No Mascot, No Problem: Stock Report 2/1

Marcus Delpeche '17 and Tom Palleschi '17 share a moment Saturday. (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
Marcus Delpeche ’17 and Tom Palleschi ’17 share a moment Saturday. (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

Amherst cemented its status as the top dog in the NESCAC with Saturday’s commanding victory over Trinity 89-82. The Purple and White led comfortably 84-70 with 1:31 left to play before the Bantams made a late push to make things a little dicey at the end. Trinity didn’t have quite enough offense to stay with the shot-making Amherst team. The game was a very physical one, with the teams combining for more than 50 fouls by the end of the game. When they make their threes, Amherst is hard to beat, and they made nine against the Bantams. The win pushes Amherst to 5-1 in conference and 16-3 overall.

Leading the way were Jayde Dawson ’18 and Johnny McCarthy ’18 with 45 points combined, 26 of those in the 2nd half. The two also combined for nine turnovers versus six assists, reinforcing that as talented players as they are, they are equally capable of sinking the team with their play. Connor Green ’16 was quiet finishing with just seven points on six shots. In times past, when Green was having a quiet game he would force the issue from three-point land, but on Saturday he let his younger teammates take the lead.

The win was a great one for Amherst, and the Purple and White now have the inside shot on hosting the NESCAC tournament. However, they are still a ways away from that happening, and the problems with this team are not going away. I think that Amherst drops another NESCAC in the coming weeks, and with Middlebury and Tufts still on the schedule, multiple losses would not be a huge surprise.

Stock Up

Point Guard Jack Bors ’19 (Bowdoin)

The Polar Bears survived in overtime against Colby in large part because of Bors coming out of nowhere to score 20 points. The 5’9″ lefty reminds Bowdoin fans of Bryan Hurley ’15 because of his toughness. Despite barely playing all season, Bors was not lacking in confidence the moment he entered into the game. Coming into Saturday, he had not scored more than four points in just one game. He wasn’t at all part of the rotation until Saturday, not playing in three of Bowdoin’s NESCAC games. Bors got time against the Mules in part because of a strong performance at the end of the blowout loss for Bowdoin against Trinity last Saturday. Coach Tim Gilbride wanted to shake things up, and with the early injury to Matt Palecki ’16, he rolled the dice with Bors. Bowdoin needed a spark to hold off the Mules in a battle that was big for both teams. Bors now will see if he can make Saturday’s performance carry over to the rest of the season.

Power Forward Rashid Epps ’16 (Wesleyan)

In a game where BJ Davis ’16 scored his 1,000 point, Epps led the way with 19 points as Wesleyan got past Conn College 87-79. Early in the season, Epps was fazed out of the offense, but he has come back in the past few weeks with very strong performances. In NESCAC games, Epps is averaging 12.3 ppg while making shots at an awesome 64.0 percent rate. A little undersized for a power forward at 6’4″, Epps is powerful enough to gain positioning against anybody. The Cardinals won again to make their NESCAC winning streak three games now. At 4-3 they are above .500 for the first time all season and suddenly are eyeing a home playoff game. Committing to getting Epps the ball is a big reason why.

Center Chris Hudnut ’16 (Colby)

One of the best players in the league, Hudnut’s past season and a half has been tough to watch because of various injuries knocking him out of games. Hudnut had not scored above 20 points in a game since December 28, missing three games since then and laboring through the rest. He looked like his usual self Saturday, dominating in the second half and scoring 33 points on just 17 shots. Twenty-four of his points came in the second half. The problem is that Colby still lost to drop to 1-5 in the NESCAC. Getting into the playoffs is not going to be easy. They lose the head-to-head tie breaker against Bates and Bowdoin, and their one win against Amherst does them no favors. The thing is, if Hudnut plays as well as he did Saturday, they have more than enough to win at least two of their final four games and give themselves a shot of making the NESCAC tournament. And if they do get in, they would scare the living heck out of whichever team would draw them in the first round.

Stock Down


The Bobcats have now lost four straight NESCAC games, all of them by double digits. Trying to figure out what is wrong with Bates is not easy, but I think it’s just a problem of the pieces not fitting well together. Mike Boornazian ’16 has struggled to find his footing as the lead man. He is averaging 15.1 ppg in NESCAC games, but he is shooting 35.2 percent from the field and 26.2 percent from three-point land. As a team the Bobcats have the worst three-point shooting percentage at 32.0 percent, and the number drops below 30 percent when you look just at NESCAC games. Obviously the loss of Graham Safford ’15 has hurt, but it is also the absence of key perimeter players Billy Selmon ’15 and Adam Philpott ’15 that is hurting this team. Those two averaged 13.1 ppg combined last year while also being two of the team’s better perimeter defenders. Without glue guys like that, Bates has not been able to do the little things to stay in games.

Conn College’s Second Half

At halftime, the Camels owned an eight-point lead over Wesleyan. However, the wheels fell off on defense as the Cardinals pounded the ball inside and shot 66.7 percent from the field in the second half. Conn College is now 3-4 in the league, but they have led at halftime for three of their losses. Blowing a second half lead is a sign of the Camels youth most likely. Closing games out in the NESCAC is hard, and Wesleyan beat Conn College on Saturday because of their experience in important games. For example, in the second half playing at home, Conn College made just ONE free throw the entire second half, going 1-6 from the charity stripe. These games are learning experiences for Conn College, and that they have them this season with so many talented youngsters is a good thing.

Middlebury Scoring

The Panthers, playing without forward Zach Baines ’19, absolutely let one get away on Saturday. A Matt St. Amour ’17 layup with 6:04 left in the game made the score 62-58 in Middlebury’s favor. The Panthers didn’t score again! Hamilton scored with one second left to win 64-62. Middlebury blew a 15 point second half lead, and the lack of scoring was tough to watch. Going cold for that long down the stretch is a freaky thing, and it won’t happen again. Middlebury relies on a balanced and deep attack, and it is usual St. Amour who hits the bucket when the Panthers absolutely need one. However, it didn’t happen on Saturday. The issue is the damage is done for the young Panthers. They will have chances to make it up, but in this year’s NESCAC where no victory is an easy one, letting a win like this one slip away hurts.

Move Over, Jumbos: Power Ranks 1/27

Shay Ajayi '16 has his Bantams rolling off of seven straight wins and a 5-0 NESCAC record. (Courtesy of David B. Newman/Trinity Athletics)
Shay Ajayi ’16 has his Bantams rolling off of seven straight wins and a 5-0 NESCAC record. (Courtesy of David B. Newman/Trinity Athletics)

There was a big shake up in this week’s Power Rankings, but that’s become commonplace in the NbN ranks. Why? Because of the five rankings we’ve put out (including this one), we’ve had four different authors. We apologize for the inconsistency, but not for the knowledge.

