This past Saturday, I got to travel to Colby to watch Bates take on the Mules in Waterville. Bates pulled off the win, 82-79 in a tightly contested matchup that I believe was an instant classic. In front of an unusually raucous crowd for this early in the year, the two teams put on a show. This game had absolutely everything. We saw Matt Hanna hit four consecutive threes and give the crowd an awesome, Russell Westbrook-esque celebration. We saw the players getting chippy. We saw the fans getting chippy. We saw the lead never get above 3 for either team in the final 12 minutes of the game (until Bates hit a few free throws at the very end). We saw a technical foul. We saw Tom Coyne bank home two three pointers from 30+ feet to seal the win for the Bobcats. It was the stuff of legends.
That is what NESCAC basketball is all about. There is nothing like getting to travel to any school for a game and watch their loyal fans pack the gym to watch more drama than a Shakespearean tragedy. Fortunately truth is stranger than fiction, and we get an entire season of games featuring players whose legacies will surely outlast those of Macbeth or Hamlet. Anyways, let’s take a look at how foul or fair each team is looking heading into exam week and a blissfully long winter break.:
Bates G Tom Coyne ’20
Bates got a chance to play both Colby and Bowdoin this week, and each time Coyne put on a show. Despite the 70-63 loss against Bowdoin, he led the game in points with 22, and grabbed 9 rebounds. In the 82-79 win against Colby, he went off for a career-high 30 points on 11-16 from the field, including 6-8 from three-point range. One of the greatest things about the game against Colby was that for the final minutes of the game, the players on the court were Nick Gilpin ’20, Jeff Spellman ’20, Tom Coyne ’20, Kody Greenhalgh ’20, and James Mortimer ’21. This lineup is one that has already shown improvements this year, and they will get to see three full seasons playing on the floor together. Bates is only getting better from here as Coach Furbush has the pieces he needs to develop and build around for the future.
Middlebury F Nick Tarantino ’18
Middlebury has been on a tear this season, starting off 6-0 and receiving the #2 national ranking in last week’s poll. They have many weapons, but senior Nick Tarantino ’18 has stood out as exceptional recently. He recorded a double-double against Endicott (an NCAA tournament team from last season), putting up 17 points and 10 rebounds, while dishing out 4 assists. In their last game against national #16 Skidmore (another 2017 NCAA tournament team), he channeled his inner-Ed Ogundeko, posting 20 points (on 9-13 shooting) and 17 rebounds. This type of production is ridiculous alongside weapons like Jack Daly ’18 and Matt Folger ’20. The Panthers are showing us yet again why they belong in the conversation not only for best in the NESCAC, but potentially best in the nation.
Tufts G Vincent Pace ’18
Vincent Pace ’18 is definitely living up to his POY-candidate hype (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
Selected as NESCAC Player of the Week, Pace led the struggling Jumbos to a much-needed 2-0 week. He torched Emerson to the tune of 30 points and 8 rebounds, shooting 13-21 from the field. Pace tied the game with a three, then hit the game winning layup with under a minute left as the ‘Bos erased a 16-point second half deficit. Against UMass-Boston, he guided Tufts to a jaw-dropping 29-1 lead with 13 points and 7 rebounds on the way to a 73-58 win. He has clearly developed as the top scoring threat for a team that looks to gain some traction as they head out to Los Angeles to take on a few of the Claremont schools. If he continues this type of performance and the Jumbos continue to improve, Pace certainly remains in the conversation for NESCAC POY.
The Continentals are now 8-0 (tied for the best record in the NESCAC) and have been playing incredibly well this season. To be honest I believe they deserve a little more credit, only receiving 18 votes in the last national rankings. Only three of their eight wins have been decided by less than 10 points. They are blowing teams out, and putting up a lot of points in the process. Kena Gilmour ’20 leads the team with 17.4PPG and 7REB/G, and Michael Grassey ’19 has shown that he is a huge piece of this Continentals team. Grassey ’19 is putting up 14.1 points per game to go along with 6.5 rebounds,C especially having huge games against Utica and Eastern. Keep an eye on this underrated and young Hamilton squad, because they are a force to be reckoned with in New York.
It has been a tough stretch for the Camels, who are in the midst of a three game losing streak. They lost to both Mitchell and Western New England, neither of whom is particularly good. They sit at 4-5, which makes them the only NESCAC team below .500, with Bates having the second worst record at 5-2. Not to say that they don’t have any good players, because David Labossiere is averaging 18.3 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. They are suffering from the loss of Tyler Rowe ’19, who was 4th in the NESCAC in scoring, but transferred to Western Connecticut this year. Conn College still has matchups with City College of New York and Maine Presque-Isle before they gear up for their first conference matchup with Middlebury. Hopefully the Camels start to turn things around because you never know what can happen in NESCAC play.
