With the regular season completed, this week NESCAC coaches are voting on the First Team, Second Team, and individual All-NESCAC honors. We have done the same here, based on conference play statistics and a fairly large sample of games watched. There were a lot of hard choices this year, but we came away believing that the awards should (i.e. not “will”) be allocated as follows:
Aaron Toomey, Amherst
Joey Kizel, Middlebury
Matt Hart, Hamilton
Duncan Robinson, Williams
Michael Mayer, Williams
Toomey and Robinson were no-brainers, as discussed below. Mayer came on strong late, finishing conference play with 19.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. Kizel’s 16.9 points, 5.6 assists, 5.5 rebounds, and 1.3 steals per game should earn him a third straight First-Team selection. Hart was somewhat one-dimensional, but that dimension (scoring) was good enough to earn a spot on the team: 21.0 points per game on 46/41/85 shooting.
Tom Killian, Amherst
Andrew Madlinger, Bowdoin
Chris Hudnut, Colby
Hunter Sabety, Tufts
John Swords, Bowdoin
Killian was the closest to receiving a First Team nod, finishing in the top 10 in the conference in points and rebounds (14.8 and 7.0), playing the best defense in the conference, and finishing with an efficient shooting line of 48/36/80. Swords and Hudnut were both clearly deserving. Swords’ impact as the 7-footer in the middle of Bowdoin’s defense is not adequately captured by his 13.4 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per game. Hudnut is a step away from being a Sharry-like superstar down low, finishing the year with 17.9 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game on 48/32/84 shooting. The last two spots came down to Madlinger, Sabety, Dylan Sinnickson and Daniel Wohl. Madlinger earned the nod because of his excellent defense (a big part of Bowdoin’s conference-best 57.0 points allowed per game) and complete offense (13.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 41/42/86 shooting). Sabety takes the final spot because of his 14.8 points and 2.9 blocks per game. Sinnickson surpassed all expectations this year (except maybe his own), finishing with 16.3 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, but his 1-10 showing against Trinity nudged him behind Madlinger and Sabety. Wohl did it all for Williams, putting up 11.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.0 steal per game, but his weaker scoring numbers kept him off.
Rookie of the Year: Duncan Robinson, Williams
The headliner recruiting class lived up to expectations. In addition to Robinson and Sabety, there were great rookie performances all around the conference. David George, Mike Greenman, Matt St. Amour, Harry Rafferty, Zuri Pavlin, Malcolm Delpeche, Jake Brown, Edward Ogundeko, Tarik Smith, and Dan Aronowitz were among those first-year players who were major parts of their rotation this season. The Class of ’17 will contribute to a lot of great teams, games, and moments for the next three years in this conference. But the one above the talented crowd is clearly Duncan Robinson. Robinson had an unbelievable season and is already one of the best all-around players in the country. He was arguably the best player in the conference, which we will discuss below, but for here, we should appreciate that this award will be unanimous and that this was a freshman season for the ages.
Coach of the Year: David Hixon, Amherst
The senior class that Amherst lost was one of the best classes to come through the NESCAC in the last four years. Willy Workman was one of the top 2-3 players in the conference last season, Peter Kaasila was an efficient monster in the paint, and Allen Williamson was the best player on the team during their postseason run to conference and national titles. That Coach Hixon hardly missed a beat (yes, this year’s Amherst team is worse than last year’s, but it’s still better than any other team in the conference) speaks to his ability to recruit, develop and maximize talent.
Defensive Player of the Year: Tom Killian, Amherst
This was a three-way race for us, though we had a hard time knowing if we missed any obvious candidates. Based on everything that we saw, the three best defenders in the conference were Killian, Madlinger, and Swords. Either of the two Polar Bears could make a strong case, but Killian put together a hard resume to beat. Playing 37 minutes per game, Killian—one of the most athletic players in the conference—guarded a variety of top offensive threats, often playing shutdown defense, while also being the best defensive playmaker in the conference at 2.5 steals per game.
Player of the Year: Aaron Toomey, Amherst
If we were in the business of giving co-PoY’s, it would have been hard not to split this one between Toomey and Robinson. The Jeff and the Eph put together two distinct but dominant seasons. Toomey’s 21.0 points per game and 6.6 assists per game reflect truly elite offensive production. He shot an impressive 65% on 2-point field goals, and a decent 38% on 3-point field goals, to go along with 90% free throw shooting, second-best in the conference. Though he is a subpar man defender, Toomey’s 1.3 steals per game tied for 8th in the conference. His 5.2 rebounds per game was among the best in the conference among guards. He also deserves a lot of the credit for Amherst’s sustained excellence despite losing the senior trio. That said, Duncan Robinson put together a gem of a season himself. Robinson scored 18.9 points per game, shooting 75% on 2-point field goals and 53% on 3-point fields goals, making him the best pure scorer in the conference. Robinson led the conference in both 2-point and 3-point percentage. As in, the best three-point shooter in the conference had a higher field goal percentage inside of the arc than John Swords and Hunter Sabety — and it wasn’t even close. The 6’7″ versatile wingman is also a plus defender, and finished conference play with 1.2 steals and 1.1 blocks per game. He added 2.1 assists and 5.2 rebounds per contest. If you can have a flawless season as the top scorer on a top team nationally, it would look a lot like Duncan Robinson’s 2013-14. But Robinson missed one game out of ten in conference play, and Toomey’s points plus assists might surpass his efficiency deficiency, so we think the award should go to the Amherst senior. However, both should be remembered as deserving candidates.