1. Trinity (14-4, 5-0, Last week: 3)

The last NESCAC team standing a year ago in the NCAA tournament, this year’s edition of the Bantams might be even better. They’ve improved on the offensive end (76.9 ppg vs. 69.6 ppg in 2014-15), and they’re still fierce on defense (36.7 field goal percentage allowed, best in the NESCAC and the nation) despite losing top perimeter defender Hart Gliedman ’15 and center George Papadeas ’15. Eg Ogundeko ’17 is the team’s most improved player. Always a force defensively, Ogundeko has improved his touch by leaps and bounds and is averaging 14.0 points per game. Oh by the way, the Bants are on a seven-game winning streak.

2. Amherst (14-3, 4-1, Last week: 2)

The LJs have had a rough stretch recently, losing two of three, including an out-of-conference blowout loss to Wesleyan and Colby’s only NESCAC win. Nevertheless, Amherst’s talent hasn’t declined, and they have a history of winning. All of the pieces are there. Two point guards, one capable of scoring in bunches, the other a great distributor. Maybe the best perimeter defender in the league in Johnny McCarthy ’18. Connor Green ’16, the seasoned vet. A great rim protector in David George ’17. The best three-pointer shooter in Division-III, per through January 25. And some more solid bench pieces. They’ll be just fine.

3. Wesleyan (15-4, 3-3, Last week: 6)

Welcome back to the top, Wesleyan. The Cardinals fell victim early on to two things: injuries, and NESCAC rules. NESCAC teams are often at a disadvantage early in the season because of the limited contact they get with coaches before firing it up for real. Hence, the season-opening loss to Lyndon St. Then the Cards rattled off 11 straight wins, and though they’ve only gone 4-3 since January 8 against Middlebury, all of those games were against NESCAC teams, and there were no gimmes. Wesleyan played Amherst twice, Trinity, Tufts and Middlebury over that stretch, and when they drew Hamilton and Bates they took care of business as they should. They still haven’t totally found their mojo. As documented many times here, they went through one of the ugliest seven game three-point shooting stretches basketball has ever seen at any level, but they made 13-23 last game against Bates. Coach Joe Reilly just needs to find the right rotation. Should he go back to what worked a year ago with a six-man rotation and Harry Rafferty ’17 and Joe Edmonds ’16 being big factors? Maybe, but Kevin O’Brien ’19, PJ Reed ’18 and Nathan Krill ’18 have become so important this year. I think all of that will work itself out, and the Cardinals have an easier NESCAC slate ahead.

4. Middlebury (11-7, 4-1, Last week: 5)

It’s been a meteoric rise through the ranks for the Panthers, and it makes my heart swell. I won’t lie, I had my doubts after they lost their two best scorers from last year’s team. However, I think in some ways we’re seeing an addition by subtraction scenario. Middlebury a year ago relied on Dylan Sinnickson ’15 and Hunter Merryman ’15 to find a way to shoot them to victory. Now, their team is more balanced and contributions are coming from all over the place. They have two great point guards, and on any night one or the other could tack on double digit points. Matt St. Amour ’17 is obviously a top-notch scorer, and the biggest strength he has that goes overlooked is how good he is at getting to the foul line and scoring from there (though his percentage from there so far is below his standards, he has the third most attempts in the NESCAC). It’s been a revolving front court door, but Coach Jeff Brown is getting solid minutes from whoever steps on the floor, and Middlebury fans will continue to pray that center Matt Daley ’16 is healthy enough to give 25 or so minutes come playoff time.

5. Tufts (13-4, 4-2, Last week: 1)

They have a couple of stars, but I think it’s now fairly evident that they’re not terribly deep. We knew that Tom Palleschi ’17 staying in the game was key already, but that became really evident against Middlebury. Foul trouble kept Palleschi out for much of the second half, and the Panthers actually crushed Tufts on the boards (53-44). Ryan Spadaford ’16 was also out for that game, though, which factors in. The fact is, though, that outside of the starting five, there’s not much of a scoring threat, which is why, I think, you see the starting five from Tufts playing a big chunk of minutes – Spadaford is playing the last at 23.8 mpg. Health will be critical, as will someone stepping up from the bench who can put the ball in the hoop.

6. Colby (12-6, 1-4, Last week: 10)

Colby is a bit like Tufts, only with, in my opinion, a slightly lower ceiling despite more experience. They rely heavily on their starting five, as well, and they absolutely must stay healthy. The Mules went 1-2 in NESCAC games without center Chris Hudnut ’16 over the past week or so (although the win was against Amherst, go figure). Everyone looks good to go as it stands today, and if Colby had pulled off the win over a very good Husson team last night I was considering putting them as high as third in these rankings, despite the 1-4 conference mark. Alas, they couldn’t finish the job, but I still think this team is on the rise.

7. Conn College (12-6, 3-3, Last week: 7)

Another team – and a program – on the rise is the Conn College Camels. Do-it-all man Zuri Pavlin ’17 has seen his numbers decline, but that’s only because he has some really good players around him for the first time. PG Tyler Rowe ’19 is the truth, and in case you missed it he made it into Sports Illustrated in the Faces in the Crowd section a couple weeks ago. Forward David Labossiere ’19 has been just as impressive in his debut campaign. The unsung hero of the group is forward Dan Janel ’17 who has really stepped up his game. Conn’s website doesn’t list weights, but trust me, he’s thick, and he’s ripping down 6.4 boards per game in under 20.o mpg. Pretty nice stats.

8. Williams (12-6, 3-3, Last week: 4)

It’s hard to explain, but I just don’t get a great feeling in my gut about the Ephs this year. Believe me, I will never count them out until it’s all said and done, but I don’t think they have enough to make a deep run in the NESCAC tournament. They hung with Trinity and Middlebury but ultimately lost, and tonight’s game against Amherst will be a big statement one. The loss of point guard Mike Greenman ’17 was unfortunate, because the man that I think will be the best point guard on the roster, Bobby Casey ’19, isn’t quite ready for the limelight, though he hasn’t played badly. Kyle Scadlock ’19 is fun to watch, though, and this team could be electric next year. I hope that Coach Kevin App can get some of his big men, namely Michael Kempton ’19 and Jake Porath ’19, some valuable experience so that there is a center in place to take over for Edward Flynn ’16, otherwise the four-out-one-in system will have to change.

9. Bowdoin (8-7, 1-4, Last week: 9)

I guess losing center John Swords ’15 was a bigger loss than we could have anticipated. Lucas Hausman ’16 and Jack Simonds ’19 are doing everything they can, but it’s not enough. No one else is in double figures on offense, and they’re struggling on defense. I’ll stop here, because I don’t like to make Adam upset.

10. Bates (9-9, 2-4, Last week: 8)

At 2-4 in the NESCAC, they’re still very much alive for a playoff spot, but they have their question marks. Mike Boornazian ’16 is scoring a lot of points, but it’s also taking him a lot of shots to do it. Can someone step up and help him put the ball in the basket? If they can, pairing that with their ability to put two strong rim protectors down low could make for a tough team to beat. After all, this is almost the same team as the one that made an NCAA run last year, albeit one very big difference in the subtraction of Graham Safford ’15.

