Chaos at the Top: Men’s Basketball Power Rankings 1/5

The last week has been a fascinating one from a power rankings perspective. The preseason top two teams, Middlebury and Williams, both suffered losses in which multiple pervasive problems were revealed. Amherst has also been struggling, while surprise teams like Bowdoin and Hamilton have continued to play well. The league is very hard to read heading into NESCAC play, and that’s definitely a good thing. Let’s get to the rankings.

1: #14 Wesleyan (9-1)

The Cardinals have two of the best wins in the league, over #11 Williams in a non conference game and over #21 Nichols. Wesleyan’s defense has always been dominant, but in recent years they have lacked the outside shooting (and scoring overall) to compete with the elite NESCAC teams like Middlebury, Williams and Amherst. This season, they have been able to score when they need to. Jordan Bonner ‘19 (16.8 PPG) has had a lot to do with this, but Austin Hutcherson ‘21 has emerged lately as the kind of X-Factor that could carry Wesleyan to the top of a wide-open league. In a three game stretch that featured wins over Vassar, Brandeis and Fitchburg State, Hutcherson had 14, 27 and 14 with 12 three pointers. However, he was held to zero points during Wesleyan’s loss to an inferior Springfield team on Tuesday night. That loss featured many of the scoring woes that have plagued the Cardinals in recent years, so it seems that Hutcherson will be a crucial factor in determining whether their success will continue in NESCAC play. A back-to-back home matchup with Williams and Middlebury this weekend will be the best possible test of Wesleyan’s legitimacy.

Austin Hutcherson ’21 could throw his name right into the ROY race with some strong NESCAC performances.

2: Tufts (9-3)

Don’t look now, but Tufts is figuring it out. They’ve won five games in a row, and are the hottest team entering league play outside of undefeated Hamilton. Cam wrote a good deal about them in the Stock Report, but the return of KJ Garrett ‘18 makes the Jumbos dangerous again as contenders for the league crown. An electric athlete who can score in bunches and defend multiple positions, Garrett is the kind of player who can swing games all by himself on either end of the court. And he did just that in their tournament. Garrett had 30 points in the two games (18 in a Game One win over Pomona) and added 12 rebounds and five steals. With Vinny Pace back in form and Eric Savage making a big leap (15.6 PPG,) Tufts is as deep on the perimeter as anyone. And there aren’t too many big men in the league who can really exploit their lack of size, so Tufts is right back in the top tier.

3: #4 Middlebury (7-2)

The Panther’s ride to a three-peat has hit a classic New England speed bump. The Panthers have lost two of their last three games, the last one a blowout at home, something that has happened maybe once or twice in the last five years. It must be noted, however, that the losses were to #12 York and #13 Swarthmore. Middlebury has played the toughest non-league schedule of anyone, and they just paid for it. However, Middlebury should still be able to win those games, especially at home. The culprit has been scoring, particularly from the perimeter. Middlebury was relying a great deal on relatively unproven quantities like Jack Farrell ‘21, Joey Leighton ‘20 and Hilal Dahleh ‘19 to aid Jack Daly ‘18 and Matt Folger ‘20 in scoring. And honestly, no one has been hitting and outside shots. In this rough three game stretch, Middlebury is just 16-69 (definitely NOT nice) from three. That’s about 23%. As a result of this, teams are throwing all their defenders at Daly, who is trying to do a little too much against that pressure due to his own struggles from three. Middlebury still has a lot of talent, and should benefit from this early exposure to high level competition. But they have to hit more shots this weekend, especially in their marquee Saturday matchup with Wesleyan.

4: #24 Hamilton (10-0)

First of all, congratulations are in order. Hamilton is nationally ranked for the first time since 2004. And yet, they can still claim that they’re underrated. 10-0 and fourth in the power rankings? Tough break for the Continentals, who have been by far the most impressive team in preseason (albeit with a bad schedule.) Hamilton’s offense is firing on every cylinder right now. They average nearly 100 points per game on 50% shooting and 39% from three. They have four players averaging over 13 points per game, and none of them are seniors. However, their defense will need to improve if they are to buck their recent trend of fading in NESCAC play. Hamilton’s big starting lineup (the smallest starter is athletic Kena Gilmour ‘20 at 6’3”) should lead to versatility, but their forwards are undersized and they often get killed in the paint. Hamilton is last in the NESCAC in opponents field goal percentage at 44%. They will not be able to simply outscore NESCAC teams.

Tim Doyle ’19 had 25 points against Moravian, and is one of Hamilton’s many weapons on offense.

5: #11 Williams (9-2)

The Ephs may be finally starting to notice that Kyle Scadlock is not on the court. Their 73-71 loss to 4-5 Hamline is the worst one of the recent rash of top tier NESCAC losses. Williams has a real problem with finding a secondary scoring option alongside the rising star of James Heskett ‘19. Heskett has done a terrific job taking on the go-to-guy mantle, averaging nearly 23 points per game on over 50% shooting in their last three games. But other players who had been scoring well, such as Bobby Casey ‘19, have recently fallen off. Obviously, one game is no reason to panic. But league games are looming, and Williams starts off on Friday with a road game at Wesleyan, the toughest opening game of any team. Teams will be on notice now about Heskett’s emergence, and Wesleyan (and Tufts and Middlebury for that matter) have plenty of athletes on the perimeter to throw at Casey. As always, I think Williams should up the minutes of Matt Karpowicz ‘20. He’s a scoring threat down low and could force defenses to move around more instead of sitting on the three pointer. We’ll see how they handle Wesleyan on Friday.

