Back for More: Williams Men’s Basketball 2018 Preview

Williams College Ephs:

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

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

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

Projected Record: 21-3, 9-1

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

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

Returning Starters:

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

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

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

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

Key Losses:

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

Starting Lineup:

Guard Bobby Casey ‘19

Bobby Casey ’19 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

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

Guard Cole Teal ‘18

Cole Teal ’18 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

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

Forward James Heskett ‘19 

James Heskett ’19 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

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

Forward Kyle Scadlock ’19 

Kyle Scadlock ’19 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

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

Center Marcos Soto ’19

Marcos Soto ’19 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

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

X-Factor: Center Matthew Karpowicz

Matthew Karpowicz ’20 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

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

Everything Else:

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

Scadlock will have plenty of moments like this in 2018

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

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

The Rematch: Williams @ Middlebury Elite Eight Preview

Williams (22-8, 7-6) at Middlebury (27-3, 11-2): Pepin Gymnasium, Middlebury, VT 7:00 P.M.

What this means:

Throw out all of the statistics, the strength of schedule numbers, the bad losses, and the blowout wins. This is the Elite Eight and no matter how Williams and Middlebury got to this point in the season, they are in the NCAA quarterfinals on the road to the glory of a national championship. Expect a battle in Pepin tonight.

Williams and Midd are 1-1 against each other this year, and as Pete mentioned yesterday, the unwritten rules of pickup basketball dictate that there must be a rubber match. This is THE rubber match of all games. Both teams are coming off of relatively easy wins where they outmatched their opponents and haven’t been tested to this point in the tournament. These teams are a great match up for one another as Williams shot out of this world back in regular season NESCAC play to beat the Panthers, and Middlebury returned the favor to bring home the championship in Medford two weeks ago.

How They Got Here:

Jake Brown ’17 had his jump shot firing all cylinders against Endicott.

Coming off of stellar shooting performances from both Matt St. Amour ’17 and Jake Brown ’17, Middlebury looks to be firing on all cylinders as they head into the final stretch of the season. Their 4/5 rotations between Nick Tarantino ’18, Adisa Majors ’18, Matt Folger ’20, and Eric McCord ’19 has left other teams scrambling not knowing what combination of big men they are facing. McCord plays an aggressive, (sometimes out of control) game and Majors has a beautiful mid-range jumper and led the NESCAC in FG%, Tarantino is great at finishing near the rim and gets his share of offensive boards, and Folger has joined St. Amour and Brown as a splash brother with his ability to drain the long range shot. Middlebury has toppled Farmingdale St., Lycoming, and now Endicott, looking like a much better team than all three of their competitors. The closest game was surprisingly against Farmingdale as they won by just nine points after St. Amour shot just 5-18 from the field. He still added 18 points, but didn’t quite lock down the game like he did so well in both the rounds of 32 and Sweet 16. St. Amour has been playing out of this world, making Lycoming’s coaches exchange glances and shake their heads in disbelief after several of his plays. Against Lycoming, entering as the #15 team in the country, St. Amour was headed for the media table after forcing a turnover, scooped the ball with his left hand and threw it behind his back around the Warrior defender, hitting Jack Daly perfectly in stride for an and-1 basket, summing up the ridiculous nature of his senior season. The rest of the Panthers helped St. Amour out last night, shooting 41.9% from deep last night as a team. When they shoot that well, they are unstoppable.

Williams has several players who are threats from both long and short range. They have up and down shooting days but have been playing much closer to their season average recently, a big part of the process that

Kyle Scadlock ’19 has been a beast for Williams all tournament long, and traditionally gives Middlebury a lot of trouble.

has led to their deep run into the tournament. Mike Greenman was lights out last night, showing off his handles and draining contested threes all night, dishing it out to Kyle Scadlock and Daniel Aronowitz throughout the whole game. Aronowitz said after the game against Susquehanna that “when I was getting down low in the first half, my teammates were getting open on the perimeter,” showing how Susquehanna couldn’t stop the Ephs on both fronts of offense. Kyle Scadlock started getting more aggressive down low when Susquehanna’s center got into foul trouble, smartly recognizing the weakness that the big man was put into, unable to contest Scadlock’s shots. The entire Susquehanna defense was centered around stopping Scadlock, who added a triumphant turn around dunk in the second half. Despite the added attention Scadlock faced, he dropped 22 points for the Ephs. Williams offense has become multi-dimensional in this tournament.