Williams’ Title Chances
Things took a turn for the worst in Williamstown last week when Kyle Scadlock ’19 suffered a torn ACL in the first half of their game against Westfield State. Obviously, this is a crushing blow to both Williams and the league as a whole. Scadlock is one of the most exciting players in the league, as well as the team’s leading scorer and rebounder. Williams is certainly still one of the best teams in the conference and perhaps the nation, but they have a much steeper hill to climb now. Look for players like Bobby Casey ’19 Michael Kempton ’20 to take on bigger roles, as well as forward James Heskitt ’19. Heskitt may be best suited to take on some of Scadlock’s myriad responsibilities both offensively and defensively, as he is another versatile forward with quick feet. It will take a team effort for Williams to keep pace with Middlebury, Tufts and suddenly hot teams like Wesleyan or Hamilton. Scadlock is only a junior, so hopefully he will return to full health so that we can see what Williams is truly capable of. Best of luck on a speedy recovery, Kyle.
As we trudge through midterms and think about the glorious prospects of Fall break, NESCAC Women’s Soccer nears the end of its regular season with only two weekends left of conference play. Williams and Connecticut College sit atop the division, while Wesleyan and Colby round out the bottom. Tufts and Middlebury look to finish the regular season strong, and build momentum going into the playoff season.
Here are my mid-season power rankings:
1). Williams College Ephs
It’s hard to argue that any other team is more deserving of the number one spot in the power rankings. The Ephs have yet to lose a game all year, including conference and nonconference play. The Ephs are like the Patriots. When New England trailed Atlanta by twenty-five points, Falcons WR Taylor Gabriel told an arrogant Mohamed Sanu, “But they have Tom Brady, though” when Sanu stated the Patriots couldn’t come back. Two weeks ago, the Ephs edged the flaming hot Camels to break their hopes of an undefeated season on a seemingly harmless corner kick in OT. No matter how many goals the Ephs are down by, they are that team that always finds a way to come back. The most staggering statistic to point to the Ephs’ success is their goals against, which is a mere four goals (the next best GA team is Conn with six). Liz Webber ‘20 has come back this season from an injury that kept her out the entire 2016 campaign, and has been an integral part of the Ephs’ offensive and defensive prowess. The rest of the regular season schedule isn’t too challenging for the Ephs, but in all likelihood, they will have to beat the Camels if they want to fulfill their quest for a national championship.
2). Connecticut College Camels
The Camels didn’t disappoint the alumni at homecoming last weekend. They trounced the Bates Bobcats 3-0. I predicted the game would’ve been a tighter one; nevertheless, the Camels showed to the rest of the conference that they’re a special team. Before the season, many people believed that the conference hierarchy was the Ephs at the top, a fifty-foot drop, and then the next team, which wasn’t even comparable to the Ephs. The Camels replied to this statement, “No, not this year. There’s a new sheriff in town.” That sheriff is none other than Kat Norton ‘21. The freshman sensation is second in the conference in goals—notching two in the decisive win over Bates. Most teams rely on veteran players being the difference makers in conference games, so the unrelenting production from Norton has propelled Conn to one of the best teams in the conference. GK Bryanna Montalvo ‘18 has been one of the best in the NESCAC all year—giving her team a chance in tightly competitive games. A NESCAC championship between Conn and Williams would be a thriller, and the victor has a great shot at securing a national championship.
3). Middlebury College Panthers
The Panthers currently rank fourth in the NESCAC. They’re a very good team that excels on both sides of the field. A late goal in a 2-1 OT win over Wesleyan on Sunday showed the team’s tenacity. The conditions were brutal with a humid rain. With ten seconds left in the first overtime period, Eliza Van Voorhis ‘21 scored on a beautiful cross just outside the box from one of her Panther teammates. Wesleyan was just coming off a big win against Colby, and looked like they possessed all the momentum in the world. However, the persistence Middlebury showed by not giving up with only ten seconds to play in the overtime period illustrates that they’re going to be a good team down the stretch. If I were Conn or Williams, I would be worried in a 0-0 playoff game in the second-half against Midd.
4). Tufts University Jumbos
The Jumbos must be feeling left out. With all the noise Conn has made, Tufts hasn’t been giving the spotlight they deserve. They’ve put together a very good season thus far, ranking third in the NESCAC. GK Emily Bowers ‘19 has played quite impressively all season with her name in the top five of saves and save percentage. Sophie Lloyd ‘21 leads the team with an impressive five goals. The ‘Bos only have Bates and Bowdoin left on their schedule, which are winnable games. If they can do that, the ‘Bos will enough momentum to possibly knock off the league’s top dogs come playoff time.
5). Trinity College Bantams
After a mediocre start to the season, the Bantams are 2-0 in their past two conference games. Albeit the wins are against Wesleyan and Bowdoin, wins are wins no matter who they come against. The Bantams should be feeling good about themselves after those two conference wins. I predict, however, that those smiles will go away after they travel to both Middlebury and Connecticut College for their next two conference games. Rhone O’Hara ‘20 leads her team in points, and has been a force on defense throughout the year. Right now, the Bantams sit in the middle of the pack in the standings, but look for a fall after a ominous weekend.
