WILLIAMSTOWN — William Shakespeare might have written it, but for the 2015-16 Williams College men's basketball team, the past truly is prologue.
The 8-3 Ephs, winners of two out of three post-Christmas games, open NESCAC conference play Friday night at ninth-ranked Amherst. The Ephs then go to Trinity Sunday afternoon.
"That's what the preseason is for," said Williams head coach Kevin App, when asked about starting the conference schedule.
"The exciting part for our coaching staff is we feel we're playing our best basketball of the year," said App. "We feel we can still improve a lot. That's where you want to be at this time of the year in January, going into league play, playing your best so far with a lot of room to improve."
App's second season at the Williams helm started with a five-game winning streak, followed by two tough losses to NESCAC rival Wesleyan and SUNY-Oneonta.
A win over Springfield before the start of finals led to a pair of wins in late December, including an 81-55 victory over Castleton State on Sunday.
"You never win as many games as you want to, but I'm happy with where we are," said App. "The first-years have progressed about as quick as we could hope.
Williams returns to Chandler Gym on Tuesday, Jan. 12 for a non-league game against Johnson State (Vt.).
The Ephs will be as close to full strength as they can be. Guard Chris Galvin is expected to make his second consecutive start Friday night, while his opening night backcourt partner Mike Greenman will not return this year.
Greenman injured a foot in the 73-54 win at Manhattanville back on Nov. 29. At the time, it was thought that he would be ready for conference play. But App said that Greenman had a procedure done on his foot and will not play. He could receive a medical redshirt after playing in only four games.
Galvin, meanwhile, broke a hand in the 80-73 win at MCLA. He sat until the Catholic University tournament, playing about 25 minutes per game in a win against Ursinus and a loss to Catholic in the title game.
Galvin started in Sunday's 81-55 win over Castleton, scoring six points and dishing five assists.
Without Galvin and Greenman, App was forced to push some of his six-member freshman class into bigger roles than he might have originally. Kyle Scadlock and Bobby Casey were moved into the starting lineup, while Marcos Soto, James Heskett and Michael Kempton all saw minutes.
"You throw those injuries to Mike and Chris early, that probably helped us move along a little quicker because [the first-years] were thrown into the fire and had to learn pretty quick," the second-year Williams coach said. "I think they're not playing as many minutes and not being thrown into the starting lineup, which can put pressure on young guys a little bit.
"You don't know which way it would have gone."
NESCAC has been its usual battleground. Of the 11 teams in the conference, 10 of them are over .500 as conference play begins. Middlebury is the only team below .500 with a 5-6 record. Three teams — Amherst (9-1), Wesleyan (10-1) and Colby (9-1) had the best pre-conference records.
The Friday night game will feature the top offense in NESCAC against one of the best defenses. Amherst is averaging 91.7 points per game while Williams is holding teams to 63.1 points per game.
The Ephs are No. 3 in field goal percentage defense, holding opponents to 38.5 percent shooting from the floor.
Individually, junior forward Dan Aronowitz is sixth in the conference with a 17.5 scoring average, and sixth with 7.5 rebounds per game.
"Your biggest hope as a coach is that you don't take too many steps back over the break," said App. "I thought the guys worked hard over the break and we were able to continue from where we started.
"I thought we played our best basketball in the last couple of games."