11. Hamilton (9-9, 0-5, Last week: 11)

We’re sort of treading water with the Continentals right now. Take out the Tufts game, and Hamilton has lost by an average of 5.75 ppg to NESCAC teams, which means that they’re competitive but just no quite able to close the gap. This freshman class is getting a great deal of experience, though. Peter Hoffmann ’19, Andrew Groll ’19 and Michael Grassey ’19 make up a great core, and getting a few NESCAC wins would be huge for their development.

It’s All about the U … Tufts U: Tuesday Stock Report 1/12

The Jumbos have a lot to celebrate after destroying two NESCAC opponents this weekend. (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
The Jumbos have a lot to celebrate after destroying two NESCAC opponents this weekend. (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

I hate to say I told you so … but I did. Of the 10 NESCAC games played this weekend, I correctly picked the winner in eight of those ball games, and one of the games I got wrong – Middlebury over Wesleyan – was in my favor anyway because my team won.

All gloating aside, it was a great weekend of NESCAC basketball for prognosticators and lay folk alike. Predictably, Amherst asserted their dominance over rival Williams, and on the other end Hamilton slumped to an 0-2 start, although both were close games. In the middle, though, there were any number of surprises. Middlebury beats Wesleyan, then loses to Conn? And Conn is 2-0? And so is Tufts, after scoring 194 points and allowing less than 70 per game? And the Ghost of Graham Safford ’15 inhabited Shawn Strickland’s ’18 body on Friday night? Vinny Pace ’18 is a star? Ed Ogundeko ’17 is a scoring machine? This is insanity!

Stock Up:

Tufts PG Vinny Pace ’18

Pace has been putting up good scoring numbers all season and it’s gone relatively unnoticed around here. No longer. The point man had two of his best games of the season and in limited minutes because both contests were blowouts. He’s become the main initiator of the Tufts offense, handling the ball and starting the motion, which is a huge testament to his abilities with a playmaker like Tarik Smith ’17 on the roster. Pace has good size and has been finishing around the rim, while also shooting over 40 percent from deep while taking 5.0+ three pointers per game. He’s our pick for Player of the Week.

Conn College

The Camels were 0-10 in the NESCAC a year ago, and now are miraculously 2-0. They beat Hamilton and Middlebury by a combined five points, but wins are wins, after all. They were able to outlast Hamilton down the stretch by making free throws and shut down the Panthers defensively on the last possession to prevent a game-winner from Middlebury. For a team that is relying heavily on a couple of freshmen, the poise they showed in their first two conference games goes a long way towards making the Camels a contender. They still have a long way to go before they can be considered serious threats to the top tier, but this was a good start.

Middlebury Freshmen

I’ve got to give some love to the youngest Panthers. Swingman Zach Baines ’19, guard Hilal Dahleh ’19 and forward Eric McCord ’19 all played significant minutes this weekend, averaging between 17.5 and 23.0 mpg. It began in the first half against Wesleyan on Friday when the Cards opened up the game with a double digit lead. Coach Jeff Brown immediately went to the youngsters, and they showed up. The Panthers have a top four that they can rely on – F/C Matt Daley ’16 and guards Jake Brown ’17, Matt St. Amour ’17 and Jack Daly ’18 – but Coach Brown is still hunting for the right combination of guys to share minutes with that unit. Perhaps he’s come a bit closer to finding that mix.

Stock Down

Bates Defense

Bates did well to slow down an explosive Colby team, but I’m more focused on the second game of the weekend. Lucas Hausman ’16 now has 43.0 ppg in his last two games against Bates. Excuse me? I don’t know who to blame. I would have expected Mike Boornazian ’16 to be tasked with stopping Hausman, but he wasn’t matched up with the NESCAC POY very often, perhaps allowing him to preserve his energy for the offensive end. The Bobcats could have tried more zone, to stop Hausman from getting eight looks from deep, and they sent him to the line 17 times, which is not a good strategy. Sometimes, great players just beat good defenses, but when it happens two match ups in a row it no longer looks like a fluke.

Colby Offense

As mentioned above, the Mules’ severely underperformed this weekend, particularly on the offensive end. Colby scored under 77 points just once in the Mules’ first 11 games, then put up 69 and 65 on the weekend. Of course, the defensive intensity is turned up in NESCAC play, but Colby failed to rise to the occasion. On the season, Colby is averaging 84.4 ppg on 48.5 percent shooting but shot just 40.0 percent this weekend. Their opponents, Bates and Tufts, have one thing in common – a dominant interior defender. Chris Hudnut ’16 struggled for the Mules, and perhaps Colby just isn’t equipped to compete with a team that has a strong front court.

I don’t feel like picking on anyone in particular, so we’ll end the stock report there. Don’t worry, we’ll have plenty of mean things to say in the coming weeks.

2016 NbN Preseason All-NESCAC Basketball Teams

Is it any surprise that Lucas Hausman '16 is our choice to repeat as POY? No? Well, sorry to disappoint. He's just too good. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)
Is it any surprise that Lucas Hausman ’16 is our choice to repeat as POY? No? Well, sorry to disappoint. He’s just too good. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

We came to the realization this fall that no matter much we may disagree, and no matter how smart we think we are, and no matter how witty our editorial commentary may be, our end-of-year All-NESCAC decisions aren’t going to be quite as weighty as the official All-NESCAC teams. That’s why we decided to put together an extensive awards list in lieu of the usual All-League format for the football season.

BUT! We remain the one and only place to find the picks for preseason All-League honors. Now you might say, “The season is halfway over. All you have to do is look at the top scorers and project them as All-League studs.” Oh, how wrong you are. NESCAC play is an entirely different beast, and those leaderboards are going to look a good bit different come March. Don’t believe us? Wait and see. These are our predictions for the guys who will win All-NESCAC honors.

First Team

Guard Lucas Hausman ’16 – Bowdoin

This one’s a no-brainer. He was an All-American a year ago, and he’s only gotten better. Despite the target on his back, he’s scored more points per game in fewer minutes and is shooting just as efficiently as a year ago. He was the top scorer in NESCAC games in 2015, and we expect that trend to continue. Hausman scores in unique ways. He’s not a phenomenal long-range shooter and he’s not very tall. What he is able to do is shoot off the dribble and finish in all kinds of traffic. There’s always a place for a guy that can put the ball in the hoop.

Guard BJ Davis ’16 – Wesleyan

What was an equal opportunity, three point guard team a season ago has turned in to the BJ Davis show. Recall for a moment that no Cardinal scored more than 11.9 ppg last season, and it was basically a six-man rotation. This year injuries to Jack Mackey ’16 and Joe Edmonds ’16 have made them ineffective (though Edmonds has shot the ball well percentage-wise), and the Cards have had to reshape their identity as the season has progressed. Through it all, Davis has been a scoring machine. He can shoot from anywhere and go by almost anyone. He has risen to another level.

Guard Connor Green ’16 – Amherst

I hemmed and hawed over this pick for awhile, because Green has a lot of questions around him. Being the primary scorer hasn’t seemed to suit the swingman over the past two seasons. His best work was done as a sophomore when he averaged 17.9 ppg and shot 44 percent. Before all of you in LJ country pick up your pitch forks, though, recognize that I’m still picking Green to be a First-Teamer. As the best player on the best team (so we think), Green is going to be worthy of some accolades. He’s still a matchup nightmare, and a great rebounder for his position. Johnny McCarthy ’18 might be ready to challenge Green for the title of top Jeff by the end of the season, and the wealth of talent around Green might cut into his numbers a little bit, but I believe his talent will shine through this season.

