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

Home Teams Sweep Weekend: Stock Report 2/22

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

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

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

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

Stock Up

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

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

Forward Connor Green ’16 (Amherst)

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

Tufts’ Offensive Balance

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

Stock Down

Wesleyan Cardinals

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

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

Williams Passing

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

Colby Seniors

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

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

NESCAC Quarterfinal Preview: #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

Move Over, Jumbos: Power Ranks 1/27

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Four Way Way Too Early Thoughts on NESCAC Basketball

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

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

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

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

2. Bowdoin beating Babson is the best game of the year so far: There is not a lot of competition for this one, though Colby can lay claim to best ending with Ryan Jann’s three pointer to beat Regis. In terms of significance, Bowdoin beating Babson, the #11 team in the country per D3Hoops.com,  is much bigger. I was lucky enough to be there, and the game was a showcase for the individual offensive talents of forward Jack Simonds ’19 and guard Lucas Hausman ’16. The two combined for 62 of Bowdoin’s 88 points, and many of those points came off of isolation plays run for one of them. Hausman continues to be a marvel averaging just below 30.0 ppg so far, and Simonds is already a full-fledged Robin to Hausman’s Batman averaging 16.8 ppg. In the game Sunday, Bowdoin took advantage of a somewhat sleepy Babson team to control the first two thirds of the game. Bowdoin had a 17-point lead with 14:54 left in the second half, but Babson chipped away at the lead the rest of the way. In overtime, Simonds and Hausman scored the first 14 points for the Bears, most of them at the foul line.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trust Is the Key to Williams’ Success … and (Maybe) the Best Freshmen Class in the NESCAC: Williams Season Preview

The slender Bobby Casey '19 and his classmates might represent the best recruiting class in the NESCAC. (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)
The slender Bobby Casey ’19 and his classmates might represent the best recruiting class in the NESCAC. (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Last season was a transition year for Williams. Even though their .500 record wasn’t the best in the ‘CAC, Williams made a strong run. Recent graduates Dan Wohl ’15 and Hayden Rooke-Ley ’15 had outstanding and mirroring years, both leading the team in points per game with 19.7, earning All-NESCAC Honors and signing pro-contracts with teams in Israel. These two shooters will definitely be missed and whoever is going to fill their shoes has a mighty, but not impossible, job to do.

Williams lost in the NESCAC quarterfinals to Bowdoin 87-74 last season, which is tough to swallow after making it all the way to NCAA D-III Finals two years ago. Head Coach Kevin App cited trust as the missing link.

“We weren’t happy with the way we started or the way we finished, but when we played balanced and trusted one another on the court, we pretty much won every game. … It was hard for the team to open up and trust each other. The moments it did happen, I saw great things. … It’s like dating someone. You have to let your guard down at some point and open up to them.” – Head Coach Kevin App

2014-15 Record:

15-10 overall, 5-5 NESCAC (t-5th); lost in NESCAC Quarterfinals to Bowdoin 87-74; did not qualify for NCAAs

Coach: Kevin App, 2nd year, 15-10 (.600)

Returning Starters: Two

PG Mike Greenman ’17 (8.6 ppg, 4.4 apg, 2.7 rpg)
G Dan Aronowitz ’17 (10.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 45% FG)

With Wohl, Rooke-Ley and F Ryan Kilcullen ’15 having graduated, there are three vacancies in the starting lineup. A lot of scoring production is gone, but Greenman and Aronowitz are seasoned vets by this point who can lead their teammates.

Projected Starting Five:

PG Mike Greenman (8.6 ppg, 4.4 apg, 2.7 rpg)

Greenman played in all 25 games and averaged 8.6 points a game and was elected to be one of the three captains along with seniors Edward Flynn ’16 and Luke Thoreson ’16. Despite his diminutive size, Greenman runs the offense well and can occasionally hit a few shots if the defense doesn’t respect him. Greenman has had great success on the court and Coach App has full confidence that Greenman can lead this team to a winning season.

