Wisdom Comes Not With Age: Bates Men’s Basketball Season Preview

Bates College Bobcats 

2016-2017 Record: 15-10 (4-6 NESCAC), lost to Middlebury in NESCAC Quarterfinals

2017-2018 Projected Record: 12-12 (2-8 NESCAC)

Key Losses:

F Malcolm Delpeche ’17 (13.2PPG, 8.8REB/G, 3.1BLK/G)

F Marcus Delpeche ’17 (15.1PPG, 9.7REB/G, 54.3% FG)

G Jerome Darling ’17 (8.2PPG, 2.9AST/G)

Projected Starting Lineup: 

G: Shawn Strickland ’18 (Injured most of 2016-2017)

Shawn Strickland
Shawn Strickland ’18 (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

Leading a relatively unproven crowd in the 2017-2018 campaign is team captain Shawn Strickland. After a successful sophomore year, Strickland was injured for most of last season, playing sparingly at the end. He is a tenacious on-ball defender who provides a pesky matchup for whoever he is guarding. His ability to score and his outstanding court vision make him a threat on offense, but the Bobcats are going to need him to expand his range this year. He has shown that he is capable of knocking down the occasional 3-pointer, but with the loss of the Delpeche twins, he will have to show that he can provide a much more substantial amount of offense. What really sets Strickland apart is his basketball IQ. He is a very mature ball-handler who has to be prepared to quarterback a team that is very underclassmen-oriented, and keep the game at the pace Bates would like.

G: Nick Gilpin ‘20 (5.2PPG, 3.6REB/G, 3.6AST/G)

Nick Gilpin
Nick Gilpin ’20 (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

For much of his first season, Gilpin subscribed to the “coach’s son” stereotype, pretty evenly filling out the stat sheet. What was nice about Gilpin’s freshman season is that he showed steady improvement as the year went on, developing into his role as a starter. While he may not be a massive presence on the floor, his surprising athleticism helps him in rebounding as well as absorbing contact and finishing around the rim. He, too, will need to expand his range to help the new-look Bobcat offense, because their four-guard offense is only going to be successful if they can stretch the floor and knock down threes. Gilpin spent a lot of time at point guard last season and will likely continue to do so this season, so maturity from him will be crucial if he wants to keep up with the terrific guard play throughout the conference.

G: Jeff Spellman ’20 (9.6PPG, 2.9 REB/G, 51.4% FG)

Jeff Spellman
Jeff Spellman ’20 (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

Perhaps no one will be more vital for the Bobcats’ success this season than Jeff Spellman. Although he only stands at 6’2”, Spellman is one of the best athletes in the NESCAC. He did not see full minutes after coming off injury last year, and only had one start, but his style of play will likely benefit most from the loss of Malcolm and Marcus. While they were absolute beasts down low, Spellman requires space, and they planted themselves in the middle, often clogging the paint. His skill in creating shots coupled with his ability to get to the rim and finish through contact makes him one of the most deadly guards in the league. This talent did not get a chance to fully blossom with the Delpeches down low, so look for Spellman to explode into a breakout second year.

G: Max Hummel ’19 (6.7PPG, 35.6% 3P%)

Max Hummel
Max Hummel ’19 (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

Hummel has an interesting role on this year’s team because at 6’4”, he’s one of the taller players on the roster; however, he likes to play around the perimeter. This is acceptable, because he shoots threes at a solid 35.6% clip, but this team needs more production than just that. The rebounding void that the twins left results in a team-wide need to crash the boards. I’m not saying Hummel needs to be hauling in 10 rebounds a game, but he will need to produce more than the 1.9REB/G he was contributing last season.

This spot in the starting lineup is definitely up for grabs, because with Hummel’s de facto responsibility as a role player, much time in this spot will rotate between a few people. Tom Coyne ’20 and Justin Zukowski ’18 will help expand the court with sharpshooting abilities off the bench in this spot. Bates’ biggest issue is size, because they will start only one player over 6’3”, so if they are looking to go with a bigger lineup, we will definitely see them go deeper into the bench to be able to match the size of some of the other NESCAC powers.

C: Nick Lynch ’19 (Injured most of 2016-2017)

Nick Lynch
Nick Lynch ’19 (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

A lot remains to be seen from Nick Lynch ’19, because he is another Bobcat that is entirely unproven. His size at 6’7”, 230lbs makes him an obvious choice to play at the 5 in this lineup, but what to expect out of him is a bit of a question mark. He got decent minutes as a freshman, but was injured for almost the entirety of the 2016-2017 season so he has a lot to prove this season as one of the older players in the lineup. With the fast-paced offense that Bates expects to run, Lynch will have to spend time on the bench getting rest, especially after not having played a full season in two years. Lynch’s role is akin to that of Aron Baynes on this year’s Celtics squad: clog the paint, rebound, and hit a shot once in a while. He, too, is part of the supporting cast to go along with Bates’ up and coming backcourt, but how his talents will be utilized within the offensive scheme is yet to be seen.

Breakout Player:

 G: Jeff Spellman ’20 (9.6PPG, 2.9 REB/G, 51.4% FG)

When I said that Spellman was going to have a breakout second season, I meant it. Ever since stepping on campus last fall, Spellman has bit quite the enigma. After being recruited by a number of strong Division I programs in the northeast, Spellman ultimately enrolled at Stonehill to play on the basketball team there. He spent less than a week there before deciding to take a gap year, and reopen his recruiting process. Enter Coach Furbush. Furbush had always kept an eye on Jeff, but made sure to keep his distance when he clearly had his sights set on playing at the Division I or II levels. As it turns out, this was exactly what Spellman was looking for, so he elected to take his talents to Lewiston and famed Alumni Gym.

Jeff Spellman ’20 is a dark horse candidate for the scoring title this season.

Like I said before, Spellman is athletic specimen who has one of the quickest first steps in the league. His ability to score and defend almost any sized guard makes him one of the most versatile players on this team. The most is going to be asked of him, because his ceiling is by far the highest of anyone on the roster. He got his feet wet last year, but Bates will need him to dive all the way in if they are going to have success.

Everything Else:

Bates will certainly see some of the biggest changes of any team this season. Graduating two of the biggest nightmares in recent NESCAC memory results in a completely new scheme under Coach Furbush. As a coach, he and the Bates staff have always prided themselves on being defensive-minded, liking to grind out wins in low-scoring games, often in the 60s and even 50s. Like the best tend to do, Furbush tailored their game plan around what they have: athletic shooters who like to run. The Bobcats will live by the mantra that the best defense is a good offense, because for them to be effective this season, they will have to spread the floor, shoot a lot of threes, and run. From a fan’s perspective, this will make Bates games infinitely more fun to watch, as many of their scores will end in the 80s and 90s. You may have noticed that I have barely mentioned defense at all thus far, and that was fully intentional. Truthfully, the defense is going to be lacking, but with this Golden State Warriors-esque offensive game plan it is hard to envision many low scoring games this season.