What to Expect:

Williams survived some below average shooting numbers against Susquehanna (36.8% FG and 31.0% from deep.) Those numbers will have to improve tonight. Atypically for them, it was their defense that won them last night’s game. Ephs coach Kevin App said their defensive game plan last night was to stop the “back-breaking threes” from Susquehanna’s star point guard Steven Weidlich, who is comparable in style to Midd’s St. Amour. Now, I do believe that St. Amour has an edge over Weidlich, but the way St. Amour plays as a part of the Middlebury teams is similar to the way Weidlich played for his. Williams mixed up the man on man defense on the point guard all night, mixing in both big and small players, throwing Weidlich out of rhythm and unable to heat up from deep and

Jack Daly ’18 will again have to step up, as Williams will focus a lot of attention on St. Amour.

keep his team in the game late. The Ephs should use a similar strategy tonight, putting pressure on Jake Brown and Jack Daly to step up in place of the NESCAC POY. St. Amour is impossible to defend if he makes the contested shots like he did against Lycoming, but it’s better than leaving him open.

Middlebury took a 48-24 lead over Endicott to enter half time, and then came out on a 16-3 run to start the second half, finding a lead of 41 points at one point. They really weren’t tested at all in the round of 16, but did lose to Endicott earlier in the year after they were up 12 at the half on November 27th. This shows that not only did they make an adjustment this time around, but were just a far better team. Jake Brown scored 19 points last night, getting hot and attempting a few heat check threes from well beyond the arc, using the Middlebury crowd well as a momentum push for his team. The Middlebury crowds have been intimidating these past few weeks, and I wouldn’t want to be Williams heading into Pepin after having an easy go at it in terms of crowds last night. Williams brought a good fan section in their own right, not comparable to the home team, but should bring some good clean college back-and-forth banter throughout the night as the NESCAC final rematch takes place with bigger stakes this time—a ticket to the final four in Salem, VA on the line.

And So They Meet Again (Maybe): Williams and Middlebury NCAA Sweet Sixteen Preview

Every pickup basketball player knows the importance of the rubber match. If a team wins one game, and the opposing team wins the next one, it is a cardinal sin to not play that third game to determine the outright winner. No matter if you have work, class, or a hamstring that is closer to snapping than my mom when I forget to bring my dishes upstairs, you have to play the rubber match. This is the case in higher levels of basketball as well. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson met in the NBA Finals three times, with Magic taking the rubber match in 1987. Many NBA fans are praying that Lebron and the Cavs meet Steph and the Warriors for a rubber match this season. And on a smaller scale, Williams and Middlebury have a chance this weekend for a rubber match of their own. If they both win on Friday, they would match up in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament, with bragging rights and a trip to Salem on the line.

Middlebury (26-3, 11-2, Beat Williams in the NESCAC Final)

Friday Opponent: Endicott (24-6, 15-3, lost in their Conference Final)

Kamahl Walker
Kamahl Walker ’17 (Courtesy of Endicott Athletics)

Middlebury has the rare chance this weekend to avenge two of their three losses. Williams of course blew out Middlebury in league play, but Endicott also bested the Panthers before league play. And the Gulls have the added honor of their win being in Pepin Gymnasium, a feat only they have accomplished in the last two years. Endicott was able to beat the Panthers at their own game; namely, guard play. Like Middlebury, the Gulls boast one of the best backcourts in the country. Max Matroni ‘17 and Kamahl Walker ‘17 combine for 32 points a game on the season, and have combined for 99 points in their two NCAA games. Against Middlebury Walker put up 28 and forced both Jack Daly ‘17 and Jake Brown ‘17 into foul trouble. Endicott is one of the only teams in the country who has a backcourt that can give Middlebury guards a run for the money. Expect them to go at Daly and Brown (who will likely start the game on Walker and Matroni) early and attempt to again get them on the bench with fouls.

