And Then There Were 64: Tufts and Wesleyan NCAA Opening Previews

Pete previewed the opening rounds for Amherst and Middlebury this morning, so I will do my best to follow in his footsteps with some intel on Tufts and Wesleyan. Both teams earned at-large bids despite earlier than expected exits from the NESCAC tournament, a testament to their consistency and the strength of the conference. Let’s see what each team’s chances to escape their pod are like.


#14 Tufts (20-6, 9-3)

(Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

While they slipped towards the end of the season, particularly in their unimpressive performance in the NESCAC semis, Tufts is in a fine spot. They didn’t earn the top seed in the NESCAC tournament by accident. In fact, aside from Middlebury, I would say that Tufts has the best chance to make a deep run in the tournament because of their depth, especially on the perimeter. If not for the dominance of the Tufts Women’s Basketball Team, the men would be hosting the opening round this weekend instead of St. John Fisher, so don’t sleep on the Jumbos for that reason. Tom Palleschi should be in better health this weekend than he was against Williams last weekend (he logged just 8 minutes), which definitely bodes well for Tufts.


How They Got Here

Like I mentioned above, Tufts’ depth is what they hang their hats on. They generally play 9-10 deep, allowing Coach Sheldon to see who has the hot hand that day and alter the minute distribution accordingly. In the second half, KJ Garrett and Everett Dayton have really taken the reigns offensively in the absence of Palleschi, and Second Team All-NESCAC selection Tarik Smith has continued his steady production from the point guard slot. The spurtability of Eric Savage, Ethan Feldman and Thomas Lapham has been a big boost for the ‘Bos off the bench. Vinny Pace has been a tad inconsistent this year, but his potential to explode offensively is a constant threat for opposing defenses. Given their athletic, guard-heavy lineup, the Jumbos play best when they get out in transition. They are maybe the best team in the league at converting quick hitters off an opposing team basket due to their ability to handle the ball and push the tempo at 1-4, and sometimes even 1-5 when they go small with Garrett at the 5-position.


How They Lose

The biggest area of focus for Tufts should be on the boards and in the paint. Without Palleschi, they have lost their best rebounder, often forcing Ben Engvall and KJ Garrett to match up with much bigger players. While the two are very solid rebounding guards, Pat Racy and Drew Madsen are both smaller than Palleschi, leaving the Tufts lineup at a disadvantage due to the overall lack of size they are rolling out there. Additionally, Palleschi is the biggest shot blocking presence on the roster, and even if he is feeling better this weekend than last, I doubt that his knee will be healthy enough for him to impact shots in the paint the same way that he used to. We saw Williams take advantage of this last weekend, especially Kyle Scadlock, who had 20 and 11 in that semifinal game. Williams outscored Tufts 32-8 in the paint, which points to another vulnerability of the Jumbos – their halfcourt offense. Tufts is SO much better when they can get fastbreak points. They are deep enough that fatigue is not a factor, and it leaves them with many more open threes. The three-pointers that the Jumbos generate out of their halfcourt offense are often forced, leading to low shooting percentages and poor offensive displays. It all starts with the Jumbos controlling the paint – if they can force jumpers out of their opponents, then they will have more opportunities to get out and run.


The Competition

Salem State (17-10, 9-3)

Shaquan Murray (Courtesy of Salem State Athletics)

The Vikings boast a three-pronged attack that features guard Shaquan Murray (15.9 PPG), center Marcus Faison (15.1 PPG) and guard Alex Santos (11.8 PPG). Murray is a premier ball handler who excels at getting to the basket. He is small and quick, and knows how to maneuver in the paint to get good shots. Faison is the Salem State post presence, but he is listed at just 6’5”/215, something the Jumbos NEED to take advantage of. However, thinking back to UMass Boston and Sam Freeman, undersized bigs seem to do well against Tufts, and Faison’s 11.1 rebounds per game seems to indicate that he is primed for a big game tonight. Finally, Santos is the shooter of the bunch. He is a bit bigger than Murray, but he’ll be smaller than most of the Tufts guards. If Tufts can get a hand in Santos’ face, they should be able to keep him in check.


St. John Fisher (22-5, 15-1)

Keegan Ryan (Courtesy of St. John Fisher Athletics)

St. John Fisher put together nearly a flawless conference season, losing just one game en route to the Empire 8 championship crown. As has been the case all season, one of their two studs took over and brought the Cardinals to victory in the finals. Tyler English dropped 21 points on Stevens in that game, and he poses a similar threat to Tufts because of his length on the perimeter. However, it’s Cardinal big man and leading scorer Keegan Ryan that should scare the Jumbos the most if the two match up in the round of 32. At 6’8”/235 and average 18.6 points/8.7 rebounds, Ryan is geared to expose Tufts where they have the least depth. Fortunately for Tufts, St. John Fisher does not shoot well from the perimeter. Given their size and athleticism amongst their guards, Tufts definitely holds the advantage in this regard. Nonetheless, Ryan has proven that he can change games single handedly, and if they match up, Tufts could be on upset alert.


St. Lawrence (20-6, 13-3)

Riley Naclerio (Courtesy of St. Lawrence Athletics)

Despite a first round exit in the Liberty League conference tournament, St. Lawrence is a solid team. Their conference features two other NCAA tournament teams in Union and Skidmore, so St. Lawrence is tested against good competition. The Saints love to run, and the spread out their scoring very nicely. Led by 6’8” forward Riley Naclerio, who scores 19.1 PPG, the Saints have a formidable counter to St. John Fisher’s big man. To complement Naclerio, Kyle Edwards scores 16.8 PPG, yet Edwards does much of his damage from deep. He’s a 40% three-point shooter who has proven time and again that he is willing to take the big shot for the Saints. St. Lawrence also has two other double-digit scorers that help balance their offense, and given their versatility, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Saints pull off an upset in tonight’s game.


Wesleyan (19-6, 6-5)

(Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)

The Cardinals slide into the tournament after a conference season that did not live up to the hype that they generated in the first half of their season. 11-1 heading into their first NESCAC game, Wesleyan seemed to be overlooked. However, that opening weekend resulted in two back-to-back blowout losses coming at the hands of Middlebury and Hamilton. The Cardinals turned things around, at that point, winning 8 of their last 11 with all three of their losses coming by 4 points or less. Wesleyan, like Tufts, is a very balanced team. They are led by Second Team All-NESCAC guard Harry Rafferty, who is one of four Cardinals to average 10+ PPG. Unfortunately for Wesleyan, they were missing one of their studs, Jordan Bonner, for a large part of the middle of their season. Luckily, he returned for their last 9 games, and he performed exceptionally well down the stretch. Injury struck again late in the season when Salim Green missed 5 games, but he returned in time for the playoffs. Unfortunately, he was not his old self, logging a scoreless 17 minutes of action. Wesleyan is a very, very good team, but they haven’t been fully healthy in quite some time. We’ll see if they can get back to their standard form soon.


