The Future is Now: Bowdoin Men’s Basketball Season Preview

Bowdoin Polar Bears

2016-2017 Record: 12-11; 3-7 in NESCAC (failed to reach NESCAC playoffs)

2017-2018 Projected Record: 5-5 in NESCAC

Key Losses:

Neil Fuller ‘17 (4.3 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.1 APG)

Fuller started every game for the Polar Bears last year, and was a consistent and experienced player. His leadership and poise will definitely be missed by a Polar Bears team that struggled with consistency last year. Luckily, Bowdoin returns most of their major contributors outside of Fuller.

Tim Ahn ‘19 (6.8 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 5.4 APG, 25 steals)

Ahn departs due to an academic semester abroad. Ahn led the Polar Bears in steals and assists last season, and was a quick and reliable ball handler. The Bears have some depth at guard, including three new first-year recruits.

Projected Starting Lineup:

Guard Zavier Rucker ‘21 (N/A)

Zavier Rucker
Zavier Rucker ’21 (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

Not much information is available about Zavier Rucker, but all signs point to him being in the starting lineup on day 1. He’s a gritty, hard-working player capable of playing multiple positions, and he hails from the Taft School. Coaches and veterans have said that Rucker may not light up the stat sheet, but will take care of the ball and serve as an elite on-ball defender. This is an area in which the Polar Bears struggled, so the addition of Rucker will perhaps boost Bowdoin in much needed areas.

Guard Liam Farley ‘18

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

A 6’5” senior from the Windy City, Farley has been a staple of the Bowdoin Basketball team since his first year. He’s a proven shooter from the outside, and has also shown the ability to get to the hoop. Depending on their approach, the Polar Bears may want Farley to drive to the hoop, and draw defenders away from their other shooters. Whether or not he can do this remains to be seen.

Forward David Reynolds ‘20

David Reynolds
David Reynolds ’20 (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

Reynolds made a pretty big splash in his first season with the Polar Bears, despite injury. He averaged 10.3 points per game and 21.5 minutes per game. He had good chemistry with Simonds, and was a solid interior defender as well. He’ll see a big uptick in minutes this year, and since he’s returning from injury, that may be a storyline to take note of. More on Reynolds below.

Forward Jack Simonds ‘19

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

Mr. Maine, and Mr. Reliable. An early (and accurate) candidate for NESCAC Player of the Year, Simonds has been a flat-out stud for the Polar Bears the past two years. He really does it all: shoots, drives to the hoop, defends well – he’s really a ‘jack’ of all trades (haha!). Though his average scoring dropped from 19 PPG in 2015-2016 to 16 PPG in 2016-2017, Simonds has shown no signs of slowing down. He will handle the ball consistently, and will be called upon to make things happen late in games. Simonds averaged the 6th most minutes per game in the NESCAC last season, so longevity may be a lingering issue for Simonds and the Polar Bears. If he can remain healthy and consistent (and I think he will), he will continue his trend of putting up big numbers for the Polar Bears. He is the real deal, and the team’s centerpiece.

Forward Hugh O’Neil ‘19

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

O’Neil saw a big increase in minutes last year, and he delivered solid interior defense and scoring. His 9.8 rebounds per game was good for second in the NESCAC. His transition into a starting role last year satisfied everyone’s hopes of O’Neil emerging into a beast on the boards. All signs indicate that trend continuing this season. At 6’7”, O’Neil may often be a bit smaller than his matchup, but that shouldn’t hurt his ability to use his quickness to score and grab rebounds down low.

Breakout Player: David Reynolds ‘20

Reynolds battled with injury last year, yet was able to produce in big ways when he was on the court. Sources tell me he’s healthier and stronger than ever now. He’ll most likely find himself in a starting role with a chance to showcase his scoring abilities early and often. If all goes right for Reynolds and the Polar Bears, he will complement Simonds’s scoring load and serve as another player opposing defenses need to worry about. His game resembles Simonds’ to some degree in its versatility. He shot nearly 40% from three last year on four attempts per game, but also uses his size to finish inside and from mid-range. Like I said before, his health was the question last year, and that was the only thing standing in the way of a really stellar freshman season. This year, Reynolds seems ready to shoulder a heavy workload, and with his athleticism and scoring ability, he should be a major contributor for the Polar Bears.

