Can the Baby Cardinals Fly?: Wesleyan Basketball Season Preview

Harry Rafferty '17 is looking to lead Wesleyan after the Cardinals graduated some big names last year (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)
Harry Rafferty ’17 is looking to lead Wesleyan after the Cardinals graduated some big names last year (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)

Editor’s Note: While 99% of the work on these previews is done by the writers, the projected records for all NESCAC Men’s Basketball teams were decided upon by the editors collectively,  not decisions of the writers themselves. So, if you want to be mad at someone about the record projections, be mad at us.

Projected Record: 6-4

Wesleyan had a tremendously uneven 2015-2016 season. They entered league play at 11-1 and many experts (like Joe McDonald and I) were calling them the best team in the league. But their performance in league play told a very different story. They finished at 5-5 and lost in the quarterfinals to eventual champion Middlebury.  Over the course of NESCAC play last season, Wesleyan both beat Amherst by 27 points and lost to Colby by 9. The Cardinals enter this season looking to recover from the discouraging end to last season. However, they have an uphill battle ahead of them. Among the losses they suffered in the offseason were BJ Davis, an All League point guard who was the heart, soul, crunch-time scorer and sick tip-slam aficionado of Wesleyan’s team. They also lost starting forward and rim protector Rashid Epps, and gritty, defensively minded guards Jack Mackey and Joe Edmonds. The importance of these players, particularly Epps and Davis, cannot be overstated.  But do not by any means count out the Cardinals. They have several players waiting in the wings (so to speak), eager to prove that the new generation can improve on the old one.

2015-2016 Record: 18-7, 5-5; lost to #4 seed Middlebury in quarterfinals of NESCAC tournament

Coach: Joe Reilly, 9th season, 108-91

Starters Returning:

Forward Joseph Kuo ‘17 (11.1 PPG, 7.0 REB/G, 1.0 BLK/G)

Guard Harry Rafferty ‘17 (7.6 PPG, 1.5 AST/G, 0.8 STL/G)

Key Losses:

Guard BJ Davis ‘16, started 25/25 games (16.4 PPG, 2.7 AST/G, 1.4 STL/G)

Forward Rashid Epps ‘16, Started 25/25 games (9.5 PPG, 6.3 REB/G, 0.8 BLK/G)

Guard Jack Mackey, Started 16/25 games (8.1 PPG, 4.1 AST/G, 0.6 STL/G

Projected Starting Five

Guard Harry Rafferty ‘17

Harry Rafferty '17 (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)
Harry Rafferty ’17 (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)

Along with Kuo and forward PJ Reed ‘17, Rafferty is the senior statesman of the Wesleyan team.  A gritty defensive specialist, Rafferty paired up with Davis and Mackey to give Wesleyan one of the deepest, most experienced backcourts in the league. Now Rafferty is the only one left, and he may need to step his offensive game up this season to make up for the loss of his colleagues. Rafferty shot 39.2% last year on only six shots per game, four of which were threes. Rafferty can expect an uptick in shot attempts, and will need to make the most of those opportunities if Wesleyan wants to continue their success.

Guard Salim Greene ‘19

Salim Green '19 (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)
Salim Green ’19 (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)

Many coaches throughout NESCAC were disappointed when Salim Greene chose Wesleyan before his freshman season.  Greene was one of the highest touted recruits in recent NESCAC memory, and drew wide interest from the league’s elite, such as Middlebury and Amherst. However, Greene’s freshman season was derailed by a concussion suffered in training camp.  He was never able to get in the rhythm of Wesleyan’s offense, and was buried behind Wesleyan’s many talented, more experienced guards.  But Greene is healthy, and much of his competition has moved into the ever-blackening, vociferous hellscape of the real world (having some senior year stresses, don’t mind me.)  Green is tremendously quick and an excellent shooter, and has the potential to be a defensive force on the perimeter.  He is the best candidate to don BJ Davis’s mantle as lead guard.

Guard Kevin O’Brien ‘19

Kevin O'Brien '19 (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)
Kevin O’Brien ’19 (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)

O’Brien was one of the pleasant surprises of the 2015-2016 season, overtaking Salim Greene as Wesleyan’s most impressive freshman.  He came on at the end of the season to start 9 games, averaging 3.8 points per game on 44% shooting in just 15 minutes per game.  At 6’5”, he has tremendous size for a guard, and showed the ability to use it to punish smaller defenders in the post and on the boards. O’Brien even showed a nice shooting stroke which should benefit from more reps this preseason.  With his size and versatility, O’Brien has the potential to be a classic NESCAC forward/guard combination in the mold of Lucas Hausman and (if I may hop in the time machine for a moment) Willy Workman from Amherst and Tim Edwards from Middlebury.

Forward Joseph Kuo ‘17

Joseph Kuo '17 (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)
Joseph Kuo ’17 (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)

Kuo enters this season with the most responsibility of any Cardinal other than the Pope. He must both take BJ Davis’s place as the leading scorer AND Rashid Epps’ place in the middle of the defense and on the boards. Kuo averaged 11 points and 7 rebounds per game last season, despite battling a torn meniscus which sapped much of his mobility on both sides of the ball.  Kuo was able to use a delicate touch and good footwork in the paint to shoot nearly 50% from the floor, and a full recovery from his knee injury should allow him to emerge as a force on both sides of the ball.  Look for Kuo as a dark horse POY candidate this season, if Wesleyan runs much of its offense through him in the post.

Forward Nathan Krill ‘18

Nathan Krill '18 (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)
Nathan Krill ’18 (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)

Krill’s contributions on the court last season mirrored his hairstyle: highly energetic and very versatile. Krill provides the Cardinals with energetic rebounding and defense, but don’t let that sell short his offensive talents.  Krill shot just under 50% from the field, many of those coming on midrange jump-shots.  With greater playing time and freedom within the offense, Krill has the talent to extend his range to the three point line, giving Wesleyan a rare forward that can stretch the floor without sacrificing interior defense.

Breakout Player: Kevin O’Brien ‘19

O’Brien looks the part of a star, particularly in NESCAC.  He is tall and lanky, with long arms that allow him to guard multiple positions and rebound as well as many forwards.  It will be a major key (bless up) for O’Brien to develop a threatening outside shot, as Wesleyan does not have a ton of three point threats on the roster.  If he can do this, O’Brien has the size and skillset to be part of the next generation of NESCAC stars.

Everything Else:

Wesleyan certainly lost a lot of talent this offseason, but this may be a blessing in disguise.  Hidden behind the talented senior class that the Cardinals lost was a deep freshman class waiting to emerge.  Salim Greene and Kevin O’Brien made minor contributions last season when they got playing time, but they are far more talented than the roughly 15 minutes per game they played last season.  The departure of BJ Davis and Jack Mackey should allow that talented young backcourt to step forward and show what they can do.

The 2016-2017 season gives Wesleyan the opportunity to remake the style they play in.  When they struggled last season, it was often because their offense slowed down and they relied too much on BJ Davis going one on five. Epps also slowed them down with his lack of offensive moves in the paint. Nathan Krill’s insertion into the starting lineup gives them a mobile big man who can run the floor along with Salim Greene and Harry Rafferty.  Kuo should be considerably more mobile now that his knee has healed, and Kevin O’Brien is both big enough to help rebound and fast enough to get out on the break. We could see a far more explosive Wesleyan team than we did last season, which will help them match up with the other offense oriented teams in NESCAC such as Middlebury and Amherst.

An area in which Wesleyan will have to exceed expectations is their bench play.  Many of the players that made Wesleyan so deep last season now must slide into starting roles to make up for graduated seniors, leaving the bench very young. PJ Reed ‘17 provides a versatile set of skills on the second unit, but he will need to be more of a threat offensively than he was last season (he shot only 34.2% from the field.) Sophomore Jordan Bonner could be a wild card. He is known throughout the conference as a tremendous athlete, but is very raw in most other areas. If he can make significant strides in the finer points of the game, he could be crucial in giving Wesleyan some explosive offense from the second unit.  

Other than those two returners, Wesleyan’s bench, much like the library on a Friday afternoon, is primarily populated by freshman. Wesleyan has a large first year class this season, all of whom have the opportunity to compete for playing time.  Elijah Wilson ‘20 is the only true guard in the freshman class, and could be valuable as a three point threat.  The Cardinals also brought in two big men in David Dixon ‘20 and Justin Bergeron ‘20, both of whom are in the running for the backup big man spot vacated by Nathan Krill. In a league as deep as the NESCAC, it is imperative to have a solid second unit, and right now Wesleyan has considerable question marks in that area.