How They Got Here

Unlike Tufts, Wesleyan is not a team that is going to push the tempo, at least not to the same extent as the Jumbos. The Cardinals enjoy success when they are able to get the ball into the post to Joseph Kuo. Kuo is a fully capable scorer with his back to the basket, but he is also a solid passer. Because of his size, teams sometimes try to collapse into the paint to clog up the middle. When Rafferty, Bonner, and Nathan Krill all shoot pretty well from beyond the arc, and when the Cards take care of the ball and take smart shots, their offense runs very smoothly. That being said, this is a defense-first team. Wesleyan is in my eyes the grittiest team in the NESCAC, led by Krill in this regard. He is the scrappiest forward in the league, willing to do anything to get his team a W. Allowing just 65.8 PPG, Wesleyan thrives when they are disciplined defensively. It’s games where they get in foul trouble or fail to stop opposing fast breaks that Wesleyan struggles. Luckily for them, that doesn’t happen very often.


How They Lose

When Wesleyan is stagnant offensively, it’s because they are not moving the ball enough. They are prone to falling victim to an overload of one-on-one offense at times, and when they do, their shot selection suffers. Effective penetration turns into drives into traffic; open threes turn into contested ones; drive and kicks turn into forced 10-12 footers. This can’t happen if Wesleyan hopes to advance far in this tournament. Luckily for the Cardinals, they did a pretty good job of limiting these lapses over the course of the season, but the NCAA tournament, the margin of error is always slimmer.


The Competition

Union (16-10,10-6)

Deshon Burgess (Courtesy of Union Athletics)

After finishing behind both Skidmore and St. Lawrence in the Liberty League regular season standings, the Dutchmen pretty much had to win their conference tournament in order to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. Well, Union did just that. They won 110-108 in double OT against St. Lawrence in the conference semifinals, and then came back three days later to post another win against Hobart on their way to the conference title. They’re led by Deshon Burgess, who was named to the Naitonal Team of the Week last week, scored 34 points (including the game-winning three with 0.9 seconds left in the second overtime period against St. Lawrence, only to follow it up with 33 points in the finals. He leads the team with 19.8 PPG, and is clearly stepping up when his team needs it most. Wesleyan needs to look out for Burgess if they hope to make it out of round one.


#13 Rochester (21-4, 10-4)

Sam Borst-Smith (Courtesy of Rochester Athletics)

Despite posting a better overall record than in-conference foe Washington (Mo.), the Yellow Jackets faltered at the very end of their season, posting back-to-back losses, allowing WashU to take the conference crown. Rochester has three primary weapons, but it’s Sam Borst-Smith that leads the way offensively. A 41% three-point shooter, Borst-Smith scores 16.0 PPG, good enough to take home the UAA MVP trophy this season. Mack Montague and Zach Ayers are the other two biggest producers on the offensive end for Rochester, averaging 15.6 and 12.0 PPG respectively. However, Rochester seems like a very top-heavy lineup. That’s not to say it hasn’t worked for them this year, but in the NCAA tournament, depth is generally what breeds success. Don’t be surprised if Rochester is upset in the opening weekend.


Albertus Mangus (23-4, 16-2)

Jaqhawn Walters (Courtesy of Albertus Mangus Athletics)

Winners of their last nine, Albertus Mangus is coming into the tournament scorching hot. However, the GNAC isn’t necessarily the most impressive basketball conference in the country. The Falcons won the GNAC Championship handily against a mediocre Lesley squad, but it was their slimmest margin of victory in the GNAC tournament – just 18 points. Their run and gun offense is led by Jaqhawn Walters and Grant Ellis, who score 20.7 and 19.4 PPG respectively. Because of the lack of competition in their conference, it’s tough to gauge how good Albertus Mangus actually is, but they certainly have some competent scorers.

Only a Dumbo Would Underestimate the Jumbos: Tufts Basketball Season Preview

(Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
“Oh, yeah? Well we’re preseason #5! OHHHHH” (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

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

Projected Record: 8-2

Tufts really turned some heads last year with their strong start against a very tough non-conference schedule, but it was their run in the NCAA tournament that surprised NESCAC fans the most. After a top-scorer Vinny Pace came down awkwardly early in the first round of the NCAA tournament, Cousens Gym went silent, and soon enough everyone’s fears were confirmed: Pace had torn his ACL. Many thought the Jumbos were cooked at this point, but the valiant efforts of Tom Palleschi ‘17, Stephen Haladyna ‘16, Ethan Feldman ‘19, and Ben Engvall ‘18 showed the depth and perseverance of Tufts. The Jumbos continued their streak until they faced conference rival, Amherst, in the Elite Eight, at which point their Final Four pursuit came to an end. Well, their success last winter earned Tufts a #5 preseason ranking on, and they hope to continue that success again this winter. The 2016-2017  season promises a lot for the Jumbos – they only lost three seniors to graduation, and they maintain their incredible depth off the bench. Additionally, they have a number of talented freshman-as well as a transfer junior. There is plenty of upside to this team, but their success will come down to their ability to execute, something that hurt the Jumbos at times last winter.

2015-2016 Record, Playoff Appearance: 23-7, 7-3; lost to #2 seed Amherst in semifinals of NESCAC Tournament; lost to Amherst in Elite Eight of NCAA Tournament

Coach: Bob Sheldon, 29th year, 409-296 (.580)

Starters Returning:

Guard Tarik Smith ‘17 (11.4 PPG, 4.2 AST/G, 2.1 REB/G, 1.0 STL/G)

Guard Vinny Pace ‘18 (17.5 PPG, 2.7 AST/G, 6.1 REB/G, 1.3 STL/G)

Center Tom Palleschi ‘17 (15.0 PPG, 1.9 AST/G, 8.3 REB/G, 3.83 BLK/G)

Key Losses:

Guard Stephen Haladyna ‘16, started 30/30 games (12.5 PPG, 1.0 AST/G, 5.1 REB/G, 0.8 STL/G)

Guard Ryan Spadaford ‘16, started 27/30 games (11.8 PPG, 1.2 AST/G, 6.5 REB/G, 0.5 STL/G)

Projected Starting Five:

Guard Tarik Smith ‘17

Tarik Smith '17 (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
Tarik Smith ’17 (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

Flat out, Tarik Smith is one of the most dangerous guards in the NESCAC. His 11.4 PPG last year is deceiving, because he definitely has the potential to explode for 20+ points (see: Sweet 16 vs. Johnson & Wales). It’s not about how many points Smith actually scores, but how many points he creates, that makes him such a potent offensive player. He has an uncanny ability to get into the lane, and especially to get to the free-throw line. Last season, Smith shot 175 free throws, good for 2nd in the NESCAC; the key, however, is that he shot 82.3% from the line. This type of penetration forces opponents to collapse into the paint and creates shooting opportunities on the outside for the Jumbos, which is why Smith ranked 6th in assists in the conference. He has struggled with turnovers at times, but when he is under control, Smith gets the job done for the ‘Bos.

