Monday was the first day of spring. I know that the weather at many NESCAC schools begs to differ, but I promise you that it’s true. Spring is a melancholy time for sports fans. On the one hand it’s baseball season. As you might know from reading literally any article ever written about baseball, spring and baseball go hand in hand. Every play in baseball begins the same way; with a pitch. Every is redeemed, much like the deadened flowers are redeemed in the spring. And here at NbN our NESCAC baseball coverage has kicked off in a big way with Devin’s preview.
But in this early spring I’m thinking about the end of something; basketball season. This year of NESCAC basketball was in many ways unprecedented for the league. Not in my memory has there been such talent across the board. While there were obviously better and worse teams, every squad this season had at least a couple moments where they blended together and sang in that way that only basketball can create. At one point there were five NESCAC teams ranked in the national top 25, and those five teams all received bids to the NCAA tournament.
This was a very literary season. We had a tragic hero find redemption in Tuft’s Tom Palleschi, who went down with a brutal knee injury during his
senior season before returning to lead Tufts to the Sweet Sixteen. We had a classic trilogy a la Lord of the Rings in Middlebury and Williams Rounds One, Two and Three. The final battle was one for the ages, a gritty war that featured unsung heroes (Bobby Casey ‘19,) star turns (Kyle Scadlock ‘19 looks like a POY favorite after his NCAA run) and several atrocious blown calls a lot of high quality basketball. Before fading down the stretch, Hamilton put the league on notice that they’re ready to make a run. They lose none of their main rotation, and Kena Gilmour ‘20 and Peter Hoffmann ‘19 are as deadly a one-two punch as there is in the league. Next year could be the year that they rise to the upper tier.
I could write one of these paragraphs about every team. That is the nature of NESCAC basketball this season and going forward; every team has SOMETHING that makes them worth watching. There’s a reason that Rory, Colby, me, Henry and all the other writers want to take time out of our diverse liberal arts college experiences to write about sports. Quite simply, it’s all interesting. But I will keep this briefer than that. Here are a few thoughts, feelings, way too early predictions and just general things I’m excited for from this season, and looking into next.
The Williams-Middlebury Rivalry is Real, Folks:
Both Williams and Middlebury will suffer huge losses come graduation. For Middlebury, Matt St. Amour, Jake Brown, Bryan Jones and Liam Naughton were the leaders of the team both on and off the court, and formed a back court that was unmatched in the country. Daniel Aronowitz and Cole Teal filled similar roles for Williams. Neither team will ever be able to fully replace theplayers they will say goodbye to come graduation.
But there is hope in Williamstown and Middlebury. Both teams balanced their experienced senior guard with dynamic young talent, particularly at forward. Matthew Karpowicz ‘20 for Williams is a future star at center, and Scadlock is maybe the league’s best talent at the forward spot. But Middlebury is loaded too. Eric McCord ‘19 and Nick Tarantino ‘18 became a dangerous duo this year, and Matt Folger ‘20 has First Team potential even as a sophomore. And better yet, all of these players will remember the games this year. Middlebury embarrassed Williams in the NESCAC final, and then Williams got their revenge in Pepin in the NCAA’s. Those wounds wont heal quickly, and we should be in for battles between the Ephs and Panthers for years to come.
The First Team Center Spot is Wide Open:
If you look throughout the league, the majority of the losses outside of Williams and Middlebury are big men. Tufts loses Palleschi, Bates loses both Delpeche’s, and Trinity loses Ed Ogundeko. This means that the door is ajar for new names to step forward as the beasts of the league. Early contenders would be Scadlock, Hoffmann and Joseph Kuo ‘18 of Wesleyan, but there plenty of darkhorses who could step up. McCord should get a lot of looks as part of Middlebury’s possibly less guard-oriented offense, and Williams has several young bigs who may make leaps. It will be fun to monitor who is stepping into those very big pairs of shoes.
Amherst Had Better Reload:
The Purple and White are lucky in that they keep the dynamic back court of Jayde Dawson ‘18 and Johnny McCarthy ‘18. But in almost every other area they are significantly weakened. They lose their most consistent bench threat in Eric Conklin, as well as David George (center and defensive stalwart) and both their point guards. And unlike Middlebury and Williams, they did not have a lot of deeper bench players who showed the potential to fill their shoes. Amherst struggled all season with a lack of depth, and graduation will decimate that already thin bench. Amherst traditionally recruits well and has benefitted from transfers in the past. If they don’t do that quite as well this offseason, they run the risk of falling even further behind surging teams like Hamilton and Williams.
After a wild stretch of upsets (pretty much all at the hands of Williams), the NESCAC tournament wrapped up this weekend. However, the All-NESCAC selections are chosen based on a season worth of play – not just one game, not just the playoffs, not just team success. Individual players who rose to the occasion again and again are those most deserving of All-NESCAC honors, not players who rose to an individual occasion. Some teams have clearer leaders than others, while some are just stacked with players in the running for All-Conference recognition. At the end of the day, way more than the following 10 players could be considered All-NESCAC performers, but that’s exactly why receiving the honor is so prestigious. Pete and I came up with the following list together. Some disagreement definitely occurred in our discussion of who to select, but ultimately, our lists were nearly identical. So, here it is – the most official All-NESCAC list you’ll ever read!
Player of the Year
Trinity Center Ed Ogundeko ‘17 – 16.6 PPG, 11.5 REB/G, 1.5 BLK/G
For the second year in a row, I believe that the NESCAC POY honors should go back to Hartford. Shay Ajayi ‘16 deserved the award pretty clearly last season, and his old teammate Ogundeko has taken the reigns this year as the leader of the team. Big Ed is a beast, that much we can all agree on. But did he perform POY well? There’s certainly an argument to be made for Middlebury’s Matt St. Amour, and maybe even one for Williams’ Dan Aronowitz, but at the end of the day, Ogundeko deserves this. While Trinity only ended at 16-10 (6-4 in conference), without Ogundeko I don’t even think the Bantams are a .500 team. He is the glue that keeps them together, and without a doubt he was the best big man in this league this year. His 11.5 REB/G lead the NESCAC, and also make him the only NESCAC player to average double figures rebounding the ball. Ogundeko also averaged 16.6 PPG overall and 18.5 PPG in conference play, showing the ability to step up whenever his team needed it. That being said, he kind of folded in the NESCAC tournament, scoring just 8 against Wesleyan and a meager 3 points against Middlebury, which is why Pete and the rest of Panther Nation is going to kill me for giving this to Ogundeko instead of St. Amour. However, as I said above, these awards are based on a culmination of play over the course of the season, not just a couple games. Without Ogundeko, the Bantams are an average team at best – he makes them one of the toughest teams in the league to play, and that’s why he deserves this award.
Though it took him until his senior year to finally realize his potential, I think that Malcolm Delpeche finally showed everyone in the league what all the hype was about. In true rim protector fashion, Malcolm led the league in blocks, and he did it pretty handily. In 24 games, the lanky senior swatted 74 shots. Amherst’s David George ranked second with just 53 blocks. Malcolm was the Bobcat that made opponents fear the paint, and a big reason that Bates was able to pull off their biggest upset of the season when they dominated Tufts in Lewiston. To add to his resume, the first of the two Delpeche twins (I have no idea whether Malcolm or Marcus is the elder twin) averaged an astounding 8.8 REB/G, good enough for fourth in the league. Malcolm Delpeche made his presence felt throughout the season, and he was a huge reason that the Bobcats were as good as they were this season.
Kena Gilmour made a splash on the second-highest scoring team in the NESCAC this season. It didn’t take the freshman long to become accustomed to the college game; while Gilmour didn’t score in Hamilton’s opener (he played just 8 minutes), he then went on to score 16, 15 and 26 in their next three games, all of which the Continentals won. Overall, Gilmour averaged 12.0 PPG, but he actually stepped up his production a bit in conference play, dropping 13.3 PPG in NESCAC play. These rates were good for 19th and 12th in the conference respectively, but if you look at another interesting stat, you can see how explosive a scorer Gilmour truly is. Due to his minutes, which were hampered a bit by his youth and the fact that he was coming off the bench, Gilmour’s overall scoring totals weren’t as impressive as I am trying to make them sound. However, if you look at Gilmour’s scoring in terms of Points per 40 minutes, he ranks third in the conference, trailing only the two leading scorers, St. Amour and Jayde Dawson. Assuming the same rate of scoring, Gilmour would drop an average of 26.4 points in 40 minutes. This kid is a weapon, and one that will certainly sniff some All-NESCAC Honors as he matures.
Coach of the Year
Middlebury Coach Jeff Brown
It’s pretty difficult to write about the Coach of the Year, especially since I don’t have stats to fall back on for information. However, looking at the easiest stat to judge a coach by, Middlebury is 24-3. That is pure dominance. They had just one non-conference loss, and the two conference losses came to the top-seed in the NESCAC tournament and the NESCAC tournament runner up. That’s pretty damn good. Oh, and I guess they won the NESCAC tournament too – not bad, Midd, not bad at all. What’s most impressive to me is that having a preseason All-NESCAC candidate (Zach Baines) transfer midway through the season didn’t slow down the Panthers at all, and I think that Coach Brown is largely responsible for that. It’d be very easy for a team to fall into a slump after facing that kind of adversity, but the Panthers did not falter, they thrived. A gut-wrenching loss to Tufts over winter break set the stage for a second straight Middlebury NESCAC Championship run, and after their worst loss of the year to Williams, the Panthers went on to win 11-straight to accomplish that task. Hands down, Coach Brown deserves Coach of the Year recognition.
Jayde Dawson could be my most controversial pick for first team, especially due to the Jake Brown fan club that hawks this page waiting for a chance to pounce. I know the critiques – he is a volume scorer, he’s out of control at times, and he is inefficient. Even if those are all true (which I’m not saying I agree with all of them completely), he’s a stud. Having played Dawson in high school, I never wanted to believe that he was that good, but his 19.1 PPG/19.7 PPG in conference speaks for itself. Does he take a lot of shots? Yes. But Dawson also makes a lot of shots. He shoots 41.3% from the field and 36.4% from the three-point line. He also had a handful of buzzer beaters, including one against Babson that handed the #1 ranked Beavers their only loss of the season. Amherst is really a two-headed monster this year featuring two prolific scorers in Dawson and Johnny McCarthy. If you take Dawson out of the equation, Amherst is a much, much different team, and I would argue that they are much, much worse. For you Middlebury fans, this is the difference between Dawson and Brown. You take Brown off of Middlebury, they’re still in the NESCAC finals. You take Dawson off, they aren’t even hosting the quarterfinals. Overall, Dawson is a dynamic guard that can get to the rim consistently with a streaky three-point shot. He is well-deserving of First Team All-NESCAC honors.