Ask anyone in the game and they will tell you that there is no such thing as a “building year.” While I am not saying that the ‘Cats need to rebuild, they have a ton of youth on their roster, with 11 of their 17 players being either a freshman or sophomore. This means that a lot will be asked of the youngsters, even the freshman. The addition of James Mortimer ’21 and Sunny Piplani ’21 gives Bates a bit more size that they had been lacking. Mortimer ’21 will definitely see extended minutes, because at 6’4”, he has the size to defend just about any position, while his athleticism will keep him on the floor in the high-speed offense. Piplani ’21 offers a much-needed 3 and D type presence. He is a deadly sharpshooter who will be crucial in spreading the floor, but he will be asked to rebound and defend against some of the biggest players in the conference, so we’ll see what he has to offer.

Another exciting newcomer is Kody Greenhalgh ’20. Although he was recruited to play both football and basketball at Bates, Greenhalgh decided to only play football last season. This year, he committed to basketball, where he is likely more talented anyways. His athleticism at guard provides another option to employ in this scheme that will require a lot of moving parts. The depth that he brings will be important, especially because he joins this guard-heavy sophomore class.

Because of all the youth that Bates has, their early season, non-NESCAC schedule will be huge for their development. They have matchups with Trinity, Bowdoin, and Colby prior to winter break, none of which count towards the conference standings. These games will be hugely important in the maturation of the young guys, because getting to feel the intensity of a NESCAC game without the same stakes allows them to try different things and see what fits best with their team. Last year Bates lost at home to Colby by a point, but then went on to beat them handily in the game that actually counted, so we are able to see how vital those early-season games are.

Bates enjoys the best home court advantage in the league.

Although Bates enjoys by far the best home court advantage in the league, the scheduling gods were nice to opponents this year. Two of the five home conference games will be played when students haven’t returned to campus yet. As a Bates fan, this is devastating news, because almost every year the Bobcats are able to pull off a home upset like they were last year, handling then-no. 4 nationally ranked Tufts. A disclaimer for Amherst, Trinity, and Hamilton who have road trips to Lewiston at the very end of the year: come to play, because no one forgets their visit to Alumni Gym.

We’re Talking About Playoffs?!: Bates at Middlebury Preview

#7 Bates (15-9, 4-6) @ #2 Middlebury (21-3, 8-2), 2:00 PM, Middlebury, Vermont

(Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)


Going into last Sunday’s Williams-Bates game, Middlebury had a chance to play Bates, Williams or possibly Hamilton depending on the outcome. Bates drew the short straw, dropping the game 65-62 and now has to play maybe the hottest team in the country. And what’s worse, the Panthers will be at home with all the students back. In order to have a chance in this game, Bates will need to slow Middlebury down, get terrific performances from both Delpeches and their perimeter players, and also catch Middlebury on an off-shooting night (something they haven’t truly had since they lost to Williams.) It’s a tall order, but stranger things have happened.

Middlebury X-Factor: Bryan Jones ‘18

Bryan Jones ’17 (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

Jones has been one of the biggest surprises of league play, averaging nearly 10 points per game. His 53% shooting from three leads the league during NESCAC play. He has given the Panthers backcourt, already extremely lethal, another weapon. His deadeye shooting has made it impossible for teams to load up on Matt St. Amour ‘17 on the perimeter, opening up driving lanes for him and also Jack Daly ‘18 and Jake Brown ‘17. It is due in large part to Jones being a threat that all the Middlebury guards’ stats have jumped up in league play.

However, Jones struggled on Tuesday against Plattsburgh State. Starting in place of Jake Brown, Jones shot 2-11 from the field and 0-5 from three. It was a surprising return to the inconsistency that has dogged Jones throughout his career, and inconvenient timing for its reappearance at that. If Brown misses more time, Middlebury can’t afford to give stronger defensive teams than Plattsburgh the ability to trap St. Amour on the perimeter, taking away his three point shots and much-improved mid-range game. While Jack Daly ‘18 is more than capable of handling point guard responsibilities in Brown’s absence (by “more than capable,” I mean “flirts with a triple-double”) he is not quite a three point threat. Jones doesn’t have to be white hot, but he needs to give Bates a reason to guard him or else the Panthers could be in for a long night.

Bates X-Factor: Jeff Spellman ‘20

Jeff Spellman ’20 chases down a loose ball (Courtesy of Bates Athletics).

Spellman, a transfer who arrived shortly before league play began, is a similar player to Jones but has recently been trending in a different direction. He sits third in the league overall in three point percentage at 41.7%, but has only shot 30.8% in league play. Against Williams he shot just 4-11 from the field and 1-7 from three. He did add 7 assists, but without his jumpshot Bates has very little offense outside of post-ups from the Delpeches. Pounding the ball into the post is an effective way to slow down the game, which is certainly the impulse when game-planning against Middlebury. But if Bates doesn’t have any outside shooting threats around their Twin Peaks (reboot 2017 let’s goooooo), the Panthers will do just what they did to Ed Ogundeko – swarm them whenever they get the ball, creating turnovers and forced, empty possessions. Spellman will be the key in taking away this part of Middlebury’s defensive gameplan.

How Bates Can Win:

They need to find someway to keep the score low. Middlebury is averaging 99 points per game in league play at home, and put up 97 against Trinity even without Brown. The natural way to do this would be to pound the ball on offense, taking time off the shot clock and preventing Middlebury’s offense from getting the ball. They have the ability to do this thanks to the Delpeches. Having two big men who are threats to score on the block prevents Middlebury from doubling big-to-big, and should create open threes or one-on-one post-ups. Bates will have to be raining fire from outside to make this strategy work, or else Middlebury’s offense is certainly fast enough to make up for lost time.

On defense, Bates will have to take away the three point shot. By jumping Matt St. Amour on the perimeter, they will take away his three-pointer and funnel him towards the Delpeches, who are both dangerous shot blockers. With Jack Daly, they will most likely leave him alone from three. However, it will be imperative to guard him one-on-one. St Amour will of course require double teams, but leaving a man open when Daly has the ball is asking for a bucket. He’s too good a passer, and Middlebury’s big men are getting too good at finishing at the rim to be left alone. Daly beating men off the dribble also creates open three-point shots. If Bates can take away those threes and funnel drives towards the Delpeches (particularly Malcolm), that leaves Middlebury pull-up, midrange jump-shots. These are inefficient shots, and will allow the Delpeches to own the boards. Bates is certainly an underdog here, but there’s a thin path to victory for them.

