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 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

No Mascot, No Problem: Stock Report 2/1

Marcus Delpeche '17 and Tom Palleschi '17 share a moment Saturday. (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
Marcus Delpeche ’17 and Tom Palleschi ’17 share a moment Saturday. (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

Amherst cemented its status as the top dog in the NESCAC with Saturday’s commanding victory over Trinity 89-82. The Purple and White led comfortably 84-70 with 1:31 left to play before the Bantams made a late push to make things a little dicey at the end. Trinity didn’t have quite enough offense to stay with the shot-making Amherst team. The game was a very physical one, with the teams combining for more than 50 fouls by the end of the game. When they make their threes, Amherst is hard to beat, and they made nine against the Bantams. The win pushes Amherst to 5-1 in conference and 16-3 overall.

Leading the way were Jayde Dawson ’18 and Johnny McCarthy ’18 with 45 points combined, 26 of those in the 2nd half. The two also combined for nine turnovers versus six assists, reinforcing that as talented players as they are, they are equally capable of sinking the team with their play. Connor Green ’16 was quiet finishing with just seven points on six shots. In times past, when Green was having a quiet game he would force the issue from three-point land, but on Saturday he let his younger teammates take the lead.

The win was a great one for Amherst, and the Purple and White now have the inside shot on hosting the NESCAC tournament. However, they are still a ways away from that happening, and the problems with this team are not going away. I think that Amherst drops another NESCAC in the coming weeks, and with Middlebury and Tufts still on the schedule, multiple losses would not be a huge surprise.

Stock Up

Point Guard Jack Bors ’19 (Bowdoin)

The Polar Bears survived in overtime against Colby in large part because of Bors coming out of nowhere to score 20 points. The 5’9″ lefty reminds Bowdoin fans of Bryan Hurley ’15 because of his toughness. Despite barely playing all season, Bors was not lacking in confidence the moment he entered into the game. Coming into Saturday, he had not scored more than four points in just one game. He wasn’t at all part of the rotation until Saturday, not playing in three of Bowdoin’s NESCAC games. Bors got time against the Mules in part because of a strong performance at the end of the blowout loss for Bowdoin against Trinity last Saturday. Coach Tim Gilbride wanted to shake things up, and with the early injury to Matt Palecki ’16, he rolled the dice with Bors. Bowdoin needed a spark to hold off the Mules in a battle that was big for both teams. Bors now will see if he can make Saturday’s performance carry over to the rest of the season.

Power Forward Rashid Epps ’16 (Wesleyan)

In a game where BJ Davis ’16 scored his 1,000 point, Epps led the way with 19 points as Wesleyan got past Conn College 87-79. Early in the season, Epps was fazed out of the offense, but he has come back in the past few weeks with very strong performances. In NESCAC games, Epps is averaging 12.3 ppg while making shots at an awesome 64.0 percent rate. A little undersized for a power forward at 6’4″, Epps is powerful enough to gain positioning against anybody. The Cardinals won again to make their NESCAC winning streak three games now. At 4-3 they are above .500 for the first time all season and suddenly are eyeing a home playoff game. Committing to getting Epps the ball is a big reason why.

Center Chris Hudnut ’16 (Colby)

One of the best players in the league, Hudnut’s past season and a half has been tough to watch because of various injuries knocking him out of games. Hudnut had not scored above 20 points in a game since December 28, missing three games since then and laboring through the rest. He looked like his usual self Saturday, dominating in the second half and scoring 33 points on just 17 shots. Twenty-four of his points came in the second half. The problem is that Colby still lost to drop to 1-5 in the NESCAC. Getting into the playoffs is not going to be easy. They lose the head-to-head tie breaker against Bates and Bowdoin, and their one win against Amherst does them no favors. The thing is, if Hudnut plays as well as he did Saturday, they have more than enough to win at least two of their final four games and give themselves a shot of making the NESCAC tournament. And if they do get in, they would scare the living heck out of whichever team would draw them in the first round.

Stock Down


The Bobcats have now lost four straight NESCAC games, all of them by double digits. Trying to figure out what is wrong with Bates is not easy, but I think it’s just a problem of the pieces not fitting well together. Mike Boornazian ’16 has struggled to find his footing as the lead man. He is averaging 15.1 ppg in NESCAC games, but he is shooting 35.2 percent from the field and 26.2 percent from three-point land. As a team the Bobcats have the worst three-point shooting percentage at 32.0 percent, and the number drops below 30 percent when you look just at NESCAC games. Obviously the loss of Graham Safford ’15 has hurt, but it is also the absence of key perimeter players Billy Selmon ’15 and Adam Philpott ’15 that is hurting this team. Those two averaged 13.1 ppg combined last year while also being two of the team’s better perimeter defenders. Without glue guys like that, Bates has not been able to do the little things to stay in games.

Conn College’s Second Half

At halftime, the Camels owned an eight-point lead over Wesleyan. However, the wheels fell off on defense as the Cardinals pounded the ball inside and shot 66.7 percent from the field in the second half. Conn College is now 3-4 in the league, but they have led at halftime for three of their losses. Blowing a second half lead is a sign of the Camels youth most likely. Closing games out in the NESCAC is hard, and Wesleyan beat Conn College on Saturday because of their experience in important games. For example, in the second half playing at home, Conn College made just ONE free throw the entire second half, going 1-6 from the charity stripe. These games are learning experiences for Conn College, and that they have them this season with so many talented youngsters is a good thing.

Middlebury Scoring

The Panthers, playing without forward Zach Baines ’19, absolutely let one get away on Saturday. A Matt St. Amour ’17 layup with 6:04 left in the game made the score 62-58 in Middlebury’s favor. The Panthers didn’t score again! Hamilton scored with one second left to win 64-62. Middlebury blew a 15 point second half lead, and the lack of scoring was tough to watch. Going cold for that long down the stretch is a freaky thing, and it won’t happen again. Middlebury relies on a balanced and deep attack, and it is usual St. Amour who hits the bucket when the Panthers absolutely need one. However, it didn’t happen on Saturday. The issue is the damage is done for the young Panthers. They will have chances to make it up, but in this year’s NESCAC where no victory is an easy one, letting a win like this one slip away hurts.