Season Outlook:

Bowdoin reeled a bit last year after losing Lucas Hausman, finishing tied for 9th in the NESCAC. In that season, though, Bowdoin coaches were forced to thrust players into unfamiliar roles and hope to get production. This year, on the other hand, Bowdoin will be returning most of its starters / key contributors, so there should be fewer instances of ‘growing pains.’ With a solid core consisting of Farley, Simonds, and O’Neil, this team should be in sync consistently and compete hard in every game they play.

Simonds has proven that he thrives in the spotlight and enjoys being ‘the guy’ for Bowdoin. His leadership and nasty scoring abilities must be on full display if Bowdoin is to make some noise in the league this year. Bowdoin will also need strong years from fellow captains Farley and O’Neil.

The Bowdoin bench will be captained by Blake Gordon ‘18, who can be deadly from three-point range. Beyond that, though, the Bowdoin bench has some question marks. Jack Bors ‘19 figures to be a regular presence off the bench, like in previous years, but could also figure into the starting lineup at the question-mark point guard spot. The Polar Bears have 5 new first year players, so odds are some of them will see decent time and be forced to contribute off the bench. Just who that will be remains to be seen. I mentioned Rucker as a likely first-year contributor, but he’ll need a solid supporting cast.

Bowdoin will need to take down perennial foes Amherst and Bates this year if they are to shake up the NESCAC leaderboards. They will need to get into a groove offensively and muster better on-ball defense if they want to compete with the teams at the top of the league.  If the Polar Bears can spread scoring evenly and have certain guys step up when called upon, this season could be a success. This team has a very solid core of junior and sophomore players, and a promising collection of first-years. After adding several more wins to their total this year, I think Bowdoin has a solid foundation to compete in the NESCAC for years to come.

The Year of The Jumbo?: Power Rankings 1/19

KJ Garrett ’18 made a splash off the bench this weekend for the Jumbos with 30 points on 13-18 shooting (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics).

This weekend brought tight games, upsets, and standings shake-ups. Some players rose to the occasion in times of need, while others shrunk from the spotlight. One thing that is certain about the NESCAC this year is that it is competitive through and through. Here are this week’s power rankings:

1.) #4 Tufts (13-2, 4-0)

Tufts’ victories against Middlebury and Hamilton cemented them at the top spot this week as the only undefeated team in NESCAC competition. Tufts barely beat Middlebury, up by just one point with 21 seconds remaining, but were able to make their free throws and keep the lead in what could be a playoff preview. Other than their two back to back losses to #1 Babson (then #2) and UMass-Boston on December 3rd and 6th, the Jumbos have been perfect all season and are now the highest ranked team (#4) in the conference after Amherst’s two losses this past weekend. The Middlebury game was a great display of Tufts’ balance as all five starters scored double-digit points, with Everett Dayton leading the way with 16. Tom Palleschi continued his hot play and had a well rounded game with three blocks, three assists, six boards, and 10 points. Eric Savage went off against Hamilton on Saturday with a double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds) and a season high in boards that shows how versatile this Tufts team is and why they shouldn’t have many issues this weekend against a resurgent Wesleyan team and a decent Conn College team. Tufts should continue to climb in the national rankings.

2.) #15 Middlebury (13-2, 3-1)

The Panthers would be #1 if Eric McCord made a final minute layup and they held on afterwards in Medford last Friday, yet the Jumbos held off McCord and Middlebury to give Midd their first loss in conference play. With that being said, Middlebury has found something in McCord that can help fill the hole that Zach Baines left when he departed from Vermont. McCord broke out against the Jumbos as he matched his season high in rebounds with eight and found a new season high of points with 22, 10 more than his previous high. He then added 11 points and six rebounds against Bates on Saturday, really cementing himself as the sixth man and as a force in the paint as the 6’7’’/255 pound beast is now a force to be reckoned with. Coach Brown also has to be happy that Nick Tarantino ’18 is holding his own in the starting lineup after struggling his first few starts beginning on December 29th. He has averaged nearly 10 rebounds and 10 points a game these last three contests and is shooting at over 50% in those games too, much better than the 1-6 he went against the Camels. Williams should be another team that the Panthers beat so long as these guys continue to produce – Matt St. Amour and Jake Brown can do the rest.