How Middlebury Can Win

I’m having trouble finding an answer for this other than “continue doing exactly what they’ve been doing.” Middlebury’s offense has reached a level lately that few NESCAC teams have ever achieved, but their defense on the interior has finally caught up. Middlebury is always going to give up points because of their fast paced offense (quick shots=long rebounds, fast breaks for the other team) but they have quietly gotten very good in the half court. The guards have of course always been excellent, but the big men have improved leaps and bounds, especially Eric McCord ‘19. McCord has become very quick on rotations and hedging the pick and roll, and provides a nice fundamental counterpart to Nick Tarantino’s athleticism. Interior defense will be the key to Middlebury’s strategy in this game, as the Delpeches are the key to Bates’ offense. I expect Middlebury to double heavily on either Delpeche from the perimeter on defense, and dare Bates’ guards to make threes. On offense, all the Panthers need to do is more of the same. Run, hit shots and move the ball around the perimeter until a lane opens up.

Final Thoughts

Although Bryan Jones and Jeff Spellman are undoubtedly the lead guards off the bench for their respective teams, the other members of the bench mobs deserve credit. Crowd favorite (and NbN writer, no big deal) Liam Naughton has clawed his way into the rotation as a steadying senior presence on the court, as well as a three point threat. He will be important in the tournament, as the other two guards off the bench are freshmen Joey Leighton and Perry Delorenzo, neither of whom are quite ready for tournament time. On Bates’ side, the most obvious next threat is Jerome Darling ’17, who has demonstrated his explosiveness scoring the rock a handful of times this season. His biggest performance of the year came in the upset of Tufts, in which Darling 4-9 three-pointers en route to 21 points. Bates could definitely use another superhero performance from Darling this weekend. Elsewhere, the Bobcats will look to Quinlan Leary ‘17 ( a summer camp teammate of yours truly), who has recently moved into the starting lineup to replace Nick Gilpin ‘20, giving Bates more experience and strength on the perimeter. In addition to the need for threes from Spellman, Bates will need Leary, Gilpin, or other guards like Shawn Strickland ‘18 or Justin Zukowski ‘18 to give them surprise firepower off the bench. Basically, everything needs to go right for Bates to have a chance, while Middlebury just needs to keep playing their game.

Writer’s Pick: Middlebury

No More Boornazian, How Will the Bobcats Respond?: Bates Basketball Season Preview

Marcus Delpeche '17 is hoping to turn Bates around after their struggles during the 2015-2016 season (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)
Marcus Delpeche ’17 is hoping to turn Bates around after their struggles during the 2015-2016 season (Courtesy of Josh Kuckens/Bates College)

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

The Bobcats were destined to struggle from the start in 2015-2016, as the graduation of point guard and team engine Graham Safford ‘15 was a difficult storm to weather. Despite a stellar season from forward Mike Boornazian, Bates was unable to make waves in an especially deep NESCAC talent pool, finishing at 2-8 in the league and missing the postseason tournament. And unfortunately, 2016-2017 doesn’t look any easier for the Bobcats, as Boornazian has also moved on to greener pastures. Combined with the marked improvements of Hamilton and Connecticut College, Bates is in danger of again finishing towards the bottom of the league.

However, Bates has two tall beacons of hope in the persons of senior twins Marcus and Malcolm Delpeche. Two of the most athletically gifted big men in the league, neither Marcus nor Malcolm has ever quite dominated like they seem to have the ability to. But this season is their last chance. Marcus has consistently shown a wider array of offensive skills, while Malcolm has proved to be more of a defensive and rebounding force. For Bates to have any chance at success this year, both big men will have to become threats on both ends of the court.

Projected Record: 1-9

2015-2016 Record: 10-14, 2-8, did not make NESCAC tournament

Coach: Jon Furbush, 6th year, 104-99 (.512)

Returning Starters:

Forward Marcus Delpeche ‘17 (11.1 PPG, 6.2 REB/G, 55.8% FG)

Forward Malcolm Delpeche ‘17 (8.4 PPG, 6.4 REB/G, 1.1 BLK/G)

Guard Shawn Strickland ‘18 (8.4 PPG, 3.5 A/G, 33.9% 3FG)

Key Losses:

Forward Mike Boornazian ‘16 (15.0 PPG, 5.8 REB/G, 2.9 A/G)

Guard Josh Britten ‘16 (7.5 PPG, 1.1 STL/G, 38.2% 3FG)

Projected Starters:

Guard Shawn Strickland ‘18

Shawn Strickland
Shawn Strickland ’18 (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

Standing at 5’9” with his high tops on, Strickland is not the most imposing figure on the court. But in an impressive sophomore season, he showcased a variety of skills that make him a key member of the Bates team this season, and next season as well. He averaged 8.4 points and 3.5 assists per game last season after only appearing in five games as a freshman. He even flashed a solid outside shot, hitting 33.9% of his three pointers. In a team that is low on both outside shooting and experience at the guard position, the keys to the offense should be in Strickland’s hands.

Guard Justin Zukowski ‘18

Justin Zukowski
Justin Zukowski (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

Bates still has a lot of uncertainty at the guard position leading up to the first weekend of games, but Zukowski is a serious contender for one of the starting spots. Zukowski appeared in 23 games as a sophomore, earning two starts and an increase in playing time as the season went on. The high point of his season came when he scored 19 points (on 5/9 shooting from three) against Trinity on February 6. As I mentioned earlier, Bates has a severe lack of outside shooting, so Zukowski has a major role to play if he can hit shots like he did that day against Trinity.


Forward Malcolm Delpeche ‘17

Malcolm Delpeche
Malcolm Delpeche ’18 (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

It can be really tough to be a twin, especially when your brother gains the reputation as “the better twin.” For his whole career, Delpeche has been a step behind his brother Marcus in terms of offensive development. Last season was no different, as he averaged only 8.4 PPG to Marcus’ 11.1, and shot only 46.3% from the field. Both those numbers are lower than Bates would like to see them given his talent. Bates’ offense this season should largely run through the two brothers down low, giving Malcolm more opportunities on offense. His biggest role for the Bobcats is on the defensive end, where he averaged 0.9 steals and 1.1 blocks per game. He is a smarter, more versatile defender than his brother, and is Bates’ truest rim protector.

Forward Marcus Delpeche ‘17


Breakout Player: Forward Marcus Delpeche ‘18

Bates will most likely run their offense largely through the Delpeche twins. And as the more offensively polished of the pair, Marcus should get tremendous offensive opportunities. At times last season he showed excellent footwork on the block, and has had the athleticism and touch to be an elite finisher at the basket. One area in which he needs to improve if he wants to make a first team run (which is within reason) is passing out of double teams. It was too easy last year to force him into turnovers by applying pressure. His defense and rebounding numbers will also need to go up. His brother takes some blocks and rebounds away of course, but Marcus is too often slow on help defense. If he can average 1.5 blocks and 8 rebounds, very reasonable numbers for a player of his skills, he could be a legit first team candidate. And more importantly, Bates could be considerably better than we predict.

Everything Else:

Bates has a very unconventional team for the current structure of the NESCAC. They are short on guards, and led by two big men in Malcolm and Marcus Delpeche. This obviously gives them some advantages, as there aren’t many teams in the league that can match up athletically with that frontcourt. However, even if both those guys become scoring threats inside, teams that have three point shooters will probably outscore Bates pretty consistently. You can’t shoot threes from the low block (Editor’s Note: Fact).