On the Road Again: Weekend Preview 1/22

Our forerunner PantherNation (still alive and well in the Twitterverse but survived only by us in the blogosphere) astutely points out that the first two weekends of NESCAC play have been marked by home teams dominating. Getting an idea of how much home court advantage helps teams is hard in part because in the NESCAC teams usually play against each other once a season. It most certainly isn’t worth 53 points, the point differential between Saturday’s blowout win for Amherst over Wesleyan and Monday’s reversal of Wesleyan destroying Amherst.It obviously matters though. NESCAC teams went 32-23 at home in conference games a season ago.

This weekend the top three teams in our Power Rankings (Trinity, Amherst, and Tufts) all head out on the road. Amherst and Trinity are travel partners so they head to Maine in order to visit Colby and Bowdoin. Tufts, who already played on the road last weekend and split against Middlebury and Hamilton, travels through Connecticut for games vs. Conn College and Wesleyan.

Trinity and Amherst are the teams to keep an eye on. Both are perfect at home, but Trinity has a 4-4 record away from home and Amherst is 5-2. Neither Colby or Bowdoin appears to be a huge burden to get past, but both teams have players capable of putting the team on their back with hot shooting. Winning on the road is all important for securing what matters: a home NESCAC playoff game.

Two to Watch

1. Shooting Guard Lucas Hausman ’16 (Bowdoin): It’s a huge weekend for the Polar Bears needing at least a split against Trinity and Amherst in order to avoid falling to 1- in conference. It took 40 points from Hausman against Bates to get Bowdoin their one conference win. He will probably need somewhere close to 30 in a game this weekend. The problem is that Amherst with Johnny McCarthy ’18 and Trinity with Shay Ajayi ’16 both have defenders capable of at least bothering Hausman. Last season Hausman averaged 20 points in two losses to Amherst and had 30 in an overtime loss at Trinity. Hausman is prone to sometimes get off to slow starts, but Bowdoin can’t afford to fall behind in either of their games this weekend. While he is averaging a phenomenal 25.1 PPG this season, those numbers will start to look meaningless if Bowdoin keeps losing games.

2. Point Guard Shawn Strickland ’18 (Bates): In four wins over just more than a week at the beginning of January, Strickland scored in double figures for 4 consecutive games. That was when Bates played their best basketball with close wins over Brandeis, Babson, and Colby. In the three games since then, Strickland has been held to single digits in each game, and the Bobcats have gone 1-2. The Bobcats do not have enough perimeter scoring without Strickland making shots to keep up with teams. Josh Britten ’16 has been great making threes, but he is a one dimensional player. Mike Boornazian ’16 is good, but his efficiency has suffered without Graham Safford ’15 to take pressure off him. Strickland needs to be the guy scoring 10-15 points per game. He also needs to push the pace so that Bates can get easy buckets in transition.

Tyler Rowe '19 lead Conn College into a big home NESCAC weekend. (Courtesy of Conn College Athletics)
Tyler Rowe ’19 leads Conn College into a big home NESCAC weekend. (Courtesy of Conn College Athletics)

Two Storylines to Follow

1. Wesleyan drawing a line in the sand.

I have a suspicion that this is right where Wesleyan wants to be. Last year the Cardinals hot streak started when they had their backs against the wall. They were 3-5 heading into the last weekend of the season with road games against Hamilton and Williams. They won both those in blowouts before winning three games in a row on the road.

Against Amherst on Friday night, Wesleyan looked as bad as any team can. From the very first possession of the game when Amherst got two straight offensive rebounds before Connor Green hit a three, the Cardinals looked like a defeated team. Nobody on offense was trying to attack the paint, and if they did, they were getting swallowed up by the Amherst defenders. Wesleyan was able to hold Amherst scoreless for a period of 4 minutes and 46 seconds in the first half, but they were only able to cut a 24 point deficit to 20 points in that span.

I didn’t watch the game on Monday night I’ll admit, but the statement from Wesleyan was a strong one. The game means more for the Cardinals than it does Amherst. A key for Wesleyan was having a combined 16 steals and blocks. They need to use that defensive energy to get them going on the other end of the floor. Both Bates and Tufts are tough opponents, but the Cardinals get them at home. Maybe just maybe, the Wesleyan crowds that came out in full force down the stretch last year return this weekend and help carry the Cardinals to a big weekend.

2. Who leads the way for Amherst.

This storyline has been one developing all season. We noted back on December 2nd that Connor Green’s ’16 struggles could cause problems on such a talented team. Even with the 3-0 conference start, Amherst still has a lot of uncertainty surrounding them. Green seemed to break out when he had 39 points and made big shot after big shot in Amherst’s double-OT win over Babson on December 10th. Yet, in the eight games since then, Green is averaging 11.4 PPG on 33.7% shooting. 53.5% of all the shots Green has taken are from beyond the three point line, though that is just up slightly from last year when 51.4% of his shots were threes.

For a little while in the beginning of January, Amherst was incredibly balanced with no player scoring 20 points in four straight games. In the past two games, Jayde Dawson ’18 has stepped to the forefront running the offense with authority from the point guard position. Way too often Dawson forces the issue, either launching a three early in the shot clock or driving with no real plan of where to go with the ball. At the same time, he has made some big shots this season. Either him or Green is the player most capable of carrying the offense. However, each of them is equally capable of sinking Amherst in any given game. This issue isn’t going away, but keep an eye on it this weekend.

Jaquann Starks '16 is ready to roll. (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
Jaquann Starks ’16 is ready to roll. (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

Friday Game Predictions

Check back in first thing Saturday morning for predictions on the Saturday and Sunday games.

Trinity (12-4, 3-0) at Colby (11-4, 0-3)

You might not remember, but Colby  without Patrick Stewart ’16 or Chris Hudnut ’16 came VERY close to beating Trinity in the NESCAC quarterfinals, ultimately falling 66-63. We don’t know how healthy Stewart is after he came off the bench in a non-conference game this week. Having him healthy gives Colby a chance to spring the upset. It will take a bevy of threes from the Mules to do it, though.