Endicott also attacked Middlebury on the glass. Daquan Sampson ‘17 was able to roast the Middlebury big men to the tune on 19 points and 14 rebounds. The Gulls outrebounded the Panthers overall 40-31 and had 12 offensive rebounds. Endicott matches up well with Middlebury because their team is constructed in a similar way. They have an excellent backcourt who drive the team on both ends of the floor, and the big men are effective role players who benefit a great deal from terrific guard play.

X-Factor: Eric McCord ‘19 (and the new big men)

Eric McCord
Eric McCord ’19 (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

Middlebury’s biggest improvement since that loss to Endicott is in the front court.When the two teams last met, Zach Baines and Adisa Majors ‘18 dominated the minutes at the two forward spots. Eric McCord ‘19  and Nick Tarantino ‘18 combined to play 19 minutes and went 1-6 from the floor. Baines’ transfer has allowed McCord and Tarantino (as well as Matt Folger ‘20 and Majors off the bench) to flourish into one of the deepest frontcourt rotations in the country. McCord in particular has blossomed, and should play a pivotal role in Middlebury’s game plan. Sampson and the rest of Endicott’s bigs are long, but they are not extremely strong, and Sampson in particular spends a considerable amount of time on the perimeter. McCord has become an effective scorer and passer in the paint, both playing off of a two man game with one of the guards or one-on-one. There is mismatch on the block that the Panthers didn’t have the personnel to exploit earlier this season. But the team is constructed differently now, and is far better suited to beat the Gulls down low if the guards play each other to a draw.

How They Lose:

We already have a blueprint for how Middlebury loses this game. Daly and Brown get into foul trouble, forcing St. Amour to expend more energy on defense chasing around either Matroni or Walker. Matroni or Walker take

Matt Folger ’20 rises up against Lycoming.

advantage of this and go off. And the Endicott bigs use their length and athleticism to terrorize the Middlebury bigs on the boards. Sampson also uses his quickness to draw McCord or Tarantino out of the paint and create driving lanes and putback opportunities. Both teams have seen that this can happen. We will see on Friday if Middlebury’s new look will prevent it from happening again.

 

Williams (21-8, 7-6, lost to Middlebury in the NESCAC Final)

Friday Opponent: Susquehanna (23-5, 11-3, lost in Conference Semifinals)

Steven Weidlich
Steven Weidlich ’17 (Courtesy of Susquehanna Athletics)

The rare team to make the Sweet Sixteen after not even making their conference championship, the River Hawks have been on something of a Cinderella run here in the NCAA tournament. They beat Eastern Connecticut State 72-67 in the round of t32, a team that beat Trinity and Amherst earlier in the season. Susquehanna is top heavy scoring wise, as the duo of Steven Weidlich ‘17 and Ryan Traub ‘18 combine to average 38 points per game (21 and 17 respectively.) No one else on their team averages more than seven. Weidlich is a Matt St. Amour type perimeter threat. A dangerous outside shooter, he connects on 39.5% of his threes and 45% of his field goals overall. However, he is also very versatile, averaging 5.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game. Daniel Aronowitz ‘17 is Williams best perimeter defender (as well as best everything else) and will likely start the game on Weidlich. If he gets in foul trouble, the Ephs can be left with very few guys who create their own shots.

 

Traub is a very effective frontcourt partner for Weidlich. At 6’7” and 230 pounds, he is a load underneath and creates match up problems for
Ryan Traub
Ryan Traub ’18 (Courtesy of Susquehanna Athletics)

Williams’ series of skinny big men. He is also tremendous around the rim, shooting 57.4% from the field. He can step outside the arc (40% in a limited sample size,) and anchors a defense that only allows 41% shooting to opponents on the season. Williams three point heavy attack is not conducive to defensive struggles, therefore Susquehanna matches up well with the Ephs. Weidlich and Traub will try to occupy Aronowitz and Kyle Scadlock ‘19, while the rest of the River Hawks run the Ephs off of the three point line.