The fifth starting spot for Bates is still up for grabs. It will probably have to be a guard, as neither Delpeche brother is skilled enough to play on the perimeter as a 3. In that case, the starter will most likely be a freshman. Bates has a strong class of guards, all of whom will compete for minutes and possibly that starting spot. Nick Gilpin ‘20 may have the edge given his good size for a guard (6’3”, 185.) There are also several returning candidates to fill out the starting lineup. Quin Leary ‘17 (who I won a Hoop Camp championship with in 2008, no big deal) and Jerome Darling ‘17 would both provide experience at that spot. It may honestly come down to a game time decision between the freshman, Leary and Darling for the final starting spot. Given Bates’s need for perimeter scoring, the decision will probably be based mostly on whoever shows the most offensive firepower over the next couple days of practice.

I want to close this article with a love note to Bates’ Alumni Gym. It is, quite simply, the best gym in the league. Not in terms of quality (in fact, there are several weird dead spots on the court where the ball bounces half as high) but in terms of character and viewing experience. There’s something about Alumni Gymnasium that makes basketball seem purer than other gyms around the league. Maybe it’s the way that a miss off the back rim makes every pipe in the building vibrate, or the brick walls that seem straight out of Hoosiers, but Alumni Gym is in tune with the natural rhythms of the game. That feeling is only exacerbated during the season, when Bates’ loyal fans pack the bleachers, creating the most aggressive fan environment in the league. The insanely close proximity of the bleachers to the court increases the intensity. It’s an incredible experience to watch a game there, and I highly recommend it. Bates has a tough road to climb this year, but improvements from the Delpeche brothers and the unwavering support of their fans could make for some surprises out of the Bobcats.

Season Round Ups of the Non-NCAA NESCAC Squads

Bobby Casey '19 and the Williams College Ephs were one of seven NESCAC teams blocked, if you will, from making the NCAA tournament this year. (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
Bobby Casey ’19 and the Williams College Ephs were one of seven NESCAC teams blocked, if you will, from making the NCAA tournament this year. (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

Unfortunately, all 11 NESCAC teams didn’t make it to the NCAA field this year. I feel like a gung ho Hamilton team might have surprised some people, but I guess that’s a moot point now. Check out our brief season reviews for each team and a look at what next season might bring.

Hamilton College Continentals (11-13, 2-8)

It wasn’t a pretty season for the Continentals. While they managed to finished just one game below .500, they only won two NESCAC match ups. They finished tied with Bates for last in the NESCAC in the standing and were 10th in points per game and field goal percentage. Their three point shooting was better – eighth in the NESCAC – but this is a Hamilton team that really struggled to score, but they managed to play some NESCAC teams tough throughout the year, and even bested eventual NESCAC champion Middlebury.

The Conts were much better defensively. In their last game of the year, they held Amherst to 65 points. Their field goal percentage allowed was good for sixth in the league, and they rebounded well, with big man Andrew Groll ’19 leading the way with an impressive 7.8 rebounds per game.

2016-17 Outlook:

Coach Adam Stockwell changed the starting five often throughout the year, so their returners will mostly all have starting experience. Hamilton has youth on their side, as they will only be graduating two players who started as many as nine games. There are only two rising seniors in the rotation, so this roster still has a lot of room to grow. Guards Jack Dwyer ’18, who led the NESCAC in assists at 5.5 per game, and Peter Hoffmann ’19 will be the top scoring returners. Other players who could develop include Michael Grassey ’19, fourth in the conference with 46 percent from 3PT range, and Groll, fourth in the league at 7.8 rpg and third with 1.8 blocks per game.

Bates College Bobcats (10-14, 2-8)

Bates was the worst team in the NESCAC this season. Let’s take a look at some of their NESCAC rankings.

  • Ninth in ppg and last in field goal percentage
  • Tenth in 3PT percentage, but they took the most threes in conference games
  • Ninth in free throw percentage.
  • Eleventh in defensive rebounding
  • Tenth in turnovers.
  • Eighth in personal fouls

What’s worse for the Bobcats is that they will lose captain Mike Boornazian ’16, who finished seventh in the NESCAC in minutes, and was named to the Maine All-State team for the third time. Although he struggled shooting the ball this year, with a 36.5 field goal percentage and a 29.5 mark from deep, he still led the team in points, and was a reliable 15 ppg player the last three years for Bates.

2016-17 Outlook:

There aren’t many positive things to focus on for Bates. Bates players are hard to find among the NESCAC individual stat leaders. One area of note is that the Bobcats will rely heavily on the Delpeche twins next season. Center Malcolm Delpheche ’17 was fifth in blocks in the NESCAC at 1.1 per game, and forward twin brother Marcus Delpeche ’17 was also an important starter for the Bobcats. The growth of sophomore guard Shawn Strickland ’18, coming off of a solid season, will also play a significant role in Bates’ success next year. Their next batch of freshman will likely play a large role in determining their fate in 2016-17. They have a lot they need to improve before they can be competitive in the NESCAC again.

Connecticut College Camels (12-12, 3-7)

Zuri Pavlin '17 and the Camels have plenty of time to reflect on this season before they make a NESCAC run next year. (Courtesy of Conn College Athletics)
Zuri Pavlin ’17 and the Camels have plenty of time to reflect on this season before they make a NESCAC run next year. (Courtesy of Conn College Athletics)

The NESCAC’s southernmost team finished 12-12 overall, and went 3-7 in conference play in 2015-16. They had fine averages across the board offensively, with 79.3 ppg and an efficient 46.1/37.7/73.8 percent slash line. No single player ran their offense, as seven Camels players averaged over 6.5 ppg, and each of their top six averaged 9.5 ppg or more. The 2015-16 Camels lacked a star, however, with top scorer Lee Messier ’18 averaging 13.8 ppg. Connecticut won’t be scrambling to replace seniors next year. Their only graduating starter is Bo McKinley ’16, and he was essentially their sixth man. They’ll still have forward Zuri Pavlin ’17 (8.6 rebounds per game, good for third in the league), Lee Messier (44.9 percent from 3PT range, fifth in the NESCAC), and Tyler Rowe ’19 (fifth in the league in steals, with 1.5 per game).

2016-17 Outlook:

A full season out of Lee Messier could help the Camels become more of a NESCAC threat. They’ll also benefit from a balanced starting lineup next year, potentially heading into 2016-17 with a nice balance of two seniors, a junior, and two sophomores. They had the fifth-best offense in the NESCAC this year, and because they won’t lose any high impact seniors, they’ll have a good chance to repeat or improve on that ranking next year. Their key will be improving a defense that finished second to last in the NESCAC.

Colby College Mules (16-9, 4-6)

Predicting 2016-17 for the Mules is problematic for one very obvious reason: They will graduate their top five scorers. Their starting five was purely seniors this year.