How Trinity reacts to the long bus ride up north is probably the deciding factor in this one. A Bantam team ready to play has too much size for the Mules to handle. Another key is Rick Naylor ’16, Eric Gendron ’18, and Jaquann Starks ’16 making threes. to open up the inside. One person who should not be shooting threes is Shay Ajayi ’16. He is shooting 25.7% on threes. He is best attacking the rim, even if he is out of control at times when he does so. The Bantams need to be upset alert, but they will get the job done.

Prediction: Trinity over Colby 72-63

Tufts (12-3, 3-1) at Wesleyan (13-4, 1-3)

The Jumbos started strong in conference last year also, but they stumbled later on in their schedule. That strong start was fueled in large part by Tarik Smith ’17 shooting the ball at an unsustainable level. This season Smith has been playing well in a secondary role to Vincent Pace ’18. Often Smith will pass up an open three to drive into the paint. That attacking mentality has paid off to the tune of Smith making the 2nd most free throws per game in the NESCAC. It sometimes feels like Smith is moving in slow motion, but he is always in control. He has to take pressure off of Pace in this one.

The Jumbos are hoping to get Ryan Spadaford ’16 back from an ankle injury that made him miss last weekend. Spadaford is the final piece that lets the Jumbos play with four three point shooters surrounding Tom Palleschi ’17. His return is going to be enough to get past Wesleyan… I think.

Prediction: Tufts over Wesleyan 71-67

Amherst (13-2, 3-0) at Bowdoin (8-5, 1-2)

As a Bowdoin fan, I do not like this matchup for the Polar Bears at all. Amherst’s weakness on defense is when you put them into pick and roll situations and are able to penetrate forcing the defense to scramble. McCarthy has the size and quickness to give Hausman problems, and Coach Dave Hixon can try either Green or Racy on Jack Simonds ’19. On the interior, David George ’17 presents problems for Matt Palecki ’16 and Neil Fuller ’17 on the boards. Dawson went off against Bowdoin in the NESCAC semifinals for 21 points last year, and he is playing as well as he ever has for Amherst.

If I’m Coach Tim Gilbride I’m stashing Hausman, a not good defender, on Racy. Hausman just has to stick to Racy the whole time, and since Racy isn’t a threat to drive much, Hausman should be up for the task. Hixon will probably counter by running Racy off screens in order to tire out Hausman. If Bowdoin is going to win, it needs a big game from an unexpected source. Guard Jake Donnelly ’16 or Matt Palecki ’16 are the most likely candidates. Even then, I don’t think that Bowdoin has enough to hang with Amherst in a high scoring game.

Prediction: Amherst over Bowdoin 87-74

Bates (9-7, 2-2) at Conn College (11-5, 2-2)

This is the type of game that shows the depth of the league this year. Both teams have plenty of talent but lots of flaws also. Conn College has been playing so well recently that they might see a little regression this weekend. The Bobcats are on the road for the second straight weekend. They have been on the bus a lot recently after making the trip to Hamilton last weekend.

Marcus and Malcolm Delpeche ’17, the twins who have confused announcers from the day they set foot on campus, have become more consistent this season. However, neither is capable of winning a game by himself, and the edge on the perimeter goes to the Camels. Conn College proves that they are really a quality NESCAC team this weekend with a big win.

Prediction: Conn College over Bates 72-59

Hamilton (8-8, 0-4) at Williams (11-5, 2-2)

Coach Kevin App and Williams lost on the road to Hamilton last year, and they shouldn’t be looking past this game. Freshmen dot both starting lineups, and the battle between Kyle Scadlock ’19 and Andrew Groll ’19 is a diaper dandy. In the end, the difference is not a freshmen but Dan Aronowitz ’17. The multi-faceted forward is doing a great job of leading this Ephs team without forcing things too often. Williams gets above .500 in conference after starting off 0-2.

Prediction: Williams over Hamilton 68-60

Note: I’m picking three road teams to win. We’ll see how that goes.

Polar Bears Need a Supporting Cast: Bowdoin Season Preview

The middle three seniors lead an in flux Bowdoin team. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)
Seniors Matt Palecki (44), Lucas Hausman (21) and Jake Donnelly (11) lead an in-flux Bowdoin team. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

Editor’s Note: Things can be a little confusing now that the season is underway. Consider the rest of our previews as season predictions based off of a compilation of conversations with coaches and players and observations from the first couple of games.
All statistics that appear next to players’ names are from the 2014-15 season.

The first person that anybody who watched a Bowdoin game in the past few years noticed was legitimately seven foot tall center John Swords ’15. The big man was a unique player in the NESCAC, and he blossomed into a two-way force his final two seasons. He would disappear on offense at times, but he was indisputably a terror on defense as a rim-protector. Swords is gone as well as point guard Bryan Hurley ’15 and forward Keegan Pieri ’15.

Bowdoin made the NCAA tournament just two season ago, but almost every contributor from that team has graduated, a huge amount of turnover especially for a non-elite NESCAC team that is not able to land quite the recruits some schools can. The good news is that the one contributor still remaining from the NCAA team is Lucas Hausman ’16, who became a scoring monster in the second half of last season and was a preseason First Team All-American. Behind him are a bunch of players that need to step into bigger roles, but offer an intriguing mix of potential.

2014-2015 Record:

18-8 overall, 7-3 NESCAC (t-2nd); lost in NESCAC Semifinals to Amherst 76-56; did not qualify for NCAAs

Head Coach: Tim Gilbride, 31st season, 432-304 (.587)

Returning Starters: Three

G Jake Donnelly ’16 (3.0 ppg, 1.4 apg, 2.3 rpg)
G Lucas Hausman ’16 (20.7 ppg, 87.8% FT, 1.6 apg)
F Matt Palecki ’16 (9.2 ppg, 34.6% 3PT, 5.7 rpg)

All three seniors on the roster are returning starters which tells you a lot about how Gilbride relies on improvement year to year from his players. Donnelly started the second half of last season after  Pieri  got hurt and the Polar Bears went to a three-guard starting lineup. Palecki more than tripled his scoring output from his sophomore year as a junior, and he is a grizzled vet that Bowdoin can rely on.

