To Study or Not To Study: Men’s Basketball Stock Report 12/12

This past Saturday, I got to travel to Colby to watch Bates take on the Mules in Waterville. Bates pulled off the win, 82-79 in a tightly contested matchup that I believe was an instant classic. In front of an unusually raucous crowd for this early in the year, the two teams put on a show. This game had absolutely everything. We saw Matt Hanna hit four consecutive threes and give the crowd an awesome, Russell Westbrook-esque celebration. We saw the players getting chippy. We saw the fans getting chippy. We saw the lead never get above 3 for either team in the final 12 minutes of the game (until Bates hit a few free throws at the very end). We saw a technical foul. We saw Tom Coyne bank home two three pointers from 30+ feet to seal the win for the Bobcats. It was the stuff of legends.

That is what NESCAC basketball is all about. There is nothing like getting to travel to any school for a game and watch their loyal fans pack the gym to watch more drama than a Shakespearean tragedy. Fortunately truth is stranger than fiction, and we get an entire season of games featuring players whose legacies will surely outlast those of Macbeth or Hamlet. Anyways, let’s take a look at how foul or fair each team is looking heading into exam week and a blissfully long winter break.:

Stock up

Bates G Tom Coyne ’20

Tom Coyne
Tom Coyne ’20 can score as well as anyone. (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

Bates got a chance to play both Colby and Bowdoin this week, and each time Coyne put on a show. Despite the 70-63 loss against Bowdoin, he led the game in points with 22, and grabbed 9 rebounds. In the 82-79 win against Colby, he went off for a career-high 30 points on 11-16 from the field, including 6-8 from three-point range. One of the greatest things about the game against Colby was that for the final minutes of the game, the players on the court were Nick Gilpin ’20, Jeff Spellman ’20, Tom Coyne ’20, Kody Greenhalgh ’20, and James Mortimer ’21. This lineup is one that has already shown improvements this year, and they will get to see three full seasons playing on the floor together. Bates is only getting better from here as Coach Furbush has the pieces he needs to develop and build around for the future.

Middlebury F Nick Tarantino ’18

Nick Tarantino
Nick Tarantino ’18 is an absolute beast in the paint (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

Middlebury has been on a tear this season, starting off 6-0 and receiving the #2 national ranking in last week’s poll. They have many weapons, but senior Nick Tarantino ’18 has stood out as exceptional recently. He recorded a double-double against Endicott (an NCAA tournament team from last season), putting up 17 points and 10 rebounds, while dishing out 4 assists. In their last game against national #16 Skidmore (another 2017 NCAA tournament team), he channeled his inner-Ed Ogundeko, posting 20 points (on 9-13 shooting) and 17 rebounds. This type of production is ridiculous alongside weapons like Jack Daly ’18 and Matt Folger ’20. The Panthers are showing us yet again why they belong in the conversation not only for best in the NESCAC, but potentially best in the nation.

Tufts G Vincent Pace ’18

 

Vincent Pace ’18 is definitely living up to his POY-candidate hype (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

Vincent Pace
Vincent Pace ’18 is recovering his pre-injury form. (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

Selected as NESCAC Player of the Week, Pace led the struggling Jumbos to a much-needed 2-0 week. He torched Emerson to the tune of 30 points and 8 rebounds, shooting 13-21 from the field. Pace tied the game with a three, then hit the game winning layup with under a minute left as the ‘Bos erased a 16-point second half deficit. Against UMass-Boston, he guided Tufts to a jaw-dropping 29-1 lead with 13 points and 7 rebounds on the way to a 73-58 win. He has clearly developed as the top scoring threat for a team that looks to gain some traction as they head out to Los Angeles to take on a few of the Claremont schools. If he continues this type of performance and the Jumbos continue to improve, Pace certainly remains in the conversation for NESCAC POY.

Hamilton

The Continentals are now 8-0 (tied for the best record in the NESCAC) and have been playing incredibly well this season. To be honest I believe they deserve a little more credit, only receiving 18 votes in the last national rankings. Only three of their eight wins have been decided by less than 10 points. They are blowing teams out, and putting up a lot of points in the process. Kena Gilmour ’20 leads the team with 17.4PPG and 7REB/G, and Michael Grassey ’19 has shown that he is a huge piece of this Continentals team. Grassey ’19 is putting up 14.1 points per game to go along with 6.5 rebounds,C especially having huge games against Utica and Eastern. Keep an eye on this underrated and young Hamilton squad, because they are a force to be reckoned with in New York.

Kena Gilmour ’20 is one of the most exciting players in the league.

Stock down

Conn College

It has been a tough stretch for the Camels, who are in the midst of a three game losing streak. They lost to both Mitchell and Western New England, neither of whom is particularly good. They sit at 4-5, which makes them the only NESCAC team below .500, with Bates having the second worst record at 5-2. Not to say that they don’t have any good players, because David Labossiere is averaging 18.3 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. They are suffering from the loss of Tyler Rowe ’19, who was 4th in the NESCAC in scoring, but transferred to Western Connecticut this year. Conn College still has matchups with City College of New York and Maine Presque-Isle before they gear up for their first conference matchup with Middlebury. Hopefully the Camels start to turn things around because you never know what can happen in NESCAC play.

Williams’ Title Chances

In the wake of Scadlock’s injury, a lot of weight will fall on PG Bobby Casey’s (19) shoulders.
 Things took a turn for the worst in Williamstown last week when Kyle Scadlock ’19 suffered a torn ACL in the first half of their game against Westfield State. Obviously, this is a crushing blow to both Williams and the league as a whole. Scadlock is one of the most exciting players in the league, as well as the  team’s leading scorer and rebounder. Williams is certainly still one of the best teams in the conference and perhaps the nation, but they have a much steeper hill to climb now. Look for players like Bobby Casey ’19 Michael Kempton ’20 to take on bigger roles, as well as forward James Heskitt ’19. Heskitt may be best suited to take on some of Scadlock’s myriad responsibilities both offensively and defensively, as he is another versatile forward with quick feet. It will take a team effort for Williams to keep pace with Middlebury, Tufts and suddenly hot teams like Wesleyan or Hamilton. Scadlock is only a junior, so hopefully he will return to full health so that we can see what Williams is truly capable of. Best of luck on a speedy recovery, Kyle.

Stranger Things Have Happened, But Strange Things Happened: Stock Report 2/1

Last week I used the intro to the stock report as a way to explore the somewhat cheesy comparison between NESCAC Men’s Basketball and the trading on Wall Street. Try as I might, I can’t think of a metaphor for stocks to top it, so I’ll just stick to the hoops. This weekend raised many questions. Tufts had seemed so solidly on top of the conference. Middlebury seemed to be heading downward into a skid. Wesleyan was a defensive team, and Amherst was more offensively focused. But things change, this weekend they certainly did.  

Stock Up

Amherst’s D-

Amherst has jacked up the defensive intensity in their recent games.

Amherst held Trinity to shooting just 1/14 from deep in a 66-53 win on Saturday. They forced 16 turnovers, and took advantage of them, scoring 16 points of of them. More than just good shot contesting, Amherst held Trinity to just 5 assists as a team. This indicates some sturdy defensive organization, one with little to no breakdowns. The Bantams are averaging just over 71 points a game, and typically shoot 44.5% from the field, and 35% from deep. Amherst held them to 53 points on 32% shooting and 7.1% from three, respectively. I’d love to avoid the cliche, but hey, defense wins championships.   

Wesleyan’s Explosiveness –

Jordan Bonner
Jordan Bonner ’19

Wesleyan shot 48% from the field and 50% from beyond the arcin 85-75 win over Conn. Harry Rafferty played 34 minutes from the opening tip and had 20 points on 6/12 from the field and three of four from deep. What’s notable about Wesleyan’s 85 points is that the rest of the Cardinal’s starters combined for only 20. Even good teams have off nights, and so an essential mark of any good teamis that it has a depth of players beyond the starting five who can pick up the slack. On Saturday in New London, Joseph Kuo and Andrew Gardiner pulled the rope. The senior forward Kuo was good for 10 of 16 shooting from the field in his twenty point performance. Jordan Bonner dropped 23 points in 28 minutes off the bench. He was 4/6 from deep, but also got to the hole with enough consistency to hit 7 free throws. Wesleyan is known as one of the premier defenses in the conference – the Camel’s 75 points can be largely explained by a 32 point explosion by Tyler Rowe – and if they can keep getting performances off the bench like the ones this weekend their chances look good heading into the tourney.  