Middlebury Guard Matt St. Amour ‘17 – 22.0 PPG, 4.7 REB/G, 3.0 AST/G
Though I snubbed him on my pick for Player of the Year, there is no question that St. Amour is a First Teamer. He led the league in scoring, and is the only NESCAC player to average over 20 a game (he averaged 22.0 PPG). One reason that he was able to score so much is that St. Amour was able to do a ton of damage from the perimeter. He hit the most threes with 103 on the season (and counting), and shot the 4th highest three-point percentage in the conference. Another truly impressive stat is that St. Amour played the third most MIN/G this year, highlighting his durability and consistency. Coach Brown was always able to count on St. Amour. He hasn’t scored under 10 points in a game since December 7th, and he averaged 24.0 PPG in the NESCAC tournament. St. Amour is a beast, end of story. He will do damage in the NCAA tournament.
Williams Guard Dan Aronowitz ‘17 -17.2 PPG, 6.1 REB/G, 2.0 AST/G
Aronowitz was my preseason pick for POY, and though he did perform at a POY level, he was darn close. After a season of ups and downs for the Ephs, the senior rallied the troops in the NESCAC tournament and pulled off back-to-back upsets over the three-seed Amherst and the one-seed Tufts. Against Williams’ bitter rival Amherst, Aronowitz led the team in scoring with 22 points on 8-18 shooting, following that up with 13 points against the Jumbos. Evidenced by his 8 rebounds against Tufts in the NESCAC semis, Aronowitz was willing to do anything he could to help his team win. His 6.1 rebounds were just behind forward Kyle Scadlock, who led the Ephs on the boards, and Aronowitz was constantly battling for loose balls, diving on the floor, and defending the best opposing players. Even on days when his shot wasn’t falling (which were few and far between), Aronowitz found a way to contribute. Easy pick here.
This was a tough pick for me because his brother had such impressive numbers as well, but it was Malcolm’s defense that really earned him the First Team nod here. If you want to hear me rave about his defense, read the blurb above on Malcolm’s DPOY title, but let’s discuss his offense for a second. Without much of a jumper, Malcolm relies on banging around down low for most of his points. He gets a lot of put back opportunities because he gets great position on the offensive boards, and he has his rank of 7th in the conference in offensive rebounds to show for it. The Bobcats, in my opinion, performed well over their heads at times this year. Malcolm was consistently effective and had a huge part in Bates earning a playoff berth.
Trinity Center Ed Ogundeko ‘17 – 16.6 PPG, 11.5 REB/G, 1.5 BLK/G
Again, I’ve said pretty much all there is to say about Ogundeko above. I hope (though I don’t have much faith) that Trinity did enough to earn an NCAA bid, because I really want to watch Ogundeko play a few more games. The selection show is on now, so we will see!
#8 Hamilton (16-8, 4-6) at #1 Tufts (19-5, 8-2), Saturday, February 18, 2:00 PM, Medford, Massachusetts
When Tufts clinched the top seed in the NESCAC tournament last Friday they had plenty of reason for celebration – this is the first time in school history that Tufts has earned the number one seed in the NESCAC tournament. Despite the terrific achievement, however, the Jumbos still waited until Sunday afternoon before they learned who they would be hosting in the NESCAC quarterfinals. I’m sure Coach Sheldon was watching Williams intently in their game against Bates to see if they had made any adjustments since Tufts bullied them on Friday, and indeed they did. The Ephs pulled out a three point victory in Lewiston, boosting their place in the standings and leaving Hamilton to walk into the hornet’s nest that is Cousens Gymnasium. As a Tufts student myself, I can admit that attendance at sporting events in Medford is pretty inconsistent. After last year’s playoff runs by both the men’s and women’s basketball teams though, I would expect that a doubleheader split between the two teams would provoke quite a turnout today. We will see I guess. It took a few straight years of success for Warriors fans to jump on the bandwagon, but maybe Jumbo Nation will support their squad more faithfully than the frontrunning fans of Golden State. If so, lookout Hamilton.
While Tufts is stepping into the playoffs coming off of one of their best games of the season, the Continentals enter this game in the opposite fashion of Tufts. Hamilton got swept by Amherst and Trinity in the last weekend of NESCAC play to cap off a pretty poor stretch in which the team lost four of their five conference games during the second half of the NESCAC season. Coach Stockwell can’t be thrilled by the way his team limped into the playoffs, but guess what, this is NESCAC basketball and ANYTHING can happen. Just two years ago, Wesleyan ran through the tournament as the #6 seed to earn the NESCAC title and the automatic NCAA bid that comes with it. Regardless of how they got in, Hamilton is in the tourney, and they have the tools to make a sneaky run if they execute properly.
Last time they met
Throughout the first half, the game was pretty back and forth, but with a couple minutes to go until the break, Hamilton lost their focus. Down just five with 2:22 left before the halftime whistle, the Continentals turned the ball over three times, allowing Tufts to go on an 8-2 run to extend the lead to 11 heading into the second half. Though Tarik Smith ‘17, Eric Savage ‘20 and Ben Engvall ‘18 had very respectable games, it was KJ Garrett ‘18 who stole the show for the ‘Bos – the transfer junior put up 19 points on 8-11 shooting to lead the Jumbos to victory. Peter Hoffmann ‘19 put forth a valiant effort on the Hamilton side of the ball with 22 points of his own, but many of his teammates struggled to find the bottom of the net, nullifying the sophomore’s success scoring the rock. While he didn’t have a great game, Tom Palleschi ‘17 was in the lineup for the Jumbos back in January when these two first met, so Andrew Groll ‘19 definitely had a different matchup to deal with than he will have today. Groll was part of a small supporting cast for Hoffmann in meeting numero uno, so it will be up to Drew Madsen ‘17 to shut him down this afternoon.
Tufts X-Factor: Guard KJ Garrett ‘18
In Palleschi’s absence, Garrett has stepped up in a big way for Tufts. Some might even say he’s stepped up in a Jumbo way. Just kidding, that would be the corniest pun ever, nobody would ever say that. But the point remains, Garrett’s play has elevated as Palleschi’s absence has necessitated, and Coach Sheldon is going to need a strong effort out of the junior again against Hamilton. Just last week, Garrett averaged 18 points over two games, knocking down 13-15 field goals and 7-7 three-point attempts! That’s incredible efficiency. What makes Garrett so tough is that he is leaps and bounds beyond virtually every opponent in terms of athleticism, so he is able to get out in transition and also crash the boards. Meanwhile, he has snuck up as a pretty deadly three-point shooter. His strategy of playing the snake in the grass on a team full of shooters seems to be working out for him. Garrett is getting good shots and nailing them. If he plays well, the Jumbos win, end of story.
Hamilton X-Factor: Guard/Forward Michael Grassey ‘19
Last time he faced the ‘Bos, Grassey struggled. He shot just 2-7 for six points before fouling out, a performance that is far from the norm for the combo guard. As mentioned above, Hoffmann lacked the necessary reinforcements to outduel the Jumbos in January, but if Grassey can get back to standard partner-in-crime form, these two sophomores just might be able to topple top-seeded Tufts. Grassey is by far the best outside shooter on Hamilton’s roster and frankly put, he is going to need to drill some of the open shots opportunities he gets from Hoffman and Kena Gilmour ‘20 off of drive-and-kicks. Additionally, Grassey could do the Continentals a huge favor by demonstrating the ability to get to the rack early in the game. Without Palleschi, and potentially Pat Racy ‘20, who didn’t play last weekend for Tufts, Madsen is the lone big man left on the top seed’s roster. This predicament makes foul trouble a grave concern, and one that Madsen needs to be ultra weary of. If Grassey can get to the paint once or twice early, the Jumbos will sag and he will get open shots from the perimeter. The sophomore’s performance is crucial for Hamilton in this one.
While the two X-factors I’ve listed above are going to have crucial impacts (either positive or negative) on this game, both teams are going to need a full team effort to pull off the W. Hamilton is not as a deep a team as Tufts, so their stars – Hoffman, Grassey, Groll and Gilmour – need to perform, while their role players – Doyle, Dwyer, Pucci – need to excel as well. Although Tufts is used to not having Palleschi at this point, the way they have powered through his injury is by playing as a team, not by playing as a handful of individuals. Tufts’ best games have come when they have had four or five players score in double-digits. Today is no different, the Jumbos need a team effort. X-factor Garrett has the luxury of being able to lean on a deeper cast than X-factor Grassey does. Vinny Pace ‘18, Tarik Smith ‘17, Ben Engvall ‘18, Everett Dayton ‘18, Eric Savage ‘20… all these guys know how to score, and all of them have pulled the sled at different points this year. It’s just a matter of who is going to rise to the occasion at tipoff today.
With all the scorers this game has to offer, I don’t quite anticipate this being a low-scoring affair. If the Jumbos get hot from three like they did against Williams last week, they could run away with it. If the Continentals can force Tufts into contested shots however, they’ll be able to get out on the break just like they want to. The winner of this game is going to be the team that can hinder the other team’s offensive strategy. Because both teams want to get out in transition, offense will start on defense in this game, and an extra-high emphasis should be placed on rebounding the basketball. Both teams feature guards that are strong on the glass, so it will be a matter of grit to see who wins the battle on the boards. While this should definitely be a good game, on that is much closer than the seeding implies, I don’t see Tufts losing this one, especially not on their home court. Tufts is too deep and Hamilton just isn’t. The Continentals are trending upward, but I don’t think this is their year.