6). Hamilton College Continentals
At this point in the season, the Continentals are trying to win out to avoid playing Williams or Conn in the first round. Therefore, these next two games are critical for them. This last weekend didn’t treat Hamilton too well with a loss against the Jumbos and a tie against Amherst. A win in both games would’ve propelled Hamilton up into the upper-tier of the standings. Now, they don’t carry much momentum from earlier in the season anymore. GK Emily Dumont ‘18 has been a stud in net, however. She has won the Continentals some games that could’ve gone either way. The goal scoring went dry last weekend, and that must change if Hamilton wants to have a deep playoff run.
7). Wesleyan University Cardinals
I avoid as much bias as I can in my writing, so choosing the one win Cardinals as the seventh team in my power rankings may be a shocker to some. Look, the Cardinals had some really tough breaks on Sunday. After a decisive win against Colby on Saturday, the team almost beat Middlebury on Sunday. One of the team’s best players, Liz Young ‘19, went down with an injury during the game. Another Cardinal injury only plagued them more. Even though the Cardinals haven’t looked great all year, Emily Ribatt ‘21 and Carly Bechtloff ‘21 have been key freshman contributors. Bechtloff’s hustle and keeping a play alive in the corner led to a nifty Ribatt cross, which tallied the only Cardinal goal in the Middlebury game. It is premature to say, however, that the Cardinals have a good chance at making the playoffs since Williams comes to Middletown on Saturday. Sports are weird, though. Anything can happen.
8). Bates College Bobcats
A week ago, I would’ve put the Bobcats at least top five in these rankings. An upset loss to Bowdoin last Wednesday and a loss to Conn on Saturday have really turned the Bobcats’ season upside down. I know that Conn was going to be a really hard game to win, but Bowdoin represented a winnable game. Losses like that hurt down the stretch because as a lower seed in the playoffs, the Bobcats will likely face the Ephs or Camels. The Bobcats have depended way too much on GK Sarah McCarthy ‘18. She leads the league in saves, and has shown she’s one of the best in the conference. Bates’ fall from the top of the league has been surprising, but their season isn’t over. The toughest games are out of their way, and winning out is a must to avoid Williams and Conn in the early rounds of the playoffs.
9). Bowdoin College Polar Bears
Bowdoin, unlike Bates, must’ve felt really good about themselves after Wednesday’s game. Any win against a Maine NESCAC opponent is significant. Right now, Bowdoin’s on the outside looking in regarding the playoff picture. They aren’t a hot team, so facing Hamilton and Conn next week will be tough. Picking up a win against Hamilton would be huge, but I don’t see that happening. Look for the Polar Bears to stay around #9 in the power rankings through the rest of the regular season.
10). Amherst College Mammoths
To say this season has been a disappointment for Amherst is an understatement. Normally, Amherst is really good. Like really good in just about everything— sound familiar, Williams? Therefore, a single win in conference play so far is quite shocking for an Amherst team. They’re scoring goals, but simultaneously they’re letting way too many in. They’re tied with Bates for the league’s worst in goals against. With only a few weeks left in the season and without much playoff hope, it’s now all about pride for Amherst.
11). Colby College Mules
In my high school’s athletic conference, there were numerous awards. The top team award was obviously the league championship. Nevertheless, all the awards were great, except one: the sportsmanship award. In New England prep school athletics, sportsmanship was code for ‘we feel bad for you’. In watching Colby play, they’re not a bad team, they’re really not. They don’t deserve the ‘sportsmanship’ award. A lot of the games they’ve lost were close. Obviously someone has to be last in the power rankings, but I will make excuses for Colby. They’re much better than their record. Look for a turnaround in the 2018 season because Colby truthfully has nowhere to go but up.
What a weekend for Maine rivals, Bowdoin and Colby, as the two swept Conn College and Wesleyan to both get into the NESCAC tournament with Bowdoin as the No. 7 seed and Colby the No. 8 seed. Both teams have shown plenty of promise this season, but it wasn’t until this weekend that we saw how good these teams can really play. When I watched these two go to overtime back on January 30, it was hard to imagine that both of them could possibly miss the NESCAC tournament. Now they both got in and are beginning to look dangerous.
Let’s start with Colby. The Mules looked dead at 1-6 in conference after blowing a last minute lead at Middlebury last weekend. Then they finished with three straight wins, with their two this weekend being comfortable ones. The all-senior starting five gets all the press, but senior guard John Gallego ’16 deserves some recognition himself. The quick backup is one of many short NESCAC point guards making an impact this season (Jaquann Starks ’16, Jack Dwyer ’18, Tyler Rowe ’19, etc.). He had nine points apiece against Wesleyan and Conn College. Against Amherst, Colby’s first NESCAC win, Gallego had 13 big points. The senior is a difference maker for the Mules.
The real surprise is probably the defense that Colby has played. I’ve said it before, but it doesn’t make sense that a team with five seniors starting should be so bad defensively. Yes, they play three big men essentially in their starting lineup meaning they give up quickness to teams. Still, they should be able to make up for it by playing as a unit on that end. This weekend they did, keeping Conn College to 73 points and then Wesleyan to just 64 points. The Mules certainly benefitted from some poor shooting on the part of the Cardinals considering Wesleyan shot 7-33 from three point land, but give credit to Colby for coming up big on the defensive end this weekend after having that be their Achilles Heel in some games.
