Williams Secures Top Seed with Undefeated Conference Record
HADLEY, Mass. – For the first time since 2004, Williams College has secured the top seed and will have home court advantage throughout the 2010 NESCAC Men’s Basketball Championship. The Ephs, who put together an unblemished 9-0 mark in league play this season, will host a quarterfinal contest on Saturday, Feb. 20 along with Middlebury, Colby and Bates. Winners of Saturday’s quarterfinal action will move on to the semifinals at the highest remaining seed on Saturday, Feb. 27, with the final on Sunday, Feb. 28. Ticket information for the quarterfinals shall be released by the hosts in the upcoming week.
Williams (23-1, 9-0 NESCAC) locked up the number one seed on Friday evening thanks to a stellar second half showing at rival Amherst in an 81-60 victory. The Ephs became the fourth team in the past 10 years to finish the conference schedule undefeated on Saturday afternoon at Trinity with an 83-66 decision over the Bantams. Williams has been very impressive this season, owning the league’s best offense with an average 87.0 points per game and outscoring opponents by a 21.2-point margin. The Ephs will begin their quest for a fourth league crown when they take on eighth-seeded Wesleyan (11-13, 3-6 NESCAC). In the tournament for the first time since 2005, the Cardinals closed out the regular season with a 1-1 showing in Maine after earning an 80-77 overtime win at Bowdoin on Friday - their first win against the Polar Bears since 2007 - before falling 61-45 at Colby on Saturday. Wesleyan finished in a three-way tie for sixth place in the NESCAC standings with Amherst and Trinity, however the Cardinals were relegated to eighth with an 0-2 showing against the tied teams. The Ephs took both meetings between these Little Three rivals this winter, posting a 106-91 win at home all the way back on Nov. 24 before recording a 79-63 victory in the conference contest on Jan. 22 in Middletown. The quarterfinal match between the two will be the first in playoff history. Wesleyan has reached the semifinals only twice, in 2002 and again in 2003. Williams has advanced to the round of four twice in the last five years, winning the conference title in 2007.
With the Ephs’ win at Amherst on Friday, Middlebury (21-2, 8-1 NESCAC) needed either a win or a Colby loss on Friday to lock up the second seed, and it got both with an 71-57 showing at Trinity along with Connecticut College’s win at Colby. The Panthers ended the regular season with their fourth straight victory on Saturday at Amherst, 85-72. The 2009 NESCAC Men’s Basketball Champions picked up right where they left off last year, racing out to a program-best 10-0 start before falling to Colby-Sawyer on Jan. 7, 86-76. The Panthers only other loss this season came at the hands of Williams, as the Ephs earned a 79-64 win just over two weeks ago. Middlebury will look to make its third consecutive trip to the semifinals when it hosts a familiar opponent, seventh-seeded Trinity (10-13, 3-6 NESCAC). The Bantams head into this year’s championship having dropped five of their last six games, the lone victory a 67-62 win at Tufts last Friday. This will be the second time these two teams have met in the conference championship. The Bantams earned a 72-63 win over the Panthers in the semifinals of the 2008 tournament en route to their first NESCAC title.
After hosting a quarterfinal contest for the first time since 2001 last February, third-seeded Colby (18-5, 6-3 NESCAC) claimed one of the top four seeds for the second year in a row last week. The Mules came up empty in their last road trip of the regular season a week ago at Williams and Middlebury but still managed to secure at least one more home contest this year. Colby rebounded from a 65-60 setback to Connecticut College on Friday with the aforementioned 61-45 victory against Wesleyan on Saturday. The Mules will look to erase the bitter memories of being bounced by rival Bowdoin in the 2009 quarterfinals when they host sixth-seeded Amherst (14-10, 3-6 NESCAC). The Lord Jeffs are in an uncharacteristic place this year - on the road in the first round for the first time in tournament history - and have fallen in seven of their last eight games. Amherst will look to put an injury-plagued regular season behind it and focus on returning to the top of the conference mountain, as the four-time NESCAC champ Jeffs have not won a title since 2006. The regular season match between Colby and Amherst went to the Mules on Jan. 30, 72-68 in Waterville. The Lord Jeffs own a 3-0 record in the all-time playoff series, most recently earning an 86-69 win in the 2008 quarterfinals.
The final quarterfinal contest will feature fourth-seeded Bates (13-11, 5-4 NESCAC) against fifth-seeded Bowdoin (13-11, 4-5 NESCAC) in a battle between Route 196 rivals. The Bobcats were thrust to the front of the pack looking to earn the final home first round contest thanks to Wesleyan’s win at Bowdoin on Friday, with a win guaranteed them the right to host. Things looked dire for Bates in the second half against Tufts on Saturday, trailing by 14 with under 17 minutes to play, however a 22-7 run over a seven minute span put the Bobcats on top for good in a 64-55 win, their sixth in the last seven games. The Polar Bears, meanwhile, bounced back from an overtime defeat to Wesleyan on Friday with a 67-47 win against Connecticut College on Saturday. Bowdoin won both meetings between these two teams this season by four points, 71-67 at home on Dec. 3 and 74-70 in overtime in the conference contest on Jan. 22 in Lewiston. Saturday’s quarterfinal showdown will be the fourth for the two squads in championship history - all of which have been the four-versus-five first round game. Bates took the first meeting in 2004 as the visitor, 87-52, then managed to do it again as the home team in 2006, 67-51. Bowdoin rolled to an 83-50 decision in the 2008 tournament, as the Polar Bears reached the final of the NESCAC championship for the first time ever that year.
2010 NESCAC MEN’S BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIP
Quarterfinals - Saturday, Feb. 20 at Higher Seeds
No. 7 Trinity at No. 2 Middlebury - 3:00 p.m.
No. 5 Bowdoin at No. 4 Bates - 3:00 p.m.
No. 8 Wesleyan at No. 1 Williams - 4:00 p.m.
No. 6 Amherst at No. 3 Colby - 4:00 p.m.
Semifinals - Saturday, February 27 at Highest Remaining Seed
Highest remaining seed vs. Lowest remaining seed - 2:00 p.m.
Remaining first round winners - 4:00 p.m.
Championship - Sunday, February 28
Semifinal winners - 12:00 p.m.