|Bobby Casey has stepped into the Williams' starting lineup over the past four games, a span which includes a season-high 20 points vs. Springfield.
Williams athletics photo
Happy New Year, New England (and Northeast) Division III basketball fans!
With a new year comes some big and important contests, including a few crucial conference tilts, which could dictate the order of various league tournaments next month.
So, grab your calendar and jot down these dates and times below because this week’s column highlights 10 games to watch this month.
MIT at WPI (MBB) | Wednesday, Jan. 3 at 7:30 p.m. This is always a must-see, must-watch, must-follow contest – seriously, this is a true rivalry that always produces some exciting outcomes. Both teams last met in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference semifinals with the Engineers of Cambridge edging the Engineers of Worcester last February in Babson Park – MIT went on to knock off host Babson the following day to secure the conference crown. WPI hasn’t beaten MIT since 2016 – the Engineers won both regular season tilts before falling to Engineers of Cambridge in the conference semifinals (96-80).
Springfield at Babson (MBB) | Wednesday, Jan. 3 at 7 p.m. Last year’s national champions ended the month of December with a pair of setbacks, including a 78-75 loss to Bates, but will look to return to their winning ways on Wednesday when they begin conference play against a talented Springfield team, which is coming off a big win over Wesleyan. For Babson to return to the win column, it will need a total team-effort on both ends of the court, including some solid defensive play against Springfield’s Jake Ross, who ranks first in the NEWMAC in points per game (22.5). He is currently second in rebounds per game as well, at 9.4. Slowing down Ross is not an easy task – the second-year guard has netted 10 points or more in 10 games this season, while registering 20 points or more in eight contests.
Williams at Wesleyan (MBB) | Friday, Jan. 5 at 7 p.m. An early-season win vs. the Ephs seems like a distant memory – it was one of nine consecutive victories for the Cardinals, who ended the month of December 3-1 with their lone blemish coming against Springfield on New Year’s Eve. A win for the Cardinals would not only give them a leg up on the Ephs, but also hope of hosting at least one round of the New England Small College Athletic Conference Tournament. Of course, it is just one game – we still have a lot of basketball left before seeding will be determined for next month’s playoff – but this is almost a must-win for the Ephs, who have gone 4-1 since falling to their Little Three rival early last month. Four of those games have been without Kyle Scadlock, who was Williams’ leading scorer when he went down with what appears to be a season-ending injury.
Tufts at Bowdoin (WBB) | Saturday, Jan. 6 at 3 p.m. Similar to MIT-WPI, this a big-time (and important) early conference clash, which could determine seeding in the 2018 NESCAC tournament since these two squads meet just once in the regular season. The Polar Bears cruised to a pair of late December wins vs. Anna Maria and Hartwick, while Tufts ended 2017 with an 82-41 win over DeSales. Bowdoin has handled various New England foes quite well this season – the same could be said for Tufts, too – but one win that sticks out from earlier this season was the Polar Bears’ 80-68 victory over St. Thomas.
Castleton at Middlebury (WBB) | Tuesday, Jan. 9 at 7 p.m. The Spartans have been a great story thus far – they enter the second half of their season as the top team in the North Atlantic Conference at 9-0 (and 5-0 in league play through Jan. 1). Similar to Castleton, Middlebury is also a tremendous story of the current season, too – the Panthers raced out to an 8-0 start before going 1-2 in their final three games of 2017. Luckily, the Panthers enter the new year with some momentum following a 69-52 win vs. Pomona-Pitzer. Can the Spartans’ early success continue against the Panthers or will Middlebury find a way to defeat their Vermont neighbor?
Mass-Boston at Mass-Dartmouth (WBB) | Wednesday, Jan. 17 at 5:30 p.m. Make sure to mark this game on your calendar because this could be a preview of next month’s Little East Conference championship. For the first time in program history, the Beacons have begun a season 10-1, thanks to a recent five-point victory over MIT. UMass Boston’s Joie Grassi and Megan Dixon are averaging 17.4 and 10.5 points per game, respectively, and will certainly provide challenges for the Corsairs’ defense. As for UMD, it ended the first part of its schedule with four wins in a row and has also earned some key regional victories over the past two months.
Eastern Connecticut at Keene State (MBB) | Wednesday, Jan. 17 at 7:30 p.m. Both teams will be two squads to watch over the next few weeks, but perhaps this is the year the Owls finally take that ‘so-called’ next-step? It is possible – they have scored some impressive regional (and conference) wins thus far over Albertus Magnus and MIT, so don’t count out Ryan Cain’s crew over the next few weeks (and months!). As for the Warriors, they have also enjoyed another successful start, but face some challenging foes this month, including Amherst, UMass Dartmouth, Rhode Island College and Trinity (Conn.).
Williams at Middlebury (MBB) | Saturday, Jan. 20 at 3 p.m. Despite an overtime setback to York (Pa.), these Panthers appear to be one of the teams to beat in New England, as well as in the NESCAC, too. Yet, one shouldn’t overlook the Ephs. They did find a way past Middlebury last year in the regular season and NCAA Tournament despite falling to the Panthers in the conference championship at Tufts University. Pending how each team does over the first few weeks of January, this game could certainly determine who will be on the road to start the NESCAC Tournament
Roger Williams vs. University of New England (WBB) | Saturday, Jan. 27 at 1 p.m. Since falling to UNE, the Hawks have rebounded with a trio of wins, including a pair of non-conference victories against Connecticut College and Wheaton (Mass.) – Anna Walther paced the Hawks with a game-high 24 points in their win over the Camels. As for UNE, they remain the top team in the Commonwealth Coast Conference, thanks to wins vs. Endicott, Gordon and Roger Williams. They did end the first part of their season with an 86-49 setback, but you can expect coach Anthony Ewing’s squad will click back into gear when they host Nichols on Thursday, Jan. 4 with tipoff set for 11 a.m. A win for UNE would most likely secure them the top seed in the CCC Tournament.
Bowdoin at Amherst (WBB) | Saturday, Jan. 27 at 3 p.m. Amherst appears to be the team to beat in New England – they haven’t lost a game all season and recently managed to pick up an impressive non-conference win over Trine, thanks to its defense. Emma McCarthy recorded a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds in the win over Trine – she will certainly be a player to watch down the stretch, but also against Bowdoin, too. Pending the outcome of Bowdoin-Tufts, this game could determine who will be the second seed in the NESCAC Tournament – perhaps we will see both teams square off again next month?
At the D3hoops.com Classic
The Amherst women were the only team out of New England this year at the 2017 D3hoops.com Classic. Pat Coleman caught up with Mammoths coach G.P. Gromacki after the team's final game: