Bowdoin (9-8, 1-4) at Colby (7-9, 0-5), Waterville, ME 3:00 PM, Saturday January 28th
The Mules and Polar Bears have a few similarities heading into this weekend’s battle for the north. Both finished in a tie at 4-6 in NESCAC last year, squeaking into the playoffs, and are both currently on the outside looking in at the playoff race. The two last place teams find themselves grasping for any sign of life at this halfway point in the conference season, and it’s pretty safe to say that the loser of this match-up will be left out of the postseason. Two 0-2 performances for the Maine squads last weekend further dashed their hopes, and both should throw everything they have at their lone game this time around. A six point loss to Williams is the closest Colby has come to a win in conference, while Bowdoin has put together a few more dynamic performances such as their two point loss to Amherst this weekend. The Polar Bears also possess the ‘CAC’s leading scorer, Jack Simonds ‘19. Can the Mules win some pride with the in-state victory? Can Bowdoin sneak into the playoffs?
Tipping the Scales:
Jack Simonds leads the NESCAC with 20.9 ppg but scored a meager nine against Trinity in a 71-53 loss. He went just 3-10 from the field, giving him unquestionably his worst game of the season. Should Bowdoin fans worry that their sophomore star won’t be the same in the second half? Not exactly. He might erupt against the Mules after a week of not playing, as he has some solid scoring pieces around him to divert Colby’s defensive efforts. The main reason for this anomaly (other than simply an off night) is that Trinity allows the fewest points per game in the conference at just 63.8. Given that Bowdoin scores the fewest points in the league in their five game NESCAC sample size, it stands to reason that Simonds wouldn’t go off against the Bantams. If Simonds shows up like usual and the Polar Bears respond the way they did against Amherst, Colby could be in big trouble.
Still on the topic of shooting, the Mules chuck up threes at a high rate (3rd most in the league), but only drain them at a 33% clip. Patrick Stewart ’17 is the leading scorer, shoots 6.7 3pt/g, but would score nearly ten points without shooting any. Teammate Ethan Schlager ’20 has really come on of late and could give his squad an advantage if he is the one throwing shots up from deep as in conference he scores nearly 10 ppg off of 3’s alone and is doing so at a 57.1% rate. Did somebody say Steph Curry in the making? The Splash brother did go to a small liberal arts college, after all.
Colby’s X-Factor – Keeping the score down:
In the Mules’ only win against a NESCAC opponent this year, the end score was 55-54. Granted, this was in a non-conference matchup against Bates, but the Bobcats shot just 30.6% from the field. In five league contests so far, Colby’s opponents have shot a scorching 45.2% from the field, which isn’t making comebacks any easier. With Simonds looming in front of them, Colby will need to neutralize a game-deciding performance. Simonds’ 32 point performance against Williams would be the deciding factor if he replicated it in this matchup, so Stewart will have a pivotal role as the team’s leading scorer (15.9 PPG) and rebounder (6.3 REB/G).
Bowdoin’s X-Factor – Get Simonds the ball:
While Hugh O’Neil ‘19, Tim Ahn ‘19, and Neil Fuller ‘17 all had solid games in the win against Williams two weeks ago, Simonds was the real hero. He did go a little Carmelo Anthony and hog the ball, but unlike the Knicks’ has-been, Simonds still dished out five assists while totaling 32 points on 24 shots and grabbing seven boards. He also went 7-8 from the line. Jack Bors ‘19 has been hot and cold recently with a solid game against Amherst, while O’Neil and company have potential but are not as reliable as the scoring champ. The game changing performance will need to come from Simonds, but will he bring it?
Who needs it more?
There’s no easy answer here—both teams are desperate. A loss will likely push one team to the bottom of the division for good as Williams and Conn College have both shown that they are capable the last few weeks. These teams both have a lot to prove, and this week won’t show the playoff teams anything important. This week is all about survival, and whichever team wins will survive for another week, with playoff hopes a little bit brighter.
Who has the edge?
Bowdoin’s lone conference win gives them a clear edge against Colby here. A two point loss to Amherst (ranked #14 currently) shows that they can compete, but can they win? My prediction is that—yes—they will win against the 0-5 Mules, but they will need a solid game to do so. Simonds and company show more depth than the other Maine team and have a better track record to show.
Colby is no doubt the underdog here, and they are going to need Stewart to shoot efficiently and make an impact on the boards. Meanwhile Schlager has to chip in offensively in order to steal this one. Joe Connelly ’17 needs to step up too, as he has made just four shots from the field in his last four NESCAC games – this has to change to get this team in the win column. If Colby is going to win, it’ll be this week, but they need the perfect storm.
Bowdoin beat the Ephs by 10, who then beat Middlebury by 24. By the transitive property, Bowdoin beat Middlebury if you pay attention to things like that. More impressively (and realistically), three of five conference games have been close for the Polar Bears (including a five point loss to Bates), giving them consistently competitive games. Though their 64-66 loss to Amherst came as a result of a blown double-digits lead, this close game against a strong team shows that Bowdoin can play ball. Colby has only kept one of their five NESCAC games within six points and have been blown out in several non-conference game this year. Bowdoin should take care of business against their Maine rival.
Writer’s Pick: Bowdoin