3.) #16 Amherst (10-4, 1-2)

Yes, Amherst got swept this past weekend and are still ranked 3rd this week. Unfair? Maybe but they are still one of just four nationally ranked NESCAC teams and did knock off #1 Babson earlier in the season. Now, they lost to Wesleyan last Friday who was ranked earlier in the year and desperately needed the win in their home gym to remain relevant in the NESCAC. However, a 14 point loss to an unranked team isn’t really indicative of a championship caliber season. On top of that, Jayde Dawson had the best game and he did not play well. He did score 17, but 6-19 from the field and 1-7 from 3-point range is 2016 Kobe-esque in his send off game. Amherst followed up Friday with an OT loss to Conn College, who hasn’t been overly impressive thus far, giving the Camels their first ‘CAC win of the year. This is not a good sign for the Purple and White. Johnny McCarthy played well and got back to his consistent form with 19 points after just five against the Cardinals. So while Amherst might no longer host the NESCAC tournament, they are in no danger of falling out of the playoff race. They need to get it together this weekend against Bowdoin and Colby as a loss to either will certainly boot them out of the top-25 and push them farther down the power rankings.

4.) Bates (12-4, 3-1)

A Delpeche sandwich means a job well-done (Courtesy of Bates Athletics/Phyllis Graber Jensen).

I’ll admit that I either underestimated the Bobcats or overestimated the Continentals. I fully expected Bates to fall to Hamilton last weekend, but here they are at #4 in the rankings already with three wins in conference, more than all of last year. Their performance so far has all but cemented them as a NESCAC playoff team. Bates defended four of six of Hamilton’s big scoring threats well (Gilmour, Doyle, Pucci, and Groll) which forced PG Jack Dwyer to shoot more than he generally likes to. While this allowed Dwyer to score a season high of 19, the other key players found themselves neutralized, allowing the Delpeche twins to have a day. Marcus scored 17 and hauled in 14 boards and Malcolm scored 12 and had 17 rebounds of his own. Jeff Spellman was a key player off of the bench too as he added 16 points in 25 minutes. Bates also played Middlebury in a tight game, falling behind early but clawing their way to within a 10 point margin by the end. Marcus Delpeche found less shooting success in this contest and Middlebury controlled the rebounds (45-31), giving the Panthers an upper hand, especially in the first half. Bates should beat Conn College on Friday if they keep playing with this intensity and their matchup against Wesleyan will tell who should be higher in the rankings.

5.) Wesleyan (13-3, 2-2)

Two shocking losses to open up conference play and drop the Cardinals out of the top-25 were not part of the plan. These 18 and 16 point losses to Middlebury and Hamilton respectively had to hurt, but Wesleyan really bounced back against previously #5 Amherst and a solid Trinity team at home, preventing a bottom half ranking this week. The victory over Amherst is especially surprising. Amherst had been dominant all year up until that point and didn’t show any signs of slowing down. But Wesleyan’s defense shined on Friday, holding the Purple and White to just 30% shooting from the field and 24.1% from beyond the arc. Kevin O’Brien led the way with 19 points, nine boards, four assists, four steals, and two blocks. Jordan Sears also had a big 10 rebounds off of the bench and Amherst just couldn’t put anything together. The most remarkable stat from the weekend is that both O’Brien and Joseph Kuo had more rebounds at 11 and 10 respectively than Ed Ogundeko did, who had just eight on Saturday. Kuo also added 14 points and the Cardinals narrowly pulled out the win, reestablishing themselves as a contender. They have a tough weekend against Tufts and Bates and if they can go 1-1 that should be considered a success.

6.) Hamilton (11-4, 2-2)

I’m a big fan of the Continentals’ resurgence similar to Bates from last place to a position of relevance in the conference. Their youth will still shine through from time to time as consistency and closing out games is a big focus for the team, but at 2-2 they still have a lot of potential upward mobility ahead of them if they seize the opportunity. Dwyer showed last weekend against Bates that when other teammates get shut down he can still shoot, although it wasn’t quite enough on the road on Friday. They did keep the game close and nearly managed to come back, but Kena Gilmour, Joe Pucci, and Andrew Groll weren’t themselves as they shot a combined 6-24. Their loss against Tufts was expected, but Groll and Gilmour had bounce back games while Pucci and Jack Dwyer couldn’t get it going. Tufts’ 46.3% from the field is what killed the Continentals. They will need a strong game, especially defensively, if they want to beat a desperate Williams team.

