Undefeated Amherst Earns Top Seed for Second Time in Three Years
HADLEY, Mass. – With a perfect 9-0 conference record, Amherst College has earned the number one seed for the 2010 NESCAC Women’s Basketball Championship. The Jeffs will host a quarterfinal round contest next Saturday, Feb. 20 along with Colby, Williams and Tufts. Winners of next weekend’s action will advance to the semifinals at the highest remaining seed on Saturday, Feb. 27, and the 2010 NESCAC Women’s Basketball Championship will conclude with the final on Sunday, Feb. 28. Ticket information for the quarterfinals shall be released by the hosts in the upcoming week.
Although Amherst (24-0, 9-0 NESCAC) became the fifth team to finish the league slate undefeated, it joined the 2003-04 Bowdoin squad as the only other NESCAC team to complete the overall regular season at 24-0. That year, the Polar Bears advanced all the way to the NCAA championship before they suffered their first setback and finished 30-1. The Jeffs locked up the top seed in the tournament for the second time in three years on Friday thanks to an 86-52 victory against rival Williams, then completed the perfect regular season on Saturday with a 79-46 decision over Middlebury. The last time Amherst secured the number one seed (2008) it went on to win its first NESCAC title. Amherst’s quarterfinal opponent will be eighth seed Wesleyan (8-14, 2-7 NESCAC). While the Cardinals finished tied in the standings with Middlebury for the final playoff spot, their 60-52 win at home over the Panthers on Jan. 23 gave them the head-to-head tie-breaker. Wesleyan heads into the tournament having won only twice in its last 11 outings, most recently falling at Bowdoin (80-52) and Colby (94-49) this past weekend. Amherst won both meetings between these Little Three rivals, an 80-53 non-conference decision in Middletown on Jan. 6 followed by an 89-49 win on Jan. 15. The quarterfinal meeting between the two will only be the second in postseason history. The Jeffs upended the higher-seeded Cardinals during the first round of the 2005 championship by a 55-53 score.
In the midst of a stellar season of its own, Colby (21-3, 7-2 NESCAC) got a little help on Saturday from Maine rival Bates in securing the second seed. The Mules’ aforementioned win over the Cardinals combined with the Bobcats’ 71-55 showing against Tufts guaranteed the Mules their highest finish in the standings since the 2000-01 campaign. That season, the inaugural year of the NESCAC Women’s Basketball Championship, Colby advanced to the semifinals for the first - and only - time in program history only to fall to eventual champion Bowdoin in the round of four. While Colby and Williams ended the regular season with identical 7-2 marks, the Mules earned the head-to-head advantage with a 74-68 overtime win in Williamstown last weekend. Colby will host a first round contest for the first time since 2003 when it faces seventh-seeded Trinity (15-8, 3-6 NESCAC) in what will be the first tournament meeting between the two. The Bantams reached the semifinals for the first time ever a year ago and looked to be headed down a similar path this season with a 13-2 start, but since a 75-55 loss to Amherst the Bantams have only won two of their last eight games. The Mules won the lone regular season matchup on Jan. 29 in Waterville, 75-62.
After just making the championship field last year, third-seeded Williams (18-6, 7-2 NESCAC) turned in a stellar performance this season and came within striking distance of the number one seed. The Ephs have been on a roll as of late, winning eight of their last 10 outings with the two losses during that stretch coming against the two teams above them in the standings. Williams wrapped up the regular season with a hard-fought 57-52 win at Trinity on Saturday. Facing the Ephs in the quarterfinals will be sixth-seeded Bates (13-11, 4-5 NESCAC). After going through a rough stretch in January, the Bobcats have also been formidable recently with wins in four of their last five contests. On Saturday in the regular season finale, Bates jumped out to an early lead against Tufts and never surrendered it, going on to a 71-55 victory. Williams won the sole contest between the two this season 67-59 in Williamstown on Jan 16. - the first win for the Ephs over the Bobcats since January of 2006. These two teams were a staple in the tournament semifinals for six straight years starting in 2003, however neither squad has advanced out of the quarterfinals since 2007. Bates and Williams have clashed three times in postseason play with the Bobcats winning all three games.
While Tufts (19-4, 6-3 NESCAC) missed out on a chance to finish as high as second in the conference with its loss at Bates on Saturday, the Jumbos knew heading into the final weekend that they would at least be hosting a quarterfinal match for the fourth year in a row. The Jumbos tied the program mark for consecutive victories earlier this season with 12 straight before faltering at Williams on Jan. 15, 59-57. Tufts will look to reach the semifinals for the fourth time in as many years against one of the most dominant teams in NESCAC championship history, fifth seed and defending champion Bowdoin (19-5, 5-4 NESCAC). The Polar Bears are in an unusual spot in this winter’s tournament - on the road in the first round for the first time ever. The NESCAC Women’s Basketball Championship has been synonymous with Bowdoin through the years, as the Polar Bears own eight league crowns, sport a 24-1 record in tournament play, and are the only team to reach the semifinals every year the championship has been held. This season, Bowdoin has had to battle both the league and injuries along the way. The Jumbos took the regular season meeting between the two for the third year in a row on Jan. 23 in Medford, 52-40, however the Polar Bears have won both previous playoff meetings, including the 2007 title match.
2010 NESCAC WoMEN’S BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIP
Quarterfinals - Saturday, Feb. 20 at Higher Seeds
No. 7 Trinity at No. 2 Colby - 2:00 p.m.
No. 6 Bates at No. 3 Williams - 2:00 p.m.
No. 8 Wesleyan at No. 1 Amherst - 3:00 p.m.
No. 5 Bowdoin at No. 4 Tufts - 3:00 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.