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North Central

The 2012-13 Panthers in Salem

The 2012-13 Panthers in Salem


(We are on the road to Salem. The combination of driving and mid-terms has delayed our preview, and we apologize.)

North Central (27-3), ranked #3 in the nation in the latest poll, has emerged from the “Bracket of Death” (an 8-team pod that included Washington U., Illinois Wesleyan, UW-Whitewater, and North Central) and has been playing as well as just about any team in the tournament heading into Salem. Middlebury, who has won three games by a combined seven points in the tournament, faces their toughest matchup of the season.

North Central plays in the CCIW, one of the best conferences in the country, and comes into Salem riding an 11-game winning streak, including wins over Augustana, Illinois Wesleyan (twice each), Wheaton, Centre, and UW-Whitewater. The Cardinals rely on length, athleticism, suffocating defense (58.5 ppg allowed), and efficient offense, led by their two all-conference stars, Derek Raridon and Landon Gamble.

Raridon is a 6’5” score-first All-American who has been lighting up D3 ever since he arrived to North Central and put up 21.3 points per game his inaugural season. This year, Raridon is averaging 14.6 points per game on 51% FG, 46% 3FG shooting, as the talent around him has stepped up to balance his firepower. Raridon will likely go for 40 minutes tonight, and our guess is that Nolan Thompson will be right there with him for all 40.

Gamble is a 6’6” junior post scorer who is averaging 14.1 points and 5.7 rebounds per game on 59% FG shooting. When he stays out of foul trouble, Gamble is one of the strongest and most talented big men in the nation. Given Middlebury’s difficulties stopping A.J. Stephens and Kevin McMahon earlier in the tournament, Gamble could be in for a big day. He will face some combination of Jack Roberts, James Jensen, and Peter Lynch down low. He is likely too strong for Roberts and Jensen, and too athletic for Lynch, but one of them could step up and limit the damage.

Outside of Raridon and Gamble is a deep group of long and talented complementary players. Vince Kmiec is a 6’4” wingman who scores 10.4 points per game and leads the team in 3-point field goals made on the season (48-153). Aaron Tiknis starts next to Gamble down low, averages 10.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, and can score from inside and outside. Jack Burchett and Charlie Rosenberg, standing at 6’6” and 6’5” respectively, come off the bench and score efficiently in the post, shooting a combined 57% from the floor. Both, however, shoot under 50% from the free throw line, which limits their effectiveness. Rounding our the rotation are Brandon Williams and Pat Rourke, two limited guards who combine for 7.2 points in 38 minutes per game.

Outside of the individual profiles, we know a few things about North Central’s tendencies as a team. Their defense has carried them this season, as they are one of the best defensive teams in nation, especially on the perimeter; their last two opponents (two top-10 teams) have shot a combined 6-34 from beyond the arc. On offense, they like to get out in transition, and Kmiec and Tiknis won’t hesitate to pull up for three on the fast break. Their point guard play is limited, but the talent of Raridon and Gamble can carry them in the half court. Their one weakness on offense is free throw shooting, where they have shot 67% on the season.

In the sense that they are a great defensive team with mediocre free throw shooting, the Cardinals are reminiscent of the Middlebury squad that lost by two in Salem in 2011. Free throws hurt the Panthers in that loss, and they could hurt the Cardinals tonight. If Middlebury is down by multiple possessions in the last few minutes, they could go to a quick-foul strategy early.

The big question for Middlebury is whether they can score against such a high caliber defens, as the Panthers haven’t really faced a great defensive team this season. The three seniors each struggle when they have less space to play in, and their offensive games will be limited tonight. Wolfin and Thompson will have to adjust from an Ithaca team that left them with open looks for much of the game to a North Central team that by all accounts will not. Both will need to adjust quickly and attack; whether or not they make plays will determine the effectiveness of the Panther offense. Lynch, meanwhile, is most effective when he has time to work one-on-one inside, but the Cardinals are likely to swarm on him, so he has to either go up right away or find open teammates. We can expect Middlebury to give it to Lynch whenever he has Gamble in one-on-ones because of Gamble’s propensity to foul. Joey Kizel works well with limited space and should have another big game. James Jensen will likely get extended minutes because of his defensive value against the Cardinals’ length and athleticism. On offense, Jensen will have to attack the basket and draw contact when he gets the chance. Finally, Jack Roberts is going to be asked to limit Raridon at times and will have to do so effectively while staying out of foul trouble.

This is the toughest test of Middlebury’s season, and a non-NESCAC opponent the likes of which they have not seen since St. Thomas. We know this team too well to think they will go down without a fight. If they adjust to the defense, Thompson wins his matchup with Raridon, Wolfin and Lynch are efficient, and Kizel does Kizelian things, then they can advance. If North Central can score with ease down low, and get out in transition, it will be the end of the run for the Panthers.

Final Score: North Central 64, Middlebury 61.