6: Amherst (7-3)

 Amherst is entering league play on a decidedly downward trajectory. They’ve lost two in a row with opposite problems contributing to each loss. In a 76-65 loss to Southeastern, Amherst shot only 37% from the field, including a 2-13 showing from Johnny McCarthy ‘18. And then in their next game, a 95-92 loss to Eastern Connecticut, Amherst shot 57% from the field and got 25 points from McCarthy and 22 from Michael Riopel ‘18. However, those two players combined for over half of their points, and they still gave up 95 to the other team. Amherst’s offense goes as McCarthy goes, and like McCarthy, they are struggling for consistency. They still lack a third scoring option that can be trusted every night, just as they did last season. Every year people are waiting for Amherst to turn it on. Their success rightfully makes them a perpetual sleeping giant. But it might be the case that they just don’t have enough talent this season.
7: Trinity (9-2)

I feel like no one, especially us, has said a single word about Trinity yet this season. But as quietly as possible, the Bantams are 9-2 and have won five games in a row. They’ve done it, as is their way, with defense. They are second only to Wesleyan in opponent’s field goal percentage and points per game. Additionally, they absolutely handled Springfield (the team that recently handed Wesleyan their first loss) earlier this season 71-54. Like the Cardinals, Trinity’s strength on defense is balanced out by struggles on offense. In the preseason, Trinity has gotten fairly consistent scoring from Jeremy Arthur ‘19 (13.7 PGG) and Eric Gendron ‘18 (10.3 PPG.) However, Gendron only shoots 22% from three, and Trinity as a team only shot 31% from downtown. Their offense will need to be more versatile in NESCAC play.

8: Bowdoin (8-2)

The Polar Bears have rebounded nicely from their two game losing streak,

Zavier Rucker ’21 has been a great find for Bowdoin this season, and become even more valuable as the season goes on.

winning their last two in impressive fashion. This mini-streak including a non-league win over Bates. Bowdoin has been shooting the ball very well lately, hitting over 50% of their shots in both of those wins. Despite having only started one game, David Reynolds ‘20 has taken over for Jack Simonds ‘19 (who is struggling mightily from the field at 39.5%) as the go to scorer. But the key to Bowdoin’s league success may well end up being a first year. PG Zavier Rucker is still shooting 66.7% from the field in 31.1 minutes per game. He has also shown tremendous maturity in running the offense, especially for a first year. His assist to turnover ratio is 2.5, fifth best among players with over 30 assists. And his size (6’2”, 187) and strength have made him an elite defender already. He averages 1.5 steals per game, and will be essential in guarding the variety of excellent guards in the NESCAC. Bowdoin has the talent to reach heights they haven’t seen in years, and Rucker is a huge part of that chance.

9: Colby (7-3)

The best big man you haven’t heard about plays for the Mules, and his name is Dean Weiner. Yes, I know he sounds like the bad guy in a raunchy college comedy, but he is quietly putting up one of the best stat lines in the league. He averages 10.3 PPG, and leads the league in rebounds (9.4) and blocks (2.8.) But what really sets him apart is his passing. He averages four assists per game, with an A/TO ratio of 2.5. That’s better than many guards. In a league somewhat devoid of star big men, Weiner could be a problem for many teams come league play. His versatility could give traditional big men like Williams’ Karpowicz and Middlebury’s Nick Tarantino ‘18 problems, and he’s good enough around the rim (58.3% from the field) to punish smaller players in switches. Colby may not have enough shooting around him to be really dangerous, but they’ve got a star, the first key to NESCAC success.

Dean Weiner ’19 has done it all this season for the surprising Colby Mules.

10: Bates (7-5)

Bates still simply cannot shoot. They are shooting 39% from the field as a team, and 29% from three, both far and away the worst marks in the league. And this is in non-conference play: they still have to face the elite defense of the NESCAC. Jeff Spellman ‘20 carries the most offensive burden of any player in the league, and as a result, defenses are throwing everything they have at him. He’s only shooting 30% from three, and that is simply because he is forced to take many tough shots. Given this trend, it is surprising that Max Hummel ‘19 doesn’t play more. He is far and away Bates’ best shooter (indeed, one of the best in the league) at 45.5% from three, and yet he only plays 17 minutes per game. In league play, Hummel might and should be forced into a sixth man or even starting role, in order to find some shooting and free up Spellman.

11: Connecticut College (5-6)

The Camels have lost four of their last five games, and it’s kind of unclear as to why. Their teams shooting numbers are excellent (second in the league in three point shooting at 37%,) they have a star in David Laboissiere ‘18 (17 PPG on 45% shooting from three) and a strong secondary scorer in Dan Draffan ‘21. For more on Draffan, check out Colby’s (the writer, not the college) Awards Preview. Generally speaking, the culprit behind the Camel’s struggles is defense, but it seems more that they have a lack of toughness. All of their losses have been by at least 9 points, suggesting that when they get down, they are not good at managing runs by opponents. However, their shooting ability means that they could be a problem if they get hot. They have a good chance to turn it around on Friday night when the shaky Middlebury Panthers come to town.

