College Basketball Notebook: Williams, MCLA prepare for NESCAC, MASCAC tournaments
It might feel like the first games of the college basketball season just tipped off, but we are, in fact, at the end of the season.
The postseason starts for the Williams College squads this weekend, as the Eph men and women both earned berths in their respective NESCAC tournaments. The women, however, will play at home.
Across Route 2, the MCLA men will figure out who they will host in the MASCAC quarterfinals after the conclusion of regular-season play on Saturday.
The MCLA women, meanwhile, have to play out the string.
For only the second time in a decade, the Ephs (13-11) had swept the regular-season series from Little Three and NESCAC rival Amherst (17-7). The last time came in 2010.
But the one thing Williams has not been able to do is beat the Mammoths three times in one season. That'll be Williams' objective, when Kevin App takes his sixth-seeded squad to Amherst in Saturday's quarterfinal against the No. 3 seed Mammoths. The Ephs won 72-69 and 62-60.
Amherst has done it three times. Last year, Amherst beat Williams in the semifinals. In 2013 and 2014, the Mammoths beat the Ephs in the NESCAC title game.
The Williams-Amherst game will be played at Lefrak Gym at 4 p.m., following a women's basketball quarterfinal, hosted by Amherst.
Williams will head into the weekend with the reigning NESCAC player of the week in center Matt Karpowicz.
The senior from Wellesley averaged 17.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game as the Ephs swept NESCAC rivals Bates and Tufts. He had 19 points and 10 rebounds in the 71-66 win over Tufts. It was his seventh double-double of the year.
It is a second season for Williams. The Ephs might have played the toughest schedule in the New England region. Over the course of four months, Williams has played seven teams that either are, or have been, nationally ranked in the D3hoops.com national Top 25. In last week's first series of regional rankings, Williams played eight of the top 10 teams in the New England region, along with one of the top teams in the East and Atlantic regions.
Despite losing its last two games of the season, Tufts is the top seed in the tournament. The Jumbos and second-seed Colby both finished 8-2, but Tufts beat Colby 80-67 to earn the tiebreaker.
Tufts (18-6), which fell out of the D3hoops.com Top 25 this week, will host No. 8 Hamilton (16-8, 4-6) in the second game of a men's and women's doubleheader in Medford.
Colby (21-2) is the No. 2 seed, and will host No. 7 Bates (12-12, 4-6). Trinity, Middlebury and Williams all finished with identical 6-4 league records. The Bantams (16-8) beat both Middlebury and Williams, while the Panthers beat Williams. That puts Middlebury (20-4), the nation's 14th-ranked team on the road at Hartford to play the Bantams.
Middlebury was last year's top seed, and the Panthers did not get out of the quarterfinals. This year could see a similar fate for higher-seeded teams.
Unlike the men, Pat Manning's Ephs locked up home court for the quarterfinals with a hard-fought 84-81 win at Bates.
With home court, Williams (17-7, 6-4) will host fifth-seeded Trinity (16-8, 5-5) on Saturday afternoon. Trinity and Hamilton both finished with identical 5-5 records, but the Bantams held the tiebreaker with a regular-season win.
The Ephs beat Trinity 83-76 back on Feb. 1, as Emily Chang poured in 30 points for Williams. It was the sixth consecutive win for the Ephs over the Bantams.
The two teams, however, have never played in the NESCAC tournament.
The fourth seed for Williams is the highest seed for one of Manning's teams since the Ephs were seeded fourth in 2015. That year, Williams beat Connecticut College in the quarterfinal but lost to Tufts in the semifinal.
The top of the NESCAC bracket is the same as the top of the D3hoops.com national Top 25. Tufts, Amherst and Bowdoin are three of the top six teams in the country, and they are the top three seeds in the tournament.
There are two undefeated women's basketball teams in Division III, and the Jumbos are No. 1 in the Top 25 because of that. Tufts (24-0, 10-0) is undefeated in conference play and will host eighth-seeded Wesleyan (14-10, 4-6) in the quarterfinal. Wesleyan lost to Bates, giving the Bobcats (13-11, 4-6) the No. 7 seed. With that No. 7, Bates will travel to second-seeded and sixth-ranked Amherst (21-3, 8-2). The Bates-Amherst game will precede the Williams-Amherst men.
Tufts is seeking to become the eighth consecutive team to win an NCAA Division III championship by having a perfect season. Amherst did it in 2017 and 2018, while Thomas More did it last year, beating Bowdoin in the championship.
The fourth quarterfinal features third-seeded Bowdoin (22-2, 8-2) and No. 6 Hamilton (15-9, 5-5).
In the first New England Regional Rankings, Tufts was ranked first, Amherst second, Bowdoin third, Williams eighth and Trinity 11th.
The Trailblazers, who had a leg up on the top seed in next week's MASCAC tournament, have dropped to the No. 3 seed after losing three straight games, and four of their last five.
MCLA is currently a half-game ahead of Bridgewater State in the battle for the No. 3 and 4 seeds. Both seeds guarantee the teams quarterfinal home games. But the No. 3 seed would get to avoid the top-seeded team in the tournament. Right now, Westfield and Worcester are tied at 8-2 atop the standings, MCLA is 7-4 and Bridgewater is 6-4.
Westfield will be at Salem and then home to MCLA, while Worcester will host Fitchburg and travel to Bridgewater.
It would help MCLA's fortune for Bridgewater to split its games this week. The Bears are at Framingham and then at home to Worcester.
MCLA has one game left, on Saturday, at Westfield State.
MCLA's Erika Ryan was named to the MASCAC women's basketball honor roll for her performance last week. The senior from Clifton Park, N.Y., averaged 10 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.5 blocked shots in losses to Framingham State and Worcester State.
MCLA will be on the outside looking in when the tournament starts next week, as only six of the seven teams qualify.
MCLA's game on Saturday against Westfield State may mean nothing in the standings. The Owls are currently 8-2 and solidly in second behind Framingham State. If the Owls win at Salem, they will lock up the No. 2 seed.
Like in the men's field, the battle on the women's side is for the No. 3 and 4 seeds. Worcester and Bridgewater are currently tied at 6-4. The 3-seed would potentially face Westfield, while the 4-seed would potentially face undefeated Framingham (10-0).
Howard Herman can be reached at email@example.com, at @howardherman on Twitter and 413-496-6253.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.