Back for More: Williams Men’s Basketball 2018 Preview

Williams College Ephs:

The success of the 2017 Williams season will be difficult to replicate, but the Ephs can do it. Coming off of a cinderella run to the Final Four as an at large team, kocking off Middlebury 79-75, the Ephs lost just one major part of their team. Referring to Daniel Aronowitz as ‘just one’ is a modest way to put it, seeing as he led the team in points per game (17.3), three pointers per game (2.1), and minutes per game (29.8). He was the leader, heart and soul, and mesh player of the Williams offense, able to drive to the hoop and shoot the deep shots. Luckily for Williams, they have depth and saw six returning players start 14 games or more, with James Heskett as the likely replacement in the small forward position. Both the sophomore and junior classes in this team are looking to break out with forward Kyle Scadlock leading the way. Scadlock had a monster performance in the sweet-16 round against Susquehanna last year, dominating the floor with his size and athleticism, dunking triumphantly en route to a 22 point, 12 rebound double-double. He is likely to take Aronowitz’s spot as the on court leader of the team despite only being a junior. Guard Cole Teal ’18 is the only senior returning starter, boding well for the longevity of the Ephs’ success. Aronowitz’s leadership will continue to work its magic this year as the departed Eph provided these young players—all underclassmen last year except for Teal—with experience and a base for how to conduct their business. After playing with such an experienced NESCAC veteran, they will not let their youth show.

Matthew Karpowicz and company are excited about where they stack up headed into the season

Teal is joined by fellow returners PG Bobby Casey ’19 and Center Marcos Soto ’19. Michael Kempton will look to make a push for additional playing time at center too after losing his starting spot to Soto halfway through the season.MbN’s own C Matthew Karpowicz ’20 will also challenge for playing time after putting up double digit point totals in several NESCAC games in under ten minutes played. A wild card for this team is Henry Feinberg ’20 who broke his hand in 2017 and was hampered by injury but is a physical, defensively oriented SF with the size to make an impact in the paint. With so many returners and options, Coach Kevin App should play 10-11 players significantly this year and might not need one player to replace Aronowitz. The Ephs’ depth and past experience should carry them early in the season, and if the junior class develops into the cohesive force they are capable of, they will be tough to shut down. They are ranked #3 in the country by D3hoops.com going into the 2018 season and are capable of making a return trip to the Final Four.

Projected Record: 21-3, 9-1

2016-2017 Record: 23-9, 5-5, Lost in NESCAC Finals, Lost in Final Four

Head Coach: Kevin App, 4th year, 53-29 (Through 2017)

Returning Starters:

Guard Bobby Casey ‘19 (8.5 PPG; 2.2 A/G; 38.4% FG; 2.2 REB/G)

Guard Cole Teal ‘18 (9.7 PPG; 3.5 REB/G; 38.9% 3-PT)

Forward Kyle Scadlock ‘19 (12.9 PPG; 6.3 REB/G; 53.6% FG)

Center Marcos Soto ’19 (5.4 PPG, 2.6 REB/G; 50.4% FG)

Key Losses:

Guard/Forward Daniel Aronowitz ‘17 (17.3 PPG; 37.3% 3-PT; 6.2 REB/G)

Starting Lineup:

Guard Bobby Casey ‘19

Bobby Casey ’19 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Contrary to many of the NESCAC PGs, Casey doesn’t control the Ephs offensive attack in that he has modest scoring and assisting numbers. He does, however, set the pace of the offense bringing the ball up the court and doesn’t force opportunities. The one fault is that he only shot 38.4% from the field, a number significantly lower than many of his teammates’ marks. If he can improve on his shooting and ball distribution, he could really make a leap in his junior season, especially with Aronowitz gone. Despite Aronowitz’s position as more of a small forward, he ended up controlling the ball on offense most of the time, and because Scadlock is more of a PF, Casey should have an increased role in the attack this year. Coach App doesn’t think one player will replace Aronowitz’s production, something that will lead to much more balance in the front court this year for the Ephs instead of an offense centered around Aronowitz. Casey will help balance this effort and increase his offensive production this year.

Guard Cole Teal ‘18

Cole Teal ’18 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Teal is the leader by elimination of this team as he is the only senior returning starter. While Scadlock will lead the team on the court due to his physical dominance, Teal will be the off the court leader, captain, and one of the top scorers. In fact, I predict he will be the second leading scorer behind Scadlock, not bold considering he ranked second last year. However, he won’t be particularly helpful in replacing Aronowitz’ rebounding. Instead, I think Scadlock and the trio of Williams centers will take on the bulk of the rebounding with Teal focussing more on 3-PT production as he will be the go to outside shooter for the Ephs. After losing Aronowitz, the leading 3-PT scorer of 2017, James Heskett and Teal will need to step up, and with more experience, Teal could see a drastic increase in scoring opportunity from downtown.

Forward James Heskett ‘19 

James Heskett ’19 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Heskett will likely see the bulk of the starts here because G Mike Greenman was more of a sixth man and Bobby Casey’s sub. This is the position left by Aronowitz, and although Greenman made 15 starts last year, he played PG when he saw his time. Of course against a smaller lineup, coach App could roll with three guards, but Heskett fits into this spot much better. Heskett’s 6’8″ length will be yet another weapon for the Ephs on both sides of the ball. Although he didn’t start in a single game last year, he had a consistent role off the bench, averaging 20 minutes per game, 7.2 PPG, and 2.8 REB/G. He shot lights out from deep, to a tune of 43.6%, but didn’t attempt as many shots as Aronowitz or Teal. He lacks the experience of some of the other players but could make a big jump in his junior season as the door is wide open for him.

Forward Kyle Scadlock ’19 

Kyle Scadlock ’19 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Scadlock is the future MVP of this team and is on my projected All-NESCAC second team. He influences the game in unique ways with his size and impressive ups, able to shoot well from the field and take over a game. He had a remarkable breakout period in the playoffs, throwing down some deafening dunks, exciting his fans, and putting up huge numbers against ranked teams. He’s not always going to have the ball in hands as he is more of a power forward, but he should dominate down low. His weakness is his outside shooting, turning in low 3-PT numbers and free throw stats (56.7%). If he could shoot from deep, he might turn into the NESCAC’s Lebron, but he has a ways to go. His potential is through the roof, but let’s not forget that for the bulk of the season, he played like his final stat line suggested (8.5 PPG, 5.0 REB/G)—solid but not a game changer. I’m betting that breaking out in the playoffs against tougher competition is no coincidence though. He improved from the charity stripe, from deep, and down low all at the right time and will bring that into the 2018 season.

Center Marcos Soto ’19

Marcos Soto ’19 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

The big man spot on the Williams team is filled by a combination of Soto, Michael Kempton, and Matthew Karpowicz. As Kempton and Soto saw the bulk of the playing time, they are likely the starters—at least for the preseason. Soto made a transition into a starting role over the second half of the season, effectively winning the majority of the playing time from Kempton, but didn’t dominate by any means. He rarely scored double digit points or collected over four rebounds despite 17.2 minute per game. Kempton ran into similar troubles, averaging under four points and rebounds per game. Granted, neither big man shot the ball much (less than seven times per game, combined) and both shot over 50% from the field. This says that they didn’t need to score and didn’t try to–not exactly a fault. They never really controlled the ball off the glass though, and because of that, Williams didn’t have any players in the top-10 in NESCAC rebounding and finished tenth overall with 37 boards per game. They don’t play with a traditional center, but unless one of these two steps up, they could be usurped by Karpowicz who has a much higher ceiling.

