Stevenson went 16-10 a year ago and returns three of their top four scorers from the 2012-13 team in Christian Roberts (6’0” sophomore, #1), Alfonozo Hawkins (6’0” senior, #5) and Stefon McCray (6’6” senior, #21) who combined to score 41.5 points per game a season ago. Bolstering the returners are transfers Justin Kuntz, who led the team with 14 points in their season-opening win over Cairn, and Colby Giacubeno, who contributed 12 points off the bench. Fifteen different players played—12 of whom logged at least 9 minutes—for the Mustangs in their opener, in large part because they led 49-18 over Cairn at halftime. The combination of the blowout victory and the high number of transfers makes Stevenson an especially difficult team to assess from the box score. They do, however, appear improved from a 16-win team a year ago, which won both of its games at the Hoopsville Classic, boasting wins over Alvernia and twice beat Lebanon Valley, their one common opponent with Middlebury last year.
Stevenson is likely an underrated team going into this tournament, with all the necessary motivation of winning on their home floor in what is as close to a nationally broadcasted D-III tournament as there is. James Jensen, who was cleared yesterday, should be available to play, giving Middlebury a versatile defender who could check the 6’6” Stefon McCray. On the offensive end of the floor, scoring inside will once again be a key for the Panthers as Stevenson boasts just one player (Kuntz) 6’7” or taller. Through three games this year, Matt Daley and Jack Roberts have been effective attacking smaller lineups—Daley, in particular, looking unguardable at times with a single defender working against him. Dylan Sinnickson, who has been one of the Panthers’ most effective outside scorers thus far, likely won’t be available this weekend, putting greater onus on Middlebury’s big men to produce inside. On the perimeter, the Panthers will have to do a far better job shooting the ball as Joey Kizel and Matt St. Amour have struggled to find their shooting range early in the season. The return of Jake Brown may create better spacing on the floor, allowing Kizel to play off the ball increasingly. Against an undersized Stevenson team, we might see a backcourt of Brown, Kizel and St. Amour for the first time this season.
Middlebury should escape this game with a victory, but Stevenson is a relatively veteran team that is playing at home against a team that has made long road trips on consecutive weekends. Given our expectations for Middlebury, we think they should pass another early season test tonight, but they will need to play a more complete game than they have against their past two opponents.