As much hype as College GameDay provided for Williams-Amherst football, the schools have an even better men’s basketball rivalry: unlike in football, each is often a national championship contender featuring one or more Division-I caliber players, and the rivalry is dead-even.  Consider:

Williams vs. Amherst all-time favors Williams 111-83.  But since 1996, Williams’ overall record vs. Amherst: 14-18.  Amherst has the edge overall during that time period, but Williams has the edge in big games: 3-0 in NCAA tourney play, and 3-2 in NESCAC tourney games (including 3-0 in NESCAC title games).

The two teams have combined since 1996 for seven final four appearances (Williams with four, Amherst three), two national titles, three national coach of the year awards, two national player of the year awards (former Eph Mike Nogelo ’98 and current Jeff point guard Andrew Olson ’08), one win at Division I Holy Cross, the Division III record for consecutive home court wins, and all seven NESCAC tournament wins (Amherst with four, Williams three) (the tourney started in 2001).

Williams has not won a regular season game at Amherst since 1996.  Williams has won two NESCAC tournament games against the ‘herst on its home court during that period, including last year’s dramatic upset over a Jeffs squad that went on to win the National Championship.  You can see that game here and read about it in Tim Layden’s great SI.com article.

For a taste of the drama that is Williams-Amherst, listen to this clip from D3hoops.com announcers of a game that Williams eventually won in overtime.  That same Williams team went on to beat Amherst in the Final Four.

This year, defending NESCAC champion Williams is 12-0 and ranked fourth in the country.  Defending national champion Amherst’s 9-2 record is deceptive: the two losses came against number two Brandeis and a non-Division III team; hence Amherst is ranked just above Williams, at third.  The men’s game is at 4:00 on Saturday, following the women’s game which is at 2:00.

The women’s game also features an interesting story line: Amherst women have not beaten Williams since 2001 (giving Williams a 14 game winning streak vs. the Jeffs), but Amherst enters this game undefeated,  and they are favored to break their streak against a very young Williams squad that starts two first-years.  The Eph women lead the all-time rivalry 41-20.

You can listen to the games here.  Go Ephs.

Updated 1/11/08.  Thanks to an interested Eph fan who emailed me some additional information as well as a correction!

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