Guard Everett Dayton ‘18

Everett Dayton '18 (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
Everett Dayton ’18 (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

Throughout his Tufts career, Everett Dayton has made enormous strides. Dayton went from making 13 appearances in his first season to playing in 29 games as a sophomore, and I think this boost in playing time (along with his production) can be attributed directly to his level of confidence. Talent has never been a question for Dayton, but his tentativeness has hampered his ability to reach that next level. The coaches think that the junior is finally past this, and a big part of that his expanded role last season. As a sophomore, Dayton was often looked to as a safety valve on the press, especially when Smith wasn’t on the court to handle the ball. Everett will see a lot more playing time due to the departures of Spadaford and Haladyna,  especially because Tufts lacks knockdown shooters, a weakness that Dayton will surely help alleviate.

Guard Ethan Feldman ‘19

Ethan Feldman '19 (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
Ethan Feldman ’19 (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

Feldman had his coming out party at a strange time for a freshman that really didn’t see much floor time throughout the season, but when Pace went down in the NCAA tournament, Feldman stepped up in a big way. In just 11 minutes in the opening-round of the NCAA tournament, the freshman sharpshooter dropped 10 points on Southern Vermont, all via the free-throw line or the three-point arc. Coach Sheldon seemed to use the old adage, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” and upped Feldman’s minutes to 17 in round 2. How did his young guard respond? Just by knocking down 4-5 from deep and adding a couple free-throws for a total of 14 points.  The element of surprise certainly allowed Feldman to find more open looks than he will in his sophomore season, but now that the Tufts staff knows they can rely on him, Feldman is sure to see more plays designed to find him open shots, and he will become a big part of this offense, especially if he can assert himself as a penetration-threat as well.

Guard Ben Engvall ‘18

Ben Engvall '18 (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
Ben Engvall ’18 (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

Engvall has spent two seasons as a 1st/2nd man off the bench for the Jumbos, but I think it’s finally time for Coach Sheldon to throw him into the starting lineup. One word to describe the kid? Tough. Engvall will go toe-to-toe with anyone in this conference, and his aggression, hustle, and competitive desire often give him an advantage. He dives on the floor for loose balls, he runs the fast break as good as anyone, and he has a knack for drawing fouls. Engvall was good for 8-12 points pretty much every game last year, and it’s that type of consistency that the Jumbos need from him. He’s not going to be a premier scorer, but he will be an efficient scorer, he will draw fouls, and he will help out Palleschi on the boards. Coach Sheldon may ultimately find that Engvall’s style of play suits Tufts better as a 6th man, but until Pace is fully healthy (and back in game-shape conditioning-wise), Engvall should see a lot of time as a starter.

Center Tom Palleschi ‘17

Tom Palleschi '17 (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
Tom Palleschi ’17 is using his 5th year of eligibility this year, and despite what this picture may have you thinking, he’s only 23 years old (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

The preseason All-American Palleschi was a force last year for the Jumbos, and his durability was on the biggest keys to their success. Coach Sheldon and staff relied on Palleschi to play big minutes for the Jumbos, especially down the stretch. In Tufts’ four NCAA games, he averaged 18 PPG, a necessity with Pace going down in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. With his ability to work out of the low block, knock down contested midrange shots, and even hit open threes, Palleschi is an issue for big men of similar size. He is more mobile than his build implies, and while you’d think a 6’8”/240lb. NESCAC center would be a bruiser, it is the soft touch of Palleschi that makes him such a (gentle) beast. Oh, don’t forget that he averaged 3.83 BLK/G last year, good for the second-best average nationally…

Breakout Player: Everett Dayton ‘18

As mentioned above, Dayton’s role has grown immensely given the vacancy of two guard spots in the starting lineup. What’s Dayton’s biggest strength? That he has a plethora of strengths. He can shoot, he can dribble, he can defend, he’s long, he’s a 6’3” athletic guard…he can do it all, and he can do it all well. My biggest criticism of Dayton is a lack of aggression, but that is something that generally sorts itself out with maturity. If Dayton is ready mentally, he could become a gigantic threat for this Tufts offense, and one that complements Palleschi well at that.

Everything Else

It’s clear that Tufts has the talent, but they will have to rely on their bench more this year if they want to compete for a NESCAC title. The uptempo style that Tufts moved to last season certainly increased their offensive output, but ball control was an issue at times, evidenced by their 12.8 TO/G. After watching Tufts throughout their NCAA Tournament run, I came to the conclusion that stamina was definitely a factor in their turnover totals. Still, there is plenty of experience remaining from last year’s roster, the first example being Drew Madsen ‘17, who will play a big role off the bench once again as Palleschi’s backup. Madsen is a much more athletic big, and he can really help Tufts in transition as well as on the boards. He is more of a cleanup guy than a center that creates his own shots, but he is a viable option when big boy Palleschi gets tired. Another benefit for Sheldon? The Jumbos only added to their depth over the offseason.

First, let’s take a look at returners looking for expanded roles this year. Stefan Duvivier ‘18 is another player who should see increased minutes this year, especially now that the Jumbos have grown accustomed to an uptempo style of play. Duvivier’s athletic prowess enables Tufts to push the tempo, and due to his decent size, Sheldon can deploy a more guard heavy lineup when the 6’3”/200lb. guard steps on the floor.

One returner you might not think of right away is Thomas Lapham ‘18, who was dealing with the after effects of hip surgery for much of last season. Lapham is now back and healthy, and looks to get back to his freshman year level of production, when he actually split starts with Smith at point guard. The level-headed junior is a facilitator on the court who will knock down shots from the perimeter, something the Tufts offense relies on. Another smaller guard who could see time is Kene Adigwe ‘18, who transferred to Tufts last year from Claremont McKenna College in California. The product of Lowell is akin to the Energizer Bunny, and will be someone who Coach Sheldon can look to as a defensive stopper or a sparkplug off the bench when the Jumbos need it.

