"Everyone was like, 'Wow!'?" WPI coach Chris Bartley said. "But it was the stuff we saw consistently from Ryan throughout all of last year."
Kolb averaged 14.1 points and 6 rebounds as a junior, and the 6-foot-5 forward really turned it on at the offensive end in the postseason, averaging 21.5 points in four games. WPI, which won its first 22 games of the year, was ranked No. 4 in the final regular-season D3hoops.com poll, advanced to the second round of the NCAAs, and finished an outstanding season at 26-3.
"We know we had a good year last year," Kolb said before Monday's practice, "but we put it in the rearview. It's great what we did last year, but it has nothing to do with this year."
WPI graduated just one player from last year's team, so great things are expected again from the Engineers. They were picked to repeat as NEWMAC champs and were No. 9 in the D3hoops.com preseason poll.
As Kolb gets ready for his final season WPI opens Saturday at RPI he has taken on a bigger leadership role, and the Engineers, who will be without junior guard Marco Coppola for the entire year, will be counting on Kolb even more.
Coppola, WPI's best player and leading scorer a year ago, is undergoing ankle surgery Friday. Coppola had issues with the ankle last season, and the injury didn't respond to offseason rest and treatment, Bartley said.
"Collectively, we have to make up for his points and minutes," Kolb said.
Kolb, who has been working through a twisted right ankle himself, and 6-5 junior forward Domenick Mastascusa form WPI's starting frontcourt. Mastascusa averaged 5.3 points and 2.9 rebounds coming off the bench last year.
"I worked on my post game a lot in the summer," Kolb said, "inside and out and maintaining what I had and just adding to it. I worked a lot in the post because I know I'm going to be playing there a lot this year."
Kolb scored 25 points, had 5 rebounds and 5 steals and was the catalyst for two second-half runs in last year's loss to Randolph-Macon in the second-round of the NCAAs.
Before he got to WPI, Kolb didn't consider himself a big-game player because he didn't play in that many big games at Holy Cross High School in Waterbury, Conn.
"We'd always lose in the quarterfinals," he said.
But it's been one big game after another the last three years at WPI.
Kolb's first career start was against Bridgewater State in the first round of the NCAAs his freshman year.
"I barely remember it," Kolb said. "You'd think I would remember it, but it was four years ago. It seems like such a long time."
A lot has happened since then.
After beating Bridgewater and advancing to the second round of the NCAAs in 2010-11, WPI settled for an ECAC tournament berth the next year, then went on that amazing run to start last season.
Kolb posted three double-doubles last season, shot better than 60 percent from the field three times, and scored in double figures in 22 games.
"He's just consistently and gradually gotten better and better each year," Bartley said, "and it kind of culminated last year. This year, his leadership has been tremendous. I'm really happy for him and excited about what it means for this group."
WPI has put up 10 straight 20-win seasons and made seven NCAA appearances under Bartley, who will enter his 13th season.
"Like I told the guys, we have a lot of returning guys, but every year is different, every team is different," Bartley said. "I said, 'You guys have to find your own identity, your own chemistry.' We've had some challenges in the preseason, but our guys have been able to handle it because they don't get fixated on 'What are we going to be in March?' It's, 'Let's have a good practice today.'
"The thing we have to manage is making sure we're a really good practice team first. For us to have a really good season, we're going to have to plug away and be a really good practice team, which I thought we were starting to develop before we had a few bumps in the road. So that's something that collectively we have to look out for."
Coach: Shawn Conrad (eighth season, 85-102).
Conference: Great Northeast Athletic Conference.
2012-13 record: 21-9, 16-2 GNAC.
Top returning players: Jr. G Michael Gorman (2.6 ppg), Sr. F Quantez Franklin (1.5 ppg), Sr. G Joe Barillo (10.5 ppg), Jr. G Hugh Daye (South High, 6.2 ppg), So. G Tyler Delorey (Holy Name High, 5.6 ppg), Jr. G Corey Pryor (Northbridge High, DNP last season, injury).
Promising newcomers: Fr. Tre'von Farley (Lawrence High), Fr. David Jean Louis (Sheridan Hills High, Fla.), Fr. Shaun Garner (Deerfield Beach, Fla., High).
Key losses: F Anthony Click (19 ppg), F Brad Peterson (13 ppg), G Javier Bristol (12 ppg).
Outlook: Coming off their second regular season conference title in three years, and back-to-back appearances in the conference championship game, the AmCats look to continue their run of success. Gone is one of the best players in school history in Click, as well as frontcourt mates Peterson and Bristol. Enthusiasm abounds as Daye, Pryor and Delorey look to take on more meaningful minutes in the hopes the AmCats will be contenders again.
Friday*vs. Colby, 5:30
Saturday*vs. TBA, TBA
Nov. 21Becker, 7
Nov. 26at Clark, 4
Dec. 5at Amherst, 7
Dec. 7Mount Ida, 3
Dec. 9Rivier, 7
Dec. 12at Bridgewater State, 7
Jan. 4Fitchburg State, noon
Jan. 7at Suffolk, 7
Jan. 9Lasell, 7
Jan. 11 Saint Joseph (Maine), 3
Jan. 15 at Albertus Magnus, 7
Jan. 18 at Emmanuel, 1
Jan. 20 Emmanuel, noon
Jan. 23 Norwich, 7
Jan. 25 at Mount Ida, 3
Jan. 29 Suffolk, 7
Feb. 1 at Johnson & Wales, 1
Feb. 5 Albertus Magnus, 7
Feb. 8 at Norwich, 1
Feb. 11 Johnson & Wales, 7:30
Feb. 15 Lasell, 3
Feb. 18 at Saint Joseph's (Maine), 7:30
Feb. 22 at Rivier, 1
*At UMass-Dartmouth Classic.
