Stags Look to Overcome Slow Start, Take Control of SCIAC

Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Head Coach Ken Scalmanini energizes his players in a time-out as they face an 8-point deficit with only 1 minute and 11 seconds left in the game. (Liam Brooks • The Student Life)

After a successful 2016-2017 season, the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps men’s basketball team entered this year looking to repeat that success. The Stags finished the year with an impressive 23-5 record and ended up winning the SCIAC tournament with victories over Pomona-Pitzer and Cal Lutheran.

However, they have stumbled out of the gate, and now face a 0-4 record after losses to University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, University of Wisconsin-Platteville, George Fox, and Puget Sound to open the 2017-18 season.

Although the Stags’ season has gotten off to a rough start, there are several indicators that the team will be able to turn it around with the arrival of SCIAC play.

The Stags only graduated two players last season and kept most of their key contributors, including all-conference center Kendrick Morris CM ’18, who averaged 13.5 points and six rebounds per game last year. Key scorers, like forward Miles President HM ’20 and guard Scott Lynds CM ’17, are also still around.

Most importantly, the Stags return star guard/forward Michael Scarlett CM ’18. He led the Stags in scoring last year, averaging 17.5 points per game while shooting an impressive 46 percent from behind the 3-point line. After an amazing junior season, Scarlett earned first-team all-SCIAC honors and was named SCIAC Athlete of the Year for men’s basketball. A few weeks ago, he was named a preseason third-team All-American.

On top of the successes of individual players, the team as a whole was very well-rounded last season. They averaged 74 points per game, shooting 50 percent on only 55 field goal attempts per game, a very efficient mark.

On the defensive end, the Stags were stout. They held teams to only 65 points a game, the second lowest in the SCIAC last season, and had an opposing field goal percentage of 42 percent. This combined offensive efficiency and stalwart defense allowed them to be a successful well-rounded team last season, and there’s no reason to believe that they will not be able to do it again.

Not only do the Stags have a solid team, they also have a dominant head coach. Ken Scalmanini has the most wins in CMS men’s basketball history, and has led the Stags to seven SCIAC championships in the past nine years.

However, with high hopes also comes added pressure. As the reigning champions, the Stags will have a target on their backs during the conference, and shoulder the expectation to win. The team was voted the favorite to win the SCIAC title in a preseason poll conducted by head coaches.

As long as the team can continue a steady supply of scoring led by Scarlett and Morris and halt the same from their opponents (ultimately a simple formula), then they should be on their way to another automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

With an exciting returning roster and their conference play set to get under way next Wednesday, Dec. 6, at Redlands, it should be another big year for CMS men’s basketball – all signs point to the team overcoming its early struggles.