X Factor: Mike Greenman ‘17

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

As I mentioned above, Aronowitz and Scadlock, Williams’ two most important players, will both likely have difficult defensive assignments. Therefor Williams will at times need someone else to create shots for themselves and others. That is where Greenman comes in. The senior point guard can be an electric scorer (see his 7-9 three point shooting performance against Becker in the first round,) and can be an effective passer (11 assists last round against Scranton.) If Susquehanna tries to slow the game down and pound the ball into Traub, Greenman will be largely responsible for keeping Williams’ pace and energy up without turning the ball over. He has played two of the best games of his career in this tournament, largely explaining Williams impressive blowout wins in the first two rounds. He will be just as important in this game, and maybe even more so.

How They Lose:

Daniel Aronowitz ’17 shoots against Scranton.

NESCAC fans have seen throughout the season how Williams loses. If they are not hitting threes, they generally don’t win. The three point shot is the key to everything the Ephs try to do on offense. It opens up driving lanes for Aronowitz and Scadlock, post ups for big men off the bench like Michael Kempton ‘19, and it forces defenders to overplay on the perimeter, opening up the backdoor cuts that killed Middlebury during their regular season loss to Williams. The Ephs simply don’t have enough shot creators to overcome a shooting slump. Aronowitz is a terrific player but his burden is at times too great, and Scadlock is prone to disappearing in big spots. Their game becomes something of a “Chuck and Run” style, with contested threes being taken too quickly. Williams lives by the three and dies by the three, and living has been very good lately. Let’s hope it continues into Saturday, because, as all basketball fans know, there’s nothing better than a rubber match.

NESCAC Tournament Roundup

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

Williams at Tufts:

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

 

Trinity at Middlebury:

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

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

 

Williams at Middlebury:

 

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

 

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

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

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

Editor’s Note: While 99% of the work on these previews is done by the writers, the projected records for all NESCAC Men’s Basketball teams were decided upon by the editors collectively,  not decisions of the writers themselves. So, if you want to be mad at someone about the record projections, be mad at us.

Projected Record: 7-3

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

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

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

Starters Returning: Four

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

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

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

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

Key Losses:

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

Projected Starting Five:

Guard Mike Greenman ‘18

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

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

Guard Cole Teal ‘18

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

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

Guard Dan Aronowitz ‘17

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

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

Forward Kyle Scadlock ‘19

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

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

Center Matt Karpowicz ‘20

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

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

Breakout Player: Forward/Center Marcos Soto ‘18

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

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

Everything Else

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

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

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

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

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

Home Teams Sweep Weekend: Stock Report 2/22

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

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

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

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

Stock Up

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

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

Forward Connor Green ’16 (Amherst)

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

Tufts’ Offensive Balance

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

Stock Down

Wesleyan Cardinals

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

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

Williams Passing

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

Colby Seniors

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

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

One More Time, with Feeling: Weekend Preview 2/12

Middlebury is in a position to host the NESCAC tournament is they can sweep the weekend, and Jake Brown '17 plans to lead them there. (Photo Courtesy of Will Costello/Middlebury Athletics)
Middlebury is in a position to host the NESCAC tournament if they can sweep the weekend, and Jake Brown ’17 plans to lead them there. (Photo Courtesy of Will Costello/Middlebury Athletics)

With the final weekend of NESCAC basketball upon us, 10 games remain and the bottom five teams are fighting for the final two playoff spots. There is more on the table than clinching playoffs this weekend; for the six teams that have already clinched, these games will determine the tournament host and final seedings. Trinity currently stands as the favorite to host the NESCAC tournament, but a Bantam loss this weekend would open up the floor for Amherst to snag home court advantage.

Middlebury faces off against Amherst and then Trinity, and two wins will propel them to the top of the ‘CAC and set the stage for a chilling Vermont NESCAC tournament. The Panthers still have some questions about their legitimacy as a top tier team, and this will be their biggest test against the big guns. The Panthers have had a great season and could easily be undefeated in NESCAC games considering their losses were by one and two points respectively. On the other hand, many of their wins have gone down to the wire. The turnaround for the Panthers this season has been an impressive one. Middlebury was arguably the best team in the NESCAC from 2009-2014, battling against Williams and Amherst in games that rank as the best in NESCAC history.