It’s Way Too Early For Power Rankings: Men’s Basketball Power Rankings 12/18

A short disclaimer before this article: This month of non-league games doesn’t really matter. Obviously it’s better to be undefeated (like Middlebury, Wesleyan, and Hamilton) than 4-5 (like Connecticut College) but for the most part the competition is lower-quality than league play. Come January, rotations, league leaders and indeed these rankings will all change pretty much immediately. But I haven’t written anything in forever and I’m already impossibly bored here at home, so let’s round out 2017 with these premature and probably inaccurate rankings. As always, feel free to kill me for them in the Twitter dm’s.

1) #2 Middlebury (6-0)

The Jack Daly ‘18 show has been incredible to witness this season. Daly is fourth in the leangue in scoring (17.5) first in rebounding (10.0) and first in assists (9.2.) Leading the league in rebounding and assists is simply ridiculous; I can’t remember it happening at any level of college basketball. But Middlebury’s undefeated record despite playing arguably the hardest non-conference schedule (Skidmore and Endicott were both tournament teams last year) is do in large part to the supporting cast as well. Matt Folger ‘20 is making a leap, averaging 17 points per game and contending for DPOY with 1.3 steals and 2.3 blocks per game. And the other guard spots, vacated by St. Amour and Brown, have been filled admirably by a committee. Hilal Dahleh ‘19  gets healthier every game after missing all of last season with a back injury, and has averaged 13 PPG on 8-13 three point shooting over his last three games. And first year Jack Farrell ‘21 just broke out with a 22 point showing against Skidmore. Add in fellow first year (and Hogwarts student) Griffin Kornacker ’21 and the experienced frontcourt rotation of Tarantino, McCord and Majors, and Middlebury is loaded. The Panthers play two more tournament teams in Swarthmore and York before league play begins, but they’re certainly riding high at the moment.

2) #14 Wesleyan (8-0)

Wesleyan is attempting to win despite not following the “run and shoot threes” style that the Warriors have made the norm throughout basketball. The Cardinals are fifth in the conference in scoring at 81 PPG and have taken the fewest threes with 153. And yet, they sit at 8-0 and beat Williams in Williamstown. How? One word: defense. Well actually, two word: defense and Bonner. They are averaging a ridiculous 11.5 steals per game, far and away tops in the league and have five players averaging at least one per game. They also lead the league in blocks per game at 6.5 and are second to Amherst in opponents points per game. But Wesleyan’s defense is always good, and it hasn’t always translated to success. This year, at least so far, Wesleyan finally has the go-to scorer they’ve lacked in recent years in Jordan Bonner ‘19. Bonner is averaging 17.5 PPG and has four 20 point games already. As Amherst gets into league play and the games get closer, they will need Bonner to get buckets at the end of games. The defense can take care of the rest.

Jordan Bonner ’19 may be the go-to scorer that could push Wesleyan over the edge.

3) #5 Williams (8-1)

Obviously, the Ephs’ strong start has been overshadowed by the loss of star forward Kyle Scadlock ‘19 to a torn ACL. Scadlock was building a POY case when he went down, and his injury is sad both for Williams and for the league as whole. But don’t count them out just yet. Williams is very deep, especially at forward, and have shown the signs of being able to weather this storm. Since Scadlock got hurt, they have relied largely on James Heskitt ‘19 and Bobby Casey ‘19 to pick up the offensive load. Both players have averaged over 15 points per game since his injury. And Williams’ greatest strength has always been the size that they bring off the bench. Matthew Karpowicz ‘20 is a terrible sportswriter, but he’s one of the best players in the league to come off the bench. It wouldn’t be a shock to see him start in league play, or at least see an increase in minutes when Williams faces other big teams like Middlebury and Amherst. Williams is still one of the teams to beat.

4) #23 Amherst (7-1)

Fru Che ’21 is one of a number of impressive Mammoth first years.

Here’s a ranking I might get killed for if the Amherst football parents are any indication. The Mammoths are well on their way to making all of us look dumb for thinking they might be down this year. They are 8-1, and have the best scoring defense in the league at 61 PPG, a huge reversal from last year’s team. But it should be pointed out that they are continuing the time-honored Amherst tradition of playing a terrible non-conference schedule. The Mammoths haven’t played any tournament teams yet this season, a fact that contributes somewhat to their terrific team stats. Indeed, it’s hard to get a read on Amherst’s key players because they’ve played some many blowouts in which everyone on the roster sees time. However, the struggles of Johnny McCarthy ‘18 cannot be explained by inconsistent minutes. McCarthy, who was expected to make a POY-type leap this year, is averaging 10 points per game on 38% shooting, 21% from three. Michael Riopel ‘18 and stellar first year Fru Che ‘21 have picke up the slack, but in league play, star power helps. Maybe McCarthy needed Jayde Dawson more than we thought, or maybe he’s just waiting until they need him more, but Amherst can’t compete with Middlebury if McCarthy isn’t an offensive threat.

5) Hamilton (8-0)

Hamilton always gets us with this trick. They play great before league play, and everyone (especially me) gets all excited thinking they might finally be ready to challenge the big boys. Then they get smoked in NESCAC games. At the risk of falling into that trap again, Hamilton has look REALLy good thus far. They are averaging 95 points per game (albeit against the same level of competition as Amherst) and lead the league in shooting, both overall and from three. Hamilton has one thing that they didn’t have last year, however, when they started strong and then faded spectacularly in league play: experience. All the young players that made Hamilton exciting last year are a year older and have improved noticably. Michael Grassey ‘19 has become a deadly three point shooter and overall scorer, and the backcourt of Tim Doyle ‘18 and retired mobster Joe Pucci ‘19 shoots over 50% from three and provides leadership. But Hamilton’s star is Kena Gilmour ‘20. Gilmour averages 17 points and seven rebounds per game, and is exactly the kind of versatile, athletic wing that tends to dominate NESCAC (see Bowdoin’s Lucas Hausman.) This has been said each of the last three seasons, but this might be Hamilton’s year.

