Jack Daly’s Foul Shooting
Jack Daly ‘18 has, by far, the most responsibility on his team of any player in the league. He plays around 35 minutes a game, handles the ball 90% of the time and guards the best player on the opposing team. And this responsibility only increases late in games, when every part of the offense runs through him. Of course, this makes his foul shooting incredibly important. More often than not, he is the one that teams will be fouling at the end of close games. So when he was struggling from the line, it was a HUGE problem for Middlebury. Overall, Daly is at 68% from the line, and underwent a 7-17 mess early in the season. But, as he so often does, Daly has raised his game when it counts. In league play, he is shooting 77% from the line, and single-handedly won Middlebury’s game against Trinity at the line with an amazing 18-20 showing. And as if that wasn’t impressive enough, last night he iced Keene State as well, going 8-8. Daly is the guy Middlebury will have at the line in big moments, and the way he’s shooting right now, Middlebury wouldn’t have it any other way.
Amherst in League Play
I don’t think we’ll ever have a NESCAC season without Amherst in the mix. After looking nearly dead for much of the season, the Mammoths have roared (trumpeted?) back to life, winning three straight NESCAC games, including blowouts over Hamilton and Bowdoin. Amherst relies mostly on an excellent defense to win games; they are third in the league (behind Wesleyan and Trinity) in opponents PPG and FG%. But their offense is beginning to come around as well. Michael Riopel ‘18 is one of the deadliest three point shooters in the league, but has diversified his game nicely and is dangerous inside the arc as well. Johnny McCarthy ‘18 has had a fascinating career arc, and has reinvented himself again as a gritty paint presence and dominant rebounder. But the key to Amherst’s success (and failure early in the season) is their supporting cast. When Amherst wins, it is because guys like Grant Robinson ‘21, Eric Sellew ‘20 and Fru Che ‘21 are all contributing. Amherst needs the help, and lately they have been getting it. However, they still have yet to play Middlebury, Wesleyan or Williams in league play, so we may well be writing a different article about them in a couple weeks.
The NbN Curse
It’s starting to look like the best thing for a team’s chances this year is to not be hyped up by this blog. We put Hamilton at number one in the Power Rankings when they were 15-0 and demolishing all comers like Darth Maul, and since then they’ve lost two league games and needed overtime to beat Colby. Their vaunted offense has produced 71 PPG on under 40% shooting in the last four games, and they still have to play Tufts, Williams and Middlebury. Hamilton could fall out of the top 5, and it might all our fault. And as if hamstringing Hamilton wasn’t enough, we did a whole Game of the Week about how Bates was making a move, and then they went out and got cracked by a struggling Wesleyan team 68-50. They shot 33% from the field and 25% from three, and didn’t look especially like a team ready to make a move. If they don’t grab one upset this weekend (either Hamilton or Amherst,) they might not make it to the postseason at all. We apologize in advance to anyone who we write about this week.
Middlebury F Matt Folger ‘20 (on offense)
One of the reasons for Jack Daly’s insane amount of responsibility on offense is that Folger, Middlebury’s best scorer (better than Daly even when he’s got it all working) has been really struggling shooting the ball. In league play, Folger is shooting just 36% from the field and 25% from three. Sophomores often struggle to maintain their improvement over their first season into NESCAC play (Matt St. Amour is a good recent example for Middlebury) and Folger is certainly having trouble dealing with increased defensive attention. The emergence of Eric McCord ‘19 as a dominant post scorer has forced Folger to try and create more on the perimeter, a place where he is still not very comfortable. However, he is also simply missing good looks. They will start to fall. And Folger deserves commendation, even during this slump, for his defensive intensity. His case for DPOY has only gotten stronger during the NESCAC season. He is second in the league in blocks and ninth in rebounds during league play, and his versatility has been the key to Middlebury’s seven game winning streak despite a team wide shooting slump. Against Williams, Middlebury’s biggest win of the year, Folger had four blocks and a steal, including an earth-shattering rejection on Matt Karpowicz that I still think about every night before bed. Folger will start hitting shots, and when he puts that together with his defensive dominance, watch out.
(Editor’s Note: Folger broke out a little bit last night against Keene State, putting up 22 points on 8-12 shooting, although still just 1-4 from three.)