Then suddenly, last season, despite entering NESCAC play 9-0 overall, the Panthers stumbled to a 4-6 NESCAC regular season and missed the playoffs by virtue of tie-breakers. The talent on the Panthers was clear given their home evisceration of both Wesleyan and Amherst. However, entering this season expectations were lowered given the loss of the two leading scorers from last season, Dylan Sinnickson ’15 and Hunter Merryman ’15.

We had Middlebury last in our Power Rankings at the beginning of January given their lackluster beginning of the season, but they have been a different team in NESCAC play. However, the weekend tandem of Amherst and Trinity has left many a quality team in a serious hurting. The Panthers can end up hosting the NESCAC tournament or heading on the road in the first round depending on how things play out this weekend.

Three to Watch

1. Guard Jaquann Starks ’16 (Trinity)

The senior has seen his role squeezed this season because of the growth of teammates Ed Ogundeko ’17 and Shay Ajayi ’16. Starks is averaging just 11.6 ppg, far below the 14.1 PPG he had last year. His shooting percentages have also dropped below 40 percent both from the field and three point line. With all the space taken up in the paint by his big men, Starks has done most of damage from beyond the arc. I think we see a vintage Jaquann Starks game before the season is over, even if it doesn’t come this weekend. I am also intrigued to see how Trinity matches up defensively when they play Middlebury. Will Starks guard the quicker Jake Brown ’17 or will he be tasked with slowing down Midd’s leading scorer, Matt St. Amour ’17? I would put Starks on Brown and Andrew Hurd ’16 on St. Amour. Also, this…

2. Guard Cole Teal ’18 (Williams)

The loss of Mike Greenman ’17 has forced Teal to become the starting point guard. His skill set isn’t quite right for the role, which is why Bobby Casey ’19 handles that role down the stretch. What Teal is doing exceptionally well is shoot the ball from deep. In NESCAC games Teal is shooting 50.9 percent from three while making 3.4 threes per game, the highest amount in the league. Eighty percent of his points come from beyond the three point line, a somewhat scary amount that can make him one dimensional. Last weekend Teal shot 13 shots from the field and 12 of them were threes. Teams need to start keying on Teal for the shooter he is.

3. Center Joseph Kuo ’17 (Wesleyan)

You won’t find a more herky-jerky player in the NESCAC than Kuo. His game is one of the uglier ones around, but no one can deny the relative effectiveness of it. Kuo is a constant, sometimes under-appreciated part of this Wesleyan team. His numbers, 11.4 ppg and 7.2 rpg, scream important contributor but not focal point. Kuo’s best game of the season came when he played Tom Palleschi ’17 to a standstill (Kuo had 20 points, Palleschi 19 in the game), and the Cardinals escaped with the overtime victory. He has been quiet but efficient in the four games since then. For Wesleyan to get a home court game, Kuo will have to slow down Chris Hudnut ’16 in the paint. One positive for Kuo is that the emergence of Nathan Krill ’18 means Kuo can play aggressively without worry of foul trouble.

Game of the Week: Middlebury at Amherst, Friday 7 PM

Both of Middlebury’s games this weekend will impact the top of the standings, but they have to get through this one for Saturday’s matchup to hold as much meaning. A Middlebury win and Trinity victory over Hamilton would make Saturday’s game a winner-takes-all for the No. 1 seed. If Amherst wins tonight, then Middlebury will be playing just to secure a home game in the first round on Saturday. Last season’s win over Amherst was the highlight to a disappointing campaign for the Panthers, but there was a sense that the Purple and White were coasting through that game while Middlebury was desperate for a win. That won’t be the case this year, as both teams know what’s at stake.