G Chris Galvin ’18 (2.5 ppg, 1.5 apg, 38.1% FG)

Galvin is going to be a much bigger factor this year. He provides a second option to Greenman with his ability to create for others, and at 6’3″ is going to be tough to guard.

 

 

G Cole Teal ’18 (3.1 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 2.0 A/TO)

Teal had a successful year as a freshman, according to App. He played a ton of games and has made impressive improvements on the court. The games that he did start, he put his best game forward, playing solid defense and adding points to his team’s rocky offense. Teal is going to be counted on to increase his production this season.

G Dan Aronowitz (10.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 45% FG)

Aronowitz had an outstanding season as a sophomore. He played in all 25 games last year, starting 23 of them and averaging 10.6 points per game. Though Aronowitz played only 13 minutes in the Ephs’ season opener, I’d be shocked if he didn’t lead the Ephmen in minutes and points by the end of the season. He scored 353 points in his first two seasons while playing second (and third, and fourth) fiddle to Wohl, Rooke-Ley and Taylor Epley ’14.

C Edward Flynn (1.4 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 58.3% FG)

Flynn is a senior center who knows the program inside and out. He has the ability to dominate the paint and therefore, open up shots for guards like Arnowitz and Greenman on the perimeter. He is also critical to what the Ephs want to do on offense. They need production from the paint in order to succeed with a four-out, one-in system, and while there are a bevy of first-years than can play center, Coach App would prefer his veteran and captain to really solidify himself in that role.

Breakout Player: Chris Galvin

Be on the lookout for Chris Galvin ’18 who played in all 25 games last year as a freshman and averaged 20.2 mpg. This season could be huge for the sophomore guard.

Everything Else:

Last year’s team was heavily perimeter-oriented. With a deep recruiting class this year that features a couple of big, athletic frontcourt players, this edition of the Ephs will be much more balanced. The most established big man returning for Williams is center Edward Flynn, but he played just 6.1 mpg last season. There’s truly a void in the Williams frontcourt, but the coaching staff hopes that a few newcomers can step up to fill that space. It could be traditional big men Michael Kempton ’19 or Jake Porath ’19, but top of that list is Kyle Scadlock. At 6’6″, 205 pounds and very athletic, he’s not a traditional center, and he might remind some Ephs fans about current Michigan forward Duncan Robinson … Scadlock just so happens to wear Robinson’s old number, too. Scadlock’s stat line from his college debut: 5-10 FG for 14 points and 10 rebounds. He also ripped off at least three slam dunks in the game. Half of the teams in the league had three dunks all of last season.

While the starting lineup features four pure guards, Scadlock, F Marcos Soto and F James Heskett ’19 will get plenty of minutes off the bench and bring some height to the floor. Clearly, the Ephs have an athletic team, but will they be able to matchup with some of the better frontcourts that teams like Bates and Amherst can roll out?

Adding a talented frontcourt to an already loaded backcourt (and beefing up the backcourt, too; see, Bobby Casey ’19) will make the Ephs a force to be reckoned with once again. When they were competitive two years ago their offense flowed through All-World center Mike Mayer ’14. Who can be that guy? Scadlock doesn’t seem to be a sit-in-the-post type, but he still brings size and skill that Williams lacked last season. Flynn will need to take a monumental step forward if he is going to fill that void. Time will tell if this freshman class is as good as advertised. If so, the credit is due to Coach App and his staff for their recruiting efforts, and that bodes will for Ephs’ fans in the future as the program begins its climb back to national prominence.

Inconsistency a Constant for the Ephs: Williams Season Wrap-up

Dan Wohl '15 and Ryan Kilcullen '15 enjoyed their best statistical seasons as seniors. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
Dan Wohl ’15 and Ryan Kilcullen ’15 enjoyed their best statistical seasons as seniors. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

Record: 15-10 (5-5), lost to #2 Bowdoin in the NESCAC Quarterfinals

2013-2014 saw the Ephs come within a buzzer-beater of winning the National Championship, but expectations were much lower entering the season because of the departure of coach Mike Maker, transfer of Duncan Robinson ’17, and graduation of Michael Mayer ’14 and Taylor Epley ’14. The Ephs started the season with two bad losses. Then they righted the ship and went on a 10-2 stretch where their two losses came by a combined four points to Trinity and WPI who are now a combined 41-9. Dan Wohl ’15 stepped up to be the leader for Williams and was playing like one of the best players in the country.