Saturday’s match-up in Vermont features the Hamilton Continentals visiting the Middlebury Panthers, two of the three teams tied for third place in the NESCAC. Each team will be looking to secure a spot at the head of the conference table with Tufts and Trinity. The Continental’s team motto, “Punish With Pace,” is an apt description of the way they have played this year. Their blistering offensive attack has driven them to the NESCAC lead in points per game and scoring margin. However, that motto would work just as well for the Panthers. Middlebury is just as speedy as Hamilton, so we can expect a fast-paced affair this Saturday at 3PM.
Though Middlebury is nationally ranked (at #22) and Hamilton isn’t, they have had near identical results in NESCAC play. Each team has a NESCAC record of 3-2, and entering the contest, both teams’ last NESCAC game came against Williams, with divergent results. Hamilton handled the Ephs easily at home just two days before Middlebury got slaughtered in Williamstown. However, they also split against Bates, with opposite results, so neither team has a clear edge in the success of their in-conference play.
Regardless of the results, the games this weekend should provide us with some national and conference clarity. Of the two teams, the Panthers are the only ranked team, but at #22, a loss against an unranked opponent would likely drop them out of the top 25. However, a win for Hamilton could slide them into the national conversation. They lack the success in recent years that the other ranked NESCAC teams have, but with a win, their conference record would be an excellent 4-2, and their overall record would be 14-4, right in line with that of other ranked teams. National rankings are fun for bragging rights (and a potential at large bid) but what really counts is the NESCAC standings come playoff time.
Hamilton and Middlebury enter the game tied for third (along with Amherst) and a win for either team could help solidify home-court advantage in the playoffs. To further complicate things, Amherst is playing second place Trinity on Saturday as well. With an Amherst win, both Amherst and Trinity will share second place with the winner of Middlebury v. Hamilton. With a Trinity win, either the Continentals or Panthers will have sole control of third place. The loser of this game could suffer steep consequences, potentially falling as far as seventh place. Whatever this weekend holds will undoubtedly shake up the NESCAC standings.
Middlebury X-Factor: Perimeter Play
Middlebury, offensively, has been carried by the offensive play of their two senior backcourt star(ter)s. Matt St. Amour ’17, possibly the most dynamic scoring threat in the conference, gives defenses fits from inside and outside with his sweet shooting stroke and incisive slashing. Big games seem to get him going—so much so, that his teammates have grown accustomed to calling him “Mr. Clutch,” due to his game winners in high school and college. He scores more in conference games than any other player, averaging 22.6 per NESCAC contest (5 more than anyone else). In a crucial conference matchup like this, St. Amour would be wise to do his best Santana Moss impression.
St. Amour’s backcourt partner, Jake Brown ‘17, is not one to be taken lightly, especially coming off of a career high 31 points in his last game. He has more assists per game (6.7) than any other player in the NESCAC, and still scores ten a game.
Despite these lofty averages, setting the Cont’s ablaze will prove
no small task, as they have the manpower to counter St. Amour and Brown’s onslaught. Peter Hoffman ‘19, Hamilton’s leading scorer (16.9 points per game), is also possibly the league’s best all around defender. A springy athlete who stuffs the stat sheet by averaging about two steals, two blocks, and six rebounds is a force to be reckoned with on both sides of the floor. The Cont’s, anchored by Hoffman, will have their hands full Saturday afternoon when tasked with slowing Middlebury’s potent offense.
Hamilton X Factor: Age Ain’t Nothin’ but a Number
Though Middlebury probably has the edge in terms of star power and veteran leadership, Hamilton’s young guns are not to be overlooked. Freshman Kena Gilmour hasn’t started a single game this year, but he has earned more and more minutes as the season has gone on. In his last three games he is averaging 16.7 points in 21 minutes a game. He’s playing like a budding superstar and he’s getting the minutes to back it up. Hamilton’s youth movement goes beyond Gilmour, however. Star forwards Hoffmann and Andrew Groll ’19 are both sophomores, and give the Continentals a dynamic interior presence on both sides of the ball.
Who has the edge?
Hamilton is unbeaten at home. On the road they are a merely human 6-3. Although Hamilton is riding high on a three game win streak, Middlebury’s home-court advantage shouldn’t be overlooked in this matchup. Furthermore , Middlebury’s experienced players with long histories of success gives them the edge over Hamilton’s younger squad. Hamilton as a program hasn’t played in a game this meaningful in years, and obviously their players have not either. Middlebury, on the other hand, has played in games like this for years. I’ll take the Panthers at home.
I say this knowing my reputation as a writer prone to hyperbole, but this may well have been the most difficult Power Rankings I’ve ever written. Aside from Tufts at the top and Colby at the bottom, there are literally no spots on this list about which I’m totally confident, and I’ve changed my mind on each of the middle nine teams approximately 750 times. Williams’ demolition of Middlebury threw the rankings (and my mood over the weekend) into disarray, as did Wesleyan’s continued come-up and Amherst’s shaky performance against Bowdoin. All this serves to say that I’m CERTAINLY wrong about at least 5 of these spots, and I know you readers will let me know which ones.
1.) #4 Tufts (15-2, 6-0)
It’s become very clear at this point that Tufts has some kind of “Angels in the Outfield” type mojo going on. After dealing with junior guard Vincent Pace’s inconsistency following a return from injury, star center Tom Palleschi ‘17 went down with a knee injury. Now obviously this blow knocked Tufts
off pace (pun 100% intended) right? Wrong. The Jumbos didn’t miss a beat over the weekend, taking care of Wesleyan and Connecticut College in two very impressive performances. They were able to match Wesleyan’s defensive intensity even following Palleschi’s injury, winning 77-73 in a hard fought game. And then they ran the Camels out of the gym, putting up 100 points on 58.5% shooting in a game where Tarik Smith ’17 only played 6 minutes (the reason why is unknown to us at this point). Tufts has everything working right now, and may well be able to survive their series of injuries, but three straight road matchups in league play will be a very tough test for the Jumbos. We’ll see how these rankings look in two weeks.
2.) #25 Wesleyan (15-4, 3-3)
Now here’s where it gets complicated. Wesleyan was dead in the water after the first weekend, but has gone 3-1 since. What sets them apart from the many other teams in the running for this spot is the quality of those wins. They beat Amherst and Trinity back to back last weekend, and then Bates in Lewiston on Saturday. They also played very well in a 77-73 loss to Tufts. The Cardinals still struggle to string together solid offensive possessions, but it seems that every game they get just enough of an offensive spark to let their defense carry them. They have received more consistent play from Nathan Krill ‘18, a terrific offensive player who often has trouble staying on the floor due to his struggles to control himself (he received a tech and eventually fouled out against Tufts). Krill wasn’t a weapon in their early loss to Middlebury, but if he is able to remain on the court during league play, the Cardinals could send a message in the coming weeks.
3.) Hamilton (13-4, 3-2)
The Continentals also benefit a great deal in these rankings from Williams’ performance against Middlebury. Hamilton pasted Williams at home last Saturday 94-76, getting 22 and 21 from Kena Gilmour ‘20 and Peter Hoffmann ‘19. Hoffmann was also a terror defensively, adding 3 blocks and 3 steals. Hamilton is a dynamic offensive team with a variety of weapons, but they can lag on the defensive end, as they did in their losses to Tufts and Bates. They still don’t have a quality road win on their resume, but they have the chance to pick one up this Saturday in Middlebury.
4.) #22 Middlebury (14-3, 3-2)
Speaking of the Panthers, their drive to a second straight championship hit a classic New England frost heave in Williamstown this weekend. The Ephs took it to the Panthers 89-65, in one of the more surprising results of the season. Middlebury simply had nothing working. Interestingly, they got a nice performance out of Matt St. Amour (24 on 9/18 shooting.) But the depth problems that we all feared when Zach Baines transferred reared their heads for the first time, as the rest of the team shot under 35% from the field. Defense was also a major problem for the Panthers, as they were repeatedly a step slow closing out on Williams’ legion of shooters. The Ephs exposed many of Middlebury’s flaws, and they have a lot of work to do in order to maintain a spot in the top tier of the league.
5.) Trinity (13-6, 4-1)
The Bantams sit at second in the league, having started off at 4-1 despite having only scored over 70 points twice over the course of league play. This of course has a lot to do with their terrific defense, anchored by possible Player of the Year AND Defensive Player of the Year winner Ed Ogundeko ‘17. But it also has something to do with the quality of their competition. Their four wins have come over the four bottom teams in the league, record-wise (although Williams’ performance against Middlebury makes that win much more impressive.) Trinity still struggles to find consistent secondary scoring options to lessen the burden on Ogundeko. They have the toughest weekend coming up by far, traveling to Amherst on Friday before playing Tufts on Saturday. Both games offer them the chance to pick up the signature win that they still lack.
6.) #14 Amherst (13-4, 3-2)
Amherst was offered the chance to recover from their 0-2 performance two weekends ago with a relatively easy slate. They had home games against Bowdoin and Colby, two teams that have struggled this year. And yet, they failed to truly recover their pre-league play form. They were trailing Bowdoin by double digits pretty much the whole way, needing another takeover from Jayde Dawson ‘18 and a buzzer-beating 30-footer from Johnny McCarthy ‘18 to survive 66-64. They took care of business the next night against Colby, but the fact remains that Amherst has lacked depth and consistent effort so far in NESCAC play.
7.) Williams (13-6, 2-4)
Yes, Williams made Middlebury look like my U-12 AAU team on Saturday (Wildcats for life, baby.) But the question remains as to whether that game says more about Williams or about Middlebury. The Ephs 3-and-D style finally paid off for them, as they went 13-27 from three and held the vaunted Panther offense to just 65 points, their lowest scoring output of the season. They also finally received production from the frontcourt, as Marcos Soto ‘19 and James Heskett ‘19 combined for 38 points on 7-10 shooting from three. This is an unsustainable amount of production, but the confidence boost could lead to good numbers for the rest of the year for those two. Another performance like this one tonight against Amherst would put the Ephs fully back on track.
8.) Connecticut College (11-7, 2-4)
At 2-4 in the league, the Camels aren’t in a great spot. But they have played a little better than that record would indicate. They have a win over Amherst under their belt, and have played four of their six games on the road, including a very tough Hamilton/Middlebury combo on the opening weekend. They now have three of their last four games at home. All four are winnable games, as they play three of the four lowest teams in the league record-wise and Wesleyan at home. The Camels still have a chance to get over the hump.
