The Middlebury men's basketball team will continue NCAA Tournament play when it takes part in a sectional hosted by Ramapo (N.J.). The Panthers (21-6) will face MIT (24-5) in a semifinal game on Friday, March 9 at 5:30 p.m., while the other matchup features the hosts from Ramapo (23-6) against Franklin & Marshall (22-6) at 7:30 p.m. The winners meet on Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. in an NCAA Sectional Final contest with a trip to the final four on the line.
Tickets are priced at $10 for adults and $5 for students/senior citizens and children under two years old are free. Advanced tickets for Middlebury are available online at the Middlebury BOX OFFICE. You may also call 802-443-6433 or stop by the McCullough or Mahaney Center for the Arts box offices during normal business hours. Tickets must be purchased by Thursday morning at 11:30 a.m. Please keep your confirmation email to pick up your tickets at Ramapo on Friday.
The Panthers advanced to the sectional following a pair of NCAA Regional victories last Friday and Saturday at Eastern Connecticut State. In its first-round game, Jack Daly tallied his second triple-double of the season, leading the Panthers to an 83-63 victory over Lebanon Valley. A day later, the blue and white featured a balanced scoring attack and a decided edge in rebounding en route to an 83-58 triumph over the host Warriors.
Middlebury is ranked 18th nationally with a 21-6 record. The Panthers lead the NESCAC in assists per game (18.3) and rebounds per contest (47.8), while ranking second in the league in points per game (80.9), blocks per contest (5.2) and steals per game (7.6). Middlebury leads Division III in total rebounds per game, while sitting eighth in three-point field-goal percentage defense (30.1%), 11th in blocked shots), 14th in field-goal percentage defense (39.2%) and 15th in assists per game.
The Panthers started the season with a 6-0 mark, went 2-3 over their next five games before rattling off 11-straight victories. Middlebury dropped its final two conference games of the regular season, before suffering a setback in the league quarterfinal round. The Panthers recorded two impressive victories during last weekend's NCAA Regional. Five of Middlebury's six losses have come to teams that participated the NCAA Tournament and ranked in the top-25 nationally.
Middlebury is led Daly, a senior captain and First-Team All-NESCAC selection. He ranks second in Division III and leads the NESCAC with 8.6 assists per game. Daly also paces the Panthers and ranks sixth in the league with 15.6 points per game, while his team-leading 8.3 rebounds per contest are fifth in the conference. Earlier this season, Daly broke his own single-season assist mark, becoming the first player in the program's record books to eclipse the 200-assist plateau (232). He has recorded what are believed to be the first two triple-doubles in the program's history, with one coming in the season-opening win as well as last Friday's NCAA opening-round contest. Daly also leads Middlebury is and ranks second in the NESCAC lead with 1.7 steals per game. He became the 23rd player in Middlebury history to eclipse the 1,000-point mark for his career in late February. In addition, Daly became the initial player in the conference's history to surpass the 1,000-point, 500-rebound and 500-assist plateaus for his career.
The senior has climbed up through the Middlebury career records this season. He became the program's assist record holder (currently with 606), surpassing Jake Wolfin's '13 total of 553. With his 46 steals this winter, he has racked up 162 for his career, placing him third in the program's history. In late February, he was named to the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Academic All-District Team.
Junior guard Hilal Dahleh is a two-year contributor for the Panthers after missing all of last season due to an injury. He averages 7.9 points per game in just under 21 minutes per game, knocking down 45.6 percent of his three-point attempts (23-52). Dahleh has scored in double figures seven times this season, including a career-high 18 points on 6-7 shooting and 4-5 from three-point range in a November win at Endicott. He also scored 16 points in last Saturday's win over Eastern Connecticut State. His 1.1 steals per game rank second on the team, collecting two or more swipes in 10 games this winter.