However, an injury to sniper Hayden Rooke-Ley ’15 was a major contributing factor to the Ephs never winning two games in a row in the 2015 calendar year. The Ephs were simply never able to play consistently because they relied so much on making shots from the perimeter. Center Ryan Kilcullen ’15 had by far his best season as an Eph offensively, but he was never a great interior defender or rebounder. Williams finished the conference season with a -10 rebounding margin, by far the worst margin in the NESCAC. Mike Greenman ’17 and Dan Aronowitz ’17 stepped into starting roles as sophomores, but Kevin App still had to rely heavily on his starting five. The Ephs led at halftime in their quarterfinal game against Bowdoin, but they ran out of steam and got outscored by 20 points in the second half. Now the Ephs will lose Kilcullen, Wohl and Rooke-Ley to graduation meaning their roster will look completely different than the one that nearly won a National Championship last season.

High Point: Victory over Amherst 71-70 on January 10

This wasn’t the best game that Williams played (that would be their rout of Middlebury a few weeks ago), but this game was everything you could ask for from the best rivalry in the NESCAC. The Ephs were coming off a crushing double OT loss the night before to Trinity and Rooke-Ley was injured so it would not have been surprising to see Williams struggle. Instead, Wohl played an incredible game finishing with 28 points and role players like Darrias Sime ’16 and Cole Teal ’18 stepped up big time. The Ephs were down eight with under four minutes to go, but they outscored Amherst 14-5 over the final 3:39 to pull out the win. Kilcullen’s three with under 10 seconds left won it for the Ephs, and the Williams faithful spilled out onto the court. At this point in the season the Ephs looked like they were in great shape. This was the conclusion of their 10-2 run mentioned above. The schedule looked easier going forward and we all knew Rooke-Ley would come back soon. Unfortunately, Williams never was able to play two good games in a row from that point forward.

MVP: Forward Dan Wohl ’15

One of the first things you have to consider about Wohl is that he was the fourth option for Williams just a year ago. Wohl still had 12.9 PPG and 6.0 RPG and we expected him to carry a heavy load all season. For most of the season, he did more than just bear the load as he was the best player in the conference and looked like a shoo-in for POY honors at the end of January. However, he struggled just a little bit down the stretch and will probably have to settle for First Team All-NESCAC. He still had an incredible season. Along with Rooke-Ley, Wohl tied for second in scoring in the conference with 19.7 PPG. He was far and away the best rebounder on Williams finishing with 8.6 RPG. Wohl leaves as the 13th all-time leading scorer for Williams, a somewhat amazing achievement considering he was only ever targeted for shots this season.

Player to Watch: Forward Dan Aronowitz ’17

Just like Wohl did this season, Aronowitz will become the go-to guy for Williams next season. Kevin App is unlikely to ask Aronowitz to do as much as Wohl did in 2014-15. Still, we got a glimpse of what Aronowitz can do when Rooke-Ley was injured and Williams needed a second scorer besides Wohl. He averaged 14.8 PPG on 39.7 percent shooting in the five games that Rooke-Ley was injured. Aronowitz will need to work on putting on a little more weight which will help him deal with contact when he drives the lane and when he guards bigger players. The present returning talent to Williamstown next season will struggle without the departing seniors unless players like Aronowitz make big leaps in 2015-2016. A strong freshman class in Kevin App’s first recruiting efforts would also be a huge boon.

Cardinals Fly at Expense of Panthers: Stock Report 2/16

Going into the weekend, the biggest piece yet to be solved in the playoff puzzle was whether Middlebury or Wesleyan would take the final spot (Colby could have also fallen out under one unlikely scenario). On Friday the Cardinals breezed past Hamilton while Middlebury could not complete a miraculous comeback and fell just short to Trinity. Only a Wesleyan loss and Panther victory Sunday would send Middlebury to the playoffs. By late Saturday afternoon the playoff field was set. Wesleyan sucked out the drama from the proceedings when they opened up the second half with a 14-0 run to take a 20-point lead over Williams, eventually closing out the Ephs with a 74-52 victory. Middlebury actually finished the season on a high note with a nice win over Amherst, but their fate had already been sealed.