As for Bowdoin, a team dear and near to my heart, they got big contributions from their role players while relying on their big two. Lucas Hausman ’16 and Jack Simonds ’19 combined averaged 48.5 ppg in the two wins. And while I know it sounds crazy, neither of them shot THAT well this weekend, going 8-25 (32 percent) from the three point line. What they did do exceptionally was get to the free throw line and finish there. The two went 27-30 from the charity stripe, and they drove Wesleyan and Conn College crazy with their ability to get calls.
However, the real stars, especially yesterday, were point guard Tim Ahn ’19 and center Matt Palecki ’16. Ahn looked like he was losing his spot in the rotation to Jack Bors ’19 a few weeks ago, but an injury to Bors has kept him out and opened the door for Ahn to play his best basketball. Coaches often say that by the end of the season, being a freshman isn’t an excuse anymore. Ahn hasn’t played like a freshmen down the stretch. He did something I haven’t see him do all season: attack and finish at the rim. He has shown the quickness to get past his initial defender, but until yesterday Ahn wasn’t looking for his at the rim. He scored 10 points in Friday and Saturday’s game.
Meanwhile, Palecki was his typical workmanlike self with 12 points and 14 rebounds against Conn College. In both games this weekend, Bowdoin controlled the boards, something they haven’t done much of this year. Palecki makes up for his lack of leaping ability by using his wide body to keep offensive rebounders out of the paint. He used that same wide body to slow down the likes of Joseph Kuo ’17 and Zuri Pavlin ’17 with great effectiveness. While Palecki can sometimes fall in love with ill-advised threes, he does a lot of the dirty work for the Polar Bears.
One problem for Colby and Bowdoin is they now have to go on the road in the NESCAC playoffs. For both of them, three of their four conference wins came at home. Whatever, we’ll get there in a couple of days. The two Maine teams made good and salvaged what looked like lost seasons. Even though they are the seventh and eighth seed, Bowdoin or Colby is capable not just of upsetting a top team but going all the way for a Cinderella run.
Shooting Guard Lucas Hausman ’16 (Bowdoin)
Averaging 26.5 ppg in a NESCAC weekend would be incredible for most players, but it’s just another normal weekend for Hausman at this point. He finishes the 2015-2016 regular season averaging 25.1 ppg overall and 26.0 ppg in NESCAC games. Those are historic numbers: the best averages that anybody has put up on record in the NESCAC which goes back to 2000. Hausman is far from a perfect player; he does go to a D3 school after all. His defense is subpar, his rebounding numbers are not good, and he doesn’t create well for others on offense. One or two plays every game he looks like a legitimately bad basketball player. But to deny how freaking good he is at putting the ball in the basket is stupid. Nobody makes tough shots like he does, and he makes those shots efficiently to boot. Regardless of what happens in the NESCAC tournament, Hausman is the Player of the Year.
Small Forward Stephen Haladyna ’16 (Tufts)
The Jumbos had just one game this weekend, and they took care of business against Williams to secure a home NESCAC playoff game. Haladyna led the way with 22 points, the only time this year that he has scored more than 20 points in a contest. He had been pretty quiet in NESCAC games before Friday. Tufts is at their best when they are able to be balanced scoring the ball. Guys like Haladyna and Ryan Spadaford ’16 need to be big part of the offense for Tufts to make a run. The Jumbos sit at 19-5 overall and look to be in good shape for making the NCAA tournament regardless of what happens in the next two weekends, but a win again over Williams would secure their spot for sure I think.
The Panthers weren’t quite up to the task this weekend, and the most disappointing thing has to be the number of points they let up. Amherst scored 83 and Trinity had a blistering 97 points. Now, the Bantams were clearly hot shooting the ball (55.7 percent from the floor in this game), but it is still a little disappointing to see Middlebury give up that many points in regulation. The two games weren’t even that exceptional in terms of pace as Amherst shot the ball 60 times and Trinity 61 times. The two losses aren’t surprising in and of themselves, but I wasn’t expecting their defense to be the major problem. The Panthers have to get that sorted out by this weekend.
What a tough end to the season for the Camels. They made so many strides this season, but they end up falling just short of making the playoffs. The Camels pushed Tufts and Amherst to the brink and had a quality home win over Middlebury, but they ended up losing their final five NESCAC games to finish 3-7. The Camels are big, tough on defense, and capable of scoring in bunches. They lose senior leader Bo McKinley ’16, a player that has been a constant through some very dark days for the program. Credit to him for doing anything he could to make the team better over the past few years. This team will be a terror for teams next year in large part because of him. And they will be a terror with their young nucleus having another year to grow. Zuri Pavlin ’17 and Dan Janel ’17 are a load to handle in the frontcourt. Tyler Rowe ’19 and Lee Messier ’18 are going to score a lot of points, too. Conn College missed the playoffs this year, but they will get there soon enough.