9.) Bates (13-6, 3-3)
The vaunted home court advantage that Bates has enjoyed over the last few years seems to have vanished. The Bobcats have lost three in a row in league play, all at home. They have gotten very little offensive production in those games, averaging under 65 points per game. They simply have not surrounded the Delpeche brothers with enough perimeter production to discourage teams from doubling whichever one of them has the ball. Bates still boasts an elite defense and has the chance to make a huge statement this coming Saturday when they host Tufts, but they seem to be in serious trouble, as they still have to play Tufts, Amherst and Trinity.
10.) Bowdoin (1-4, 9-8)
The Polar Bears’ early win over Williams is now a signature performance, and they had another against Amherst well within their reach last weekend. But Jayde Dawson happened, and now Bowdoin sits at 1-4 in a league in which a comeback is very difficult. Their offense is pretty much entirely predicated on how well Jack Simonds ‘19 (the leading scorer in the league) plays, but their biggest flaw is on the boards. Bowdoin is the only team in the league that averages less rebounds per game than their opponent, a weakness that Ed Ogundeko exploited to the tune of 22 points and 20 rebounds last weekend in Bowdoin’s loss to Trinity. The Polar Bears don’t seem to have quite enough scoring or rebounding to compete in the league this year.
11.) Colby (0-5, 8-9)
0-5 in league play is not quite where the Mules wanted to be at this point in the season. They simply do not have enough offense to compete with the rest of the teams. Patrick Stewart ‘17 is an excellent stretch four (and also was terrific with Ian McKellan in “Waiting for Godot”), but he carries too large an offensive burden, leading to poor shooting percentages and efficiency numbers. I’m sure they’ll be able to grab a win or two somewhere, it’s just that kind of year in NESCAC. But at this point it’s hard to imagine them in the the tournament.
It’s a big weekend around the ‘CAC, and Friday’s games will have a pretty big impact on the way Saturday’s games go. Bates, Hamilton, Middlebury and Tufts all have the pleasure of playing each other (except Bates does not play Tufts, and Hamilton does not play Middlebury), which will mean the number of undefeated NESCAC teams will dwindle to a maximum of three this weekend. On the other end of the standings, Williams, Bowdoin, and Colby are all winless in conference play, and face only other winless squads, meaning at least one of them will walk away feeling a little better about themselves this weekend. Then, there is the scrum in the middle, where Amherst, Conn, Trinity and Wesleyan will face off, with Amherst and Trin looking to jump to 3-0 while Conn and Wes are hoping to right their ships. With all that in mind, momentum is a big factor this weekend. A win Friday night bodes very well moving into Saturday’s games, while a loss could steer some teams toward panic mode. Here’s what we’ve got for Saturday’s action:
Hamilton (10-2, 2-0) at #6 Tufts (11-2, 2-0), Medford, MA, 2:00 PM
Like I said, momentum is supremely important this weekend, especially in this game. Hamilton and Tufts will either be feeling good after a big Friday night win against another solid squad, or they will be disappointed with their first NESCAC loss of the season. That’s why no matter the result, it is extremely important to get out to a hot start in this game. I strongly believe that whichever team asserts their dominance early will win the game, especially if they are 3-0 while their opponent is 2-1 at tipoff. For the visiting Continentals, the key to victory is on the defensive end. Their obvious disadvantage is on the block, where Palleschi has a massive size advantage over the tall but lankier Andrew Groll ‘19. However, Palleschi alone cannot defeat the Continentals, so their focus on the defensive end should be on preventing penetration from Tarik Smith ‘17, Vinny Pace ‘18 and Everett Dayton ‘18, all of whom are very good at getting to the hooping and dishing to open shooters. Hamilton has shown that they know how to put the ball in the hoop, so it is not their offense that they should be worried about (though I do think the length of Tufts could be a bit tricky for the Hamilton guards), but rather how they are going to keep Tufts from scoring. This is going to be a big game for Peter Hoffmann ’19, who has the best combination of size and scoring ability on the Continentals’ roster, and as he goes the Hamilton offense will go. I believe that the Jumbos will get to the hoop as they usually do, but because of their size advantage across the board, I expect Hamilton to sag into the paint quite a bit. For this reason, I will warn Hamilton: do not sleep on Tufts sharpshooter Ethan Feldman ‘19. He could be deadly on Saturday.
On paper, this game looks close. The teams have similar records and have opposite strengths, which gives each team a different advantage. Middlebury’s guards are clearly their strength, while it is the post play of the Bobcats that propels them. However, I do not think this game will be nearly as close as some might project. To be honest, I’m predicting that Middlebury will roll. While Bates as the advantage down low with the Delpeche twins, these two have consistently struggled in league play throughout their NESCAC careers. While the pair has improved each season, they have not flashed the ability to take over games very often, and against an experienced Middlebury team I just don’t think this will be one of the rare occasions where they do. While the departure of Baines certainly hurts the Panthers, Nick Tarantino ‘18 is an admirable replacement, and I think he will lock down whichever Bobcat big he is matched up against. If that holds true, maybe the other Delpeche twin can go to work, but the Bobcats are going to need production out of their guards and the stingy defense of Jake Brown ‘17 and Jack Daly ‘18 doesn’t lead me to believe that we will see that. Middlebury should be able to keep the Bates guards in check, and if they do, the Panthers will climb onto Matt St. Amour’s back and show the Bobcats who is higher up in the feline hierarchy.
Writer’s Pick: Middlebury
#5 Amherst (10-2, 1-0) vs. Conn College (8-4, 2-0), New London, CT, 3:00 PM
This matchup is interesting. As Pete mentioned in his earlier article, the Purple and White (who by the way, might be called the Amherst Hamsters soon enough since hamster is an anagram of Amherst) have lost two of their last four. This couldn’t matter less to me in terms of their performance this weekend. Amherst is always one of the top couple teams in the NESCAC – they pretty much always have been with Dave Hixon at the helm. They are a very tough team to beat, but they are also generally prone to complete melts where they lose focus and lose to teams worse than them. Take last year, for example: Amherst played Wesleyan in an out-of-conference tilt and lost by 27 after beating them by 24 just three days earlier. Did this mean Wesleyan and Amherst were even teams, or that Wesleyan was better? No. It just meant that on certain nights, Amherst takes the night off. That’s what I would say happened against Springfield College in December. I have been watching Amherst College basketball my entire life. I used to wreak absolute havoc in Alumni Gymnasium, and I would watch every Amherst game. I still remember standing in the front of the Amherst student section with a couple of my friends as a 12-ish year old as Amherst took down Tufts in OT. Through the years, I have learned that you must take Amherst one game at a time. So, in this matchup, here’s what should you look for:
The matchup between Tyler Rowe ‘19 and Jayde Dawson ‘18 is the one that immediately jumps out to me. These are the two stars of their respective teams this season, and whoever wins this matchup will likely give his team what it needs to win. If I were a betting man (which I’m not, because that would be an NCAA violation), I would say that Dawson wins this battle. He is just as athletic as Rowe, but he has such a size advantage that it is tough to pick against him in this one. Dawson has 4 inches on Rowe, and though Conn does not list their weights, I would guess there is also about a 25 pound disparity between the two of them. I think Amherst would be silly not to post up Dawson at least a few times to take advantage of this mismatch. I do think Zuri Pavlin ‘17 will have a great game for the Camels, as he is much more mobile than Amherst’s David George ‘17, but I don’t think it will be enough to deal with the size advantage that Amherst possesses all over the perimeter. Between Dawson, Johnny McCarthy ‘18, Michael Riopel ‘18 and Jeff Racy ‘17, Conn will struggle to match up.
Trinity looked good against Williams last weekend, and Ed Ogundeko ‘17 looked VERY good. His stat line speaks for itself, but Ogundeko’s physicality is what sets him apart from other big men in this league, which is why I think he will have a solid day against Joseph Kuo ‘17 of the Cardinals. However, I do not think he will have the same type of day that he did against Williams, as Kuo is a very solid big man in his own right. This will be a back and forth matchup on the low block, which is why I am cancelling out these two when making my prediction. This game will be won by the perimeter players. As always, Trinity will slow the game down and work out of the halfcourt set primarily, which means Wesleyan’s discipline and communication on defense is key. Trinity turns the ball over more than anyone else in the league, so if Wes can turn TOs into points, they will be in very good shape. However, that means they will have to take care of the ball themselves – Wesleyan turns the ball over the second most. Offensively, Wesleyan should try to get into the paint more often, and stop hucking up threes. As they learned last weekend, three-point shots are not their strength, getting into the paint is. Wesleyan is a lot deeper at the guard spots than Trinity, so if they can get to the rack and force the Bantams to foul, the Cardinals are in good shape. However, if they fall into the trap of shooting a million threes again, then Trinity will be able to contain the weapons of the Wesleyan offense. This game is a toss up, as I think the two are very evenly matched and a lot of how this game plays out depends on gameplan, but I think Wesleyan edges Trinity in a tight one.
Writer’s Pick: Wesleyan
Williams (11-3, 0-2) at Bowdoin (8-6, 0-2), Brunswick, ME, 6:00 PM
The rare NESCAC Saturday night game holds an interesting matchup between the Ephs and the Polar Bears, one which Williams must win if they want a shot at finishing in the top half of playoff teams in the NESCAC this year. However, early in the season it is also a pretty crucial game for Bowdoin if they want to crack the playoffs this year. With what appears to be the rise of Hamilton and Bates, Bowdoin needs to beat some playoff-caliber teams, and Williams would definitely be a nice win to write home about. However, I think this is a tough matchup for the Polar Bears for a few reasons. First of all, Bowdoin is best when Jack Simonds ‘19 has a mismatch. Williams doesn’t give him that, because Kyle Scadlock ‘19 is every bit as big and is every bit as athletic, so this is not going to be a game where Simonds completely takes over. Secondly, the weakness is Williams is down low, and unfortunately for Bowdoin, that is also their weakness. I will say, sophomore Hugh O’Neil has done a nice job under the hoop for the Polar Bears this year, but he is not going to single-handedly lead his team to a win. Thirdly, Williams has a stronger and deeper cast of guards than Bowdoin. Bobby Casey ‘19, Cole Teal ‘18, and Dan Aronowitz ‘17 provide a plethora of options for the Ephs offensively, and they are complemented by forward Scadlock. The matchups will be interesting, and I think the Ephs can exploit them no matter how Bowdoin chooses to play it. Assume Simonds guards Aronowitz – that leaves Scadlock with a huge mismatch down low, and doesn’t really slow down Aronowitz that much either. Assume Simonds guards Scadlock – Scadlock still outsizes Simonds, and Aronowitz has an even more favorable matchup on the perimeter. I don’t really see a way that Bowdoin can slow down the Williams attack in this one, which is why I think Williams should win pretty handily.