Stock Up

Point Guard Jack Mackey ’16 (Wesleyan)

If you look at his statistics from the weekend, it seems like Mackey had his normal productive if somewhat cursory weekend. That would miss the fact that he scored 13 straight points for Wesleyan in the second half when Williams tried to mount a comeback. More importantly, it would miss the defense that Mackey played on the Williams guards. Mackey was a big part in holding Hayden Rooke-Ley ’15 to six points. Mackey is a tenacious and physical defender. Though he does not use his quickness very often on the offensive end, he has good lateral quickness which makes it hard for opponents to get into the lane against him. Mackey is a big reason why Wesleyan finished the season ranked third in the league in scoring defense with 64.0 PPG allowed.

Shooting Guard Lucas Hausman ’16 (Bowdoin)

Lucas Hausman '16 tallied 44 points on Friday night, the highest total recorded in the NESCAC this season. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics/CI Photography)
Lucas Hausman ’16 tallied 44 points on Friday night, the highest total recorded in the NESCAC this season. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics/CI Photography)

Hausman was absolutely on fire Friday night tying the Bowdoin single game record with 44 points. He went 20-25 from the field while scoring in almost every way imaginable: fast break layups, fall away jumpers off of his trademark spin move, and threes with a hand in his face. In fact, the only way he didn’t score was from the foul line where he went 0-1 on the night. Yet on the season he has made the most free throws in the NESCAC. Hausman cooled off Saturday against the Tufts zone, but he still scored 16 points as Bowdoin won to secure a home playoff game. Dan Wohl ’15 has been the favorite to win Player of the Year honors for most of the season, but Hausman is making a worthy late charge. Because the NESCAC tournament is also included when deciding who will win NESCAC honors, the award might come down to how Hausman and Wohl play against each other when Williams plays at Bowdoin in the first round.

Trinity

The Bantams already had the number one seed sewn up before the weekend, but they still were big winners because of two things. First, they went up and controlled the game against Middlebury. The bench, led by Rick Naylor ’16 and Ed Ogundeko ’15, had 29 of the team’s 39 first half points. Trinity’s 90 points in the game was a high for them in conference. The second thing that went well was Colby finishing with the eight seed. The Mules are still dangerous without Chris Hudnut ’16, but they simply do not have the size that Trinity has inside. The Mules are definitely a preferable matchup for Trinity compared to Middlebury or Wesleyan. I’m not saying that Colby can’t get hot shooting the ball and shock the Bantams this weekend, but it will take a heck of an effort to do it.

Stock Down

Amherst’s Sense of Urgency

Going into Sunday, Amherst knew a win got them the two seed while a loss dropped them all the way to the five seed and a trip to Tufts in the first round. That didn’t seem to show as Middlebury led wire-to-wire, and Amherst never really made a run. Maybe it was the delayed start time because the referees were late or that Amherst lacked somebody who could rally the team and tell them that this was a must-win. Whatever the case, the win cost the Jeffs and deprives us of a third Williams vs. Amherst matchup in the first round of the playoffs. Instead, Amherst has to take on Tufts, a team that blitzed them in a 27-point victory. Granted, the outcome is very unlikely to be the same because Hunter Sabety ’17 is hurt, but the Jeffs did themselves no favors this weekend.

Forward Marcus Delpeche ’17 (Bates)

Though we often lump them in as one unit, the Delpeches are in fact two different basketball players. Marcus has played slightly more and put up bigger numbers than Malcolm overall this season. Against Colby and Bowdoin, Marcus scored 7.0 PPG, not that far below his 9.7 PPG average on the season. What was concerning was that he had only four rebounds against Bowdoin and ONE against Colby. Bates still managed to do okay on the boards as a team. Don’t be fooled by Bowdoin having eight more rebounds than Bates on Friday. The reason for that was not Bates’ rebounding but their defense: since Bowdoin made 63.5 percent of their shots, there were less defensive rebounds for Bates to grab. Still, Marcus Delpeche should be getting way more than five rebounds over two games. Hopefully a return to Alumni Gym will get him going.