Being on break this past weekend, I followed the NESCAC action from afar even as my Middlebury classmates played their final regular season home games in Pepin Gymnasium. What stood out to me over the weekend was the continued separation between the top five and bottom six, and the Cardinals darkened that line with a buzzer-beating win over the sixth-place Ephs. As usual, though, there were close games even between the “elite” and the “also-rans”, but in this case all of big favorites won their games. So, while there is a little bit of variation in the top and bottom tier, there will be no teams crossing that chasm until one of the bottom feeders can emerge as a consistent adversary.
1. No. 19 Amherst (18-4, 6-2, Last week: 1)
Yes, they lost to Tufts, and yes, it wasn’t particularly close, but let’s not overreact. Look, Amherst isn’t a perfect team, and they might slip up here and there, but I still hold them as the favorite as of this posting today. Not to excuse Amherst from that game, but Tufts was at home, and the Jumbos shot 8-20 from three, and in case you forgot, Amherst is leading the world in three-point field goal percentage defense (27.4 percent allowed), so that’s anomalous. What’s more, Jeff Racy ’17 is in an epic slump right now (he was 0-6 from deep against Tufts), and I think that actually bodes well for Amherst going forward for two reasons. Racy’s slump has highlighted the ability of Connor Green ’16, Jayde Dawson ’18 and Johnny McCarthy ’18 to put up big points on any given night. They don’t need one guy to score 20 per game for them to win. Secondly, Racy is going to come back. He might not shoot near 60 percent from beyond the arc as he did early in the season, but he won’t go 0-6 very often, either. This team is still very good. As Adam pointed out though, the rotation continues to shorten, so the lack of bench production from the Purple and White remains a concern.
2. Trinity (16-6, 7-1, Last week: 2)
Two games, two easy wins, and one over the Amherst-slaying Tufts Jumbos in Medford. Even with Ed Ogundeko ’17 hampered, Trinity cleaned up the boards in both games. In stark opposition to Amherst, Trinity can get scoring from everyone up and down the lineup, which, in the end, might be the reason that Trinity prevails in a back-to-back NESCAC Semis and Finals scenario. For now, though, the head-to-head loss to Amherst still speaks loudly, and even though Tufts went on to beat Amherst the night after losing to Trinity, there’s the fact that the Jumbos may have been in panic mode and needing a win over Amherst. Don’t underestimate a team in a must-win situation.
3. Middlebury (14-8, 6-2, Last week: 5)
Spots 3-5 have become so muddled, but I took a glance over the Panthers last eight games and realized that if Andrew Groll ’19 hadn’t canned that short jumper as time expired to beat the Panthers, they’d be a lock for this spot and be 7-1 in conference play. Now, of course, we can’t just ignore that said nail in the coffin happened, that Middlebury has also fallen to Conn. College, that they only beat Colby by two points last Friday at home, and they haven’t yet played Amherst or Trinity. Still, as it stands today, they’re looking pretty good. They seem to have a bit of a fighter’s mentality this season, whereas in years past there was more of a sense that if the star wasn’t playing well or they were down at half, that you could write it off. Not anymore. I don’t have much wealth to wager these days (especially after some sour Super Bowl bets), but I’d put down a few bucks on Middlebury going 1-1 this weekend against the top two teams, which would mean a home playoff game in Pepin Gym.
4. No. 20 Wesleyan (18-4, 5-3, Last week: 3)
As I said in last week’s ranks, things are trending up for the Cardinals, so why did they move down a notch? Simply put, things are so close between Middlebury, Wesleyan and Tufts, and head-to-head scores move the needle ever so slightly. Tack on a nailbiter against Williams, a team that the Cards should beat handily on paper, and Wesleyan drops to No. 4. Still, the contributions of Jack Mackey ’16 and the solid eight-man rotation continue to give me confidence in this team. Their ability to pull out the victory against Williams suggests that they are a mature team, and that’s the difference between them and a green Ephs squadron.
5. No. 25 Tufts (17-5, 6-3, Last week: 4)
The win over Amherst and loss to Trinity sum up to a pretty par for the course weekend. Good for the Jumbos, as a 2-0 performance would mean bye-bye home game, but they were able to stay in the conversation with one win. In the loss to the Bantams, they breakout of Shay Ajayi ’16 is troublesome for Tufts. How was Tom Palleschi ’17, by far the league’s best shot blocker and a tough interior defender, not able to slow down Ajayi? Perhaps the key to beating Palleschi is to give the ball to someone quick who can step away from the basket and shoot jumpers, but how many teams have that guy? Not Amherst, maybe Middlebury if Matt Daley ’16 is making shots from 15-foot jumpers, sort of Wesleyan if Rashid Epps ’16 is going well, but if Joseph Kuo ’17 is in the game them Palleschi is apt to cover the latter, while Kyle Scadlock ’19 or Jack Simonds ’19 might be that guy, but as a whole their teams probably aren’t good enough to beat Tufts. So often in basketball it comes down to matchups, and it just might be that Trinity has the perfect one to exploit what Tufts can do on defense.