7.) Trinity (10-6, 2-1)

Jeremy Arthur ’19 (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics).

While the gap between Trinity and Hamilton and Wesleyan isn’t huge, their two conference wins against Williams and Conn College are hardly justification for a higher spot. Their loss to Wesleyan cemented them at #7 this week, and barring upset wins elsewhere in the conference, wins against Colby and Bowdoin this weekend shouldn’t move them too much higher. Ogundeko is averaging a double-double with 17.4 points and 10.6 boards, top-5 in the league in both. However, Ogundeko showed against Wesleyan that he is human as he was out rebounded by two Cardinals. The Bantams are reliant on him to dominate in the paint as potential dud performances like Chris Turnbull’s against Conn College (0-7, zero points) could put easy wins in jeopardy. Despite the winning conference record, Trinity has issues as Langdon Neal hasn’t been too impressive shooting the ball, averaging just over four points in NESCAC games. Also, Trinity’s bench hasn’t produced much at all and compared to Middlebury and Hamilton’s bench players as an example, the Bantams don’t compare. Look for them to win this weekend but the Bowdoin game could be closer than people expect for the third place NESCAC team.

8.) Conn College (10-5, 1-3)

Erasing a 17 point halftime deficit against Amherst bodes well for the Camels heading into the rest of the season. They just saved their NESCAC first half with that win as an 0-4 start could’ve sent them towards the offseason as playoffs would be a much tougher achievement at that point. 1-3 still isn’t good, but knocking off any ranked team is a feat worth mentioning. They played Middlebury closely on January 7th, lost big to both Trinity and Hamilton, and won by seven in OT to the Purple and White. Last weekend was a tale of two different Conn College teams. While the Camels usually rule the rebounds due to two big men, Daniel Janel and Zuri Pavlin (Pavlin recently broke the Conn College all time rebounding record), the pair notched only nine combined boards against Trinity compared to Ogundeko’s 12. On top of that David Labossiere shot just 2-8, Colin Pascoe didn’t take a shot, Isaiah Robinson only scored two points compared to his normal 9.5…you get my point. When that many players have down games, this team likely isn’t going to win. However, like they showed against Amherst, when both of their big men have incredible games, they win. It’s a tale of consistency and for a team that lost so many close games in the final minutes a year ago, they should be sick of these ups and downs. Not so bold prediction: anytime Janel and Pavlin score 20 each and have 18 rebounds combined, they’ll win. This weekend will be a good test to see is they can keep pace with the big dogs as Bates and Tufts are both challenges steep challenges, especially in those rowdy environments.

9.) Bowdoin (9-6, 1-2)

The Polar Bears have the NESCAC scoring leader in Jack Simonds (21.9 ppg) and they can shoot as Hugh O’Neil ranks fourth in FG% (57.9%) and David Reynolds ranks fourth in 3PT% (43.3%). O’Neil is also in the top five in rebounds with 9.6 per game, but other than that, Bowdoin doesn’t have a whole lot going there way. The game against Tufts summarized this well as those three accounted for 25/42 rebounds, 40/54 points, and the rest of the team shot 6-30 from the field. Against Bates, again, these three were the only ones to score in double digits, had the majority of the rebounds, and only lost by five. While it was a close game, Bowdoin needs another element to complement these guys as the load can’t all fall on their shoulders. Neil Fuller could be that guy – he put up 10 against Williams along with five rebounds, helping out Bowdoin’s big three despite Reynolds’ down game. Of course, they will have a good chance if Simonds drops 32 every contest. This team needs more balance, and if they continue playing more like they did against the Ephs, they should have a better shot at making the playoffs.

10.) Williams (12-4, 1-3)

Williams’ only conference win came against Colby who is right below them in the rankings, so it doesn’t say too much. It’s hard to believe but the Ephs were ranked this season in what seems like ages ago. Their recent drop off is a product of better competition in the conference and the lack of a big rebounding presence. Kyle Scadlock and Daniel Aronowitz are their best chance at matching the league’s best, but a team high of 6.0 reb/g isn’t exactly noteworthy in a positive light. To emphasize this further, Ogundeko hauled in 23 rebounds against Williams, and while Aronowitz had a great game and had a double-double, they simply couldn’t stop the Bantam’s big man. In a two point loss like that, every possession is key, and if they could’ve gotten some offensive boards they would’ve been able to get over the hump. It was the same story against Bowdoin as the Polar Bears hauled in 40 rebounds compared to just 27 for the Ephs, while no individual had more than five and they had just six offensive rebounds. Williams can score well – Aronowitz, Scadlock, and Cole Teal all score over 10 per game – but unless they can stop other teams from controlling the ball, they won’t make the playoffs.