X-Factor: Center Matthew Karpowicz

Matthew Karpowicz ’20 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

As mentioned above, Kempton and Soto lack the big game capabilities that top NESCAC centers have. Karpowicz has that potential, scoring double digit points in three conference games where he played less than ten minutes (vs Amherst, Trinity, and Colby). He averaged 4.2 PPG and 2.1 REB/G in just 7.2 minutes per contest in 2017, showing the ability to breakout if given a chance to start. His rebounding could really be what sets him up as the X-Factor here, as Williams has plenty of scoring weapons, but little defensive prowess other than Scadlock. His 2.1 REB/G in such limited playing time projects to over eight in a full game. If Karpowicz can break out, given the depth in the other four positions, the Ephs will be nearly unstoppable.

Everything Else:

Due to the depth of this team, there should be ample opportunity for different players to show what they’ve got. This means that 10-11 players should receive significant time in many different lineups. Especially in the early season, Karpowicz and others in the 2020 class should be able to step up and earn some playing time even with the experience of the other players. Henry Feinberg will be one of the guys looking to make a leap from obscurity in his sophomore year into the small forward position, offering a different look from Heskett. He should be the first wing off of the bench, bolstering the front court on defense. Scadlock will dominate the front court of Williams, finding plenty of chances early on to take over games. This is exciting for Williams as they could soon find their next superstar heading into a season with lofty expectations. They’re ranked as the highest team in the NESCAC after making an improbable run into the NCAA tourney.

Scadlock will have plenty of moments like this in 2018

While they lost in the NESCAC championship to Midd, eventually knocking them off in the elite-8—not too shocking of an upset—I didn’t even think they would get an at large bid. Of course, I failed to consider the importance of making the run to the conference championship, but they only went 5-5 in conference and started off badly (1-4 in NESCAC play to start 2017), jeopardizing a chance to even get into the postseason. They proved that they deserved to get the call to the tourney and then some, showcasing talent and depth—most of which returns for the 2018 season. Unlike Tufts, Trinity, Wesleyan, and Middlebury who lost so many key components of their teams, Williams is sitting pretty with four familiar places in their starting lineup. I hear they have been practicing their dance moves. March Madness, here they come; NESCAC teams, watch out.

Williams Coach Kevin App doesn’t have much to worry about–his team’s talent should carry the Ephs deep into the playoffs

NESCAC Tournament Roundup

Middlebury ran through the NESCAC tournament en route to their second straight NESCAC title (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

Williams at Tufts:

The Ephs kept their late season magic going against the Jumbos in a David (Aronowitz ‘17 and Kyle Scadlock ‘19) meets Goliath matchup in Medford, MA. Williams played just like they did against Amherst the weekend before – they put up solid, yet repeatable shooting numbers (46.8% FG, 32.0% 3-point, and 71.4% FT) which allowed them to build a steady lead in the second half. Tufts shot just 37.3% FG in this semifinal with their five starters going 11-34 from the field and 4-18 from deep, significantly worse than their bench. Everett Dayton ‘18, Vinny Pace ‘18, and Drew Madsen ‘17 were stopped from putting up any real rebounding numbers while Scadlock and Aronowitz ran the floor effectively for the Ephs. The Jumbos got away from their game plan as a result of their poor shooting, as just three players were able to score in double-digits. This came in stark contrast to the recently balanced Jumbo offense. Mike Greenman was able to do what the Jumbos couldn’t and controlled the offensive side of the ball for the underdogs with nine assists, a key to Williams’ success. High percentage shots stemmed from their balanced and efficient attack, and five Ephs tallied double-digit points as a result. Williams built their lead in the second half, and a quick three by Greenman with 3:58 to go put the Williams lead out of reach. While this game appeared to be a bit one sided, it was tied at 65 with 4:23 to go. Isn’t that exactly how many points Tufts scored? It is. Williams ended the game on a 16-0 run, capitalizing on free throws and protecting the ball. Tufts, on the other hand, finished the game on an 0-8 shooting run (including free throws). It’s definitely concerning for the Jumbos that they couldn’t muster any sort of last minute comeback in their home gym in a playoff game, but maybe Tom Palleschi ‘17 will be able to change that. Early in the season there is no question that Tufts was the top dawg in the NESCAC, as beating Middlebury didn’t surprise anybody. However, they limp into the NCAA tournament off of a loss without any guarantees from their star senior Palleschi. Palleschi played eight minutes against Williams, the first action he’s seen since January 20th. If he can return to form and play significant minutes his defensive presence will be a huge upgrade for the Jumbos.

 

Trinity at Middlebury:

Matt Folger ’20 pulls down a rebound (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics).

Double-teaming Ed Ogundeko ‘17 was Middlebury’s formula to beating the Bantams. It worked. Ogundeko was forced to shoot without a clear look at the basket and couldn’t do enough with the ball when he had it. His 1-11 shooting left Trinity without any hope, as Eric McCord ‘19, Nick Tarantino ‘18, and Adisa Majors ‘18 played tough basketball to grind out a win. Unlike most Trinity games, Chris Turnbull ‘17 and Eric Gendron ‘18 shot well and carried the Bantam offense, which usually would spell out a big win for this team, but without the addition of Ogundeko’s ~17 PPG average, there was a big piece missing. Majors’ nine boards, McCord’s five, and Tarantino’s eight were enough to give the Panthers a presence down low that was willing to scrap for every possession. McCord plays dangerously at times, often making unnecessary foul (he had four on Saturday), but it was just the right style of play to slow down Ogundeko, who is used to having his way with NESCAC opponents. Matt St. Amour ‘17 did his thing, and even though he only had 18 points (haha, only), he shot the ball efficiently. Jake Brown ‘17 had the chance to shake off the rust from his recent spell on the bench with ankle injury. Brown came back in full force, competing for 31 minutes and getting his feet wet before the championship. Matt Folger ‘20 was huge off the bench for Midd as the first year Panther went 4-4 from the field and 3-3 from deep, totaling 11 points. For Trinity, Turnbull’s 23 points were the most he had scored since November 22nd. While the senior did everything he could to carry the Bantams in the big anomaly of a game for Ogundeko, it would turn out to be his last college performance. While it was a tough last game for Ogundeko, he still led the league in REB/G this year, averaged a double-double, and finished in Trinity’s top ten all-time for rebounding. What a career. For Midd, the fun was only just beginning.