6. Williams (14-8, 4-4, Last week: 6)
They continue to solidify that No. 6 spot, even in defeat, as a buzzer beating loss to the Cardinals is nothing to tuck your tail over. They also just squeaked out a win over Conn. College, but the Camels are darn good, in case you hadn’t noticed. The biggest thing holding this team back is youth. Losing Mike Greenman ’17 has been, I think, an unquantifiable loss. He probably wouldn’t have put up massive numbers on the stat sheet, but his presence would have been invaluable, and we might be talking about the “top six” teams instead of the “top five” if he were still playing. As it stands now, two freshmen, Kyle Scadlock and Bobby Casey ’19, are playing starter minutes, while two others fit into the tail end of the rotation, and the rest of the rotation is pretty inexperienced, as well, with the exception of Dan Aronowitz ’17.
7. Conn College (12-10, 3-5, Last week: 9)
Sort of how I did with Middlebury, I look at Conn’s last X number of games and say, I could easily have seen this or that turning out differently and we might really have something here. Of course, you can often say that with any team, but Conn’s play has really stuck out to me. They’re young, they’re inexperienced, and they could easily fade off like most young teams, and yet they just keep competing. And I’m moving them up in the rankings, despite losing five straight games. Those five games – a neck-and-neck two-point loss vs. Tufts; a disappointing 105-89 loss vs. Mitchell College; an eight-point loss to Wesleyan, in Middletown, in which the Cardinals had to go 20-30 from the floor in the second half to win; a comeback attempt fallen short at Western Connecticut; and a lead let slip to Williams, 70-67. As the Camels get a little more mature, they’ll learn how to win those games, and by next season they could be hosting a playoff game.
8. Colby (14-8, 2-6, Last week: 7)
My Mules keep holding on. I shouldn’t call them “my Mules,” because I don’t want to play favorites (other than Middlebury), but I have stubbornly believed that they can turn it on all season long. They almost beat the Panthers, and they just got by the Continentals in the season’s highest-scoring NESCAC game. That’s just who Colby is – a run ‘n’ gun squad that will struggle against the better defenses. The bright side for them is that Chris Hudnut ’16 has been playing consistent minutes which gives them a chance in any game, and Pat Stewart ’16 has, at least for now, surpassed Racy as the best three-point shooter in the NESCAC. What’s more, Stewart isn’t a one-trick pony. As if this offense wasn’t dangerous enough already.
9. Hamilton (11-11, 2-6, Last week: 11)
Things are pretty ugly down here in the bottom trio right now, but none of these teams are quite dead yet. The Conts have a brutal weekend ahead with Trinity and Amherst coming up, but it’s not ridiculous that a 3-7 team could squeak into the playoffs, so they still have plenty to play for, and they showed it last weekend. The 15-point win over Bowdoin was consummate. Hamilton outshot the Polar Bears in every facet, matched them on the boards and only let Bowdoin ahead for the first 3:15 of the contest. The enigma that is Ajani Santos ’16 looked like an old version of himself, only better, with 25 points and seven boards. Unfortunately, the magic wore off in the game against Colby. Santos only played 17 minutes and had four points, but it was the frosh Michael Grassey ’19 bursting onto the scene with 23 bench points. Groll collected a double-double, as well, with 18 points and 10 boards, but Colby just outshot Hamilton in the OT period to pull away. This is another young team gaining valuable experience this season, and getting a playoff game would be huge for their development.
10. Bowdoin (10-10, 2-6, Last week: 8)
The loss to Hamilton really stung this weekend, and the Polar Bears didn’t put up too much of a fight against Middlebury. At this point we have a pretty good grip on what Bowdoin can do. They only go as far as Lucas Hausman ’16 and Jack Simonds ’19. Against Middlebury, that pair combined for 52 of the team’s 69 points. On the season they have scored 51.3 percent of Bowdoin’s points, by far the highest percentage for any duo (Vinny Pace ’18 and Tom Palleschi have tallied 37.6 percent of the Jumbos’ points). That can lead to some exciting games to watch, but it’s not a recipe for success, especially not at this level.
11. Bates (10-13, 2-7)
Bowdoin just creamed the Bobcats last night, but even if that hadn’t happened, Bates would probably still be in this spot. They’ve lost three in a row, seven of eight, and eight of 10. Things have really deteriorated. Bates opened the season with six straight games of 79 or more points, and had a five-game stretch where they scored 73+ four times. In the nine games sense, Bates has scored less than 70 in seven of those games, and the 73-51 loss to Bowdoin last night was probably the team’s low point. All of that is a long way of saying that Bates’ season has been in free fall for awhile. Other teams have figured out how to force Mike Boornazian ’16 into a lot of tough shots, and he’s had some bad shooting nights because of it with no one to pick up the slack. As I said before, none of these teams are dead yet, but it will take a monumental effort and a lot of luck for Bates to sneak into the postseason.
Raise your hand if you thought that, after two weeks of NESCAC play, Colby and Wesleyan would be in the bottom three and Middlebury would be looking like a top-four seed … that’s what I thought. While many of the teams are what we thought they were at this stage – Amherst (13-1, 3-0), Trinity (11-4, 3-0) and Hamilton (7-8, 0-4) on the opposite end – there are some really intriguing early season surprises. How did we get here? Let’s find out.