6) Tufts (7-3)

Expected to compete for the league title at the beginning of the year, Tufts is just now getting healthy and rounding into form. They have three losses, but two of them came in their first three games and both were against tournament teams (MIT and WashU-St. Louis.) Since those games, they are 6-1. Tufts has been without two key contributors all season in KJ Garrett ‘18 and Ben Engvall ‘18. Both players made a big difference last season, and has led to a crisis of depth for Tufts. The Jumbos rely heavily on Vincent Pace ‘18 and Eric Savage ‘18 to carry the offense. The senior duo has combined to average 33 points per game, 19 of those coming from Pace. As Amherst proved last year, relying too much on two players is not a sustainable way to win NESCAC games. Defenses are too good; Wesleyan, Amherst, Williams and Middlebury all have enough depth to throw multiple defenders at both guys. Tufts will need one or both of Savage and Garrett to return during league play if they hope to live up to preseason expectations.

7) Bowdoin (8-2)

There was brief pandamonium (or should I say…Polar Bear-monium? I shouldn’t? Okay) a few weeks ago when Bowdoin briefly climbed as high as number 22 in the national rankings. Back-to-back losses to Colby and St. Joseph’s ended that brief love affair. But as Landry Clarke must have thought after Tyra dumped him, just because it was brief doesn’t mean it was a fluke, and it doesn’t mean it can’t happen again. Bowdoin has a lot of talent. David Reynold’s ‘20 is a bona-fide super sub, averaging 15 points per game on over 50% shooting off the bench. First year guard Zavier Rucker ‘21 is shooting 66.7% from the field and has turned what was expected to be a weak spot (PG) into a strength. And Hugh O’Neil ‘19 provides size and toughness inside. Jack Simonds ‘19 still hasn’t gotten going, only shooting 39% from the field and 28% from three. He seems to be having a little trouble meshing with a suddenly-balanced team, after being very much the go-to guy last season. Once he figures it out, Bowdoin really could be scary.

David Reynolds ’19 is explosive off the bench for the Polar Bears.

8) Trinity (6-2)

As always, it’s hard to get a read on the Bantams. After losing Ed Ogundeko, Trinity has gotten off to a solid 6-2 start. However, they got pasted by Nichols, their best opponent by far, 89-75. In that game, as well as their other loss to Western Connecticut, they showed many of the offensive problems that have plagued previous Trinity teams. Those problems are primarily related to floor spacing. The Bantams are the second worst three-point shooting team in the league, trailing only Bates. Their leading three point shooter (and overall scorer) is Jeremy Arthur ‘19, and he shoots only 36%. When Trinity plays against good defenses who can handle their size inside, those teams can pack the paint and Trinity really struggles to score. Arthur has been a good player for a while and is flourishing without Ogundeko, but Trinity won’t win league games if they don’t find someone else to hit some threes.

9) Bates (5-2)

Jeff Spellman
Jeff Spellman ’20 (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

Bates is shooting, as a team, 38% from the field and 24.5% from three. According to my “Basketball For Dummies” reference book, that is not very good. It speaks very highly of their defense that they are 5-2 despite shooting that poorly. They force nearly 17 turnovers per game, and allow teams to shoot almost as poorly as they do from three at 27%. Bates has relied largely on that defense and the clutch play of Jeff Spellman ‘20, who is averaging over 18 points per game. Most of those came in a 38 point outburst against UNE, but he has shown a knack for getting a big hoop when they need one most. Obviously, during league play, they will have to shoot better than this, or else teams will pack the paint even more than they will against Trinity.

10) Colby (6-2)

Colby may be the team that has the fairest gripe with these rankings. They have a 6-2 record and a signature win over Bowdoin. And yet here they are, two places behind the Polar Bears. In contrast with the Bobcats, much of Colby’s success is due to their three-point shooting. Colby shoots 34% from three, which isn’t amazing, but their numbers are slightly skewed by two games where they shot 22%. Colby is also young. Their leading scorer is impressive first year Michael Hanna ‘21, who averages over 13 PPG. Colby has a chance to contend for the CBB title, and maybe climb into the tournament.

11) Connecticut College (4-5)

David Laboissiere ‘19 (don’t ask me to pronounce that) has put up one of the most efficient first months we’ve seen in a while. He leads the league in scoring at 18.3 points per game, and is shooting 52% from the field and 51% from three. Unfortunately, he’s not getting a ton of help. And his team’s record reflects that. They are a league-worst 4-5, and have lost three in a row heading into break. The main culprit is certainly turnovers. They average 19 per game, by far the most in the league. They do try to play fast, which leads to some sloppiness, but that is simply not a sustainable way to play. In NESCAC play, Labossiere won’t be able to bail them out every night.

David Labossiere is putting up big numbers this year, but so far they have been for naught.

NESCAC Idol: Middlebury vs. Trinity Semifinal Preview

#2 Middlebury (22-3, 8-2) vs #5 Trinity (16-9, 6-4),

Overview:

Image result for sanjaya malakar
We are all responsible for allowing this to happen.