 

Williams at Middlebury:

 

There’s no question that Williams kept their magic going into Sunday’s contest as they took a quick lead on the favored Panthers. In fact, a four point Williams lead and just three points out of Matt St. Amour at the half would’ve shocked anybody. Kyle Scadlock lit up the scoreboard for 15 in the opening frame, shooting 6-7 from the field and 3-3 from the charity stripe, with James Heskett ‘19 going 3-3 FG and 2-2 from deep en route to a perfect eight points. Scadlock added ten first half rebounds, enough to carry the Ephs to a 40-36 early lead that gave them hope that they could put a ring on after the season. Unfortunately for the Ephs, they weren’t able to hold off St. Amour the whole game, as this game was a tale of two halves. In fact, St. Amour went off in the second half and you wouldn’t even be able to tell he started off slowly unless you took a closer look at the box score. St. Amour dropped 17 after the break, going 6-9 in FGs and 4-7 in 3’s. Scadlock still put up a solid nine points in the second, but only had one rebound as Williams got dominated in the paint. Seven Panthers had three or more rebounds in the second half compared to just two for Williams, leading to a 26-13 boards advantage for Midd. Midd took 11 more shots in the second half and Williams shot to the tune of a terrible 20.0%. While the underdogs came out firing, their cinderella story came to an end. Middlebury simply couldn’t be held back for a whole 40 minutes. The 48-22 line in the second half shows what kind of team Middlebury is—which bodes well for the Panthers heading into the NCAA tournament. Those games always seem to come down to the final seconds. Clutch is the name of the game and Williams couldn’t keep it going throughout the contest.

 

With that being said, Williams played well enough to earn them an at large bid, along with three other NESCAC teams: Amherst, Tufts, and Wesleyan. Winning the NESCAC earned Middlebury the conference’s automatic bid. Five teams from one conference are in the NCAA tournament. That is an absurd number of NCAA tournament teams from the NESCAC. Five teams is nearly half of the conference. There are only 64 teams in the tournament so therefore the NESCAC makes up just under 8% of the bracket. Talk about conference depth. It’s time to go dancing.

Revenge, Thy Name is NESCAC: Middlebury vs. Williams Final Preview

#2 Middlebury (23-3, 8-2) vs. #6 Williams (19-7, 5-5): 12:00 PM, Medford, Massachusetts

Overview:

And then there were two. Middlebury and Williams meet today at noon to decide the NESCAC Championship. The game is a rematch of one of the most surprising results of the regular season. In the game in Williamstown, the Ephs blasted the Panthers 89-65 in Middlebury’s only truly disappointing performance of the season. As is usually the case when the Ephs win, they were very hot from three, shooting 13-27. And they held Middlebury, the leading field goal shooting team in the league, to 40% shooting from the field and 28% shooting from three. You can bet the Panthers will be looking to avenge their embarrassing performance, but Williams might just hold the keys to slowing down Middlebury’s ride to a second straight title.

Middlebury X-Factor: Close-outs

Much of Williams’ offensive strategy is based off of attacking perimeter closeouts. If a player doesn’t get out quickly enough on a three point shooter, you can bet that shot is going up, and they have more than enough outside threats to make that offense pay off. But if the closeout comes too fast, they can drive past and kick to an open three point shooter when the defense collapses. This also opens up the backdoor cuts that they love so much. As the player with the ball drives past his man, the help man is distracted, allowing his defender to cut backdoor for a layup. Middlebury’s close-outs were very shoddy in the loss in Williamstown: today they will have to come out quickly but also solidly, keeping good guarding position. If they can do that Williams will struggle to score, as they lack great one-on-one scorers outside of Daniel Aronowitz ‘17.

Williams X-Factor: James Heskett ‘19

James Heskett
James Heskett ’19 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

As I mentioned above, Williams lacks players who can break down perimeter defenders one on one if the defender has a solid close-out. Against Middlebury in the regular season, Heskett begged to differ. He put up 19 points on 5-10 shooting, and went 3-4 from three. At 6’8”, Heskett is too long to be guarded by any of Middlebury’s three guards, but is quick enough and a good enough shooter and ball handler to be a matchup issue for Eric McCord ‘19, Adisa Majors ‘18 or Nick Tarantino ‘18. The best match-up for him on Middlebury is probably Matt Folger ‘20, Folger looked very comfortable in the semifinal against Trinity, scoring 8 points in a row during the second half en route to 11 points. However, the NESCAC final is still a big stage for a freshman. Heskett’s combination of size and skill might force Coach Brown to play Folger a little more than he’d like. And if he doesn’t, Heskett could be a huge factor this afternoon.

Final Thoughts:

Middlebury has to be encouraged by what they saw from Jake Brown ‘17 against Trinity. After missing the first round game against Bates with a high ankle sprain, Brown played 31 minutes against Trinity. His stats weren’t tremendous (the sloppy nature of the game kept everyone’s stats pretty low) but he looked to be moving well, and his presence allowed Middlebury to push the pace in the second half and avoid falling into too much of a barfight with the Bantams.

Jake Brown scored 23 points and dished out six assists in the win.
Jake Brown ’17 is one of the keys to Middlebury’s effort to take home a second straight NESCAC championship;

Brown’s health will be even more crucial in this game. Williams is a perimeter-centric team, which means that Middlebury’s two terrific perimeter defenders (Brown and Jack Daly ‘18) will be tasked with slowing down the ball movement and outside shooting of the Ephs. Additionally, Brown is a needed offensive weapon for Middlebury. The Ephs will try to load up on St. Amour, so Brown will probably get some good looks from three. He and Bryan Jones ‘17 need to be threats from their to open up the floor for St. Amour. Eric McCord also will probably have a strength advantage over whoever is guarding him. If Middlebury can space the floor well enough, they should look to go to him in the post early and often.

Based on the match-ups, I would pick Middlebury in this game 8 times out of 10. But that’s what I said before the regular season game too, and look what happened there. Williams has all the sports-movie momentum in the world right now, and the re-emergence of Kyle Scadlock ‘19 as a terrifying two-way threat gives them a dimension they didn’t have against Middlebury earlier in the year. However, I still think Middlebury pulls it out. The Panthers should recognize the Ephs; they’re doing the same thing Middlebury did in the tournament last year. Therefore they should know what to do with them.

Writer’s Pick: Middlebury

The Plot Thickens: Power Rankings 1/25

Everett Dayton ’18 willed Tufts to victory on Saturday with 25 points and 8 assists (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics).

I say this knowing my reputation as a writer prone to hyperbole, but this may well have been the most difficult Power Rankings I’ve ever written. Aside from Tufts at the top and Colby at the bottom, there are literally no spots on this list about which I’m totally confident, and I’ve changed my mind on each of the middle nine teams approximately 750 times. Williams’ demolition of Middlebury threw the rankings (and my mood over the weekend) into disarray, as did Wesleyan’s continued come-up and Amherst’s shaky performance against Bowdoin. All this serves to say that I’m CERTAINLY wrong about at least 5 of these spots, and I know you readers will let me know which ones.

1.) #4 Tufts (15-2, 6-0)

It’s become very clear at this point that Tufts has some kind of “Angels in the Outfield” type mojo going on. After dealing with junior guard Vincent Pace’s inconsistency following a return from injury, star center Tom Palleschi ‘17 went down with a knee injury. Now obviously this blow knocked Tufts

FLAMING hot take: This movie is as good, if not better than “Field of Dreams.”

off pace (pun 100% intended) right? Wrong. The Jumbos didn’t miss a beat over the weekend, taking care of Wesleyan and Connecticut College in two very impressive performances. They were able to match Wesleyan’s defensive intensity even following Palleschi’s injury, winning 77-73 in a hard fought game. And then they ran the Camels out of the gym, putting up 100 points on 58.5% shooting in a game where Tarik Smith ’17 only played 6 minutes (the reason why is unknown to us at this point).  Tufts has everything working right now, and may well be able to survive their series of injuries, but three straight road matchups in league play will be a very tough test for the Jumbos. We’ll see how these rankings look in two weeks.

