Amherst F Johnny McCarthy ‘18
It’s been a bit of an up and down year for McCarthy. After three years of being underrated because of Jayde Dawson’s ball dominance. In fact, he was so underrated that he entered this season a little overrated. Like Amherst as a whole, he struggled during the regular season, and for a while it seemed like he just wasn’t suited to be a number one option. But as he improved, so did Amherst. McCarthy reinvented himself as a dominant rebounder, defender and paint scorer. And, as he has done so many times over the course of his career, he saved his best for the biggest moments. With Amherst facing a challenge from the 8 seeded Bowdoin Polar Bears in the first round, McCarthy had his best game of the year. He scored 22 points, grabbed 8 rebounds and dished out 5 assists. He also hit the second biggest shot of the game, a 30 footer after a broken play that put Amherst up by four in the final minutes. McCarthy and Amherst are peaking at the right time, and really, did we expect anything different?
Jordan Sears ‘19 for DPOY
I like to think that Sears read our pick of Folger, printed it out, put it up in his locker, and then read it again right before Wesleyan’s game against Middlebury. He looked like a man possessed against Middlebury, blocking eight shots (!) and snuffing out countless pick and rolls with incredible perimeter defense. Sears had four blocks in the final five minutes or so of the game, effectively snuffing out any hope Middlebury had of coming back. Sears is the definition of a difference making defender, and his performance against Middlebury pretty much guarantees him the DPOY trophy.
Last season, the NESCAC had five teams gain NCAA berths for the first time in conference history. The results this weekend are steps in the direction repeating that performance, and even make six teams a distinct possibility. Now bear with me, because this gets a little confusing. NCAA berths are decided based on the NCAA Regional Rankings, NOT the D3 Hoops Top 25. The regional rankings can be found here. As you can see, the top four teams in Northeast are all NESCAC teams. In order, they are Hamilton, Wesleyan, Williams and Middlebury. These four teams were pretty much assured of NCAA bids, regardless of their quarterfinal games. Middlebury and Wesleyan were basically playing for a home game, and Williams and Hamilton were entirely safe. Amherst was the question mark. They entered the quarterfinals eighth in the regional rankings. This is a shaky position. They certainly needed a win over Bowdoin to keep their hopes alive, but they are still on the bubble to certain degree. Their performance in the final regular season weekend, along with their win over Bowdoin, should get them a berth, giving the NESCAC, again, five NCAA teams.
The Jumbos were 11th in the regional rankings. This is not a complicated position; they basically needed to win the NESCAC tournament, or AT LEAST make the final, to sneak into the NCAA’s. Their loss to Hamilton ends their season, and the excellent career of Vincent Pace ’18. Pace deserves a great deal of credit for persevering despite one of the more unlucky careers of any star in recent NESCAC memory. After a solid first season, he was dominant during his sophomore campaign, averaging 17 points per game on 50% shooting. It looked like he and Tufts were going to ride the combo of he, Hunter Sabety and Tom Palleschi to NESCAC dominance. Then Sabety transferred, and Pace suffered a nagging injury in practice that affected him for his whole junior year. His numbers fell in every catagory, and another injury to Tom Palleschi set back what was a very strong squad. And then this season, Tufts never really got going, and again struggled with injuries, to crucial bench scorers KJ Garrett ’19 and Ben Engvall ’18. Tufts, and Pace, are one of the great “what-ifs” in recent NESCAC history, but their saga is over for this season.
Many of the top first years in the conference found out that tournament ball is very different from even regular season NESCAC play. Middlebury’s Jack Farrell ’21, after a breakout 22 point game against Amherst during the final weekend, was locked up by the Cardinals to the tune of 0 points on 0-4 shooting. However, Austin Hutcherson ’21 of Wesleyan wasn’t much better, putting up 9 points on 2-10 shooting. And Amherst’s standout PG Grant Robinson ’21 was invisible, tallying three points on 1-3 shooting. All of these players looked a little taken aback at the physicality and intensity of tournament play, a very normal feeling for first years. A notable exception was Bowdoin’s underrated (but not by this blog, we love him) PG Zavier Rucker ’21, who scored 11 points and added 7 rebounds and six assists. Hutcherson is still, in my mind, the easy pick for Rookie of the Year, but it was interesting to see how all these players struggled in the their first playoff experience, and how Rucker very much did not.