How Badly Will the Polar Bears Miss Hausman?: Bowdoin Basketball Season Preview

 

Tim Ahn '19 is going to need to step it up for Bowdoin this year in the absence of Lucas Hausman (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)
Tim Ahn ’19 is going to need to step it up for Bowdoin this year in the absence of Lucas Hausman (Courtesy of Bowdoin 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.

Projected Record: 3-7

2015-16 Record: 12-11, 4-6; Fell to #2 seed Amherst in NESCAC quarterfinals.

Last year the Polar Bears had to find a way to win without John Swords. This year they’re going to find a way to win without Lucas Hausman. Both of those players have gone on to play professionally in Spain, so they were probably pretty good. Jack Simonds growth will play a large role in the team’s success this year, and with the loss of three key starters, we’ll have to see how the new starters handle the uptick in minutes.

Head Coach: Tim Gilbride, 31 seasons, 444-315 (.593)

Captains: Neil Fuller, Jack Hewitt

Key Losses: Lucas…Hausman

Lucas Hausman was arguably the best player in the NESCAC last year. But now he’s gone. So that sucks.

Jack Donnelly and Matt Palecki were both senior starters last season. Their loss makes Bowdoin a very young team, with just one junior and one senior starter. Palecki led the team in rebounds, and was also good for about 9 PPG on offense.

Those guys started every game when they were healthy.

Starters:

Guard Tim Ahn ‘19

Tim Ahn '19 (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)
Tim Ahn ’19 (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

Ahn’s a sophomore guard from San Diego. He’s quick, and he led the Bears in steals, despite coming off the bench, and averaging 17 minutes per. Ahn and Simmonds will be the assist specialists on the team. The shifty sophomore will have to step up his production this season in the absence of Hausman, especially now that opposing defenses will be able to hone in on Simonds when the Polar Bears have possession.

Guard Liam Farley ‘18

Liam Farley '18 (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)
Liam Farley ’18 (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

Farley’s a 6’5” junior guard from the Windy City. He’s appeared in just about every game since he got to Bowdoin, but he’ll see a big increase in minutes this year. I wouldn’t say Farley is an elite shooter, but he has the ability to knock down shots from outside when he’s left open. At 6’5”, that is certainly a useful skill for a Bowdoin team in need of some firepower. The squad is definitely going to need Farley to get to the hoop, however, as this will force defenses to sag into the paint, opening things up for Bowdoin’s other shooters.

Forward Jack Simonds ‘19

Jack Simonds '19 (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)
Jack Simonds ’19 (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

The Mainer. Don’t need to say much about Simonds. He can do it all. He shoots, he drives, he plays solid defense – Simonds is a great basketball player. The sophomore has good size, which makes him a difficult matchup for forwards when you mix that size with his athleticism.  Simonds is the reigning NESCAC rookie of the year for a reason, but the Polar Bears need him to avoid a sophomore slump if they’re going to be competitive. While Simonds definitely benefited from being the second option behind Hausman, this leaves room for question: can Simonds be “the guy” in his 2016-2017 campaign? So far, it looks like the answer is yes. Through four games Simonds is dropping 26.8 PPG, highlighted by his 31 points in the season opener against Southern Vermont, a team that made an NCAA appearance last year. He also went for 28 in a close loss to #2 ranked Babson on Sunday. Simonds is the real deal, and definitely a guy to keep an eye on this season.

Forward Hugh O’Neil ‘19

Hugh O'Neil '19 (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)
Hugh O’Neil ’19 (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

O’Neil hails from historic Lexington Mass, and will be counted on for strong defense this year. He’s tall, and he can rebound with the best of ‘em. In just 16 minutes per game, he averaged 5 boards per, so in a starting role, he could be a beast on the glass. Bowdoin lacks size, so O’Neil is going to need to be tough down low for the Polar Bears. He will often be smaller than his matchup, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’ll be a bad matchup. O’Neil just needs to use his quickness to his advantage. We’ll find out more about his offensive game as he gains experience, but look for O’Neil to be a solid player down low for Bowdoin.

Forward Neil Fuller ‘17

Neil Fuller '17 (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)
Neil Fuller ’17 (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

A senior captain from the Peach state, Fuller will be the elder statesman among the starting five. Jimmy Naismith used a peach basket as the first ever hoop when he invented the game of basketball (I grew up 15 minutes from the Basketball Hall of Fame), so it makes lots of sense that Fuller plays basketball. He’ll bring the leadership. Crazy statistic about Fuller: I once ran into a girl while on a tour of the Jameson Distillery in Dublin who went to highschool with him. Mind bottling. He increased his FG% by 13% last year – hopefully he can shoot above .500 again in 2016-17. Like O’Neil, Fuller is going to need to assert his authority down low on this small Bowdoin team. Their success likely rides on the shoulders of these two forwards, because if they can’t stop opposing post players, Bowdoin is going to have a heck of time against the Trinity/Tufts/Amherst’s of the league.

Breakout Player: Guard Tim Ahn ’19

There’s 25 PPG to replace from Lucas Hausman, 9 PPG from Matt Palecki, and 4 PPG Jack Donnelly, adding up to a total of about 40 points that need to be found somewhere. Ahn is going to play a big role in finding those points, in one way or another. While he was able to gain some good experience last year, Ahn is going to see an enormous boost to his minutes this season, and his ability to handle the pressure of starting in the NESCAC is certainly a question. Bowdoin is relying on Ahn, so hopefully he can find a way to get the job done. He’s currently the third leading scorer on a team that spreads the wealth pretty evenly outside of Simonds, which definitely Bowd(oin)s well for the Polar Bears. 

Everything Else

Simonds was the NESCAC rookie of the year. He’s dirty. The question is, will he be able to repeat, or improve on his 16 PPG season? Did he benefit from Lucas Hausman receiving so much attention from opposing defenses? We’ll see. The big lefty is going to need to figure out how to score on the best defenders in the league, because he is definitely going to get those matchups. Bowdoin needs a strong year out of Simonds. So far, he looks capable, but we’re only four games in remember – it’s too early to ride anyone too high or too low at this point in the year.

The loss of Swords was certainly felt last year, and Hausman’s loss is going to hurt this year as well. Think about this: Hausman holds the single season NESCAC scoring record after his 2015-16 campaign. He averaged 25 PPG. He averaged 6 PPG more than the scoring runner up. That’s kind of insane. Where is Bowdoin going to get the production to make up for Hausman’s absence? The fact is, Bowdoin has not really needed many other scorers for the last few years, and while it certainly would have helped them to, they definitely relied on Hausman to make them a competitive team. Ahn, Simonds, Fuller, O’Neil, Farley…who is it going to be? I think Bowdoin’s best chance at competing for a NESCAC title is if they can roll out a lineup that spreads out the scoring pretty evenly. If the Polar Bears fall into the trap of just getting the ball to Simonds and watching him go to work, they simply will not find themselves in the top of the standings as NESCAC action plays outs.

Blake Gordon ‘18, Jack Bors ‘19, Charles DiPasquale ‘18, Jack Hewitt ‘17 and Richard “Swiss Rick” McCallister ‘18 (Rory was on his high school team and apparently everyone called him this) …. who is going to step up for the Polar Bears and take on the approximately 80 minutes per game lost to graduated seniors? It looks like freshman guard David Reynolds is the first one off the bench for Bowdoin so far, and Gordon has also mixed in with Hewitt and Bors. We’ll see how deep the Bowdoin bench goes as the season wears on.

NCAA Sweet 16 Preview: #20 Tufts vs. #12 Johnson & Wales

Haladyna is going to be a big piece of the puzzle for Tufts this weekend. (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

If this Tufts team hasn’t signed and sent a thank you card to the Amherst College women’s team yet, they better get on that, because without them, Tufts wouldn’t be hosting this weekend. Due to the NCAA Division-III rules, if both the men’s and women’s team from a school are set to host, the men’s team gets priority to host the first weekend of the tournament and the Women’s team gets priority to host the second weekend (it alternates every year). The Amherst men’s team would be hosting, but because their women’s team also advanced to the Sweet 16, Tufts got backdoor home court advantage. That leaves us with Amherst playing Babson at 5:30 pm tonight and Tufts playing Johnson & Wales at 7:30 pm. Here’s what to expect from the second game.

Perhaps the biggest story leading up to this game is Tufts’ loss of Vinny Pace ’18. On the first play of the game last Friday, Pace drove to the paint. There was some contact, which was certainly legal, but it sent Pace’s upper body in one direction and his lower body in the other. When Pace landed, he immediately grabbed his leg – more specifically, his knee – while writhing in pain on the floor. Pace exited the game in under 30 seconds and did not return all weekend. As of now, it’s unclear what Pace’s status is exactly, but I’d be surprised if he’s back this weekend based on his immediate reaction.