Williams

Saturday was senior day in Williamstown for Ryan Kilcullen ’15, Rooke-Ley and Wohl, but the day did not end the way supporters of the Ephs were hoping. The blowout loss to Wesleyan means Williams finishes the year at 5-5, seventh in the league standings. For all intents and purposes, this year’s team was the product of Mike Maker, the former Williams coach. He recruited all of the players on the roster, and though Kevin App changed some things schematic-wise, the team retained the same up-tempo three point heavy style. The talent still on the roster was properly recognized as one of the most talented in the league before the season began, but they have been inconsistent all season. While they blew out Middlebury, they also lost to Hamilton and struggled to put away Conn College. There is still a distinct possibility they get hot and make a run to win the NESCAC title. If not, then the season will end far short of where it did a season ago. The Ephs lose three starters in Rooke-Ley, Wohl and Kilcullen after this year. None of their juniors this year saw very significant minutes. This is going to be a very young team next season led by Dan Aronowitz ’17 and Mike Greenman ’17. The heavy lifting of the rebuilding process is just beginning for App.

Time to Shuffle the Deck: Weekend Preview 2/6

Malcolm Delpeche '17 dunks against Wesleyan last weekend. (Photo courtesy of Phyllis Jensen and Bates Athletics)
Malcolm Delpeche ’17 dunks against Wesleyan last weekend. (Photo courtesy of Phyllis Jensen and Bates Athletics)

The penultimate weekend of the NESCAC schedule should clear up the logjam in the middle of the conference. Only a game and half separates teams 2-9 right now, meaning that Colby, currently not even making the NESCAC tournament, would very likely be the #2 seed if they won their final three conference games. Now, that isn’t likely to happen, but it just goes to show that the standings are a mess right now. This might be the weekend when teams sort themselves out and some wannabe contenders reveal themselves as pretenders.

With the NESCAC tournament right around the corner, teams are jostling to get one of the top four spots in order to host a first round game. Any team that goes 2-0 this weekend has a good chance of accomplishing just that.

Three Players to Watch

1. Shooting Guard Mike Boornazian ’16 (Bates): Boornazian might be the most underrated player in the NESCAC. He is capable of guarding every position besides center because of his exceptional length. This weekend will be a treat with Boornazian tasked with slowing down Player of the Year favorite Dan Wohl ’15. The two are physically very similar: 6’5″ guards who are fluid enough to handle the ball. Boornazian is also no slouch on the offensive end. He only shoots 39.8 percent from the field to average 14.8 PPG, but he is crucial for taking pressure off of Graham Safford ’15. He can act as a secondary ball-handler when needed also. On Tuesday Safford sat out in order to rest, and Boornazian had one of his best games of the season finishing with 26 points. He might be overlooked at the end of the year for league awards, but Boornazian is critical for the Bobcats.

2. Power Forward Drew Madsen ’17 (Tufts): Per the Tufts student newspaper, Hunter Sabety ’17 sustained what appeared to be a serious knee injury that will keep him out for the rest of the year. If that is the case, then it is time to get familiar with Madsen, the talented 6’7″ backup to Sabety. He was already a part of the rotation before the injury, and now he will see his minutes climb even more. He has not put up tremendous per minute stats in his limited time so do not expect him to simply replace Sabety. However, he is a big body with enough skill to make plays. Given the ability of Tom Palleschi ’17 to make jumpers, Madsen should consider only ever leaving the paint when he needs to avoid a three second call. The rest of the time he should be battling position for any offensive rebound. Sabety, for all of his offensive prowess, was not a fantastic defender, so Madsen could offset his lack of offensive skill that way.