2.) #25 Wesleyan (15-4, 3-3)

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

Now here’s where it gets complicated. Wesleyan was dead in the water after the first weekend, but has gone 3-1 since. What sets them apart from the many other teams in the running for this spot is the quality of those wins. They beat Amherst and Trinity back to back last weekend, and then Bates in Lewiston on Saturday. They also played very well in a 77-73 loss to Tufts. The Cardinals still struggle to string together solid offensive possessions, but it seems that every game they get just enough of an offensive spark to let their defense carry them. They have received more consistent play from Nathan Krill ‘18, a terrific offensive player who often has trouble staying on the floor due to his struggles to control himself (he received a tech and eventually fouled out against Tufts). Krill wasn’t a weapon in their early loss to Middlebury, but if he is able to remain on the court during league play, the Cardinals could send a message in the coming weeks.

3.) Hamilton (13-4, 3-2)

The Continentals also benefit a great deal in these rankings from Williams’ performance against Middlebury. Hamilton pasted Williams at home last Saturday 94-76, getting 22 and 21 from Kena Gilmour ‘20 and Peter Hoffmann ‘19. Hoffmann was also a terror defensively, adding 3 blocks and 3 steals. Hamilton is a dynamic offensive team with a variety of weapons, but they can lag on the defensive end, as they did in their losses to Tufts and Bates. They still don’t have a quality road win on their resume, but they have the chance to pick one up this Saturday in Middlebury.

Kena Gilmour '20 (Michael P. Doherty photo)
Kena Gilmour ’20 had 22 points against Williams last weekend.

4.) #22 Middlebury (14-3, 3-2)

Speaking of the Panthers, their drive to a second straight championship hit a classic New England frost heave in Williamstown this weekend. The Ephs took it to the Panthers 89-65, in one of the more surprising results of the season. Middlebury simply had nothing working. Interestingly, they got a nice performance out of Matt St. Amour (24 on 9/18 shooting.) But the depth problems that we all feared when Zach Baines transferred reared their heads for the first time, as the rest of the team shot under 35% from the field. Defense was also a major problem for the Panthers, as they were repeatedly a step slow closing out on Williams’ legion of shooters. The Ephs exposed many of Middlebury’s flaws, and they have a lot of work to do in order to maintain a spot in the top tier of the league.

5.) Trinity (13-6, 4-1)

The Bantams sit at second in the league, having started off at 4-1 despite having only scored over 70 points twice over the course of league play. This of course has a lot to do with their terrific defense, anchored by possible Player of the Year AND Defensive Player of the Year winner Ed Ogundeko ‘17. But it also has something to do with the quality of their competition. Their four wins have come over the four bottom teams in the league, record-wise (although Williams’ performance against Middlebury makes that win much more impressive.) Trinity still struggles to find consistent secondary scoring options to lessen the burden on Ogundeko. They have the toughest weekend coming up by far, traveling to Amherst on Friday before playing Tufts on Saturday. Both games offer them the chance to pick up the signature win that they still lack.

6.) #14 Amherst (13-4, 3-2)

Amherst was offered the chance to recover from their 0-2 performance two weekends ago with a relatively easy slate. They had home games against Bowdoin and Colby, two teams that have struggled this year. And yet, they failed to truly recover their pre-league play form. They were trailing Bowdoin by double digits pretty much the whole way, needing another takeover from Jayde Dawson ‘18 and a buzzer-beating 30-footer from Johnny McCarthy ‘18 to survive 66-64. They took care of business the next night against Colby, but the fact remains that Amherst has lacked depth and consistent effort so far in NESCAC play.

7.) Williams (13-6, 2-4)

Pretty intimidating bunch of thirteen year-olds here.

Yes, Williams made Middlebury look like my U-12 AAU team on Saturday (Wildcats for life, baby.) But the question remains as to whether that game says more about Williams or about Middlebury. The Ephs 3-and-D style finally paid off for them, as they went 13-27 from three and held the vaunted Panther offense to just 65 points, their lowest scoring output of the season. They also finally received production from the frontcourt, as Marcos Soto ‘19 and James Heskett ‘19 combined for 38 points on 7-10 shooting from three. This is an unsustainable amount of production, but the confidence boost could lead to good numbers for the rest of the year for those two. Another performance like this one tonight against Amherst would put the Ephs fully back on track.

8.) Connecticut College (11-7, 2-4)

At 2-4 in the league, the Camels aren’t in a great spot. But they have played a little better than that record would indicate. They have a win over Amherst under their belt, and have played four of their six games on the road, including a very tough Hamilton/Middlebury combo on the opening weekend. They now have three of their last four games at home. All four are winnable games, as they play three of the four lowest teams in the league record-wise and Wesleyan at home. The Camels still have a chance to get over the hump.

9.) Bates (13-6, 3-3)

The vaunted home court advantage that Bates has enjoyed over the last few years seems to have vanished. The Bobcats have lost three in a row in league play, all at home. They have gotten very little offensive production in those games, averaging under 65 points per game. They simply have not surrounded the Delpeche brothers with enough perimeter production to discourage teams from doubling whichever one of them has the ball. Bates still boasts an elite defense and has the chance to make a huge statement this coming Saturday when they host Tufts, but they seem to be in serious trouble, as they still have to play Tufts, Amherst and Trinity.

10.) Bowdoin (1-4, 9-8)

The Polar Bears’ early win over Williams is now a signature performance, and they had another against Amherst well within their reach last weekend. But Jayde Dawson happened, and now Bowdoin sits at 1-4 in a league in which a comeback is very difficult. Their offense is pretty much entirely predicated on how well Jack Simonds ‘19 (the leading scorer in the league) plays, but their biggest flaw is on the boards. Bowdoin is the only team in the league that averages less rebounds per game than their opponent, a weakness that Ed Ogundeko exploited to the tune of 22 points and 20 rebounds last weekend in Bowdoin’s loss to Trinity. The Polar Bears don’t seem to have quite enough scoring or rebounding to compete in the league this year.

11.) Colby (0-5, 8-9)

0-5 in league play is not quite where the Mules wanted to be at this point in the season. They simply do not have enough offense to compete with the rest of the teams. Patrick Stewart ‘17 is an excellent stretch four (and also was terrific with Ian McKellan in “Waiting for Godot”), but he carries too large an offensive burden, leading to poor shooting percentages and efficiency numbers. I’m sure they’ll be able to grab a win or two somewhere, it’s just that kind of year in NESCAC. But at this point it’s hard to imagine them in the the tournament.

NESCAC the Third: Weekend Preview Part Two

Tyler Rowe ’19 is going to need to keep up his hot streak this weekend for the Camels (Courtesy of Conn College Athletics).

As Rory pointed out in the Friday preview, the third weekend is often a pivotal one for playoff chances. An 0-2 weekend this late in the season can be damning for post-season hopes, and that is only exacerbated by how strong the league is this year. Teams like Williams, Colby and yes, even Amherst need strong weekends to keep their playoff hopes alive, or reassert their place at the top of the league.