Projected Starting Five

PG Jake Donnelly (3.0 ppg, 1.4 apg, 2.3 rpg)

A steady player, Donnelly is never going to be the point guard who is the key player on offense, and he will not come close to the numbers that Hurley put up. However, he doesn’t need to be the primary ball-handler so long as he is able to bring the ball up the floor and consistently hit three pointers. His strength is more on defense where he will guard the top perimeter threat whenever Bowdoin plays man-to-man defense. It is also a possibility that Donnelly gives up minutes as the season goes along to some of the younger guards on the team.

SG Lucas Hausman (20.7 ppg, 87.8% FT, 1.6 apg)

The senior can score, and we know that. In his three games so far, he’s averaged 31.3 ppg, and it’s been pretty much as expected. Bowdoin will need him to diversify his game for them to take a step forward, though. Because teams are going to be so focused on him, Hausman has to be able to be better at getting his teammates involved: 1.6 apg is not going to cut it. He also has to get better defensively. Swords served as a safety net for Bowdoin’s guards that just doesn’t exist anymore. The expectations for Hausman are high, but he still has to stay within himself offensively and not try to do everything on his own.

F Matt Palecki (9.2 ppg, 34.6% 3PT, 5.7 rpg)

After having such a breakout junior year, one might think Palecki could will a similar jump as a senior, but that isn’t the type of player he is. The forward is a low-usage player who is able to stretch the floor by hitting the three but also gets a good amount of points off of offensive rebounds. What he is not is somebody that you give the ball in the post to and expect to get points from. He will be a key offensive player but not an initiator of his own offense. Defensively, Palecki is nominally the center, but nobody will mistake him for the same type of player as Swords. Not a great leaper, he is more apt to draw charges than get blocks.

F Neil Fuller ’17 (3.6 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.7 apg)

Last year was basically a lost season for Fuller because of injuries, and he needs to put that behind him. Another 6’6″ body, Fuller has more lateral quickness than Palecki so he will match up with most power forwards. He is not much of a threat from three, but he does like to work out of the high post where he has enough athleticism to attack slow-footed defenders. However, he isn’t likely to have the ball in his hands very often in order to make those kinds of plays.

F Jack Simonds ’19

The most intriguing player on the Bowdoin roster, Simonds was the talk of the team in the preseason, and he backed that up when he had 21 points in the second game of the season. The big lefty represents the best choice for a second-scorer emerging besides Hausman. He will remind Bowdoin fans of Keegan Pieri in his ability to hit contested mid-range jumpers, and he might also already be a better shooter from deep than Pieri was. How much of an adjustment playing against college players is remains to be seen, but it can often take big men a year or two to catch up.

Breakout Player: F Liam Farley ’18 (3.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 90.9% FT)

This pick is a not-so-educated guess that Farley is going to be an important perimeter scorer whenever Hausman sits. Farley is one of the few Bowdoin players who is best with the ball in his hands, but he too often settles for jump shots. The presence of Simonds tempers expectations for Farley, but he should still have a much better sophomore season in order to give Bowdoin more depth.

Everything Else:

This is a weird roster because there is no clear center or real point guard right now. Instead, Gilbride is going to have to figure out how to create offense in an unusual way. And though there is not a true point guard who can break down a defense right now, Tim Ahn ’19 has the skill to develop into that player. He will need to get better understanding the schemes Bowdoin runs in order to get a good amount of playing time. PG Bryan Hurley was a hugely important player, and his loss should not be discounted. Jack Hewitt ’17 is the lead big man off of the bench, and there is not a big drop off to him from Fuller or Palecki.

The biggest worries for Bowdoin are on that defensive end and in the half-court offense. They don’t have the personnel to stay in front of players out on the perimeter, and Gilbride will not go to zone as much as last year when Swords was able to play in the middle. Bowdoin didn’t have to worry about any rebounding problems in their zone because of Swords, but they now have to rebound as a team, and playing in the zone makes them more susceptible to offensive rebounds. After having one of the best defenses in the league with Swords, the Polar Bears might find themselves having to score 80 points in order to win games.

The worst case scenario for Bowdoin is that the pieces never really fit together. In that situation, the focus would be on how many points Hausman can score. And while that would be fun at times, it would be a disappointment for a team that finished second in the NESCAC last year. The ceiling for this team is still pretty high given that they have the best player in the NESCAC, but it might take this unit a while to figure out how exactly they will work best playing together.

Almost Dancing: Bowdoin Season Wrap-up

John Swords '15 throws down one of his numerous dunks this season. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)
John Swords ’15 throws down one of his numerous dunks this season. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

Season: 18-8 (7-3), lost to Amherst in NESCAC Semifinals

The big question for Bowdoin coming into the season was how they would deal with the loss of three perimeter contributors: Matt Mathias ’14, Grant White ’14, and Andrew Madlinger ’14. The Polar Bears looked like they were in trouble with three losses in December by double digits while playing the same opening schedule against whom Bowdoin went 12-0 a year ago. Things looked even worse when the team learned halfway through January that Keegan Pieri ’15, the team’s second leading scorer and rebounder at that point, was out for the season. Though the team was 3-1 in the conference at that point, they still had their toughest opponents in front of them. An 0-2 weekend soon afterward brought Bowdoin to 4-3 and seemed to confirm that the Polar Bears were in trouble.

Then the team ripped off three wins at home to finish out the conference season. This sudden surge was due to a couple of things. First, after Pieri’s injury, Lucas Hausman ’16 morphed into something close to a facsimile of 2006 Finals Dwyane Wade. The junior twisted his way through defenses to give the offense new life. Meanwhile, John Swords ’15 returned to the same offensive form we saw last season and started to punish defenses inside. Combined with the same stingy defense as always and steady point guard play from Bryan Hurley ’15, Bowdoin rose all the way to the #2 seed. In the quarterfinals they took care of business against an always dangerous Williams team behind 37 from Hausman and 23 from Swords. Then in the semifinals Bowdoin could not contain Jeff Racy ’17 or Jayde Dawson ’18 off the bench, and the Lord Jeffs rolled to the win. The Polar Bears ended up having one or two too many non-conference losses and missed out the tournament by likely only a couple of spots.