The opening weekend of NESCAC play was one of extremes. No team finished 1-1, marking out a clear top and bottom tier. Five teams sit at 2-0,and five teams sit at 0-2, with Trinity and Amherst lucking out with only one game over the first weekend and sitting at 1-0. Obviously it’s too early to make assumptions about whether the tiers we see right now will last throughout the season, but there are some interesting threads that should be monitored going forward. Will Middlebury be fine even without Zach Baines? Will Wesleyan make the tournament? Is Ed Ogundeko Shaq’s son? All these stories and more will continue into Friday night’s games, so let’s get into them.
Writer’s Note: This article is a little rushed as I had to spend most of the day yesterday apologizing to various fans for Rory putting Amherst at #1 in the Power Rankings even though they’ve lost two of four. So just keep that in mind.
GAME OF THE WEEK: #15 Middlebury (11-1, 2-0) @ #6 Tufts (11-2, 2-0)
7:00 PM, Medford, Massachusetts
First of all, this is obviously going to be a difficult game for me. On one side we have Middlebury, which is of course my hometown, and watching the basketball team as I grew up has been arguably the most influential factor in becoming the person I am today. And on the other side we have Tufts, the team I hate with all my heart. The list of wrongs done unto me by Tufts University is too long and horrible to replicate here on a family blog. I’ll just say that Tufts is the Count Olaf to my Baudelaire children; constantly destroying everything I hold dear out of pure malice and spite.
That said, this should be a spectacular game. Tufts and Middlebury are both coming off very impressive opening weekends, and their strong play has been reflected in their respective climbs in the national rankings. As usual, Middlebury owes much of their success to their incredible backcourt, and particularly to the triumphant return of Matt St. Amour’s shooting stroke. After a prolonged slump, St. Amour catapulted himself back into the POY race with 52 points over the two games, including 31 in Sunday’s win over Connecticut College. More importantly, St. Amour got his buckets very efficiently, shooting 10-19 from three and needing only 30 shots to garner his 52 points. Middlebury has done a tremendous job winning games during St. Amour’s slump, but it was about time he carried them again.
Tufts made quick work of the Maine teams in the opening weekend, besting Bowdoin and Colby easily. They did it with balance; no single player had more than 20 points, but 7 players had more than 10. Tarik Smith ‘17 had a nice weekend after an inconsistent start to the season, adding a new weapon to the Jumbos’ arsenal. It was crucial for Tufts to have a good weekend starting off the year, as they had a couple bad losses to Babson and UMASS Boston that had cooled some people on their league standing. However, they had the easiest weekend of any top tier teams. This game is their first big test since Babson, and should reveal a great deal about how high the Jumbos can fly this season.
For Middlebury it has to be transition, and I mean that in multiple senses of the word. The Panthers must continue to excel in their fast-paced, perimeter orientated style on both sides of the ball. As our blogfathers Panther Nation pointed out, Middlebury may well have the best backcourt in the country, and they need to continue that excellent play to weather a lack of front court depth, at least offensively.
Speaking of the front court, that brings me to the second type of transition that will determine Middlebury’s success. Earlier this week it was announced that talented forward Zach Baines ‘19 made the decision to transfer to Occidental College in Los Angeles. This is a tremendous blow to the Panthers, as Baines was both their most versatile defender (other than Jack Daly ‘18) and a dangerous offensive weapon who was just beginning to realize his potential. His loss will obviously affect Middlebury on the court in the ways we saw last weekend. The guards, especially less prolific scorers Jake Brown ‘17 and Daly, will need to be more aggressive shooting the ball, and forwards Nick Tarantino ‘18, Matt Folger ‘20 and Eric McCord ‘19 will all compete for minutes and touches alongside Adisa Majors ‘18. It will be a fascinating subplot to follow throughout Middlebury’s season as to which big man emerges as the starter out of those three. But Middlebury will need to respond to Baines’ loss off the court as well. It can be very difficult to lose a teammate midway through the year, and no one would blame the Middlebury players for being a little down. However, they can’t afford to let it affect them against Tufts. Middlebury’s experienced leaders like Brown, St. Amour and Daly will have to handle the transition for Middlebury this weekend, in more ways than one.
For Tufts, it is more simple. Vincent Pace ’18 has to get going. A legit POY candidate when healthy, Pace has struggled for much of the season, shooting only 42% from the field and 32% from three. Admittedly he hasn’t had to play big minutes that often yet as he recovers from a knee injury, but if Tufts wants to remain in the top tier they need the old Pace back. The Jumbos can’t rely on a big weekend from Tarik Smith, as Middlebury defends the perimeter better than anyone. Tufts will need Pace’s versatile scoring ability and ball handling if they hope to knock the Panthers off track, and indeed will need it for the rest of the league play. The toughest games are still ahead.
Tom Palleschi ‘17 for Tufts has definite strength mismatches against both Tarantino and Folger. This means that we may see more of Eric McCord than the other two. If that’s the case, Middlebury may be in trouble from a fast break standpoint. The great benefit of both Tarantino and Folger is that they are weapons in transition. They can both shoot (although Folger is more of three point threat,) and they run the floor like deer. McCord is much stronger and possibly a better one-on-one matchup for Palleschi, but Middlebury sacrifices some fast break potential with him on the floor. McCord got exposed a bit by Connecticut College in terms of moving his feet defensively, and Tufts should look to do the same by putting him the pick and roll and getting him out on the break.
That said, I don’t see that Tufts has an answer for Middlebury’s guards. St. Amour is better at getting himself involved even when he’s not shooting well than Jack Simonds ‘19 for Bowdoin, and Daly and Brown are forming into an excellent offensive duo in addition to their terrifying defense. Middlebury matches up very well with Pace and Smith, and Palleschi has not yet shown himself to be capable of taking over a game.
Writers Pick: Middlebury
#5 Amherst (10-2, 1-0) @ Wesleyan (11-3, 0-2)
7:00 PM, Middletown, Connecticut
Amherst took the opening battle in the ancient Jeff-Ephs war, beating Williams in Williamstown 80-72 in a game that they had in hand throughout. They relied heavily on their dynamic backcourt of Jayde Dawson ‘18 and Johnny McCarthy ‘18, who combined for 34 points and were the only starters in double figures. The game also featured the return of the Amherst bench, as Michael Riopel ‘18, Reid Berman ‘17 and Eric Conklin ‘17 combined for 30 points and carried the offense for large stretches. One thing to watch for Amherst is their low assist numbers. They only had 9 against Williams, and 7 of those came from the three bench players. They did a nice job exploiting mismatches against the Ephs, particularly McCarthy and Conklin, but against an elite defense like Wesleyan, they may need a more sustainable style, especially since Wesleyan has a stable of long, athletic guards to throw at Dawson.
For Wesleyan, this game is as close to a must-win as one can have in the second week of league play. Wesleyan dropped both their games last weekend, on the road to Middlebury and Hamilton. Wesleyan’s elite defense broke down for them in both games, giving up 83 and then 92, but it was a simple lack of offense that really did them in. Shooting 34% from the field won’t win you any games in a deep league like the NESCAC. Wesleyan particularly needs more consistency from their guards. Salim Green ‘19 and Harry Rafferty ‘17 combined for 31 against Middlebury, but couldn’t hit water from a boat against Hamilton, shooting 3-18 from the field. Wesleyan matches up very well defensively with Amherst, as Rafferty, Green and Kevin O’Brien ‘19 provide a nice rotation to throw at McCarthy and Dawson. And the floor spacing ability of Nathan Krill ‘19 could draw David George ‘17 from the paint, opening up driving lanes. But Krill has to control his emotions enough to stay on the floor (something he decidedly couldn’t do against Middlebury,) and Wesleyan has to drive in those lanes and make shots. If they don’t their chances of making the tournament could be in serious doubt.
Writer’s Pick: Amherst
Hamilton (10-2, 2-0) @ Bates (11-3, 2-0)
7:00 PM, Lewiston, Maine
This is about as exciting a matchup as you can have from two unranked teams. Hamilton solidified their rollicking, offense-filled march to NESCAC relavance by handling both Connecticut College and then-#9 Wesleyan at home by scores of 86-70 and 92-76. The Continentals get their buckets in a variety of ways and from a variety of sources. They are led in scoring and on defense by sophomore forward Peter Hoffmann ‘19, so averages 17 a game and put up 21 (and seven blocks) against Conn College. But when Hoffmann struggled his way to 7 against Wesleyan, they more than picked up the slack. Andrew Groll ‘19 put up 20 points and 14 rebounds, and and super-subs Tim Doyle ‘19 and Kena Gilmour ‘20 led a bench attack that put up 38 points. Hamilton is young and loaded with talent, and the rest of the league should definitely be on notice.
Bates’ surprising run to relevance has been accomplished in almost the exact opposite way from Hamilton’s. They have ridden a punishing defense led by Malcolm Delpeche ‘17, who leads the league in blocks, and his twin brother Marcus, who is no defensive slouch himself. The towering Delpeche brothers allow Bates to play very aggressively on the perimeter, as either side has an eraser to wipe away their mistakes. Offensively, Bates sort of figures it out as they go. The Delpeche brothers are the keys to the offense as well, combining for 27.5 points per game. Additionally, they draw double teams in the post, leading to open three point shots. However if the pair of big men are struggling from the field, Bates doesn’t have a lot of depth to pick up the slack. They needed a stunning 23 point outburst from Tom Coyne ‘20 (who played just two minutes the night before) to scrape out 64-59 win over Bowdoin. This game is a classic good offense-good defense matchup, and factoring in the youth of Hamilton and the tremendous homecourt advantage that Bates enjoys in Alumni Gym, I see the Bobcats taking it.
