Dan Wheeler '07
Senior quad-captain Dan Wheeler received Second-Team All-NESCAC honors last season

Third-Ranked Jeffs Ready to Defend NESCAC Title

November 7, 2006

The Lord Jeffs enter the 2006-07 season ranked third in the country among Division III schools according to d3hoops.com.

2005-2006 RECAP
The Amherst College men’s basketball team finished the 2005-2006 campaign at 28-4, setting a school record for wins in a season. The Jeffs earned a number one seed in the NESCAC tournament, cruising past Conn. College and Bates College to the championship game against Tufts University. Tufts nearly pulled off a victory in regulation, but then-senior John Casnocha hit a deep three to put the game into overtime. Amherst outplayed the Jumbos in overtime, winning 85-80, to win the NESCAC Championship to go along with their regular season NESCAC title.

Amherst earned an automatic bid to their seventh straight NCAA Tournament, drawing a first-round bye and downing visiting Hamilton College, 83-59, in the NCAA second round, clinching their fifth consecutive “Round of 16” appearance. Their second game proved to be much more of a challenge, with Tufts again coming just one second short of defeating the Jeffs in regulation until a desperate Andrew Olson heave from behind the three-point line found its way to the rim and fell through to tie the game as time expired. The Jeffs moved on to defeat the Jumbos in overtime, 90-85. With a convincing 93-70 win over visiting St. John Fisher College in the NCAA Sectional Championship game, the Lord Jeffs advanced to the NCAA Final Four for the second time in the last three seasons, but fell to national runner-up Wittenberg College, 64-60.  

The Jeffs also won their second consecutive Little Three Championship, including a dominating victory at Williams College to secure the title. Amherst led the NESCAC in scoring offense (83.8 ppg), scoring margin (19.2 ppg), field goal percentage (49.1%), assists (18.6 apg) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.49), while finishing second in scoring defense (64.7 ppg), three-point field goal percentage (41.6%), three-point field goal percentage defense (31.3%), blocked shots (5.41 bpg), turnover margin (+2.00), and three-point field goals made (9.16/gm).  

KEY LOSSES
Amherst loses last season’s co-captains, John Bedford and John Casnocha, to graduation.  As a guard, Bedford received numerous accolades for his outstanding play, including First-Team honors for NABC All-Northeast Region, Division III New England ECAC All-Star, and All-NESCAC; Second-Team honors for D3hoops.com All-Northeast Region, and Third-Team honors for NABC and D3Hoops.com All-America.  He finished last season fifth in the NESCAC in scoring (17.0 ppg) and graduates as Amherst’s third all-time leading scorer with 1,517 career points. Casnocha, a forward, finished last season 13th in the NESCAC in three-point field goal percentage (41.3%) and three-point field goals per game (1.78/gm), and 15th in steals (1.25/gm). He was also named to the NESCAC All-Academic Team.

Amherst also loses a pair of guards who, in their four years, put in valuable minutes coming off the bench.  Keith Zalaski did not start for the Jeffs, but did bail them out when called upon by coming off the bench as a backup point guard, especially during his junior season. Ray Corrigan also played a valuable role coming off the bench after a serious injury removed him from the starting roster, still managing to record the second highest assist total in Amherst history (342).  Bedford, Casnocha, Zalaski and Corrigan are part of the winningest class in Amherst history, totaling 105 wins in their four years. 

Andrew Olson '08
Junior point guard Andrew Olson set the Amherst College single season record for assists last season (179)

KEY RETURNEES/NEWCOMERS
The Lord Jeffs return a cast of great players for the 2006-2007 season. Leading the team will be senior quad-captains Dan O’Shea, Dan Wheeler and Tim McLaughlin, along with junior Andrew Olson. McLaughlin was named to last season’s Ken Wright ’52 Invitational All-Tournament Team, finishing the season ninth in the NESCAC in steals (1.47/gm) as a guard. Running the point will be Olson, who was named Pioneer Valley Classic MVP and NCAA Sectional MVP, and was named to last season’s All-NESCAC Second Team and NCAA All-Sectional Team. Olson finished second in the NESCAC in assists (5.6/gm), three-point field goal percentage (48.7%) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.36), and set the Amherst single-season record for assists (179).

The big men leading the team will be O’Shea and Wheeler. Wheeler was named to last season’s All-NESCAC Second Team, NCAA All-Sectional Team, and Pioneer Valley Classic All-Tournament Team.  He finished 11th in the NESCAC in scoring (14.5 ppg), fourth in three-point field goals (2.31/gm), sixth in free throw percentage (80.5%), three-point field goal percentage (44.6%) and offensive rebounds (2.22/gm), tied for seventh in blocks (1.00/gm) and 14th in field goal percentage (48.3). Wheeler also received NESCAC All-Academic honors. Rounding out the senior class will be fan-favorite quad-captain Mike Salerno, who will provide minutes at the guard position.

Rounding out the junior class will be Fletcher Walters, Brandon Jones, Kevin Hopkins and Adolphe Coulibaly, all of whom contributed to the team’s success last season, but are now ready to make a serious difference. Along with the juniors, this year’s sophomore class will see an increase in playing time to help fill in for the last year’s seniors. The sophomores are led by forward and California native Brian Baskauskas, who entered Amherst last year as one of the most highly touted rookies in Div. III hoops. Along with Baskauskas, the Jeffs feature guard/forward Glenn Wong, forward Mike Holsey and point guard Marcus Bradley, all of whom will see a significant increase of playing time while learning from the team’s veterans.

This year’s first-year class offer a lot of talent and experience that will certainly be a factor for the squad in their four years at Amherst. The rookie class includes D.J. Carcieri, Steve Wheeler (brother of Dan) and Brian Lundeen, all coming from very strong high school programs.

SCHEDULE HIGHLIGHTS
This year’s schedule includes the always challenging nine game NESCAC slate as well as usual non-conference match-ups against Emmanuel, WNEC and Springfield. The Jeffs start the season as the host of the Ken Wright ’52 Invitational and move on to the Pioneer Valley Classic. In addition to their already grueling non-conference schedule, Amherst is set to travel south during winter break to face Trinity College in Texas. The culmination of the NESCAC season is set to begin with the NESCAC tournament on February 17th.

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