Center Tom Palleschi ’17 – Tufts

What a boon for Tufts to get this guy back after a heart condition kept him out of the 2013-14 campaign. Palleschi’s light feet allow him to slip right by lumbering big men and just get buckets. The Jumbos don’t have much in the way of size around Palleschi since Hunter Sabety – as we all know – departed, so his play is that much more impressive and important. He’s no slouch on defense either. Palleschi is at or near the top of the charts in every rebounding category and in blocked shots. The one other stat in which he leads the league disqualifications, i.e. foul outs. That won’t stop him from putting up big, First Team numbers, but it might stop Tufts from going deep in the NESCAC tournament.

Center Chris Hudnut ’16 – Colby

This pick is a bit speculative, as he joins Davis as the two guys who didn’t make All-NESCAC teams last season, and right now his numbers are not First Team worthy, and it’s hard for big guys to get All-League recognition. Last year five guards were First Teamers. However, I have faith that his best is yet to come. Hudnut can be an offensive juggernaut at times (see: 38 vs. Curry on Nov. 21 and 21 vs. Bowdoin on Nov. 5). However, he has disappeared against good frontcourts, too (see: four points on 1-6 shooting against Bates on Nov. 5). There are half a dozen front courts in the NESCAC (and that’s a lot, considering there are only 11 teams) with the ability to shut down Hudnut. Can he turn up the intensity in those games, or will he fail to realize his potential?

Second Team

Guard Jaquann Starks ’16 – Trinity

The hometown hero was a First Teamer last season because of the way he lead Trinity to the No. 1 seed in the NESCAC tournament, so this might be seen as a knock on Starks, but more than anything it’s a testament to how his supporting cast has elevated its game. The offense always ran more smoothly last season when the slender Andrew Hurd ’16 handled the basketball, and he’s really taken over signal-caller duties full-time this year, starting most games and averaging 5.2 apg. Perhaps Starks is still adjusting to the different role, because his percentages are down, but he’s still an elite player and adds intensity on the defensive side as the face of Trinity’s ferocious defense. Opponents are shooting just 35.4 percent from the field against the Bantams. That’s not from three-point land. That’s from the field. In case you were wondering, yes, that number was tops in the D-III nation as of Jan. 4.

Guard Johnny McCarthy ’18 – Amherst

McCarthy was the 2014-15 Rookie of the Year. In 2015-16, he will make his first of three appearances to come on the All-NESCAC list. He’s an iron horse, playing over 30.0 mpg, something that might not cause the coaches to vote for him, but it should, and in addition to scoring and rebounding possesses the unique skill of being able to steal the basketball. Steals are something that are often a result of luck – a tip from one player turns into a steal from another – but McCarthy is a legit threat to pick pockets and passing lanes alike.

Guard Dan Aronowitz ’17 – Williams

As good as this Williams team can be, they don’t have the senior leadership that characterized the last two editions of the Ephs – from Mike Mayer ’14 and Taylor Epley ’14 to Dan Wohl ’15 and Hayden Rooke-Ley ’15, there has been a put-the-team-on-your-back senior tandem the last two seasons. Despite the difficulty of emerging from a no-pressure, third- or fourth-option role into indisputable superstar, Aronowitz is better than ever. He’s shooting 52.9 percent from the field and 43.5 percent from three while scoring 17.5 ppg. Oh yeah, he’s got 7.5 boards per game, too. Aronowtiz’s situation reminds me of Green a year ago, who was a junior leading a team devoid of impact seniors. He doesn’t have Green’s track record, but he could match the LJ’s 2014-15 stat line.

Guard Mike Boornazian ’16 – Bates

The Delpeche brothers are maybe the most fun duo to watch just because of their size and backstory as twins, but Bates will go only as far as Boornazian can take them. He has played second fiddle to Graham Safford ’15 the last few seasons, putting up solid numbers but deferring in the big moment. No more. The Bobcats are Boornazian’s team, and his current mark of 15.6 ppg could go up in conference play. He’ll tack on his fair share of rebounds and dimes as well, but this is one player whose intangibles and passion are noticeable.

Forward Jeff Racy ’16 – Amherst

Perhaps the biggest stretch of anyone chosen for these two teams, Racy has elevated his game to be Amherst’s second-highest scorer – more than McCarthy, more than big man David George ’17, more than D-I transfers Eric Conklin ’17 and Jayde Dawson ’18. Even though defenses know exactly what’s coming, they can’t stop it. Racy takes 8.7 shots per game and 7.2 of them are three pointers, which he is hitting at a 54.4 percent clip. Because he stands 6’5″, his range pulls an opposing swingman out of the paint, where guys like George, Green and Dawson do some of their best work. Racy’s ability to score in bunches will propel him to his first All-NESCAC honors.

Awards Predictions:

Player of the Year: Lucas Hausman

Hausman will repeat. There’s no reason to think that his play will drop during conference play.

Defensive Player of the Year: Jaquann Starks

This is always tough to predict. The past few years it was made much easier by the 7’0″ presence of John Swords ’15, but now there are a bevy of players who could deserve the honor, including some guys – i.e. Jake Brown ’17, David George – who aren’t even on our All-NESCAC roster. However, the honors are likely to go to someone who makes either the First or Second team, so we’re going with Starks, the front man for the league’s best defense.

Rookie of the Year: Kyle Scadlock ’19

Contributor Rory Ziomek just highlighted the best diaper dandies so far this season, which narrows down the field somewhat. The ROY battle is really a two-horse race between Scadlock and Bowdoin’s Jack Simonds ’19. Simonds is scoring at a better clip right now, but Scadlock adds the rebounding factor, and whomever wins the award will be more than worthy.

Coach of the Year: Damien Strahorn, Colby

This is basically like picking the team with the lowest expectations that will make a run for the NESCAC title. Strahorn benefits from having a five-man starting lineup of all seniors, but he’s done well to get those kids to this point. Now if he can just teach them to play defense, this will be a lock.

Holiday Power Rankings

Connor Green '16 has had his ups and downs, but he's the leader of a 7-0 Amherst squad and coming off of a 39-point performance against Babson. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
Connor Green ’16 has had his ups and downs, but he’s the leader of a 7-0 Amherst squad and coming off of a 39-point performance against Babson. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

Our effort so far this basketball season has been a little bit lacking, I will admit. As happens with this stuff, school work is getting priority over NESCAC sports blogging (somehow my mom thinks one is more important than the other. Imagine that!). Luckily, I’ve got a little window to give a quick overview of where teams are right now before they take their holiday break. I haven’t seen every single team play yet but I’m getting there.