What does that say about the team’s outlook going forward? Did head coach Damien Strahorn not trust any of his underclassmen in starting roles? Was this a failed “win now” attempt? Whatever the reason, finding a new starting five is going to be a challenge for the Mules.

2016-17 Outlook:

This Colby team has more questions and more unknowns going into next year than any other team in the league. Their returning players simply didn’t get extensive playing time, so it’s difficult to know what to expect, except for regression. It’s always hard to replace a 15 ppg player, let alone two of them (Chris Hudnut ’16 and Ryan Jann ’16), and on top of that they’ll lose Patrick Stewart ’16, who led the league in three point shooting this season (52.3 percent).

Bowdoin College Polar Bears (12-11, 4-6)

The Polar Bears boasted arguably the best senior and best freshman in the NESCAC this season, but even all of that firepower wasn’t enough to make any kind of legitimate run at the NESCAC title. Bowdoin snuck its way in to the NESCAC tournament with a two-win weekend at the end of the season, but were dispatched by Amherst in the first round. While losing the scoring punch of Lucas Hausman ’16 will be tough to overcome, perhaps more worrisome is that the Polar Bears were a very bad defensive team this season, and that’s a systemic problem. Hausman himself wasn’t a great defender, so his replacement should provide a plus on that end, but the majority of a rotation that gave up 76.0 ppg will be back. Graduating with Hausman are starters Matt Palecki ’16 and Jake Donnelly ’16. The other starters and role players will be back.

2016-17 Outlook

Prepare for the Jack Simonds ’19 Show to begin. What was once Hausman’s team will now become Simonds’. With his size and shooting ability (45.7% FG, 35.8% 3PT, 89.7% FT), Simonds has POY potential. Surrounding Simonds will be the tough rebounding Neil Fuller ’17 and a couple of freshmen that showed promise but will need to make huge leaps forward in point guard Tim Ahn ’19 and forward Hugh O’Neil ’19. The immediate future isn’t particularly bright for Bowdoin, but with Fuller the only rising senior set to play significant minutes, 2017-18 could be the Polar Bears’ turn to strike.

Williams College Ephs (15-10, 5-5)

The Ephs did several things very well this year, allowing the lowest field goal percentage and shooting the highest percentage from the field in league games. They were the NESCAC model of efficiency. On top of that, they made the second most three pointers in NESCAC games. Surprisingly, the Ephs struggled overall statistically, ending up 10th in rebounding, last in steals, and seventh in blocks. Despite those areas of concern, Williams only allowed 66.2 ppg, the best mark in the league.

Williams enjoyed an incredibly balanced starting five this year, going with a senior, a junior, two sophomores and a freshman, so they’re well set for 2016-17. Essentially, the only senior they will lose is center Edward Flynn ’16 who averaged 7.1 ppg and 5.4 rpg.

2016-17 Outlook:

Their senior losses are very manageable, and by the numbers, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be very competitive next season. The best news for Williams? They return Daniel Aronowitz ’17, who was third in the NESCAC at 18.2 points per game, fifth with 7.4 rebounds per game, and fifth in minutes. With their strong percentages across the board, and a NESCAC stud in Aronowitz, Williams should be able to top their 5 -5 record from this season. They struggled in their two games against Amherst, but Williams’ other NESCAC losses against Tufts and Middlebury were close games. Williams might not be far off from returning to the top of the heap.

Wesleyan (18-7, 5-5)

This is a Cardinals team that really struggled to score, finishing near the bottom of the league in most offensive categories, but their strong defense buoyed them throughout the year. They were the fourth-best scoring defense in conference games and had a +2.5 rebounding margin in NESCAC games.

The loss of BJ Davis ’16 will hurt the Cardinals, potentially more than the loss of any player in the NESCAC. He was an all-around player, and a workhorse for Wesleyan, leading the league in minutes. He didn’t miss a game in 2015-16. His overall production put him among the NESCAC elite, with 16.4 ppg – fifth in the NESCAC – and 1.4 steals per game – seventh in the conference.

2016-17 Outlook:

Kevin O’Brien ’19 was the only freshman or sophomore to get a start for this Wesleyan squad. They graduate three contributing seniors, but PJ Reed ’17, Harry Rafferty ’17 and Joseph Kuo ’17 all have significant experience. Kuo was second in scoring at 11.1, so offense will be a big concern for the Cardinals. Without Davis, the Cardinals will probably have to go back to the formula of a year ago, sharing the scoring equally among half a dozen players. It’ll be a tall order to replace the talented point man.

On the Road Again: Weekend Preview 1/22

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

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

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

Two to Watch

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

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

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

Two Storylines to Follow

1. Wesleyan drawing a line in the sand.

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

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

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

2. Who leads the way for Amherst.

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

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

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

Friday Game Predictions

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Trinity over Colby 72-63

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

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

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

Prediction: Tufts over Wesleyan 71-67

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

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

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

Prediction: Amherst over Bowdoin 87-74

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

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

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

Prediction: Conn College over Bates 72-59

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

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

Prediction: Williams over Hamilton 68-60

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

It’s All about the U … Tufts U: Tuesday Stock Report 1/12

The Jumbos have a lot to celebrate after destroying two NESCAC opponents this weekend. (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
The Jumbos have a lot to celebrate after destroying two NESCAC opponents this weekend. (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

I hate to say I told you so … but I did. Of the 10 NESCAC games played this weekend, I correctly picked the winner in eight of those ball games, and one of the games I got wrong – Middlebury over Wesleyan – was in my favor anyway because my team won.

All gloating aside, it was a great weekend of NESCAC basketball for prognosticators and lay folk alike. Predictably, Amherst asserted their dominance over rival Williams, and on the other end Hamilton slumped to an 0-2 start, although both were close games. In the middle, though, there were any number of surprises. Middlebury beats Wesleyan, then loses to Conn? And Conn is 2-0? And so is Tufts, after scoring 194 points and allowing less than 70 per game? And the Ghost of Graham Safford ’15 inhabited Shawn Strickland’s ’18 body on Friday night? Vinny Pace ’18 is a star? Ed Ogundeko ’17 is a scoring machine? This is insanity!

Stock Up:

Tufts PG Vinny Pace ’18

Pace has been putting up good scoring numbers all season and it’s gone relatively unnoticed around here. No longer. The point man had two of his best games of the season and in limited minutes because both contests were blowouts. He’s become the main initiator of the Tufts offense, handling the ball and starting the motion, which is a huge testament to his abilities with a playmaker like Tarik Smith ’17 on the roster. Pace has good size and has been finishing around the rim, while also shooting over 40 percent from deep while taking 5.0+ three pointers per game. He’s our pick for Player of the Week.

Conn College

The Camels were 0-10 in the NESCAC a year ago, and now are miraculously 2-0. They beat Hamilton and Middlebury by a combined five points, but wins are wins, after all. They were able to outlast Hamilton down the stretch by making free throws and shut down the Panthers defensively on the last possession to prevent a game-winner from Middlebury. For a team that is relying heavily on a couple of freshmen, the poise they showed in their first two conference games goes a long way towards making the Camels a contender. They still have a long way to go before they can be considered serious threats to the top tier, but this was a good start.