Stock Down

Tufts –

The number 4 team in the country lost to Bates in Lewiston on Saturday 84-72.(Editor’s Note: They also dropped a non-league tilt to U-Mass Dartmouth on Tuesday.) They were behind the entire second half. I guess this explains the absurd number of shots it took the Jumbos to score 72 points, but it’s not unfair to expect a little higher efficiency from a team that’s leading the conference in points. Vinny Pace alone, who scored 19 points in 30 minutes, took 22 shots, 12 of them threes. Tuft’s starters combined took 60 shots. They were 36.1% from the field, 18.5% from three, and shot a mere 53.6% from the line. One could attribute the poor shooting to a very solid Bobcat defense, but the weak showing at the line and the huge amount of shots attempted points to a despicable shooting performance. It could be true that it just wasn’t Tufts’ day, but a performance like the one they had Saturday has to hurt. A bounce back, or lack thereof, this upcoming weekend, where they face solid Trinity and Amherst teams, will be a solid indicator of whether or not the Jumbos have the grit and potential to make a tourney run that their national ranking would have indicated. Credit where credit is due: Bates balled out, but this weekend could have been the beginning of something very bad for the Jumbos.

My Credibility Regarding Middlebury –

Bryan Jones
Bryan Jones ’17 had a career night against Hamilton.

Last week I raised into the question the vitality and balance of thePanther’s offense. I said they were too reliant on Matt St. Amour and Jake Brown. And then the Midd kids scored 115 points against Hamilton. That certainly answers the vitality question. As for the balance, Middlebury had 4 starters and 6 players in double digit scoring. So much for my analysis. Midd shot 62% from the field, and 59% from deep. Combine that with 91.7% shooting at the line, and a career-high 25 point performance from Mr. Bryan Jones, and the 115 point thumping of a then-tied-for-third Continentals is not that surprising. It is true that it was a special performance, and one can’t expect that kind of output on any sort of consistent basis, but what gives me even more confidence that the Panthers have recovered from their loss to Williams is that Middlebury had 26 assists. That’s an offense that is humming. Roll Pants, thanks for proving me wrong.

Weekend Preview 2 Part 2: Saturday’s Games

Zuri Pavlin lifts (Courtesy of Conn College Athletics)

It’s a big weekend around the ‘CAC, and Friday’s games will have a pretty big impact on the way Saturday’s games go. Bates, Hamilton, Middlebury and Tufts all have the pleasure of playing each other (except Bates does not play Tufts, and Hamilton does not play Middlebury), which will mean the number of undefeated NESCAC teams will dwindle to a maximum of three this weekend. On the other end of the standings, Williams, Bowdoin, and Colby are all winless in conference play, and face only other winless squads, meaning at least one of them will walk away feeling a little better about themselves this weekend. Then, there is the scrum in the middle, where Amherst, Conn, Trinity and Wesleyan will face off, with Amherst and Trin looking to jump to 3-0 while Conn and Wes are hoping to right their ships. With all that in mind, momentum is a big factor this weekend. A win Friday night bodes very well moving into Saturday’s games, while a loss could steer some teams toward panic mode. Here’s what we’ve got for Saturday’s action:

 

Hamilton (10-2, 2-0) at #6 Tufts (11-2, 2-0), Medford, MA, 2:00 PM

Like I said, momentum is supremely important this weekend, especially in this game. Hamilton and Tufts will either be feeling good after a big Friday night win against another solid squad, or they will be disappointed with their first NESCAC loss of the season. That’s why no matter the result, it is extremely important to get out to a hot start in this game. I strongly believe that whichever team asserts their dominance early will win the game, especially if they are 3-0 while their opponent is 2-1 at tipoff. For the visiting Continentals, the key to victory is on the defensive end. Their obvious disadvantage is on the block, where Palleschi has a massive size advantage over the tall but lankier Andrew Groll ‘19. However, Palleschi alone cannot defeat the Continentals, so their focus on the defensive end should be on preventing penetration from Tarik Smith ‘17, Vinny Pace ‘18 and Everett Dayton ‘18, all of whom are very good at getting to the hooping and dishing to open shooters. Hamilton has shown that they know how to put the ball in the hoop, so it is not their offense that they should be worried about (though I do think the length of Tufts could be a bit tricky for the Hamilton guards), but rather how they are going to keep Tufts from scoring. This is going to be a big game for Peter Hoffmann ’19, who has the best combination of size and scoring ability on the Continentals’ roster, and as he goes the Hamilton offense will go. I believe that the Jumbos will get to the hoop as they usually do, but because of their size advantage across the board, I expect Hamilton to sag into the paint quite a bit. For this reason, I will warn Hamilton: do not sleep on Tufts sharpshooter Ethan Feldman ‘19. He could be deadly on Saturday.

 

Writer’s Pick: Tufts

 

#15 Middlebury (11-1, 2-0) at Bates (11-3, 2-0), Lewiston, ME, 3:00 PM

On paper, this game looks close. The teams have similar records and have opposite strengths, which gives each team a different advantage. Middlebury’s guards are clearly their strength, while it is the post play of the Bobcats that propels them. However, I do not think this game will be nearly as close as some might project. To be honest, I’m predicting that Middlebury will roll. While Bates as the advantage down low with the Delpeche twins, these two have consistently struggled in league play throughout their NESCAC careers. While the pair has improved each season, they have not flashed the ability to take over games very often, and against an experienced Middlebury team I just don’t think this will be one of the rare occasions where they do. While the departure of Baines certainly hurts the Panthers, Nick Tarantino ‘18 is an admirable replacement, and I think he will lock down whichever Bobcat big he is matched up against. If that holds true, maybe the other Delpeche twin can go to work, but the Bobcats are going to need production out of their guards and the stingy defense of Jake Brown ‘17 and Jack Daly ‘18 doesn’t lead me to believe that we will see that. Middlebury should be able to keep the Bates guards in check, and if they do, the Panthers will climb onto Matt St. Amour’s back and show the Bobcats who is higher up in the feline hierarchy.

 

Writer’s Pick: Middlebury

 

#5 Amherst (10-2, 1-0) vs. Conn College (8-4, 2-0), New London, CT, 3:00 PM

This matchup is interesting. As Pete mentioned in his earlier article, the Purple and White (who by the way, might be called the Amherst Hamsters soon enough since hamster is an anagram of Amherst) have lost two of their last four. This couldn’t matter less to me in terms of their performance this weekend. Amherst is always one of the top couple teams in the NESCAC – they pretty much always have been with Dave Hixon at the helm. They are a very tough team to beat, but they are also generally prone to complete melts where they lose focus and lose to teams worse than them. Take last year, for example: Amherst played Wesleyan in an out-of-conference tilt and lost by 27 after beating them by 24 just three days earlier. Did this mean Wesleyan and Amherst were even teams, or that Wesleyan was better? No. It just meant that on certain nights, Amherst takes the night off. That’s what I would say happened against Springfield College in December. I have been watching Amherst College basketball my entire life. I used to wreak absolute havoc in Alumni Gymnasium, and I would watch every Amherst game. I still remember standing in the front of the Amherst student section with a couple of my friends as a 12-ish year old as Amherst took down Tufts in OT. Through the years, I have learned that you must take Amherst one game at a time. So, in this matchup, here’s what should you look for:

 

The matchup between Tyler Rowe ‘19 and Jayde Dawson ‘18 is the one that immediately jumps out to me. These are the two stars of their respective teams this season, and whoever wins this matchup will likely give his team what it needs to win. If I were a betting man (which I’m not, because that would be an NCAA violation), I would say that Dawson wins this battle. He is just as athletic as Rowe, but he has such a size advantage that it is tough to pick against him in this one. Dawson has 4 inches on Rowe, and though Conn does not list their weights, I would guess there is also about a 25 pound disparity between the two of them. I think Amherst would be silly not to post up Dawson at least a few times to take advantage of this mismatch. I do think Zuri Pavlin ‘17 will have a great game for the Camels, as he is much more mobile than Amherst’s David George ‘17, but I don’t think it will be enough to deal with the size advantage that Amherst possesses all over the perimeter. Between Dawson, Johnny McCarthy ‘18, Michael Riopel ‘18 and Jeff Racy ‘17, Conn will struggle to match up.

