Moon goes for the basket

The Ephs snapped Middlebury's 12-game winning streak with a big win in Williamstown on Saturday. 

A perfect start to the 2021-22 college basketball season has the Williams College men back among the nation’s Division III elite.

The Ephs, who knocked off then 19th-ranked Wesleyan on Saturday to make their record 7-0, cracked the D3hoops.com Top 25 this week. Williams came in ranked No. 20.

The Ephs rallied from 17 points down in the first half to beat the Cardinals 69-60. It was Williams’ sixth-straight win over their Little Three and NESCAC rivals.

“I’m just so proud of our guys,” Williams coach Kevin App said after the Wesleyan game. “This is my seventh season and we’ve had some big wins, great moments but there haven’t been many wins, many teams that I’ve been more proud of than what the group did this afternoon. Against a really talented, well coached, aggressive team. To do that on the road against a Little Three rival is just another big step for this group.”

The Ephs made quick moves up the D3hoops.com poll. They received a vote in the preseason poll, and when the first-week poll came out after games on Nov. 28, Williams had 23 points, good for 29th in the rankings.

Williams beat Worcester State and Wesleyan in a week to receive 164 points, which slotted the Ephs in at 20th.

Williams, unranked during the 2019-20 season, had been nationally ranked each week in the 2018-19 season. Williams got as high as second in Weeks 1-4, dropping to 19th in Week 12, before bouncing back and finishing 10th in the final poll of the season. Williams got a boost by knocking off then No. 2 Whitman 84-81 in the NCAA Division III Sweet 16 played at Hamilton. Williams’ chance at a Final Four was dashed when the Ephs lost to ninth-ranked Christopher Newport 79-70 in the Elite Eight game.

The top four in the Top 25 remain the same. Yeshiva, with a 10-0 record, received 13 of 25 first-place votes to remain the No. 1 team. Williams will play Yeshiva on Jan. 2, in New York City.

The entire top four is unchanged from Week 1. Randolph-Macon (8-1) with eight first-place votes, is second. Illinois Wesleyan is 7-0 and third with three first-place votes, while Wisconsin-Platteville, at 9-0, is fourth and received one first-place vote.

There is a new No. 5 team this week, St. Joseph (Conn.). The Blue Jays, who came to D-III prominence under the watchful eye of Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun, moved up from No. 6 to No. 5. Calhoun announced back in November that he was stepping down immediately as head coach and would be replaced by associate head coach Glen Miller. Miller has Division III experience at Connecticut College.

There are three New England teams in the Top 25. In addition to St. Joseph and Williams, Amherst is the No. 21 team in the country. The 7-0 Mammoths were 21st in Week 1 as well.

Williams will play Amherst twice. The NESCAC conference game will be played in Williamstown on Saturday, Jan. 8. The non-league game, which counts toward the Little Three championship, will be played at Amherst on Wednesday, Jan. 19.

RPI is the fourth Northeast team in the Top 25. The Engineers, 6-0, are ranked 22nd. They moved up from No. 23.

Johns Hopkins, out of Maryland, is ranked 12th and is up from 15th. The Blue Jays are coached by Josh Loeffler, who worked for Dave Paulsen at Williams in the 2005-06 season.

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6253.

Sportswriter-Columnist

Howard Herman is a sports columnist at The Berkshire Eagle. The dean of full-time sportswriters in Western Mass., he has been with the Eagle since 1988, and is a member of the New England Baseball and Basketball Hall of Fame.