Middlebury Freshmen

I’ve got to give some love to the youngest Panthers. Swingman Zach Baines ’19, guard Hilal Dahleh ’19 and forward Eric McCord ’19 all played significant minutes this weekend, averaging between 17.5 and 23.0 mpg. It began in the first half against Wesleyan on Friday when the Cards opened up the game with a double digit lead. Coach Jeff Brown immediately went to the youngsters, and they showed up. The Panthers have a top four that they can rely on – F/C Matt Daley ’16 and guards Jake Brown ’17, Matt St. Amour ’17 and Jack Daly ’18 – but Coach Brown is still hunting for the right combination of guys to share minutes with that unit. Perhaps he’s come a bit closer to finding that mix.

Stock Down

Bates Defense

Bates did well to slow down an explosive Colby team, but I’m more focused on the second game of the weekend. Lucas Hausman ’16 now has 43.0 ppg in his last two games against Bates. Excuse me? I don’t know who to blame. I would have expected Mike Boornazian ’16 to be tasked with stopping Hausman, but he wasn’t matched up with the NESCAC POY very often, perhaps allowing him to preserve his energy for the offensive end. The Bobcats could have tried more zone, to stop Hausman from getting eight looks from deep, and they sent him to the line 17 times, which is not a good strategy. Sometimes, great players just beat good defenses, but when it happens two match ups in a row it no longer looks like a fluke.

Colby Offense

As mentioned above, the Mules’ severely underperformed this weekend, particularly on the offensive end. Colby scored under 77 points just once in the Mules’ first 11 games, then put up 69 and 65 on the weekend. Of course, the defensive intensity is turned up in NESCAC play, but Colby failed to rise to the occasion. On the season, Colby is averaging 84.4 ppg on 48.5 percent shooting but shot just 40.0 percent this weekend. Their opponents, Bates and Tufts, have one thing in common – a dominant interior defender. Chris Hudnut ’16 struggled for the Mules, and perhaps Colby just isn’t equipped to compete with a team that has a strong front court.

I don’t feel like picking on anyone in particular, so we’ll end the stock report there. Don’t worry, we’ll have plenty of mean things to say in the coming weeks.

Holiday Power Rankings

Connor Green '16 has had his ups and downs, but he's the leader of a 7-0 Amherst squad and coming off of a 39-point performance against Babson. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
Connor Green ’16 has had his ups and downs, but he’s the leader of a 7-0 Amherst squad and coming off of a 39-point performance against Babson. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

Our effort so far this basketball season has been a little bit lacking, I will admit. As happens with this stuff, school work is getting priority over NESCAC sports blogging (somehow my mom thinks one is more important than the other. Imagine that!). Luckily, I’ve got a little window to give a quick overview of where teams are right now before they take their holiday break. I haven’t seen every single team play yet but I’m getting there.

1. Amherst (7-0)

The only undefeated team left in the league, Amherst is playing more to the level of their talent this year than it did last. As hinted at in the beginning of the year, Coach Dave Hixon has decided to go to a lineup of four shooters surrounding one big man for long stretches, including the starting lineup. He has done this type of lineup in years past, and the Jeffs don’t actually give up a lot in size since Jeff Racy ’17, Michael Riopel ’18, and Johnny McCarthy ’18 all go 6’5″or 6’6″. They are outscoring teams by 24.7 ppg so far, but a lot of that is because when it is a blowout late, Amherst’s back of the bench is still better than the teams they have played so far. Don’t get too excited when the Jeffs blow out teams by 30 because of that depth factor.

2. Wesleyan (7-1)

As many expected, the two finalists from the NESCAC championship game a year ago are the class of the league, with the Cardinals showing that their late run last year was no fluke. Their only loss to Lyndon State is a puzzling one, but it was in the first game of the season and by just two points, 80-78, so we will let that one slide. The balanced attack of last year where anybody could be the leading scorer for a given game has yielded to an attack led by BJ Davis ’16 who is averaging 19.7 ppg on 52.4 percent shooting. Davis has also kept his assist and turnover rate at the exact same as last year, so the ball being in his hands a lot has been a good thing. He also was responsible on Saturday for the game winning shot against Williams.

3. Tufts (6-2)

Nobody plays a harder season opening schedule, and the Jumbos have walked the tightrope to get to 6-2. Three of their wins have come by three points or less, though one of their losses is also by only three points. At this point last year, against a similarly difficult schedule, Tufts was 2-6 (many of those losses were close, too). Turning those close losses into wins I think is a factor of the Jumbos’ perimeter players becoming the leaders scoring-wise. It is easier to get baskets at the end of games with guards than big men. Vincent Pace ’18 (18.3 ppg) is becoming that go-to guy on the perimeter, and other guys like Tarik Smith ’17, Ryan Spadaford ’16 and Stephen Haladyna ’16 give more scoring punch out there. That has made the lack of scoring from star center Tom Palleschi ’17 (11.0 ppg) not too much of an issue.

4. Colby (5-1)

The Mules might chafe at this spot since their only loss was in overtime in the first game of the year, but they also needed a Ryan Jann ’16 three to beat a 2-5 Regis team by a point. I got to see them play on Saturday against Bowdoin, and the skill on offense is there to play with anyone. All five starters are threats to score the ball, and they do a great job of moving the ball. They lead the league with 19.5 apg, and the return of forward Patrick Stewart ’16 as someone capable of filling it up from deep is a big help. I worry about their defense which is the third-worst in ppg with 76.3. Some of that is because Colby likes to play at a fast pace, but it is still frustrating that a team with five seniors can’t play better team defense.

5. Williams (5-2)

Only one member of the rotation is a senior, two of the three top scorers are freshmen, and two starting guards are injured. Yet the Ephs are 5-2 and had an early 16-point lead over Wesleyan before ultimately losing on that BJ Davis shot. Starting point guard Mike Greenman ’17 could be back for their next game, and shooting guard Chris Galvin ’18 is also supposed to be back after Christmas. I suppose it’s better for the Ephs to be injured early on, as it’s allowing more young players to get minutes. Their game tomorrow against Springfield, a team that beat Trinity, will be another good benchmark for the young team.

6. Trinity (4-2)

Maybe this is a little bit of a disappointing start for the Bantams, but they had some questionable non-conference losses last year also and then went 9-1 in the NESCAC. Neither of their losses are particularly bad, and Coach Jim Cosgrove is also playing a very deep rotation at this point of the season. At a glance, the statistics for their big three of Ed Ogundeko ’17, Jaquann Starks ’16, and Shay Ajayi ’16 aren’t great. Then you realize that none of them is averaging more than 25.0 mpg. So while Ogundeko’s 12.5 rpg is already fantastic, it becomes flat out ridiculous when converted to per 40 minutes: 21.0 with the next closest player at 15.7 rebounds per 40 minutes. The bottom line is the Bantams have the best scoring defense and second-best rebounding margin so far. They are going to be good come NESCAC games.