 

Writer’s Pick: Amherst

 

Trinity (9-5, 1-0) at Wesleyan (11-3, 0-2), Middletown, CT, 3:00 PM

Joseph Kuo ’17 (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics).

Trinity looked good against Williams last weekend, and Ed Ogundeko ‘17 looked VERY good. His stat line speaks for itself, but Ogundeko’s physicality is what sets him apart from other big men in this league, which is why I think he will have a solid day against Joseph Kuo ‘17 of the Cardinals. However, I do not think he will have the same type of day that he did against Williams, as Kuo is a very solid big man in his own right. This will be a back and forth matchup on the low block, which is why I am cancelling out these two when making my prediction. This game will be won by the perimeter players. As always, Trinity will slow the game down and work out of the halfcourt set primarily, which means Wesleyan’s discipline and communication on defense is key. Trinity turns the ball over more than anyone else in the league, so if Wes can turn TOs into points, they will be in very good shape. However, that means they will have to take care of the ball themselves – Wesleyan turns the ball over the second most. Offensively, Wesleyan should try to get into the paint more often, and stop hucking up threes. As they learned last weekend, three-point shots are not their strength, getting into the paint is. Wesleyan is a lot deeper at the guard spots than Trinity, so if they can get to the rack and force the Bantams to foul, the Cardinals are in good shape. However, if they fall into the trap of shooting a million threes again, then Trinity will be able to contain the weapons of the Wesleyan offense. This game is a toss up, as I think the two are very evenly matched and a lot of how this game plays out depends on gameplan, but I think Wesleyan edges Trinity in a tight one.

 

Writer’s Pick: Wesleyan

 

Williams (11-3, 0-2) at Bowdoin (8-6, 0-2), Brunswick, ME, 6:00 PM

The rare NESCAC Saturday night game holds an interesting matchup between the Ephs and the Polar Bears, one which Williams must win if they want a shot at finishing in the top half of playoff teams in the NESCAC this year. However, early in the season it is also a pretty crucial game for Bowdoin if they want to crack the playoffs this year. With what appears to be the rise of Hamilton and Bates, Bowdoin needs to beat some playoff-caliber teams, and Williams would definitely be a nice win to write home about. However, I think this is a tough matchup for the Polar Bears for a few reasons. First of all, Bowdoin is best when Jack Simonds ‘19 has a mismatch. Williams doesn’t give him that, because Kyle Scadlock ‘19 is every bit as big and is every bit as athletic, so this is not going to be a game where Simonds completely takes over. Secondly, the weakness is Williams is down low, and unfortunately for Bowdoin, that is also their weakness. I will say, sophomore Hugh O’Neil has done a nice job under the hoop for the Polar Bears this year, but he is not going to single-handedly lead his team to a win. Thirdly, Williams has a stronger and deeper cast of guards than Bowdoin. Bobby Casey ‘19, Cole Teal ‘18, and Dan Aronowitz ‘17 provide a plethora of options for the Ephs offensively, and they are complemented by forward Scadlock. The matchups will be interesting, and I think the Ephs can exploit them no matter how Bowdoin chooses to play it. Assume Simonds guards Aronowitz – that leaves Scadlock with a huge mismatch down low, and doesn’t really slow down Aronowitz that much either. Assume Simonds guards Scadlock – Scadlock still outsizes Simonds, and Aronowitz has an even more favorable matchup on the perimeter. I don’t really see a way that Bowdoin can slow down the Williams attack in this one, which is why I think Williams should win pretty handily.

 

Writer’s Pick: Williams

NESCAC Play Begins: Part Two

Joseph Kuo ’17 has a been a force for Wesleyan so far, and he will be needed big time this weekend (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics/Lianne Yun).

Being a Tufts student, I think it’s important that my first order of business is to address the elephant in the room. Pete definitely hates Tufts, no matter how much he denied it yesterday in his preview of today’s games. To be honest, I don’t blame him, it’s just his Middlebury inferiority complex kicking in. Take it easy on him, guys, Middlebury Athletics is all he has. That being said, whoever made this comparison between Pete and Skip Bayless in the comment section: bravo.

More importantly, let’s take a look at the Saturday/Sunday games. Overall, the contests appear to be a bit less interesting than Friday’s games, but it’s the opening weekend of NESCAC play – anything can happen.

 

Saturday Games

GAME OF THE DAY: #9 Wesleyan @ Hamilton, 3:00 PM, Clinton, NY

Overview:

I would guess that most Cardinals fans looked past this game on their schedule due to Hamilton’s performance in recent years. For Wesleyan’s sake, I hope the players are not looking past this game. Obviously, they’ve got a battle on Friday night against Middlebury, but this new and improved Hamilton squad can definitely take advantage of that. Hamilton has been led by a cast of youngsters thus far, and this early season matchup is vital if these pups want to prove they can hang with the big dogs. Last year, the Continentals took Wesleyan to overtime before losing 82-76, and it actually took some clutch free throws by Wesleyan’s Joseph Kuo ‘17 down the stretch to avoid losing in regular time. Impressive performances will surely attract more attention to Michael Grassey ‘19 and Jack Dwyer ‘18 from the Wesleyan defense on Saturday, who had 16 a piece last year. It was the seniors that led the way for the Cardinals, as BJ Davis, Jack Mackey, and Joe Edmonds combined for 42 of Wesleyan’s 82 points. While this Wesleyan team has certainly figured things out so far this year on their way to a #9 national ranking, they will need someone besides Kuo to embrace the moment and put the ball in the bucket on Saturday if they want to keep up with high-scoring Continentals.

 

X-factors:

It has been Wesleyan’s depth and balance that has proven quite effective so far this year, but against this young Hamilton team, senior leader Harry Rafferty is going to need to take the reigns. Throughout his career, Rafferty has been a threat whenever he throws on the black and red jersey, and one main reason for that is because of his outside shooting. Take a second and digest this: Rafferty has shot 106 times this season, and while he is shooting 39.6% from the field, this number is somewhat skewed. Of those 106 shots, Rafferty has attempted 77 three-pointers. The senior shoots 37.7% from the field (29-77), which means he has hit as many threes as he has taken twos. That’s a bit ridiculous. If that’s the way Wesleyan’s offense works, great, but this clearly gives Hamilton an idea of how to play Rafferty: run him off the three-point line. Rafferty’s production is very important in this game, so if he is unwilling to move off the arc, Wesleyan could be in trouble.

 

For the home team, success is going to be dependent on the ability (or inability) to stop Kuo down low. That’s where Andrew Groll ‘19 steps in. Groll is a 6’7” forward that dominates the boards, pulling down 7.4 REB/G, which is right on pace with Kuo’s 7.3 REB/G. They both average over 2 offensive rebounds, so the key for Groll on the boards is making sure that Kuo is unable to provide his team with these extra opportunities. Defensively, Groll faces a tall task due to the innate ability of getting to the hoop that Wesleyan’s perimeter players possess. Wesleyan’s quartet of sophomore guards (Salim Green ‘18, Jordan Bonner ‘18, Kevin O’Brien ‘18, and Andrew Gardiner ‘18) can all drive the ball to the rim, which will force Groll to decide whether he is going to help off of Kuo or stay at home. It’s Groll’s decision-making and execution in these situations that will determine whether or not the Cardinals eat Hamilton alive in the paint.

 

Final Thoughts:

One of the most interesting dynamics of this game is the difference in offensive pace. Hamilton averages about eight points more per game than Wesleyan, and though they have played two less games than Wes, the Continentals shoot a higher percentage from the field and from deep. The biggest offensive advantage that I see for Wesleyan is their knack for getting to the foul line. Wesleyan shoots more free throws than any other team in the league, with about 26 per game, as opposed to Hamilton’s 23. They both shoot just about 70% from the strike, so in a close game (as I expect this to be), those 3 extra free throws could be crucial. Both teams are pretty deep, but Hamilton’s scoring is much more top-heavy than Wesleyan’s. If one of their big-time scorers like Peter Hoffmann ‘19 or Michael Grassey ‘19 gets in foul trouble, Wesleyan may be able to pull away. This will be a tough and physical game that depends highly on execution down the stretch. For this reason, I’m giving Wesleyan the advantage. They have simply had more experience in these types of games.