1. Amherst (7-0)

The only undefeated team left in the league, Amherst is playing more to the level of their talent this year than it did last. As hinted at in the beginning of the year, Coach Dave Hixon has decided to go to a lineup of four shooters surrounding one big man for long stretches, including the starting lineup. He has done this type of lineup in years past, and the Jeffs don’t actually give up a lot in size since Jeff Racy ’17, Michael Riopel ’18, and Johnny McCarthy ’18 all go 6’5″or 6’6″. They are outscoring teams by 24.7 ppg so far, but a lot of that is because when it is a blowout late, Amherst’s back of the bench is still better than the teams they have played so far. Don’t get too excited when the Jeffs blow out teams by 30 because of that depth factor.

2. Wesleyan (7-1)

As many expected, the two finalists from the NESCAC championship game a year ago are the class of the league, with the Cardinals showing that their late run last year was no fluke. Their only loss to Lyndon State is a puzzling one, but it was in the first game of the season and by just two points, 80-78, so we will let that one slide. The balanced attack of last year where anybody could be the leading scorer for a given game has yielded to an attack led by BJ Davis ’16 who is averaging 19.7 ppg on 52.4 percent shooting. Davis has also kept his assist and turnover rate at the exact same as last year, so the ball being in his hands a lot has been a good thing. He also was responsible on Saturday for the game winning shot against Williams.

3. Tufts (6-2)

Nobody plays a harder season opening schedule, and the Jumbos have walked the tightrope to get to 6-2. Three of their wins have come by three points or less, though one of their losses is also by only three points. At this point last year, against a similarly difficult schedule, Tufts was 2-6 (many of those losses were close, too). Turning those close losses into wins I think is a factor of the Jumbos’ perimeter players becoming the leaders scoring-wise. It is easier to get baskets at the end of games with guards than big men. Vincent Pace ’18 (18.3 ppg) is becoming that go-to guy on the perimeter, and other guys like Tarik Smith ’17, Ryan Spadaford ’16 and Stephen Haladyna ’16 give more scoring punch out there. That has made the lack of scoring from star center Tom Palleschi ’17 (11.0 ppg) not too much of an issue.

4. Colby (5-1)

The Mules might chafe at this spot since their only loss was in overtime in the first game of the year, but they also needed a Ryan Jann ’16 three to beat a 2-5 Regis team by a point. I got to see them play on Saturday against Bowdoin, and the skill on offense is there to play with anyone. All five starters are threats to score the ball, and they do a great job of moving the ball. They lead the league with 19.5 apg, and the return of forward Patrick Stewart ’16 as someone capable of filling it up from deep is a big help. I worry about their defense which is the third-worst in ppg with 76.3. Some of that is because Colby likes to play at a fast pace, but it is still frustrating that a team with five seniors can’t play better team defense.

5. Williams (5-2)

Only one member of the rotation is a senior, two of the three top scorers are freshmen, and two starting guards are injured. Yet the Ephs are 5-2 and had an early 16-point lead over Wesleyan before ultimately losing on that BJ Davis shot. Starting point guard Mike Greenman ’17 could be back for their next game, and shooting guard Chris Galvin ’18 is also supposed to be back after Christmas. I suppose it’s better for the Ephs to be injured early on, as it’s allowing more young players to get minutes. Their game tomorrow against Springfield, a team that beat Trinity, will be another good benchmark for the young team.

6. Trinity (4-2)

Maybe this is a little bit of a disappointing start for the Bantams, but they had some questionable non-conference losses last year also and then went 9-1 in the NESCAC. Neither of their losses are particularly bad, and Coach Jim Cosgrove is also playing a very deep rotation at this point of the season. At a glance, the statistics for their big three of Ed Ogundeko ’17, Jaquann Starks ’16, and Shay Ajayi ’16 aren’t great. Then you realize that none of them is averaging more than 25.0 mpg. So while Ogundeko’s 12.5 rpg is already fantastic, it becomes flat out ridiculous when converted to per 40 minutes: 21.0 with the next closest player at 15.7 rebounds per 40 minutes. The bottom line is the Bantams have the best scoring defense and second-best rebounding margin so far. They are going to be good come NESCAC games.

7. Bowdoin (4-3)

My dear Polar Bears could have really used that win over Colby Saturday, and even though seven feels low, this is a good team, albeit with some potentially killer faults. Two of their three losses are by a combined six points. Lucas Hausman ’16 is a menace, but he isn’t a superhero. Colby did a good job in their win over the Polar Bears of harassing him and not allowing him to get to his favorite spots. Hausman still had 22 points, but it took him 22 shots to get there. For me, I’m interested to see how the identity of the team evolves. Will they become run-and-gun, completely abandoning the ethos of last year, or will they try to still retain some of that defensive identity?

8. Bates (4-2)

Bobcats fans might be a little mad at me for putting Bowdoin over them, but the Bobcats don’t have as good a win as Bowdoin does over Babson, though that Babson loss looks worse and worse every time a NESCAC team wins in overtime against the Beavers. Anyways, the loss of Graham Safford ’15 has not hurt this team offensively at all. Bates is averaging 86.8 ppg, second best in the NESCAC. Mike Boornazian ’16 is the man leading the way with 15.5 ppg. Most encouraging is that the three-point production of not only Safford but also Billy Selmon ’15 and Adam Philpott ’15 has been replaced by guys like Shawn Strickland ’18  and Josh Britten ’16. Britten barely played at all last year, and his shooting is valuable to open up space inside for the Bobcats.

9. Conn College (5-2)

Guess what, the Camels are hot right now! They’ve won five games in a row, and they just had their best win of the season over a 6-3 Eastern Connecticut team that beat Trinity earlier this week. Point guard Tyler Rowe ’19, who had 22 vs. Eastern Connecticut, has very quickly become a starter and is providing a huge spark with 12.3 ppg and 3.1 apg. David Labossiere ’19 is playing so well that the coaching staff can’t keep him off the court, and he just started his first game of the season. Some players are taking smaller roles because of it, but the Camels are playing well together. And don’t look now, but they play vs. Hamilton and Middlebury, the two teams below them in our rankings, in the first weekend of NESCAC play. Could they really open 2-0 in the NESCAC?

10. Hamilton (5-3)

The Continentals are 5-3 even though they are essentially playing without their top three scorers from last year. I say essentially because Ajani Santos ’16 is actually still on the roster and playing, but he is averaging just 1.6 ppg. He has actually been playing more and even got the start last game against Hobart. However, he scored just two points and continues to be somewhat of a mystery. If he is able to get everything straightened out, he would join Peter Hoffmann ’19 and the others on this young nucleus to make a pretty intriguing team. As it is, without him Hamilton is reliant almost entirely on perimeter scoring.

11. Middlebury (4-5)

Do I think Middlebury is the worst team in the NESCAC … well maybe, actually. At this point I can’t put them above anybody. Two of their five wins are blowouts against an 0-8 Johnson State team, but there are a couple of close losses to RPI and Skidmore. The statistics say that Middlebury is 4-5, but again that is colored by those two games vs. Johnson State. Granted, I’ve only been able to watch them for stretches online, but what I’ve seen hasn’t looked great. They have nobody who can score inside besides Matt Daley ’16, and nobody besides Matt St. Amour ’17 looks to be an average or better three point shooter. And they’re young. Daley and Connor Huff ’16 are the only seniors making an impact. We’ll see. 