7. Bowdoin (4-3)

My dear Polar Bears could have really used that win over Colby Saturday, and even though seven feels low, this is a good team, albeit with some potentially killer faults. Two of their three losses are by a combined six points. Lucas Hausman ’16 is a menace, but he isn’t a superhero. Colby did a good job in their win over the Polar Bears of harassing him and not allowing him to get to his favorite spots. Hausman still had 22 points, but it took him 22 shots to get there. For me, I’m interested to see how the identity of the team evolves. Will they become run-and-gun, completely abandoning the ethos of last year, or will they try to still retain some of that defensive identity?

8. Bates (4-2)

Bobcats fans might be a little mad at me for putting Bowdoin over them, but the Bobcats don’t have as good a win as Bowdoin does over Babson, though that Babson loss looks worse and worse every time a NESCAC team wins in overtime against the Beavers. Anyways, the loss of Graham Safford ’15 has not hurt this team offensively at all. Bates is averaging 86.8 ppg, second best in the NESCAC. Mike Boornazian ’16 is the man leading the way with 15.5 ppg. Most encouraging is that the three-point production of not only Safford but also Billy Selmon ’15 and Adam Philpott ’15 has been replaced by guys like Shawn Strickland ’18  and Josh Britten ’16. Britten barely played at all last year, and his shooting is valuable to open up space inside for the Bobcats.

9. Conn College (5-2)

Guess what, the Camels are hot right now! They’ve won five games in a row, and they just had their best win of the season over a 6-3 Eastern Connecticut team that beat Trinity earlier this week. Point guard Tyler Rowe ’19, who had 22 vs. Eastern Connecticut, has very quickly become a starter and is providing a huge spark with 12.3 ppg and 3.1 apg. David Labossiere ’19 is playing so well that the coaching staff can’t keep him off the court, and he just started his first game of the season. Some players are taking smaller roles because of it, but the Camels are playing well together. And don’t look now, but they play vs. Hamilton and Middlebury, the two teams below them in our rankings, in the first weekend of NESCAC play. Could they really open 2-0 in the NESCAC?

10. Hamilton (5-3)

The Continentals are 5-3 even though they are essentially playing without their top three scorers from last year. I say essentially because Ajani Santos ’16 is actually still on the roster and playing, but he is averaging just 1.6 ppg. He has actually been playing more and even got the start last game against Hobart. However, he scored just two points and continues to be somewhat of a mystery. If he is able to get everything straightened out, he would join Peter Hoffmann ’19 and the others on this young nucleus to make a pretty intriguing team. As it is, without him Hamilton is reliant almost entirely on perimeter scoring.

11. Middlebury (4-5)

Do I think Middlebury is the worst team in the NESCAC … well maybe, actually. At this point I can’t put them above anybody. Two of their five wins are blowouts against an 0-8 Johnson State team, but there are a couple of close losses to RPI and Skidmore. The statistics say that Middlebury is 4-5, but again that is colored by those two games vs. Johnson State. Granted, I’ve only been able to watch them for stretches online, but what I’ve seen hasn’t looked great. They have nobody who can score inside besides Matt Daley ’16, and nobody besides Matt St. Amour ’17 looks to be an average or better three point shooter. And they’re young. Daley and Connor Huff ’16 are the only seniors making an impact. We’ll see. 

Brotherly Love: Bates Season Preview

Marcus (left) and Malcolm (right) will take over as the leaders of the Bobcats, both on and off teh court. (Courtesy of Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)
Marcus (left) and Malcolm (right) will join Mike Boornazian ’16 as the leaders for the Bobcats this season. (Courtesy of Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

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

The 2014-2015 season was a historic one for the Bobcats. They finished with the second best record in NESCAC play at 7-3 and the most wins in school history with 21. Their season was put on hold when they lost to Wesleyan, whom Bates had beaten earlier in the year, early in the NESCAC tournament. However, the Bobcats’ impressive record earned them an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, and the Bobcats sure took advantage. Carried by extraordinary defense and scoring contributions from everyone, Bates beat St.Vincent easily in the first round and Stockton in overtime in the second round. Their season came to an end against NESCAC foe Trinity in the Sweet 16 in a crazy atmosphere at the Webster Center at Babson College. They finished the year #22 in the country according to D3Hoops.com.

Coach Jon Furbush brought some new faces into the program this year including assistant coaches Jim Murphy, formerly the women’s coach for the past 21 years, and Mike Tomaino ’15, who played wide receiver for the Bobcats and served as the team’s manager as a student. The Bobcats lose a lot of key players, including two starters from last year, but you better believe Coach Furbush has taken the tournament experience as a building block for this season. The players are surely not thinking about the past season, and are ready to continue their success.

“We have a lot of young guys who are more than capable of filling in for graduated players and have success. We’ll be ready.”  – Mike Boornazian ’16.

2014-2015 Record:

21-7 overall; 7-3  NESCAC (t-2nd); Lost to Wesleyan in NESCAC Tournament Quarterfinals; Lost to Trinity in NCAA Sweet 16

Head Coach: Jon Furbush, 8th Season, 94-85 (.525), Bates College Class of 2005

Returning Starters: Three

Mike Boornazian ’16 (15.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.0 apg)
Malcolm Delpeche ’17 (7.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 1.5 bpg)
Marcus Delpeche ’17 (9.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 58.1% FG)

With three returning starters, the Bobcats are in a good position. Coach Furbush has his newest 1000-point scorer Mike Boornazian back, who will figure to take and make a lot of shots for Bates. Malcolm and Marcus Delpeche can provide a spark at any moment with one of their posterizing dunks.

Projected Starting Lineup

PG Shawn Strickland ’18 (1.2 ppg, 5.5 mpg, 85.7% FT)

Standing at 5’8″ 160 pounds, Shawn Strickland is the new starting point guard for Bates. He has a strong build and knack for getting into the lane and his smaller size contributes to his quickness and allows him to beat defenders off the dribble and create scoring opportunities. Playing in only 5.5 mpg last year, he is a little inexperienced, but this year he is already averaging 24.2 mpg (second on the team) with 11.5 ppg, so expect him to keep helping the Bobcats find ways to win.

SG Josh Britten ’16 (1.2 ppg, 1.1 rpg, 5.5 mpg)

Britten has battled injuries in his first three seasons at Bates and looks to make an impact in a huge way this year. His sample size is small, but this lefty can shoot the three ball very well (44.4 percent so far this year) and play above average defense. His 6’0″ 185-pound frame can be a matchup problem for lighter guards because of his physicality on defense. He is averaging 7.5 ppg this year, scoring a season-high 13 points in a winning effort against Maine-Fort Kent.