11.) Colby (7-7,0-3)

0-3 is obviously a tough start for any team, but especially for the underdog. Colby has a lot of ground to make up over these next few weeks as at least three or four wins will be needed to sneak into the NESCAC playoff picture. They have kept all three losses within 15 points, but Patrick Stewart is just about the only bright spot here. The senior is averaging 16.2 ppg while the next closest player is at just 7.9 ppg. His 6.2 rebounds also lead the team, and nobody has more than Joseph Connelly’s 2.4 a/g, which isn’t exactly impressive. First year Ethan Schlager has played well in conference games, with 11.3 ppg over these three contest in just 21.0 min/g, and the Mules will need more help from him and other rookies Ronan Schwarz and Sam Jefferson if they are going to have a chance at climbing out of the cellar. Away games at Trinity and Amherst are going to be tough contests, and I’d be shocked if they pulled off an upset.

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


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

Editor’s Note: While 99% of the work on these previews is done by the writers, the projected records for all NESCAC Men’s Basketball teams were decided upon by the editors collectively,  not decisions of the writers themselves. So, if you want to be mad at someone about the record projections, be mad at us. Also, now that the season is under way, treat this as our thoughts on what we’ve seen so far, not just a regular preview.

Projected Record: 3-7

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

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

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

Captains: Neil Fuller, Jack Hewitt

Key Losses: Lucas…Hausman

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

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

Those guys started every game when they were healthy.


Guard Tim Ahn ‘19

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

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

Guard Liam Farley ‘18

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

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

Forward Jack Simonds ‘19

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

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

Forward Hugh O’Neil ‘19

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

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

Forward Neil Fuller ‘17

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

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

Breakout Player: Guard Tim Ahn ’19

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

Everything Else

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

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

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

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

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.

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

Decision Time: Weekend Preview 2/13

This weekend is all about preparing for the playoffs. Trinity has the top seed under wraps, but otherwise no team has clinched a home playoff game. There is a scenario in which six teams, Bates, Amherst, Bowdoin, Tufts, Colby and Williams, could all finish 6-4. In that case, Amherst, Bowdoin and Williams would host playoff games. However, if Amherst loses on Sunday to Middlebury they could end up going on the road next weekend if Tufts and Williams both win out; Bowdoin will probably lose a top-four seed if they lose to Tufts; and Williams needs to sweep to have any chance of hosting next weekend.

Meanwhile, at the bottom of the ladder, the Panthers likely need one win to carry them through to the tournament, but they play two of the league’s best in Trinity and Amherst. They hold the tie-breaker over Wesleyan, but the Cardinals also get a soft matchup in Hamilton before they play Williams. If Wesleyan wins both games, they will almost certainly be playing playoff basketball. What’s more, Williams, who as I just mentioned has a chance to host, could miss the playoff altogether if Middlebury pulls off two upsets, Wesleyan sweeps, Colby wins at least one and the Ephs collapse and lose to both Conn. and Wesleyan.

Suffice to say it will be a chaotic weekend. We are breaking up the weekend preview somewhat so check back in later today for our look at the most important players for this weekend. Here are the best games to watch over the next few days. With the added flair of a prediction for each.

1. Trinity at Middlebury, Friday 7 PM

The Bantams are unlikely to rest on their laurels since the top seed is still unfamiliar to them, while the Panthers are fighting for their playoff lives. Trinity should be able to slow Middlebury down on the break, but Jake Brown ’17 and Co. will try to push the tempo nonetheless. Though Middlebury has been criticized for their defense recently, these are still the two top defenses by field goal percentage allowed, so it will be physical and could get ugly. These teams are also 1-2 in rebounding margin, but a large part of the Panthers’ success on the boards comes from Dylan Sinnickson ’15 out-jumping his matchups. Unfortunately for him, the Trinity forwards who will likely guard Sinnickson, Alex Conaway ’15 and Shay Ajayi ’16, are great at boxing out and will make rebounding difficult.

