The Swarthmore men’s basketball team has had a strong and exciting year so far that will hopefully end in yet another Centennial Conference Championship and the chance to compete in the NCAA National Championship Tournament. Their current 18-3 conference record has them in a three-way tie with Johns Hopkins and Franklin and Marshall. With only two games left before Conference play, Swat basketball seems ready to take on the challenges ahead and make sure these last two games of their season gear them up for their playoff run.
Swat’s men’s basketball ended last year’s season on an all-time high. They won the Conference Championship at home versus Dickinson and then hosted the first round of NCAA tournament. Last year’s success was long awaited, as it was the most successful season in Swarthmore basketball history as well as the first Conference Championship win for the Garnet. The previous season was also one for the record books with their first trip to the Conference Finals since 1997 and head coach, Landry Kosmalski, earning Centennial Conference Coach of the Year. The success of the two back-to-back historical seasons will hopefully be continued this year with another Conference Championship. Zac O’Dell ’20 gave his take on the mindset his team has going into each game this year after winning the Championship last year.
“I wouldn’t say winning last year changed anything about our gameplay this year, but it definitely gave us confidence going into the season,” said O’Dell.
It is this confidence that will contribute to men’s basketball creating another historic season this year and becoming recognized for their talent not just in the Centennial Conference but throughout the D3 basketball world. According to D3hoops.com, Swarthmore is currently ranked number 12 nationally. They have a 6-1 record in non-conference games this season, only narrowly losing to York College of Pennsylvania, currently ranked number 8. Over winter break Swarthmore easily defeated the 13th seed Middlebury by more than 10 points, demonstrating that they deserve their prestigious ranking among D3 schools and can compete against both schools in the Centennial Conference as well as the NESCAC Conference.
Being ranked number 12 nationally takes a lot of work from each player. In order to maintain this ranking, all 13 players on the team must show up to practice ready to work hard each day. It is this effort shown by the whole team that will not only allow the Garnet to finish in the top four teams of the Centennial Conference but also give them a good shot at once again taking home the Conference Championship. In order to defend their title they must first get through playoffs, which will begin next week with the semifinals. Robbie Walsh ’18 elaborated on the team’s mindset going into playoffs.
“Our team mentality is that we just take it one game at a time and focus on getting better every day. We are going to prepare the way we always do, and everything will fall into place,” said Walsh.
So far this outlook seems to be working and hopefully it will allow for more wins before playoffs. The final game, against Franklin and Marshall, is very important for the end of season standings. The game is a rematch of Swat’s first conference loss of the season. The Garnet have not defeated Franklin and Marshall since 2013, and a regular season conference championship looks to be on the line, so there is plenty motivation to push the team to victory. Luckily for the men’s basketball team, the game is at home. With a current 11 game home winning streak it would seem that the energy from being at Tarble Pavilion could help the Garnet come out with two victories. Walsh gave some insight on the role of Swat fans in the game.
“I think the fans absolutely impact the energy. When the gym is quiet we have to manufacture our own energy a little more, which can be tough. But when the gym is rocking we definitely feed off that,” said Walsh.
The next two home games for men’s basketball will hopefully be full of fans bringing the energy and cheering on this historic and hard working team. So come see for yourself just how good this team can be as they take on Franklin and Marshall on Feb. 17th at 3 p.m.