Wesleyan, and the rest of the league as well, benefits from a potentially far more stratified NESCAC this season.  The loss of Lucas Hausman from Bowdoin and Mike Boornazian from Bates creates a defined bottom tier, comprising most likely of the Maine schools and Hamilton.  Therefore, we may see far less upsets, allowing Wesleyan to play a considerably easier schedule. But, quite simply, they are also still a very good team. Wesleyan has the tools to not just survive the departure of those senior stars, but begin a new, even more successful era of Cardinal hoops.

Home Teams Sweep Weekend: Stock Report 2/22

Connor Green '16 played like a superstar with 29 points in Amherst's Quarterfinal victory on Saturday. (Courtesy of
Connor Green ’16 played like a superstar with 29 points in Amherst’s Quarterfinal victory on Saturday. (Courtesy of

What has appeared to be a pretty chaotic NESCAC season suddenly got a lot more clear when the top four teams all pulled out wins in the NESCAC quarterfinals. It wasn’t that clear cut, considering that Colby led Trinity for a good 30 minutes of their game and Bowdoin was down three points with under six minutes to play. Still, the top four teams won, and a big reason for that is the impact of home court advantage.

Trinity, Amherst, Tufts and Middlebury combined to go 18-2 in their NESCAC home games. And those two losses both came at the hands of a fellow top four team with the Bantams knocking off the Jumbos in Medford and Amherst beating Trinity in Hartford. The biggest upsets of the regular season all came on the road: Middlebury falling to Hamilton, Colby topping Amherst, and Bowdoin getting the best of Wesleyan (not that big of an upset in hindsight but still).

Winning on the road is hard, even when there aren’t big raucous crowds to deal with. Athletes are creatures of comfort, and whether it’s the ability to have the same pregame routine or the familiarity of shooting in your home gym, teams undoubtedly do better at home at this level. As an aside, this makes Wesleyan’s championship run last year with two road and one neutral site wins all the more impressive.

Stock Up

SG Matt St. Amour ’17 and PF Adisa Majors ’18 (Middlebury)

Pepin Gymnasium was ROCKING on Saturday, and these two were supplying a lot of the fuel for the crowd to feed off of. After two subpar shooting performances last weekend, St. Amour did not hesitate from long distance early scoring 19 points in the first half as the Panthers built a substantial lead. As he cooled off in the first half, Majors took over, scoring 16 enormous second half points. Eleven of those points came in the final 5:30 of the game. After Nathan Krill ’18 pulled Wesleyan to within five points at 68-63, Majors scored the next six points for the Panthers to get the lead back up to 74-65. The difference in play from Majors this season from last year when he was a seldom used backup has been incredible. The sophomore works his butt off, has a really nice touch around the rim, and is a great mid-range shooter.

Forward Connor Green ’16 (Amherst)

Green has OWNED the Polar Bears over the past two seasons. In four games against Bowdoin, he averaged 24.0 ppg. That includes a clunker in the NESCAC semifinals last year when he had just seven points on 3-14 shooting. That didn’t matter though as Amherst won that game easily 76-56. In the other three games, Green has been sizzling hot from deep, going 19-36 (52.8 percent) on what have been very high difficulty shots. On Saturday, Green finished with 29 points, four rebounds, three assists and no turnovers. His big performance helped Amherst overcome subpar games from Jayde Dawson ’18 and Jeff Racy ’17. I have no idea how Green is going to play next weekend: he could either shoot Amherst out of the tournament or carry them to a NESCAC title. Regardless, I think that Saturday reminded us that he is still Amherst’s best scorer, and it clinched Green’s spot on the All-NESCAC First Team.

Tufts’ Offensive Balance

It is no secret that the Jumbos work their offense through Tom Palleschi ’17, but the junior center is not capable of being the scoring threat that some of the perimeter scorers in the league can be. The offense for Tufts works because all five starters are capable of creating their own shot. And even though Palleschi doesn’t shoot threes very often, he is shooting 45.5 percent from three this season. That means that every Tufts starter is also capable of hitting the three. That puts a lot of strain on a defense. On Saturday, four of the five Jumbo starters were in double figures (the other, Ryan Spadaford ’16, had 8 points), and each of them made a three pointer to boot. The downside for Tufts is that their bench has become somewhat of a non-factor down the stretch. That starting five will have to carry them next weekend.

Stock Down

Wesleyan Cardinals

What a weird season for Wesleyan. They were great against an admittedly soft non-conference schedule to rip off an 11-game winning streak heading into the conference season. Then they started 1-3 in NESCAC before winning their next five games (all vs. NESCAC teams) at home. Would it surprise you if I told you the Cardinals losses in their final three games were all on the road? Wesleyan was #7 in the last regional rankings, and it’s extremely unlikely they get an at-large bid.

On Saturday the fight that Wesleyan possesses was clear even though they fell short. They got a big performance from Harry Rafferty ’17 to come back in the second half. The game looked to be over with just over a minute left and Middlebury holding a nine-point lead. Then BJ Davis ’16 and Jack Mackey ’16 hit two absolutely ridiculous threes to pull the lead back to five points. However, that was as close as Wesleyan would get. The season didn’t go quite as planned for the defending champions, but you have to admit that they went down fighting.

Williams Passing

Some fans of the Ephs have been bemoaning the combined inability of Williams to get assists and not turn the ball over for much of the season. And I haven’t bought into those complaints until Saturday. In the second half, there was a stretch when Williams seemed to be turning the ball over on every possession. And when they didn’t, they weren’t able to generate any good shots. The Ephs finished the game with 15 turnovers and 10 assists. For the season, Williams finished last in the NESCAC averaging as a team 13.4 apg. The offense that Coach Kevin App runs is one predicated on constant cutting and screening, but it wasn’t great at creating good looks inside. The Ephs instead took a lot of threes, the second most in the NESCAC. The return of PG Mike Greenman ’17 from injury next season will do this offense a lot of good.

Colby Seniors

Expectations for Colby were high entering the season. The six Colby seniors were all good NESCAC players, and Chris Hudnut ’16 is one of the five best players in the league when healthy. On the other hand, all this class has to show on a NESCAC level is four consecutive eighth place finishes and subsequent first round exits. A bunch of factors held the Mules back the last two seasons, and there is no denying that Colby was a good team this year capable of knocking off anybody. On the other hand, the Mules failed to ever really deliver on their promise as a team. Now that this group of seniors is graduating, the Mules are going to be in deep trouble next season.

The game against Trinity was a microcosm of that promise. They were in control for much of the game, leading by as many as 12 points. Ultimately, the Bantams came back and enforced their will in the second half. Colby was bothered by the defensive intensity of Trinity, and on the other end they forced just one turnover from the Bantams in the half. What doomed the Mules was that Trinity went back to what works for them: being physical and getting inside. In the first half Trinity shot zero free throws (neither did Colby which is somewhat incredible). However, in the second half the Bantams got to the line 20 times and made 16 of them.

NESCAC Quarterfinal Preview: #5 Wesleyan at #4 Middlebury

The Panthers are back in the NESCAC playoffs, and looking to beat Wesleyan for the 14th straight time. (Courtesy of Michael Borenstein/Middlebury Campus)
The Panthers are back in the NESCAC playoffs, and looking to beat Wesleyan for the 14th straight time. (Courtesy of Michael Borenstein/Middlebury Campus)

The last Cardinals victory over Middlebury came on Jan. 15, 2005. That’s 13 meetings, and one other NESCAC quarterfinal. Last season’s loss to the Panthers seemed to galvanize Wesleyan on their eventual championship run. This season’s game was a huge upset to start the season, as Wesleyan was expected to be near the top of the heap and Middlebury looked like a rebuilding project. Almost two months later, it’s hard not to see the Panthers as the favorite in this game. Playing at home is nice, a new frontcourt threat has emerged (more on that later), and Wesleyan is coming off of a shocking weekend where they dropped a pair of contests to Colby and Bowdoin. Will the Cards turn the tide today? It won’t be easy.