I think we see a lot of points but not necessarily great shooting numbers. These teams are going to be running up and down the floor a lot, so the benches could be a factor, which I actually think plays to Middlebury’s advantage, but it’s not enough for me to side with the Panthers.

Prediction: Trinity 79, Middlebury 75

2. Wesleyan at Hamilton, Friday 7 PM

I don’t think Wesleyan can handle the Ephs on Saturday, so if they want to make the tournament then they have to beat Hamilton. I hope Joseph Lin ’15 (assuming Lin returns from an injury sustained at Bates) and BJ Davis ’16 go at each other all game because they are both great penetrators who distribute well. Neither is too shabby at shooting the long ball, either. I think in some sense those two offset one another. So I think this comes down to inside play, and Wesleyan clearly has the edge. Hamilton does not rebound well, even with seven-footer Zander Wear ’18 getting more minutes lately, while Wesleyan has a few forwards who can bang on the boards. The Cardinals’ front court holds the advantage on both ends of the floor, and they just need this game more. If there is going to be a game where Hamilton can play at another level and win a big game it will be at the seniors’ last home game on Saturday against Conn.

Prediction: Wesleyan 73, Hamilton 64

3. CBB Battles: Bates at Bowdoin, Friday 7 PM and Bates at Colby, Saturday, 3 PM

The CBB is always full of drama. Technically, Bates won it back in December when the three matched up in non-conference play, but for a second suppose these game count towards the CBB as well. Colby has gone 1-2, dropping its first matchup with Bates and splitting with Bowdoin, Bates is 2-0 having beaten each team once already and Bowdoin is 1-2. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they all ended up tied.

Bates should still be favored in their matchup with the Polar Bears, though the return of Neil Fuller ’17 really strengthens their bench. Fuller is likely still shaking off some rust, but he was a 24.5 MPG starter for Coach Tim Gilbride before he went down with injury so he is a boost for a team that had been running out a pretty short rotation. We’ll have to wait and see if John Swords ’15 and Matt Palecki ’16 can handle the Delpeche duo. Last time these two teams met, Malcolm and Marcus combined for 21 points and 17 rebounds, but what’s even more impressive is that Swords had just five points and three boards.

Matt Palecki '16 will have his work cut out for him tonight. Not many players can out-jump the Delpeche brothers like Palecki did here. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)
Matt Palecki ’16 will have his work cut out for him tonight. Not many players can out-jump the Delpeche brothers like Palecki did here. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

Prediction: Bates 62, Bowdoin 58

As for the Saturday tilt between Bates and Colby, Ryan Jann ’16 has been a man possessed recently. He’s taking a lot more shots in the absence of Chris Hudnut ’16, but somewhat surprisingly for someone who suddenly has to take on a lot more responsibility, they are mostly going in. In four games without Hudnut, Jann is 26-56 (46.4%) from the field and 12-21 (57.1%) from deep and his confidence just seems to be growing. I don’t think Jann alone is enough for me to pick Colby in this one, but he sure is fun to watch.

Prediction: Bates 80, Colby 71

Setting the Stage: Power Rankings 2/12

Trinity solidified their spot at the top this weekend and is the undisputed top dog for now. Others are not far behind though, and this week saw a lot of shuffling around for teams. Before the crazy final weekend of NESCAC play, this is how we think the conference is really shaping up.

1. Trinity (18-5, 8-1) Last Week: 1

Trinity stands at the top for the third straight week, making them the favorite going into the conference tournament. After playing two of the three bottom teams last week (Wesleyan and Conn), the Bantams have clinched the right to host the NESCAC tournament. They will close out their regular season on the road against a struggling Middlebury team. Trinity’s top ranked defense will be difficult to beat as they enter the tournament in a week and a half.

2. Bates (17-4, 6-2) Last Week: 3

In their last two games, the Bobcats were able to hold off their opponents, beating both Williams and Hamilton by two points. Everything seems to be going right for the Bobcats, and at the right time too. The third ranked defense has stifled its opponents, especially down the stretch, as we saw in the Hamilton game when they allowed 0 points in the last 1:36 of the game. Malcolm Delpeche ’17 has elevated his game, particularly in the last two games, scoring 13 and 14 points respectively. Beating a Williams team that’s playing some of its best basketball gives us a reason to put them above Amherst.