3. Shooting Guard Ryan Jann ’16 (Colby): The Mules started NESCAC play 3-0, and for a brief span they were at the top of the NESCAC standings. Since then they have lost their last four NESCAC games and found out Chris Hudnut ’16 is out with a knee injury for the rest of the year. Luke Westman ’16 is a great player, but his lack of a jump shot means he is not capable of being a go-to scorer. So now the sharpshooter Jann is the number one option for Colby. He exploded for 27 against Trinity, and he looked comfortable finding space to get his shot off. He has also gotten better as a distributor this year, but it is his scoring that will be most needed. The Mules need one more win to get into the NESCAC tournament, and Jann will have to shoot them there.

 Three Games to Watch

3. Sunday 1:00 PM: Middlebury (15-4, 3-3) at Bowdoin (14-6, 4-3)

This is the NbN grudge match between myself and Joe. Last season saw Middlebury pull out a close victory because Coach Tim Gilbride called a timeout when he didn’t have one after Bowdoin tied the game with under five seconds remaining. The two rosters look very different than they did a year ago with Dylan Sinnickson ’15, Hunter Merryman ’15 and John Swords ’15 the only starters returning. How Middlebury defends Lucas Hausman ’16 could decide the game. The Panthers love to push the pace, but Hausman is exceptional in transition, even though as a team Bowdoin does not like to go fast because of their short rotation. Jake Brown ’17 usually takes on opponents’ point guards, but he might guard Hausman for stretches because of his quickness. Though Matt St. Amour ’17 is a good team defender who draws a lot of charges, he is still not as quick as he was before his ACL injury.

Given how Connor Green ’16 went off last weekend against the Polar Bears, Dylan Sinnickson ’15 could be primed for a big day. After struggling somewhat by his lofty standards in conference play, Sinnickson has averaged 25.0 PPG and 15.5 RPG in his last two games. He and Brown should look to attack John Swords ’15 at the basket because of the depleted Bowdoin backcourt, but an underrated improvement from Swords has been his ability to stay out of foul trouble in nearly every game, only fouling out once all season. The loser of this game will all but certainly be forced to go on the road in the first round of the NESCAC tournament.

2. Friday 7:00 PM: Williams (12-7, 3-3) at Bates (15-4, 4-2)

The Bobcats are a perfect 10-0 at home this season, and their fans are sure to come out for the final home games of the season this weekend. Beating them in Alumni Gymnasium, especially in what could be the seniors’ final home games, is going to be a tall task. Even though Williams is only 3-3, they just smacked Middlebury in their only game last weekend. Hayden Rooke-Ley ’15 looks 100 percent again after missing time due to a hand injury.

We all know Williams is going to play with Dan Aronowitz ’17 as an undersized power forward and Ryan Kilcullen ’15 at center, so the question becomes whether Bates coach Jon Furbush is capable of playing two big men for most of the game. He will want to keep both Marcus and Malcolm Delpeche ’17 on the floor for most of the game in order to control the boards and get easy baskets. However, Aronowitz will look to attack using his combination of shooting and slashing against a bigger defender. Bates can also easily go small with Adam Philpott ’15 acting as power forward. The chess match between the two youngest coaches in the NESCAC, Furbush and Kevin App, will be fun. App has played a tight rotation all season, but he could mix things up and play Darrias Sime ’16 or Edward Flynn ’16 for longer minutes.

Ultimately, a great deal of Williams’ games come down to how they shoot the ball. Because they shoot so many threes, when a lot of them go in they are hard to beat. Bates will try to make up for that by destroying the Ephs on the glass and sticking to shooters as closely as possible. This is going to be the most fun game to watch because of the possibility for offensive fireworks and a first rate atmosphere.

1. Friday 7:00 PM: Trinity (16-5, 6-1) at Wesleyan (14-6, 3-3)

In the same year that the University of Virginia is in the Top Five behind a suffocating defense, the Bantams are on top of the NESCAC in much the same way. By the way, Jaquann Starks ’16 has been absolutely en fuego from beyond the arc recently. In NESCAC play he is shooting the third best percentage from deep, 56.2 percent, while making the third most threes per game, 2.6. In fact, he is shooting a higher percentage from three than he is from the field. Though Trinity wants him to continue to get into the lane, they would prefer he simply continue to nail shots from downtown. Though we have harped on how Trinity’s balance means different guys step up every game, Starks is the one guy they need to perform. In the three Bantam loses in 2015, Starks has averaged an anemic 3.0 PPG, well below his 13.4 PPG season average.