No Longer the Road to Salem, but the Road to Redemption: Middlebury Season Preview

PG Jake Brown '17 is the engine that makes the Panthers go. (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)
PG Jake Brown ’17 is the engine that makes the Panthers go. (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

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.

One word describes Middlebury’s 2014-15 season: disappointment. I know that’s terribly harsh, but there was no one around the league that would have predicted that the Panthers would miss the NESCAC tournament for the first time since 2005 – especially after the team’s 9-0 start to the year. Once NESCAC play began, though, it was all downhill, and fast. Panther-killer Graham Safford ’15 once again finished off Middlebury in the NESCAC opener. In 2013 Safford drilled a three-pointer with 11 seconds left to steal a win in Pepin Gymnasium, and last season it was four made free throws down the stretch to ice a home win for Bates. Next came the Tufts Jumbos, who sent the Panthers back to Vermont with a 80-63 loss.

The Panthers finished 17-7 and 4-6 in conference. The rotation lost forwards Hunter Merryman ’15 and Dylan Sinnickson ’15 (now playing with UVM), who accounted for 40 percent of Middlebury’s points last season. Without those two in the lineup, there is a serious lack of outside shooting, and the biggest question will be how to replace two 6’5″ bodies with range and the athleticism to get to the rim.

Middlebury’s reign of dominance – eight consecutive NESCAC appearances from 2007-14; six consecutive NCAA appearances from 2008-13; NESCAC titles in 2009 and 2011; an Elite Eight trip in 2013; a Final Four in 2011 – feels pretty far in the past these days. The Panthers are going to be fighting to finish in the top half of the NESCAC this season.

2014-15 Record: 

17-7 overall; 4-6 NESCAC (t-8th); did not qualify for NESCAC tournament

Coach: Jeff Brown, 19th season, 291-174 (.626)

Returning Starters: Two

PG Jake Brown ’17 (7.2 ppg, 6.3 apg, 1.5 apg)
SG Matt St. Amour ’17 (12.5 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.8 apg)

This should really say 2.5 returning starters. The “.5” comes from F Connor Huff ’16. Huff had a 12-game stretch last season where he started every game, and early on this year he’s come off the bench in the Panthers’ first two contests but played 19.5 mpg. Huff is a bit undersized in the front court, but plays with heart and has a high basketball IQ. That’s about as cliché as it gets, but Huff is dependable and you know he will play smart basketball. He’s efficient from the field and from the stripe and will rarely turn the ball over.

Projected Starting Five:

PG Jake Brown 

Brown is a traditional pass-first point guard. His quickness and ball handling skills are unmatched, and with the way uncle and Head Coach Jeff Brown likes his teams to run, Jake Brown is perfect for this offense. He learned under the tutelage of future Middlebury Hall of Famer Joey Kizel ’13, and even though Brown is a much different style of player, he’s made this team his the way Kizel once did. I think he’s the most critical piece to the Panthers’ success, but the passing, running and defense are a given. It’s the shooting that’s the issue. Middlebury fans have heard about how great of a scorer JB was in high school, but he seemed to have lost his jumper before arriving in Middlebury. He’s worked extremely hard on that part of his game, and the early returns are great – Brown is 10-16 (62.5% FG) from the floor and 2-3 from deep. He needs to be an outside threat to make up for the losses of Merryman and Sinnickson.

SG Jack Daly ’18 (2.2 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.7 apg)

The two and three guard positions are interchangeable, and if you want to stretch the definitions a little bit, the point guard position is fluid, too. Middlebury will probably run with four guards on the floor at points this season, and they’re able to do it because they have another true point in Jack Daly. At this point, Daly is a bit like a Brown-light. He was hampered by an ankle injury for most of last season, which lead to some pretty poor shooting numbers, but is now healthy and has stepped into a major role. He’s a strong perimeter defender, too, which might provide Coach Brown with an opportunity to take Jake Brown off the toughest match ups sometimes, which could further lead to an offensive boost for the younger Brown.

SF Matt St. Amour

St. Amour is quite the enigma in Vermont. A two-time Gatorade Player of the Year and 2,000-point scorer in high school, coming from a high school so small it wouldn’t even fill up an intro econ class at Middlebury, he couldn’t have had much higher expectations. St. Amour got a good amount of playing time as a freshman, but he struggled to adapt to the college game and his shooting percentages were ugly. Then his season ended prematurely with a torn ACL in February. His sophomore campaign started off decently, but it was a miracle that he was even able to play 20-plus minutes just nine months after blowing out his ACL. It was an up-and-down year for St. Amour … until the last six games of the season. Something clicked for the sophomore, and, in the words of Coach Brown, St. Amour “dominated”. For Middlebury to be competitive in the NESCAC this season, St. Amour might have to be the team’s top scorer and be a multi-faceted threat on offense. He has the ability to shoot from deep, mid-range, and get to the hoop. He has a tendency to get into awkward positions when finishing, though, which has resulted in some brutal landings. If he can stay on the floor, 2015-16 could be St. Amour’s coming out party.

PF Nick Tarantino ’18 (3.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 0.9 bpg)

Tarantino reminds me of the guy below, C Matt Daley ’16. Tarantino has a bit more range in his game, but they’re both long and athletic. Right now, Tarantino is effectively splitting time with Huff, and I think that continues pretty much all year, but with such a guard-heavy rotation, it’s almost necessary to keep Tarantino’s height out there on the floor. At 6’7″, he can adjust shots and discourage interior passing. Can he guard thicker big men, though? And will he be able to slow down the stretch-4’s of the league? I don’t envision that being much of a problem, because there aren’t really many of those guys established in the league right now (maybe Williams’ Kyle Scadlock ’19 is that guy, but only time will tell), but it could definitely be a problem in non-league games.

C Matt Daley (8.3 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 56% FG)

Matt Daley, the perennial X-factor for the Panthers. I don’t think that he’s had a month during his entire career where he’s been healthy the entire time. He dealt with a lower-body soft tissue injury at the start of the preseason, but for now, at least, the athletic big is cleared and ready to go. Daley has a lot of finesse in his offensive game – think Tom Palleschi ’17, but more style – but he can get feisty, too. His frame reads as pretty slender (6’8″ 215 lbs), but he’s not an easy matchup for any opponent. My favorite example – the Middlebury game versus Tufts two years ago. Daley was – predictably – battling back from an injury, and so was only able to play 15 minutes, but 10 of those were some of the hardest fought minutes in the second of a game that I’ve ever seen. Hunter Sabety went 8-8 in the first half with a bevy of defenders failing to stop him. He went 0-1 in the second half and got so upset with Daley’s defense that he nearly spear tackled the Panther at one point.

Daley can be one of the game’s best offensive big men and rim protectors … or he could get hurt and miss a long stretch of games. He’ll be needed if Middlebury is to return to relevance this year.

Breakout Player: C Matt Daley

Daley has probably been my pick for Middlebury’s breakout player four years running. I think this is the year he finally makes me look good. Health is really the only question. If healthy and able to play hard for 30 minutes, he will put up numbers. Big ones.

