Hot Seat/Cool Throne: Women’s Basketball 1/12

Hot Seat:

1). Non-League Games: I remember every high school baseball season we would play a few 4:45 non-league games against a teams that weren’t in our league, so they basically had nothing to lose. To this day I question why we would play these games; the 4:45 start time was later than most of our games were, and we would start pitchers who could barely touch seventy-five in order to save our best for the league games. I know coaches schedule these games for more competition, but the talent gap is normally large in either direction. Amherst defeated Lehman College on Saturday by a score of 79-26. Why schedule this game? For Amherst, the only gain is giving bench players some time against some sub par competition (I apologize for possibly offending any Lehman College alumni). However, Amherst’s starters are so good that the best competition for the bench players stems from scrimmages against starters in practice. It just seems like a complete waste of time to play a game that yielded a fifty-three point differential. I know there’s a need for non-league games, but there has to be a smaller talent gap in these contests because it doesn’t seem like anything’s being accomplished with such blowouts. Amherst versus Lehman is only one of the many examples of non-league demolitions this season.

 

2). League Competition: The impending arrival of NESCAC games brought excitement to me, and the entire sports community. I expected close games with juggernauts such Tufts, Bowdoin, and Amherst. I was wrong. The first weekend provided less than stellar competition. There was only one game with a five point or fewer score differential. Williams versus Wesleyan finished 69-64 in the Ephs’ favor. I have two confessions here: first, I wrote in power rankings last week that Williams wasn’t playing very well. To my credit, they weren’t. Like I wrote, when the going gets tough, Williams always pulls through; it’s inevitable. Williams’ bench dominated Wesleyan’s—outscoring them 20-6. Championship teams have great benches, and Williams has proven that they’re here for the long haul. My second confession is I thought once NESCAC games began, we’d see more nail-biters. Unfortunately, we haven’t yet, but hopefully we will this weekend  (Game of the Week will appear later in the article).

3). Road Teams: The road teams during the kickoff weekend for NESCAC women’s basketball posted a stellar 2-8 record. The average fan might wonder why this is the case.  It’s not like teams are playing against the Seahawks’ 12th man, or facing the diehard, rabid Tampa Bay Rays fan base (please note my sarcasm). But as any high school or college athlete understands that playing on the road affects his or her routine. The bus ride has an effect; the visitors’ locker room feels different; the playing condition inevitably is alien. The two road victors were Connecticut College over Williams and Tufts over Colby. The Tufts’ win shouldn’t surprise anyone. The Jumbos shot 45% to Colby’s 28%. Jac Knapp, who shot 100% from the field, set the tone  capitalizing off of Mule turnovers. The squad scored twenty-two points from Colby turnovers. Conn’s victory over Williams is more of a shocker. I think Conn could be poised to make a playoff run with a conference record of 1-1, and should be in the mix for the long haul because of its mental toughness from winning in enemy territory.

Conn College pulled out a very impressive road win last weekend, knocking off Trinity 74-63.

Cool Throne:

1). Must-Wins This Early in the Season (Game of the Week): Williams at Tufts should be an intriguing matchup this weekend. Williams really has nothing to lose in this one. They’re traveling to face a favored Tufts team. I don’t think many people expect Williams to win especially on the road. Tufts, on the other hand, symbolically can’t afford to lose this game. Coming off a beat down at the hands of the Bowdoin Polar Bears, the Jumbos come into this weekend with a 1-1 conference record. What has to concern Tufts head coach Carla Berube is the lack of points scored in the paint. Bowdoin outscored Tufts 32-16 in the paint, which shows that Tufts needs to get better at driving to the basket, and converting high percentage shots. A loss this weekend— causing the Jumbos to move to 1-2 in the conference— would lengthen the gap between the second and third seed in the conference. Tufts plays Middlebury the following day, so the ‘Bos have a lot to prove going into this weekend.

Coach Berube should be able to use her experience at UCONN under Geno himself to keep Tufts dominant. Click this image for a link to a great ESPN article on the connection.

