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Reflections on Alvernia and a Glance at Baruch

Matt Daley scored 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in Middlebury’s 81-71 win over Alvernia yesterday. A lot of credit should go to Jeff Brown for choosing the right starting lineup in this game, which seemed like an impossible task hours ago. Neither Jeff nor I had Matt St. Amour or Matt Daley in our first-game starting lineups, despite our excitement about their potential. If Daley doesn’t start against Alvernia, Middlebury very well could have lost the game. Daley scored 6 of Middlebury’s first 8 points and 10 of the team’s first 21 and the team stagnated offensively when he sat. And it wasn’t purely an offense thing either as Daley held his own on the defensive end, collecting 5 defensive rebounds and blocking a shot, while staying out of foul trouble. To further that sentiment, the sophomore forward boasted a +/- of +21 in a 10-point win and never left the game for the bench with the team in a worse place than when he entered the game. St. Amour, meanwhile, was not as effective, but finished with 10 points on 3-10 shooting in a solid debut as only the fifth freshman to start the opening game of the season during Jeff Brown’s tenure. And while St. Amour struggled at times, he was also a member of Middlebury’s most effective lineup, which included Kizel, St. Amour, Merryman, Daley and Roberts.

Part of the reason that lineup had as much success as it did was Alvernia’s inability to deal with Middlebury’s length inside. The same likely won’t be true of Barcuh, which boasts a bigger lineup that should better matchup with Middlebury’s size inside and do a better job keeping the Panthers off the glass. (Though for good measure, Franklin & Marshall held a +8 rebounding advantage over the Bearcats and collected 13 offensive rebounds in the game.) For Middlebury, there’s a relatively simple solution to this: make shots and finish inside. The Panthers grabbed 22 offensive rebounds against Alvernia, in large part because they shot just 43 percent as a team. If Middlebury can make more shots, particularly around the basket, where they missed a number of bunnies and putbacks, they shouldn’t have too much trouble with Baruch, which—if their scoring tendencies are any indicator—will likely try to slow down Middlebury’s tempo and limit turnovers and fastbreak opportunities to a minimum.

The Bearcats had pretty balanced in scoring in 2012, with no player averaging more than 10.4 points per game and return four of their top five scorers from a season ago. They also got an infusion of talent through the transfer window: Abraham Akanmu, a junior who played his first two seasons at Queens College, led the Bearcats with 13 points in the season opener; Joshua Gener, meanwhile, is a 6’7” forward/center who didn’t see game action for the Bearcats yesterday, but bolsters their front court rotation. In yesterday’s victory over Franklin & Marshall—only the Diplomats’ second home loss over the past three seasons—Baruch started a small backcourt of three guards (5’11”, 5’11”, 6’2”) and then a 6’6” forward in senior Joshua Vital (9.8 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 46% shooting in 2012-13) and 6’8” center Brian McMahon, a junior who averaged 5.8 points per game last season, who added 6 points and 4 blocks in a Jack Roberts type line. The two players to keep an eye on off the bench for the Bearcats are Matas Rascius, a 6’7” forward from Lithuania, who scored 9 points in just 13 minutes off the bench yesterday, and 5’9” senior Matt Feldman, who played starter minutes in a reserve role.

From the roster alone (and it’s always dangerous to assume too much from the roster alone) Baruch seems to have the size to contend with Middlebury’s bigs, and enough speed in the backcourt to make life difficult for Kizel and St. Amour in the backcourt. Jake Brown, who appears to be sitting out the tournament altogether, would be particularly helpful in this matchup. In his absence, Kizel and the trio of St. Amour, Pendergast and Bullcuk, in particular, will have to take care of the ball and not allow Baruch, a team that scored just 70.6 points per game last year on 43/33/73 splits to get easy looks off turnovers. Though unranked, Baruch should provide Middlebury with another good early season test, especially on the defensive end where they will likely harass the Panthers and apply more pressure than Alvernia did yesterday. If Middlebury executes and gets balanced play from their backcourt and bigs, the Panthers’ talent and depth should help them pull away from the Bearcats.


  1. wrote:

    Welcome to the new edition of the panthers. for the panther nation prognosticators and the Clubbo opinion there are several early keys to stress from Lancaster. My take gong in was that Joey was going to run the game because despite the idea that Henry or JakeB. might need the experience at it, that will not be a factor whenever Midd is in a high intensity game, particularly on the road. Evidence is in the minutes this weekend. When you’ve got arguably the best PG in the land and the task of blending in a lot of new pieces as JeffB. does this season, ‘you dance with who brung ya’, and somewhere further down the line deal with giving others experience. The new pieces were better than pretty good against Alvernia. Daley will be a major force. St. Amour will only get better, which will cause major headaches for our opponents. Dylan who was just game-rusty on Friday, apparently got his hands on some WD-40 overnight and came back with a well-oiled performance against BernieBaruch. Thoughts on the inside game where my Blog had said we might overmatch Alvernia proved on point, because LongJack (one of his best games at Midd) MattD. and ‘Jerry’ Nidenberg were simply too much. Nice but not unexpected performance from Nidenberg, who showed much better floor confidence in preseason. Apparently I was wrong about Chris Churchill because he was a DNP, but I’m still not convinced that he’s not going to be a solid contributor on this edition. So let’s leave it at ‘the jury is still out’ phase. It may have been that LongJack had a giant effort, and MattD. was readier to roll than most had thought. BTW- glad that JeffB. was of a different mindset. Hunter looks more at ease and confident, as did Nate Bulluck. Also liked that Conor Huff made a solid contribution, particularly against Alvernia where his toughness as a prep ‘4’, were called upon at the 3 spot.

    One point should be noted. The Alvernia game was a serious physical test. Their play was hard throughout, and sometimes cheap. Give us a “A” on that test. They got a big bump from the local zebra’s who had a serious length of fire-hose unrolled, particularly in the 2H. TheBoys survived even the missed calls and the miscalls, and were solid down the stretch. I left town and only saw Baruch in pieces on the small screen because we were having problems with the video. Although we had a knockout chance early, to Baruch’s credit they hung in there, and Midd never delivered it. But late when it mattered, the ball and the game was in Joey’s hands and as usual he was the iron, knocking in the final nails. Because this was a back-to-back, my take is that starting actual practice only two weeks ago, we had less than fresh legs after Alvernia, and as much as Baruch played well, that might be an equal factor why we were unable to deliver the knockout punch. For all the pundits in chatter land that had us on life support, it is pretty clear that the Midd patient is alive and well, and soon to be heading north from the #18 spot on the charts. Be well. Clubbo.

    Monday, November 18, 2013 at 10:56 am | Permalink
  2. wrote:

    With a 6’10” player on Green Mtn., I am wondering if we will see Mr. Churchill tonight. Are there any rumors regarding the return of Mr. Jensen? We could sure use him this weekend.

    Tuesday, November 19, 2013 at 10:12 am | Permalink

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