Last time they played: Middlebury 86 – Wesleyan 76, Jan. 8 at Wesleyan

It was a disastrous start for Middlebury. The Cardinals went up 14-2 in less than five minutes. Moments later, Middlebury coach Jeff Brown swapped out a few starters for his trio of freshmen, and the game completely changed. Eric McCord ’16, Zach Baines ’16 and Hilal Dahleh ’16 stopped the bleeding and helped the Panthers clamp down defensively. When McCord subbed out six minutes later it was a 20-14 Wesleyan lead, and later back-to-back Dahleh treys tied the game at 30-apiece. The second half was a battle, but a Middlebury onslaught to the tune of a 16-5 run in the final 3:25 proved to be the difference. In the end, Matt St. Amour ’16 was the Panthers’ top scorer, which is par for the course, but the 30 points received from McCord and Dahleh absolutely changed the game. On the flip side, 17 bench points from Joe Edmonds ’16 kept Wesleyan in the game, which leads to …

Wesleyan X-factor: G Joe Edmonds

Joe Edmonds '16
Joe Edmonds ’16

Edmonds and guard Harry Rafferty ’17 have had to adjust to slightly reduced roles this season. In 2014-15, six Cardinals played over 22.0 mpg, Edmonds and Rafferty included, and that duo started more games than not. The Cardinals have a lot more depth this season, and Rafferty and Edmonds have had to work off of the bench for the most part. Edmonds hasn’t had a great, high-volume shooting night since that evening against Middlebury. He has tallied 10, 11, 10 and 11 again in a handful of games, but otherwise has only taken a few shots and been held to single digits. The Cardinals are going to get plenty of points from guards BJ Davis ’16 and Jack Mackey ’16, but can Edmonds step up and chip in double digits off the bench while stretching the floor? A year ago, that was a no-brainer. Now, the answer is up in the air. Edmonds posted a 41.1 percent mark from behind the arc a year ago; he’s at 30.1 percent this season. Which Edmonds shows up today?

Middlebury X-factor: C Matt Daley ’16

Matt Daley '16 (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)
Matt Daley ’16 (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but Daley might be the most gifted big man in the NESCAC. He just can’t stay healthy, through no fault of his own. He’s had so many issues this season – a soft tissue strain in his groin, a foot injury, concussion symptoms, and plain old illness that kept him out last weekend. So he never turned into the 20-10 guy that pundits believed he could be. He’s still a force when he’s in there. Daley is currently sixth in the NESCAC in field goal percentage, and the defensive end/rebounding is where he really shines. The big man rips down 7.8 boards per game in under 22.0 mpg. Imagine if he was actually healthy for all of those minutes, too, not nursing injury after injury. For what it’s worth, Daley ranks 13th in the NESCAC in points per 40 minutes, which is a testament to his importance when in the game. Wesleyan has two big guys who are athletic scoring threats in Joseph Kuo ’17 and Rashid Epps ’16 and Daley will be needed in order to stifle that pair.

Three Questions

1. How will Wesleyan shoot the ball from behind the arc?

If you’ve been reading along all year, you know that I’ve been fixated on the Cardinals (in)ability to shoot the three. They’re stacked with guys with great pedigrees who have underperformed in that regard this season. Wesleyan has taken the fifth-most three point attempts in the NESCAC, but is only making 32.3 percent of them (10th in the NESCAC). There was one hilariously bad four-game stretch against Amherst twice, Trinity and Tufts when Wesleyan shot 12-80 (15 percent) from deep. They went 8-22 (36.4 percent) in the last game against Middlebury. But of course, sports is a “What have you done for me lately?” business. Still, the recent returns aren’t much better. The Cards have upped the frequency with which they’re shooting treys recently, but not making any more of them. They are 22-81 (27.2 percent) over the last three contests. Will they be able to get open threes and make them today? Maybe, but Middlebury has a lot of length on the defensive perimeter. Jack Daly ’18 will give some trouble to Davis and Mackey, as well the super-long Zach Baines ’19.

2. Who wins the frontcourt battle?

Kuo and Epps vs. Daley and Adisa Majors ’18. The Wesleyan frontcourt is skilled brings a combination of size and speed. For Middlebury, Daley has the speed and length, while Majors has the brute strength. It’s an interesting match up, because I don’t know who has the advantage. Is it the pair of well-rounded forwards? Or can Daley and Majors work together to play as one shot-rejecting, block-defending, rim-protecting super-basketball-hero? Also in the mix are Wesleyan’s Nathan Krill ’18 – high motor, good length, and a work horse – and Connor Huff ’16 – high basketball IQ, and a good shotmaker. Lastly, Middlebury’s Zach Baines is sometimes employed as a stretch-4 type. That could be extremely problematic for Wesleyan, because Epps isn’t going to be quick enough to stop him on the perimeter.

3. Can someone other than Matt St. Amour put the ball in the hoop for Middlebury?

St. Amour has been a marked man since he started the conference season so strongly, and there hasn’t been a consistent second scorer for the Panthers. Sometimes it has been Daley, recently it’s been Majors, and a few times it’s been Baines or point guard Jake Brown ’17. My worry is that everyone will look to defer too much and no one will get the job done. Baines (7.1 ppg) has never played in a NESCAC playoff game, neither has Jack Daly (7.1 ppg) or Majors (6.9 ppg). If Daley can stay on the court for 25 minutes, I think he’s going to get a lot of usage and some big buckets, and subsequently Majors might see a few less minutes, but in those minutes he should be effective as well. On the perimeter, you’re not going to get one guy scoring a lot of buckets alongside MSA. Coach Brown likes to throw everyone in in the first half and feel out the flow of the game, so Hilal Dahleh or Bryan Jones ’17 are among those who could make a surprise impact with a couple of big shots early.

What to Expect

A lot of points. It might be a bit under the radar, but Wesleyan actually has the best field goal percentage defense in the league (38.1 percent) and the third-best points per game average defensively (68.1 percent), and still the Panthers ran up 86 points in their last meeting. Especially with Middlebury playing at home, Coach Brown is going to instruct his nephew, the younger Brown, to push the pace and get Wesleyan running. Tiring out the Cardinals’ high-usage starters, i.e. Davis and Mackey, is the key to testing out that depth. The Cardinals have won plenty of high-scoring games this year, though, so it won’t be easy to run them out of the gym. I think that Wesleyan will try to beat up on Matt Daley whenever he gets the ball down low and neutralize that second scoring threat that I just talked about above, forcing the Panthers to find someone else to score the ball. And, of course, both teams will lock onto the opposing superstar: Middlebury on BJ Davis and Wesleyan on Matt St. Amour. The Panthers are usually a switching team around the perimeter, but expect Jack Daly to man up with Davis to start. On the opposite end, my guess is that youngster Kevin O’Brien ’19 is tasked with covering St. Amour. I think the height advantage that St. Amour would have over Davis or Mackey would lead to a lot of easy buckets. That means that Edmonds will also be called on to cover St. Amour off of the bench.

It’s the No. 4-No. 5 game, so it should be a close one. I, of course, have somewhat of a vested interest here, so I apologize if my prediction waxes a little fanatical.

Prediction: Middlebury 75 – Wesleyan 70

Last Ditch Effort: Power Ranks 2/10

The celebration was short-lived for the Bobcats on their senior night, and they'll need to find some inspiration if they are going to make the NESCAC playoffs. (Courtesy of Josh Kuckens/Bates College)
The celebration was short-lived for the Bobcats on their senior night, and they’ll need to find some inspiration if they are going to make the NESCAC playoffs. (Courtesy of Josh Kuckens/Bates College)

Being on break this past weekend, I followed the NESCAC action from afar even as my Middlebury classmates played their final regular season home games in Pepin Gymnasium. What stood out to me over the weekend was the continued separation between the top five and bottom six, and the Cardinals darkened that line with a buzzer-beating win over the sixth-place Ephs. As usual, though, there were close games even between the “elite” and the “also-rans”, but in this case all of big favorites won their games. So, while there is a little bit of variation in the top and bottom tier, there will be no teams crossing that chasm until one of the bottom feeders can emerge as a consistent adversary.

1. No. 19 Amherst (18-4, 6-2, Last week: 1)

Yes, they lost to Tufts, and yes, it wasn’t particularly close, but let’s not overreact. Look, Amherst isn’t a perfect team, and they might slip up here and there, but I still hold them as the favorite as of this posting today. Not to excuse Amherst from that game, but Tufts was at home, and the Jumbos shot 8-20 from three, and in case you forgot, Amherst is leading the world in three-point field goal percentage defense (27.4 percent allowed), so that’s anomalous. What’s more, Jeff Racy ’17 is in an epic slump right now (he was 0-6 from deep against Tufts), and I think that actually bodes well for Amherst going forward for two reasons. Racy’s slump has highlighted the ability of Connor Green ’16, Jayde Dawson ’18 and Johnny McCarthy ’18 to put up big points on any given night. They don’t need one guy to score 20 per game for them to win. Secondly, Racy is going to come back. He might not shoot near 60 percent from beyond the arc as he did early in the season, but he won’t go 0-6 very often, either. This team is still very good. As Adam pointed out though, the rotation continues to shorten, so the lack of bench production from the Purple and White remains a concern.

