• After gutting out a NESCAC championship over a very tough and determined Middlebury team, second-ranked men’s basketball earned a first round bye and hosting rights for at least the second round (and likely the next two rounds, assuming they advance).  They are the favorite in their quarter of the bracket, but they will face very tough competition from, most likely, SUNY-Plattsburgh and then either Middlebury or Brandeis.  First they have to get past what looks to be an outmatched Maine-Farmington squad, who upset Bridgewater State to earn the dubious honor of playing at Williams.  The Ephs face UMF Saturday at 7:00, and a free live webcast is available.  You can hear more about the Midd victory, and see highlights, on the Williams basketball show.  More detailed analysis of the Ephs’ likely tourney opponents below the fold.
  • Unsurprisingly, the individual accolades have already started to roll in for the Ephs: congrats to NESCAC coach of the year Mike Maker, Jostens finalist (he’s be the first Eph to win since Mike Nogelo ’98) and NESCAC player of the year Blake Schultz (be sure to click on that link, Schultz is just as accomplished off the court as he is on), first team all-conference point guard James Wang, who has won the last two player of the week awards (and is the first sophomore to make the first team since 2004), and second team all-conference center Troy Whittington (the only bench player I can EVER recall being named all-NESCAC in men’s hoops).

  • Interesting WSO discussion about trying to get louder fan participation at the upcoming basketball games.  Traveling fans are always proportionately louder, because they tend to be students, the most passionate fans, and pumped up from the trip.  Eph fans truly represented at the Amherst road game.  But there is no excuse to EVER be outcheered in Chandler, even if a good proportion of the crowd will always be older, generally-less-rowdy folks.  I loved the creative taunts mentioned in this discussion from the last Amherst road game.  Coming up with creative, effective, non-vulgar cheers that aren’t just mimicking Duke (just don’t do it) is tougher than you might think.  Really, what is most important is just to show up in droves, and be consistently LOUD.  Anyone have favorite memories of Eph fan antics and/or great hoops cheers to share?  If the Ephs end up playing Middlebury again in the tourney, I hope there is a large, rowdy student contingent present to establish a true home court advantage, unlike the last Middlebury game.  Eph pride folks!
  • Best idea from this thread?  The playing of a didgeridoo on each occasion that Australian James Wang scores a basket.  Other than, perhaps, the “Zeeman” finally making it up on the big board at Pappa C’s, nothing on earth would make me happier than the sight of a mighty sea of didgeridoos in Chandler.  I also enjoyed this link to the marching band’s favorite cheers (most of which relate to football, but still great).
  • Congrats to the Eph women, who earned a surprising bid to the NCAA’s.  This season featured a remarkable turnaround after a tough season last year, especially considering how young this team is: the Ephs start two frosh, two sophomores, and one junior, with three other frosh playing key minutes off the bench.  That one junior, by the way, is leading scorer and second team all-NESCAC honoree Chessie Jackson, who performed an outstanding rendition of the national anthem prior to the men’s NESCAC championship game … let no one claim Ephs are not multi-talented!  The Ephs have a tough draw, as they will have to pull off two upsets just to earn the right to face top-ranked juggernaut Amherst in the Sweet 16.  Watch them play tonight via this link.
  • The last time the Eph men were this loaded, Dave Paulsen ’87 was at the helm.  He’s since moved on to Bucknell, where after a rough first year and half, he’s engineered a remarkable turnaround.  Bucknell went 10-2 in its last 12, after a 4-12 start, before suffering a disappointing upset against Holy Cross to end their season on Wednesday night (apparently, Paulsen can only beat H.C. with non-scholarship players).  Bucknell is a very young squad and features three of the five top frosh in the Patriot League, plus a soph who was defensive player of the year in the conference, so the future looks bright for Paulsen.  With nine of his top ten scorers back next year, and three honorees from Paulsen’s first recruiting class, Bucknell should be a much tougher out henceforth.  And Eph fans can thank Paulsen for bringing in James Wang in his final recruiting effort at Williams.
  • Speaking of artistic Eph hoopsters, in a blast from Eph hoops past, fourteenth (Schultz has passed him) all-time leading scorer Brandt Johnson wrote and starred in Give and Go, an off-broadway show about basketball.  Read this great interview with Brandt here.  Unfortunately the play just ended its run, but if it returns (and if I hear about it!) I’ll let folks know via Ephblog.

Breakdown of potential NCAA opponents:

  • Althought UMF is on a hot streak, winning 11 out of its last 12, they got killed by Colby, Bowdoin, and Amherst earlier this year, three squads that Williams had no trouble with at all in recent weeks.  Barring a complete meltdown of unprecedented proportions, the Ephs will be Sweet 16-bound.
  • The round of 16, which will almost certainly be hosted by Williams, should feature a much stiffer challenge.  Red hot SUNY-Plattsburgh (winners of 13 of their last 14) is the most likely opponent, and would present a difficult test for the Ephs.  While not as deep or big as Williams, they have three veteran star players (Juniors Chris Ruiz, Steve Thomas, Errol Daniyan), and they have the quickness and athleticism to slow the Ephs’ dynamic guards down a bit.  Williams has traditionally struggled a bit against SUNYAC teams, losing to SUNYAC squads in early round NCAA action in 2002 and during the Eph’s last tourney appearance in 2007, and barely eeking out two rare (for the Ephs) close games against New Paltz and Cortland State earlier this season.
  • If Williams makes it to the Elite 8, they will likely face one of the following three teams, in decreasing order of likelihood.  Middlebury, thanks to its size advantage and stifling defense led by NESCAC defensive player of the year Tim Edwards, can go toe-to-toe with the Ephs, as we recently saw.  Brandeis is a very experienced team featuring four senior starters, all of whom have played deep into multiple NCAA tournaments, including all-league seniors Terrell Hollins and Kenny Small.  They feature perhaps the quickest backcourt Williams has faced all year, but the Ephs are more skilled and deeper up front.  Brandeis had an inconsistent year, but they did topple top-ranked Wash U. at Wash U., so they have the talent to beat anyone on any given day.  Brandeis only regularly plays seven guys, so if the Ephs face them, getting a few players in early foul trouble could really help.  St. John Fisher is another experienced NCAA tournament regular, but probably lacks the talent to topple Midd or Brandeis.
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