 

GAME OF THE WEEK – SUNDAY: Middlebury (13-2, 3-1) at Williams (12-4, 1-3): Sunday, 1/22, Williamstown, MA, 2:00 PM

Overview:

Will I choose Middlebury as the Game of the Week in every preview? Probably. But this game deserves must-watch status. Not only is it a rivalry game pitting two of the most successful teams of the last decade against each other, it features two of the best scorers in the league in Matt St. Amour ‘17 and Daniel Aronowitz ‘17. And it should end before the Patriots game starts, so no worries there.

Middlebury and Williams enter the game on very different footing in the league. Middlebury is 3-1, and was very close to pulling out a win at Tufts. Williams, on the other hand, comes in at 1-3 and has looked like one of the bottom teams in the league. For much of the post-Michael Mayer era, Williams has been a highly dangerous and successful 3-and-D team, relying on outside shooting and strong perimeter defense to remain a contender in the NESCAC. But the Ephs haven’t been able to put together those two components of their machine yet this year. Despite taking the most three point shots in the league by a considerable margin, they have the third-lowest percentage. The defense is still strong from a numbers standpoint, but they have been exploitable by patient offenses, allowing the third-highest shooting percentage to their opponents in the league. Williams might not have the personnel to continue playing their patented style, but they could prove that idea very wrong with a win over the Panthers.

 

X-Factors:

Eric McCord is a BODY down low, and the Panthers have really enjoyed his recent success (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics).

We’ve been writing a great deal lately about how the forward rotation of Matt Folger ‘20, Nick Tarantino ‘18 and Eric McCord ‘19 has given the Panthers an interior presence that many felt they’d be lacking this year. But in this game, I see the guards off the bench as being a crucial factor in Middlebury’s game plan. Williams will undoubtedly attempt to use the three point shot as a way to counteract Middlebury’s quick-strike offense. And if they’re hitting those shots, the Panthers may need some firepower from the outside to match them. That’s where the guards come in. The primary outside threat off the bench for Middlebury is Bryan Jones ‘17, who played some nice minutes early in the season but has shot just 5-18 in conference play. Recently, freshman guard Joey Leighton ‘20 has shot very well, entering the rotation just before league play and hitting 44% of his three pointers. Senior Liam Naughton and freshman Perry Delorenzo are also options, but haven’t played much in tight spots. Middlebury may need Jones and Leighton in particular to be scoring threats to open the floor for the three starting guards and the post players.

Williams’ big man rotation is a key for them as well. It is very telling that in Williams’ only NESCAC win thus far, a 72-66 road win over Colby, they got 33 points from their four forwards. In the other games, Williams has received a shocking lack of production from the frontcourt, on both sides of the ball. Williams is the second worst rebounding team in the league, and neither James Heskett ‘19 nor Matt Karpowicz ‘20 nor Marcos Soto ‘19 has been nearly consistent enough offensively to worry opposing teams. If Williams is to match Middlebury’s newfound interior presence, they will need good production from at least two of those bench players, as well as starters Kyle Scadlock ‘19 and Michael Kempton ‘19.

 

Final Thoughts:

This is a critical game for Williams, who is drifting dangerously close to falling out of contention for a top four seed. They have traditionally enjoyed a huge home court advantage, and have beaten Middlebury in some classics in Williamstown over the last few seasons, particularly in tournament play. But they need more than history on their side on Sunday. They need their role players like Cole Teal ‘17 and Heskett to hit some threes, and they need Dan Aronowitz ‘17 and Scadlock to play like stars. Aronowitz in particular should be key, as he will probably be matching St. Amour for much of the game. He has to at least play him to a draw if the Ephs have a shot.

Middlebury wins this one on paper. They have far more offensive weapons on the perimeter, and should be able to crash the boards against Williams’ frontcourt. However, Williams’ style of play is by nature unpredictable. If they are hitting threes, they can hang with anyone in the country, and it will be Middlebury’s job to run them off the line and into the paint, where they are far less proficient at finishing over size.

 

Writer’s Pick: Middlebury

 

Connecticut College (10-5, 1-3) at Tufts (13-2, 4-0): Medford, MA, 3:00 PM

Basking in the glow of their new standing at the top of the Power Rankings, Tufts has taken the league by storm, winning their first four NESCAC games. They still haven’t quite gotten POY-level production from Vincent Pace ‘18, but KJ Garrett averaged 15 PPG over the two games last weekend, giving them a valuable offensive weapon off the bench. The Jumbos still have problems in the post, as Tom Palleschi ‘17 has struggled offensively for much of the season. That said, Tufts has plenty of weapons ready to pick up the slack.

Connecticut College has a lot of momentum entering this weekend. They shocked Amherst last Sunday, owning the paint en route to an 83-76 OT win. The Camels were able to lock down Jayde Dawson ‘18 as well as any team has this year, holding him to 9 points on 4-10 shooting. That suggests that they should be well-equipped to handle Pace, who showed signs against Middlebury that he’s rounding back into form. They also got 40 points and 18 rebounds collectively from senior forwards Zuri Pavlin ‘17 and Daniel Janel ‘17. Tufts showed against Middlebury that strong post players can give them problems, as Eric McCord emerged against them with 22 points. Therefore, Connecticut College has the tools to pull off another upset, but I don’t see it happening.

 

Writer’s Pick: Tufts

 

Wesleyan (14-3, 2-2) at Bates (12-4, 3-1): Lewiston, ME, 3:00 PM

Salim Green ’19 rises up for a jump shot over an opposing defender (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics).

I’m setting the over/under for total points in this game at 105, as arguably the two best defenses (and least consistent offenses) in the league square off in what may come to be known as “The Battle of the Bricks.” Wesleyan looked to be nearly dead after starting off 0-2, but roared back with two straight wins over Amherst and Trinity. Wesleyan’s elite defense was on full display in both games, holding the two teams to an average of 60 PPG. They finally received some offensive firepower from Kevin O’ Brien ‘19, and Harry Rafferty ‘17 too, an encouraging sign. To win at Bates, they will need one of those two, or Salim Green ‘19 (finally got his name right) to shoot well from the perimeter, as Bates’ interior defense is often pretty much impenetrable.

Bates has been one of the surprises of the season thus far, sitting at 3-1 with a quality home win over Hamilton under their belt. Their success has obviously been chiefly due to the Delpeche twins, who combine for 27 PPG and 19 REB/G. Additionally, Malcolm leads the league in blocks at over 3 per game. The Delpeches are the keys to Bates’ offense and defense, but freshman transfer Jeff Spellman ‘20 has been pivotal in giving the Bobcats a perimeter threat off the bench. He had 30 points over the weekend. Bates should give Wesleyan a heavy dose of both Delpeche brothers, putting a tremendous defensive burden on Nathan Krill ‘19 and Joseph Kuo ‘17. Taking Bates’ lyric little bandbox of a home court into account, I see the towering twins leading Bates to another impressive home win.