2. Trinity (16-6, 7-1, Last week: 2)

Two games, two easy wins, and one over the Amherst-slaying Tufts Jumbos in Medford. Even with Ed Ogundeko ’17 hampered, Trinity cleaned up the boards in both games. In stark opposition to Amherst, Trinity can get scoring from everyone up and down the lineup, which, in the end, might be the reason that Trinity prevails in a back-to-back NESCAC Semis and Finals scenario. For now, though, the head-to-head loss to Amherst still speaks loudly, and even though Tufts went on to beat Amherst the night after losing to Trinity, there’s the fact that the Jumbos may have been in panic mode and needing a win over Amherst. Don’t underestimate a team in a must-win situation.

3. Middlebury (14-8, 6-2, Last week: 5)

Spots 3-5 have become so muddled, but I took a glance over the Panthers last eight games and realized that if Andrew Groll ’19 hadn’t canned that short jumper as time expired to beat the Panthers, they’d be a lock for this spot and be 7-1 in conference play. Now, of course, we can’t just ignore that said nail in the coffin happened, that Middlebury has also fallen to Conn. College, that they only beat Colby by two points last Friday at home, and they haven’t yet played Amherst or Trinity. Still, as it stands today, they’re looking pretty good. They seem to have a bit of a fighter’s mentality this season, whereas in years past there was more of a sense that if the star wasn’t playing well or they were down at half, that you could write it off. Not anymore. I don’t have much wealth to wager these days (especially after some sour Super Bowl bets), but I’d put down a few bucks on Middlebury going 1-1 this weekend against the top two teams, which would mean a home playoff game in Pepin Gym.

4. No. 20 Wesleyan (18-4, 5-3, Last week: 3)

As I said in last week’s ranks, things are trending up for the Cardinals, so why did they move down a notch? Simply put, things are so close between Middlebury, Wesleyan and Tufts, and head-to-head scores move the needle ever so slightly. Tack on a nailbiter against Williams, a team that the Cards should beat handily on paper, and Wesleyan drops to No. 4. Still, the contributions of Jack Mackey ’16 and the solid eight-man rotation continue to give me confidence in this team. Their ability to pull out the victory against Williams suggests that they are a mature team, and that’s the difference between them and a green Ephs squadron.

5. No. 25 Tufts (17-5, 6-3, Last week: 4)

The win over Amherst and loss to Trinity sum up to a pretty par for the course weekend. Good for the Jumbos, as a 2-0 performance would mean bye-bye home game, but they were able to stay in the conversation with one win. In the loss to the Bantams, they breakout of Shay Ajayi ’16 is troublesome for Tufts. How was Tom Palleschi ’17, by far the league’s best shot blocker and a tough interior defender, not able to slow down Ajayi? Perhaps the key to beating Palleschi is to give the ball to someone quick who can step away from the basket and shoot jumpers, but how many teams have that guy? Not Amherst, maybe Middlebury if Matt Daley ’16 is making shots from 15-foot jumpers, sort of Wesleyan if Rashid Epps ’16 is going well, but if Joseph Kuo ’17 is in the game them Palleschi is apt to cover the latter, while Kyle Scadlock ’19 or Jack Simonds ’19 might be that guy, but as a whole their teams probably aren’t good enough to beat Tufts. So often in basketball it comes down to matchups, and it just might be that Trinity has the perfect one to exploit what Tufts can do on defense.

6. Williams (14-8, 4-4, Last week: 6)

They continue to solidify that No. 6 spot, even in defeat, as a buzzer beating loss to the Cardinals is nothing to tuck your tail over. They also just squeaked out a win over Conn. College, but the Camels are darn good, in case you hadn’t noticed. The biggest thing holding this team back is youth. Losing Mike Greenman ’17 has been, I think, an unquantifiable loss. He probably wouldn’t have put up massive numbers on the stat sheet, but his presence would have been invaluable, and we might be talking about the “top six” teams instead of the “top five” if he were still playing. As it stands now, two freshmen, Kyle Scadlock and Bobby Casey ’19, are playing starter minutes, while two others fit into the tail end of the rotation, and the rest of the rotation is pretty inexperienced, as well, with the exception of Dan Aronowitz ’17.

7. Conn College (12-10, 3-5, Last week: 9)

Sort of how I did with Middlebury, I look at Conn’s last X number of games and say, I could easily have seen this or that turning out differently and we might really have something here. Of course, you can often say that with any team, but Conn’s play has really stuck out to me. They’re young, they’re inexperienced, and they could easily fade off like most young teams, and yet they just keep competing. And I’m moving them up in the rankings, despite losing five straight games. Those five games – a neck-and-neck two-point loss vs. Tufts; a disappointing 105-89 loss vs. Mitchell College; an eight-point loss to Wesleyan, in Middletown, in which the Cardinals had to go 20-30 from the floor in the second half to win; a comeback attempt fallen short at Western Connecticut; and a lead let slip to Williams, 70-67. As the Camels get a little more mature, they’ll learn how to win those games, and by next season they could be hosting a playoff game.

8. Colby (14-8, 2-6, Last week: 7)

My Mules keep holding on. I shouldn’t call them “my Mules,” because I don’t want to play favorites (other than Middlebury), but I have stubbornly believed that they can turn it on all season long. They almost beat the Panthers, and they just got by the Continentals in the season’s highest-scoring NESCAC game. That’s just who Colby is – a run ‘n’ gun squad that will struggle against the better defenses. The bright side for them is that Chris Hudnut ’16 has been playing consistent minutes which gives them a chance in any game, and Pat Stewart ’16 has, at least for now, surpassed Racy as the best three-point shooter in the NESCAC. What’s more, Stewart isn’t a one-trick pony. As if this offense wasn’t dangerous enough already.

9. Hamilton (11-11, 2-6, Last week: 11)

Things are pretty ugly down here in the bottom trio right now, but none of these teams are quite dead yet. The Conts have a brutal weekend ahead with Trinity and Amherst coming up, but it’s not ridiculous that a 3-7 team could squeak into the playoffs, so they still have plenty to play for, and they showed it last weekend. The 15-point win over Bowdoin was consummate. Hamilton outshot the Polar Bears in every facet, matched them on the boards and only let Bowdoin ahead for the first 3:15 of the contest. The enigma that is Ajani Santos ’16 looked like an old version of himself, only better, with 25 points and seven boards. Unfortunately, the magic wore off in the game against Colby. Santos only played 17 minutes and had four points, but it was the frosh Michael Grassey ’19 bursting onto the scene with 23 bench points. Groll collected a double-double, as well, with 18 points and 10 boards, but Colby just outshot Hamilton in the OT period to pull away. This is another young team gaining valuable experience this season, and getting a playoff game would be huge for their development.

10. Bowdoin (10-10, 2-6, Last week: 8)

The loss to Hamilton really stung this weekend, and the Polar Bears didn’t put up too much of a fight against Middlebury. At this point we have a pretty good grip on what Bowdoin can do. They only go as far as Lucas Hausman ’16 and Jack Simonds ’19. Against Middlebury, that pair combined for 52 of the team’s 69 points. On the season they have scored 51.3 percent of Bowdoin’s points, by far the highest percentage for any duo (Vinny Pace ’18 and Tom Palleschi have tallied 37.6 percent of the Jumbos’ points). That can lead to some exciting games to watch, but it’s not a recipe for success, especially not at this level.

11. Bates (10-13, 2-7)

Bowdoin just creamed the Bobcats last night, but even if that hadn’t happened, Bates would probably still be in this spot. They’ve lost three in a row, seven of eight, and eight of 10. Things have really deteriorated. Bates opened the season with six straight games of 79 or more points, and had a five-game stretch where they scored 73+ four times. In the nine games sense, Bates has scored less than 70 in seven of those games, and the 73-51 loss to Bowdoin last night was probably the team’s low point. All of that is a long way of saying that Bates’ season has been in free fall for awhile. Other teams have figured out how to force Mike Boornazian ’16 into a lot of tough shots, and he’s had some bad shooting nights because of it with no one to pick up the slack. As I said before, none of these teams are dead yet, but it will take a monumental effort and a lot of luck for Bates to sneak into the postseason.