So where does that leave the Jumbos? Based on their play last weekend, I’d say nothing changes from a strategy standpoint. It was a “next man up” mentality, reminiscent of this season’s New England Patriots, as Ethan Feldman ’19 stepped in to play 11 minutes on Friday and 17 minutes on Saturday. Feldman scored 10 points and 14 points respectively, and showed off his supreme ability to stretch the floor for the Jumbos, going 6-9 from the three-point line on the weekend. On Friday, Coach Bob Sheldon was a bit more tentative to play Feldman, but the freshman clearly gained his trust, evident by his increased minutes on Saturday. So where did all the minutes go on Friday? Well, the rest of the starting five (excluding Pace) played the following number of minutes against Southern Vermont: Tom Palleschi ’17, 34; Ryan Spadaford ’16, 34; Tarik Smith ’17, 37; Stephen Haladyna ’16, 38. That’s pretty wild. Haladyna continued his late-season surge, going for a game-high 24 points, which also counted for his career-high. In his last six games, Haladyna is averaging 17.5 ppg, which barely tops Palleschi’s 17.3 ppg over the same stretch. Palleschi has also been red-hot, evidenced by his 17 points Friday night and 19 points on Saturday night. However, Palleschi’s impact hasn’t just been on the offensive end – over the weekend, Palleschi totaled 13 (!!) blocked shots. That’s insane. Though the scoring was more evenly spread out on Saturday against Skidmore, it is clear that Haladyna and Palleschi, two of the longest tenured players on the roster, are willing this team through. The resilience and desire of these two captains has allowed guys like their co-captain Spadaford and their junior point guard Smith to play with less pressure, while allowing younger players like Feldman, Ben Engvall ’18, and Everett Dayton ’18 to step in and play big minutes. The fact that these freshmen and sophomores can step in seamlessly in the biggest games of the season is a very encouraging sign for the Jumbos.

Quarry Greenaway (#15 in white) and Tom Garrick (#1 in white) are the leaders on the Johnson & Wales roster (Courtesy of Johnson & Wales Athletics)
Quarry Greenaway (#15 in white) and Tom Garrick (#1 in white) are the leaders on the Johnson & Wales roster. (Courtesy of Johnson & Wales Athletics)

On the Johnson & Wales side of the court, the story is pretty different. Both teams play about seven deep, but that’s where the similarities end. Tufts is a team that spreads the scoring around to lots of different guys (and different players on different nights) … let’s just say Johnson & Wales does not do that. Seriously though, two guys account for 53.7 percent of the J&W scoring, and when you add the third highest scorer, that percentage jumps to 64.8 percent of the team’s average. To put this in perspective, Tufts’ top two score 37.6 percent of their points, and the top three score 51.8 percent. J&W lives and dies by seniors Quarry Greenaway ’16 and Tom Garrick ’16. J&W has played 30 games this year. Either Greenaway or Garrick has led the team in points in every single game, and in just five of games have one of these two players been outscored by another player on the team. I think I have to chalk the first game of the season as either a fluke or just a lack of togetherness, because J&W is a better team than Linfield in every single way, so I’m not going to address that loss. In their only other loss of the season (J&W is 28-2 overall, 28-1 in conference), the Wildcats were carried by Greenaway’s 35 points, but Garrick really struggled shooting the ball, going just 6-20 from the field. It’s not that weird for a star player to have an off game – this is college basketball after all – that kind of stuff happens, right? Well, not at J&W it doesn’t. In their loss to Albertus Magnus on February 13, Garrick’s 13 points put him behind Greenaway, Jarell Lawson ’18 (18 points) and Robert Lewis ’16 (15 points). That was the only time this season that Garrick or Greenaway was below third in scoring on their team. Maybe it’s coincidence, but what I’m suggesting is this: if you want to beat Johnson & Wales, you just need to shut down one of these two guys. Maybe forcing foul trouble can do it; Greenaway plays 34.5 mpg, while Garrick plays 34.2 mpg; forcing a bench player to take one of their spots could work, but both of them have shown the ability to go off for 30+ when the other is struggling, so you never know. J&W doesn’t play the hardest schedule in the country, evidenced by an average margin of victory that sits at 25.2 ppg, but the consistency of these margins of victory shows that they always play at a high level. Last weekend, J&W was definitely challenged – just look at the turnover numbers. On average, J&W wins the turnover battle by just under eight per game (average margin is -7.7 to/g). In their two NCAA games, J&W turned the ball over two more times than their opponents did (J&W, 32 turnovers; opponents, 30 turnovers). This huge swing in turnovers shows that J&W definitely struggles against better defenses.

Tufts X-factor: Center Tom Palleschi

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

Arguably the most important part of this game is going to be the ability of Tufts to break the Johnson & Wales press – the key to doing that is Tom Palleschi. The Wildcats play a five-guard lineup. No one on the J&W roster is over 6’5”, and pretty much everybody who gets minutes is listed as a guard except for Michael Kiser ’18, their 6’2” center. Their press works because of how quick the Wildcats are and how hard they attack ball handlers with the pressure. The huge advantage that Tufts has is that Palleschi is 6’8”. This size advantage is why Palleschi is so important in this game. If Palleschi can flash to the middle and receive the ball during the press, the Jumbos will be able to advance the ball down the floor much more easily than if they try to dribble their way through it. I’ve always thought that Palleschi is one of the best passing centers in the NESCAC, and his ball fakes are next-level (to be honest, he fools me with them half the time). If Palleschi can help break the J&W press, Tufts will get very good looks on the offensive end. Breaking the press will lead to a lot of quick, easy shots for the Jumbos, but if they slow up into a half-court game, Palleschi will once again be of great importance. He should be able to dominate down low, but expect that the Wildcats will double down when he touches the ball in the post, which will give the big boy a chance to kick it out to shooters.

Johnson & Wales X-factor: Guard Tom Garrick ‘16

(Courtesy of Johnson & Wales Athletics)
Tom Garrick (Courtesy of Johnson & Wales Athletics)

As I outlined above, J&W relies pretty substantially on two players: Tom Garrick and Quarry Greenaway. Out of the two, Greenaway is the more consistent, but Garrick still averages over 20 a game so he’s by no means an inconsistent player. Garrick is a slightly worse shooter from the field and from beyond the arc, but he excels at getting to the rim. As a whole, the Great Northeast Athletic Conference does not roll out a ton of really tall big men, which is why I’m pegging Garrick as the X-factor. Johnson & Wales has not seen a shot blocker like Palleschi, who is second in the country in blocks per game. This past weekend, Palleschi eclipsed 100 blocks on the season, and the way he was throwing shots out of bounds suggested that non-conference teams are just not quite as adjusted to his shot-blocking ability as NESCAC teams are. Garrick has shown the ability to shoot a decent midrange jump shot, but the 6’5” guard could struggle in the paint going up against the 6’8” center. I think Garrick’s success scoring the ball could definitely depend on his ability to hit jump shots, and if he’s not doing that, then guys like Anthony Jernigan ’17 or Jarell Lawson ’18 are going to have to step up.

Three Questions

1.) Can Tufts break the press?

As I mentioned above, Johnson & Wales presses all the time. I haven’t seen a press stump Tufts all year long, but I also haven’t seen them face a good press, so there’s very little to base an analysis off of in that regard. However, look at the Tufts ball handlers. Smith is obviously very competent with the ball in his hands, and I think Engvall does a great job of moving north/south with the ball in his hands rather than just east/west. Dayton has been a solid point guard behind Smith all year long and looks like he’s in control when he’s leading the Tufts offense, and Thomas Lapham ’18, though his minutes have been down this year, has plenty of game experience as he split time starting with Smith last year. However, Smith is really the only Tufts guard who has seen intense pressure on a regular basis this season, there is definitely a question mark against these other Tufts guards. The key is getting the ball to Palleschi in the middle, who can then look over the top of the defense and find the open man. Drew Madsen ’17 is going to play a big role on the press when Palleschi heads to the bench. If Madsen and Palleschi can serve as reliable outlets for the Tufts guards, I think they’ll be fine with the press.

2.) Can Tufts stop Greenaway and Garrick?

(Courtesy of Johnson & Wales Athletics)
Quarry Greenaway (Courtesy of Johnson & Wales Athletics)

Tufts has showed that they can stop teams with just one premier scorer this season. For example, when they played Bowdoin in the opening weekend of NESCAC play, the Jumbos held Lucas Hausman ’16 to just 11 points on 3-10 shooting. However, when they played Amherst in the regular season, who has a much more balanced attack, they struggled a bit to stop Connor Green ’16, who put up 28 on the Jumbos. However, that same game, Jeff Racy ’17 didn’t hit a shot. On the flip side, they played Amherst in the NESCAC semifinals at Trinity and six Amherst players scored in double digits on their way to bouncing Tufts from the conference tournament. It’s games like this that the Jumbos struggle in – games where the opponents spread out their scoring among numerous players. In all their losses, Tufts allowed numerous players to beat them. The more one-dimensional teams struggle against the Tufts defense, specifically Haladyna, who has shown the ability to lock down premier scorers and shooters. So I realize that I’ve gotten away from the question a bit, but to put it simply, I think that Tufts can at least slow down the attack of J&W’s two studs. Sure, Greenaway and Garrick may carry the load, but I think J&W is going to have the most success if they get a couple other guys involved in the scoring. This will open up space for the two senior Wildcats to get buckets.