Writer’s Pick: Wesleyan

 

#8 Tufts @ Colby, 3:00 PM, Waterville, ME

This game could go one of two ways, and it’s all about which Tufts team shows up. Throughout this season, it has been a tale of two teams. The Tufts that walked into the gym against MIT and WPI was legit. They shot well, they had 32 and 35 points off the bench respectively, and they forced their opponents into difficult shots. Then there is the Tufts team that made an appearance against UMass Boston. They were outrebounded by a significantly smaller team, they had more turnovers than their opponents (albeit by just 1 turnover), and they allowed UMB’s center to dominate them. This Jumbos team is good because they are deep, but when they don’t get production from their bench, they simply aren’t as good a team. Now, it’s definitely worth noting that Vinny Pace ‘18, Tufts’ best scorer, was coming off the bench until the UMB game, but overall, they just need more consistency. Colby may be able to capitalize on this, but their margin of error is slim. Colby ranks last in the conference in scoring with just 70.7 PPG, a product of their league-worst shooting percentage and shot attempt numbers. Patrick Stewart ‘17 is currently the only double-digit point-getter on the Mules’ side of the ball, and that will be an issue against Tufts who has pretty favorable match-ups on their own offensive end. I don’t see Colby slowing down the Tufts offense too much, but you never know. Maybe the Mules will take down the #8 Jumbos. I’m not banking on that.

Writer’s Pick: Tufts

 

Bates @ Bowdoin, 3:00 PM, Brunswick, ME

Every year, I wait for NESCAC play before judging Bates because every year, their out of conference schedule is filled with teams that I know little to nothing about. However, I was impressed by Bates’ win against Brandeis recently, and before that they blew out Framingham State like they were supposed to. Maybe Bates is better than I predicted? Though both were non-conference games, Bates has fared 1-1 against NESCAC opponents this season with a buzzer-beater loss to Colby and a 14-point win against Bowdoin. Bowdoin will certainly be looking for revenge this time around, and so will Jack Simonds ‘19, who was held to just 12 points the first time these two met. Simonds, as anyone reading this blog knows, is Bowdoin’s leading scorer, and also the NESCAC’s leading scorer, but that hasn’t necessarily translated into success for the Polar Bears. I knew at the beginning of the season that Bowdoin would struggle if they didn’t diversify their scoring, and it looks like that’s exactly what’s going to happen in league-play unless they get some other guys involved in the offense. This is partly because Bowdoin’s defense is pretty porous. They allow the second-most PPG in the ‘CAC, and against Bates, they allowed the Bobcats’ starting lineup to tally 62 of their 74 points. The key for Bowdoin this time around is forcing the Bates bench to score. However, the Bobcats are in luck, as newly found offensive weapon Jeff Spellman ‘20 has been playing very well recently. Per usual, it’s up to the twin towers of Marcus and Malcolm Delpeche to anchor the load offensively. If these two dominate like last time (combined for 37 points), then Bates is in good shape. If not, then Simonds might just will Bowdoin to the promised land in this in-state rivalry.

Writer’s Pick: Bowdoin

 

Conn College @ #22 Middlebury, 3:00 PM, Middlebury, VT

Unlike Pete, I’m able to write about Middlebury in less than twelve lengthy paragraphs, so enjoy this conciseness for a change. Conn-Midd is another subtle yet intriguing game, one which strongly resembles the Wesleyan-Hamilton matchup. Conn College has been gaining steam the last couple years, and they hope that this is finally the year they get over the hump (lol, camels). Middlebury, on the other hand, is looking to once again get off to a hot start in conference play just a year after I called them a rebuilding team and one without playoff hopes. This, of course, propelled the Panthers not only into the playoffs but also the the NCAA tournament after winning the NESCAC championship. En garde, Middlebury. In any event, I see one clear problem for Conn, and that is their defense. Middlebury has offensive weapons – namely, Matt St. Amour. The Panthers have compiled some nice wins against Southern Vermont and Skidmore already, but they did so with Zach Baines ‘17 in the lineup. As Pete mentioned, Midd is likely without Baines and Hilal Dahleh ‘19 this weekend, which makes their bench much thinner. This bodes well for Conn, a team that will either be thirsty for a win after a tough loss to Hamilton, or thirsty to continue their win streak after a solid win against Hamilton. Either way, they will be THIRSTY, and it is up to Middlebury’s guards to stave off the likes of Tyler Rowe ‘19 and David Labossiere ‘19, two of Conn’s top weapons. Meanwhile, Adisa Majors ‘18 and Nick Tarantino ‘18 will be tasked with stopping Conn’s rock, Zuri Pavlin ‘17, who leads the Camels in scoring and is 3rd in the league in offensive rebounding (2nd in overall rebounding). This should be a good one, and we will see how real Conn is on Saturday. I think the thirst is real, and Conn sneaks out of Vermont with a W.

Writer’s Pick: Conn College

 

Sunday Game

Trinity @ #25 Williams, 2:00 PM, Williamstown, MA

Ed Ogundeko ’17 hits a runner (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics).

Looking at these two teams’ overall performances thus far, this game shouldn’t be too close. Trinity has been unimpressive, and Williams has been pretty damn impressive. But basketball is a game of matchups, and the fact is, Trinity matches up well against Williams. Williams’ strength is in their guards. They shoot A LOT of threes, the most in the league actually, but they haven’t exactly shot well from beyond the arc so far. The Ephs hit just 33.5% of their threes, but they have some great shooters (see: Cole Teal ‘18), so these shots are going to start dropping sooner rather than later. Where the Ephs are somewhat lacking is down low, but Kyle Scadlock ‘19 has been a formidable big so far in his sophomore campaign, and he ranks second in scoring on the Williams roster behind POY candidate Dan Aronowitz ‘17. Trinity, on the other hand, is weaker on the perimeter and stronger inside. Ed Ogundeko ‘17 has been the primary source of consistency for the Bantams, and he should beat up on Williams’ rotation of centers. If the Bants pound the ball down to Ogundeko and get him to the free throw line, it will force Williams to sag in off of Trinity’s shooters, which could be deadly. Expect senior Chris Turnbull to have a day for Trinity on the offensive end. All in all, however, I think Aronowitz will feast on Trin – he should have a field day on pretty much any matchup that gets thrown at him, kind of like he’s done all year. The potent Williams attack will be too much for the Bantams.

Writer’s Pick: Williams

Can the Camels Finally Get Over the Hump?: Conn College Basketball Season Preview

Isaiah Robinson '18 and company are looking to continue the Camels' progression towards the top of the league this season (Courtesy of Conn College Athletics)
Isaiah Robinson ’18 and company are looking to continue the Camels’ progression towards the top of the league this season (Courtesy of Conn College Athletics)

Projected Record: 6-4

While a 3-7 conference record in 2015-2016 wasn’t what the Camels envisioned, they still were just one game out of the NESCAC playoffs and if it weren’t for a couple of late season losses, would’ve made it to the postseason. Conn was 12-12 overall last year, and while there were plenty of more experienced and/or more talented teams in the league, the Camels were able to beat Middlebury 82-81 on January 9th and lost to Amherst a week later on January 16th, 88-86, showing their ability to play up with the best in the league. With that being said, two late losses to Colby and Bowdoin showed the second face of this young team, and just like that they got bounced from the NESCAC playoff race. Conn only graduated one senior, Bo McKinley ‘16, a centerpiece of their team as a leader, and therefore they retain their other four starters, 6th man, and brought in four new freshmen. The Camels need to make great strides from last year in order to have a shot at winning the league championship, but their team chemistry from last year and experience will be a big help.