 

Writer’s Pick: Bates

 

Colby (7-7, 0-3) at Amherst (10-4, 1-2): Amherst, MA, 3:00 PM

Well if they lose this one, there’s officially a crisis in Amherst. The Purple and White have lost two in a row, both to teams that hadn’t won a game in league play entering their match-up. Amherst’s problems have been copiously and gleefully documented on this blog, but they boil down to a lack of dimensionality on offense. Johnny McCarthy ‘18 and Jayde Dawson ‘18 have too much responsibility, allowing teams like Wesleyan to load up on them and dare other players to beat them. Colby probably doesn’t have quite enough perimeter depth to make use of this gameplan, but other teams have certainly taken notes on what Wesleyan and Conn College did to Amherst last weekend.

Patrick Stewart ’17 (Courtesy of Colby Athletics).

Colby may be the only team that played worse than Amherst last weekend. At 0-3 in the league, they are carving out a niche as the bottom team in a very strong league. Colby simply doesn’t have enough weapons to hang with the top teams in the league. Patrick Stewart ‘17 is an excellent stretch four, but like McCarthy and Dawson, he often carries an unreasonable burden for the Mules, yet with less of a supporting cast around him than the two Amherst guards. Amherst should use this game to get back on track, and ideally find a little more depth on offense.

 

Writer’s Pick: Amherst

 

Bowdoin (9-6, 1-2) at Trinity (10-6, 2-1): Hartford, CT, 3:00 PM

This game is a matchup of stars. Jack Simonds ‘19 and Ed Ogundeko ‘17 would be my top two POY candidates at this point in the season, due to their importance to their respective teams. Bowdoin for the most part goes as far as Simonds can carry them, as was proven by his electric 32 point performance in their lone NESCAC win over Williams. This game will be an excellent test of Simonds’ scoring chops in league play, as Trinity boasts an elite defense anchored by, who else, Ed Ogundeko.

Ogundeko may carry an even heavier load for Trinity than Simonds does for Bowdoin. In addition to being the key to the offense, he leads the league (and by nature of the transitive property, the team as well) in rebounding, and may be the one of the most intimidating shot blockers in the league. Players are straight-up terrified of shooting layups against him, which is heavily responsible for Trinity being among the league leaders in most defensive catagories. Bowdoin, on the other hand, is the worst rebounding team in the league. This could well be another 20-20 game for Big Ed, and if that’s the case, I see Trinity taking the win at home.

 

Writer’s Pick: Trinity

I’ve Herd Enough About How Young the Ephs Are, They’re Still Good: Williams Basketball Season Preview

Williams the awesome opportunity to travel to Spain as a team this summer, a big advantage heading into the season (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)
Williams the awesome opportunity to travel to Spain as a team this summer, a big advantage heading into the season (Courtesy of Williams 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: 7-3

2015-2016 was a rebuilding year for the Ephs after losing Hayden Rooke-Ley ‘15 and Dan Wohl ‘15, and youth was definitely an inhibitor at times for Coach App’s squad. Well, there are two sides to the youth coin. When you flip that coin, you’ll realize that Williams gained a bundle of experience last season preparing them well for a title run this winter. If the 2015-2016 season wasn’t enough time for some of the Williams calfs like Cole Teal ‘18, Chris Galvin ‘18, Kyle Scadlock ‘19, Bobby Casey ‘19, Marcos Soto ‘19, and James Heskett ‘19 to develop some familiarity and comfort playing with each other, the squad had the rare opportunity to travel to Spain this summer. Coach App thought the trip was an awesome experience for his players. Obviously it’s great that they got a chance to play together as a team over the summer, but more importantly, the team had time to just focus on building team chemistry and enjoying each other’s company, all while exploring a different culture. This seems to have translated to comfort on the court, something the staff is super excited about as they head into this year looking to improve on their first round exit in the NESCAC tournament as the #6 seed.

2015-2016 Record/Playoff Appearance: 15-10, 5-5, lost to #3 seed Tufts in quarterfinals of NESCAC tournament

Coach: Kevin App, 3rd season, 30-20 (.600)

Starters Returning: Four

Guard Mike Greenman ‘18 (7.8 PPG, 1.8 AST/G, 2.3 REB/G, 0.8 STL/G)

Guard Cole Teal ‘18 (10.5 PPG, 1.4 AST/G, 3.5 REB/G)

Guard Dan Aronowitz ‘17 (18.2 PPG, 2.3 AST/G, 7.4 REB/G, 0.9 STL/G)

Forward Kyle Scadlock ‘19 (11.1 PPG, 1.0 AST/G, 6.2 REB/G)

Key Losses:

Center Ed Flynn ‘16, started 25/25 games, (7.1 PPG, 1.6 AST/G, 5.4 REB/G)

Projected Starting Five:

Guard Mike Greenman ‘18

Mike Greenmail '18 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)
Mike Greenmail ’18 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Greenman spent essentially all of last year on the shelf, but he is back this season, and I can’t emphasize enough how big that is for Williams. Bobby Casey ‘19 did a fine job of running the point in Greenman’s absence, but the kid was just a freshman after all, and with immaturity comes mistakes. Greenman is just 5’8” (such a classic NESCAC point guard height), but he is quick, smart, and knows how to distribute the basketball. As a sophomore, Greenman played 31.4 MIN/G, averaging 8.6 PPG and 4.4 AST/G. After basically an entire season off from basketball, it will be interesting to see how Greenman adjusts to getting back into game-shape, but I have no doubt that he will be back to his normal self by the time NESCAC play rolls around. Getting Greenman back gives Williams a giant edge since they now have two point guards with big-minute experience – look for the 4th year junior to have a great year for the Ephs.

Guard Cole Teal ‘18

Cole Teal '18 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)
Cole Teal ’18 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Every team needs their shooter, and guess what, Cole Teal is that guy. Teams had success against Williams when they could chase Teal off the three-point line, but as the team has progressed, I just don’t know how much opposing defenses will be able to focus on that this winter. Teal is knockdown from deep…I mean seriously, as a sophomore, he shot 41.3% from three-point land…AND 52.3% IN CONFERENCE PLAY. That’s absurd. Though he only averaged 10.5 PPG over the course of last season, he would have had a much higher average if not for his slow start. Teal showed the ability to go off for 20+ a couple times, and 15-17 points pretty frequently. It’s consistency that has held Teal back, but if he can avoid those games where he is completely shut down, it will only open things up for his teammates.

Guard Dan Aronowitz ‘17

Dan Aronowitz '17 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)
Dan Aronowitz ’17 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Team MVP last year, league MVP this year? Seriously, Dan Aronowitz might be the best all-around player in this league, and what’s awesome for him is he has a chance to be the go-to-guy two years in a row for the Ephs. His 18.2 PPG ranked third in the league behind Bowdoin’s Lucas Hausman ‘16 and Middlebury’s Matt St. Amour ‘17, and Aronowitz was also one of just two guards in the top 10 in the NESCAC in rebounds (the other being Tufts’ Ryan Spadaford ‘16). The kid did it all for Williams this year, and the game should be easier for him now that the rest of his team is more experienced. I wouldn’t be surprised if his scoring drops due to the improvement of the players around him, but I could also see Aronowitz averaging 20+ this year pretty easily given his knack for putting the ball in the bucket. He is a tough matchup at an athletic 6’5”/200 lbs. because he’s bigger than most guards, but quicker than most forwards/centers. I’d be surprised if Aronowitz had anything less than a First Team All-NESCAC type of season.