Wesleyan needs to not back down from the physical presence of Trinity. An underrated part of the Bantams defense is how uncomfortable they make things on the perimeter for teams, so it helps that Wesleyan can rely on BJ Davis ’16, Jack Mackey ’16 or Harry Rafferty ’17 to handle the ball. Davis in particular is adept at getting into the lane, and even if he isn’t finishing amongst the big men, it could stretch the Trinity defense enough to get Mackey open looks. Both teams will be fine with a slow plodding pace. That should keep the game in the 50s, meaning that this game might come down to offensive execution in the final five minutes. There the edge goes to Trinity, who, even though they don’t play great offense overall, manage to find ways to grind out points at the end of the game. When these two met last year, Trinity led by about five points for most of the second half, and Wesleyan was never able to get over the hump.

The game is in Middletown, but the Bantams are hoping a road win helps them secure home court for the NESCAC tournament. Trinity’s home court advantage is not significant, but the Bantams would still love the #1 seed to have the opportunity to host the NESCAC semi-finals and final if they get past their first round opponent. If they beat the Cardinals, they will be able to taste it.

Kevin App Has Williams Prepared for NESCAC Play

Dan Wohl '15 has emerged as a star as Williams tries to keep the standard represented by the banners behind him. (Courtesy of WritingScots.Wordpress.Com
Dan Wohl ’15 has emerged as a star as Williams tries to keep the standard represented by the banners behind him. (Courtesy of WritingScots.Wordpress.Com)

Editors Note: Adam Lamont contributed to the Williams-Amherst preview

After starting the year with back-to-back losses in the first year of the Kevin App regime, the Ephs have gone 9-1 in their last 10 games. That one loss was to #7 WPI by only two points. Now that it has come time for conference play to begin we wanted to highlight what has gone well and what has not so far for Williams.

Successes

1. The senior leadership of Dan Wohl ’15, Hayden Rooke-Ley ’15, and Ryan Kilcullen ’15: All three players have been averaging double digits which is huge for what is a very young team that got hit hard from graduation losses and Duncan Robinson transferring to Michigan. Wohl has increased his points per game by about seven and his rebounds per game by two. He has been the go to guy all year for the Ephs. Rooke-Ley’s success at getting to the charity stripe and converting there has been well documented all season as he is shooting a remarkable 94.2 percent there on 81-86 attempts. Kilcullen has seen dramatic increases in all of his stats due to increased floor time by increasing his points per game and rebounds per game by five.

2. Defense: Despite losing a lot of big defenders, the Ephs have managed to keep their points per game allowed at basically the same level as last season. Yes, they are allowing 72.0 PPG, the highest mark in the NESCAC, and at a nearly 42 percent clip, but that is actually lower than last year when the Ephs allowed 72.8 PPG and still made the National Championship. Because of their personnel Williams is at a disadvantage rebounding the ball, but their defense has been good enough for them to win. If they can maintain this level, they should be fine because the offense is so good.

Failures

1. Depth: Coach App has heavily relied on six players to eat up most of the minutes and sparingly used his bench in non-conference play to date except to give guys very brief rests. Williams under Coach Maker last year had a similar rotation set up and it worked. It will be interesting to see how Coach App decides to go forward with his use of players in conference play.

2. Turnovers: The Ephs as a team are averaging about three more turnovers per game than last year. In their three losses this year, they are averaging close to 17 turnovers per game compared to around 12 in their victories. Even though most of the rotation handles the ball well, the Ephs can force the issue too much at times.

3. Field Goal Percentage: While the three point shooting percentage has increased this year, overall the field goal percentage is about six points lower than last year. The loss of Michael Mayer ’14 in the post has robbed Williams of high percentage shots inside. If the Ephs are going to be as successful as last year, they need to manufacture a way to get higher percentage shots in NESCAC play.