3.) Who steps up for the Jumbos on the offensive end?

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

Without Pace last weekend, and with Stefan Duvivier ’18 out with the flu, Tufts went a bit deeper than normal in terms of bench minutes. I believe Duvivier will be back this weekend, but it’s pretty tough to get your wind back following a sickness. That means the increased minutes that Dayton, Engvall and Feldman all saw will probably stay the same. So who steps up to score for the Jumbos this weekend? Last weekend, Palleschi and Haladyna led the way, as has been the case for Tufts over most of the last couple weeks. Feldman stepped up with some cold-blooded shooting last weekend – can he do that again? Will Spadaford get to the line and knock down five or six free throws like last weekend? How about Smith? The theme that has developed down the stretch is that the entire starting lineup needs to be involved for Tufts to play well. When the scoring is spread out, their shooting percentages are all way up and the defense has a hard time guarding everybody. In theory, Palleschi should have a high-scoring game based on his size advantage, but the fast pace of this one may limit his ability to get into the paint and go to work. I’m sensing a big game out of Engvall. He’s a great, tough finisher around the rim, especially on the break, and without the presence of a true big, there’s really nothing stopping him from getting those shots off in the paint.

Prediction

I think that two of the most important parts of this game are the first five minutes of each half. If the frantic Johnson & Wales throws off Tufts early, Johnson & Wales could jump out to a big lead. Ultimately, Tufts will get some easy hoops off the press, but they’re also bound to make some mistakes in their attempts to break it. The biggest battle of the first half lies in Tufts keeping it close or taking a lead out of the gate. J&W really hasn’t trailed too much this year, so this is the easiest way for Tufts to force the Wildcats out of their comfort zone. In the beginning of the second half, I assume that J&W will try to spark a run once again with their press, so it’s vital for Tufts that they stay calm and take care of the ball. Last year when these two met, Tufts shot the ball very, very poorly. They were 19-60 from the field, 4-16 from deep, and 10-20 from the free throw line. That’s horrible. It was close for a while, but about midway through the second half Tufts’ shooting caught up with them and J&W went on a big run. If Tufts allows runs like this from the Wildcats, they are going to have a tough time bouncing back with runs of their own. Then again, the Jumbos are much more apt to handle the five-guard J&W attack this year, as Tufts sports a four-guard attack of their own. I think Tufts has to play really, really well to win this one. They need to minimize mistakes, while J&W needs to force mistakes and then capitalize off of them. Tufts handled the ball very well last weekend – they had just 19 turnovers between the two games – and I think they will do this again. It’s going to take a really strong shooting performance, but I think Tufts pulls this one off at the end.

Tufts 80 – Johnson & Wales 79

Eye on Saturday

Amherst and Babson are two pretty evenly matched teams had to play two overtime periods to determine a winner back in December. Amherst ended up winning that game 103-96, primarily because Connor Green dropped 39 points on the Beavers. Joey Flannery ’17 is easily the best player on the Babson roster. He’s averaging 24.2 ppg this year, and actually recently became the leading scorer in Babson men’s basketball history. Oh yeah, he’s just a junior. Unfortunately for Babson, Flannery went down with an ankle injury last weekend. I’m guessing he’s going to at least try to play this weekend, which is a huge boost for the Beavers. Amherst benefits from a less than fully health Flannery, and I think the ex-Lord Jeffs are going to roll in this one. NESCAC teams have been Babson’s kryptonite this year: Babson lost five total games, and four were against NESCAC teams (they didn’t beat any NESCAC teams either). Babson does ride into this one with a 13-game winning streak, but I think Amherst will advance to Saturday.

That leaves us with a rubber match between Tufts and Amherst based on my predictions, which would be pretty incredible. Tufts beat Amherst by 11 earlier this year in Medford, and then Amherst got their revenge in the NESCAC semi-finals when they edged Tufts by three points. The two keys to this game (if it happens) will be Palleschi’s matchup with Eric Conklin ’17 and the ability of Tufts to slow down Green, who absolutely dominates in Cousens Gym. I have no idea what would happen in this game, because the two matchups between Tufts and Amherst this year have been completely different games. All I can say is this: a NESCAC matchup in the Elite Eight would be pretty epic, and I am definitely rooting for that to happen.

2016 NbN All-NESCAC Basketball Teams

Lucas Hausman '16 was an easy choice for the NbN NESCAC Player of the Year, and teammate Jack Simonds '19, seen here mesmerized by a Hausman drive, was a nearly as easy pick for Rookie of the Year. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)
Lucas Hausman ’16 was an easy choice for the NbN NESCAC Player of the Year, and teammate Jack Simonds ’19, seen here mesmerized by a Hausman drive, was a nearly as easy pick for Rookie of the Year. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

So the NESCAC beat us to it by a day (though we actually made decisions on our team Tuesday night), releasing its All-Conference teams yesterday, but let’s be honest, no one really cares about that. The NbN All-NESCAC team is really where you want to be. What do all those silly coaches know anyway? They probably all vote for their starting five and then some dude in Hadley, MA, where the NESCAC headquarters is (by the way, is that like some guy’s really nice garage?), just fudges a few numbers and picks whomever he likes for the All-NESCAC team. Well we think we can do just as good of a job at throwing darts at a board of names. So here it goes.

First Team: 

G Lucas Hausman ’16, Bowdoin (Player of the Year)

The NESCAC decided not to make Hausman the back-to-back Player of the Year, and we find that decision a little puzzling. We understand that Bowdoin didn’t have a great season at 4-6 in conference and a quarterfinal tournament exit, but C’MON MAN! Hausman gets buckets like nobody else in the NESCAC has ever. He scored 25.3 ppg, 2.5 more ppg than anybody else in NESCAC history. If you isolate for NESCAC games, the number rises to 26.0 ppg. All season long Hausman was performing a veritable Kobe Bryant impression, hitting fade-away and step-back jumpers at an unbelievable rate. He made an astounding 8.1 free throws per game during the NESCAC season. The next highest total was 5.1. I understand that Hausman is not a great defender or facilitator, but you can’t deny his greatness as a scorer. The NbN Player of the Year award doesn’t make up for losing out on the NESCAC Player of the Year, but I hope that it helps a little bit. -Adam

G Matt St. Amour ’17, Middlebury

Trying to not be too much of a homer, I started criticizing St. Amour’s one-on-one defense when Adam and I broke down our All-NESCAC teams. Then Adam reminded me that the Vermont native was the only go-to scorer on his team all long, the second-highest scorer in the conference, the leader in steals, great at getting and making free throws, takes charges at the biggest moments, and a darn good rebounding guard. He’s a nice guy, too.

G/F Dan Aronowitz ’16, Williams

Last season we got a glimpse of what Aronowitz can do when Hayden Rooke-Ley ’15 was out with an injury. This year, Aronowitz was the best and most consistent player on the Ephs. He scored in double digits for 22 of the Ephs’ 25 games, and he was the best non-big man rebounder in the league pulling in 7.4 rpg, fifth best in the NESCAC. Aronowitz was also efficient, shooting 48.7 percent from the field and 40.7 percent from three. The year-to-year growth for Aronowitz from a seldom-used freshmen on an insanely talented team to junior leader on both ends of the court has been fun to watch. Next year he could make a strong push for POY honors. –Adam

F Shay Ajayi ’16, Trinity

All of those points that Hausman scored were just too eye-popping for us, but Ajayi made quite the case for POY laurels – after all, you add on what we saw as All-Defensive team caliber defense, and it’s hard to find a more complete player in the league. Ajayi tallied 14.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 42 steals (fourth in the NESCAC), 26 blocks (sixth) and was very efficient at 48.9 percent from the field.

C Tom Palleschi ’17, Tufts

Palleschi doesn’t look like much when he steps on the court – no offense, big guy – but he’s got some moves. Plus, he can stretch the floor all the way to the three-point line offensively. Defensively, there is a question about his ultimate impact, given how bad Tufts was as a unit, but his league-best (by far) 3.6 blocks per game suggest that he altered his fair share of shot attempts.

Second Team:

G BJ Davis ’16, Wesleyan University

Davis was headed for First Team status early on, but he and the Cards sort of petered out in the second half. Still, to elevate his game from just another option in the Cardinals rotating back court to “the guy” is a testament to his abilities. He’s remarkably quick, but could also shoot from anywhere, and hit 39.9 percent of his three pointers while scoring 16.4 ppg.