Conn College Forward Dan Janel ’17
Connecticut College, the perennial NESCAC doormat, came into the second weekend of league play at 10-3 (2-0). Despite an 0-2 weekend, as a team the Camels’ stock is rising. Conn’s star, Zuri Pavlin ’16, was limited over the weekend, playing 15.0 mpg, but Janel stepped up in a big way and almost lead Conn to a monster upset over Amherst. Janel had his second double-double of the season and by far his best statistical game against the Lord Jeffs, tallying 18 points and 14 boards, while David George ’17 was limited to just five points and rebounds. The Camels need Pavlin to make the playoffs, but Janel is emerging as a solid front court mate, and his size is going to be problematic for most opponents.
Colby’s Ryan Jann ’16, Luke Westman ’16 and Sam Willson ’16
Quite the opposite to Conn’s early season performance, Colby has been a disappointment since NESCAC play started with three straight losses. They’re giving up too many points, and their usually explosive offense has sputtered to less than 70 points each contest. However, the performance of this trio on Friday night against Williams was heroic. Without Chris Hudnut ’16 and Pat Stewart ’16, Jann, Westman and Willson combined for 55 of the team’s 66 points. Colby is built to rely heavily on its senior starting five, and without two of those five some reserves were forced to step into roles that they were uncomfortable with. The injury bug bit Stewart a year ago, and it appears to have reared its head in Waterville once again.
Middlebury Guard Jack Daly ’18
I have to be honest, when you watch Daly with the ball in his hands he looks herky-jerky and awkard – about the exact opposite of backcourt mate Jake Brown ’17 – but then he does things that make it clear why he’s become 30-minute per night kind of guy for the Panthers. He’s every bit the team’s point guard as Brown is. Either man is capable of setting the Middlebury offense in motion and running in transition. The biggest bonus Daly brings to the table though is his defense. Tasked with taking on the opponent’s top perimeter player the majority of the time, Daly rises to the challenge. Tufts’ Vinny Pace ’18 had a subpar first half against Daly with 2-5 shooting. Pace went on a roll in the second half and ended up with 22 points, but he is the league’s second-best scorer right now, so give Daly some slack. Bates’ Mike Boornazian ’16 was made a non-factor by Daly on Saturday with just six points. Boornazian had just two field goals in that game, the first of which came with 4:36 left in the game and Middlebury up 16. The Panthers switch a lot on defense, so Daly isn’t perpetually glued to any opponent, but he’s shouldered the majority of the load on the perimeter for Middlebury and done an impressive job.
Maybe it’s too early to make this assumption – okay, it’s way too early – but the hallowed parity that was supposed to be a staple of the NESCAC this year might be an aberration. Sure, Amherst barely escaped against Conn on Saturday, but is there any doubt that the Lord Jeffs and Bantams are the league’s top two teams, with Tufts firmly in the top tier, as well? Wesleyan is still a major question mark because of the early season injuries, but I would bet my house (joke’s on you, I don’t have a house!) on one of those three teams winning the NESCAC Championship.
Wesleyan’s Three Point Shooting
The Cardinals’ three-point shooting on the weekend: 5-38. That’s not a typo – 13.2 percent. Wesleyan was a very good shooting time last season, and it’s the same team this year, so what’s going on? Only BJ Davis ’16 is shooting like he did a year ago, but everyone else is struggling. Remember that the Cards were the No. 6 seed in last year’s NESCAC tourney, so to expect them to run through the regular season this year with essentially the same roster would have been an overestimation. Nevertheless, we weren’t expecting this. The best chance the Cards have is to get everyone healthy and get some rhythm back.
What’s going on here? Only three games last week, and a mere five in the week coming up. Not that the schedule of a NESCAC student is particularly open on a week night, but is it too much to ask for a couple of games to break up the monotony? At the least, we’ll have an interesting Amherst-Wesleyan rematch tonight. The Lord Jeffs got the important one in the league contest, but Wesleyan needs a statement win to get back on track. Maybe – just maybe – they can catch an Amherst team that showed its weaknesses in barely scraping by Conn on Saturday.
Editor’s Note: Things can be a little confusing now that the season is underway. Consider the rest of our previews as season predictions based off of a compilation of conversations with coaches and players and observations from the first couple of games. All statistics that appear next to players’ names are from the 2014-15 season.
Conn was a very young team in 2014-2015, and it showed on the court as they went 0-10 in the NESCAC. However, they weren’t a pushover, losing four of those games by single digits, and they return the entire rotation from last year’s team. The roster is still very young with point guard Bo McKinley ’16 the only senior on the team. After hitting rock bottom last year, this season has to be one that shows progress. Just staying close is not going to be enough for the Camels. Conn College wants wins, and they have the personnel to do it.
7-16 overall; 0-10 NESCAC (11th); Did not qualify for NESCAC Tournament.