High Point: 98-70 home victory over Bates Friday, February 13

Bowdoin got blown out in the second half in the first meeting between these two teams in December, but the script could not have been any more different for this one. In front of an unusually loud home crowd, Bowdoin played a near perfect offensive game shooting 63.5 percent from the field (12-18 from three) with 27 assists as a team. The star was Hausman who went 20-25 from the field on his way to tying the school record with 44 points. Bates could not figure out how to attack the Bowdoin zone and settled for a lot of outside shots, finishing the game with less than 10 baskets inside the arc. Hurley finished the game with 15 points and 12 assists while Matt Palecki ’16 and Swords both finished with more than 10 points. The win was followed up with a close victory over Tufts that sealed a home game for the Polar Bears in the NESCAC tournament.

Lucas Hausman '16 (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)
Lucas Hausman ’16 (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

MVP: Shooting Guard Lucas Hausman ’16

The most important thing to know about Hausman is that he is a natural born scorer. He finished his high school career with 1750 points. For his first two seasons, he came off the bench behind Madlinger and Mathias, but his scoring ability was always evident as he scored 22.0 points per 40 minutes in 2013-2014. Still, it was not until about halfway through the season when Hausman really turned into a terror for opposing defenses. His conference numbers are silly. He scored 24.7 PPG in conference play, and if you throw in the 58 points he scored in the two tournament games, that rises to 25.4 PPG.  His 24.7 PPG is the highest average in conference games since the 2003-2004 season when Keala Mills scored 25.2 PPG for Wesleyan. He became almost impossible to stop in isolation situations because of his ability to score in so many ways. Hausman will be back next season with teams fully focused on stopping him.

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

Player to Watch: Forward Neil Fuller ’17

Replacing Swords and Hurley (not to mention Pieri) will be very tall tasks for an already thin Bowdoin roster, but the Polar Bears should benefit from getting a full season in 2015-2016 from Fuller. His season was essentially wiped out with a leg injury that kept him out for nearly two months. Though he returned at the end of the season, he was clearly rusty from not being able to play for so long. Fuller will likely pair with Palecki in a revamped frontcourt that will look very different without the 7’0″ presence of Swords out there. One advantage that Fuller does bring is that he is capable of hitting mid-range jumpers which should help keep driving lanes open for Hausman. On defense Fuller is obviously not capable of having the impact that Swords did, but he works hard to get in position and does a good job altering shots. With Fuller, Palecki, and Jack Hewitt ’17, the Polar Bears should be OK up front.

#2 Bowdoin vs. #5 Amherst: NESCAC Semifinal Preview

While Connor Green is in the forefront of our minds, the battle between David George and John Swords also looms large. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
While Connor Green ’16 is in the forefront of our minds, the battle between David George ’17 and John Swords ’15 also looms large. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

The late game Saturday pits two teams in Bowdoin and Amherst that played some of their best basketball of the season in the quarterfinals. The Polar Bears overcame the hot shooting of Hayden Rooke-Ley ’15 because of great games from both John Swords ’15 and Lucas Hausman ’16. Meanwhile, the Lord Jeffs’ second game against Tufts was the exact opposite of the first one with Amherst routing the Jumbos in Medford. Connor Green ’16 is absolutely on fire scoring the ball averaging 28.2 PPG in his last five games against NESCAC opponents.

 Last time they played: 81-66 Amherst

These two met the first time in Amherst on Saturday, January 31. The Lord Jeffs held a double-digit lead for part of the first half, but the Polar Bears fought back to make it only a three point deficit at halftime. Hausman kept Bowdoin in the game with 15 points, but Green was even better with 17 first half points. Early in the second, Green took over for Amherst and scored 15 points in the first 7:22 of the half to push the Amherst lead up to 14 points. Bowdoin would never truly threaten again with the Amherst lead never getting below nine, and the Jeffs were able to coast to a comfortable victory. Hausman also scored only four second half points. Johnny McCarthy ’18 deserves credit for slowing down Hausman, and the freshman had a pretty good game besides just his defense, finishing with 15 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Both teams shot awfully from the free throw line as the Jeffs were a putrid 10-23 (43.5 percent) and Bowdoin shot 10-18 (55.6 percent).

Keep in mind that Bowdoin was coming off of an overtime game against Trinity the night before and was playing on the road. That might have contributed to them shooting only 2-15 from three. Still, Amherst matches up very well with Bowdoin because their two best defensive players, McCarthy and David George ’17, correspond perfectly with Bowdoin’s two biggest weapons, Swords and Hausman. Both teams have gone 5-1 since their first game and seem to have figured out exactly how to play with each other.

Bryan Hurley '15 (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)
Bryan Hurley ’15 (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

Bowdoin X-factor: Point Guard Bryan Hurley ’15

Swords and Hausman are definitely Bowdoin’s two most important players, but Hurley is a very close third. The Watertown, MA native does a little bit of everything for Bowdoin, but he is most effective when he is put into pick-and-roll situations. Hurley is particularly adept at getting the ball to Swords up high where the big man can throw down easy dunks. In conference play his assist-to-turnover ratio was 3.1. After putting a slow start to the season behind him, Hurley now is confident about getting into the lane and absorbing contact. Amherst is unlikely to let Hausman win the game by himself so Hurley will have to shoot the ball well from both beyond the arc and at the rim. Though he is a mostly pass-first point guard, Hurley tends to pick his spots to attack. He is never afraid to shoot from deep and will often take contested jump shots if he is ‘feeling it.’

