John Bedford '06
Senior co-captain John Bedford earned several all-region honors last season and was a First-Team All-NESCAC pick.

Fifth-Ranked Jeffs Seek Second Straight NESCAC Crown, Seventh Consecutive NCAA Tournament Appearance

November 8, 2005

2004-05 RECAP

The Amherst College men's basketball team produced another outstanding season in 2004-05, earning an automatic bid to their eighth overall and sixth straight NCAA Tournament, drawing a first-round bye and downing visiting Springfield College 81-68 in the NCAA second round, clinching their fifth consecutive national quarterfinal appearance. With an astounding 26-2 overall record and a unblemished 9-0 mark in NESCAC play, the Jeffs set new school records for winning percentage (92.9%) and consecutive wins (19), claimed their first outright Little Three Championship since 2000-01 by sweeping both Wesleyan University and Williams College, and secured the No. 1 seed in the NESCAC Championship Tournament. There they downed Bowdoin College and Trinity University, before topping Bates College 65-57 in the title game, claiming their third conference title in the last five years. Amherst rolled through the opening half of the season, winning its own Ken Wright '52 Classic for the fourth straight year and topping Western New England College and Westfield State College in the Pioneer Valley Classic en route to a 7-0 start. The Jeffs posted 19 straight wins to close their regular-season slate, win the conference tournament and stroll to the NCAA Regional Semifinals. Highlights of the season included an 88-78 victory at archrival Williams, snapping a five-game losing streak in Williamstown, Mass., dating back to January 13, 2001, and a savage 72-45 blowout victory over the visiting Ephs, marking one of the largest margins of victory in the history of the rivalry. The fourth-ranked team in the nation according to the final 2004-05 D3Hoops.com poll, Amherst finished the season second in the nation in won-lost percentage (92.9%), sixth in scoring margin (16.6 ppg) and 26th in field goal percentage (48.8%). The Jeffs also led NESCAC in scoring defense (63.1 ppg), scoring margin (16.6 ppg), field goal percentage (48.8%), three-point field goal percentage defense (29.1 %), blocked shots (5.46/gm), and three-point field goals made (8.0/gm). Head coach Dave Hixon wrapped up his 28th season with 492 career victories, NESCAC Coach of the Year honors and his second straight NABC Northeast Region Coach of the Year Award.

KEY LOSSES

Amherst graduates just two players, but both will be substantial losses for the Jeffs as Andrew Schiel and Russell Lee made up the winningest class in Amherst history, with 99 victories in four seasons. Schiel graduates as the seventh all-time leading scorer in school history with 1,408 career points, earning First-Team All-America, Northeast Player of the Year and First-Team All-Region honors from the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) in his senior year. He was also tabbed First-Team D3hoops.com All-Northeast Region, a First-Team Division III New England ECAC All-Star, First-Team All-NESCAC and the NESCAC Player of the Year. He finished second in the NESCAC and 38th in the nation in blocks (1.93) and ranked fifth in the conference in scoring (17.1 ppg). He also placed third in the conference in field goal percentage (57.3%), seventh in free throw percentage (74.5%) and 14th in three-point field goal percentage (36.5%). Lee was a constant threat for opposing teams, brandishing the ability to blow up at any given moments. His 27-point explosion in the 2004 NESCAC Semifinal win over Trinity, and the series of long-range trifectas notched in the 2005 blowout over Williams are games that will not be soon forgotten by Amherst faithful. He finished among the conference leaders in steals, three-point field goals and scoring in his senior campaign.

John Casnocha '06
Senior co-captain John Casnocha led the NESCAC in three-point field goal percentage (45.1%), and finished among the conference leaders in a bevy of categories.

KEY RETURNEES/NEWCOMERS

Amherst returns three starters and an extremely deep bench this winter as the Jeffs, ranked fifth in the D3Hoops.com preseason rankings, seek their second straight NESCAC Championship and their seventh consecutive trip to the NCAA Division III Tournament. Senior co-captains John Bedford and John Casnocha highlight the list as Bedford was tabbed an Honorable Mention Division III New England ECAC All-Star, Second-Team NABC All-Region, Third-Team D3hoops.com All-Northeast Region and First-Team All-NESCAC, while Casnocha Led the conference in three-point field goal percentage (45.1%), finished sixth in three-point field goals made (1.96 3pg), 10th in steals (1.29 spg), 10th in blocks (0.79 bpg), 11th in rebounding (6.5 rpg) and 26th in scoring (10.1 ppg). Bedford also placed 11th in the NESCAC in scoring (15.2 ppg), sixth in free throw percentage (74.8%), ninth in field goal percentage (50.7%), 12th in three-point field goal percentage (37.8%) and 20th in rebounding (5.5 rpg), and is currently 22nd on Amherst's all-time leading scorers list with 974 career points to date. Classmates Ray Corrigan and Keith Zalaski look to bolster the Jeff backcourt as Corrigan ranks among the college's all-time leaders with 310 career assists, while Zalaski gained valuable experience as a backup point guard last season. Juniors Dan Wheeler, Dan O'Shea, Tim McLaughlin and Mike Salerno all look to step into the spotlight this season. O'Shea showed flashes of greatness in the Jeffs' 84-50 victory over visiting Connecticut College last season, posting career-highs of 16 points and six rebounds, while Wheeler broke out in their NCAA Second-Round 81-68 win over Springfield, shooting a perfect six-for-six from the field, including a trio of three-pointers, for a career-high 19 points. McLaughlin is a terrific all-around player and is able to play a variety of positions for the Jeffs, while Salerno looks to contribute at the point guard spot after the conclusion of football season (he serves as the starting strong safety for the Jeffs' football team). Reigning NESCAC Rookie of the Year Andrew Olson highlights a strong sophomore class after starting 25 games in his first-year and finishing fourth in the conference in assist-turnover ratio (2.51). Classmates Kevin Hopkins, Matt Goldsmith, Fletcher Walters and Brandon Jones all look to increase their contributions as well this season. Sophomore transfer Adolphe Coulibaly joins the Jeffs after playing his first-year season at Brown University. As a rookie, he appeared in 25 games for the Bears and posted a career-high 11 points and five rebounds in their season-opener against the University of Missouri. First-years Brian Baskauskas, Glen Wong and Marcus Bradley headline another strong recruiting class for the Jeffs.

SCHEDULE HIGHLIGHTS

In addition to an always challenging nine-game NESCAC slate, Amherst will host Fitchburg College, Fisher College and Endicott College in the season-opening Ken Wright '52 Memorial Invitational, and travels to Western New England College for the Fifth-Annual Pioneer Valley Classic. As usual, the Jeffs will face a slew of tough non-conference foes, highlighted by a pair of west-coast matchups at Occidental College and Pomona-Pitzer. The sixth installment of the NESCAC Postseason Championship Tournament tips off on Saturday, February 18th, with an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament at stake.

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