I say no, and yes.

Writer’s Pick: Hamilton 86-83