Johnny McCarthy '18 (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
Johnny McCarthy ’18 (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

Amherst X-factor: Shooting Guard Johnny McCarthy ’18

The presumed NESCAC Rookie of the Year will guard Hausman, the clear leader right now for NESCAC Player of the Year. This will be a fun battle to watch all afternoon. McCarthy tied for the league lead in steals because of his outstanding length. He has exceptional timing as a defender and his quickness allows him to guard anyone from point guards to small forwards. The freshman is no defensive specialist though. He finished third on the team in scoring with 10.6 PPG, but his offensive game slipped later in the season. He shot only 33.3 percent from the field in conference games. His offensive game is predicated on rhythm which is one of the reasons why he struggles from the free throw line despite being a confident shooter. Despite his struggles, McCarthy led the Jeffs in minutes despite there being a bevy of talented perimeter players on the roster.

Three Questions

1. Can David George ’17 guard John Swords ’15 one-on-one?

Swords had his best offensive game of the season last week going 10-10 from the field, but George will present much more of a challenge. In their two match-ups so far, George has done a good job of pushing Swords out of the paint. The sophomore has gained a lot of strength though he still gives up a good deal of weight to Swords. The best way to defend Swords is to keep him from getting the ball in a deep position. If Swords gets the ball close to the basket, it is virtually impossible to stop him. Even though George has the length and ability to block Swords, the 7’0″ footer is too patient with the ball. The Amherst big man doesn’t need to stop Swords completely. George just has to limit him and make other players on Bowdoin beat the Jeffs.

2. Is Connor Green ’16 unguardable against a zone defense?

Last week we broke down how Bowdoin’s zone works with players scrambling on the perimeter. It works for the most part, but as Rooke-Ley showed in the first half, a knockdown shooter can neuter the effectiveness of it. In the second half Bowdoin adjusted and made sure to communicate so that somebody was always on Rooke-Ley. Though Rooke-Ley is a better pure shooter, Green might be an even harder task to guard because he shoots his three pointers from so freaking far away. Honestly, he regularly pulls the trigger from a couple of feet beyond the NBA three point line. When he gets into the zone, literally everything he throws up goes in, even if he needs to bank in a three. Zones, even ones as flexible as Bowdoin’s, do not account for someone stretching the floor like Green does. Expect Green to get and take some open looks from way out early.

Jake Donnelly '16 gets Connor Green '16 and Johnny McCarthy '18 in the air. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
Jake Donnelly ’16 gets Connor Green ’16 and Johnny McCarthy ’18 in the air. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

3. Which role player will step up?

Even though both team’s rely on their stars heavily for scoring, secondary players will have to make shots as well. For Amherst those plaers are Jeff Racy ’17 and Jayde Dawson ’18. Racy is a straight shooter who made the second most threes per game in conference play. He gets a lot of open looks because of all the attention given to McCarthy and Green. Dawson meanwhile has never really figured out how to play within the Amherst system, but he is still so talented that he can go on short stretches where he looks like one of the best players on the floor. Meanwhile the two guys to keep an eye on for Bowdoin are Matt Palecki ’16 and Liam Farley ’18. A big part of Palecki’s improved play this season is his ability to hit threes as the power forward. Farley is a talented freshman who can force bad shots and have careless turnovers but also represents Bowdoin’s best scoring option off the bench. The stars will dominate most of the game, but how those players fill in the shadows is also important.

What to Expect

Amherst just looked incredible last weekend in blowing out Tufts. There is no question that they are the more talented team top-to-bottom. Yet you could easily argue that Bowdoin has the better point guard, better center and better pure scorer. The thing is that all three of Hurley, Swords and Hausman will have to play well for Bowdoin to win. The Jeffs certainly need Green to have a good performance, but they can survive any other player struggling because there are so many others capable of stepping up. Expect a game of runs with one team jabbing and the other answering back.

We have alluded to Hausman heavily throughout the preview but haven’t talked much about him specifically. He was special against Williams throwing up a relatively quiet 37. The Jeffs have to work to keep him off of the free throw line and out of transition because he is pretty much automatic in those situations. Point guard Reid Berman ’17 has to use his size and strength advantage over Hurley to force his way into the lane and make Swords guard him. That will draw in the defense and leave Racy or Green open on the perimeter. Nobody shot or made as many as threes as the Jeffs did in NESCAC play. With Swords in the middle of the Bowdon defense, they are likely to bomb away early and often.

Dave Hixon and Tim Gilbride are the two best in-game coaches in the NESCAC. The game might come down to who makes the better halftime adjustment. Hixon has been to tons of NESCAC semifinals, but he has rarely had a team this young. The veteran Polar Bears have never made it this far in the tournament. The recent Bowdoin success has come mostly at home and they haven’t played a NESCAC opponent away from Brunswick since they last met Amherst. This game is close to a toss-up. We give the slightest of edges to Bowdoin because Swords is such a difference maker in the middle.

Prediction: Bowdoin 82 – Amherst 78

NESCAC Quarterfinal Preview: #7 Williams at #2 Bowdoin

The Bowdoin starters on the bench at the end of the game. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics/
The Bowdoin starters on the bench at the end of the game. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics/

Bowdoin finished their NESCAC season on a three game winning streak against Bates, Middlebury and Tufts to jump up all the way to the #2 seed in the tournament. Williams just lost by more than 20 points at home to Wesleyan. Yet this might be the most intriguing quarterfinal game because it matches two very different styles of play against one another. Williams lives and dies on the perimeter with Dan Wohl ’15 and Hayden Rooke-Ley ’15 while Bowdoin still relies on their strong interior defense.

Last time they played:

Bowdoin jumped out to a 17-point lead as Williams scored only 23 first half points. The lead got all the way up to 20 points for the Polar Bears before Williams starting chipping away. A Ryan Kilcullen ’15 three with 0:48 left brought the Ephs to within three, but Bowdoin was able to salt the game away with free throws to win 67-60. Williams barely ever went inside and finished the game with eight made two point field goals and 12 made three point field goals. The Ephs stayed in the game by upping their defensive intensity in the second half and allowing only 27 second half points.