3. Amherst (17-5, 6-3) Last Week: 2

Amherst, like Bates, won both its games since we last reported, beating Conn and Wesleyan. The gap between Bates and Amherst right now is close, seeing as both teams went undefeated last week. Looking at strength of schedule however, gives the edge to the Bobcats. The Lord Jeffs did what they had to do against two struggling teams, so the drop in ranking should be taken with a grain of salt. That being said, while Amherst lost to Williams earlier in the season in a non-conference game, Bates was able to edge the Ephs out, lowering Amherst to No. 3, if not 2A.

4. Williams (13-8, 4-4) Last Week: 6

Williams jumps up two spots this week after playing Bates to a close 68-70 point game  and for taking down Tufts 80-75 on the road. In the conference standings the Ephs sit one game behind Tufts, but with a head-to-head win, and with Conn and Wesleyan left to wrap up conference play, their performance in Medford gives Williams the advantage. Hayden Rooke-Ley ’15 and Daniel Wohl ’15 are quite the dynamic duo offensively, averaging 23 PPG each in their last three games.

5. Tufts (12-10, 5-3) Last Week: 4

Tufts went 2-1 since last week, beating Hamilton and Fitchburg State while losing to Williams in a close 75-80 game. In four of their last five games, the Jumbos have allowed their opponents to score over their season average (64.6 PPG), making it even more difficult for an already struggling offensive unit. Their last two conference games, Bowdoin and Colby, will be a good test to see if their offense can get something rolling going into the playoffs.

6. Bowdoin (15-6, 5-3) Last Week: 7

While they only played one game in their last week, Bowdoin took advantage of the break, resting up, and coming out fighting against Middlebury, beating them in an 88-70 thrashing. Bowdoin’s stalwart defense has continued to play well, but it’s been the variety of production from their starters that’s gotten the Polar Bears rolling. That being said, the bench accounted for only 10 points in their 88 point game. In the tournament, Bowdoin will need some kind of spark to keep things rolling off the bench, a spark that could come from forward Neil Fuller ’17 who recently returned from injury.

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

Colby and Bowdoin have been similar in their game all season long, and this week was not different. Like the Bears, Colby only played Middlebury and was able to beat them, albeit by less of a margin, 84-80. Colby’s offense has been huge for them all year, and lately it’s been no different with Ryan Jann ’16 leading the way. Finishing up against Bates and Tufts, the Mules need continued, if not increased, production to ensure themselves a playoff spot.

8. Middlebury (16-6, 3-5) Last Week: 5

Middlebury’s recent struggles seem to have come out of nowhere, seeing as just two weeks ago the Panthers were ranked second in our power rankings. They’ve lost four of their last seven, three of which coming against fellow NESCAC opponents. Their struggles are rooted from their poor defensive play of late, which not even their number one ranked offense could counter. With Trinity and Amherst waiting for them next, you can bet that Dylan Sinnickson ’15 won’t let his team finish their season on a bad note.

9. Wesleyan (14-8, 3-5) Last Week: 8

Wesleyan’s struggles continued last week, losing to both Amherst and Trinity on consecutive nights. It hasn’t been easy for the Cardinals, who played Tufts and Bates back-to-back in their previous two games, as they quickly find themselves with a losing record in conference play. A positive for Wesleyan has been Middlebury’s recent struggles, which gives them a great chance to sneak into the playoffs. While Middlebury finishes with Trinity and Amherst, Wesleyan will take on Hamilton and Williams. I shouldn’t speak too soon, but it seems more likely that the Cardinals could send the Panthers back to the Green Mountains a little earlier than they imagined. Who knows, maybe Middlebury players want to catch the end of ski season.

10. Hamilton (13-9, 1-7) Last Week: 10

All year, Hamilton has been competitive in almost all of their games, but they just haven’t been able to close out games. The same occurred last week as the Continentals were unable to put away Bates after having a 71-66 lead with only 1:36 left on the clock. With Wesleyan and Conn rounding out their season, perhaps Hamilton can close one out and end the season on a positive note.

11. Conn College (7-14, 0-8) Last Week: 11

Conn’s struggles have been there all season and will probably continue until next year. The guys down in New London are hungry to get one in the win column and know that their best chance will come against either Hamilton or Wesleyan. With a season of frustration almost behind them, Conn needs to go into these games with a chip on their shoulder to show the league that they won’t stop competing.