Forward Kyle Scadlock ‘19

Kyle Scadlock '19 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)
Kyle Scadlock ’19 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Scadlock is one of the most agile big men in the league, which is definitely his biggest strength. While he is nearly as tall as most NESCAC centers, Scadlock has the athleticism and quickness of many wing players, making him a big threat for this Williams offense. The sophomore had a solid freshman campaign by all accounts, and I expect him to take off this year now that he knows what to expect. Scadlock’s 11.1 PPG was the second highest on the team behind Aronowitz, but what was more impressive was his usage as a freshman: 27.2 MIN/G overall, 29.3 MIN/G in-conference. Scadlock was also the second-best rebounder for Williams, and he will need to shoulder the load on the boards once again as the Ephs boast some very young big men this winter. If Williams is going to make some noise this year, it’s not going to be without contributions from Scadlock — keep an eye on this kid for an All-conference type of season.

Center Matt Karpowicz ‘20

Matt Karpowicz '20 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)
Matt Karpowicz ’20 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Though he is just a boy in terms of age, Matt Karpowicz is a man physically. The freshman center measures in at 6’8”/250 lbs., and he is just what the Ephs needed after the departure of Ed Flynn. Karpowicz is a big body that can band around down low with the Ed Ogundekos and the Tom Palleschis of the league, and he has a big interior presence on both ends of the court. Though Marcos Soto is definitely going to see big minutes this year, Karpowicz’s game complements Scadlock’s better due to the fact that they have such different styles of play. Expect an upward trend over the course of the season out of Karpowicz as he adjusts to the physicality of the college game. I know he comes from the elite New England prep league, but high school ball and college ball aren’t the same thing. Karpowicz’s advantage is his size, which will allow him to adjust much quicker than other first year players – I’m excited to see this kid play.

Breakout Player: Forward/Center Marcos Soto ‘18

Marcos Soto '19 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)
Marcos Soto ’19 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Soto is a sneaky weapon for Coach App this year. The 6’8” sophomore averaged 15.1 minutes off the bench last year behind Scadlock and Ed Flynn ‘16, gaining some valuable experience in his first season as an Eph. While Soto isn’t an enormous scoring threat, he is an efficient scorer. He takes care of the ball and is just an all-around smart player, something that complements the Williams scorers of Aronowitz, Teal, and Scadlock nicely. One thing that killed Williams last year was their lackadaisical ball security, but with an increased role in 2016-2017, Soto should play a part in decreasing the team’s turnover numbers. Coach App is looking for extra helpers on the boards this season after the loss of Flynn, so if Soto can demonstrate a strong effort rebounding the basketball, he should see lots of floor-time for the Ephs.

Everything Else

As I’ve mentioned numerous times, inexperience was clearly the biggest hindrance to success for the Ephs last season. I’m certain that after taking their lumps this past winter, Williams is in a perfect position to be the snake in the grass that takes the NESCAC championship. Now that they have had time to improve individually and become more comfortable playing together, these guys are going to have a much easier time scoring the basketball. Coach App hopes that they’ll actually be able to have a much less structured offense this year because of this heightened familiarity, allowing them to push the ball in transition and make quicker decisions. It’s a matter of knowing who to get the ball in certain situations, and Williams should be much more efficient now they’ve developed this presence of mind.

Like I noted above, getting Mike Greenman back is a huge boost for this Williams roster. Greenman is a great player, but the bigger difference maker for Coach App is that he can now take a starting point guard off the bench in Bobby Casey ‘19. Casey started 7 games last year, and if not for Greenman he’d probably be the starter this year. Casey is a great asset in that he is a 6th man that can come in and get buckets. As a freshman, he averaged 9.6 PPG, and put up a season-high 17 points against top-of-the-conference Trinity last winter. He has shown the ability to come in and make positive contributions off the bench, and his 2016-2017 season will be about Casey’s ability to be consistent with those contributions. Ball control was an issue for Casey down the stretch, but that can definitely be attributed “freshman year jitters.” Expect Casey to have a phenomenal year for the Ephs.

James Heskett ‘19 and Chris Galvin ‘18 were two other contributors for Williams last year, and they should see increased roles this winter. Heskett is a 6’8”/205 forward that saw some fill-in minutes off the bench when Scadlock and Flynn needed a rest, but with the absence of Flynn, Heskett will be relied on as an additional rebounding presence for the Ephs. Galvin is a solid guard that was more of a drive and kick type of player than a high-scorer, which will fit into the Williams offense very well this season. The junior will once again be a helper on the glass from the guard spot. Michael Kempton ‘19 and Jake Porath ‘19 should also see time down low for the Ephs.

The freshman class of Williams features a range of talents, which bodes well for the Ephs. Henry Feinberg ‘20 is a big wing player that possesses a knockdown jumper; Mickey Babek ‘20 is another sizeable guard that is very well rounded, and it’s his versatility that makes him such a threat; Vince Brookins ‘20 is a talented, athletic combo guard, and he fits very well into what Coach App and staff are trying to do with the team this year. It will be an uphill battle for this freshman class to get on the court because of all the experienced returners Williams has, but Coach App is not afraid to play freshmen, so don’t be surprised if we see some of these guys in the rotation when the season starts.

The biggest knock on the Ephs is that they lack a dominant center, something that many of the league’s elite teams possess. An quicker offensive tempo should allow Williams to hide this deficiency somewhat on the offensive end, but defensively, they will be vulnerable until one of their inexperienced big men shows that he can defend offensive powerhouses in the paint. If a Williams center emerges as a defensive weapon, or Coach App game-plans around this hole in their lineup, Williams will be a pretty scary team when league play rolls around.

NESCAC Quarterfinal Preview: #6 Williams at #3 Tufts

Tufts Roster

(Top: Courtesy of Tufts Athletics; Bottom: Courtesy of Williams Athletics)
(Top: Courtesy of Tufts Athletics; Bottom: Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

One of the late games this weekend matches up Tufts with Williams, two teams that played just last Friday. This is the first game for the Jumbos since then, while Williams had the chance to play a tune-up game in which they trounced Bates by 20 points. Williams comes in at 5-5 in conference play making them the No. 6 seed. Williams has been perfectly average this season. They’ve lost to every team ranked higher than them and beat every team ranked lower than them. Tufts’ 7-3 record varies slightly from this pattern, but it’s still somewhat accurate. The Jumbos beat every team ranked sixth or lower as well as Amherst, but lost to Trinity, Middlebury and Wesleyan, the first, fourth, and fifth seeds.

These two were separated by a margin of just four points when they played each other, so this should be a good one. Tom Palleschi ’17 has been hot for the Jumbos of late, averaging 21.6 ppg in his last six games, and he looks to continue that streak into the NESCAC tournament tomorrow. For the Ephs, Dan Aronowitz ’17 shook off a tough three game stretch and put together three outstanding games to round out league play, averaging 23.3 ppg against Conn College, Tufts and Williams.