Take Your Places: Power Ranks 2/3

Amherst is starting to find their groove. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
Amherst is starting to find their groove. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

Well, I guess the Amherst players didn’t like that I dropped them from the top spot last week, because they waltzed into the enemy territory of Hartford and traipsed out with the victory. Elsewhere in the rankings, Hamilton finally got angry about their low seeding and decided to pull off the upset. Even Bowdoin’s OT win could be considered an upset if you’re going by the power rankings (and honestly, is there a better metric out there?) And I’m sure, beyond a doubt, that in all of these instances a perceived slight by yours truly was the one and only motivating factor.

1. #11 Amherst (17-3, 5-1, Last week: 2)

Amherst made a big statement in that win Saturday. Though the final was 89-82, Amherst basically lead wire-to-wire and jumped out to a 12-1 lead to start the game after Trinity scored the first point on a free throw. All season long I’ve believed that they are the most talented team, and the only question is whether they can mesh well enough to win a NESCAC title. I’m still not convinced they can, but if I had to put my money on someone right now, it would be them.

2. Trinity (14-6, 5-1, Last week: 1)

The Bantams fall because of the head-to-head loss to Amherst, but my confidence in them hasn’t waned. Prior to last weekend’s game with Amherst, the Merchant Marine loss is curious, but the distribution of minutes makes me think that Coach James Cosgrove was trying to prove a point to his starters, so I’m taking the L with a grain of salt. Now that they’ve lost two in a row, though, they’re officially “battle tested”. Time to stop messing around, and solidify your seeding with a win over Tufts on Friday.

3. #22 Wesleyan (17-4, 4-3, Last week: 3)

The Cardinals stay in the three spot, and I thought about even moving them up to No. 2 because I think they’ve finally found some continuity. Over the last half dozen or so games, Coach Joe Reilly has settled into an eight-man rotation, and that has really become evident in the last two contests. Nathan Krill ’18, Harry Rafferty ’17 and Joe Edmonds ’16 contributed 88.6 percent of the minutes off the bench against Conn College and Emmanuel. Furthermore, Jack Mackey ’16 made seven three-pointers on Monday night, which gives me some confidence that he’s back to close to normal.

4. Tufts (16-4, 5-2, Last week: 5)

The Jumbos hurdle the Middlebury Panthers because of Middlebury’s slip up, not Tufts’ win over Bates. It’s really tough to pick one over the other, especially since their head-to-head meeting went down to a three-point attempt at the buzzer in OT. Both of these teams still have the Amherst-Trinity gauntlet ahead of them. Those two games will either make or break both teams’ seasons.

5. Middlebury (12-8, 4-2, Last week: 4)

Combine the tough early season start with a depressing upset loss at Hamilton and it makes you wonder whether the mid-season hot streak and 4-2 conference record were an anomaly. I don’t think that’s necessarily so, and I believe there’s a huge gap between the top five and bottom six, but still, the Panthers have question marks. They need to get Zach Baines ’19, who’s been out sick, healthy once more, because he is a spark on both ends of the floor. Since January 4, Baines has played 26.4 mpg. That would rank in the top 25 over the course of a whole season, so his absence shouldn’t be brushed off. Oh, I’d also like to point out that Matt St. Amour ’17 went OFF for 32 points at Keene St. last night, the place where St. Amour’s season ended with an ACL tear two seasons ago. Take that, unforgiving Keene St. hardwood.

6. Williams (13-7, 3-3, Last week: 8)

They’ve beaten everyone they should, and lost to everyone they should – at least when it comes to NESCAC opponents. The Ephs are 3-0 against Colby, Bowdoin and Hamilton, and 0-5 against Wesleyan, Amherst, Trinity and Middlebury. Unfortunately, if that trend continues, Williams will drop match ups with Wesleyan and Tufts over the next two weekends and finish 5-5. I’d be surprised if things shook out so neatly. They’re not playing particularly well of late, and some of the first-years might be hitting a bit of a wall. Still, for now they hold onto the No. 6 spot.

7. Colby (13-7, 1-5, Last week: 6)

I have no idea where to rank teams 7-11. Colby just lost to Bowdoin, who’s gotten crushed by Trinity and Husson in the last week and a half, but Colby also took Husson to OT. Bates has gone through the ringer in recent weeks, losing to Bowdoin, Middlebury, Conn, Wesleyan and Tufts, but they also beat Colby in early January. Conn has dropped three straight, but they do have wins over Bates and Middlebury in the bank. Meanwhile, Hamilton’s over there jumping up and down that they just beat the Panthers (Sorry, guys, but a two-point win isn’t going to be enough to shoot you up through the ranks). I’ve still got the Mules above the other Maine teams because of their experience and explosive offense. They need to be healthy, though, as we know, and need just a little production from the bench – at least defensively. Chris Hudnut ’16 is still having his minutes limited, and it’s possible he just won’t be 100 percent this season.

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

As cool as the 20-point breakout from Jack Bors ’19 was against Colby, I don’t think we’re going to see that repeated again this season, which means the Polar Bears are going to be fighting for a playoff spot. However, Lucas Hausman ’16 gives them a shot to win any game if he gets hot, and that’s mainly why I have them at No. 8. Hausman got better as the season went along last year. That might be happening again. In his last eight games, he’s had at least 26 points six times, 30-plus four times, and 42 one game.

9. Conn College (12-8, 3-4, Last week: 7)

This might be a little low, because I like the Camels, and I think they’re going to the playoffs this season. Even though I have Colby ahead of them, I could easily see the Mules slipping up down the stretch and falling short of catching Conn. The Camels have played all the good teams tough, except for Trinity – they beat Middlebury, lost to Amherst by two on the road, lost to Tufts by two at home and by eight on the road at Wesleyan. They have a great mix of stardom (Zuri Pavlin ’17), toughness (Dan Janel ’17), and talent from the youngsters (David Labossiere ’19 and Tyler Rowe ’19).

10. Bates (10-10, 2-5, Last week: 10)

No changes in the bottom two this week. The Bobcats haven’t won a tough game in awhile. They beat Maine-Farmington, who is 2-16, last night, Hamilton on January 15 and Colby on January 8, but have sprinkled in five losses during that span. The weird thing is that the Bobcats have beaten Husson twice this season. Husson is 15-4, and even though the North Atlantic Conference isn’t exactly the ACC, Husson has beaten Colby and Bowdoin. Even weirder, Bates was one of the four NESCAC teams to best Babson early this season. Still, they seem to be regressing right now. Not the time for that to happen.

11. Hamilton (10-10, 1-5, Last week: 11)

The Continentals have a little something going right now with wins over Ithaca, Keystone and Middlebury in their last five games, but Keystone has four wins and Ithaca isn’t what it once was. The win over Middlebury is legit, but it came at home, and they will need to sweep Bowdoin and Colby this weekend and then take to the road and beat either Amherst or Trinity to get into the playoffs.

Amherst and Trinity Gear Up: Weekend Preview 1/29

Amherst and Trinity is going to be another physical battle. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
Amherst and Trinity is going to be another physical battle. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

It’s a light weekend around the NESCAC as teams take on their usual travel partners, meaning there are no Friday games and a full slate Saturday afternoon. The heavyweight bout of the day is clearly Amherst at Trinity, a game in which the winner will have the inside track on hosting the NESCAC Semis and Finals. For everyone else, this is a critical weekend midway through the NESCAC season. A loss for a 3-3 team like Conn, Wesleyan or Williams makes any chance of hosting a NESCAC playoff game nearly disappear. A loss for a 1-4 squad like Bowdoin or Colby might knock them out of the playoff picture completely.

Three to Watch

Middlebury Center Matt Daley ’16

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. Daley could be one of the best big man in the NESCAC if he wasn’t hurt so often. Right now he’s coming back from a foot injury, and he played just 33 minutes in two games this past week. However, the Panthers have been off since Tuesday, so there is hope that he’s been able to rest up enough to be ready to go against Hamilton. When he plays, Daley is a beast, averaging 12.2 ppg and 8.4 rpg in 22.3 mpg. For what it’s worth, he ranks eighth in the league in points per 40 minutes, and the guys around him on the rebounding leaderboard are all playing more minutes, with the exception of Eg Ogundeko ’17, who’s just a freak on the boards. For Hamilton, Andrew Groll ’19 has had a strong debut season, but can he slow down the nifty Daley? This will be a fun matchup to watch.