While McKinley was a starter, he only averaged 7.1 PPG in just over 18 minutes per game, showing the potential for the rest of this Connecticut College squad. Additional minutes should open up for junior guard Lee Messier who impressed in nine starts last year, averaging nearly 14 points in just over 24 minutes per game. He will likely take over the two-spot as the smaller Tyler Rowe ’19 at 5’10’’ should stay as the primary ball handler. Small forward David Labossiere ’19 will return as a second year starter, showing real talent last year after gaining more consistent minutes a few weeks into the season. Labossiere has some shooting ability beyond the arc. Captain Zuri Pavlin ’17 is another returning starter who will play as a small four for the Camels, and was arguably their strongest player last year averaging 8.6 rebounds and 10.1 points per game. Rounding out the big contributing returners is fellow captain Daniel Janel who is a bigger forward than Pavlin, but will likely play as a small center as Conn lacks a true elite big man, and averaged 6 boards and 9.5 PPG a year ago. While they missed out on the playoffs a year ago, they clearly gained valuable experience and should start the year in the middle of the pack as dark horses to rise up in what is shaping up to be a dominant conference.

2015-2016 Record: 12-12, 3-7, 9th place in the NESCAC, one spot from the NESCAC playoffs

Coach: Tom Satran, 15th season, 136-197 (.408)

Returning Starters:

Guard Tyler Rowe ‘19 (12.8 PPG, 3.3 REB/G, 3.9 A/G)

Forward David Labossiere ’19 (11.3 PPG, 3.6 REB/G, 51.0% FG)

Forward Zuri Pavlin ’17 (10.1 PPG, 8.6 REB/G, 47.9% FG)

Forward Daniel Janel ‘17 (9.5 PPG, 6.0 REB/G, 53.3 % FG)

Key Losses:

Guard Bo McKinley ‘16 (7.1 PPG, 1.2 REB/G, 1.3 A/G)

Projected Starting Lineup:

Guard Tyler Rowe ‘19

Tyler Rowe '19
Tyler Rowe ’19 (Courtesy of Conn College Athletics)

Rowe graced the ‘Faces in the Crowd’ section of Sports Illustrated last January after hitting back to back game winning shots against Middlebury and City College of New York, no small feat for any athlete. This shot him into the hearts of all Camel fans and fans of undersized basketball players. The 5’10” Rowe started as a freshman and certainly held his own against what has to be the best D3 competition in the nation. After all, four NESCAC teams went to the NCAA tourney last year. Four! While the point guard’s competition isn’t going to be getting easier this year, as a smaller player, he is less reliant on dominant physical ability and more on skill, so knowing the competition, the league, and individual opponents should help his game. Look for his assist numbers and shooting percentage to go up as he should begin to take smarter shots. He clocked in 27.8 minutes per game and started 22/24 contests during the 2015-2016 season; Rowe should take big strides towards the upper echelon of pg’s in the NESCAC this year.

Guard Lee Messier ‘18

Lee Messier '18 (Courtesy of Conn College)
Lee Messier ’18 (Courtesy of Conn College)

Messier was in and out of the starting lineup last year, starting 9/18 games that he played in, right behind the aforementioned McKinley. With McKinley gone, Messier should be a big part of what the Camels do this season. There is currently still competition for the 5th starting spot as Coach Satran wouldn’t reveal his replacement for the graduated captain, but with four new players coming on the Camels’ roster and Messier likely gaining additional minutes with the hole in the lineup, Conn looks pretty well-off right now. Messier didn’t start over Bo last year, but he averaged nearly six more minutes per game than him in the games both played in. Messier showed flashes of dominance against two of the best teams the ‘CAC had to offer last season. Against Middlebury and Amherst, Messier put up 19 and 17 points respectively, shooting 66.7% and adding on several three pointers. He is a big X-Factor from the shooting guard position, and enters his junior season with similar numbers both of his first two years, showing that he will likely put up 13-15 PPG and inch closer to a 50% FG% as he matures as a player.

Forward David Labossiere ‘19

David Labossiere '19 (Courtesy of Conn College)
David Labossiere ’19 (Courtesy of Conn College)

Similar to Rowe, Labossiere took on the league as a freshman starter and held his own. He emerged as one of the top newcomers in the conference at the two, registering 11.3 points and 3.6 boards a game. His athleticism isn’t to be questioned as the high flying small forward can jump out of the gym. Early on last season Fox Sports put him down as a contender for dunk of the year with a nasty and-one finish on an alley-oop against Roger Williams last November. The 6’4’’ forward should throw down some sick dunks, pin jobs, and other exciting plays for the Camels, transforming into a big playmaker in his sophomore season. If I went to Conn I’d go to the games just to watch this guy play.

Forward Zuri Pavlin ‘17

Zuri Pavlin '17 (Courtesy of Conn College)
Zuri Pavlin ’17 (Courtesy of Conn College)

As stated earlier, Pavlin had the best year by the numbers on a young team a year ago. His 8.6 rebounds per game led the team and were good for second place in the conference behind Trinity’s Ed Ogundeko ’17. Pavlin has a career total of a whopping 719 rebounds and lies just 112 boards behind the program leader, Peter Dorfman ’84, to become the program’s all-time leader. The captain power forward had even better defensive and offensive numbers his first two seasons and played nearly five less minutes per game last year. If he gets back to where he was sophomore year, he would push for the league lead in boards per game, and should average nearly a double double. A down year for him numbers-wise was still beastly, however, and there is more potential here for Pavlin heading into his senior season. Look for him to build on his past experience and dominate in the paint this season.

Forward Daniel Janel ‘17

Daniel Janel '17 (Courtesy of Conn College)
Daniel Janel ’17 (Courtesy of Conn College)

First year captain Daniel Janel finished his second season last year after leaving Adelphi in the Northeast-10 conference in Division II. Janel averaged 9.5 PPG and 6.0 REB/G last year after only putting up 4.1 PPG and 3.1 boards per contest his first year at Conn. These two very different slash lines are indicative of hard work, improvement, and familiarization at the D3 level. He posted the seventh highest field goal percentage in the NESCAC at 53% from the field and should be a force in the paint again this season. The 6’5’’ senior is definitely undersized as big men go, but the help from Pavlin underneath should provide ample distribution of boards to both, making it tough on opposing teams. The third year of play between these captains should contribute to more improvement in communication down low, and each could be in the running for All-NESCAC accolades come the season’s end.

Breakout Player: Forward David Labossiere ‘19

As mentioned before, this guy is really athletic. He seems similar to Middlebury’s Zach Baines in that each is a big threat to dunk, and both put up great freshmen seasons as small forwards. Labossiere should make strides to find more opportunities to shoot. His performances against Middlebury and Amherst were big keys for me as they show what he can do against the best in this league. He led his team in the first half against the Final Four team from Western Mass, going 5-5 from the field. Shooting percentage wasn’t a problem for him last year as anything above 50% is pretty solid, so if he finds more openings (which usually comes with experience), he should put up some (La)boss(iere) numbers. When researching Conn’s team, I couldn’t help but watch Labossiere’s highlight tape and it was pretty impressive to say the least. Yeah a lot of basketball players can dunk, but Labossiere has style and ease when he plays, and I think he’s about to take it to a whole ‘nother level.

Everything Else:

Coach Satran mentioned how the Camels need to adjust to the little things more than last year, and will need somebody else to step up as the 6th man with Messier likely entering the starting lineup. Conn should have depth with their already solid bench and four new recruits, and I suspect they will start the year in a much better place than 2015. The NESCAC is tough in terms of competition and the key for this developing team is “consistency.” Satran’s team knows that they can do it—they came within two points of upsetting Amherst in what was one of the best games of all of last year, and beat Middlebury. They also lost narrowly to Tufts at home in January, which would have been a huge momentum builder for the Camels. On the flip side, as I mentioned earlier, they lost to Colby and Bowdoin consecutively to end their season.

The high ceiling for the young Conn guards leaves a lot of room for growth, and they are anchored by Pavlin and Jalen down low. What helped the Camels last season was Messier’s presence right behind McKinley, acting as a great sixth man. This is going to be another essential for Conn going into the season—finding strong players deeper in their lineup to supplement their starting five. Satran will likely look to his youth for the backup as his squad starts to come into their own in the NESCAC. 6’5’’ Isaiah Robinson played in 20 games last year, averaged just over 15 minutes per contest, and has experience as a starter from his freshman year. He should be a valuable piece off of the bench for the Camels, bolstering their already strong big men. The Camels showed flashes of what was great basketball last season, but clearly couldn’t bring their A-game every night. They should improve in their consistency as they have nearly the same team as last year, but only time will tell if they will play down to weaker opponents. The top of the league should keep their eyes on the Camels as they push from the bottom up this year. The talent is there, but the question will be: can the Camels play to their full potential consistently?