Last time they played: Tufts 77 – Williams 73

When Tufts and Williams matched up just a week ago in Williamstown, the ability to protect the rock was the difference in the game. Tufts turned the ball over just four times last Friday, three of which came in the first half. Williams, on the other hand, committed 15 turnovers. Quite simply put, the lack of ball control Williams demonstrated lost them the game. Tufts didn’t shoot the ball very well from the perimeter (7-24 3PT) and got to the line 10 less times than their average of 26 free throw attempts per game. They were able to pull out a close victory, in large part due to the contributions of tri-captain Stephen Haladyna ’16. On 8-17 shooting from the field and 3-6 from deep, Haladyna matched Williams’ best scorer Aronowitz bucket-for-bucket on the way to his season-high 22 points. On a night where Vinny Pace ’18, Tarik Smith ’17, and Ryan Spadaford ’16 shot the ball pretty poorly, Haladyna’s leadership propelled the Jumbos to victory. Tufts Coach Bob Sheldon said, “Stephen has been due for a breakout game. Our team has done this all year: if one or two guys aren’t playing well, somebody else steps up.”

The other big duel of the game was between Tufts center Tom Palleschi and Williams guard Cole Teal ’18, both of whom dropped 17 points, but in very different ways. The Williams offense is centered on tons of on- and off-ball screens with the goal of creating chaos for opposing defenses, which leads to open shooters. Teal was able to get free beyond the arc and light up the scoreboard on five separate occasions, providing the Ephs with a huge boost. Meanwhile, Palleschi did most of his damage in the paint. He was able to rack up 14 points from field and another three from the free throw line, but Ed Flynn ’16 did not make it easy for him. Flynn is couple inches taller than Palleschi, something the Tufts big man does not usually see, and maybe this had something to do with his 7-16 shooting performance. Palleschi missed SEVEN lefty hooks in this game, a shot that he usually makes look easy.

When I asked Williams Coach Kevin App about Palleschi’s performance, he noted, “We held Palleschi to 17 points on 16 shots, that’s about a point per shot.” Williams is going to take that 10 times out of 10. Palleschi is a force inside, and holding him to under 50 percent from the field on almost all layups/hook shots is pretty good. The way Williams packed in the paint worked pretty well defensively, as it forced Tufts to kick the ball out and beat Williams from the perimeter, a strategy which would have been successful if Tufts hadn’t scored 12 more points off of turnovers than Williams did. I expect Williams to protect the ball better tomorrow, but I also expect Tufts to shoot better from the outside, so this will be another great matchup between the two squads.

Tufts X-Factor: Guard Ryan Spadaford ’16

(Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
(Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

Overall this season, Spadaford is the third highest scorer and rebounder on the Jumbos roster, but when Tufts traveled to Williamstown last weekend Spadaford did not play well. He shot just 2-9 from the field and shot 0-6 from behind the arc. Missing good shots early, Tufts’ “shooter” clearly became frustrated as the game went on, made evident by a few forced shots. However, last weekend’s game is EXACTLY why I think that Spadaford is going to come out hot on when his team hosts the Ephs in Medford. As one of three captains leading Tufts, Spadaford is not going to let his team get upset at home due to his playing poorly. Just two weeks ago, after a poor game against Trinity in which Spadaford shot 0-4 from three and scored just two points from the field, he bounced back against Amherst and rained down 3-5 from deep. Expect Spadaford to put up a lot of shots: this streaky shooter has shown that he can be pretty deadly when he gets the crowd behind him at home.

Williams X-Factor: Bobby Casey ’19

Courtesy of Williams Athletics
(Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Bobby Casey, like Spadaford, did not play particularly well last weekend. Casey also shot 2-9 from the field, and he added four turnovers to round out a subpar performance. However, Casey, also like Spadaford, showed that he has the ability to bounce back from poor performances. Just two days after the loss to Tufts, Casey dropped 16 points on 5-6 from the field and 4-4 from three-point land! Casey is young, and Tufts defense forced more mistakes out of him than any other NESCAC team has, but he has also demonstrated his ability to step up in big games. Against Amherst, Casey scored 13 points and didn’t turnover the ball once while dishing out three assists. When Williams faced Trinity just two days later, Casey dropped a season-high 17 points while recording two assists and just one turnover. The Ephs are going to need help from their role players, especially now that the Jumbos have had a chance to figure out a little more about Teal and Aronowitz. I think Casey is going to find some room to work, and this time, he’s going to take advantage of those opportunities.

 Three Questions

1. Can Williams contain Tom Palleschi again?

As Coach Sheldon said, “Tom had 17 points, seven rebounds, and three blocks, and we’re not happy with his game.” That statement sums things up right pretty perfectly. Palleschi can play a lot better. I don’t see Tufts going 7-24 from outside again, so the Williams guards are not going to be able to sink into the paint to help out on Palleschi nearly as much. Frankly, I think Palleschi is going to have a mammoth of a game tomorrow.

2. Can Tufts force Cole Teal off the three-point line?

Obviously, Tufts is going to be locked in on Teal, but I’m sure they were when they faced off in Williamstown too. Teal showed off his elusiveness by ducking around option screens all over the place last weekend, and Tufts had a hard time communicating on those screens, leading to Teal sinking five threes-pointers. Basically, the answer to this question relies on a couple things: 1.) The ability of Tufts to switch more fluidly off of screens – when there is seamless switching and Teal is forced to attack the hoop, he is not nearly as effective. 2.) The ability of other guards to put the ball in the basket – obviously Aronowitz is going to get his points, but if guys like Bobby Casey, James Heskett ’19, Chris Galvin ’18 and Kyle Scadlock ’19 can score the ball efficiently, Teal will find himself open, too.

3. Will Tufts dominate the turnover battle again?

Like I noted above, Williams turned the ball over 15 times last weekend …Tufts turned it over just four times. Tufts scored 15 points off turnovers while Williams scored just three. For Williams to win this game, they NEED to take care of the basketball. It’s unlikely that the Jumbos will take care of the ball as well as they did last time, but limiting wasted possessions is vital for Coach App’s squad. Williams is a young team, but they are going to need to play wiser than their years if they are going to pull off the upset.

What to Expect

It’s no secret that Williams has a very hard test ahead of them. Tufts is a much more experienced team with some really tough players to guard in Palleschi, Pace, and Smith. Spadaford and Haladyna have shown their ability to step up to the challenge in must-win situations, and the Williams young guns like Scadlock, Casey and Heskett are going to be tested in their first NESCAC Tournament action. Aronowitz has been here before, but not as the go-to-guy, so this playoff game is going to be a bit different for him as well.

Not to be overlooked is how loud the Tufts crowd is going to be: the #6 Tufts women’s team plays before the men’s game, and if the Lady Bo’s get the crowd going with a big win (as they are favored heavily to do), Cousens Gymnasium could be a raucous arena come 4:00 pm on Saturday. The key for Williams is to come out hot to quiet the student section. If they can get on top early, then the crowd will play a minimal role in this one. Spadaford is known to be a guy who feeds off the energy of the fans, and since his shooting is going to be such a big factor in this one, Williams can’t sleepwalk their way through the first few minutes.

I think that Tufts is simply a better team than Williams, especially at home. The game last weekend could easily have been a blowout if any number of guys on Tufts hits the open shots they normally hit. I don’t think turnovers are going to play as big a factor in this one, but I do think Tufts is going to shoot the ball much more efficiently, especially Palleschi. If this one goes the way I think it will, Tufts will pull away at the end.

Prediction: Tufts 86 – Williams 72