Writer’s Pick: Bates
Trinity (9-5, 1-0) @ Connecticut College (8-4, 0-2)
7:00 PM, New London, Connecticut
All season it has seemed like Trinity was one other scoring option away from continuing their control of the NESCAC regular season. Ed Ogundeko ‘17 has been a total monster all season, sitting at fourth in scoring at 17.1 PPG and first in rebounding at 10.7 REB/G. But he couldn’t do it alone, and Trinity entered league play at 8-5, the most losses in the league. However, the weekend showed that Chris Turnbull ‘17 and Jeremy Arthur ‘19 have the potential to be fine running mates for Big Ed. But it also showed that on some level he can do it himself. In a non league tilt against Pine Manor, Turnbull and Arthur combined for 34 points on 11-17 shooting, providing and excellent side hustle for Ogundeko’s 24 points and 12 rebounds. In Trinity’s win over Williams last Sunday, Turnbull and Arthur cooled off a bit, but were still able to combine for 24 points. Ogundeko did the rest, dominating the game to the tune of 15 points and 23 rebounds. Ogundeko may well be able to carry his team to the tournament, but if Arthur and Turnbull can really get going, it may be the NCAA tournament as well as the NESCAC.
Connecticut College had their carriage turn back into a pumpkin over the course of the weekend. After a tough loss to Hamilton in a battle of the Cinderellas, they had to make the long drive to Vermont only to fall to Middlebury 97-89. (Sidenote, Battle of the Cinderellas might be a great movie idea. Every Cinderella ever comes together and fights each other for the title. My money is Brandi.) Zuri Pavlin ‘17, the Camels’ leading rebounder and scorer, battled a mysterious injury throughout the weekend, but even with him Connecticut may simply not have enough weapons to match up in the league this year. Fortunately for them, Trinity often struggles offensively as well. This game has the potential to keep Conn College’s tournament hopes alive, but I don’t see Ed Ogundeko letting that happen.
Writer’s Pick: Trinity
Williams (11-3, 0-2) @ Colby (7-6, 0-2)
7:00 PM, Waterville, Maine
Much like Wesleyan, Williams is drifting dangerously close to the edge of “must-win” territory They drew a tough opening draw in facing then #3 Amherst to lead off league play, and dropped that game 80-72. They then dropped their second game to Trinity 65-63, an ugly offensive performance from a team that has prided itself on offensive efficiency over the last few years. Williams needs more from everybody, but Kyle Scadlock ‘19 had a particularly disappointing weekend. Amherst and Trinity were able to load up on star forward Daniel Aronowitz ‘17, leading to big games from Cole Teal (26 against Amherst) and Bobby Casey (21 against Trinity.) However, those two key players can’t seem to get hot at the same time, and Scadlock hasn’t been nearly aggressive enough to help Aronowitz make up for it. He only took 11 shots over the whole weekend, less than many NESCAC students do at one pregame. If Williams has any hope of climbing out of this whole, they will need him to live up to his potential and be a viable second scoring option behind Aronowitz.
Colby faces a similar situation to Williams in that simply no one on their team is shooting well enough. After a hot start to the season, Patrick Stewart ‘17 has been mired in a slump that is mirrored by his teammates. Over the weekend they shot under 38% from the field in both games, and under 30% from three. Unless the Mules get magically hot, it’s hard to imagine them pulling off the upset against the Ephs, who should be hungry to send a message to the league that they are still alive.
Remember early in the season when we thought the league might be less chaotic this season? We were wrong. For the first time ever, there are five NESCAC teams in the D3Hoops.com Top 25, with Middlebury (22) and Williams (25) joining Amherst (3), Tufts (8) and Wesleyan (9) after impressive tournament wins coming back from break. And as if that wasn’t complicated enough, Amherst and Wesleyan both lost on Tuesday night, throwing both the NESCAC and national rankings into a state of chaos mirrored only by the American political climate. And to add still ANOTHER layer of intrigue, four of the five ranked teams face each other on Friday night, kicking off what promises to be a spectacular season of league games. Amherst and Williams renew the biggest little rivalry in sports, and Middlebury takes on Wesleyan at home in a game that I think I might just try to attend if I’m not too busy. Oh yeah, and the other teams play too. Let’s break down those two marquee match-ups, and the rest of the games around the league.
GAME OF THE WEEK: #3 Amherst @ #25 Williams, 7:00 PM, Williamstown, Massachusetts
NESCAC’s version of the Average Joes-Globo Gym rivalry returns on Friday night, as Williams and Amherst square off in as important a game as one can hope for in the opening weekend of league play. After opening the season at #1 in the country and looking fairly unstoppable over the first couple weeks, Amherst has dropped two out of their last three. The chief reasons for their sudden mortality are on offense. They turned the ball over 17 times in their loss to Eastern Connecticut on Tuesday, and shot only 36% in a loss to Springfield last week. The depth the people raved about for Amherst early in the season is in disarray. Eric Conklin is the only bench player who has made a difference for Amherst lately, as his minutes have jumped up due to the inconsistent (to be diplomatic) play of starting center David George ‘17. Amherst has too often relied on the volume scoring of Jayde Dawson and the efficiency of Johnny McCarthy to keep them in games.
Williams comes in on almost the exact opposite track. Impressive wins over Hope and Mount Union in the Mount Union Classic vaulted the Ephs into the top 25, and they maintained their position with a (somewhat lackluster) 74-62 win over Oneonta St. on Tuesday. In a departure from the last few years, the Ephs have recently won despite poor showings from three point land. Williams is hovering around 28% in their last three games, and yet they are 3-0. This is due to an excellent team defense, and honestly, the play of sophomore forward Kyle Scadlock. After a slow start to the year, Scadlock has averaged 19 PPG in the last three, bringing to life the star leap that some projected after an impressive freshman year. Shooting struggles aside, Williams has to love the spot they’re in entering league play, and Amherst certainly shouldn’t be thrilled with theirs.
For Amherst it has to be pure, elemental anger. Yeah they’ve lost a couple games, but every team will at some point. But to be the pre-season #1 and have to hear idiot pundits like myself and even their own fans cry gloom and doom must royally tick them off. Williams is an excellent team, but this is Amherst basketball we’re talking about here. They were #1 for a reason: they have loads of good players, and they are coached by the legendary David Hixon, who is certainly capable of whipping these guys into shape. A rivalry win in the opening weekend of league play would be a delicious way to remind the league why they were at the top in the first place.
Williams has been winning without three point shooting, but that will get far more difficult to do against elite opponents like Amherst. The Ephs will have trouble getting good looks in the paint against Amherst’s length, meaning that perimeter shots will have to make up the difference. Additionally, Williams does not match up well defensively with Dawson and McCarthy, the backcourt that makes Amherst’s engines run. Therefore, Williams will have to hit some threes to keep pace. This makes Cole Teal ‘17 a major key (shout out: DJ Khaled) to this game, and to the remainder of the season. Teal is capable of insane hot streaks and insane cold streaks, but lately he has been doing far more of the latter. He was quiet in Mt. Union, shooting just 1-5 over the two games, but he bounced back with a nice night against Oneonta, tallying 15 points on 3-5 shooting from deep. Teal will need to be hot against Amherst both to score from the perimeter and open up the middle for Scadlock and Aronowitz.
Both teams have struggled to find production at the five this season. Williams has spun their “Random Center” wheel several times this season, but so far none of them have been winners. Meanwhile, David George of Amherst has been like the parents from Stranger Things: there in person, but pretty lackluster and ignores a lot of responsibilities. This should lead to a tight, high scoring game, one that I would tend to favor Williams in, as they’re at home. But Williams has no answer for McCarthy and Dawson, both of whom can swing a game themselves. It’s a toss up at this point, the best possible projection for a rivalry game of this magnitude.
Middlebury has not lost to Wesleyan since 2004. Let that sink in. The last time Middlebury lost to Wesleyan, Matt St. Amour was 10 years old. The last time Middlebury lost to Wesleyan, the greatest song of all time (and my go-to karaoke song) “Breakaway” by Kelly Clarkson had just been released. The last time Middlebury lost to Wesleyan, Mel Gibson was still a marketable movie star. That said, Wesleyan looked poised to break that streak until Tuesday night. After starting off 11-0 and beating #4 Marietta, Wesleyan was knocked off pace by Rhode Island College 62-55. The loss to RIC featured many of the problems that have plagued Wesleyan in league play over the last few years, namely a lack of offensive firepower and shot-making down the stretch. Standout guards Harry Rafferty ‘17 and Salim Green ‘19 combined for 2 points on 1-15 shooting, numbers that many experts have referred to as “bad.” Wesleyan will not win if they don’t get production from the perimeter, and Middlebury is arguably the best perimeter defensive team in the league. Additionally, the loss of defensive stopper PJ Reed will hurt Wesleyan’s efforts to slow down the run-and-gun Panther offense.
Middlebury enters league play with momentum, but some depth problems. Sophomore guard Hilal Dahleh remains out with a back injury, and forward Zach Baines ‘17 will likely miss the weekend as well. These are two valuable weapons that the Middlebury offense will dearly miss, particularly from a floor-spacing perspective. However, in the Staten Island Tournament of Heroes (DOPE name for a tournament by the way,) Middlebury weathered those losses and a prolonged shooting slump from Matt St. Amour ‘17 to win the championship and vault into the top 20. They owe their success to a two-game stretch of excellent defense, and the heroics of Jack Daly ‘18, who continued his low-key All-League candidacy with a buzzer beater over #17 Illinois-Wesleyan (as well as 14/7/7.5 averages.) In Staten Island, Middlebury showed the toughness to rise to the top of the loaded NESCAC, but they will need to hit outside shots more conistently to beat the elite Wesleyan defense.
While Daly and St. Amour were certainly the MVPs of Middlebury’s tournament, it was contributions from the bench that allowed the Panthers to weather tough shooting from the starters. And the stand-out player from the Middlebury bench was freshman forward Matt Folger.