The guard battle will be a fun one to watch, as both teams can and will employ two point guards at times. I would expect Jack Daly ’18 to be tasked with shutting down Jayde Dawson ’18, but Johnny McCarthy ’18 provides enough of a scoring threat that Middlebury Coach Jeff Brown might chose to task Daly with McCarthy. Down low, David George ’17 will be critical in slowing down Matt Daley ’16. If George isn’t at his best, or Middlebury can get him into foul trouble, Daley could have 15 points easily. The advantage for Middlebury in this game will be their pace. The two teams that play at the highest tempo, aside from the Panthers, are Tufts and Colby, each of who have beaten Amherst this season. On the flip side, in the halfcourt Amherst has to have the advantage. Brown and Daly aren’t great scoring threats, which means McCarthy can focus on shutting down Matt St. Amour. That means a lot of responsibility could fall on frosh Zach Baines ’19 and Hilal Dahleh ’19 as well as forward Connor Huff ’16. In most of their losses, St. Amour has been made ineffective one way or another – 5-19 shooting at Hamilton, 5-16 at Endicott, 3-11 at RPI. Therein lies the key for Coach Dave Hixon.

When there’s so few games in a conference schedule, one game that goes from an L to a W can significantly change our perception of a given team. Were Middlebury 5-3 right now, I think Amherst would be the heavy favorite, especially at LeFrak Gym. That being said, the reality is that Middlebury is 6-2, hungry to prove that they belong, and in a position to bring the NESCAC tournament back to Vermont. I don’t know if they will have enough fire power to pull off the weekend sweep, but I do think they have enough magic for a victory tonight.

Prediction: Middlebury 81 – Amherst 75

Two More Games to Watch

Conn. College at Colby, Friday, 7 PM

This isn’t quite a win-and-you’re-in game, but it’s darn near close. Conn. solidifies their place with a victory, while Colby would move to 3-6, and three wins might be enough to get in. The entire Mule lineup is healthy, at least for right now, and I’ve long said that that is a dangerous thing for opposing teams. This is probably the last weekend of basketball in the lives of the Mules’ starting five, unless they can win this game. Look for Tyler Rowe ’19 to have a big game for Conn (who’s going to stop him?), but for Colby to outscore their opponent.

Prediction: Colby 86 – Conn 76

Bates at Williams, Sunday, 3 PM

The final regular season NESCAC game. It could end up being a total nonfactor, depending on how things work out on Friday and Saturday, including the possibility of a Williams upset of Tufts, but it is possible that either team could be playing for a playoff spot. It’s more likely that Bates is in that position, but 2-0 weekends from Colby, Bowdoin and Hamilton would put those teams at 4-6 and Williams would be 4-5 going into Sunday, meaning a win would be necessary. The chances are slim, but the possible drama is exciting. If it does end up being an important game, I am going with the team that needs the win, plain and simple.

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.

 

Move Over, Jumbos: Power Ranks 1/27

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Some) League Games to Watch in 2016

Conn guard Tyler Rowe '19 and all NESCAC winter athletes will welcome the end of barren grandstands that come along with winter break. (Courtesy of Conn College/David Pizzuto)
Conn guard Tyler Rowe ’19 and all NESCAC winter athletes will welcome the end of barren grandstands that come along with winter break. (Courtesy of Conn College/David Pizzuto)

For many NESCAC college students, this time of year holds a lot of conflict. On the one hand you’ve got winter break winding down, with the glittery allure of Christmas, Hannukah, Qwanza and the Solstice in our rear view mirrors. But on the other hand, many students will have finally remembered the things that made them want to leave home in the first place and are quite excited to return to school. Here at NbN we understand the stress that this dissonance can create, so allow us to relax you by looking ahead to this coming weekend and beyond, into the depths of NESCAC basketball league play. Here are four carefully chosen league games to soften the end of the holidays and give you one more reason to return to school (other than that cutie in the third row of your Chem lecture).