In Season Six of American Idol, the immortal Sanjaya Malakar defied everyone’s expectations to reach the top seven despite having literally no discernable singing talent whatsoever. Every week millions of fans would say “this must be the week he’s going home.” And every week he would survive.

Trinity is the Sanjaya of the NESCAC tournament. Every year they seem less and less qualified to hang with Middlebury and Tufts in the top tier, and every year somehow they’re in the mix at the end of the season. They have nine losses this season! And yet here we are, writing about Trinity as a contender for the NESCAC crown. The Bantams “won” their first round game against Wesleyan 51-49 on a game winner from Ed Ogundeko ‘17. I use the quotation marks there because Wesleyan is just as responsible for losing that game as Trinity is for winning it. Trinity only shot 28% from the floor, which should never, ever result in win. The Bantams will not be able to survive a shooting night like that against Middlebury.

The Panthers are looking to be the Jordin Sparks (an unstoppable juggernaut bulldozing all pretenders out of the way) to Trinity’s Sanjaya . They have been playing as well as any team in the country as of late, but have hit a bit of a speed bump due to Jake Brown’s ankle injury. They beat Bates in the opening round, but their vaunted offense was considerably less volatile with the absence of Brown. They needed Matt St. Amour ‘17 to continue his transformation into a literal flamethrower to survive the Bobcats. Brown’s status is still uncertain, giving Trinity a thin path to victory. However, even without Brown, the Panthers should take care of business.

How Trinity Can Win:

If Brown does play, he will most likely not be his usual electric self.

Therefore the Bantams should still look to get either Jack Daly ‘18 or St. Amour in foul trouble. Daly and Brown are 1A and 1B in terms of NESCAC point guards in my opinion, so the Panthers are still fine ball handler-wise when one of them is out. However, St. Amour is not a point guard, so if

Matt St. Amour ’17 is averaging nearly 31 points per game over his last four. If they want to win, Trinity will have to limit him by forcing him to bring the ball up or getting him in foul trouble.

Brown is limited and Daly is in foul trouble, Middlebury will not be able to play nearly as fast as they want. And if St. Amour is in foul trouble, the Panthers have tremendous issues finding outside shooting threats. Bryan Jones ‘17 has come back down to earth a bit and is obviously not nearly as adept at creating his own shot as St. Amour. Middlebury offense is electric due to its three-headed dog of terrific guards. They’re already down one; if Trinity can take away another they have a good chance.

The common thinking is that the way to beat Middlebury is to slow the game down. Trinity certainly tried to do that in their regular season loss to the Panthers. However, they weren’t able to make enough shots to make up for it. If you take 25 seconds on every possession and then miss a three, what have you really accomplished? Trinity tried to pound the ball into Ed Ogundeko, but the Panthers were willing to double him from pretty much anywhere, and held him to 14 points and 9 rebounds. Trinity had success against the Panthers in the second half running halfcourt sets, as the Panthers defense is geared towards creating havoc more than it is fundamental soundness. The Bantams need to make sure they focus more on running good offense and hitting shots than aimlessly taking the air out of the ball.

How Middlebury Can Win:

Obviously the beginning, middle and end to any book on how to beat Trinity would read “Stop Ogundeko.” The Panthers had an excellent game plan against him in the regular season. They doubled him on almost every post catch, as Trinity lacked the outside threats to force the Middlebury guards to stay home. Their game plan was so successful that Ogundeko only played 7 minutes in the second half, a bold strategy from Coach Cosgrove that didn’t seem to pay off. Trinity will probably try to involve Ogundeko in the pick and roll more, as the Panther bigs had trouble keeping up with him as a roll man in the second half. But Middlebury will most likely keep the same strategy and force other Trinity players to make shots.

Middlebury X-Factor: Jake Brown’s Ankle

Jake Brown ’17 is a steady hand at the wheel for Middlebury
(Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

Middlebury’s offense didn’t miss a beat against Trinity during the regular season without Brown, but it suffered in the second half against Bates. It’s often Brown’s flashy play that draws a lot of the attention, but he is also a very careful leader of the Middlebury offense. Jack Daly is a terrific point guard, but has shown himself to be turnover prone when running the show on his own. And the Brown/Daly duo allows Matt St. Amour to avoid bringing the ball up entirely. This is by far the best case scenario for the Panther offense. St. Amour is at his best when running off screens and attacking off the ball. If he is forced to bring it up, he has to expend more energy and doesn’t have as much freedom. Middlebury proved they can beat Trinity without Brown, but they are immensely better with him on the floor, and his absence would provide Trinity with a much larger window to victory.

Trinity X-Factor: Jeremy Arthur ‘19

Jeremy Arthur
Jeremy Arthur ’19 (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

The bottom line is that someone has to hit shots for the Bantams. Arthur was the only person who really played well against Middlebury, scoring 19 points and hitting 4-9 from three. Arthur presents something of a match-up problem for Middlebury, as he is big enough to give guards trouble and fast enough to give bigs trouble. His combination of driving ability and outside shooting make it tough for Middlebury to double off of Ogundeko with his man. He will need to have another terrific game to force Middlebury guard Ogundeko one-on-one at times.

Final Thoughts:

If Brown is indeed out or heavily limited, Middlebury’s forward rotation will be especially crucial. They are obviously a key on defense no matter what. Eric McCord ‘19 is strong enough to hold his own on the block with Ogundeko, and Nick Tarantino ‘18 uses his long arms to challenge Ogundeko’s hook shots. Adisa Majors ‘17 has come back into the fold lately, and offers Coach Brown a third big to throw at Ogundeko defensively. One of those three will need to have a big game on offense as well, and it goes without saying that they’ll all need to hit the boards hard.