Everything Else:

In case you didn’t figure it out, Middlebury has a lot of guard depth, but not much when it comes to the front court. Expect a deep rotation until New Year’s, as Coach Brown tries to figure out the best combination. Other guys in the mix will include guard Bryan Jones ’17, guard Hilal Dahleh ’19, guard/forward Zach Baines ’19, forward Adisa Majors ’18 and forward Eric McCord ’18.

Jones is another very athletic player. He was great for short stretches last season off the bench, coming in to provide energy, and he can shoot pretty well. However, Dahleh is more likely to amass minutes in the backcourt. The freshman can stretch the floor with a nice, lefty three-point shot, and can handle the ball if Brown and Daly need a breather, but his defense might be a question.

There is a lot of hype around the super-athletic Zach Baines. We throw around the term “athletic” a lot when talking about “student-athletes”, but if there was some kind of superlative suffix that I could throw on that word to describe Baines, then I would. Baines is “athletic-est”, if you will. He throws down with ease. He’s got about a 10-foot wing span. But he’s skinny and his game might take time to develop. With Baines at the four, Middlebury will have a tough time defending opposing frontcourts, but as the three Baines could be a matchup nightmare.

Majors and McCord round out the frontcourt rotation. I’ve gone back and forth on my prediction for McCord. Hampered by an injury in the preseason, McCord hasn’t had much of an impact in the team’s first two games, but he’s unique to the Middlebury roster at 6’7″ 254 lbs. Since the graduation of Pete Lynch ’13, the Panthers haven’t had a strong interior presence to both score the basketball and play tough defense. McCord, who hails from the same high school as Lynch, could become that player. However, with Tarantino and Daley both healthy – and strong minutes from Huff cleaning up the boards – there might not be a need for McCord right now. The Panthers have actually out-rebounded their opponents in the first two games. The bigger issue has been perimeter shooting and stopping their opponents from putting the ball in the hoop.

The beginning of the season is always tough for NESCAC teams, with games against opponents already three weeks in to practice and with two to three games under their belts. Heck, NESCAC Champion Wesleyan lost to Lyndon St. in its opener. Lyndon State! The 2013-14 Williams team that went to the National Championship lost to Southern Vermont in its season opener that year. Something about those pesky little Vermont schools … Panther fans, don’t be too disheartened just yet, but if shots still aren’t falling at the end of Christmas break, they might want to start figuring out what it will take to get Sinnickson back from UVM and Merryman from Spain. Furthermore, one front court injury for Middlebury and it could be a field day for teams like Tufts, Williams, Amherst and Bates that have talented front courts.

And lastly, I know I’m going to catch some heat around campus for being so critical … good thing it’s almost Thanksgiving break.

Putting a Bow on the 2014-2015 Basketball Season

NESCAC fans were great all season, and kept up the devotion all the way through this Sweet 16 game between Bates and Trinity at Babson College. (Courtesy of Mark Box/Bates College Athletics)
NESCAC fans were great all season, and kept up the devotion all the way through this Sweet 16 game between Bates and Trinity at Babson College. (Courtesy of Mark Box/Bates College Athletics)

While I don’t like to play favorites, basketball has to be my favorite NESCAC sport to both watch and write about. Maybe it’s the small rosters and long season that allow for story lines to develop like they can’t in football and baseball. Or maybe it’s the fact that the Bowdoin gym allows me the opportunity to sit so close to the action that I can literally touch opponents while yelling at them.

So before I go any further, I want to apologize to any players who I jeered over the course of the season. I assure you it was nothing personal, just business.

This season was a fantastic one to cover because of how unpredictable it was.  Take a look back at our Power Rankings from December 12, and you start to get an idea of how some teams’ fortunes rose and fell over the course of the season. The axis of Amherst, Williams, and Middlebury was blasted to smithereens from every direction. This was the first season since 2001-2002 that a team other than one of those three finished atop the regular season standings. Having none of them even hosting a home NESCAC playoff game would have been unthinkable just 12 months ago. Whether this year was a fluke or represents a sea change in the league is still to be determined, but the gobs of talent on Amherst would indicate that the Jeffs, at least, are likely to be back on top soon enough.

Though Wesleyan ended up winning the NESCAC tournament, there is no doubt that Trinity was the best NESCAC team this season. They were 9-1 in the league and had the #1 seed sewn up before the final weekend even happened. The only two games they lost to NESCAC opponents went down to the final minute and the Bantams had a chance to tie both of them right at the end. In the NCAA tournament they overcame a slow start in their opening round game and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen where they controlled the game the entire way to beat Bates. They honestly should have made the Final Four but ended up blowing a late lead to Babson. The Bantams didn’t play pretty and they were too balanced to have one player truly stand out.

While the league overall was deeper than ever, what the NESCAC lacked was the bona fide superstars that usually dot the landscape. The departure of talent from the NESCAC between 2013-2014 and this year was immense, and that left a vacuum. In the early going Graham Safford ’15 and Dan Wohl ’15 were the two best all-around players. They faltered somewhat as the season went along, and the balance of teams like Wesleyan and Trinity came to the forefront. Injuries to Chris Hudnut ’16 and Hunter Sabety ’17 cut their excellent seasons short and also hurt the chances of Colby or Tufts making a run at a NESCAC championship.

Then almost out of nowhere Lucas Hausman ’16 started scoring like he was James Harden using a set of moves to confound opposing defenses. Though critics said that he failed to contribute in other ways, Hausman was the clear choice for Player of the Year by the time the dust settled. Even though Bowdoin ended up missing the NCAA tournament, Hausman led them to a big home playoff win over Williams by scoring 37 points. In the process he decisively ripped away the POY trophy away from Wohl who, unfortunately, struggled offensively in his final college game.

I also want to celebrate how NESCAC students got behind their teams this year. NESCAC students are probably rightly viewed as apathetic towards their sports for the most part. While some marquee games might get students away from Netflix and into the stands, most games take place in front of very few supporters, aside from the parents of the players. This year fans got behind a number of teams. Up in Maine the Bates fans took their always fantastic atmosphere to another level while Colby and Bowdoin saw improvements from what is usually a mostly non-existent atmosphere.

Trinity and Wesleyan are also not known for their fan support at basketball contests, but by the end of the season both had significant amounts of fans at their games. The NESCAC semifinal between Wesleyan and Trinity was a back and forth affair not only on the court but also in the crowd. Ultimately Wesleyan prevailed in both contests, and a day later the Cardinal fans rushed the Bantams’ home court to celebrate their newly crowned NESCAC champions. That the uptick in fan support came in a wide open NESCAC season is not a coincidence.

Because of their massive fan support and surprise run to the Sweet 16, no team and school better epitomized this season than Bates. The Bobcats went 1-9 in conference a year ago, but we knew that they had much more talent than that returning this year. Their sweep of Colby and Bowdoin in December not only put the NESCAC on notice about this team but also how hard it would be to win at Bates. My trip to Alumni gym for that December Bates-Bowdoin game remains a personal highlight for the season because of how live that Bates crowd was. Though my beloved Bears lost by 20, I had to admire how loud the gym got during a crucial second half run that was punctuated by two big dunks.