Really Big Wins, No Big Rin(g)s: Trinity’s Season in Review

The efforts of Jaquann Starks '16 and Eg Ogundeko '17 weren't enough to get Trinity by high-scoring Johnson & Wales in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Plattsburgh St. (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
The efforts of Jaquann Starks ’16 and Eg Ogundeko ’17 weren’t enough to get Trinity by high-scoring Johnson & Wales in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Plattsburgh St. (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

The Buffalo Bills of the early 1990’s. The 1990’s Atlanta Braves (except for 1995). University of Michigan basketball in 1992 and 1993. And, worst of all, the 2007 Patriots.

All dynastic-type franchises and programs. None of them champions. It takes a certain level of talent to be the best team and win more games than anyone else throughout the course of a season. It takes something else, some undefinable, to be a champion.

As great as Trinity basketball has been over the course of the past two seasons – a 42-15 record (.737), 18-2 (.900) conference record, defenses rated near the top of the NESCAC and all of Division-III, an Elite Eight run a year ago and another NCAA trip this season – they have not been able to win a NESCAC title despite the Semis and Finals being played in Hartford. After once again clinching home court advantage through the NESCAC playoffs, the Semifinal exit for the Bantams was a disappointing one.

Let’s not forget, though, about the accomplishments that this team achieved. The Bantams graduated a few critical pieces, as most good teams do. Hart Gliedman ’15, a tenacious perimeter defender. George Papadeas ’15, a paint-clogging center at 6’8″. And a couple of important forwards in Steve Spirou ’15 and Alex Conaway ’15. The backcourt went through a further transition, as Andrew Hurd ’16 became the PG1 and Jaquann Starks ’16, an All-NESCAC player last year, had to morph himself into a traditional two-guard. There was a question of what kind of offensive production Trinity would get out of the post. Last year center Ed Ogundeko ’17 was the team’s third-leading scorer, but he shot an ugly 46.3 percent from the floor – not very good for a guy that doesn’t shoot from outside the paint. And lastly, there was the question of how the team would respond from a disappointing loss in the NESCAC Semis followed by a deep NCAA run.

All things considered, Trinity had a successful year, once again claiming the No. 1 seed by being the best team during the NESCAC regular season. There’s no doubt, though, that the Bantams will look back on this season and feel that there was some unfinished business.

Highlight Moment: 76-75 Win against Williams in the NESCAC Season Opener

The first game of the conference schedule always carries a lot of weight, but that is particularly true for a team like Trinity, trying to prove that it is not a fluke. The upstart Ephs had the advantage down the stretch, but it was the cool nerves of the experienced Bantams that made the difference. Trinity was down 70-68 with just moments to play, but then scored six points off of steals – two from Shay Ajayi ’16 and one from Starks – to stay in the fight. Finally, it was a contested, banked-in runner from Starks with six seconds left and followed by a steal from Starks himself that iced the game.

Team MVP: F Shay Ajayi

Shay Ajayi '16 is nasty. (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
Shay Ajayi ’16 is nasty. (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

This is an easy one, as Ajayi not only gets our vote for Team MVP, but he already took home NESCAC POY honors. Ajayi’s game is so well-rounded that it’s hard to find a weakness. He is a menace defensively because of his length, and his ability to score inside, outside and attacking the rim is unmatched in the NESCAC. His stat line speaks for itself: 13.9 ppg on 48.3/32.1/78.0% shooting, 7.3 rpg, 1.6 spg and 1.0 bpg.

Biggest Surprise: The Loss of Hart Gliedman Didn’t Hurt Too Badly

People close to the program might read that and think I’m crazy. I don’t know how important Gliedman was as a leader and a presence off the floor, and believe me, as a former scrappy all-defense guard myself back in high school and today on the intramural circuit, I respect the man’s game. I only say this because American University transfer Langdon Neal ’17 became a vicious perimeter defender this season. Every time I watched Trinity, Neal was the player that caught my eye, constantly pressuring the ball handler and disrupting passing lanes. Need proof of his defensive capabilities? How about 1.0 steals per game in just 14.1 minutes per game. Ajayi lead the Bantams with 1.6 steals per game, but of course was also on the floor for almost 25 minutes per game. Neal comes in at 14th in the league in steals per game, and played by far the fewest minutes of anyone ranked that high. Tim Ahn ’19 (17.0 mpg) and Josh Britten ’16 (19.5 mpg) were the only guys above Neal that played less than 20 minutes per contest. I’d love to see what Neal does in an expanded role next season, and if he breaks into the starting five he could be a sneaky play for DPOY.

Most Interesting Stat: Shay Ajayi lead the Bantams with 24.9 mpg

That might not sound like a spectacular stat, but get this. Ajayi’s 24.9 mpg ranks 33rd in the NESCAC. Every other team besides Bates (one, Mike Boornazian ’16) and Conn College (two, Tyler Rowe ’19 and Zuri Pavlin ’17) had at least three players average more minutes than Ajayi. The entire Colby starting five averaged more minutes than Ajayi. Obviously, the advantage for the Bantams was that they were always fresh. It’s interesting though. What could Head Coach James Cosgrove be giving up by leaving Ajayi (or Starks, or Ogundeko, etc.) on the bench for 15 minutes and going to the eighth, ninth or 10th guy in the rotation? The Bantams’ core players were forced into more usage in the playoffs. Against Middlebury, Ajayi played 24 minutes, Starks 25, Ogundeko 26 and Hurd 29. Against Johnson & Wales, the totals were Ajayi 22, Starks 22, Hurd 27 and Ogundeko 31. Is it possible that they were worn down towards the end of the game, and that lead to those losses? We’ll never know for sure, and Cosgrove basically employed the same strategy last season, when the Bantams lost in the NESCAC Semis but did make it to the Elite Eight (Starks lead with 28.6 mpg, Ajayi was second with 25.2 mpg and no one else topped 22.1 mpg). It’s proven to be an effective strategy during the regular season, but perhaps it has contributed to a few disappointing postseason showings.

 

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.

2016 NbN All-NESCAC Basketball Teams

Lucas Hausman '16 was an easy choice for the NbN NESCAC Player of the Year, and teammate Jack Simonds '19, seen here mesmerized by a Hausman drive, was a nearly as easy pick for Rookie of the Year. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)
Lucas Hausman ’16 was an easy choice for the NbN NESCAC Player of the Year, and teammate Jack Simonds ’19, seen here mesmerized by a Hausman drive, was a nearly as easy pick for Rookie of the Year. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

So the NESCAC beat us to it by a day (though we actually made decisions on our team Tuesday night), releasing its All-Conference teams yesterday, but let’s be honest, no one really cares about that. The NbN All-NESCAC team is really where you want to be. What do all those silly coaches know anyway? They probably all vote for their starting five and then some dude in Hadley, MA, where the NESCAC headquarters is (by the way, is that like some guy’s really nice garage?), just fudges a few numbers and picks whomever he likes for the All-NESCAC team. Well we think we can do just as good of a job at throwing darts at a board of names. So here it goes.

First Team: 

G Lucas Hausman ’16, Bowdoin (Player of the Year)

The NESCAC decided not to make Hausman the back-to-back Player of the Year, and we find that decision a little puzzling. We understand that Bowdoin didn’t have a great season at 4-6 in conference and a quarterfinal tournament exit, but C’MON MAN! Hausman gets buckets like nobody else in the NESCAC has ever. He scored 25.3 ppg, 2.5 more ppg than anybody else in NESCAC history. If you isolate for NESCAC games, the number rises to 26.0 ppg. All season long Hausman was performing a veritable Kobe Bryant impression, hitting fade-away and step-back jumpers at an unbelievable rate. He made an astounding 8.1 free throws per game during the NESCAC season. The next highest total was 5.1. I understand that Hausman is not a great defender or facilitator, but you can’t deny his greatness as a scorer. The NbN Player of the Year award doesn’t make up for losing out on the NESCAC Player of the Year, but I hope that it helps a little bit. -Adam

G Matt St. Amour ’17, Middlebury

Trying to not be too much of a homer, I started criticizing St. Amour’s one-on-one defense when Adam and I broke down our All-NESCAC teams. Then Adam reminded me that the Vermont native was the only go-to scorer on his team all long, the second-highest scorer in the conference, the leader in steals, great at getting and making free throws, takes charges at the biggest moments, and a darn good rebounding guard. He’s a nice guy, too.