Trinity guard Langdon Neal ‘17 is critical for the Bantams. His tenacious on ball defense is their most valuable weapon in slowing down whichever Panther guard is pushing the ball up the floor. However, he needs to make sure he keeps consistent effort. Too many times would he start off a possession with a burst of energy, only to have Jack Daly break him down and get an easy look for a teammate or himself. Defense is not a matter of playing hard for five or six seconds; it’s about constant effort, even if that means slowing down a bit at the start.

Ed Ogundeko ’17 (#52) is the key to Trinity’s offense and defense; Middlebury’s gameplan on both ends will focus on him.

Trinity has a good chance to win this game, particularly if Jake Brown is still out of commission. They need to slow down the game, yes, but more simply than that they have to make the shots they get. It won’t help to slow down their possessions so much that they’re throwing up prayers at the end of the shot clock. Middlebury just needs to stay steady and not get dragged into a boxing match with the Bantams, and they should advance to a second straight NESCAC final.

Writer’s Pick: Middlebury

The Battle for Connecticut: NESCAC Quarterfinal, #5 Trinity at #4 Wesleyan

#5 Trinity (15-9, 6-4) at #4 Wesleyan (19-5, 6-4), Saturday, 3:00 PM, Middletown, Connecticut

(Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)

Taking a glance at season-long statistics, when Trinity heads to Middletown this Saturday to play Wesleyan, they’ll be facing an equal opponent. Wesleyan has allowed just over 66 points per game this winter. Trinity’s competition has put up an average of 65.5. While Wesleyan is averaging just over 76 points a game, which is four more than the Bantams, both teams are shooting 40% from the field, and from deep, both Wesleyan and Trinity are shooting 35% and 35.2% respectively. Where the disparity between the two lies – so that I can have a take on the game, rather than just throwing evidence in front of you that says the game will be a tie – is in the final stretch of the regular season.

After a last-second OT win at Amherst, Wesleyan coasted through Bowdoin and Colby – as expected, I should add – with 93-73 and 83-67 wins at home. In both those games, 4 of Wesleyan’s five starters scored in double figures. Wesleyan, who it seems can depend on consistent output from senior and member of the 1,000 point club Harry Rafferty, as well as from fellow senior Joseph Kuo, who is on the brink of membership, as he currently sits with 978 career points. This streak of balanced perimeter scoring bodes well for the Cardinals, especially against a Trinity defense that allowed Bates to shoot 46.7% from the field, and Middlebury to shoot 57% from the field and 52% from deep. The Cardinals’ chances look good if they can get balanced offensive production, especially because they can rely on strong perimeter defense.

The Cardinals are going to need a big game out of Joseph Kuo ’17 (Courtesy of Lianne Yun/Wesleyan Athletics).

The Cardinals held a perimeter-scoring heavy Amherst to shooting just 32% from deep, while Bowdoin shot 34%, and Colby, despite an absolute lights out first half, were cooled down by the Cardinals to shoot just over 35% from beyond the arc. Yet the thing that makes this matchup so interesting is that Trinity knows that they can’t beat Wesleyan by jacking up threes, and they wouldn’t have tried to anyways. Wesleyan’s biggest weakness is rebounding, and they’ll need solid performances on the glass from more than just Kuo and Jordan Sears, who pulled down 11 against Bowdoin, if they hope to match Trinity’s far-from-secret weapon. If the Bantams are to win this game, it will be on the shoulders of senior Ed Ogundeko.

That sounds like an aggressive take, but it’s certainly not a hot one. The senior forward has led Trinity in either points, rebounds, or both in every one of the Bantam’s wins since mid-December. He pulled down 23 boards against Williams. He had 20 points and 20 boards in a win over Bowdoin. But in Trinity’s 97-80 loss in Middlebury this past weekend, Ogundeko was only good for 14 points and 9 boards. This is still a solid line, but it shows that Trinity’s success is contingent on his individual domination, especially on the glass. When Wesleyan and Trinity squared off earlier in the season, the senior POY candidate had only 8 rebounds, and the Cardinals won the game 65-61.

Look for sophomore Jeremy Arthur to step up in this battle for Connecticut (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics).

Saturday’s game will be won or lost on the glass. Wesleyan will look to defend well, and they certainly hope for the balanced production they’ve been getting from their starters over the course of their current three game win streak. The question is Ogundeko. If he isn’t attacking under the rim, or the likes of Jeremy Arthur and Chris Turnbull aren’t pulling the ball down, then perhaps Wesleyan won’t need anyone to step up and grab 10 boards. But if Trinity can command the paint while the ball stays down low, Wesleyan will need some serious hustle for their perimeter D to have the impact it does against less-aggressive opponents. Wesleyan’s perimeter play against Trinity’s strength in the paint should combine for one heck of a first round matchup.

Writer’s Pick: Wesleyan   

Can The Bantams Follow In Their Football Team’s Footsteps?: Trinity Basketball Season Preview

Jeremy Arthur has had a hot start for the Bantams so far, and they will need him to keep it up in order to challenge for the top spot in the NESCAC this year (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics).
Jeremy Arthur has had a hot start for the Bantams so far, and they will need him to keep it up in order to challenge for the top spot in the NESCAC this year (Courtesy of Trinity 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. Also, now that the season is under way, treat this as our thoughts on what we’ve seen so far, not just a regular preview.