The raucous home crowd was a huge reason why Bates finished the regular season 12-0 in Lewiston. Bates fans were shocked when Wesleyan beat the Bobcats in NESCAC tournament because Alumni Gym had taken on such a sense of invincibility. When Bates got into the NCAA tournament, the vast majority of Bates students watched on campus for the first two rounds before making the trip to Babson for the Sweet Sixteen. While I was not at the game, all accounts and pictures show an enormous Bobcat crowd. Even though Bates fell short, the game was a victory for the wider community.

Believe me, I understand the corroding effects that a big sports program can have at a college. Look no further than Duke and how two women did not want to bring forward sexual assault allegations against basketball player Rasheed Sulaimon because they feared a backlash from the rabid Blue Devil fan base. Yet if Duke is one extreme then the tepidity of NESCAC fans is another. As Aristotle and Buddha asserted, the middle way is the best, and I believe that NESCAC fans got closer to that middle ground between apathy and fanaticism where passion lies. This year was a fun ride, and I am excited to do it all again next year.

Next Year’s Cats Will Have Historic Shoes To Fill: Bates Basketball Season Wrap-up

The Bates faithful made Alumni Gym a tough place to play, and they travelled in droves to Babson College to watch their Cats face Trinity in the Sweet 16. (Courtesy of Mark Box/Babson College)
The Bates faithful often made Alumni Gym a tough place to play, and they travelled in droves to Babson College to watch their Cats face Trinity in the Sweet 16. (Courtesy of Mark Box/Babson College)

Season Record: 21-7 (7-3), lost in First Round of NESCAC Championship to Wesleyan, lost in Sweet 16 of NCAA Tournament to Trinity

It really was a magical season for the Jon Furbush-led Bobcats in 2014-15. The team won 21 games, topping the program’s previous record; won seven NESCAC games, also a record; hosted Bates’ first home playoff game since 2010; made its first-ever trip to the NCAA Division-III Tournament; won the CBB by sweeping Colby and Bowdoin in early December; and two guards, Graham Safford ’15 and Mike Boornazian ’16 joined the 1,000 point club. Unfortunately, all of those good vibrations did not result in a NESCAC or an NCAA Championship.

The Wesleyan Cardinals came into Alumni Gym and upset the host Bobcats in the NESCAC Quarterfinals, and the Cats fell short against Trinity in the NCAA Sweet 16. Nevertheless, the season ought to be considered a success for Coach Furbush. The question now becomes how Furbush replaces Safford, number 10 on the all-time scoring list, pesky guard Billy Selmon ’15, valuable sixth man Adam Philpott ’15 and fellow captain Cam Kaubris ’15. Luckily for Bates, Marcus and Malcolm Delpeche ’17 will be back to cause havoc yet again, and expect them both to spend a lot of time on their offensive games this offseason. The addition of a 10-foot jumper to the twins’ repertoire that already features high-flying dunks and stout rim protection would be scary for opposing teams. There will be a significant void in the backcourt that begs for a rising star to emerge.

High point: NCAA Tournament victories March 6-7

For a team that was very close to being left out of the tournament field, to best St. Vincent, a team with NCAA Tourney experience, and #17 Stockton was a monumental statement. The Sweet 16 game against Trinity has to be among the most important games in program history. If the Bobcats’ season had ended with a loss in the first round of the NESCAC Tournament it still would have been a nice year, but not the type of campaign that gets remembered. With the pair of NCAA victories, basketball players at Bates will be discussing and looking up to the 2014-15 squad for the foreseeable future.

MVP: PG Graham Safford ’15

Graham Safford '15 in front of the list of 1,000 point scorers in Bates history, a club that he joined on Jan. 6, 2015 in a 60-55 win over Brandeis (Courtesy of Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)
Graham Safford ’15 in front of the list of 1,000 point scorers in Bates history, a club that he joined on Jan. 6, 2015 in a 60-55 win over Brandeis (Courtesy of Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

The work that NbN All-NESCAC First Teamer Graham Safford did this season and in his career transcended the stat sheet. Safford was like a coach on the floor, making life a bit easier for Coach Furbush. And he was pretty good statistically, too: first in the NESCAC in steals per game, third in assists per game, sixth in scoring, and he tallied 5.0 rebounds per game. It’s hard to explain what a player like Safford means to a program, and like the great point guards in the NESCAC from the 2014 class like Aaron Toomey ’14 and Joey Kizel ’14, they really are irreplaceable.

Player to Watch in 2015-16: PG Shawn Strickland ’18

Shawn Strickland '18 (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)
Shawn Strickland ’18 (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

With Selmon and Safford departing, there is a significant need for someone to step up as the point guard for Coach Furbush next season. Expect there to be growing pains. Strickland didn’t play much this season, but neither did any underclassman guard not named Boornazian. Strickland doesn’t have the size that you’d like to see in a starting point guard at 5’8″ 160 lbs., so it might be too much to ask for him to replace Safford’s production from a scoring perspective, but Strickland displays top-notch quickness so he could be a problem for opponents’ point guards on both ends. He didn’t really take enough shots to put any stock in his percentages, but his 19.0 percent rate from the field and 20.0 percentage from deep does not inspire confidence. I’m not sold that Strickland is ready (or will be by next November) to run a NESCAC basketball team, but he very well could be forced into that role.

Feedback and Forecast: A Brief Look at What Went Wrong for Bates and Trinity in the Elite Eight

The Trinity defense made life really tough for Graham Safford '15 in his last game as a Bobcat. (Courtesy of
The Trinity defense made life really tough for Graham Safford ’15 in his last game as a Bobcat. (Courtesy of

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…

NCAA Sweet 16 Preview: Bates College vs. Trinity College

Game Information: Bates (21-6) vs. Trinity (22-6)

Friday, March 13, 5:30 PM

Staake Gymnasium, Babson Park, MA

Live Stats  Video

In other words, there is work to be done.

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

From 1-5, including #21 Alex Conaway '15, Trinity can defend with the best of them. (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
From 1-5, including #21 Alex Conaway ’15, Trinity can defend with the best of them. (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

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

When you get this look from Marcus Delpeche '17, you know that you're in trouble. (Courtesy of Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)
When you get this look from Marcus Delpeche ’17, you know that you’re in trouble. (Courtesy of Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

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

Jaquann Starks '15 is comfortable with the ball in his hands, but Trinity's O runs smoother with Starks at the two-guard. (Courtesy of Hartford Courant/Peter Casolino).
Jaquann Starks ’16 is comfortable with the ball in his hands, but Trinity’s O runs smoother with Starks at the two-guard. (Courtesy of Hartford Courant/Peter Casolino).

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

Bates is looking for a shot at redemption against Trinity. (Courtesy of Portland Press Herald/Gabe Souza)
The Bobcats are looking for a shot at redemption against Trinity. (Courtesy of Portland Press Herald/Gabe Souza)

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.

Final Line: Trinity 59 – Bates 52