In the backcourt with Daly and Dahleh is rookie guard Jack Farrell. During his first winter, he is averaging 8.1 points per game. This season, he has scored in double figures seven times, including 22 points twice and a team-best 19 in last Saturday's victory. Farrell handed out a season-best five assists during a January 16 win over Albertus Magnus, while he tallied five steals against York on December 29.
Senior forward Nick Tarantino averages 7.2 points and 6.8 rebounds for the Panthers in just 18.5 minutes per contest. The captain has started all 27 contests, ranking sixth in the conference with 1.2 blocks per game, while his 52.9 percent field-goal mark (82-155) is seventh in the league. Tarantino has a pair of double-doubles this season, including a 20-point, 17-rebound effort in a December win at Skidmore. Both totals are career-best marks for the fourth-year Panther forward.
Sophomore forward Matt Folger is the fifth starter for Middlebury. He averages 13.9 points per game and 6.9 rebounds per contest, ranking second on the team behind Daly in scoring. Folger has scored in double figures 20 times this season, including a career-high 22 points on two separate occasions. He leads the team and ranks second in the league with 2.1 blocks per contest, placing him 22nd in Division III. Folger has swatted two or more shots in 19 games this season, including 12 games of three or more. Entering the weekend, he has 58 blocks this season and 105 for his career through 57 career games. Folger has also knocked down a team-best 47 three-point field goals, canning a career-high four shots from beyond the arc at Skidmore in December.
Senior forward Adisa Majors, the team's third captain, and junior forward Eric McCord provide depth and energy off the bench. Majors has played in every game with 7.5 points per game and 5.1 rebounds in just 18.9 minutes. He has logged six double-digit point outputs this season, including three in the last nine games. Majors has knocked down 51.2 percent of his shots this winter (85-166), placing him ninth in that category among his league peers.
McCord has played in 24 games off the bench, averaging 8.5 points per game and 7.0 rebounds per contest in 18.7 minutes. He tallied a double-double of 13 points and a career-high 15 boards during a January home NESCAC win over Tufts, while posting a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds last Saturday. McCord also sits sixth in the conference with a 52.9 shooting percentage (91-172) from the floor.
Sophomore guard Joey Leighton (5.5 ppg, 30 3FG) along with rookie guards Griffin Kornaker (3.3 ppg) and Max Bosco (3.1 ppg) have played in a majority of the games, mainly coming off the bench to give the Panthers depth in the backcourt.
Head coach Jeff Brown is now in his 21st year at the helm of the Panthers (357-195), having previously served as the Bates' bench boss for three seasons. He has guided the team four overall NESCAC Championships (2009, 2011, 2016, 2017) during his tenure, earning NESCAC Coach of the Year honors five times (2009, 2011, 2012, 2016, 2017).
A 1982 graduate of Vermont, Brown scored more than 1,000 points and earned induction into the university's Athletic Hall of Fame during his Catamount basketball career. He is 10th on the all-time scoring list (1,336 points), second in steals (170), seventh in assists (428), eighth in field goals made (526) and ninth in free throws made (284). While playing at UVM, Brown averaged 12.7 points and 4.1 assists per game.
Friday's matchup between Middlebury and MIT marks the 19th time the two programs have met and the first matchup since the 2006-07 season, an 83-73 victory for the Engineers. The series started back in 1929, a 34-31 win for the Panthers. The teams didn't play from the 1980-81 season until the 2006-07 season. The Panthers have squared off with Ramapo just once in their history, posting a 73-62 road win on November 20, 2011 during the season-opening Roadrunner Tip-Off Tournament. Middlebury has never played Franklin & Marshall.
2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Sectional Tournament – Mahwah, N.J.
Sectional Semifinal - Friday, March 9
#18 Middlebury (19-6) vs. #19 MIT (24-5) – 5:30 p.m.
Franklin & Marshall (22-6) at Ramapo (23-6) – 7:30 p.m.
Sectional Final - Saturday, March 10
Friday's winners – 7:00 p.m.