2). Bowdoin’s Clutch Gene: Bowdoin dominated the entire second half against Tufts last weekend. The first half was close, but Bowdoin really pulled away in the second. I wrote last week that Bowdoin strives to break into the upper tier of the league with Tufts and Amherst. The second half of the game proved to me that Bowdoin has the clutch gene. I don’t know in years past if Bowdoin could’ve put Tufts away in the second half. Just mentally facing squads like Tufts and Amherst is daunting, but Bowdoin proved they can not only compete, but win at the highest level. They’re now the team that has the NBC Sunday Night Football time slot; they’re primetime. Bowdoin will visit Amherst on January 27th. Bowdoin’s insane eighty-six points per game is obviously an impressive stat (more points are generally better in basketball) but it also raises a red flag for me. Bowdoin is used to playing fast, so if Amherst slows the game down and controls the tempo, Bowdoin will have a lot of trouble adjusting. There’s a lot of time between now and the 27th, however, so we’ll see if Bowdoin and Amherst remain undefeated in the league.

 

Calm Before the Storm: Women’s Power Rankings 1/4

After over ten non-conference games for the women of NESCAC basketball, the games that ‘count’ finally begin on Friday. I put count in parentheses because every game is important, but it is conference record determines playoff seeding— not overall record. Instead of traveling to unknown frontiers, teams will see familiar town signs such as Williamstown, Amherst, and Middletown. Obscure team mascots give way to ones we’ve become accustomed to: the Jumbos, Bobcats, and Panthers. Finally the alumni and non-winter athletes still enjoying winter break can boast to their friends how their school is better. Let’s take a look at the power rankings the day before conference play begins:

1). Amherst College (11-0)

Amherst comes into conference play with a perfect overall record. Only one of their eleven games was within a ten point score differential. The Momouths have simply dominated their opponents. One of the victories came over Little Three Rival Wesleyan in an absolute trouncing. Sharp Shooter Hannah Fox ‘20 has shown no signs of a sophomore slump. She has led her team in points and minutes thus far. Amherst’s strength in schedule hasn’t been great over these eleven games, but that shouldn’t take away from how good this team is. The squad opens up on its home floor against Trinity on Friday night. The strength of schedule definitely will pick up since the NESCAC is one of the strongest sports conferences in all of Division Three athletics. After Trinity, Amherst will play Wesleyan and Conn College. These games won’t be roll overs, but I expect Amherst to get to 3-0 in the league without too much trouble.

2). Tufts University (10-1)

Many Bowdoin Polar Bears fans won’t be too happy with Tufts landing a spot higher than their 11-0 Polar Bears. Tufts’ narrow loss to Albright College in a game right after Christmas doesn’t concern me in the slightest. I believe that Amherst and Tufts right now are still 1A and 1B. Every other game Tufts has blown out its opponent. I believe that Tufts has had a stronger schedule relative to Amherst and Bowdoin so far. With convincing wins against solid non-NESCAC teams, Tufts remains right there with Amherst. Jac Knapp ‘19 leads the charge for the Bo’s averaging just over ten points per game and an incredible thirty-three minutes per game on the floor.

3). Bowdoin Polar Bears  (11-0)

Kate Kerrigan
Kate Kerrigan ’18 (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

People believed that NESCAC women’s basketball is a two team league with Amherst and Tufts dominating the entire conference. Well, enter Bowdoin. After a solid run in the playoffs last year, the Polar Bears are looking to over take those two other teams. The real positive news is that Bowdoin won’t have trouble with Bates or Colby with complete blowouts over the two rivals in December. The non-conference strength of schedule isn’t great beyond those two teams. I don’t think Bowdoin has been challenged yet. They open up Friday against Bates, which shouldn’t be a big deal, but they host Tufts on Saturday. That’s going to be a huge game. The teams will inevitably meet again come playoff time, but this early season match can possibly send the teams in two separate directions momentum wise. Kate Kerrigan ‘18 leads the team in scoring, but she only logs around twenty-two minutes per game. That’s a great stat for Bowdoin, who certainly wants to make a deep tournament run with fresh legs.

4). Middlebury College (9-2)

There is a significant drop off following the top three teams, but I still really like how Middlebury has played so far. They flew to the West Coast to face the Claremont schools in a tournament. The California schools, in my opinion, offer greater competition to NESCAC schools looking to gear up for the conference season. The Panthers lost a heartbreaker in the first game to Claremont-Mud-Scripps before ending the trip with an impressive win over Pomona-Pitzer. I think Middlebury is poised to secure the fourth seed when it’s all said and done. The Panthers open up against Conn College on Friday and Wesleyan on Saturday. I think that Wes and Middlebury are two middle of the pack teams in the ‘Cac, so that should be an interesting game to watch. Maya Davis ‘20 has come into her own this year average around ten points per game and logging just north of twenty-seven minutes per contest.