Folger is an excellent shooter who had threes in both games of the tournament, but defensively was where he really set himself apart. The lanky forward had four blocks over the two games, including three in the championship. Folger’s combination of size, athleticism and timing make him the interior defensive force that Middlebury has been lacking. He and Nick Tarantino will be crucial in stopping Wesleyan’s post duo of Joseph Kuo ‘17 and Nathan Krill ‘18.
Wesleyan’s defense is far from in doubt. They are the number one field goal defense in the country, and boast a perimeter defense that is uniquely able to shut down Middlebury’s three-headed dog of excellent guards. However, Wesleyan simply has to score, and the person most responsible for that is Salim Green ‘19. Green is an exceptional defender, but Middlebury is too deep and fast for Wesleyan to pound the ball and win 55-50. Green will need to score and push the pace if Wesleyan has any hope of ending their 11 year losing streak against the Panthers.
Of all the teams in the league, Middlebury may be the best equipped to handle the indefinite losses of Dahleh and Baines. They have great chemistry and experienced leaders at the helm, as well as a deep bench that is rounding into shape at exactly the right time. But “handling” losses isn’t the same as fixing the holes they create. Middlebury is vulnerable right now, particularly in outside shooting and interior defense. These are the areas that Wesleyan will look to exploit on Friday night. However, Wesleyan has no chance if they shoot anything like the way they did on Tuesday. Someone besides Joseph Kuo needs to put the ball in the basket for the Cardinals, or else their league season will look very different from their first 12 games.
Writer’s Pick: Middlebury
#8 Tufts @ Bowdoin: 7:00 PM, Brunswick, Maine
I was going to let Rory handle this one, since according to an intrepid commenter I “hate Tufts,” but I think I’ll be able to handle it. I certainly do not hate Tufts, I just left them off the Awards Preview because none of their individual players have stood out yet from a postseason honors standpoint. That could certainly change in league play, particularly as Vincent Pace ‘18 gets healthier and healthier. Pace returned early in the season from a knee injury, and is still rounding himself back into form. When 100% he is certainly one of the best all around players in the league, capable of leading Tufts to a NESCAC title. This opening weekend will be a good test of just how ready he is to take on a heavy minutes load.
Bowdoin, on the other hand, has their star very much ready to go. Jack Simonds ‘19 is leading the league in scoring at 23.3 PPG, and the Polar Bears for the most part rise as far as he can take them. However, on Tuesday night they had a nice win over Bridgewater State despite Simonds having “only” 17. Sophomore guard Jack Bors had 23 off the bench, and forward Neil Fuller ‘17 added 15. We haven’t seen this balance from Bowdoin yet this year, and if it continues in league play, Bowdoin could definitely make some noise. Tufts has a huge edge in this game, but don’t count the Polar bears out just yet.
Writer’s Pick: Tufts
Bates @Colby: 7:00 PM, Waterville, Maine
With the Brothers Delepche manning the middle, Bates was always scary defensively. But transfer Jeff Spellman ‘20 has given the Bobcats some needed offensive punch off the bench. Spellman was a fairly sought after D1 recruit coming out of high school, and committed to Stonehill College. However, he transferred to Bates before playing at all, and immediately hurt his ankle. The 6’2” guard made his NESCAC debut against Farmingdale State on the 29th, and had 13 points off the bench on Tuesday in a big road win against Brandeis. With a terrific defense and a revitalized offense, Bates is looking a little scary.
Entering their non-conference matchup with Bates on December 10th, Colby had lost four out of five and appeared to be carving out a spot at the bottom of the league. But they pulled out a gritty win in that game, and then another in their first game back against UMaine-Farmington. Like the Starship Enterprise, Colby is led by Patrick Stewart ‘19, who averages over 16 points per game. This game might not be critical at the top of the standings come the end of the season, but it is certainly a matter of pride for the Maine rivalries, and also will help determine which of these teams (if any) make the final cut for the NESCAC playoffs.
Writer’s pick: Bates
Connecticut College @ Hamilton:
This game will fly under the radar due to the Middlebury-Wesleyan and Williams-Amherst games, but it is quietly a fascinating match-up that could have major ramifications at the end of the year. Connecticut College has played with tremendous balance all season. They have four players averaging over 10 points per game, including the front-runner for the made-up NESCAC Sixth Man of the Year award in Isaiah Robinson ‘18. Robinson averages 10 per game off the bench on 45.2% shooting from three. Robinson’s offense off the bench has been critical in Connecticut College’s success, as an efficient offense has masked a mediocre defense at times for the Camels.
Speaking of efficient offenses, Hamilton leads the league in points per game at 87, and is third in shooting percentage at 48.3. The Continentals are led by a trio of stellar sophomores. Peter Hoffmann, Michael Grassey and and Tim Doyle all average over 13 points a game and shoot over 50% from the field. This youth is obviously a benefit, as this core could make Hamilton a player for the next couple years at least. However, it may also hurt them during league play. These players are not used to playing meaningful minutes in league play; Hamilton was not a contender during their freshman campaign. Connecticut College is older and more experienced (though still pretty young), and that could help them if this game comes down to the wire. Additionally, Hoffmann, Hamilton’s leading scorer and best defender, is only shooting 47.2% from the foul line. If the game is close in the final minutes, Connecticut College may try to exploit this, forcing Hamilton to choose whether or not to have him on the floor.
Writer’s Pick: Hamilton
Trinity @ Pine Manor: 3:00 PM, Brookline, Massachusetts
Writing about a non-league game after all this excitement makes me a little bit tired, but I’m going to write through it because #BlogIsLife. Pine Manor has had an uneven start to the season, standing at 7-4. Their only other NESCAC matchup was an early season 97-96 loss to Colby. However, from my extensive research on their season (a cursory glance at their website,) Pine Manor looks to be a pretty tough matchup for Trinity. They play at a blinding pace, taking 81 shots per game, which is a full 22 (!) more than the infamously slow Bantams. This game looks like it will be less of a basketball game and more of an ideological debate regarding the nature of the sport.
Speaking of Trinity, they have been one of the toughest teams to figure out in the early months of the season. They started off the year losing three of four, and then a nice win over Springfield (three straight NCAA berths, has beaten Amherst and Conn College) made it appear that they had righted the ship. But they followed that up with a terrible loss to Susquehanna and another loss against a very good Eastern Connecticut team, and they were back down again. And finally, they just put up by far their best performance of the year against Plattsburgh, scoring 107 points and shooting 66% from the field. The Bantams have struggled to find any consistent perimeter scoring around center Ed Ogundeko, but against Plattsburgh they proved that they can beat anyone when they have it. This game will be a crucial final tuneup for Trinity as they look to make a run in league play.
Perhaps Hamilton’s losses to Middlebury 64-62 and to Trinity 96-86 in OT were their best played games of last season. These were just two of many close conference contests that the Continentals dropped in the last few minutes, both to 2016 powerhouses. Their overall record of 11-13was not quite telling of how they fared in conference (2-8), only one of three squads to miss out on the playoffs. Fortunately for Coach Adam Stockwell’s squad, they return all but one starter in Jack Donnelly ‘16, and lose just one other graduate in sixth man Ajani Santos ’16. The Continentals have used last year’s woes and close losses to develop and help them along the way to what has been a solid start to the year, good for a 8-2 record and a #6 spot in our first power rankings of the season, which definitely puts them in the playoff race. We know it, you know it, and we write it all the time: The NESCAC competition is no joke, and because of that Hamilton won’t be truly tested until they hit the expert only double black diamond slopes. They are looking to improve, touch up the details, and use last year’s NESCAC season as a learning experience.
From last year, the young, immature team learned that they needed to have more consistency and close better after playing six conference games that were decided in the final minute, going 1-5 in such contests, frustrating for any team. They needed to improve on rebounding, playing in transition, and overall defensive consistency, which has been aided by a much more stable starting lineup this year. In 2016 Hamilton had 11 players start a game, with eight of those players starting less than half of the games. In other words, there were a lot of moving parts for a team that never really hit its stride. While the Continentals certainly needed somebody to step up last year, after this sample of the preseason, it is clear that Michael Grassey ’19, Peter Hoffmann ‘19, and Andrew Groll ’19 are really coming into their own as leaders on the team to supplement Jack Dwyer ’18 who runs the team and currently ranks third in the NESCAC in assists. Grassey had a great winter in the NESCAC and finished the last five games by averaging 16 PPG and vaulted from a bench player (20 games played, 0 starts) to a starter, second-leading Hamilton scorer, and irreplaceable staple in the lineup this year.
2015-2016 Record: 11-13, 2-8, Did not make NESCAC playoffs
Head Coach: Adam Stockwell, 6th year, 66-56 (Through 2016)
Forward Andrew Groll ‘19 (9.5 PPG; 7.8 REB/G; 1.8 BLK/G)
Guard Peter Hoffmann ‘19 (12.7 PPG; 4.3 REB/G; 40.0% FG)
Guard Jack Donnelly ’16 (8.9 PPG; 39.3% 3-PT; 2.9 REB/G)
Forward Karl Koster ‘18 (2.9 PPG; 60.0% FG; 2.8 REB/G)
Guard Jack Dwyer ‘18
After leading the league in assists with 5.5 per game and adding on 11.0 PPG in 2016, Dwyer is off to another hot start with 6.1 AST/G, 7.4 PPG, and 3.0 REB/G through the first ten games. The leader of this team is one of just two upperclassmen in the starting lineup and will use his experience as the point guard and shot caller to help get the younger players into position, dishing out passes like usual. He should help them improve in transition and will likely start scoring more too as his consistent shooting percentage (37.5%) should lead to a similar 11 PPG once he starts taking more shots. He is currently only on pace to shoot about 180 times this year compared to 235 last year, not just showing Hamilton’s added offensive depth, but also Dwyer’s ability to run the team and not just fire up shots. Because of his ability to spread out the court, four of his teammates are averaging over 10.0 PPG compared to just two last year (which included Dwyer), emphasizing this added offensive depth and the way in which Dwyer is coaxing it out of his teammates.