Now for the newcomers. First is another transfer, KJ Garrett ‘18, who started at Tufts this fall after spending two years at the University of Washington. The Junior is big, strong, and quick, and he will have plenty of opportunities to prove himself. Garrett is absolutely in the running for the most athletic player in the conference, evidenced by the below video:

Of the freshman, it’s hard to go wrong. Eric Savage ‘20, Pat Racy ‘20, and Miles Bowser ‘20 are all solid prospects, and Coach Sheldon has always enjoyed playing younger players, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see these guys on the court early in the season. Savage is an athletic slashing guard with supreme finishing ability; Racy is a mobile, nifty big man with a decent mid-range game; Bowser is a smooth, shifty ball handler that has some significant size (6’4”) at the point guard spot. A solid recruiting class if you ask me, and one that will certainly make an impact early, especially as the Jumbos try to figure out rotations while Pace works back to full health. It should also be noted that Racy is the younger brother of Amherst’s senior guard Jeff Racy, so circle the Tufts-Amherst game on your calendars. Through and through, Tufts is a very strong team, and the Jumbos will be a force to be reckoned with this winter.

NCAA Sweet 16 Preview: #20 Tufts vs. #12 Johnson & Wales

Haladyna is going to be a big piece of the puzzle for Tufts this weekend. (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

If this Tufts team hasn’t signed and sent a thank you card to the Amherst College women’s team yet, they better get on that, because without them, Tufts wouldn’t be hosting this weekend. Due to the NCAA Division-III rules, if both the men’s and women’s team from a school are set to host, the men’s team gets priority to host the first weekend of the tournament and the Women’s team gets priority to host the second weekend (it alternates every year). The Amherst men’s team would be hosting, but because their women’s team also advanced to the Sweet 16, Tufts got backdoor home court advantage. That leaves us with Amherst playing Babson at 5:30 pm tonight and Tufts playing Johnson & Wales at 7:30 pm. Here’s what to expect from the second game.

Perhaps the biggest story leading up to this game is Tufts’ loss of Vinny Pace ’18. On the first play of the game last Friday, Pace drove to the paint. There was some contact, which was certainly legal, but it sent Pace’s upper body in one direction and his lower body in the other. When Pace landed, he immediately grabbed his leg – more specifically, his knee – while writhing in pain on the floor. Pace exited the game in under 30 seconds and did not return all weekend. As of now, it’s unclear what Pace’s status is exactly, but I’d be surprised if he’s back this weekend based on his immediate reaction.

So where does that leave the Jumbos? Based on their play last weekend, I’d say nothing changes from a strategy standpoint. It was a “next man up” mentality, reminiscent of this season’s New England Patriots, as Ethan Feldman ’19 stepped in to play 11 minutes on Friday and 17 minutes on Saturday. Feldman scored 10 points and 14 points respectively, and showed off his supreme ability to stretch the floor for the Jumbos, going 6-9 from the three-point line on the weekend. On Friday, Coach Bob Sheldon was a bit more tentative to play Feldman, but the freshman clearly gained his trust, evident by his increased minutes on Saturday. So where did all the minutes go on Friday? Well, the rest of the starting five (excluding Pace) played the following number of minutes against Southern Vermont: Tom Palleschi ’17, 34; Ryan Spadaford ’16, 34; Tarik Smith ’17, 37; Stephen Haladyna ’16, 38. That’s pretty wild. Haladyna continued his late-season surge, going for a game-high 24 points, which also counted for his career-high. In his last six games, Haladyna is averaging 17.5 ppg, which barely tops Palleschi’s 17.3 ppg over the same stretch. Palleschi has also been red-hot, evidenced by his 17 points Friday night and 19 points on Saturday night. However, Palleschi’s impact hasn’t just been on the offensive end – over the weekend, Palleschi totaled 13 (!!) blocked shots. That’s insane. Though the scoring was more evenly spread out on Saturday against Skidmore, it is clear that Haladyna and Palleschi, two of the longest tenured players on the roster, are willing this team through. The resilience and desire of these two captains has allowed guys like their co-captain Spadaford and their junior point guard Smith to play with less pressure, while allowing younger players like Feldman, Ben Engvall ’18, and Everett Dayton ’18 to step in and play big minutes. The fact that these freshmen and sophomores can step in seamlessly in the biggest games of the season is a very encouraging sign for the Jumbos.

Quarry Greenaway (#15 in white) and Tom Garrick (#1 in white) are the leaders on the Johnson & Wales roster (Courtesy of Johnson & Wales Athletics)
Quarry Greenaway (#15 in white) and Tom Garrick (#1 in white) are the leaders on the Johnson & Wales roster. (Courtesy of Johnson & Wales Athletics)

On the Johnson & Wales side of the court, the story is pretty different. Both teams play about seven deep, but that’s where the similarities end. Tufts is a team that spreads the scoring around to lots of different guys (and different players on different nights) … let’s just say Johnson & Wales does not do that. Seriously though, two guys account for 53.7 percent of the J&W scoring, and when you add the third highest scorer, that percentage jumps to 64.8 percent of the team’s average. To put this in perspective, Tufts’ top two score 37.6 percent of their points, and the top three score 51.8 percent. J&W lives and dies by seniors Quarry Greenaway ’16 and Tom Garrick ’16. J&W has played 30 games this year. Either Greenaway or Garrick has led the team in points in every single game, and in just five of games have one of these two players been outscored by another player on the team. I think I have to chalk the first game of the season as either a fluke or just a lack of togetherness, because J&W is a better team than Linfield in every single way, so I’m not going to address that loss. In their only other loss of the season (J&W is 28-2 overall, 28-1 in conference), the Wildcats were carried by Greenaway’s 35 points, but Garrick really struggled shooting the ball, going just 6-20 from the field. It’s not that weird for a star player to have an off game – this is college basketball after all – that kind of stuff happens, right? Well, not at J&W it doesn’t. In their loss to Albertus Magnus on February 13, Garrick’s 13 points put him behind Greenaway, Jarell Lawson ’18 (18 points) and Robert Lewis ’16 (15 points). That was the only time this season that Garrick or Greenaway was below third in scoring on their team. Maybe it’s coincidence, but what I’m suggesting is this: if you want to beat Johnson & Wales, you just need to shut down one of these two guys. Maybe forcing foul trouble can do it; Greenaway plays 34.5 mpg, while Garrick plays 34.2 mpg; forcing a bench player to take one of their spots could work, but both of them have shown the ability to go off for 30+ when the other is struggling, so you never know. J&W doesn’t play the hardest schedule in the country, evidenced by an average margin of victory that sits at 25.2 ppg, but the consistency of these margins of victory shows that they always play at a high level. Last weekend, J&W was definitely challenged – just look at the turnover numbers. On average, J&W wins the turnover battle by just under eight per game (average margin is -7.7 to/g). In their two NCAA games, J&W turned the ball over two more times than their opponents did (J&W, 32 turnovers; opponents, 30 turnovers). This huge swing in turnovers shows that J&W definitely struggles against better defenses.