The rosters look somewhat different from the first time these two played, however. Keegan Pieri ’15 led Bowdoin with 20 points and 10 rebounds in the last matchup, but he is out for the season. Also, Neil Fuller ’17 was out with a leg injury, but he is now back and has played some minutes to give Bowdoin more depth in the frontcourt. Meanwhile, Rooke-Ley did not play in the first game for Williams but is fully healthy now.

John Swords '15 (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)
John Swords ’15 (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

Bowdoin X-factor: Center John Swords ’15

Since the 6’7″ Kilcullen is Williams’ tallest player, one might have expected for Swords to dominate in the first match-up, but he only managed four points, tied for his season low. Bowdoin still scored a lot of easy points in the paint because of Pieri but without him, Swords needs to step up. He has been more aggressive offensively since Pieri went down. He has started to put the ball on the floor one time and make a move to the basket that usually ends in a layup. Smaller defenders often times can deal with his height, but it is the length that comes along with that height which really gives defenders problems. Swords will simply go around players who try to defend him straight up. A couple of baskets early for Swords would be huge. On the other end, if Bowdoin plays man, Swords has to be able to get out on Kilcullen on the perimeter and keep the Boston College transfer from hitting too many threes. Of course, that puts him in the conundrum of being away from the basket which is where he makes the biggest impact for Bowdoin.

Mike Greenman '17 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)
Mike Greenman ’17 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Williams X-Factor: Point Guard Mike Greenman ’17

We might be seeing a transformation in how Greenman plays point guard. The sophomore has never been afraid to shoot the ball and also got into the lane and turned the ball over a lot. In recent weeks, he has shot less and, more importantly, his turnovers are down. In conference play he has averaged 1.7 turnovers per game compared to 3.6 in out of conference games. Over his past seven games Greenman has a 3.5 assist/turnover ratio, far above his 1.6 ratio for the season. During that same seven game period, Greenman has scored less than 4.0 PPG and shot only 4-24 (16.7 percent) from three. Greenman knows he is struggling and is adjusting his play because of it. It was just one play, but on Tuesday against Castleton State we witnessed Greenman pass up a wide open three in order to pass to Dan Aronowitz ’17 who drove to the lane for an easy layup. He needs to keep making the right play, and if he makes a couple of early shots too? Look out.

Three Big Questions

1. How different are these teams from the last time they played?

On the surface the presence of Rooke-Ley and Fuller combined with the absence of Pieri would seem like it would have a huge effect. The truth though is that Bowdoin and Williams have played basically the same with or without those guys. Bowdoin’s conference record with Pieri was 3-1 and 4-2 without him, and they played a harder schedule after Pieri got hurt. The Ephs went 2-2 in conference without Rooke-Ley and 3-3 with him while playing harder games without him. It isn’t like those players don’t help their teams when they are on the floor, but when they are out, other players step up. For Williams that was Aronowitz, and Bowdoin has seen Matt Palecki ’16 and Jack Hewitt ’17 combine to help Bowdoin work without Pieri.

2. Can Bowdoin play zone?

Usually when a team has as many shooters as Williams does, it is unthinkable for a team to play zone against them. For Bowdoin, they might need to play zone because they don’t have personnel to stop everyone. The zone that Bowdoin plays is not a simple 2-3 zone with each player sitting in his zone. Instead, Bowdoin plays a matchup zone centered around Swords. He always stays near the basket and only leaves the paint as a last resort if an open player is going to get a three. The four other players basically float around the perimeter switching on screens and always having one player they guard. The scheme requires constant communication and no missteps on defense. On Monday, Husson burned Bowdoin at times with penetration and ball movement. The weakness of the defense is certainly in defending the three point line. If Williams starts whipping the ball around the three point line and hitting open threes, Bowdoin will have to go man.

3. How does Williams slow Lucas Hausman ’16?

Last Saturday Tufts managed to slow down Hausman simply by playing zone against Bowdoin. Williams is unlikely to take that route because they have played almost exclusively man-to-man all season. Wohl will likely get the first crack at Hausman, but Aronowitz should also draw the assignment at times. Both are good defenders and have the right combination of quickness and size to give Hausman problems in theory. No doubt Williams has spent this week dissecting all the film they have on Hausman. They know he likes to get a great first step when he drives right and LOVES to spin into a fadeaway jumper when he drives left. What makes Hausman hard to defend is that he doesn’t use pick and roll so you can only double him once he starts making a move to the basket. Limiting his chances in transition is also crucial for Williams.

What to Expect

I haven’t really even talked yet about the offensive fireworks that Wohl and Rooke-Ley regularly produce or the importance of Bryan Hurley ’15 to everything Bowdoin does. Wohl has struggled shooting the ball from the outside (30.4 percent from deep in NESCAC games). If he does guard Hausman, the outcome of that matchup very well could decide who wins NESCAC Player of the Year. Rooke-Ley is so dangerous from behind the arc that having a hand in his face often isn’t good enough. Hurley has looked more and more comfortable as the season has gone along, and Bowdoin will look to use him and Swords in pick and rolls to put pressure on the Ephs.

These two teams have very different roster makeups so each presents problems for the other. The team that is more effective in exploiting their mismatches will win. For Bowdoin, their advantage is their size inside. We covered Swords above, but the size difference extends to the power forward position where Palecki is tough to move around inside. The edge for Williams is on the perimeter obviously. They need to have everyone hitting their threes so that Bowdoin can’t key on Wohl and Rooke-Ley. Forcing turnovers and going on runs is also important for them. This might be the highest variable game because of how Williams plays. I can see a comfortable Williams win just as easily as a Bowdoin rout. In the end, I think Hausman and Hurley do enough to offset Wohl and Rooke-Ley and Bowdoin pulls out a very entertaining game.

Prediction: Bowdoin 78 – Williams 73

How They Stack Up: Power Rankings 2/18

Our usual Power Rankings writer, the esteemed Dave Peck, is busy this week with work and other endeavors so I am going to fill in for the week. Keep that in mind if these rankings look very different from the ones last week. However, I think Dave has been doing a fantastic job and have not made too many changes, though one of my decisions near the bottom might surprise you.