SF Mike Boornazian (15.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.0 apg)

Boornazian is the returner who enjoyed the most success last season. At 6’4″ he causes mismatches all over the floor. Guards have trouble defending his three point shot and forwards usually get beat off the dribble. He needs to use this extra attention to facilitate the ball to open shooters as well as push the ball in transition. Look for him to have the ball late in games this year, which is something everyone should be afraid of.

PF Marcus Delpeche (9.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 58.1% FG)

Didn’t I just write about this guy? Oh wait, there are two of them?!?! (NESCAC players let out sigh). Marcus has an athletic 6’7″ frame that leads to him getting a lot of easy buckets. He shot 58.1 percent from the field last year and doesn’t look to be slowing down. He needs to work on staying out of foul trouble as it has limited his minutes so far this season. Expect him to be a part of a lot of big plays for the Bobcats and provide some highlight reel dunks along the way.

C Malcolm Delpeche (7.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 1.5 bpg)

Malcolm is just one of the twin towers for the Bobcats. At 6’8″ 210 pounds, he can jump out of the gym and creates a lot of second chance opportunities. He has improved his midrange game this year, which will cause forwards to press him more, leading to more … you guessed it, dunks. He is second on the team this season with 13.0 ppg and first with 8.5 rpg. And you can’t use the hack-a-Malc method on this Delpeche brother. He is shooting 92.3 percent from the stripe!

Breakout Player: PG Shawn Strickland

Strickland has looked very good so far this season and it looks like he will continue that trend. If he can keep up his play and control the game like a true point guard, the Bobcats won’t miss a beat. He is going to play a lot of minutes for this team so that will give him the opportunity to show everyone that he can ball.

Everything Else

So far Bates is 2-2 on the season, currently on a two-game skid. They look to bounce back this Tuesday, Dec. 8 against Husson at Alumni Gymnasium. One of the problems so far for Bates has been their defense, as they have given up 100 points in two straight games. Scoring has been their strength, scoring a combined 181 points in those loses. Look for Bates to try and push the tempo as the season goes on and start scoring in transition. Strickland can get down the floor quick, and because of Bates’ all-around athleticism this should lead to quick scoring opportunities.

Mike Newton ’16 is the ultimate utility man for Furbush’s team. He can get rebounds in bunches and hit from behind the arc as well. His motor seems to never run out and he will provide solid minutes late in games. Coach Furbush knows how important depth is on a basketball team, and players like G Justin Zukowski ’18, G Quin Leary ’17, F Max Eaton ’17 and PG Jerome Darling ’17 will contribute off the bench. The Bobcats feel and know that they can be a top team in the NESCAC this year. They have a lot of experience returning and some young players showing promise. Bates is poised to stick near the top of the NESCAC standings.

Next Year’s Cats Will Have Historic Shoes To Fill: Bates Basketball Season Wrap-up

The Bates faithful made Alumni Gym a tough place to play, and they travelled in droves to Babson College to watch their Cats face Trinity in the Sweet 16. (Courtesy of Mark Box/Babson College)
The Bates faithful often made Alumni Gym a tough place to play, and they travelled in droves to Babson College to watch their Cats face Trinity in the Sweet 16. (Courtesy of Mark Box/Babson College)

Season Record: 21-7 (7-3), lost in First Round of NESCAC Championship to Wesleyan, lost in Sweet 16 of NCAA Tournament to Trinity

It really was a magical season for the Jon Furbush-led Bobcats in 2014-15. The team won 21 games, topping the program’s previous record; won seven NESCAC games, also a record; hosted Bates’ first home playoff game since 2010; made its first-ever trip to the NCAA Division-III Tournament; won the CBB by sweeping Colby and Bowdoin in early December; and two guards, Graham Safford ’15 and Mike Boornazian ’16 joined the 1,000 point club. Unfortunately, all of those good vibrations did not result in a NESCAC or an NCAA Championship.

The Wesleyan Cardinals came into Alumni Gym and upset the host Bobcats in the NESCAC Quarterfinals, and the Cats fell short against Trinity in the NCAA Sweet 16. Nevertheless, the season ought to be considered a success for Coach Furbush. The question now becomes how Furbush replaces Safford, number 10 on the all-time scoring list, pesky guard Billy Selmon ’15, valuable sixth man Adam Philpott ’15 and fellow captain Cam Kaubris ’15. Luckily for Bates, Marcus and Malcolm Delpeche ’17 will be back to cause havoc yet again, and expect them both to spend a lot of time on their offensive games this offseason. The addition of a 10-foot jumper to the twins’ repertoire that already features high-flying dunks and stout rim protection would be scary for opposing teams. There will be a significant void in the backcourt that begs for a rising star to emerge.

High point: NCAA Tournament victories March 6-7

For a team that was very close to being left out of the tournament field, to best St. Vincent, a team with NCAA Tourney experience, and #17 Stockton was a monumental statement. The Sweet 16 game against Trinity has to be among the most important games in program history. If the Bobcats’ season had ended with a loss in the first round of the NESCAC Tournament it still would have been a nice year, but not the type of campaign that gets remembered. With the pair of NCAA victories, basketball players at Bates will be discussing and looking up to the 2014-15 squad for the foreseeable future.


MVP: PG Graham Safford ’15

Graham Safford '15 in front of the list of 1,000 point scorers in Bates history, a club that he joined on Jan. 6, 2015 in a 60-55 win over Brandeis (Courtesy of Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)
Graham Safford ’15 in front of the list of 1,000 point scorers in Bates history, a club that he joined on Jan. 6, 2015 in a 60-55 win over Brandeis (Courtesy of Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

The work that NbN All-NESCAC First Teamer Graham Safford did this season and in his career transcended the stat sheet. Safford was like a coach on the floor, making life a bit easier for Coach Furbush. And he was pretty good statistically, too: first in the NESCAC in steals per game, third in assists per game, sixth in scoring, and he tallied 5.0 rebounds per game. It’s hard to explain what a player like Safford means to a program, and like the great point guards in the NESCAC from the 2014 class like Aaron Toomey ’14 and Joey Kizel ’14, they really are irreplaceable.

Player to Watch in 2015-16: PG Shawn Strickland ’18

Shawn Strickland '18 (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)
Shawn Strickland ’18 (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

With Selmon and Safford departing, there is a significant need for someone to step up as the point guard for Coach Furbush next season. Expect there to be growing pains. Strickland didn’t play much this season, but neither did any underclassman guard not named Boornazian. Strickland doesn’t have the size that you’d like to see in a starting point guard at 5’8″ 160 lbs., so it might be too much to ask for him to replace Safford’s production from a scoring perspective, but Strickland displays top-notch quickness so he could be a problem for opponents’ point guards on both ends. He didn’t really take enough shots to put any stock in his percentages, but his 19.0 percent rate from the field and 20.0 percentage from deep does not inspire confidence. I’m not sold that Strickland is ready (or will be by next November) to run a NESCAC basketball team, but he very well could be forced into that role.