Trinity suffered a heartbreaking loss to Middlebury in the NESCAC finals. After a nearly perfect regular season in conference, only losing to Amherst on January 30th, the Bantams, hampered by injuries, fell in the final 70-58. They were pretty much the best team in the conference all year, completing the 1-2 NESCAC punch with Amherst at the top, but didn’t perform quite as well at the tail end of the season. They were an experienced, well seasoned, and dynamic team. However, four out of the five of Trinity’s starters graduated and moved on to the real world. Their only returner is Ed Ogundeko ’17. For most teams this would leave a bleak outlook for the year and a plan for rebuilding, however, Coach James Cosgrove and the Bantams have other plans. Ogundeko is no ordinary player. He led the league in boards and is plenty to build a team and a season around.

The Bantams still stare down several holes in their lineup left by the class of 2016 at the guard and forward positions. Shay Ajayi, Rick Naylor, Jaquann Starks, and Andrew Hurd combined to average 37.3 PPG and 9.5 assists/game, making up most of the Bantams’ production. However, the four only averaged 13 REB/G combined, which barely bests Ogundeko’s 10.6 REB/G, leaving less of a hole down low. Trinity’s Coach Cosgrove clearly planned out the transition from one era to the next as he brought in six first year players to aid in adding depth and production that will help the returners cope for the holes in the lineup. Joe Bell, Kyle Padmore, and Nick Seretta should be the major contributors from the class of 2020, offering help to returners Jeremy Arthur ’19, Eric Gendron ’18, Langdon Neal ’17, and Chris Turnbull ’17 who are likely starters for the Bantams. These inexperienced players have struggled so far, as Trinity has struggled to a 1-3 start. The Bantams need some production outside of Ogundeko in order to continue to be a top tier NESCAC team.

Projected Record: 7-3

2015-2016 Record: 19-8, 9-1, Lost in NESCAC finals, Lost in first round of NCAA Tournament

Head Coach: James Cosgrove, 7th year, 90-67

Returning Starters:

Center Ed Ogundeko ‘17 (19.5 PPG, 5.2 REB/G, 2.3 A/G, 40.1% 3PT)

Key Losses:

Forward Shay Ajayi ’16 (13.9 PPG, 7.3 REB/G, 48.3% FG)

Guard Rick Naylor ‘16 (5.6 PPG, 1.2 AST/G, 30.1% FG)

Guard Jaquann Starks ‘16 (11.7 PPG, 2.2 REB/G, 2.4 AST/G)

Guard Andrew Hurd ’16 (6.1 PPG, 4.8 AST/G, 2.1 REB/G)

Projected Starting Lineup:

Guard Langdon Neal ‘17

Langdon Neal (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
Langdon Neal (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

Neal enters his senior season as the clear replacement for Andrew Hurd ’16 as he played in all of the Bantams’ 27 contests and averaged 14.1 minutes/game in 2016. He shot 39% from the field last year en route to a modest 3.7 PPG, 1.6 REB/G, and 1.6 A/G. Neal, a former walk-on player at American University, transferred to Trinity last year and should find his groove after one year in Cosgrove’s system. His D1 talent should translate over well to a starting position after sitting behind Hurd last year and one of four major contributors off of the bench a year ago. The Bantams will look for him to improve from beyond the arc as he shot just 1 of 4 from three-point range in 2016. Hurd had incredible 3-point efficiency as he shot 46.9% from deep and was a threat, whereas Neal’s range was limited. If Neal can become more of a shooting threat, it should open up the court for Ogundeko, who should be the clear target for opposing defenses.

Guard/Forward Eric Gendron ’18

Eric Gendron (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
Eric Gendron (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

Gendron enters as pretty much a lock to start this year after finishing fourth on the team last year with 8.2 PPG. He led the team in free-throw percentage and 42.2% from 3-point range last season, good for 7th in the NESCAC. He will likely play at the 2 position after Jaquann Starks’ departure (three guards in total graduated last year) leaving Trinity with a bigger lineup than most teams. At 6’4’’ Gendron should be one of the bigger shooting guards in the league, but has the ability and touch from deep range to back it up. The junior averaged 20.2 minutes a game last year and was a clear sixth man on a team that was dominated by upperclassmen. His 92.7% clip from the charity stripe led the team, and his eight double-digit point performances suggest that he could easily become the second leading scorer behind Ogundeko.

Forward Chris Turnbull ’17

Chris Turnbull (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
Chris Turnbull (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

Senior captain, leader, and four year player Turnbull looks to transition into the starting lineup as he was another major contributor off of the bench a season ago, averaging 16.5 minutes per game. His 3.8 REB/G and 5.7 PPG were solid for the time he got, especially considering Ogundeko’s ability to grab nearly every rebound in a game. The 6’4’’ player should fit well into the small forward position as he is backed up by plenty of bigger players down low. This should give him some opportunity to shoot as he showed flashes of big game capabilities after raining down 14 points twice last season. His veteran and experienced presence should offer the generally young Bantam team some guidance and an example of how to stick out the bench for a few years and earn a captainship and a spot in the starting five. Turnbull isn’t going to make or break the Trinity season, but he should still play as a staple and consistent contributor in the lineup, offering reliability and a solid amount of rebounds, probably coming in right behind Ogundeko on the team’s leaderboard, in a lineup that is filled with questions and intrigue heading into 2017.