G Jake Brown ’17, Middlebury College

I’m happy to put another Panthers on the map here, and honestly I didn’t have to push too hard. Brown only scored 9.8 ppg, and All-League teams are usually just a mishmash of the highest scorers, but Brown really deserves this nod for his perimeter defense and control of the offense. Jack Daly ’18 is a good point guard in his own right, but Brown is truly elite at running a transition offense, and Middlebury would not be where they are right now without him. If you’re going by stats, Brown had 5.3 apg and a 2.8 assist-to-turnover ratio, both near the top of the league.

G Vinny Pace ’18, Tufts University

Pace burst on the scene this season by going for 25, 22, 22, 20 and 18 in his first five conference games after a strong early season non-conference showing. And even though Tarik Smith ’17 was the primary point guard, Pace racked up 2.8 apg and initiated the offense nearly as much as Smith.

G Connor Green ’16, Amherst College 

Green was a First-Teamer a season ago, but got pushed by some great players this year to the Second Team. Still a great accomplishment, and one that Green can add to a long list of achievements, including being the third leading scorer all-time at Amherst with 1,679 points, 29 behind Steve Zieja ’03 for the second spot. He’s a match up problem for any team because of his ability to shoot, height and size, and averaged 6.3 rebounds per game.

C Ed Ogundeko ’16, Trinity College

Ed Ogundeko '17 (52) and Shay Ajayi '16 (44) are both NbN All-NESCAC and All-Defensive players. (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
Ed Ogundeko ’17 (52) and Shay Ajayi ’16 (44) are both NbN All-NESCAC and All-Defensive players. (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

If we gave out a Most Improved Award, it would have gone to Ogundeko, hands down. Last season the big guy looked clunky and awkward around the rim, but this year he was downright silky with the ability to step away from 10-15 feet and make a couple of shots. Mainly, though, he just did work around the rim. At 6’6″, 235 lbs, not a lot of guys could move him off the block, and he used that advantage to pace the NESCAC in rebounding. He only played just over 22 minutes per game, but he was fifth in the conference in points per 40 minutes. That’s efficiency.

All-Rookie Team:

F Jack Simonds, Bowdoin (Rookie of the Year)

It’s crazy that Bowdoin has the Player and Rookie of the Year on their team, but you certainly can’t argue that Simonds is worthy. The 6’6″ Maine native came in and from day one showed he could shoot the rock. He finished sixth overall with 16.3 ppg. His size makes him a nightmare to cover, and down the stretch he got into the lane and finished more and more. Simonds had one of the best freshman seasons in recent history, and he missed out on our second team by just a hair. As good as Hausman has been over the past two years, Simonds has a chance to have an even better career. -Adam

G Tyler Rowe, Conn College 

Well, he got into Sports Illustrated, and that’s good enough for me. But in all seriousness, Rowe might have been Conn’s MVP, and that’s on a team with Zuri Pavlin ’17, the guy who had like 1,000 rebounds in two seasons. The weight has been lifted off of Pavlin somewhat because of this talented freshman crew that Rowe headlines. After scoring 12.8 ppg and shooting 41.7 percent from the field (and 85.1 percent from the line) the sky is the limit for this kid.

G Peter Hoffmann, Hamilton College

I think it’s pretty clear that Head Coach Adam Stockwell was committed to the rebuild this season. That’s not to say he did anything less than try to win, because playing his freshmen was probably the best way to do just that. Hoffmann started 18 games, played 27.7 mpg, and pretty much shot the ball any time he touched it. Usually they went in (40.0 percent from the field), but he needs to sharpen up that long range game. Still, Hoffmann looks destined to be a great scorer in this league.

F Kyle Scadlock, Williams College

Watching Scadlock early on, I was sure he would be a shoe-in for NESCAC Rookie of the Year. Unfortunately, his production really trailed off with eight single-digit point games in his last 11, but Scadlock is truly an elite talent with a unique skill set. He’s kind of built like Ben Simmons, except with the potential to shoot the ball. More than anything, the way he assumed a pivotal starting role and still maintained productive play tells me that he deserves this.

F Andrew Groll, Hamilton College

Groll was a workhorse, pulling down 7.8 rpg, fourth-most in the NESCAC. He also made the game-winner against Middlebury. Kid’s got ice in his veins!

All-Defensive Team:

F Shay Ajayi, Trinity College (Defensive Player of the Year)

Length, athleticism, effort, it’s all there with this kid. The NESCAC had him as the POY, we’ve got him as the DPOY. Fifty years from now he’ll be telling his grand kids that he was the D-III National Player of the Year.

G Jack Daly ’18, Middlebury College

As if we haven’t praised the Panther backcourt enough, this should really go 50 percent to Daly and 25 percent to Brown and St. Amour, each. Daly gets the nod because one Middlebury teammates called him the toughest kid in the league, and he takes the opponent’s best perimeter player on most possessions. Did you know that St. Amour, Brown and Daly went Nos. 1, 2 and 4 in steals per game this season? Crazy.

G Johnny McCarthy ’18, Amherst College

Speaking of stealing the basketball from unsuspecting victims, no one sneaks into a passing lane quite like McCarthy. Once again, length is the key. He’s 6’5″, but I’m sure his wingspan stretches beyond that.

C Ed Ogundeko, Trinity College

What more can we say? You can’t go inside on him without getting knocked around. He blocked 39 shots and altered countless more, and was the league’s best defensive rebounder by a considerable margin.

C Tom Palleschi, Tufts University

The guy right behind Ogundeko in defensive rebounding is Palleschi, who’s got some girth to him in his own right. I’m scared to think what would have happened to the Jumbos defense without the imposing presence of Palleschi. Luckily, we don’t have to think about that.

Sixth Man of the Year: F Eric Conklin ’17, Amherst College and G Eric Gendron ’18, Trinity College

We just couldn’t decide on one Eric. I wanted Conklin, Adam wanted Gendron, so we split it to make everyone happy (we might be getting a little soft in our waning days running the site). Conklin didn’t play a whole lot, just 16.1 mpg, but they were always important minutes, and his role as David George’s ’17 offensive half was crucial for Amherst. He racked up 20.8 points per 40 minutes, good for 14th in the conference, which is impressive for a guy coming off the bench and trying to get into a rhythm, shot 60.6 percent from the field, and was a sneaky good rebounder with 4.3 per game in limited time. Gendron, meanwhile, matched Conklin with 8.3 ppg but did most of his damage from deep, sniping away at a 43.3 percent clip. He’s also a great free throw shooter, going 36-39 (92.3 percent) this year, which didn’t qualify for the leaderboards.

Coach of the Year: Jeff Brown, Middlebury College

I said it on Monday in the stock report, but this is probably Jeff Brown’s finest work. Without any All-Region or All-American type players, Brown took his team to its third NESCAC championship just one year after missing out on the playoffs. Of course, if Middlebury loses the NESCAC championship to Amherst we have a different story and Brown might not win the award, but that’s why you play the game.

NESCAC Quarterfinal Preview: #7 Bowdoin at #2 Amherst

Dave Hixon has won plenty of NESCAC tournaments over the years. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics
Dave Hixon has won plenty of NESCAC tournaments over the years. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

#2 Amherst will face #7 Bowdoin in a NESCAC quarterfinal matchup, this Saturday at 4:00 in Amherst. Bowdoin has some momentum, beating Bates, Wesleyan, and Conn College by no less than seven points each in the last two weeks. Amherst has the best overall record of any NESCAC team, and they have gone 6-1 in their last seven games. Their only loss in that span was a 84-73 showing against a strong Tufts team that beat Bowdoin 102-69 earlier in the year.

Last time they played:

January 22: Amherst 92 over Bowdoin 78 (2014-15 matchups: Amherst won regular season matchup 81 – 66 and in NESCAC semifinals 76 – 56)

Bowdoin was up by 11 at the half in that game, but Amherst exploded for 56 in the second to come all the way back. Lucas Hausman ’16 did his usual work with 32 points on the day, but 20 of those came in the first half. After him, only freshman Jack Simonds ’19 managed double digits for the Bears. Amherst outshot Bowdoin from behind the arc, 43% – 25% (12-28, 7-28), and Amherst senior Connor Green ’16 had his second highest scoring game of the year at the time, with 27 points. Amherst destroyed Bowdoin on the boards, outrebounding the Polar Bears 44-28. The second half was a completely one-sided affair where Amherst really flexed their muscles.

Bowdoin X-Factor: Forward Jack Simonds ’19

To take this quarterfinal matchup, Bowdoin needs Hausman to do what he does nearly every night, but just that won’t be enough. Simonds, the freshman forward, and reigning NESCAC player of the week, needs to be feeling it, and early, for Bowdoin to have a chance Saturday. He tallied 16 points against Amherst earlier in the year, and if he keeps his hot streak going and puts up a gaudy total, he’ll give Bowdoin a real chance. For the week, Simonds averaged 23.7 points, 7.7 rebounds, shot a pretty 50.0% (25-50) from the floor, and managed 88.8% (16-18) on his free throws. Simonds is a mismatch for anyone because of his ability to drive past bigger players and bully smaller players in the post. Amherst does have the bodies to slow him down, however. Connor Green ’16 could end up guarding Simonds in a fun matchup between senior and freshman.