Guard/Forwards Tim Doyle ’19/Peter Hoffmann ‘19
Doyle got off to a blistering hot start, averaging 20 PPG through the first three contests, before going down to injury after Hamilton’s 11/22 game against Cazenovia. He really jumped out of nowhere after only playing in 12 contests last year, averaging a meager 3.0 PPG. His 3.0 REB/G and 2.3 A/G are solid to back up his shooting ability. Unfortunately for the Continentals he will likely be out until the end of January, handing the reins into Hoffmann’s hands for the time being. The sophomore guard was an everyday starter last year for coach Stockwell’s squad and played well, averaging 12.7 PPG, rebounding well for the shooting guard position, and played nearly 28 minutes per contest. Since he took over for Doyle, he has greatly improved from a season ago and has upped his totals to 17.6 PPG (a team-high), delivering a huge 24 point performance that made the difference against Clarkson on November 26th. If he can put together more games like that and continues to become a force in the paint, and Doyle returns in full force, the Continentals could have a powerful 1-2 punch at this spot as the 6’ 5’’ Hoffmann and 6’ 4’’ Doyle are sure to rain down points to get more minutes. If these two step on the court at the same time, NESCAC defenses better look out.
Forward/Guard Joe Pucci ‘18
Pucci has to be the biggest player listed as a guard in the ‘CAC. The 6’6’’ junior is the second of the Hamilton upperclassmen starters, and like both Grassey and Doyle, he has made a big jump from last season into the starting lineup where there was little turnover in terms of graduates, and has nearly doubled his REB/G from 2.5 to 4.7. His scoring has gone up to 7.5 PPG from 5.3 in 2016, but because his shooting percentage has sunk by nearly 4%, these offensive numbers likely aren’t sustainable once Hamilton starts facing tougher opponents like Amherst and Wesleyan. However, as was the case in 2016, consistency is a big factor here with Pucci. He has thrown up some good shooting games (over 30% FG) and some real duds (under 20% FG) like in the 9-point loss to Catholic University and a win over Oswego. Every team would be great if their best players played their A-game every day, but there is a reason why Hamilton was only 2-8 in the NESCAC last year, and they need more of that A-game out of Pucci.
Forward Michael Grassey ’19
Grassey is a good inside scorer and a great compliment to the rebounding-dominant Groll playing the big man, greatly improving on last year and cementing himself as a starter. This allows Hamilton to gain the rotational consistency that Coach Stockwell focused on when defining how the 2017 squad would make the leap to finish out close games and take the non-conference success to the ‘CAC. The relatively undersized 6’3’’ power forward is comparable to Draymond Green in that size plays little role in how he can play in the paint. He is dominating thus far after not starting a single game in his rookie campaign. He came into his own in the winter portion of last season, and he has earned a starting position this year as a result of his hard work on the court and in the weight room. Grassey is hitting his stride right at the optimal time, putting up over 20 points for three straight games in December and averaging 15.8 PPG overall thus far. His shooting percentage has been off the charts recently, and Hamilton is going to have a shot in a lot of conference games if Grassey keeps this up.
Forward Andrew Groll ‘19
The Hamilton big man is bringing down boards with Grassy at 7.8 per game in 2016 and 7.4 per game thus far through ten games. The 6’7’’/230lb. New York native is a great second half to a two headed rebounding monster, but Groll doesn’t quite score the same way in the paint that Grassey has been able to. Grassey’s shooting accuracy trumps Groll’s as the latter big man, albeit he takes consistently about half the amount of shots. In Hamilton’s narrow loss to Middlebury last January, Groll hauled in 14 boards, showing that he is a big defensive force and is certainly one of the biggest playmakers on this team. Keep in mind that he was having many double-digit rebounding performances against these ranked NESCAC teams as a freshman, and while he might not be a shooter, Dwyer has made sure that the issue of distributing to other scorers is taken care of. Groll should begin to blossom as a force in the paint and will come into his own as a defensive weapon in his sophomore conference-season.
X-Factor:Guard Kena Gilmour ‘20
Pretty much all of the starters except for Dwyer who is a staple of consistency are going to be X-Factors for the Continentals as they are still younger and less experienced in big games than some of the top NESCAC opponents. However, with Pucci, Groll, and even Dwyer not representing big scoring threats, freshman Kena Gilmour has stepped up as a big time scorer off of the bench. Gilmour dropped 26 against Clarkson, one of two games where he played more than 20 minutes, and has been consistent other than one poor game against Eastern where he went 0-4 in a four point loss. He is putting up 10 PPG off of the bench, with a 55.6% FG and should fit into coach Stockwell’s system well as the season ages. The smooth lefty guard was a two time All-New England player in high school, and he should be a big time player in his time at Hamilton.
Hamilton undoubtedly has a strong core here between Dwyer, Doyle, Hoffmann, Grassey, Pucci, Groll, and Gilmour and won’t lose any of them until after next season. Their 8-2 start is clearly a big step in the right direction, coupled with several of their starters making huge improvements from a season ago. While all of that is great news for any Continental fan, keep in mind that the jump from 2-8 in conference to a NESCAC contender is even bigger. Coach Stockwell is experienced in this league, has been to the playoffs twice, and obviously won’t take anything for granted from this talented group. However, since just eight teams make the playoffs, Hamilton is going to need to pull off a couple upsets if they want to make there way into the NESCAC tournament. They have the talent, but it is their youth that provokes a question mark.
Hamilton’s experience in close losses from last year should give them an edge in similar situations this year, and if they can close in the final minutes, the Continentals should very well snatch one of those eight golden NESCAC tickets. Their 8-2 record may be slightly misleading, as even though Catholic and Eastern are solid teams, the best achievement of either is that Catholic played Notre Dame in an exhibition match (and then lost 103-48…). Other NESCAC teams are playing tough competition, gearing up for what should be a close and hard-fought regular season, and Hamilton could potentially struggle to keep up. If their players can play the same way against better teams, they will be just fine. In theory, Hamilton’s talent should be enough to propel them into the middle of the NESCAC standings, but any fan of NESCAC basketball knows that it is the intangibles that separate good teams from great teams in this conference. Who is going to step up as leaders in crunch time? Who is going to rally the troops when their backs are against the wall? Hamilton has what it takes to beat some of the top teams in this conference, it’s just a matter of whether or not they can put everything together and make it happen.
Thanksgiving break was an exciting time for a lot of people. Rory got weirdly competitive with his mom, I watched 3 seasons of VEEP in four days, and there were also a couple NESCAC basketball games that we should mention. The upper crust of the league continued to play well for the most part (although Middlebury had a wakeup call that we will get to momentarily), while Bowdoin and Connecticut College continued to rise from the lower ranks. There are star performances to be discussed, questions to be raised, predictions to get wrong, and it’s just really good to be back. We’re rested, refreshed and 10 to 15 pounds heavier, so let’s get down to it with this week’s talking points.
Terrible nickname, good team? Connecticut College has appeared ready to make a leap for several years now. A win over eventual champion Middlebury last season marked the Camels as a potential Cinderella team, but they never again reached that point, missing the tournament entirely. But so far they have looked very much like the team that shocked the Panthers in 2016. Senior forward (and charter member of the ‘How Long Has He Been in College’ All Star Team) Zuri Pavlin has held down the boards and provided a strong post presence with averages of 12 points and 11 rebounds per game. Indeed, the Camels have done much of their damage in the paint, averaging 84 points per game despite only making 7 threes per game (third to last in the league) and shooting 65% from the line. It is very possible that Connecticut College’s success is unsustainable once league play begins, as their poor shooting could cost them in close games. But it is also possible that the Camels are over the hump (I’m so sorry) and will contend for the rest of the year.
A brilliant and handsome basketball analyst predicted before the season began that, if Bates had any hopes of contending in the league this season, the Delpeche twins would have to combine to carry the team on their shoulders. Alright fine, not exactly a brilliant insight. “Oh really Pete? For a team to be good, the two best players have to be good? You’re a genius!” But the fact remains Malcolm and Marcus are putting up the best twin performance since Mary Kate and Ashley Olson in Full House. The Brothers Delpeche have combined to average 31 points and 22 rebounds per game, and Malcolm is the early leader for Defensive Player of the Year thanks to his 4 blocks per night average. The joint success of Malcolm and Marcus has Parent-Trapped (because they’re twins!) opponents on both ends, and if they keep it up, Bates could turn some heads come league play.
To use an understatement. the Cardinals appear to be weathering the departures of Rashid Epps and BJ Davis fairly well. Wesleyan has jumped out to a 5-0 start, using a balanced attack led by senior forward Joseph Kuo. However, what sets Wesleyan apart from some of the other top teams in the league is their deadly second unit. Sophomore guard Salim Green is the most explosive sixth man in the league, average 12.4 in 24 minutes. Fellow guard Jordan Sears ‘18 and forward PJ Reed ‘17 follow Green and give coach Joe Reilly maybe the most versatile second unit in the league, along with Amherst. Green in particular will clearly push for starters’ minutes as the season goes on, but keeping him on the bench could be a lethal weapon for the Cardinals.
The Panthers have hit a bump in their road to a second consecutive league title. On Sunday they blew a 17 point lead and dropped a heartbreaker at home to an excellent Endicott team 93-89, and on Tuesday night they again threatened to lose a double digit lead at home before big plays by Matt St. Amour ‘17, Zach Baines ‘19 and Adisa Majors ‘18 led them to a 79-72 win over RPI. The main problems for the Panthers have been defensive, as a lack of communication and poor rebounding led to many easy looks and second chances in both games. Middlebury has also had virtually no bench production. The second unit has only scored 15 points total in the last two games. This is partially due to the loss of Hilal Dahleh ‘19 with a back injury, but Middlebury desperately needs some life off the bench. It is of course beneficial in the long run for the Panthers to work out these kinks by playing good teams before league play begins, but Middlebury has some real problems to solve before Amherst and Tufts come calling.
Peter Hoffmann ‘19
Hamilton has been another team off to a surprisingly hot start in 2016, and that is thanks in large part to the play of sophomore Peter Hoffmann. After missing the first two games, Hoffmann has come in and dropped 20 points and 5 rebounds per game, as well as 3.3 steals. A versatile forward, Hoffmann does most of his damage in the paint and from the mid-range. Interestingly, he has struggled tremendously from the line, shooting only 45% despite attempting nearly 8 per game. That number will have to improve, or else he may have the ignomious status of being both Hamilton’s best player and biggest liability come league play.