Forward Jeremy Arthur ‘19

Jeremy Arthur (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
Jeremy Arthur (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

Arthur is one of the aforementioned question marks headed into this winter. Arthur transferred to Trinity last year from Westchester Community College and because of his late arrival didn’t make his debut until January 7th against Elms College. Coach Cosgrove played Arthur sparingly, averaging just 10.3 minutes in the games he played, but he performed well towards the end of the year and scored nine points against Middlebury in the NESCAC semifinal game. He is a big 6’4’’/210lb. and should be able to handle himself well down low with the help of Ogundeko. Arthur’s consistency will be a major factor in how much he helps out the Trinity offense, but he should be able to rack up the boards with the big men. Someone needs to replace Ajayi, who grabbed 7.3 boards per contests last season, creating a big gap in the Bantams defense. Arthur might just be that guy.

Center Ed Ogundeko ‘17

Ed Ogundeko (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
Ed Ogundeko (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

This guy is a beast. There’s nobody in the league who is even close to as good as him down low. His ability to get rebounds outperformed all other competitors by over 2 REB/G, an incredible difference. I’ve already mentioned him in most of the other blurbs and that’s because the team is going to rely on him to have any chance to compete this year. Sure, there are some solid newcomers and pretty good returners from the bench last year, but Ogundeko is the clear shining star on this squad. Without him, the Bantams just don’t have much of a chance. Lucky for them, he should be able to carry the team as much as one player can – Ogundeko will likely lead Trinity in points and rebounds, getting close to the NESCAC league lead in both too. His double double capabilities will be nightmarish to opposing centers who have to deal with the 6-6 230 pound beast down in the front court. This preseason All-American, captain, and center was the NESCAC defensive player of the year and should increase his rebound totals without a major defensive presence in the lineup with Ajayi gone. His season high of 22 points last year against UMASS-Boston should be eclipsed in nearly every contest and he should also score well over 50% of the time from FG range. Opponents’ game plans will center around how to stop Ogundeko, and for good reason. I’d be shocked if he wasn’t at least 1st team All-‘CAC at the end of the year.

Diamond in the Rough: Guard Nick Seretta ‘20

Nick Seretta (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
Nick Seretta (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

I’m not going to lie here, I’ve been pretty lazy about writing this article. It took me a while to find a time to interview Coach Cosgrove and I kind of put the preview on hold for a while with football season wrapping up. On top of that, as many college students could agree, going home for Thanksgiving had me feeling some type of way [Editor’s note: and then I slacked pretty hard on the whole editing part of the process, pushing back the publishing date even further]. On the bright side though, this has allowed me to see what Trinity’s playing time distribution looks like after their first two games, and it’s evident that Seretta should be a major contributor from his contributions early in the young season. The 6’3’’ swingman from Middlesex, CT is averaging a huge 24 minutes per game and scored 11 points against Southern VT in his first collegiate contest. Since then, he is averaging 7.5 PPG and 3.3 rebounds per contest too. The high flying first year can dunk with the best of them too, and he should be a big playmaker and an exciting weapon down the road for the Bantams. Cosgrove highlighted how Seretta should be one of the major first year players to make an immediate impact at the college level, especially considering Trinity’s lack of guards. Youth is in quantity in Hartford, and Seretta is just one of many young guns Cosgrove looks to unveil in 2017.

Everything Else:

Between Neal, Gendron, Arthur, and Turnbull, Trinity looks to have a solid lineup as they will be led by senior sensation Ogundeko. However, the four replacements from last year’s NESCAC regular season winning team might not be up to the task. Yes, they have experience and great coaching, but none of them really standout as big playmakers and guys who can go off during a game the way that Ajayi or Starks could. Arthur in particular has had some big games, but other than Ogundeko, the Bantams have struggled to score during their 1-3 start.

This hole will hopefully lead to big impact seasons from several of the first years, including the aforementioned Seretta as well as Joe Bell ‘20 and Kyle Padmore ‘20. Bell has struggled thus far, only playing in 8.3 minutes per game and going 2-14 shooting, but his time will come as the season progresses. Padmore should have a bigger role at the guard spot evidenced by some early big minutes off of the bench. So far he is averaging 14.3 minutes per game. Padmore has shot efficiently, but only has 5 points so far this season, a number I suspect will rise as the season progresses. He has racked up a total of four boards in the first two contests though and should only increase his production as he finds his role and gets comfortable at the college level.

The 6’4’’ guard saw the opening in the lineup from a season ago and is hungry to take minutes away from the returners, as any competitive player should be, but drastic improvement throughout the course of the season is not out of the question here. He drilled a three pointer against Southern Vermont in a tough overtime loss, and should only drain more as the season goes on. Guards for the Bantams will be flying in and out of the game as they don’t have any clear stars taking the ball up the court, but they might be fine with a dribble-by-committee approach.

There are a lot of things up in the air for Trinity in this young season as they look to repeat as NESCAC regular season champs and overcome upset losses last year to win some rings. They have a long road ahead of them with ample transition into what is a new era in Hartford. Ogundeko is going to do everything he can to end his college career with a bang, and the seasoned Coach Cosgrove shouldn’t roll over easily either. Regardless of how they stack up, Trinity won’t go down easily; they are always a player in the title race, and if the young Bantams  can adjust to the college level and complement the elderly Trinity ballplayers, they will be dangerous.