G/F Dan Aronowitz ’16, Williams

Last season we got a glimpse of what Aronowitz can do when Hayden Rooke-Ley ’15 was out with an injury. This year, Aronowitz was the best and most consistent player on the Ephs. He scored in double digits for 22 of the Ephs’ 25 games, and he was the best non-big man rebounder in the league pulling in 7.4 rpg, fifth best in the NESCAC. Aronowitz was also efficient, shooting 48.7 percent from the field and 40.7 percent from three. The year-to-year growth for Aronowitz from a seldom-used freshmen on an insanely talented team to junior leader on both ends of the court has been fun to watch. Next year he could make a strong push for POY honors. –Adam

F Shay Ajayi ’16, Trinity

All of those points that Hausman scored were just too eye-popping for us, but Ajayi made quite the case for POY laurels – after all, you add on what we saw as All-Defensive team caliber defense, and it’s hard to find a more complete player in the league. Ajayi tallied 14.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 42 steals (fourth in the NESCAC), 26 blocks (sixth) and was very efficient at 48.9 percent from the field.

C Tom Palleschi ’17, Tufts

Palleschi doesn’t look like much when he steps on the court – no offense, big guy – but he’s got some moves. Plus, he can stretch the floor all the way to the three-point line offensively. Defensively, there is a question about his ultimate impact, given how bad Tufts was as a unit, but his league-best (by far) 3.6 blocks per game suggest that he altered his fair share of shot attempts.

Second Team:

G BJ Davis ’16, Wesleyan University

Davis was headed for First Team status early on, but he and the Cards sort of petered out in the second half. Still, to elevate his game from just another option in the Cardinals rotating back court to “the guy” is a testament to his abilities. He’s remarkably quick, but could also shoot from anywhere, and hit 39.9 percent of his three pointers while scoring 16.4 ppg.

G Jake Brown ’17, Middlebury College

I’m happy to put another Panthers on the map here, and honestly I didn’t have to push too hard. Brown only scored 9.8 ppg, and All-League teams are usually just a mishmash of the highest scorers, but Brown really deserves this nod for his perimeter defense and control of the offense. Jack Daly ’18 is a good point guard in his own right, but Brown is truly elite at running a transition offense, and Middlebury would not be where they are right now without him. If you’re going by stats, Brown had 5.3 apg and a 2.8 assist-to-turnover ratio, both near the top of the league.

G Vinny Pace ’18, Tufts University

Pace burst on the scene this season by going for 25, 22, 22, 20 and 18 in his first five conference games after a strong early season non-conference showing. And even though Tarik Smith ’17 was the primary point guard, Pace racked up 2.8 apg and initiated the offense nearly as much as Smith.

G Connor Green ’16, Amherst College 

Green was a First-Teamer a season ago, but got pushed by some great players this year to the Second Team. Still a great accomplishment, and one that Green can add to a long list of achievements, including being the third leading scorer all-time at Amherst with 1,679 points, 29 behind Steve Zieja ’03 for the second spot. He’s a match up problem for any team because of his ability to shoot, height and size, and averaged 6.3 rebounds per game.

C Ed Ogundeko ’16, Trinity College

Ed Ogundeko '17 (52) and Shay Ajayi '16 (44) are both NbN All-NESCAC and All-Defensive players. (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
Ed Ogundeko ’17 (52) and Shay Ajayi ’16 (44) are both NbN All-NESCAC and All-Defensive players. (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

If we gave out a Most Improved Award, it would have gone to Ogundeko, hands down. Last season the big guy looked clunky and awkward around the rim, but this year he was downright silky with the ability to step away from 10-15 feet and make a couple of shots. Mainly, though, he just did work around the rim. At 6’6″, 235 lbs, not a lot of guys could move him off the block, and he used that advantage to pace the NESCAC in rebounding. He only played just over 22 minutes per game, but he was fifth in the conference in points per 40 minutes. That’s efficiency.

All-Rookie Team:

F Jack Simonds, Bowdoin (Rookie of the Year)

It’s crazy that Bowdoin has the Player and Rookie of the Year on their team, but you certainly can’t argue that Simonds is worthy. The 6’6″ Maine native came in and from day one showed he could shoot the rock. He finished sixth overall with 16.3 ppg. His size makes him a nightmare to cover, and down the stretch he got into the lane and finished more and more. Simonds had one of the best freshman seasons in recent history, and he missed out on our second team by just a hair. As good as Hausman has been over the past two years, Simonds has a chance to have an even better career. -Adam

G Tyler Rowe, Conn College 

Well, he got into Sports Illustrated, and that’s good enough for me. But in all seriousness, Rowe might have been Conn’s MVP, and that’s on a team with Zuri Pavlin ’17, the guy who had like 1,000 rebounds in two seasons. The weight has been lifted off of Pavlin somewhat because of this talented freshman crew that Rowe headlines. After scoring 12.8 ppg and shooting 41.7 percent from the field (and 85.1 percent from the line) the sky is the limit for this kid.

G Peter Hoffmann, Hamilton College

I think it’s pretty clear that Head Coach Adam Stockwell was committed to the rebuild this season. That’s not to say he did anything less than try to win, because playing his freshmen was probably the best way to do just that. Hoffmann started 18 games, played 27.7 mpg, and pretty much shot the ball any time he touched it. Usually they went in (40.0 percent from the field), but he needs to sharpen up that long range game. Still, Hoffmann looks destined to be a great scorer in this league.

F Kyle Scadlock, Williams College

Watching Scadlock early on, I was sure he would be a shoe-in for NESCAC Rookie of the Year. Unfortunately, his production really trailed off with eight single-digit point games in his last 11, but Scadlock is truly an elite talent with a unique skill set. He’s kind of built like Ben Simmons, except with the potential to shoot the ball. More than anything, the way he assumed a pivotal starting role and still maintained productive play tells me that he deserves this.

F Andrew Groll, Hamilton College

Groll was a workhorse, pulling down 7.8 rpg, fourth-most in the NESCAC. He also made the game-winner against Middlebury. Kid’s got ice in his veins!

All-Defensive Team:

F Shay Ajayi, Trinity College (Defensive Player of the Year)

Length, athleticism, effort, it’s all there with this kid. The NESCAC had him as the POY, we’ve got him as the DPOY. Fifty years from now he’ll be telling his grand kids that he was the D-III National Player of the Year.

G Jack Daly ’18, Middlebury College

As if we haven’t praised the Panther backcourt enough, this should really go 50 percent to Daly and 25 percent to Brown and St. Amour, each. Daly gets the nod because one Middlebury teammates called him the toughest kid in the league, and he takes the opponent’s best perimeter player on most possessions. Did you know that St. Amour, Brown and Daly went Nos. 1, 2 and 4 in steals per game this season? Crazy.

G Johnny McCarthy ’18, Amherst College

Speaking of stealing the basketball from unsuspecting victims, no one sneaks into a passing lane quite like McCarthy. Once again, length is the key. He’s 6’5″, but I’m sure his wingspan stretches beyond that.

C Ed Ogundeko, Trinity College

What more can we say? You can’t go inside on him without getting knocked around. He blocked 39 shots and altered countless more, and was the league’s best defensive rebounder by a considerable margin.

C Tom Palleschi, Tufts University

The guy right behind Ogundeko in defensive rebounding is Palleschi, who’s got some girth to him in his own right. I’m scared to think what would have happened to the Jumbos defense without the imposing presence of Palleschi. Luckily, we don’t have to think about that.