Williams at Amherst, January 8

League play starts with a bang during this upcoming first weekend, with the historic rivalry matchup sitting as the crown jewel. Amherst is predictably loaded this season, with many intelligent, kind and reasonably attractive experts (us) projecting them to finish comfortably at the top of the league. However, Williams’ stellar freshman class has made an immediate impact this season, particularly forward Kyle Scadlock ’19, who is making a strong case for Freshman of the Year with a 12.4/6.7/53.8% line. Williams is young and energetic, and will be hungry to make an early splash, both in the 2015-2016 season and in the annals of the Williams-Amherst rivalry.

Middlebury at Connecticut College, January 9

Based on the early returns this season, every league game will be crucial for the Panthers if they hope to avoid missing the tournament for the second straight season. The same will be true for Connecticut College if they want to level up in the stratified NESCAC universe. The Camels have been a surprise this season, with a balanced attack leading them to a 7-3 record, with seven wins in their last eight games to boot. Middlebury wasn’t able to overcome a difficult early season schedule and sits at 6-6, a disappointing beginning to the year for the perennial league powers (is this still true…?). The Panthers will be coming off a major win at home over Southern Vermont, but have yet to prove themselves in any road tests. League play in general will be crucial to these teams for different reasons, making this a fascinating matchup.

Wesleyan at Amherst, January 15

This is David George '17. Good luck stopping him. (Courtesy of Peter Connolly '18/Amherst College, Office of Communications)
This is David George ’17. Good luck stopping him. That dude behind him couldn’t. (Courtesy of Peter Connolly ’18/Amherst College, Office of Communications)

Everybody loves a finals rematch, especially when both teams have done nothing but improve since the championship. Wesleyan kept all of their starters from their championship run last season, and sits at 10-1 this season. They dropped their first game to Lyndon State, but have won 10 in a row since. Point guard BJ Davis ’16 has emerged as a First Team candidate, averaging 19.0 points per game with a game winning shot in a non-league matchup against Williams (and, as I’m legally required to do whenever I mention BJ Davis, here is his absolutely wretched tip slam against Middlebury from last season). Amherst has started off at 9-1, with guards Johnny McCarthy ’18 and Jayde Dawson ’18 joining David George ’17 and Connor Green ’16 to form a formidable lineup. The Lord Jeffs suffered their first loss January 3 at Rhodes, but still combine with Wesleyan to form the top tier of NESCAC basketball. These teams will be jostling for the top spot in the league throughout the year, and this game will have crucial implications for seeding come tournament time. It will also most likely be a fantastic game, something that should never be overlooked when thinking about arcane measures like standings and seeding.

Bowdoin and Trinity, January 23

Coming into this season, it looked like a safe bet that Bowdoin would take a step back. After all, there was a seven-foot hole in the middle of their team that can’t be filled by anyone in NESCAC, except for maybe two Mike Greenmans in a trench coat. However, rumors of the Polar Bears’ death were greatly exaggerated, thanks in large part to Lucas Hausman ’16.  Averaging 23.6 points per game, Hausman carried Bowdoin to a signature win over 10th-ranked Babson. Newcomer Jack Simonds ’19 been able to carry some of Hausman’s Atlas-like load, with 17.6 points per game, giving the 6-3 Polar Bears the ability to go further than just as far as Hausman drags them. Trinity picked up at the start of the season where they left off at the end of last year, with tremendous defensive intensity and timely scoring taking them to a 4-1 record. However, in their last six games they are 3-3, including a loss at home to an undermanned Plattsburgh State team. The Bantams once rounded out the top tier of NESCAC, and this matchup will offer the Bantams a chance to return and Bowdoin a chance to knock off a top dog. Watching Hausman take on that challenge is something I don’t intend to miss.

When writing this article, I tried to choose four games that I thought would be close matchups, with good teams proving themselves against other good teams and league standings looming over all. However, we simply don’t know which games will be the most exciting yet because the league is so deep. Remember that last season Middlebury and Hamilton combined to go 19-2 in games prior to the NESCAC season opener. Neither squad made the NESCAC playoffs, which goes to show that right now we know nothing about how this season will play out. It’s entirely possible that Middlebury versus Hamilton will be an all-time classic, or Bates-Tufts, or Williams-Colby. That’s the beauty of NESCAC basketball; the only way to really know what happens is to watch.