Weekend Outlook

The Ephs did not get any favors in the opening weekend of NESCAC play drawing the Trinity Bantams at home on Friday and the 18th-ranked Amherst Lord Jeffs at home on Saturday. Both teams should be competing for home games in the NESCAC playoffs.

Trinity presents an interesting challenge for the Ephs as they have a very tight defense that packs the paint and also forces a lot of steals. Williams has been turning the ball over heavily in their losses and if Trinity’s defense can knock it away from the Ephs, I think the Ephs need to watch out. This game is a battle of styles as Trinity wants to slow the game and make it a grind while Williams prefers a more wide open flowing game. Interesting to see if the Ephs are caught looking ahead to the marquee matchup vs. Amherst and possibly have a slip up against Trinity.

Now to the game the whole league is looking at, Amherst vs. Williams. These two teams had great battles last year both in the NESCAC and NCAA tournament and all NESCAC fans are lucky that we get to see these two heavyweights go at it in the first conference weekend. Both teams came into the year with lofty expectations (perhaps too lofty) after making it to the Final Four but have underperformed relative to them. The massive losses of talent on both teams has hit them hard.

For the Ephs it starts with the captain Wohl. He is the go to guy for them and he’s still improving. He has scored more than 20 points in each of the last four games. If the Ephs are going to win, it rests on his shoulders along with fellow sharpshooter Rooke-Ley. They have relied on both these guys all season so expect the same to happen against Amherst. Although the Ephs defense has been performing at the same level as last year, it’s still currently the worst ranked defense by points per game. Their defense could be a huge issue as Amherst has numerous threats on the court led by stud newcomer Johnny McCarthy ’15.

Williams will be playing with a huge disadvantage in size against Amherst. The Lord Jeffs have so many talented big men like 6’8″ David George ’17 and 6’8″ Jacob Nabatoff ’17 that Coach Dave Hixon has changed his rotation and kept two big men on the court at most times. The Ephs already struggle on the boards, and the Jeffs are formidable all across their lineup in terms of height. Kilcullen needs to be able to at least slow down Amherst in the paint. App might have to resort to a zone in order to alleviate the height difference and force the Amherst guards to make shots from the outside.

Dan Aronowitz ’17 is the other crucial piece for Williams inside. He is an undersized power forward, yet he could present a major matchup problem for Amherst because of his ability to shoot from the outside and slash to the basket.

On the Amherst side, life after Aaron Toomey ’14 has not been completely smooth. The Jeffs have had to pull out a lot of close games in order to get to 8-2, but their win on Tuesday at #21 Eastern Connecticut gives the team a lot of confidence coming into the weekend. The point guard position is unsettled as neither transfer Jayde Dawson ’18 nor Reid Berman ’17 have really claimed the position. Though Dawson has started every game, he does not look comfortable running the offense and does not do a great job of getting others involved with only 2.4 assists per game. Berman is more reliable but defenses know he does not like to shoot and lay off of him. Toomey is back with the team as an assistant coach starting this weekend after an injury ended his season in Spain. Maybe his presence will help the point guard play.

The one upperclassman on Amherst, Connor Green ’16, has been a major disappointment to many. After he averaged 17.9 points in 2013-2014, we expected him to take another step and compete for the league lead in scoring. Instead, he has dropped down to 13.2 PPG and seen his shooting percentages take a dive. Green is taking harder shots and is only making 29.3 percent of his threes. Those feeling better about Williams than Amherst can point to the divergence in play between Green and Wohl as a major reason. The freshman McCarthy and Jeff Racy ’17 supply most of the outside shooting.

Though Hixon has started the same starting five every game, the Jeffs do not seem like a finished product. They certainly look physically like the best team in the NESCAC, but there has yet to be a game where they play like they are capable of. This Williams-Amherst game does not have the stars of last season, but the talent level on both rosters is still very high. It is still too early to know whether this is a crucial conference clash or merely one of the many steps in shuffling out the conference hierarchy. What we can be sure of is that as always, the two teams will bring us plenty of fun.