Sixth Man of the Year: F Eric Conklin ’17, Amherst College and G Eric Gendron ’18, Trinity College

We just couldn’t decide on one Eric. I wanted Conklin, Adam wanted Gendron, so we split it to make everyone happy (we might be getting a little soft in our waning days running the site). Conklin didn’t play a whole lot, just 16.1 mpg, but they were always important minutes, and his role as David George’s ’17 offensive half was crucial for Amherst. He racked up 20.8 points per 40 minutes, good for 14th in the conference, which is impressive for a guy coming off the bench and trying to get into a rhythm, shot 60.6 percent from the field, and was a sneaky good rebounder with 4.3 per game in limited time. Gendron, meanwhile, matched Conklin with 8.3 ppg but did most of his damage from deep, sniping away at a 43.3 percent clip. He’s also a great free throw shooter, going 36-39 (92.3 percent) this year, which didn’t qualify for the leaderboards.

Coach of the Year: Jeff Brown, Middlebury College

I said it on Monday in the stock report, but this is probably Jeff Brown’s finest work. Without any All-Region or All-American type players, Brown took his team to its third NESCAC championship just one year after missing out on the playoffs. Of course, if Middlebury loses the NESCAC championship to Amherst we have a different story and Brown might not win the award, but that’s why you play the game.

The North Remembers: Stock Report 2/15

Matt Palecki helped the Polar Bears to a 2-0 weekend and a NESCAC playoff bid. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)
Matt Palecki ’16 helped the Polar Bears to a 2-0 weekend and a NESCAC playoff bid. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

What a weekend for Maine rivals, Bowdoin and Colby, as the two swept Conn College and Wesleyan to both get into the NESCAC tournament with Bowdoin as the No. 7 seed and Colby the No. 8 seed. Both teams have shown plenty of promise this season, but it wasn’t until this weekend that we saw how good these teams can really play. When I watched these two go to overtime back on January 30, it was hard to imagine that both of them could possibly miss the NESCAC tournament. Now they both got in and are beginning to look dangerous.

Let’s start with Colby. The Mules looked dead at 1-6 in conference after blowing a last minute lead at Middlebury last weekend. Then they finished with three straight wins, with their two this weekend being comfortable ones. The all-senior starting five gets all the press, but senior guard John Gallego ’16 deserves some recognition himself. The quick backup is one of many short NESCAC point guards making an impact this season (Jaquann Starks ’16, Jack Dwyer ’18, Tyler Rowe ’19, etc.). He had nine points apiece against Wesleyan and Conn College. Against Amherst, Colby’s first NESCAC win, Gallego had 13 big points. The senior is a difference maker for the Mules.

The real surprise is probably the defense that Colby has played. I’ve said it before, but it doesn’t make sense that a team with five seniors starting should be so bad defensively. Yes, they play three big men essentially in their starting lineup meaning they give up quickness to teams. Still, they should be able to make up for it by playing as a unit on that end. This weekend they did, keeping Conn College to 73 points and then Wesleyan to just 64 points. The Mules certainly benefitted from some poor shooting on the part of the Cardinals considering Wesleyan shot 7-33 from three point land, but give credit to Colby for coming up big on the defensive end this weekend after having that be their Achilles Heel in some games.

As for Bowdoin, a team dear and near to my heart, they got big contributions from their role players while relying on their big two. Lucas Hausman ’16 and Jack Simonds ’19 combined averaged 48.5 ppg in the two wins. And while I know it sounds crazy, neither of them shot THAT well this weekend, going 8-25 (32 percent) from the three point line. What they did do exceptionally was get to the free throw line and finish there. The two went 27-30 from the charity stripe, and they drove Wesleyan and Conn College crazy with their ability to get calls.

However, the real stars, especially yesterday, were point guard Tim Ahn ’19 and center Matt Palecki ’16. Ahn looked like he was losing his spot in the rotation to Jack Bors ’19 a few weeks ago, but an injury to Bors has kept him out and opened the door for Ahn to play his best basketball. Coaches often say that by the end of the season, being a freshman isn’t an excuse anymore. Ahn hasn’t played like a freshmen down the stretch. He did something I haven’t see him do all season: attack and finish at the rim. He has shown the quickness to get past his initial defender, but until yesterday Ahn wasn’t looking for his at the rim. He scored 10 points in Friday and Saturday’s game.

Meanwhile, Palecki was his typical workmanlike self with 12 points and 14 rebounds against Conn College. In both games this weekend, Bowdoin controlled the boards, something they haven’t done much of this year. Palecki makes up for his lack of leaping ability by using his wide body to keep offensive rebounders out of the paint. He used that same wide body to slow down the likes of Joseph Kuo ’17 and Zuri Pavlin ’17 with great effectiveness. While Palecki can sometimes fall in love with ill-advised threes, he does a lot of the dirty work for the Polar Bears.

One problem for Colby and Bowdoin is they now have to go on the road in the NESCAC playoffs. For both of them, three of their four conference wins came at home. Whatever, we’ll get there in a couple of days. The two Maine teams made good and salvaged what looked like lost seasons. Even though they are the seventh and eighth seed, Bowdoin or Colby is capable not just of upsetting a top team but going all the way for a Cinderella run.

Stock Up

Shooting Guard Lucas Hausman ’16 (Bowdoin)

Averaging 26.5 ppg in a NESCAC weekend would be incredible for most players, but it’s just another normal weekend for Hausman at this point. He finishes the 2015-2016 regular season averaging 25.1 ppg overall and 26.0 ppg in NESCAC games. Those are historic numbers: the best averages that anybody has put up on record in the NESCAC which goes back to 2000. Hausman is far from a perfect player; he does go to a D3 school after all. His defense is subpar, his rebounding numbers are not good, and he doesn’t create well for others on offense. One or two plays every game he looks like a legitimately bad basketball player. But to deny how freaking good he is at putting the ball in the basket is stupid. Nobody makes tough shots like he does, and he makes those shots efficiently to boot. Regardless of what happens in the NESCAC tournament, Hausman is the Player of the Year.

Small Forward Stephen Haladyna ’16 (Tufts)

The Jumbos had just one game this weekend, and they took care of business against Williams to secure a home NESCAC playoff game. Haladyna led the way with 22 points, the only time this year that he has scored more than 20 points in a contest. He had been pretty quiet in NESCAC games before Friday. Tufts is at their best when they are able to be balanced scoring the ball. Guys like Haladyna and Ryan Spadaford ’16 need to be big part of the offense for Tufts to make a run. The Jumbos sit at 19-5 overall and look to be in good shape for making the NCAA tournament regardless of what happens in the next two weekends, but a win again over Williams would secure their spot for sure I think.

Stock Down

Middlebury Defense

The Panthers weren’t quite up to the task this weekend, and the most disappointing thing has to be the number of points they let up. Amherst scored 83 and Trinity had a blistering 97 points. Now, the Bantams were clearly hot shooting the ball (55.7 percent from the floor in this game), but it is still a little disappointing to see Middlebury give up that many points in regulation. The two games weren’t even that exceptional in terms of pace as Amherst shot the ball 60 times and Trinity 61 times. The two losses aren’t surprising in and of themselves, but I wasn’t expecting their defense to be the major problem. The Panthers have to get that sorted out by this weekend.

Conn College

What a tough end to the season for the Camels. They made so many strides this season, but they end up falling just short of making the playoffs. The Camels pushed Tufts and Amherst to the brink and had a quality home win over Middlebury, but they ended up losing their final five NESCAC games to finish 3-7. The Camels are big, tough on defense, and capable of scoring in bunches. They lose senior leader Bo McKinley ’16, a player that has been a constant through some very dark days for the program. Credit to him for doing anything he could to make the team better over the past few years. This team will be a terror for teams next year in large part because of him. And they will be a terror with their young nucleus having another year to grow. Zuri Pavlin ’17 and Dan Janel ’17 are a load to handle in the frontcourt. Tyler Rowe ’19 and Lee Messier ’18 are going to score a lot of points, too. Conn College missed the playoffs this year, but they will get there soon enough.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three to Watch

1. Guard Jaquann Starks ’16 (Trinity)

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

2. Guard Cole Teal ’18 (Williams)

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

3. Center Joseph Kuo ’17 (Wesleyan)

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Middlebury 81 – Amherst 75

Two More Games to Watch

Conn. College at Colby, Friday, 7 PM

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

Prediction: Colby 86 – Conn 76

Bates at Williams, Sunday, 3 PM

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