Tufts X-factor: Center Tom Palleschi

(Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
(Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

Arguably the most important part of this game is going to be the ability of Tufts to break the Johnson & Wales press – the key to doing that is Tom Palleschi. The Wildcats play a five-guard lineup. No one on the J&W roster is over 6’5”, and pretty much everybody who gets minutes is listed as a guard except for Michael Kiser ’18, their 6’2” center. Their press works because of how quick the Wildcats are and how hard they attack ball handlers with the pressure. The huge advantage that Tufts has is that Palleschi is 6’8”. This size advantage is why Palleschi is so important in this game. If Palleschi can flash to the middle and receive the ball during the press, the Jumbos will be able to advance the ball down the floor much more easily than if they try to dribble their way through it. I’ve always thought that Palleschi is one of the best passing centers in the NESCAC, and his ball fakes are next-level (to be honest, he fools me with them half the time). If Palleschi can help break the J&W press, Tufts will get very good looks on the offensive end. Breaking the press will lead to a lot of quick, easy shots for the Jumbos, but if they slow up into a half-court game, Palleschi will once again be of great importance. He should be able to dominate down low, but expect that the Wildcats will double down when he touches the ball in the post, which will give the big boy a chance to kick it out to shooters.

Johnson & Wales X-factor: Guard Tom Garrick ‘16

(Courtesy of Johnson & Wales Athletics)
Tom Garrick (Courtesy of Johnson & Wales Athletics)

As I outlined above, J&W relies pretty substantially on two players: Tom Garrick and Quarry Greenaway. Out of the two, Greenaway is the more consistent, but Garrick still averages over 20 a game so he’s by no means an inconsistent player. Garrick is a slightly worse shooter from the field and from beyond the arc, but he excels at getting to the rim. As a whole, the Great Northeast Athletic Conference does not roll out a ton of really tall big men, which is why I’m pegging Garrick as the X-factor. Johnson & Wales has not seen a shot blocker like Palleschi, who is second in the country in blocks per game. This past weekend, Palleschi eclipsed 100 blocks on the season, and the way he was throwing shots out of bounds suggested that non-conference teams are just not quite as adjusted to his shot-blocking ability as NESCAC teams are. Garrick has shown the ability to shoot a decent midrange jump shot, but the 6’5” guard could struggle in the paint going up against the 6’8” center. I think Garrick’s success scoring the ball could definitely depend on his ability to hit jump shots, and if he’s not doing that, then guys like Anthony Jernigan ’17 or Jarell Lawson ’18 are going to have to step up.

Three Questions

1.) Can Tufts break the press?

As I mentioned above, Johnson & Wales presses all the time. I haven’t seen a press stump Tufts all year long, but I also haven’t seen them face a good press, so there’s very little to base an analysis off of in that regard. However, look at the Tufts ball handlers. Smith is obviously very competent with the ball in his hands, and I think Engvall does a great job of moving north/south with the ball in his hands rather than just east/west. Dayton has been a solid point guard behind Smith all year long and looks like he’s in control when he’s leading the Tufts offense, and Thomas Lapham ’18, though his minutes have been down this year, has plenty of game experience as he split time starting with Smith last year. However, Smith is really the only Tufts guard who has seen intense pressure on a regular basis this season, there is definitely a question mark against these other Tufts guards. The key is getting the ball to Palleschi in the middle, who can then look over the top of the defense and find the open man. Drew Madsen ’17 is going to play a big role on the press when Palleschi heads to the bench. If Madsen and Palleschi can serve as reliable outlets for the Tufts guards, I think they’ll be fine with the press.

2.) Can Tufts stop Greenaway and Garrick?

(Courtesy of Johnson & Wales Athletics)
Quarry Greenaway (Courtesy of Johnson & Wales Athletics)

Tufts has showed that they can stop teams with just one premier scorer this season. For example, when they played Bowdoin in the opening weekend of NESCAC play, the Jumbos held Lucas Hausman ’16 to just 11 points on 3-10 shooting. However, when they played Amherst in the regular season, who has a much more balanced attack, they struggled a bit to stop Connor Green ’16, who put up 28 on the Jumbos. However, that same game, Jeff Racy ’17 didn’t hit a shot. On the flip side, they played Amherst in the NESCAC semifinals at Trinity and six Amherst players scored in double digits on their way to bouncing Tufts from the conference tournament. It’s games like this that the Jumbos struggle in – games where the opponents spread out their scoring among numerous players. In all their losses, Tufts allowed numerous players to beat them. The more one-dimensional teams struggle against the Tufts defense, specifically Haladyna, who has shown the ability to lock down premier scorers and shooters. So I realize that I’ve gotten away from the question a bit, but to put it simply, I think that Tufts can at least slow down the attack of J&W’s two studs. Sure, Greenaway and Garrick may carry the load, but I think J&W is going to have the most success if they get a couple other guys involved in the scoring. This will open up space for the two senior Wildcats to get buckets.

3.) Who steps up for the Jumbos on the offensive end?

(Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
(Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

Without Pace last weekend, and with Stefan Duvivier ’18 out with the flu, Tufts went a bit deeper than normal in terms of bench minutes. I believe Duvivier will be back this weekend, but it’s pretty tough to get your wind back following a sickness. That means the increased minutes that Dayton, Engvall and Feldman all saw will probably stay the same. So who steps up to score for the Jumbos this weekend? Last weekend, Palleschi and Haladyna led the way, as has been the case for Tufts over most of the last couple weeks. Feldman stepped up with some cold-blooded shooting last weekend – can he do that again? Will Spadaford get to the line and knock down five or six free throws like last weekend? How about Smith? The theme that has developed down the stretch is that the entire starting lineup needs to be involved for Tufts to play well. When the scoring is spread out, their shooting percentages are all way up and the defense has a hard time guarding everybody. In theory, Palleschi should have a high-scoring game based on his size advantage, but the fast pace of this one may limit his ability to get into the paint and go to work. I’m sensing a big game out of Engvall. He’s a great, tough finisher around the rim, especially on the break, and without the presence of a true big, there’s really nothing stopping him from getting those shots off in the paint.