Amherst X-Factor: Small Forward Jeff Racy ’17

It is no secret that junior small forward Jeff Racy ’16 is lethal from behind the arc, making his threes at a 51% clip on the year, and he’s been on fire the last two games, going 10/12 from three. If he gets in a groove on Saturday, Bowdoin will be in trouble.  The Polar Bears allowed the most made threes of any team during NESCAC games, and that plays right into the hands of Amherst. Stopping Racy begins with limiting penetration from Jayde Dawson ’18 on pick and rolls. Bowdoin struggles when they have to scramble and rotate on defense. Racy was 5-9 from distance and finished with 17 points the first time that these two met.

Three Questions

Can Bowdoin get 15+ points out of three players?

Even if Simonds and Hausman play at the top of their game, it may not be enough for the Polar Bears. Bowdoin cannot expect to get 35 out of both of them, so someone will have to come up big, considering Amherst has put up 92, 81, and 76 in their last three contests against Bowdoin. Taking into account the loss of graduated defensive stalwart John Swords ’15, that 92 spot in this year’s matchup looks even more daunting. Even beyond Hausman and Simonds, the Bowdoin starters are plenty capable of helping out on offense: Neil Fuller ’17, Jake Donnelly ’16, and Matt Palecki ’16 have all had double-digit point tallies this year, and they’ve all done it against NESCAC foes. Palecki would be the most likely candidate, but if any of these three can add 15+, Bowdoin will have a real chance.

Will Amherst make their free throws?

It may not be a sexy stat, but Bowdoin’s defense fouls less than Amherst’s, and more importantly, Amherst is shooting just 68 percent from the line this year, against Bowdoin’s 77 percent. If Bowdoin wins, they aren’t going to blow Amherst out, and the Bears could very well end up needing those points this weekend. Of Amherst’s top four scorers, only sophomore Jayde Dawson ’18 makes more than 70% of his free throws. Bowdoin shouldn’t be worried about getting burned by playing aggressive defense against this Amherst squad.

Which Connor Green will show up?

In his last Bowdoin game, Green put up 27. In the two games against Bowdoin last season, Green had 7 points (in the NESCAC semifinal), and 33 points. With his season average of 14.6 ppg, Green is a far less consistent offensive threat than Bowdoin’s Hausman, but he’s more than capable of having a monster game. His season high is 39, and he racked up 28 in Amherst’s most recent loss to Tufts. Amherst spreads the ball around, and Bowdoin will not be able to shut down all four of Amherst’s 10 PPG starters. If Green has yet another huge performance against this Bowdoin squad, Amherst will be hard pressed to lose.

What to expect

The numbers are stacked against Bowdoin. The last three matchups between these rivals have been one sided, with Amherst winning those three games by an average of over 16 points. Amherst is a well-rounded team; they share the ball exceptionally well, with 4 out of their 5 starters averaging more than 12 PPG, and leading scorer Connor Green sits at 14.6 PPG. Bowdoin will have to limit breakout performances in order to slow the Amherst offense. Bowdoin faces an uphill battle on the defensive side of the ball too, with Amherst’s defense only giving up 69 PPG compared to Bowdoin’s 77 PPG. Bowdoin’s offense will have to click, and early, in order to have a chance. If Bowdoin can hang with Amherst, this game is going to be a shootout.

Amherst’s two conference losses both came on the road, and they are a handful in the friendly confines of Lefrak gymnasium. Their big play ability will help get what should be a big crowd into the game. Bowdoin is an obviously talented team, but this just isn’t a good matchup for the Polar Bears. The size and speed of Amherst will be too much.

Prediction: Amherst 87, Bowdoin 81

The Best NESCAC Games This Season

If this photo gives nightmates to Ephs' fans, we apologize. (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)
If this photo gives nightmates to Ephs’ fans, we apologize. (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)

Unlike some other NESCAC sports (*cough* football *cough*), in men’s basketball we see teams regularly battle all the way down to the wire. This season seemed like there were even more close games than usual. In total, six conferences games went to OT this year, twice the number from last season. Many more came down to one or two plays down the stretch. There were so many good ones that I decided to go back and count down the very best. Honestly, some of the games that got left out were great in their own right.

10. January 30: Bowdoin 85 over Colby 82, Brunswick, ME.

This was the best game I saw in person this season, and I feel wrong putting it this low. After all, it did feature the reigning NESCAC Player of the Year Lucas Hausman ’16 going bucket-for-bucket down the stretch with Chris Hudnut ’16, who was unstoppable on this day. Hausman would finish with 35 and Hudnut with 32. The difference was the 20 points the Polar Bears got from point guard Jack Bors ’19. Bowdoin led by as much as nine with 6:13 left in the game, but there wasn’t ever a doubt that Colby was going to make a run late. In overtime Jack Simonds ’19 had the first six points, and Hausman scored the next seven. Colby had a chance to tie in the final seconds, but John Gallego’s ’16 shot was no good. That this game is so low tells you a lot about how many quality finishes there were.

9. January 23: Colby 64 over Amherst 62, Waterville, ME

Colby entered this game 0-4 in conference while Amherst was 4-0. With that being said, this wasn’t nearly as big an upset as two years ago when a young Colby team shocked an eventual Final Four Amherst team in Waterville. The Team from Central Mass was ice cold, shooting 33.3/26.5/52.9 for the game. Luke Westman ’16 had just two points and fouled out halfway through the second half, but John Gallego ’16 stepped up to score 13 points. The Mules also benefited from Chris Hudnut ’16 playing well while still getting back to full strength and scoring 17 points. A controversial Connor Green ’16 offensive foul call helped to seal the deal for Colby in the final minutes as Gallego hit his free throws. A last second three by Green for the win failed to land, and Colby got their first conference win.

8. February 7: Colby 99 over Hamilton 95, Clinton, NY.

The highest scoring game of the NESCAC season, this was one of many games that went to overtime under weird circumstances. Down four with under 20 seconds left, Chris Hudnut ’16 hit a three to make it a one-point game. Hamilton missed one of two free throws, and Ryan Jann ’16 got fouled on a three point attempt essentially as time expired. He hit the first two but missed the third and the game went to overtime. The Mules controlled the extra period to give themselves new life in the NESCAC playoff race.  Patrick Stewart ’16 was dripping from three point land going 6-6 from beyond the arc to lead the way with 22 points. All five Colby starters finished in double figures.

7. January 15: Middlebury 85 over Tufts 82, Middlebury, VT.

At halftime the score was 40-40, and at the end of regulation it was 72-72. The theme of this game was Middlebury’s bench scoring 35 total points. An astonishing nine Panthers scored at least five points, a feat made even more incredible by the fact that the game was close the entire way through. The game went to overtime because of a cold-blooded three by Vincent Pace ’18 coming off a high ball screen. With ten seconds left in overtime and Middlebury up three points, the Jumbos got a great look to tie the game up. The three from Stephen Haladyna ’16 went in and out, and the Panthers got the big home victory.

6. January 10: Trinity 76 over Williams 75, Hartford, CT.

The final game of the first weekend was a dandy with the young Ephs pushing the veteran Bantams all the way to the end. The victory was a coming out party for Ed Ogundeko ’17, who scored a game-high 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. The final 10 seconds were frantic with Shay Ajayi ’16 first putting Trinity up 74-73 on a fast break layup. Then he committed a stupid blunder fouling Cole Teal ’18 70 feet away from the basket. However, Jaquann Starks ’16 raced the other way for a layup to pull out the win for the Bantams. The loss was the first of a few late heartbreaking conference losses for Williams.

5. February 6: Middlebury 67 over Colby 65, Middlebury, VT.

The first half of this one was a smothering defensive performance from the Panthers, and the score was 35-22 Middlebury at halftime. The game really got going at the beginning of the second half when Colby went on a 32-10 run to turn a 15-point deficit into a seven-point lead. Credit has to go to Middlebury for not folding at this point and coming right back with an 11-3 run that made the score 58-57 Middlebury. The rest of the game was neck and neck. After Adisa Majors ’18 tied things up 65-65 with 0:30 left, Colby could have held for the final shot. However, Luke Westman ’16 drove and missed a layup. Jack Daly ’18 leaked out on the rebound for an easy bucket, and that proved to be the final difference.

4. January 30: Amherst 89 over Trinity 82, Hartford, CT.

The game between the top teams in the NESCAC fell on travel weekend with Trinity undefeated at 5-0 and Amherst at 4-1. This game was uptempo and close throughout, but it lacked any real drama. Amherst led the entire second half, and the Bantams never got the lead below five points. The Team from Central Mass was not slowed down at all by Connor Green ’16 having just seven points. Johnny McCarthy ’18 and Jayde Dawson ’18 both scored more than 20 points to pace Amherst. Ultimately, this game was the only conference loss for Trinity, but it didn’t hurt them since Amherst lost on the road to Colby and Tufts, thereby ceding homecourt advantage to the Bantams.