Colby Seniors Luke Westman and Ryan Jann

If you read Adam’s stock report or my power ranks this week, you know that we’re drinking the Kool-Aid on Colby right now. Still, though the Mules are sitting at 1-4 in conference and now need to go on the road and get a win in Brunswick where Bowdoin is also 1-4. This game will be huge for both teams, because it could serve as a tie-breaker in a potential tie for one of the last playoff spots. In some ways, Colby is the best offensive team in the league. The Mules have the best field goal and three point shooting percentages. As we know, though, defense is not their strong suit. That’s why Ryan Jann and Luke Westman will be crucial in defending reigning scoring champ Lucas Hausman ’16. It will have to be a team effort to stop Hausman and his sidekick Jack Simonds ’19, but last time these two teams met it was mainly Jann with a little bit of Westman sprinkled in defending Hausman. Hausman scored 22 points in that game, but it took him 22 shots, and Colby won. That game was in Waterville, though, and in their three NESCAC road games so far Colby has yet to get a win.

Wesleyan Guard Jack Mackey ’16

We’ve talked about the fluctuation in the Wesleyan lineup and how they’ve had to deal with injuries, but it looks like the Cardinals are just starting to get in a groove. They were finally able to make some shots from deep in their last game against Bates (mainly thanks to BJ Davis ’16). The key for them, I believe, will be getting production out of Mackey, Joe Edmonds ’16, Harry Rafferty ’17 once again, but Mackey in particular because he’s recently returned to the starting lineup and is playing big minutes once more. He’s only shooting 25.7 percent from three point land, but I believe that’s primarily an injury-related issue. He’s a much better shooter than that, and last season he did a lot of damage from behind the arc. If Mackey’s going well, stopping him and Davis together will be a nightmare.

Upset Alert: Middlebury (11-7, 4-1) at Hamilton (9-9, 0-5), 3 PM, Hamilton, NY

I’m just going to keep slighting my Panthers because it seems to motivate them. Seriously, though, there really aren’t any other options. I’d be shocked by a Bates victory over Tufts, Wesleyan is a favorite over Conn but not by much, and Colby-Bowdoin and Amherst-Trinity are even match ups. The Continentals took Middlebury to OT last year in Pepin, and they are an interesting team. I don’t think Hamilton will win, but it is a long road trip to upstate New York and there’s the potential for the Panthers to write this one off before it even starts. In terms of match ups, Middlebury has the advantage across the board, so it would take a great game from someone on Hamilton for the Conts to pull it off.

Game of the Week: Amherst (15-3, 4-1) at Trinity (14-5, 5-0), 3 PM, Hartford, CT

I think that these are easily the two most talented teams in the league, and, going by record, they’re also the best, but I do feel much more confident about the Bantams than I do about Amherst. Trinity has an identity and is full steam ahead. Amherst seems to suffer from inconsistency and lack of focus. How else do you go from beating Wesleyan by 26 to squeaking by Conn by two then getting rocked by Wesleyan by 27, then a week later dropping a road game at Colby then squashing Williams by 21, all within a 13-day stretch. I hate to beat a dead horse, but part of the issue is the two-headed monster at point guard. Both Jayde Dawson ’18 and Reid Berman ’17 are awesome at times, but I think there is also some element of Dawson hearing footsteps at times. In Amherst’s loss at Colby, Dawson went extremely cold and finished 3-18 from the field. Berman ended up running the point for most of the game. There’s really no better solution than to let hot hand play, but it’s an interesting storyline to watch.

Matchup to watch: Ed Ogundeko vs. David George ’17

Ogundeko’s transformation from rebounding horse to all-around star has been fun to watch, and one that we’ve long hoped George would make. Still, George is an incredible rim protector, averaging 2.3 blocks per game. I can’t wait to see Ogundeko try to go to work against George, and it will absolutely be a physical battle for rebounds. Ogundeko is going to have to set the tone for Trinity. Overall, Amherst is an underrated defensive team, and are holding opponents to an incredible 26.5 shooting percentage from beyond the arc. That means the Bantams have to get the ball inside.

Prediction: Trinity 65 – Amherst 60

It’s unfortunate for the Bantams that this isn’t a Friday night game, when student crowds are usually the most boisterous. Nevertheless, being at home is going to be a boost for Trinity who is 8-0 at home this year. Will that be enough to stop Amherst? I think yes, though I could see Amherst running away if Dawson is hot, Jeff Racy ’16 makes a bundle of threes and George can slow down Ogundeko. I like the matchups for the Bantams, though. It may actually be a good move for Coach James Cosgrove to sit Ogundeko when George is on the floor and try to match him up with Eric Conklin ’17, a worse defender but better scorer. Shay Ajayi ’16 will have to shut down either Connor Green ’16 or Johnny McCarthy ’18, no small feat, but one that he can accomplish. How Trinity stops the man not being defended by Ajayi is the question. If there’s one thing I believe about Trinity, though, it’s that they can defend anyone.

More Predictions:

Middlebury 80 – Hamilton 66

Tufts 88 – Bates 70

Wesleyan 69 – Conn College – 62

Colby 78 – Bowdoin 66

No Easy Games in the NESCAC: Weekend Preview 1/15/16

Another weekend of NESCAC basketball is ready to fascinate minds around the world. (Courtesy of Bates College)
Another weekend of NESCAC basketball is ready to fascinate minds around the world. (Courtesy of Bates College)

I’m a young pup of  22 years old, and I didn’t have the slightest idea about NESCAC basketball until just a few years ago. However, I think that the league is as good from top to bottom as it has ever been. When you have the defending champions Wesleyan (who as we know brought everyone on the roster back) nearly go 0-2 in the first weekend against two teams that missed the NESCAC tournament last year, the depth of the league is clear. That depth means that teams can’t dig themselves too big of a hole if they want to make the NESCAC tournament. The three 0-2 teams (Williams, Colby, and Hamilton) all have to face big challenges this weekend.

Three to Watch

  1. Center Chris Hudnut ’16 (Colby): It’s hard to believe, but both Williams and Colby are winless coming into tonight making this almost a must win for both teams. Colby had the more disappointing weekend seeing their 10 game winning streak go up in smoke on the road. To get back on track, the Mules need to have their man in the middle carry the load. Hudnut was a total non-factor last weekend scoring just 4.5 PPG in the two losses. He didn’t even score in the first half of the game against Bates. Hudnut has had some big games this year, but against the Mules’ top opponents he has had subpar performances. He has to play better against Williams, a team that, even with Ed Flynn ’16 playing better, is weak defensively inside. Hudnut was missing shots he normally makes last weekend. I’m guessing he makes more of those tonight.
  2. Center Ed Ogundeko ’17 (Trinity): Few players looked as impressive as Ogundeko did last weekend. The junior carried the Bantams with 21 points on 9-13 shooting and 11 rebounds. Most impressive was the control that Ogundeko played with (something his teammate Shay Ajayi ’16 could take notes on). The broad-shouldered big man used his positioning to get good looks down low that he finished with good touch. What proved that he was really locked in was the two jumpshots from the top of the key that he knocked down no problem. Tonight, the Bantams face Conn College in a game that will be a great measuring stick for the Camels. Saturday, Trinity faces Wesleyan who bounced the Bantams from the NESCAC tournament last year. Ogundeko, averaging 14.3 PPG and 11.7 RPG, needs to keep getting double-doubles this weekend.
  3. Guard Jack Mackey ’16 (Wesleyan): BJ Davis ’16 has risen to leading man status for the Cardinals, but he can’t do it alone obviously. Mackey has had a really slow start to the year because of injury problems. Last weekend Mackey had two of his better games scoring the ball averaging 14.0 PPG, but it did take him 14 shots in both games to do that. Almost everything for Mackey is coming on the perimeter which is why he is shooting 0.6 free throws per game, an awfully low number for a point guard. His rebounding numbers are also down from a year ago. The guard is one of the toughest players in the NESCAC, and that tenacity is a huge source of the edge that Wesleyan plays with. Now he needs to get back to playing as well as he is capable of.

Biggest Game: Wesleyan (12-2, 1-1) at Amherst (11-1, 1-0). Tonight at 7:00 PM

Guys, I’m a little bit worried about Wesleyan. I was expecting after their loss to Middlebury last Friday to come out firing against Hamilton, but they barely eeked out an overtime victory. Now they have to go on the road to Amherst and Trinity, the hardest possible weekend the NESCAC can offer. Let’s not forget that before they got really hot at the end of the year and won the NESCAC tournament, Wesleyan was a 3-5 team heading into the final weekend last season. And yes, they ran through non-conference play, but they didn’t have any great wins in that stretch.

