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Mens Basketball: First Third Summary and Thoughts Heading Forward

The 2012-13 Panthers after winning the season-opening Lebanon Valley Tournament

The 2012-13 Panthers after winning the season-opening Lebanon Valley Tournament

Middlebury heads into the holidays with an 8-0 record and a likely soon-to-be #1 ranking in the country (the one team ahead of Middlebury in the polls lost Monday). This will mark the second consecutive season that the Panthers enter the New Year looking down on the rest of division III. The ranking is a reflection of a positive start, but doesn’t mean much more than that the first trimester was upset-free.

The Panthers’ closest games were on the road against middle-tier opponents: 78-73 over Ursinus (4-5), 72-63 over Lebanon Valley (3-6), 80-73 over Plattsburgh State (7-2), and 79-71 over Johnson and Wales (4-5). Overall, Middlebury has been winning by an average of 19.8 points per game. They are winning with the same hyper-efficient offense (53% FG, 41% 3PT, 87.4 ppg), depth (5 players in double figures, 10+ guys who can play meaningful minutes), and tight defense (6.5 steals per game, 5.1 blocks per game, 42% opp FG) that defined their success last year, a reassuring sign for those worried about offsetting the loss of Ryan Sharry. Here are first third statistical leaders, notable statistics, and superlatives/awards:

Statistical Leaders through Fall semester:
Points per game: Peter Lynch, 17.3
Rebounds per game: Peter Lynch, 5.8
Assists per game: Joey Kizel, 5.1
Steals per game: Joey Kizel, 2.4
Blocks per game: Jack Roberts, 1.9
Field goal percentage: Peter Lynch, 69%
Free throw percentage: Peter Lynch, 87%
Three point percentage: Hunter Merryman, 62%
See full statistics here

Statistical notes:
-Since 2009, Middlebury is 31-0 before the New Year.
-Middlebury leads all NESCAC teams in field goal percentage and points per game.
-Peter Lynch has the 4th-best field goal percentage in the nation.
-Peter Lynch has the most 20 point games (4) of any player in the NESCAC.
-Peter Lynch’s 27 point game vs. GMC was one of three 27 point games for a Middlebury player since 2009.
-Middlebury’s 117 points vs. GMC were the second most since 2006.
-Middlebury held Skidmore to 4 FGM in the second half of their 74-53 victory.
-In the win vs. Southern VT, Middlebury won the assist battle 24-6.
-If he were eligible, Hunter Merryman would lead the nation in 3-point percentage.
Follow us on Twitter for stats like these on a regular basis.

First Half Awards:
MVP: PETER LYNCH, 17.3 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 69% FG
The 6’6″ senior captain has carried the team after a no-show on opening night, putting up big scoring numbers without taking a lot of shots. Lynch led the NESCAC in field goal percentage last season, and has improved on his already terrific post moves. His combination of strength and touch make him especially dominant against inferior opponents, as he has showcased in the early going. Pete’s inside scoring ability has also opened things up for Middlebury’s outside shooters.
Nolan’s defense can’t be quantified. He continues to match up with the opponent’s best outside scorer and shut him down. Just watch him play. One of the nice things about playing better opponents is the chance to see Nolan’s effectiveness really shine through. James Jensen would have gotten the nod if it weren’t for Thompson, as the 6’6″ junior has been winning matchups against points guards, centers, and everyone in between. James’ length, athleticism, and work ethic make him a defensive stud.
Hunter Merryman went from being a healthy scratch in half of Middlebury’s games last season, to being one of the most dangerous scorers on the team. He is a fairly one-dimensional player, but that one dimension (shooting) is spectacular. The play of the season thus far was at the end of the first half against Skidmore, when Joey Kizel raced up the court with a few seconds to go, Merryman set a high screen, Kizel was doubled and kicked it back out to Merryman, and Merryman hit a three from several feet behind the three point line over an outstretched defender as time expired. The most remarkable thing about watching the play was that everyone knew the shot was going in. That’s what Hunter Merryman brings to the team.
While Mat Daley and Henry Pendergast look to have the most potential, and have been the most exciting in spurts, both have been inconsistent thus far. Huff, however, has shown a variety of skills, making outside shots, forcing turnovers, and scoring inside, in his limited playing time. The 6’4″ forward shows the kind of hustle you love to see from a freshman, playing at full-tilt for every second of court time he gets, and it has paid off thus far.

We will be following this post up with some questions and concerns that have arisen or still linger after the first third of the season.




  1. wrote:

    Va Wesleyan lost again, this time by 2 to Wesley. They will definitely plummet in the next poll. Will Midd be No 1, though?

    Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 7:18 pm | Permalink
  2. wrote:

    Seems likely. Don’t think Midd is the top team in the country, but would be surprised if the voters swapped order (they might see it as “punishing” a team that hasn’t lost yet). We shouldn’t let this top ranking change expectations though. This Midd team still looks like a NESCAC runner-up, Sweet 16 tier squad right now.

    Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 11:20 pm | Permalink
  3. wrote:

    While I don’t disagree that much of the reason why Middlebury will be ranked number 1 in the new poll is due to their pre-season ranking, I do think it’s time to adjust our expectations for this team. It’s hard to believe that there are 15 teams better than this one in the country right now, given the number of top teams that have lost, and while that’s not necessarily a good measure of determining tournament success, I think it’s fair to assume Middlebury is an Elite 8 or Final Four team at this point. From what I have seen, and I think Jeff would agree, there are very few, if any complete/dominant teams in D-III basketball right now. It will be very interesting to see if one emerges in the new year.

    Friday, December 21, 2012 at 8:42 pm | Permalink
  4. wrote:

    But it’s hard to project them as an Elite 8 team when it is foreseeable that they finish third in the NESCAC and don’t make the tournament.

    Friday, December 21, 2012 at 9:19 pm | Permalink
  5. wrote:

    Correct! The poll is simply for conversation and the only poll that really counts is the NCAA rankings at the end of the regular season. While it would be great to win the NESCAC tournament, a runner up with an at large bid to the NCAAs would be a nice consolation. With no at at large, runner up is not very good. That is why every game is so important as far as the NCAA rankings are concerned which determine at Pool C bids.

    Friday, December 21, 2012 at 8:50 am | Permalink
  6. wrote:

    hard to tell where this team is yet would be wrong to underestimate its potential. non-NESCAC schedule has been – save Plattsburgh St – and likely will continue to be a bit of a joke w way too many Lyndon State, Green Mountain, Johnson State et al for a team / program this good. this year’s NESCAC’s bottom half not much better so it looks to come down to a four game schedule – Tufts, Williams, Amherst, Wesleyan. will hope the lack of real tests / serious competition does not come back to haunt.

    Tuesday, January 1, 2013 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

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