5). Wesleyan University (8-2)

Olivia Gorman
Olivia Gorman ’19 (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)

My ability to watch Wes in person probably boosts their ranking a bit. They took a trip down to Nashville, and came away with a winning streak. Prior to the Nashville trip, they took Williams to overtime, and beat them. Wes is a scrappy team with hustle plays at both ends of the court leading to positive plays. Olivia Gorman ‘19 leads the team in scoring at around twelve points per game. She stands only 5’ 4”, but her determination to get to the cup negates her lack of physical dominance

6). Hamilton College (9-2)

Like I said earlier, it’s really a toss up for these middle of the conference teams. Teams four through nine can all compete and really win on any given night. Hamilton has played well so far, but the only reason why they’re below teams four and five is their schedule. They didn’t take a trip to compete against schools from other parts of the country, so I don’t think that upstate New York schools are as good as the California schools or some southern squads. Hamilton doesn’t face any of the top three teams for a little bit; expect Hamilton to win some games at the beginning, but like everyone else, the narrative will change once they run into the top three. Carly O’Hern ‘20 is a solid guard, and leads the team in scoring averaging over eleven a game.

7). Connecticut College (9-2)

Mairead Hynes
Mairead Hynes ’18 (Courtesy of Connecticut College Athletics)

Conn knocked off instate rival Trinity in early December. The Camels have used that as momentum, and have churned out a solid record so far. Again, the strength of schedule so far hasn’t been great–understandably so. The Camels play Middlebury and Williams on Friday and Saturday respectively to open up league play. I would be surprised if they come out of the weekend 2-0, but if they do, that would prove that they’re one of the better teams in this conference. Mairead Hynes ‘18 has been dominant scoring the ball (17 ppg), which is second in the league.

8). Trinity College (9-2)

It’s hard to judge teams when they’re playing such different opponents. Similar to Hamilton, the only knock on Trinity is its strength of schedule so far. I think all the teams above them have played tougher opponents. The Bantams are still 9-2, but the arrival of league games will be eye opening for everyone. Trinity is led by Courtney Erickson ‘19, who averages a very impressive fourteen points per game

9). Williams College (8-4)

Kristin Fechtelkotter
Kristin Fechtelkotter ’18 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Williams’ four losses have raised some eyebrows. One would think that those four losses would come as a result of some strong non-league opponents. However, losses to Rochester and Depauw aren’t going to cut it in this league. What happens when Amherst and Tufts come in? Williams can’t embarrass themselves. However, Williams is Williams and it’s hard to imagine that they won’t find  a way to win. Senior Kristin Fechtelkotter leads the team in scoring (13.3 PPG). The Ephs open against Wesleyan tomorrow and Conn on Saturday. Where do they travel the following week? Medford to face Tufts. That should be interesting.

10). Colby College (5-4)

It’s unfortunate for Colby and Bates that Bowdoin is their instate neighbor. 5-4 is a solid league record, but for non-league play, it’s not great. The same schools other NESCAC teams have blown out actually beat Colby or came close to beating them. It’s going to be a long season for the Mules, but at least they know they’ll have Bates below them. I feel like Colby is destined for the ten spot because they’re not nearly as good as the teams above them, but they’re certainly better than Bates. Haley Driscoll ‘18 leads the team in scoring, and is maybe the best center in a perimeter-dominated league.

11). Bates College (5-7)

As athletes, we’ve all been on bad teams. There’s nothing worse than going into a season knowing that your team is bad. I’ve been on plenty of bad teams in my life, which makes you truly understand how special the good teams you’ve been on are. There’s no circumventing this: Bates isn’t good. I don’t see them picking up very many league wins if any. It must be frustrating for Nina Davenport ‘18, who leads the league in scoring (20 ppg). She’s consistently one of the best scorers in the league, but Bates rarely backs her up with a W.

Nina Davenport ’18 has been somewhat stranded on Bates’ team this season.