What was concerning about last weekend was the lack of defense and the inability to dictate the pace, especially against Middlebury. The Cardinals are built to win games played in the high 50s with Davis making the big shots at the end of games. A team with so many seniors should not have to worry about a team as young as Middlebury imposing their style on a game, but that is exactly what happened last Friday. Nate Krill ’18 who was injured all of last year, has been a great addition as the backup big man, and the depth for the Cardinals is better than it was a year ago. The problem is that makes it harder for Coach Mike Reilly to find the right combination of players any given night.

On the other side, Amherst is sure to be out for revenge for last year’s championship loss. This team is playing better than it was last year, and with all the talent they have it is always going to feel like they have another gear to reach. I just don’t know if we will ever see that gear be reached for any significant length of time. The pieces don’t all fit together quite right for them. They might lead the league as a team in assists, but aside from backup point guard Reid Berman ’17, everybody on the roster is more comfortable looking for their own shot than finding a teammate.

For a team as talented as Amherst is, they are weirdly reliant on the three pointer. They have made more as a team than anybody else in the NESCAC, even though they have played less games than everyone else. Jeff Racy ’17 is a dead-eye assassin, but both Connor Green ’16 and Johnny McCarthy ’18 are streaky shooters.  Wesleyan is hoping that they can force a reprisal of the championship game when Racy, Green, and McCarthy combined to shoot 3-20 from deep. The likelihood of that is not good, and I think that Amherst rolls in this one.

Upset Alert: Tufts (11-2, 2-0) at Hamilton (7-6, 0-2). Saturday at 3:00 PM

After the perfect storm of a weekend that the Jumbos had to open the season, they almost feel primed for a letdown. You might have thought I would pick Middlebury to upset Tufts, given how the Panthers already pulled a fast one on Wesleyan. But the Jumbos are going to be ready for that one tonight. Yet, after the game tonight, Tufts will have to drive a few hours through sleepy upstate New York to get to Hamilton for their game tomorrow. The gym at Hamilton is notorious for having subpar crowds, so it’s going to be sleepy there too.

Throw in the possibility of Hamilton getting hot from deep, and suddenly the possibility of an upset starts to crystallize. What if Ajani Santos ’16 shows up like he did against Conn College and puts Tom Palleschi ’17 into foul trouble? What if the Jumbos simply aren’t as good on the road as they are in Medford? Odds are that Vincent Pace ’18, Tarik Smith ’17, and Stephen Haladyna ’16 are too much on the perimeter for the Continentals to handle. I’m just saying that this is the NESCAC where (almost) anything is possible.

You can get our predictions on every game tonight over on Twitter.

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.

Four Way Way Too Early Thoughts on NESCAC Basketball

F Matt Palecki '16 and the Polar Bears shocked #11 Babson earlier this season. (Courtesy of Brian Beard - CIP/Bowdoin Athletics)
F Matt Palecki ’16 and the Polar Bears shocked #11 Babson earlier this season. (Courtesy of Brian Beard – CIP/Bowdoin Athletics)

We are only a few weeks into the season, and March is still further away than the beginning of the academic year last September. So let’s jump to conclusions! All these come with the enormous caveat that we are not even 1/6 through the season yet.

1. The NESCAC is not as good as we thought: Only two undefeated teams remain: Amherst and Williams. Six teams have multiple loses. That’s a lot of losses. Pretty much every team can overcome the early losses and still make the NCAA tournament as an at-large given they finish near the top of the NESCAC. The only team that is already in deep trouble is Middlebury with their four losses, but at least they’ve lost to good competition in teams with a combined record of 15-7. So it’s not like a death sentence for anybody, really. What it is though, is a disappointing start for a league that annually preforms very well out of conference.

Will it affect the NESCAC overall come March? We were somewhat doom and gloom early on last year about the NESCAC getting at-large bids because of non-conference losses, and the league was still able to get four bids pretty easily. And that the league did well in the NCAA tournament last year, which might help give a little more goodwill with the committee, even if officially it doesn’t matter. Let’s just hope that everyone starts playing a little bit better.

2. Bowdoin beating Babson is the best game of the year so far: There is not a lot of competition for this one, though Colby can lay claim to best ending with Ryan Jann’s three pointer to beat Regis. In terms of significance, Bowdoin beating Babson, the #11 team in the country per,  is much bigger. I was lucky enough to be there, and the game was a showcase for the individual offensive talents of forward Jack Simonds ’19 and guard Lucas Hausman ’16. The two combined for 62 of Bowdoin’s 88 points, and many of those points came off of isolation plays run for one of them. Hausman continues to be a marvel averaging just below 30.0 ppg so far, and Simonds is already a full-fledged Robin to Hausman’s Batman averaging 16.8 ppg. In the game Sunday, Bowdoin took advantage of a somewhat sleepy Babson team to control the first two thirds of the game. Bowdoin had a 17-point lead with 14:54 left in the second half, but Babson chipped away at the lead the rest of the way. In overtime, Simonds and Hausman scored the first 14 points for the Bears, most of them at the foul line.

The game did raise worries about the Bears’ ability against certain opponents. Babson absolutely dominated inside, out-rebounding Bowdoin 54-32 and out-scoring them in the paint 54-30. Many of those buckets came in transition with Bowdoin allowing Babson forward Bradley Jacks to beat them down the floor and get position for a lot of easy buckets. That transition defense can be cleaned up, but the rebounding margin is a harder task. Without John Swords ’15, the Polar Bears lack a true center who can control the paint. Another worry for Bowdoin is that they had just FOUR assists against Babson. As a team! Sure, some assists might have gone uncounted, but the fact remains that the Polar Bears are relying on the individual brilliance of Hausman and Simonds to dangerous levels.

3. Connor Green ’16 is in for a weird year: We noted in our Amherst preview that Green ended last season on a cold streak, and the struggles have carried over to this year with Green shooting 38.0 percent overall and 29.6 percent from deep. There is a reason to believe this might be more than just a shooting slump though. Green is a volume shooter who requires a lot of shots to get into a good rhythm. Even two years ago with National POY Aaron Toomey ’14 on the roster, Green lead the Jeffs in shots per game with 13.9. Last year he shot 14.0 shots per game but actually saw his ppg slip from 17.9 to 16.0 because of a drop in shooting percentage.

This year he is scoring 13.0 PPG on 12.5 shots per game. Some of that is because his minutes are down since Amherst is blowing teams out so far, but even once games get closer, will it make sense for Green to shoot it much more than 10 times per game? With the continued development of other players like Eric Conklin ’17 and Jeff Racy ’17, players who can score more efficiently than Green though not at the same volume, Amherst has so many options on offense that it might not make sense for Green to shoot all that much. The most decorated player on the Amherst roster could hypothetically end up being the one who gets the most in the way of their success. At the same time, Green just scored 21 points last night against Westfield State, albeit on 20 shots.

4. If you can, watch Wesleyan vs. Williams Saturday at 7:00 PM

The Ephs are a surprising 5-0 despite losing their three top scorers from last year. Dan Aronowitz ’17, your most recent NESCAC POTW, is leading the way with 19.4 ppg. The next two highest scorers are freshmen: forward Kyle Scadlock ’19 and guard Bobby Casey ’19. The real story is the improved defense for the Ephs as they are allowing 63.0 ppg, 8.8 ppg less than last year. Neither of Hayden Rooke-Ley ’15 or Ryan Kilcullen ’15 was a good defensive player, and I’m guessing having another year with Coach Kevin App is paying dividends, too. Still, I do need to include the requisite caveat that it is just four games against teams we don’t know too much about.

Wesleyan began the season with a loss to Lyndon State, a team usually not very strong (they did also beat Endicott who is decent so who knows), and they’ve needed to hold off a couple of other teams for close wins. Part of the problem is early season injuries to Jack Mackey ’16 and Joe Edmonds ’16. You can’t blame guard BJ Davis ’16 though because he is averaging 21.4 PPG on 58.2 percent shooting with 3.0 APG to boot. The game last year in December went to overtime, and this one will be a great opportunity to see just how well the Ephs are playing.

Not Rebuild, Not Reload, But Reiterate: Wesleyan Season Preview

PG BJ Davis '16 has blow-by speed ... just ask Jayde Dawson. (Courtesy of Rob Matson, Amherst College Office of Communications)
PG BJ Davis ’16 has blow-by speed … just ask Jayde Dawson. (Courtesy of Rob Matson, Amherst College Office of Communications)

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.