3. January 22: Wesleyan 78 over Tufts 77, Middletown, CT.

Another fantastic finish in this one. The decision by Vincent Pace ’18 to go for the steal with Tufts up two points, five seconds left, and Wesleyan in-bounding the ball with 90 feet to go was a bad one. That sent BJ Davis ’16 to the line where he calmly hit both free throws. In overtime, Joseph Kuo ’17 made a layup with under 30 seconds left to give the Cardinals the win. Kuo, Rashid Epps ’16, and backup big man Nathan Krill ’18 combined for 50 points and 23 rebounds as the size of Wesleyan was too much for the perimeter-heavy Jumbos. Both teams shot terribly from the foul line and committed a ton of turnovers in an ugly contest.

2. January 16: Amherst 88 over Conn College 86, Amherst, MA.

In the moment, the Camels pushing Amherst to the brink seemed like an indication that Conn College was going to make a major run this year. That didn’t happen, but this game was still a lot of fun to watch. Defense was optional in the first half after which Conn College led 49-45. Lee Messier ’18 was 5-5 from the field in that first half to lead the Camels with 13 points. But it was Jayde Dawson ’18 who took over down the stretch with 19 second half points. At the very end of this one, Conn College tried to run an inbounds play designed for David Labossiere ’19 to tap in an alley-oop, but his attempt missed and Amherst escaped on their home floor. This game more than any, between the presumed top team in the NESCAC and a team that went winless in NESCAC play last season, is an indication of how close teams played each other this year.

1. February 5: Wesleyan 66 over Williams 63, Middletown, CT

The number one game didn’t go to overtime, but it was a barn burner nevertheless. Williams and Wesleyan have played some great games over the past two years, and this one was probably the best. In front of a raucus home crowd, it was all BJ Davis down the stretch. In their first meeting this season, Davis had already beaten the Ephs on a runner with less than two seconds remaining. In this game, Davis scored the final 15 (!) points for Wesleyan to turn a 56-51 deficit into the eventual 66-63 Wesleyan win. The combination of the home atmosphere, the recent history of these two rivals (this win gave Wesleyan the Little 3 title), and the quality of the shot made this a clear choice for the top spot. I mean, just watch the video of Davis’ shot and try to tell me there was a better moment than that this year.

The North Remembers: Stock Report 2/15

Matt Palecki helped the Polar Bears to a 2-0 weekend and a NESCAC playoff bid. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)
Matt Palecki ’16 helped the Polar Bears to a 2-0 weekend and a NESCAC playoff bid. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

What a weekend for Maine rivals, Bowdoin and Colby, as the two swept Conn College and Wesleyan to both get into the NESCAC tournament with Bowdoin as the No. 7 seed and Colby the No. 8 seed. Both teams have shown plenty of promise this season, but it wasn’t until this weekend that we saw how good these teams can really play. When I watched these two go to overtime back on January 30, it was hard to imagine that both of them could possibly miss the NESCAC tournament. Now they both got in and are beginning to look dangerous.

Let’s start with Colby. The Mules looked dead at 1-6 in conference after blowing a last minute lead at Middlebury last weekend. Then they finished with three straight wins, with their two this weekend being comfortable ones. The all-senior starting five gets all the press, but senior guard John Gallego ’16 deserves some recognition himself. The quick backup is one of many short NESCAC point guards making an impact this season (Jaquann Starks ’16, Jack Dwyer ’18, Tyler Rowe ’19, etc.). He had nine points apiece against Wesleyan and Conn College. Against Amherst, Colby’s first NESCAC win, Gallego had 13 big points. The senior is a difference maker for the Mules.

The real surprise is probably the defense that Colby has played. I’ve said it before, but it doesn’t make sense that a team with five seniors starting should be so bad defensively. Yes, they play three big men essentially in their starting lineup meaning they give up quickness to teams. Still, they should be able to make up for it by playing as a unit on that end. This weekend they did, keeping Conn College to 73 points and then Wesleyan to just 64 points. The Mules certainly benefitted from some poor shooting on the part of the Cardinals considering Wesleyan shot 7-33 from three point land, but give credit to Colby for coming up big on the defensive end this weekend after having that be their Achilles Heel in some games.

As for Bowdoin, a team dear and near to my heart, they got big contributions from their role players while relying on their big two. Lucas Hausman ’16 and Jack Simonds ’19 combined averaged 48.5 ppg in the two wins. And while I know it sounds crazy, neither of them shot THAT well this weekend, going 8-25 (32 percent) from the three point line. What they did do exceptionally was get to the free throw line and finish there. The two went 27-30 from the charity stripe, and they drove Wesleyan and Conn College crazy with their ability to get calls.

However, the real stars, especially yesterday, were point guard Tim Ahn ’19 and center Matt Palecki ’16. Ahn looked like he was losing his spot in the rotation to Jack Bors ’19 a few weeks ago, but an injury to Bors has kept him out and opened the door for Ahn to play his best basketball. Coaches often say that by the end of the season, being a freshman isn’t an excuse anymore. Ahn hasn’t played like a freshmen down the stretch. He did something I haven’t see him do all season: attack and finish at the rim. He has shown the quickness to get past his initial defender, but until yesterday Ahn wasn’t looking for his at the rim. He scored 10 points in Friday and Saturday’s game.

Meanwhile, Palecki was his typical workmanlike self with 12 points and 14 rebounds against Conn College. In both games this weekend, Bowdoin controlled the boards, something they haven’t done much of this year. Palecki makes up for his lack of leaping ability by using his wide body to keep offensive rebounders out of the paint. He used that same wide body to slow down the likes of Joseph Kuo ’17 and Zuri Pavlin ’17 with great effectiveness. While Palecki can sometimes fall in love with ill-advised threes, he does a lot of the dirty work for the Polar Bears.

One problem for Colby and Bowdoin is they now have to go on the road in the NESCAC playoffs. For both of them, three of their four conference wins came at home. Whatever, we’ll get there in a couple of days. The two Maine teams made good and salvaged what looked like lost seasons. Even though they are the seventh and eighth seed, Bowdoin or Colby is capable not just of upsetting a top team but going all the way for a Cinderella run.

Stock Up

Shooting Guard Lucas Hausman ’16 (Bowdoin)

Averaging 26.5 ppg in a NESCAC weekend would be incredible for most players, but it’s just another normal weekend for Hausman at this point. He finishes the 2015-2016 regular season averaging 25.1 ppg overall and 26.0 ppg in NESCAC games. Those are historic numbers: the best averages that anybody has put up on record in the NESCAC which goes back to 2000. Hausman is far from a perfect player; he does go to a D3 school after all. His defense is subpar, his rebounding numbers are not good, and he doesn’t create well for others on offense. One or two plays every game he looks like a legitimately bad basketball player. But to deny how freaking good he is at putting the ball in the basket is stupid. Nobody makes tough shots like he does, and he makes those shots efficiently to boot. Regardless of what happens in the NESCAC tournament, Hausman is the Player of the Year.

Small Forward Stephen Haladyna ’16 (Tufts)

The Jumbos had just one game this weekend, and they took care of business against Williams to secure a home NESCAC playoff game. Haladyna led the way with 22 points, the only time this year that he has scored more than 20 points in a contest. He had been pretty quiet in NESCAC games before Friday. Tufts is at their best when they are able to be balanced scoring the ball. Guys like Haladyna and Ryan Spadaford ’16 need to be big part of the offense for Tufts to make a run. The Jumbos sit at 19-5 overall and look to be in good shape for making the NCAA tournament regardless of what happens in the next two weekends, but a win again over Williams would secure their spot for sure I think.

Stock Down

Middlebury Defense

The Panthers weren’t quite up to the task this weekend, and the most disappointing thing has to be the number of points they let up. Amherst scored 83 and Trinity had a blistering 97 points. Now, the Bantams were clearly hot shooting the ball (55.7 percent from the floor in this game), but it is still a little disappointing to see Middlebury give up that many points in regulation. The two games weren’t even that exceptional in terms of pace as Amherst shot the ball 60 times and Trinity 61 times. The two losses aren’t surprising in and of themselves, but I wasn’t expecting their defense to be the major problem. The Panthers have to get that sorted out by this weekend.

Conn College

What a tough end to the season for the Camels. They made so many strides this season, but they end up falling just short of making the playoffs. The Camels pushed Tufts and Amherst to the brink and had a quality home win over Middlebury, but they ended up losing their final five NESCAC games to finish 3-7. The Camels are big, tough on defense, and capable of scoring in bunches. They lose senior leader Bo McKinley ’16, a player that has been a constant through some very dark days for the program. Credit to him for doing anything he could to make the team better over the past few years. This team will be a terror for teams next year in large part because of him. And they will be a terror with their young nucleus having another year to grow. Zuri Pavlin ’17 and Dan Janel ’17 are a load to handle in the frontcourt. Tyler Rowe ’19 and Lee Messier ’18 are going to score a lot of points, too. Conn College missed the playoffs this year, but they will get there soon enough.