1. Trinity (19-5, 9-1) Last Week: 1

This Saturday will mark exactly one month since the Bantams lost a game. Trinity fell to Fisher, an NAIA school, on January 21 and has won six NESCAC games since then. Nothing much has changed since last week for them. They handled their business against Middlebury for 38 minutes, but the Panthers did make a late comeback to make things interesting. Trinity continues to get little respect nationally, as they are not ranked in the D3Hoops poll and were below Amherst and Bates in the first NCAA regional rankings.

Captain Hart Gliedman '15 made life miserable for the Panthers' Dylan Sinnickson '15 in Trinity's last regular season game, a 90-85 win at Middlebury. (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
Captain Hart Gliedman ’15 made life miserable for the Panthers’ Dylan Sinnickson ’15 with outstanding perimeter defense in Trinity’s last regular season game, a 90-85 win at Middlebury. (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

2. Bowdoin (17-7, 7-3) Last Week: 6

The Polar Bears rocketed up the standings this weekend, and now they rocket up the Power Rankings. Plenty has been said about back-to-back NESCAC Player of the Week Lucas Hausman ’16 and his improvement this season, but one should not overlook the improved quality of play from his classmates Matt Palecki ’16 and Jake Donnelly ’16. Palecki has settled into the power forward position and is even providing some needed three point shooting, and Donnelly is also now in the starting lineup as a third guard. His contributions do not always come through on the stat sheet, but he is the best perimeter defender for Bowdoin and is the primary ball-handler when Bryan Hurley ’15 needs a rest.

3. Amherst (18-6, 6-4) Last Week: 3

The Jeffs bungled their chance to get the number two seed in the NESCAC tournament and subsequently hurt their NCAA at-large chances with a loss Sunday to Middlebury. Yet the loss does not really change our opinion of the Jeffs. Besides Connor Green ’16, nobody played well for Amherst, and there is way too much talent on the roster for that to happen again. The key for Dave Hixon will be figuring who has the hot hand and get them on the court as much as possible Saturday.

4. Bates (19-5, 7-3) Last Week: 2

The Bobcats second game against Bowdoin went completely differently than the first one which was a rout for Bates. Do not put too much stock into this loss because the Bobcats ran into the perfect storm for Bowdoin. The important thing is that they took care of business Saturday against Colby and now have a home game against Wesleyan in the first round of the NESCAC tournament. This is most likely the final home game for Bates this season, and seniors Graham Safford ’15, Adam Philpott ’15, Cam Kaubris ’15 and Billy Selmon ’15 would love to finish their final season at Alumni Gym undefeated.

5. Tufts (13-11, 6-4) Last Week: 5

It is starting to seem like Tufts has simply been treading water the last couple of weeks since Hunter Sabety ’17 got hurt. The Jumbos went 3-3 in their final six NESCAC games without him. To be fair, those three losses were all by single digits and Tufts was either winning or tied at halftime of each of them. Tom Palleschi ’16 has benefited from the extra space on the inside and has been scintillating to watch lately. However, he went cold down the stretch against Bowdoin, a big reason why Tufts could not keep up at the very end.

6. Wesleyan (16-8, 5-5) Last Week: 9

No team made a bigger statement in their two games last weekend than the Cardinals. They went from squarely on the bubble of making the tournament to the sixth seed and a chance to redeem a close lose against Bates. The Cardinals are a very unselfish, balanced team that had four players finish with 11 or more PPG over the course of the regular season. No other team did that, even though as a team Wesleyan was only the fifth highest scoring team this season.

7. Williams (15-9, 5-5) Last Week: 4

The final weekend did not treat Williams as well as they might have hoped. Wesleyan ended up blowing out Williams at Chandler Gym in what was one of the worst shooting performances for the Ephs all season. In fairness, a lot of the shots they missed seemed to rattle in and out, but the fact remains that Williams lives and dies by the three. While that makes them a terrifying opponent to play against, the chances of them having three straight great shooting games in a row to win the NESCAC tournament are long.

8. Middlebury (17-7, 4-6) Last Week: 8

I know that Middlebury did not make the playoffs, but after watching them play Amherst, you think Trinity is thankful that they are playing Colby and not Middlebury? That is no disrespect to Colby, but the Mules are a different team without Chris Hudnut ’16. The improvement of Matt St. Amour ’17 (19.6 PPG, 62.7 percent FG [32-51] in his last six games) as the year went along is an encouraging sign for a Middlebury team that will look to get the program back quickly to the high level it was performing at a few years ago.

Once he recovered from an ankle sprain suffered in late January, St. Amour looked like a different player. The Vermont native will be at the center of Middlebury's reloading effort in 2015-16. (Courtesy of Michael O'Hara/Middlebury Campus)
Once he recovered from an ankle sprain suffered in late January, Matt St. Amour ’17 looked like a different player. The Vermont native will be at the center of Middlebury’s reloading effort in 2015-16. (Courtesy of Michael O’Hara/Middlebury Campus)

9. Colby (13-11, 4-6) Last Week: 7

Give credit to Colby: they are fighting like crazy and having a lot of guys step up in order to stay competitive right now. Not many teams could have lost their projected starting power forward and center and still lose to Tufts and Bates by single digits. While an upset of Trinity is a longshot, it certainly is not impossible. Luke Westman ’16 and Ryan Jann ’16 are right up there as one of the top backcourts in the league. Both of them need to play superbly Saturday.

10. Hamilton (14-10, 2-8) Last Week: 10

The Continentals closed out their season with a victory over the Mules. Despite the 2-8 record, there were a lot of positives for the Continentals who had to deal with the unexpected loss of Matt Hart ’16 to transfer. Joseph Lin ’15 was one of the best stories of the season, but he suffered an unfortunate injury that cut short his campaign. On Saturday for his final home game, Conn College allowed Lin one last basket at home.

11. Conn College (7-16, 0-10) Last Week: 11

For the second time in three seasons, the Camels finished the season without a win in conference. The good news is that everyone should be back next year for Conn, barring any transfers. There appears to be a foundation for at least respectability in place in New London, but winning will not come easy for Conn. The current sophomore and freshmen classes are both big so Conn will rely on the growth of those players next year.