Men's Basketball: Team falls short of NCAA tourney
The exciting 2009-2010 men's basketball campaign has come to a close, and for those who bleed Blue and White, the end may seem quite anticlimactic. Over the weekend, the talented Mules fell out of the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) tournament, losing to Middlebury College in the semi-finals 65-48, and on Monday, March 2 the squad received the controversial news that it will not receive an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. However, although these late season disappointments remain fresh in our minds, they should not overshadow the overall achievements of one of the best basketball squads Colby has put together.
"This year's team is certainly one of our most successful in recent years and accomplished significantly through the dedication and hard work of the players," Head Coach Dick Whitmore said.
Colby finishes the season at 19-6 overall. Without a doubt, the Mules were the third best team in the NESCAC- arguably the deepest and most competitive Division III basketball conference in America. Williams College (26-1) and Middlebury (24-3), both hosting games in the NCAA tournament, top the conference and are ranked number 2 and number 6 in the country respectively. Three of Colby's six losses this season came at the hands of the two powerhouses.
The Mules started the season a redhot 16-2 and on February second, after going 5-0 in the first set of NESCAC games the Mules were honored as the 25th ranked team in the Division III national poll. The Mules defeated both Bates College and Bowdoin College during the run and had established themselves as the team to beat of the Maine schools. However, the Mules hit a bit of a rut and over the next four NESCAC games Colby went 1-4, including a surprising loss to an underdog Connecticut College squad. Rebounding from the rocky stretch, the Mules deftly dispatched Amherst College in the first round of the playoffs but then took the season ending loss to Middlebury in the semis.
Although the strength of schedule was impressive for the Mules, the loss to Connecticut and the performances against Williams and Middlebury set Colby up as a bubble team for the tournament.
"The NCAA selection process is very complicated with the capability of comparing teams across the country very difficult," Whitmore said. Colby, although well-deserving of a bid, was not included in the field of 64.
"The system caused a great deal of disappointment to our basketball family, but we respect the process," Whitmore reiterated.
The core of Colby's success relied on a smothering defense. The length, awareness and great help defense of the Mules meant that no opponent could play lackadaisially in the offensive end; any pass without a purpose around Colby was usually gobbled up. This defensive intensity stopped many opponents from playing inside and out against the Mules, leaving many offenses one-dimensional. The Mules were second in the conference in scoring defense, allowing only 61.5 points per game. Colby ended third in the conference in scoring differential, another barometer of domination, at +6.2 points per game.
Offensively, the two-headed monster of Adam Choice '10 and Michael Russell '11 was arguably the best in the conference. Choice finishes a storied Colby career as eighth all-time in scoring at Colby with 1,534 points. He also has 654 rebounds, 185 assists, 134 steals and 95 blocked shots.
"Adam Choice is one of the finest players in our basketball history because of his ability to impact the game all over the floor," said Whitmore.
Russell (14.1 PPG, 9.9 Rebounds) was utterly dominating at times this year, leading the NESCAC in rebounding and will be a major part of the success of the squad next year.
Other impact players will also be graduating this year.
"When five seniors leave there is a gigantic hole," said Whitmore. "Gil Haylon epitomized the sixth man role, Justin Sherman was a major influence at both ends of the court, Chas Woodward developed into an inside presence that was critical to our success and Tim Concannon is one of the greatest teammates of all time. The challenge of next season has already begun."
Russell and starting point guard Christian Van Loenen '11 return as senior starters. Eric Beaulieu '12 has emerged as a front court force and younger players like Kyle Donovan '12, Gordon Fischer '13, Gus David '11, Noah Atlas '11, Alex Swanson '12 and Ben Foreman '12 have eight months to get ready for another successful team in 2010-2011.