After a whirlwind offseason spent hosting SNL, flirting with starlets and just generally enjoying the incredible international recognition that stems from winning the NESCAC championship, Wesleyan has come back down to earth and is ready to compete for the top prize again. The Cardinals used a balanced attack to overcome a rough start to league play last year (Middlebury made them look like my JV middle school squad last season in Week 2 of the NESCAC schedule) to beat top teams Trinity and Amherst on their way to the championship. Four Cardinals averaged more than 10 points per game last season; guards BJ Davis ’16, Harry Rafferty ’15 and Jack Mackey ’16, as well as forward Joseph Kuo ’15.

And therein lies the strength of Wesleyan’s 2015-2016 unit; every single one of those players is back. This “core four” gives Wesleyan a surplus of experience, something that is rare in the youth-driven NESCAC. However, many of the teams that Wesleyan beat last season have retooled significantly in the offseason. Williams is 3-0 this season, with the best freshman class in the league already paying dividends. Wesleyan’s finals opponent, Amherst, is loaded, with players like Johnny McCarthy ’18 (the hype train keeps on rolling) who were a little raw last year stepping up in a big way. Wesleyan returns most of their talent from last year, but they are in danger of the league growing up around them while they stay rooted in one spot.

2014-2015 Record:

19-9 overall; 5-5 NESCAC (t-4th); won NESCAC Championship over Amherst 74-70 in OT; lost to Skidmore 81-66 in the first round of the NCCA Tournament

Head Coach: Joe Reilly, 8th season, 90-84 (.517) 


Returning Starters: Six

G BJ Davis (11.5 ppg, 3.5 apg, .385% 3PT)
G Harry Rafferty (10.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg .379% 3PT)
G Jack Mackey (11.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg, .381% 3PT)
F Joseph Kuo (11.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 1.5 bpg)
F Rashid Epps (7.9 ppg, 6.7 rpg, .593% FG)
F Joe Edmonds (9.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg, .441% 3PT)

All of the above players started at least 17 games last season. As you can see from these numbers, Wesleyan’s hallmark in 2014-2015 was a balanced scoring attack with a healthy dose of three-point shooting from dangerous three guard lineups. However, their most deadly three-point shooter from last season, Joe Edmonds ’16 at 41 percent, has been out for most of the preseason with a foot injury and has yet to get back on the court. Additionally, the consistently dangerous Jack Mackey has been struggling to overcome a variety of injuries. He’s played good minutes so far, but come off the bench in two of the Cards’ three games and is struggling shooting the ball at just 5-23 overall and 3-17 from three. This has led to a shakeup in the experience-laden Cardinals’ starting five.

Projected Starting Lineup: 

PG BJ Davis (11.5 ppg, 3.5 apg, .385% 3PT)

With Edmonds and his scoring touch gone for greener pastures and Mackey struggling mightily, BJ Davis becomes even more crucial to the Cardinals’ success. Davis is playing a ridiculous 35.3 mpg early on. One of the most talented and athletic guards in the league (if you get the chance, try to find his tip slam against Middlebury on YouTube. Oofta), he was excellent last season at playing within the system. However, this season he will have a longer leash, and it could be very exciting watch him explore his new freedom.

SG Harry Rafferty (10.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg .379% 3PT)

Rafferty was a breakout star last year for the Cardinals, emerging in his sophomore season as a consistent scoring threat and excellent perimeter defender. He stays within himself beautifully, as the entire Wesleyan team does, and will be a crucial cog in Wesleyan’s machine this year. In their first three games he has upped his scoring to 12.7 points per game, and has six steals already on the season.

SF PJ Reed ’16 (2.9 ppg, 2.0 rpg, .311% FG)

A junior who played very sparingly last season, Reed has stepped into the starting lineup due to the struggles and health of Jack Mackey. However, Mackey has continued to play heavy minutes off the bench while Reed is simply a placeholder. This is a spot in Wesleyan’s starting lineup that will need to be resolved for them to compete in the top tier of NESCAC this season. I would expect Mackey to figure it out once he is fully healthy and return to the starting lineup, with Edmonds rotating with him once he recovers from his own injury, but if he doesn’t, Reed has good size at 6’5” and could see heavier playing time as the year goes on. Additionally, Wesleyan has one of the top freshman guard recruits in the league in Salim Greene ’19, who will press both of those players for playing time once he recovers from a concussion suffered in the preseason (it seems like Wesleyan should be a little more subdued in their preseason intensity.)

PF Joseph Kuo (11.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 1.5 bpg)

Kuo and Epps combine to give Wesleyan one of the staunchest defenses in the league, particularly around the rim. However, Kuo is no specialist. He led the team in scoring last season, and has good touch around the rim as well as on mid-range jump shots. He and Epps both benefit greatly from drives and dishes from Wesleyan’s killer rotation of smart guards, something that shouldn’t change this season with the emergence of Davis and Rafferty. He has struggled somewhat finishing this year, shooting only 40 percent so far, but that should level out as Wesleyan’s rotations get more consistent.

 C Rashid Epps (7.9 ppg, 6.7 rpg, .593% FG)

Epps is the centerpiece of Wesleyan’s defense. A cagey defender with strong instincts and athleticism, any scoring Wesleyan got from Epps last season was a bonus. However, his impressive shooting percentage from last season shows his good touch around the rim, and this season so far he has upped his scoring to 10.3 points per game, while still rebounding well and shooting at a 61 percent clip. Epps is the kind of solid, consistent center that teams like Middlebury and Williams, who often get killed inside despite solid perimeter talent, would love to have.

Breakout Player: BJ Davis 

It’s an overstatement to say that Davis was held back by Wesleyan’s balance last year. He still averaged nearly 12 points per game, and was able to put the team on his back (a la Greg Jennings) several times. Also, he got a NESCAC championship ring out of the deal, so I doubt he’s complaining. However, he always seemed to have First Team talent that would never be backed up by his numbers. This season thus far has seen a change in that. Davis has stepped out from the crowd to the tune of 23.3 points per game on 57.6 percent shooting from the field and 56.3 percent from three. Obviously those shooting percentages are not sustainable, but his quickness and athleticism have combined with leadership and experience to create a very dangerous weapon. And with Mackey starting slow, the floor is Davis’ to carry the team more than he ever needed to last season. He looks to be very ready.


For all to TL;DR people out there, here’s the summary of Wesleyan’s chances in 2015-2016. They return most of their scoring from last year, and added a potential game changer in Salim Greene. However, Greene is a freshman and is struggling with a concussion. For them to succeed this season and possibly repeat as NESCAC champions, they will need the players from last year to both stay consistent and improve to keep up with a young and talented league. In the first three games of the season, this has been a mixed bag. A bad opening loss to Lyndon State showed the worst-case scenario for the Cardinals; they didn’t have any players explosive enough to get them a hoop when they needed it. However, the next two games featured BJ Davis shoving that idea somewhere dark and out of the way to the tune of 23 and 31 points in two wins. If Davis is truly making a First Team leap in his senior season, Wesleyan will get their experienced leaders Mackey and Edmonds back from injury and reserve a spot in the top tier with Amherst and Trinity. If he’s going to come back to earth, then the Cardinals’ brand of stolid balance and consistency might not be enough in the ever-shifting NESCAC basketball universe.

Cliché alert: sports is a copycat business, and the NESCAC has taken note of the Cards’ championship recipe. Wesleyan won by relying on a three-guard set and a short, six-man rotation. Expect other teams to start copying that strategy. Middlebury will roll out Jack Daly ’18, Jake Brown ’17 and Matt St. Amour ’17 all at once. Williams is basically playing with four guards and C Edward Flynn ’16 for stretches with a couple of freshmen forwards coming off of the bench. Wesleyan also won because their best players played the whole game. No other team relied so heavily on so few players. Mackey, Davis, Rafferty, Kuo, Edmonds and Epps all played at least 22.1 mpg last year – Chris Tugman ’15 was next with 11.2 mpg. Coach Reilly is staying with that strategy this season. Davis, Mackey, Rafferty, Kuo and Epps are all over 26.0 mpg. F Nathan Krill ’18 is at 13.7 mpg. Once Edmonds comes back, he will jump back into the six-man rotation, and Greene could stretch that to a seven-man, but that’s still a shorter bench than most teams. It’s a risky strategy, and the Cardinals will need to get healthy and stay healthy in order to be successful.