Just Get In: Examining the Playoff Race

Bo McKinley '16 and the Conn College Camels are among those battling for a spot in the NESCAC playoffs. (Courtesy of Conn College Athletics)
Bo McKinley ’16 and the Conn College Camels are among those battling for a spot in the NESCAC playoffs. (Courtesy of Conn College Athletics)

On the surface, the NESCAC tournament is an easy thing to get into. Eight of 11 teams make it, so you have a 73 percent chance at the start of the season. This year though … some very good teams are going to be on the outside looking in. Just so we are completely clear, the top six teams (Trinity, Amherst, Middlebury, Tufts, Wesleyan and Williams) have all clinched playoff spots. Here is how the standings for the final five teams look. Included is their record versus the other four teams because of the importance of tiebreakers.

7. 3-5 Connecticut College Camels (2-0. Beat Bates and Hamilton)
8. 2-6 Bowdoin Polar Bears (2-1. Beat Bates and Colby, lost to Hamilton)
9. 2-6 Colby Mules (1-2. Beat Hamilton, lost to Bowdoin and Bates)
10. 2-6 Hamilton Continentals (1-3. Beat Bowdoin, lost to Conn, Bates, and Colby)
11. 2-7 Bates Bobcats (2-2. Beat Colby and Hamilton, lost to Conn and Bowdoin)

Going through the potential scenarios for each team making the playoffs is tiresome and nearly impossible. Instead, I’m going to rank the teams in likelihood to make the playoffs and make the case for and against them making the playoffs. To be clear, two of these five teams are making the NESCAC tournament.

1. Conn College Camels

This week’s opponents: Friday at Colby, Saturday at Bowdoin

Why they make it: The case for the Camels being the most likely team to make the playoffs is simple: they need to win just one game to guarantee they make it. Even if they lose both games, they have a chance if things break right. Conn College could easily be off the bubble at this point, but they have lost three NESCAC games by six points combined. The Camels have a balanced offensive attack with four players averaging double figures in conference play. They are the most talented and balanced of these five teams, and that talent will be enough to pull out one game against Colby and Bowdoin.

Why they don’t make it: A very young team with two freshmen among their top players have to go on the road all the way to Maine and win against teams much more experienced than them in these situations. Conn College has never been in this spot before. How they react down the stretch of a close game is a question mark, but remember that they lost the game last Sunday down the stretch. Another problem besides inexperience is that they are allowing the second most points per game in conference games. Both Bowdoin and Colby are good offensive teams capable of making these games into track meets.

2. Colby Mules

This week’s opponents: Friday vs. Conn College, Saturday vs. Wesleyan

Why they make it: Of these five teams, I think Colby has the best chance of going 2-0 and securing their spot without having to worry about tiebreakers. They have lost four of their NESCAC games by an average of 2.7 points, and they have been banged up for much of the season, too. With five seniors in the starting lineup, nobody has more motivation than them to take care of business and get into the NESCAC tournament. Their talent is obvious given that they beat Amherst and came close to beating Middlebury last weekend, too. Chris Hudnut ’16 is also playing better in the last few weeks than he has all season.

Why they don’t make it: Alright, so while they lost a bunch of close games, the two games Colby actually won were by two and four points, respectively. They needed a near miracle in the final 15 seconds of regulation against Hamilton to pull out that game. The Mules just play close games. They rank ninth in NESCAC games in both points scored and allowed per game. Their bench lacks any consistent scorer, and they have no backup big men meaning they rely on Patrick Stewart ’16, Sam Willson ’16 and Hudnut to stay out of foul trouble.

3. Bowdoin Polar Bears

This week’s opponents: Friday vs. Wesleyan, Saturday vs. Conn College

Why they make it: I mean, the team with the presumptive NESCAC Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year can’t really miss the playoffs can they? Well, they won’t if Lucas Hausman ’16 and Jack Simonds ’19 score like they are capable of this weekend. Simonds seemed to be hitting a little bit of a freshman wall, but he has put that idea to bed with 23 and 27 point performances the past two games. The Polar Bears probably still need one more player to step up in some way, be it rebounding, assisting, or scoring. My money is on one of the other seniors, point guard Jake Donnelly ’16 or Matt Palecki ’16, being that guy. Playing at home in the Morrell Madhouse (no one calls it that but me), where Bowdoin is 6-3, also helps a little bit.

Why they don’t make it: The problems the Polar Bears have had all season (rebounding and defense along with an offense too reliant on individual scoring) are still there. The Polar Bears have allowed the most points per game, 84.8, and have the worst rebounding margin, -5.9, of anybody in conference games. Both those marks are also well below anybody else. The possibility of Wesleyan crushing Bowdoin on the glass this weekend is a very real one. The Polar Bears also have allowed teams to shoot a whopping 43.0 percent from three point land.

4. Bates Bobcats

This week’s opponents: Sunday at Williams

Why they make it: I sort of like the match-ups for Bates against Williams. They can put Mike Boornazian ’16 on Dan Aronowitz ’17 to slow down the Ephs’ leading scorer. Malcolm and Marcus Delpeche ’17 should have the advantage on the interior, and the Bobcats have plenty of other bodies to throw into the mix also. The Ephs aren’t a real high scoring team, and a few easy buckets for Bates in transition could have an outsized effect if it’s a low scoring affair. Don’t forget that Bates had a four game winning streak in the beginning of January with three of those wins vs. winning teams. The Bobcats can play a little ball.

Why they don’t make it: First, the Bobcats only have one game left, making Williams a must win. And even that isn’t a guarantee of a spot. Second, Bates has to do it on the road away from their preferred environs in Lewiston. Third, they have lost seven of their last eight games with the only win coming against a subpar Maine-Farmington team. I worry about where the scoring comes from given the struggles of Boornazian to be efficient. A big question mark is sharpshooter Josh Britten ’16, who sat out against Bowdoin on Tuesday.

5. Hamilton Continentals

This week’s opponents: Friday at Trinity, Saturday at Amherst

Why they make it: The Continentals are hot, baby! They had a two game winning streak going until their overtime loss to Colby last Sunday. Freshman big man Andrew Groll ’19 has played better as the season has gone along, averaging 12.3 ppg on 53.6 percent shooting in NESCAC games. Both center Ajani Santos ’16 and shooting guard Michael Grassey ’19 had season high performances in points last weekend. Of these five teams, the Continentals have been playing the best basketball as of late.

Why they don’t make it: I feel like I’ve said this a thousand times this season, but it doesn’t get any harder than going on the road to play Trinity and Amherst. Both the Bantams and Purple and White (please choose a new mascot soon Amherst. Don’t forget the Dorsets!) have plenty to play for still so the Continentals won’t get any breaks. The Continentals beat Middlebury so they have that notch in their belt, but it will take a near perfect game for them to get a win this weekend. The athleticism mismatch between the Continentals and their opponents is a significant one.

Disclaimer: I will be yelling/chanting/clapping as loud as possible at both Bowdoin games this weekend. Most of the time it will be in support of the Polar Bears, but other times it won’t. I mean opposing players no disrespect and want nothing but the best for you, but I hope you miss every shot against Bowdoin.

– Adam Lamont

Last Ditch Effort: Power Ranks 2/10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Conference Rankings Start to Materialize: Weekend Preview 2/5 (Part 1)

Dan Aronowitz looks to lead Williams past Wesleyan this weekend. (Courtesy of Williams College Athletics)
Dan Aronowitz ’17 looks to lead Williams past Wesleyan this weekend. (Courtesy of Williams College Athletics)

A couple of the games tonight are between teams on opposite ends of the spectrum, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be any tightly contested games. The game to watch is without a doubt Trinity at Tufts, as both teams are still vying for the top spot in the NESCAC, but Colby-Middlebury and Williams-Wesleyan could also be pretty great games. Some familiar names will lead their teams to easy victories, while other teams will only have a chance if their stars can put up the big numbers I’m anticipating. Here’s what’s in store for the weekend:

Friday Games

Bowdoin vs. Hamilton, Clinton, NY, 7:00 pm

As we all know, Lucas Hausman ‘15 is the top scorer in the NESCAC. Bowdoin relies heavily on Hausman’s average of 26.7 PPG in conference play. In fact, in their two biggest blowout conference losses against Tufts and Trinity, Hausman has only scored just 11 and 14 points respectively. Conversely, in their two conference wins against Bates and Colby, he scored 42 and then 35 points. On the other side, Hamilton is coming off their first conference win in which they took down Middlebury on a last second layup by Andrew Groll ’19. Groll has turned into Hamilton’s star in conference play, putting up 11.7 PPG and pulling down 8.7 RPG. Despite Groll’s aggressive play down low, I don’t see anyone stopping Hausman, and I don’t think the Continentals can keep up with Bowdoin’s scoring.