We will be broadcasting the game live from Salem. If you want to listen, there will be an audio link on the Middlebury Athletics’ “Live Coverage” website.


  1. wrote:

    Jake Brown, nephew of Coach Jeff Brown is heading to Midd. Does anyone have any information on this welcome addition to the Panthers?

    Friday, March 29, 2013 at 11:02 pm | Permalink
  2. wrote:

    He scored 1,000 points in high school. Our impression is that he is very good, could push for minutes his first year.

    Friday, March 29, 2013 at 11:26 pm | Permalink
  3. wrote:

    They’ll be plenty of guards fighting for minutes next season!

    Saturday, March 30, 2013 at 3:37 pm | Permalink
  4. wrote:

    Time to turn the page. The nescac will have a different look next year but it’s my take The Panthers will be again near the best. Graduation takes Jake, Nolan and Lynch. Taking 2000-plus points, plus the assists and the defensive handcuffs out of the equation would leave many programs reeling. Although it’ll be a different look, there’s no reason to think we won’t be able to compete at the highest level. It will start with Joey and James. Joey should be a preseason A-A, and certainly one of the top 3 G.’s in the northeast. James has the capability to be the next recognized Midd great defender. But they will get senior help from LongJack- who has been continually coming on and now among the leaders in blocks; and expected readiness for big-time status from Nate Bulluck and possibly Lu Alvarez (both solid defenders). Think that Nate can contribute more on ‘O’. Key to the inside effort will be Chris Churchill and MattD., who ought to be able to give us 15 ppg’s, which will have all sorts of good effects. That frees up the passing and cutting lanes for Joey, James, Nate and Dylan. Dylan’s return gives us an athletic presence missing all year and creates match-up problems for everyone we face. Having ‘Bigs’ that can score helps the inside out game. That’s a plus for our 3-ballers, Hunter, DeanB. and Bert Nasciemento who might get spot-up minutes in that role. Have to think that new frosh St.Amour (2100 pts and serious d-1 interest) would benefit from that. Also feel that Pendergast and Huff will be ready to contribute further, as will Nidenburg whose RB’ing strength should only improve with work in the off-season. Don’t know where the new frosh, which may include walk-ons unknown at this point, will fit in, but the cupboard is far from bare. Will post again either here or on my Blog when I have anything of substance or any juicy rumors. Till then, be well. Clubbo.

    Saturday, April 6, 2013 at 2:51 pm | Permalink
  5. wrote:

    Naughton, Jones, Brown and St Armour are the four recruits, all guards. You are predicting walk-ons? Hopefully they’ll be just like Nolan.

    Wednesday, April 10, 2013 at 7:45 pm | Permalink
  6. wrote:

    Any chance a departing player or recently departed player will be brought in as an assistant coach for next year?

    Monday, April 22, 2013 at 8:57 pm | Permalink
  7. wrote:

    Seems unlikely, but wouldn’t rule anything out. Most of those guys have plans going forward, and there are probably more qualified coaches who would like to work for Jeff Brown.

    Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at 10:18 pm | Permalink
  8. wrote:

    Yeah, I just thought that having Nolan mentor these four new guards on defensive play and/or Ryan Sharry tutor the two big men would be a huge plus. I’m fairly sure Ryan in staying in Belgium or moving to another league.

    Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 10:51 am | Permalink
  9. wrote:

    Do not discount the fact that the G.’s that Midd has have played against Nolan T. in practice (for at least a year), and Joey every day, so they’ve seen what it is to perform at the highest level. Not only that but they know how JeffB. wants to attack an opponent and what different situations call for. This is an area where the new frosh may take some time to blend their talents into the coaches plans. Only very special ones are able to step right in and they would need a different situation. One of the three best G.’s in the country will run the show for The Panthers next year. Others will take their cue from him. How, or if any of, the frosh perform will be decided by not only their talent but by how they make the transition to the college level and how they fit into the bigger plan. That said, we’re going to need a couple of these kids to be future nescac all-stars to keep this ‘run’ at the top going, so here’s hoping that the press clippings on Jones and St. Amour are ‘the right stuff’. And that maybe JeffB. can find other walk-ons that can contribute.
    From what I understand, Nolan’s immediate future is in the business world, and Ryan Sharry is going to move up a league or two, and stay abroad next season. Clubbo.

    Tuesday, April 30, 2013 at 9:23 am | Permalink
  10. wrote:

    When you’re running a top-tier national program like Jeff Brown has been doing for years, it’s important to remember that it attracts both players and coaches with talent. For those on the coaching-side, it’s a business. Alex Popp was with Jeff and Midd for two seasons, but you knew that this was only a stopover on his career path. Noted yesterday on that Alex was introduced as the director of bball operations at Holy Cross. Midd’s loss is Holy Ctross’ gain. Certain that Alex will do well in this step up to a D-1 program at a good academic school that has a ton of alums in New England. I wish him continued success.

    Wednesday, May 8, 2013 at 8:26 am | Permalink

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