I think that two of the most important parts of this game are the first five minutes of each half. If the frantic Johnson & Wales throws off Tufts early, Johnson & Wales could jump out to a big lead. Ultimately, Tufts will get some easy hoops off the press, but they’re also bound to make some mistakes in their attempts to break it. The biggest battle of the first half lies in Tufts keeping it close or taking a lead out of the gate. J&W really hasn’t trailed too much this year, so this is the easiest way for Tufts to force the Wildcats out of their comfort zone. In the beginning of the second half, I assume that J&W will try to spark a run once again with their press, so it’s vital for Tufts that they stay calm and take care of the ball. Last year when these two met, Tufts shot the ball very, very poorly. They were 19-60 from the field, 4-16 from deep, and 10-20 from the free throw line. That’s horrible. It was close for a while, but about midway through the second half Tufts’ shooting caught up with them and J&W went on a big run. If Tufts allows runs like this from the Wildcats, they are going to have a tough time bouncing back with runs of their own. Then again, the Jumbos are much more apt to handle the five-guard J&W attack this year, as Tufts sports a four-guard attack of their own. I think Tufts has to play really, really well to win this one. They need to minimize mistakes, while J&W needs to force mistakes and then capitalize off of them. Tufts handled the ball very well last weekend – they had just 19 turnovers between the two games – and I think they will do this again. It’s going to take a really strong shooting performance, but I think Tufts pulls this one off at the end.

Tufts 80 – Johnson & Wales 79

Eye on Saturday

Amherst and Babson are two pretty evenly matched teams had to play two overtime periods to determine a winner back in December. Amherst ended up winning that game 103-96, primarily because Connor Green dropped 39 points on the Beavers. Joey Flannery ’17 is easily the best player on the Babson roster. He’s averaging 24.2 ppg this year, and actually recently became the leading scorer in Babson men’s basketball history. Oh yeah, he’s just a junior. Unfortunately for Babson, Flannery went down with an ankle injury last weekend. I’m guessing he’s going to at least try to play this weekend, which is a huge boost for the Beavers. Amherst benefits from a less than fully health Flannery, and I think the ex-Lord Jeffs are going to roll in this one. NESCAC teams have been Babson’s kryptonite this year: Babson lost five total games, and four were against NESCAC teams (they didn’t beat any NESCAC teams either). Babson does ride into this one with a 13-game winning streak, but I think Amherst will advance to Saturday.

That leaves us with a rubber match between Tufts and Amherst based on my predictions, which would be pretty incredible. Tufts beat Amherst by 11 earlier this year in Medford, and then Amherst got their revenge in the NESCAC semi-finals when they edged Tufts by three points. The two keys to this game (if it happens) will be Palleschi’s matchup with Eric Conklin ’17 and the ability of Tufts to slow down Green, who absolutely dominates in Cousens Gym. I have no idea what would happen in this game, because the two matchups between Tufts and Amherst this year have been completely different games. All I can say is this: a NESCAC matchup in the Elite Eight would be pretty epic, and I am definitely rooting for that to happen.

Are the Jumbos Better without Their Big Man? Tufts Season Preview

As the only real interior presence for the Jumbos, C Tom Palleschi '17 will need to alter shots and rebound for Tufts - and stay out of foul trouble. (Courtesy of Johnson & Wales Athletics)
As the only real interior presence for the Jumbos, C Tom Palleschi ’17 will need to alter shots and rebound for Tufts – and stay out of foul trouble. (Courtesy of Johnson & Wales Athletics)

The biggest news in the Tufts offseason is, without a doubt, the loss of Hunter Sabety. Though he was injured on and off for the majority of last season, Sabety still averaged 14.9 ppg and gave the Jumbos much more versatility down low. The combo of Tom Palleschi ’17 and Sabety was arguably the most talented bigs combo in the NESCAC, but it also created some structural issues for the team. When Sabety was healthy, it almost felt like Tufts was playing three different styles during each game: one for Sabety as the lone big, one for Palleschi as the lone big, and one for a lineup that included both centers. Though deadly at times, this definitely led to inconsistency for the Jumbos, and the coaches believe that the squad will be much more in sync this year when they can maintain one offense throughout.

2014-15 Record:

13-12 overall, 6-4 NESCAC (4th); lost first round of NESCAC tournament to Williams in Overtime, 87-77; did not qualify for NCAAs

Coach: Bob Sheldon, 28th year, 386-289 (.572)

Starters returning: Four

G Stephen Haladyna ’16 (7.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 0.8 spg)
G Ryan Spadaford ’16 (7.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.0 apg, 1.5 3pt/game)
G Thomas Lapham ’18 (3.4 ppg, 1.7 apg, 41.8% FG, 46.9% 3PT FG)
C Tom Palleschi ’17 (12.0 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 2.4 bpg)

The Jumbos technically return four starters, but Palleschi is the only one who was a consistent starter last year. Spadaford and Haladyna split time pretty evenly in the starting lineup, and Lapham also started about half the games, splitting the other half with Tarik Smith ’17. Smith started the first 11 games of the season – Lapham started the next 14 in his stead. Drew Madsen’s ’17 name could also be thrown in the mix here, but the majority of his starts came when Sabety was injured last year, so his starting experience is also limited.

Projected Starting Five:


G Ryan Spadaford

Spadaford, a natural two guard, will see time at all three guard positions this year, as the Jumbos will look to play smaller and push the tempo. As a senior co-captain with Haladyna and Palleschi, it will be interesting to see Spadaford evolve as more of a leader on the court since the last two years he has played more as a quiet member of the supporting cast. He has shown that he can light it up for stretches, but consistency is certainly something to look for in Spadaford this year. If he can get his jump shot going, that will do wonders for the premier shooters on the team, Haladyna and Vinny Pace ’18.

G Stephen Haladyna

Haladyna was rightfully disappointed after his junior campaign due to his step back in offensive production. Haladyna went from starting every game he played and averaging 12.4 per game as a sophomore to splitting time and putting up just 7.8 ppg. The biggest reason for this drop in scoring is that Haladyna struggled to get a rhythm from behind the arc, possibly because he was the only established shooter in the Jumbos lineup and was feeling the pressure. The senior co-captain needs to get hot early and stay hot throughout the season, proving to be one of the most important pieces of the puzzle on the offensive end for Tufts.