Head Coach: Tom Satran, 14th season, 124-185 (.401), Conn College Class of 1994
Returning Starters: Five
PG Bo McKinley ’16 (8.4 ppg, 2.4 apg, 30.0% FG)
G Lee Messier ’18 (12.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 35.4% 3PT)
F Colin Pascoe ’18 (4.2 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.1 apg)
F Isaiah Robinson ’18 (9.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 43.5% FG) C Zuri Pavlin ’17 (13.7 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 50.7% FG)
All five starters return from a year ago, and the hope is that those three sophomores make big jumps in their second season. So far the Camels have mixed up the starting five with Daniel Janel ’18, a reserve for most of last season who came on strong near the end of the season, in the starting lineup. The Camels are not lacking 6’5″ and 6’6″ bodies, but they don’t have anybody taller than that who can really act as a defensive rim protector.
Projected Starting Lineup
PG Bo McKinley ’16 (8.4 ppg, 2.4 apg, 30.0% FG)
McKinley has been a stalwart for this team, staying on the team as others have dropped off. As the point guard and only senior on the roster, McKinley has a clear leadership role for the Camels. He is not exactly a superstar, but he also has to take on a lot of responsibility on both ends of the floor. He is not quite quick enough to drive by his defender, but he still can do a better job of distributing the ball than last year when he had just 2.4 APG.
G Lee Messier ’18 (12.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 35.4% 3PT)
Messier can shoot, and so far this year he has been doing a heck of a lot of it. He is shooting a somewhat ridiculous nine three pointers per game so far (that’s the most in the NESCAC), and he is making them at a 40.7 percent clip. That is the biggest reason why he is leading the Camels with 16.7 ppg through three games. His overall field goal percentage is lower than his three point percentage, and he has to be less reliant on jump shots. Messier is a solid two-guard besides just scoring, capable of chipping in a few assists and rebounds per game.
G Alex Tonhazy ’18 (8.4 ppg, 35.1% 3PT, 3.5 rpg)
This is the one position that is really up in the air, and the coaching staff is waiting for everybody to be healthy before really figuring out who exactly will fill this spot. I’m putting Tonhazy here because of the way he finished the season last year. Highlighted by a 28-point game vs. Trinity, he averaged 13.0 ppg in the final six games of the season, the only six games that he started. Tonhazy has had a very slow start to the season playing in just two of the three games so far and not starting either of those.
F Isaiah Robinson ’18 (9.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 43.5% FG)
Robinson has not played so far this year because of several nagging injuries, but he should be back in the next few weeks before Christmas. It will take him a little time to get his conditioning back so he might not really be at full strength until New Years. When he is healthy, Robinson is another bruiser inside with Pavlin. He did hit a little bit of a wall in NESCAC play with his scoring dropping to 7.7 PPG with a subpar 35.9 shooting percentage. He is a better player than that, and the early injuries might actually have the benefit of making him fresher for later in the season.
C Zuri Pavlin ’17 (13.7 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 50.7% FG)
The man in the middle, Pavlin is one of the best big men in the NESCAC, which is saying something given the caliber of players like Chris Hudnut ’16 and Tom Palleschi ’17. Pavlin is a grinder who outworks his opposition, and that is how he led the NESCAC in rebounding last year with 11.5 rpg. He also led the Camels in points last year, but he might see those numbers drop a little this season. Because he isn’t great at creating his own shot, he will give up some possessions to players like Messier, but ultimately I think Pavlin will become more efficient and retain pretty much the same scoring numbers. That is of course good for both Pavlin and the team. If the Camels play smaller and shoot more threes, that will also help Pavlin.
Am I choosing Labossiere just to show you that sick video … maybe a little given that the freshman has not played much so far. The coaching staff is excited about how he will grow over the four years, but this year will be a little more of a process as Labossiere gets more up to speed on the defensive schemes for Conn. He will be somewhat of a situational player with heavy minutes in some games and less in others. The early returns are promising beyond just that one video with Labossiere averaging 4.7 ppg and 3.7 rpg. His minutes might get squeezed as others get healthy, so he has to continue to prove that he is good enough now to get minutes.
The Camels are 1-2 early on, and they got their first win Sunday over Roger Williams. The key for them is on the defensive end, where they were the worst in the NESCAC last season. Nobody on the roster has identified themselves as a defensive stopper, and the lack of any perimeter stopper really hurts them against certain teams. As mentioned above, the Camels are not healthy right now, and that is not helping the team gain a rhythm early, though it is allowing some players to get good minutes. Guys like G Sean McNally ’18 and F Daniel Janel are getting a good amount of minutes, and they are going to be needed as important bench players all season.
One of the reasons why Pavlin gets so many rebounds is because nobody else on the roster is competing for them. After having one of the worst overall rebounding margins last year, Conn is right back near the bottom of the league through three games. Last year it was understandable given the youth on the team, but given that the players are now a year stronger, they should be better at holding their ground underneath.
Last year the Camels started three players (Robinson, Pavlin and Pascoe) who were NOT at all threats to shoot the ball. Many teams have four players who can pop it from downtown, and the simple arithmetic of three being more than two makes it advantageous for Conn to shoot more threes than they did last year when they were tied with Tufts for the second-fewest threes made. If they get a little more production from deep and clamp down on the boards, the Camels will knock some teams off. At the very very least, they are going to put a scare into a lot of teams.