Prediction: Bowdoin 79 – Hamilton 65

Colby vs. Middlebury, Middlebury VT, 7:00 pm

After Colby got out to a hot 10-1 start, they have now dropped to 13-7 due to their 1-5 conference performance. However, this record is a bit deceiving because aside from getting blown out by Tufts, their other conference losses are by margins of just four, nine, two and three. Additionally, Colby beat Amherst by two up in Waterville this past weekend. Meanwhile, Middlebury is 4-2 in conference with no win by a difference of more than 10 points and a total differential of just three points in their conference losses to Conn College and Hamilton. I like Middlebury in this one because of their ability to win close contests, but I would not at all be surprised if Colby pulled out the W. Look for Matt St. Amour ’17 to carry the Panthers to victory.

Prediction: Colby 74 – Middlebury 77

Amherst vs. Bates, Lewiston, ME, 7:00 pm

At face value, this looks like the easiest matchup of the day to predict, but then again, I never would have picked Colby to beat Amherst a couple weeks ago. However, in that game, Amherst shot a measly 33.3% from the field, 26.5% from deep, and a dreadful 52.9% from the free throw line. I don’t see any way that Amherst shoots that poorly again, and they proved that last weekend by shooting 50.9% from the field against Trinity’s usually stifling defense. For Bates to win this one, they are going to need to shoot the lights out, something they have not done consistently in NESCAC play.

Prediction: Amherst 84 – Bates 64

Williams vs. Wesleyan, Middletown, CT, 7:00 pm

Williams and Wesleyan are sitting at just about the same spot in the NESCAC standings right now, but Wesleyan is definitely higher in the power rankings considering they’ve reeled off three straight conference wins against Tufts, Bates and Conn College. This is a huge chance for Williams to make a jump in the standings, and with tough games against Conn College and Tufts coming up, they will have a tough task if they want to grab home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. If Dan Aronowitz ’17 doesn’t have a huge game, the Ephs are in trouble. I’m expecting Joseph Kuo ’17 and Rashid Epps ’16 to dominate the paint and lead the Cardinals to victory.

Prediction: Williams 68 – Wesleyan 79

Game of the Night

Trinity vs. Tufts, Medford, MA, 7:00 pm

This tilt is the game of the week, however, if Tufts wins, the game between Amherst and Tufts on Saturday could be the battle for first place in the NESCAC. Tufts and Trinity couldn’t be two more opposite teams. Trinity is a defensive powerhouse that leads the NESCAC in PPG allowed at just 68.0 PPG, while the Jumbos are an offensive juggernaut, leading the NESCAC with 87.4 PPG. On the flip side, Trinity scores just 76.5 PPG while Tufts gives up 73.3 PPG, which leads me to believe that this game is going to come down to Trinity’s ability to slow down the Tufts attack. There are two big matchups to focus on in this one:

1.) Tom Palleschi ’17 vs. Ed Ogundeko ’17 – these two big guys are two of the best in the conference. They average about the same number of PPG in conference games (14.7 and 14.5 respectively). Palleschi edges Ogundeko in blocks and Ogundeko tops Palleschi in rebounds. This should be a VERY enticing matchup.

2.) Vinny Pace ’18 vs. Shay Ajayi ‘16/Rick Naylor ’16

I’m honestly not sure who is going to guard Pace due to the matchup problems that the four-guard lineup of Tufts produces. The extra 25 pounds that Ajayi has on Pace could wear him down throughout the game, but I think that this will allow Stephen Haladyna ’16, a threat in the paint, to take advantage of his height advantage over Naylor. If Naylor takes the challenge, Pace’s height and length will allow him to shoot over Naylor with relative ease. I expect Trinity to throw multiple looks at Pace, but either way, he presents matchup problems.

At the end of the day, I don’t see Trinity being able to keep up with the scoring of Tufts unless Palleschi gets into foul trouble. If that happens, Trinity could definitely win this game. Otherwise, I think the Jumbos give themselves the opportunity to play Amherst for first place on Saturday.

Prediction: Trinity 75 – Tufts 86

Eight NESCAC Stats You Should Know

Neil Fuller '17 gets mulled by a trio of Ephs. And this has nothing to do with the eight facts you need to know. (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)
Neil Fuller ’17 gets mauled by a trio of Ephs. And this has nothing to do with the eight facts you need to know. (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

The amount of information you can get from basketball statistics is great. Though the NESCAC is not part of the advanced statistics revolution that has helped change the way the NBA is played (I don’t think NESCAC gyms are capable of having the advanced SportsVU cameras that are in NBA arenas), old school statistics like rebounds, blocks and points still are really helpful. Some of these stats you are probably generally aware of, while others might surprise you.

1. Lucas Hausman ’16 (Bowdoin): 25.6 PPG

The defending NESCAC Player of the Year has taken it to a whole other level this season. Hausman is the only player this season averaging above 20.0 PPG, and Hausman is managing to do it while having shooting percentages of 47.8/42.5/87.5.  He makes 6.8 free throws per game, nearly two whole free throws more than the next guy. While I don’t have official numbers on it, I would guess that Hausman also leads the NESCAC by a MILE in number of free throws off of three pointers, a fact that I know drives opposing coaches absolutely bonkers. The biggest difference in his game from a year ago is his three point shooting. He is making 2.2 threes per game this season, up from 1.0 per game last season while also upping his percentage of threes made from 31.8 percent to 42.5 percent.

2. FG% Defense of Wesleyan (37.5 percent) and (Trinity 37.7 percent)

Those marks put Wesleyan third and Trinity sixth in the country. Pretty impressive for the NESCAC to have two teams in the Top 10. I was a little surprised to see how highly these two ranked, honestly. I feel like both have taken a step back from their defense last season, but it might just be that both are playing at a faster pace. When these two met earlier in the year, Trinity shot 41.3 percent on the way to beating Wesleyan who shot just 32.1 percent.

3. 3PT FG% Defense of Amherst (26.3 percent)

That number for the No Mascots is the best in the country, and I think I know the reason why. All of that length on the perimeter, from Johnny McCarthy ’18 to Michael Riopel ’18 to Jeff Racy ’17, bothers shooters who can’t shake free. That Amherst is tied for fourth overall in the NESCAC in field goal percentage is a problem, though.

4. Ed Ogundeko ’17 (Trinity): 19.8 Rebounds per 40 Minutes

Ogundeko is a veritable vacuum on the boards, combining the width to box anybody out with a knack for the ball. He is blowing everybody else out of the water in terms of rebounds per 40 minutes. Matt Daley ’16 is second with 14.8 rebounds per 40 minutes, a far far cry from Ogundeko. He grabs 26.4 percent of Trinity’s total rebounds, and I would love to be able to isolate just when he is on the floor in order to fully get the picture of how good he is on the boards.

5. Matt St. Amour ’17 (Middlebury): NESCAC 2PT FG%: 34.0 percent

St. Amour is the second leading scorer in NESCAC play, but he is doing it mostly because of his three point shooting ability. He is shooting 47.4 percent from three while making half of his shots from the field there in NESCAC games. That St. Amour is making the harder (at least ostensibly harder) shots at a much higher rate probably says more about his ability to finish at the rim than anything. Though he’s obviously healthy, St. Amour still lacks explosiveness because of his ACL injury, and he often shoots floaters instead of trying to attack big men at the rim. Many of those floaters aren’t going in.

6. Jack Dwyer ’18 (Hamilton): FT%: 84.8 percent

This one is notable because Dwyer has struggled mightily to shoot the ball from three (26.3 percent) but not from the free throw line. Also notable is that Dwyer isn’t the only point guard with such a big chasm between those two percentages. Tyler Rowe ’19 is shooting 85.7 percent on FTs and 31.7 percent on 3PTs. I’m not sure the reason for the huge disparity, though if I was to guess it would be because Rowe and Dwyer are shooting threes off the dribble since they are point guards with the ball in their hands a lot.

7. Amherst Point Differential: +13.9 PPG

That number is the best in the NESCAC with Trinity the second best at +11.0 PPG. I don’t put that much weight into point differentials because of the disparity of non-conference schedules and the ability for one or two blowouts to warp the statistic given the low amount of games NESCAC teams have.

8. NESCAC Winning Percentage: .745

For the season, NESCAC teams are 102-35 in non-conference games (I excluded all non-conference CBB and Little 3 games in my calculations), a pretty darn good mark overall. However, it is in line with past seasons for the NESCAC. The winning percentage for the NESCAC against non-NESCAC teams last season was a lofty .769, which is probably a big reason why the league ended up getting four bids. In 2013-2014, NESCAC teams had a winning percentage of .718. Note, I also excluded NCAA tournament games in those calculations. I wanted to do more years, but I knew that I needed to get some sleep, also. Bottom line, the NESCAC is doing very well once again in their non-conference games.