G Vinny Pace

Pace should without a doubt see an increase in production this season after a pretty average freshman year. Pace has improved physically and has developed much more consistency on his jump shot. Defensively, Pace’s wingspan and athleticism will surely prove valuable for the Jumbos, who I’m sure will look to pressure opposing teams with more trapping defenses than in past years. The coaches are very excited to see how Pace plays this year, and for good reason. Now that he has gotten used to the very different pace of college ball (I crack myself up), I am projecting Pace to be in the running for one of the All-NESCAC teams as we approach the end of the season.

F Ben Engvall ’18

This could be a bit of a surprising pick to some, but Engvall could see big minutes out of the starting lineup for Tufts this season. Madsen will likely switch in and out with Palleschi, leaving the four spot open. Meanwhile, the Jumbos will want their two quickest guards, Smith and Lapham, coming off the bench, where Smith had a lot of success last year and where Lapham won’t feel too much pressure: this is where Engvall comes in. Engvall’s value is that he is really the only true forward on this team, and he fits right into what the Jumbos are going to try to do this year: run. Engvall can play bigger than he is and is unafraid to bang around in the post, but he can also help spread the floor and handle the ball when he’s matched up against bigger opponents. Engvall is going to play a sneaky huge role for the ‘Bos this year.

C Tom Palleschi

As a redshirt junior, Palleschi is looking to follow up on a strong return to the court last year in which he was selected to the Second Team All-NESCAC. He led the NESCAC with an average of 2.4 blocks per game, while finishing 13th in rebounding and 16th in scoring with 6.1 and 12.0 per game, respectively. Much of the Jumbos’ success will depend on Palleschi’s ability to stay out of foul trouble since the Tufts roster is loaded with guards.

Breakout Player:

G Vinny Pace

How could I not like Vinny from New Jersey here? But seriously, Vince Pace is the real deal. He has shown he can put up big points at times, but his consistency didn’t fully develop last year as some anticipated it would. I’m expecting a big year from Pace on the offensive end of the court since Tufts will have to rely heavily on their guard play throughout the season. With so few true bigs on the Tufts roster, Pace will likely be matched up against bigger, less athletic players due to his length and size (6’5”, 180 lbs). The coaches are high on Pace this year, and if he can take advantage of the matchup problem that he is going to create, I don’t see anything stopping him from becoming one of the leaders on this team.

Everything else:

The Jumbos will almost surely be trying to push the tempo this year with their surplus of guards, and the sophomore class is the most important part of the picture. There are seven sophomores on the team (six returners and one transfer, G Kene Adigwe, from Claremont McKenna College), all of whom are guards besides Engvall. This class had their opportunity to gain experience last year, but they don’t have too much time to learn anymore as they make up the core of this team. I’ve already mentioned Pace and Engvall’s importance above, and Lapham clearly played a part in Tufts’ success last year, but a couple other names to watch this year are Stefan Duvivier ’18 and Everett Dayton ’18. Duvivier is an athletic freak who excels in pushing the tempo and getting to the hoop. He does triple jump and high jump for the Tufts track team in the spring, so you can imagine how hard Duvivier can throw it down. Duvivier could play an instant-offense role. Meanwhile, Dayton is a very solid, well-rounded guard. His length is important on defense, and I think his biggest asset comes in his versatility at both ends. Dayton will see time at the 1-4 positions, and will causes turnovers when the Jumbos go to press/trapping situations on defense. Though not a sophomore, Tarik Smith is very important to the Tufts game plan. He will probably be the primary point man once again, even if he technically comes off the bench. Smith went from averaging 6.6 ppg and 4.4 apg as a starter to 12.9 ppg and 2.6 apg. Once Coach Sheldon made that transition, Smith stopped worrying about being a true point, and started using his elite athletic ability to put the ball in the hoop.

The other key for Tufts this year is going to be their ability to rebound the basketball. They will clearly be outsized (they only have three players over 6’5”), so if the Jumbos don’t gang-rebound they will run into issues. I know I mentioned it above, but it is absolutely vital that Palleschi stays out of foul trouble. Madsen does not present the same size as Palleschi, and rebounding becomes a lot tougher when your one true center is out of the game. Expect Duvivier, Pace, Engvall and Haladyna to present themselves as secondary rebounders to Palleschi and Madsen this season.

Time to Invest: Stock Report 1/12


What a weekend in the NESCAC. Could you have asked for a better first night of contests? Of the five games played on Friday night, four were decided by six points or less. Williams-Trinity went into double OT. A missed call by refs in Lewiston helped Bates to the win over Middlebury. Wesleyan had three shots from deep in the final seconds to tie the game against Colby but missed all of its attempts. And Connor Green ’16 came out of hibernation to lead Amherst to a victory over Hamilton, aided by the best offensive night of David George’s ’17 young career. The second round of conference games was only slightly less exhilarating, as Williams and Amherst played yet another classic and Tufts pulled a major upset over the suddenly suspect Middlebury Panthers. Suffice to say, Week 1 of the NESCAC season did not disappoint.

Stock Up

1. David George ’17

The Amherst big man is respected around the league for his defense, but he turned up his offensive game this weekend, scoring 29 points against Hamilton and 18 against Amherst, his highest totals of the season (the latter matching an 18-point performance in late December). George was 16-20 (80 percent) from the field and 15-19 (78.9 percent) from the stripe. Amherst is already one of the highest-scoring teams in the NESCAC. If George can be a consistent weapon on the offensive end while still maintaining his level of play on defense, Amherst will be dangerous and we could be witnessing the maturation of a future NESCAC POY candidate.

2. Colby Mules

Sure, they only beat the Wesleyan Cardinals by two and their nine-point win over the 7-6 Conn College Camels isn’t all that impressive, but for a team that came into the weekend barely over .500 getting to Monday with a 2-0 conference record is all one could ask for. This is a team with a lot of potential, which we’ve talked about before. For the second year in a row Coach Damien Strahorn is leaning heavily on his 2016 class, and they all played great this weekend. Last year the Mules could make the excuse that they were still young, but now that the core of this team is in its third year, they need to start getting the results. Maybe this was the first step towards accomplishing that.

3. Tufts’ Guard Play

We raved about the Tufts’ front court before the season started, but with Hunter Sabety ’16 out yesterday the Jumbos dominated Middlebury. Coach Bob Sheldon shook up the starting lineup, inserting Drew Madsen ’16, Ryan Spadaford ’16 and Thomas Lapham ’18, and no one responded better than the usual starting point guard, Tarik Smith ’17. Smith went 5-7 from the field, 2-2 from deep and 8-8 from the line for 20 points, netted two steals and only turned the ball over twice in 28 minutes. Against one of the NESCAC’s best one-on-one defensive guards in Jake Brown ’17, Smith was able to penetrate and cause havoc. Ben Ferris ’15, who just hasn’t been his old self on offense this year, had eight points, but they all seemed to come at big moments. Newcomer Vinny Pace ’18 showed some impressive touch inside and creative moves as he added eight points, and Stephen Haladyna ’16, another usual starter relegated to the bench, chipped in 11 points in his second-best shooting night of the year, percentage-wise. Tufts is still 5-7 overall, but 1-0 in the games that count the most.

Stock Down

1. Middlebury Panthers

You had to see this one coming. A few days after we gave them the top spot in our composite power rankings, they go and do something like this, losing a tight game to Bates and them getting blown out on Sunday against Tufts. As was noted on Twitter, basically the entire Middlebury roster was fairly ill on Friday night, so much so that there were rumors (the accuracy of which we will never know) that the game might be moved to another date, so props to them for gutting it out and making it a close game, but I don’t think we can say that, two days later, sickness was the reason that the Jumbos stomped them by 17 points. I don’t see this weekend as being indicative of a problem in the future, and I still think Middlebury can and will compete for a NESCAC title. But, I would be concerned that some of the negative attitude that seemed to creep up on the Panthers last season could resurface. I hope I’m wrong.

2. John Swords ’15

Maybe a bit of a surprising pick, because Swords certainly didn’t play badly this weekend, but as I noted in the power ranks last week, Bowdoin needs Swords to be a force if they are going to make it back to the NCAA tournament, and 17 points in 60 minutes of play isn’t going to cut it. Swords was pretty much his typical self in the rebounding and blocks categories, and still discourages anyone from setting foot in the paint with the ball, but I was banking on Swords elevating his game for the NESCAC season. Consider this a challenge, Mr. Swords.

3. Jayde Dawson ’18

The Fairleigh-Dickinson transfer came to Amherst with big expectations at the beginning of the season, and at this point we can probably assume that those expectations were a little bit too much to put on Dawson right away. After a couple nice games in a row, Dawson got one point, two rebound and zero assists in just 16 minutes in the Lord Jeffs’ biggest game of the season against rival Williams. Much like Michigan-Ohio State, in order to be one of the greats at Amherst, you have to beat Williams, and it seems like Dawson wilted under the bright lights. But, if last year was any indication, there’s a good chance that these teams meet again before the season is over, so Dawson should get a shot at redemption.

Tufts Team Preview: Optimism Abounds in Medford

Courtesy of Tufts Athletics
Courtesy of Tufts Athletics

Editor’s Note: Unlike football, team previews are being released in no particular order.

Tufts Jumbos

2013-2014 record: 13-12 (4-6 NESCAC), seventh in NESCAC, reached quarterfinals of NESCAC tournament

Head Coach: Bob Sheldon, Jr., 27th season (373-277, .574)

Starters Returning: 3

G Ben Ferris ’15

G Stephen Haladyna ’16

F Hunter Sabety ’17

Breakout Player: G Vinny Pace ’18

With three starters returning and Tom Palleschi ’17 back in the mix (more on that later), the starting lineup is fairly solidified, but Pace has the potential to make a huge impact off of the bench. The 6’5″ combo guard brings great size to the backcourt, where he could be a defensive force. His skills are a mix between that of teammates Ferris, a double-double threat, and the sharpshooter Haladyna. He will have to battle classmate Thomas Lapham ’18, a true point guard, and returner Ryan Spadaford ’16 for bench minutes, but after a little over a week of practice Pace is pushing strongly for time.

Projected Starting Five:

Tarik Smith (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
Tarik Smith (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

G Tarik Smith ’17

Smith has big shoes to fill with distributor Oliver Cohen ’14 gone, but he is next level quick, shoots the ball well from deep and got plenty of seasoning under his belt last year (25 games, 18.8 minutes per game). Smith will have the ball in his hands to start most possessions.



Ben Ferris (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
Ben Ferris (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

G Ben Ferris

Ferris, the 2011-12 NESCAC Rookie of the Year, is the undisputed leader on the floor for the Jumbos. The guard missed the first half of last season due to injury, and never got fully into the swing of things. Though he put up points and rebounds similar to what he achieved during his sophomore season, he was much less efficient from the floor. However, after undergoing hip surgery during the summer, reports are that Ferris is as healthy as ever and ready to take this team to the next level.

Stephen Haladyna (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

G Stephen Haladyna

Of the starting five, Haladyna is the best long-range shooter, and he should get plenty of open shots off of passes from the two big men. He might be the fourth option on this offense, which is a scary thought for opposing teams.




Hunter Sabety (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
Hunter Sabety (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

F Hunter Sabety

In the majority of seasons, Sabety would have been the hands down choice for Rookie of the Year after averaging 14.8 points per game (tops on the team) on 65 percent shooting and 6.6 boards per game. Unfortunately for Tufts, the hopes of a third straight ROY honor were dashed by Duncan Robinson. Sabety presents a huge matchup problem for almost every team in the league, and had stretches of dominance in 2013-14.


Tom Palleschi (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
Tom Palleschi (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

F Tom Palleschi

Palleschi is the Jumbos’ X-factor, as well as the biggest question mark. He brings size and double-double potential to the front court. A heart condition held the big man out last season, and it’s an amazing story that he will even be on the court again. Palleschi is 100 percent cleared to play, but head coach Bob Sheldon, Jr. estimates that he has not quite returned to his former level of play just yet. That being said, Sheldon also expects the sophomore captain to return to form and be better than ever before long.

Everything Else:

The Jumbos were a sexy pick by some to make a surprise run at the NESCAC title last season, but the squad never got healthy at the same time. Ferris missed almost half the season, Haladyna was sidelined for a handful of games, and, of course, Palleschi never saw the floor. However, if Tufts can avoid the injury bug this season then they have a shot to realize those lofty expectations.

Expect the offense to work inside out on most possessions. It will be a challenge for Palleschi and Sabety, both 6’8″ and about 240 pounds, to mesh together, but if they do then their offensive potential is sky high. Expect a lot of high-low action from the big men, and open shots for the guards. Sabety brings more athleticism to the floor than Palleschi, so he might also be employed to run the base line while Palleschi works to get position inside.

Drew Madsen ’17 will be the primary reserve big man, and the aforementioned Pace and Spadaford should see a decent amount of minutes. The scoring should be spread out fairly evenly across the board, as every player in the starting five is strong offensively.

Look for the Jumbos to get better as the year goes along, as this group builds chemistry that is just now getting the opportunity to foster.