Coach: Brian Gorman (seventh season, 115-55).
Conference: New England Collegiate Conference.
2012-13 record: 13-13, 9-7 NECC.
Top returning players: Sr. G Tyler Roberson (15.6 ppg), Jr. G Donovin Ford-Hayes (9.0 ppg), So. F Rashuan Liggon (6.8 ppg).
Promising newcomers: Fr. F Scott Dulaire, Jr., Fr. F Dave Maturah, Fr. F Tarell Vargas, Fr. G Reginald Finney.
Key losses: F Yahmad Rountree (14.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg).
Outlook: The Hawks will look for immediate impacts from newcomers Dulaire, Maturah, Finney and Vargas, all of whom bring much-needed size to the roster. The Hawks welcome back Roberson, who led the team in scoring last season and earned NECC All-Conference honorable mention. Ford-Hayes and Liggon also add valuable experience.
Friday *vs. Purchase State, 7:30
Saturday *vs. TBA, TBA
Nov. 21 at Anna Maria, 7
Nov. 23 at Fitchburg State, 1
Nov. 26 Babson, 4
Dec. 3 at Brandeis, 5:30
Dec. 5 at Clark, 6
Dec. 7 at Wheelock, 3
Jan. 3 WPI, 2
Jan. 7 Southern Vermont, 6
Jan. 9 Regis, 8
Jan. 11 at Newbury, 2
Jan. 14 at Mitchell, 3
Jan. 16 at Lesley, 7
Jan. 18 at Elms, 1
Jan. 21 at Daniel Webster, 7
Jan. 23 at Curry, 7
Jan. 28 Wheelock, 6
Jan. 30 at Southern Vermont, 7
Feb. 1 at Regis, 7
Feb. 4 Newbury, 8
Feb. 6 Mitchell, 7
Feb. 8 at Lesley, 2
Feb. 12 Elms, 8
Feb. 15 Daniel Webster, 1
*At Eastern Conn. State Tip-Off Tournament.
Coach: Paul Phillips (16th season, 224-175 at Clark; 390-274 career).
Conference: New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference.
2012-13 record: 12-14, 6-6 NEWMAC.
Top returning players: Sr. G Jake Gubitose (Tantasqua Regional, 3.7 ppg, 1.7 apg), Sr. G/F Nick DaPrato (5.0 ppg, 2.4 rpg), Jr. G Marcus Armstrong (6.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg), So. Corey Gomes (Uxbridge High, 2.0 ppg).
Promising newcomers: Fr. G Joseph Atkinson (Milford High), Fr. F David Mercier (Milford), Fr. G Lucas LaLima (Colts Neck, N.J.), Fr. F Lamar Berk (Saint Augustine, Fla.), Fr. G Matthew Woods (Arlington).
Key losses: F Brian Vayda (Sturbridge, 16.1 ppg), F D.J. Bailey (13.3 ppg), F Travis Curley, G John Karas, F Jonathan Phillips (Shrewsbury).
Outlook: Phillips hasn't had a team this young in a long time. The roster has nine underclassmen, several of whom will see extended playing time. The development of newcomers Mercier, Berk and Atkinson, along with the continued maturation of Gomes, could have the Cougars in the postseason hunt down the stretch. Phillips, meanwhile, will be in search of his 400th career victory, as well as the most wins in school history.
Friday *vs. Vassar, 8
Saturday *vs. TBA, TBA
Nov. 19 at Fitchburg State, 7
Nov. 21 Wentworth, 6
Nov. 23 at Western New England, 1
Nov. 26 Anna Maria, 4
Dec. 3 Connecticut College, 7
Dec. 5 Becker, 6
Dec. 10 Worcester State, 7
Dec. 29 #vs. Thomas, 6
Dec. 30 #vs. Southern Maine, 1
Jan. 8 at MIT, 7
Jan. 11 Wheaton, 1
Jan. 15 Emerson, 7
Jan. 18 at Coast Guard, 1
Jan. 22 at WPI, 7
Jan. 25 at Springfield, 1
Jan. 29 Babson, 7
Feb. 1 MIT, 1
Feb. 5 Coast Guard, 5
Feb. 8 at Emerson, 3
Feb. 12 at Wheaton, 7
Feb. 15 at Babson, 1
Feb. 19 Springfield, 5
Feb. 22 WPI, 3
*At Roger Williams Tournament
#At Woodcliff Hotel&Spa Classic, Pittsford, N.Y.
Coach: Titus Manderson (first season).
Conference: Massac?husetts State College Athletic Conference.
2012-13 record: 16-11, 5-7 MASCAC.
Top returning players: Jr. G Mike Ingram-Rubin (12.4 ppg), Sr. G Magnolima Nogueira (2.5 ppg), So. G Malcolm Dixon (3.4 ppg), So. G Anthony Muccioli (2.8 ppg).
Promising newcomers: So. F Josh Imadiyi, Jr. G Patrick Gooden.
Key losses: C Zack Valliere (Douglas, 14.3 ppg, 10.0 rpg), F Brandon Selby (9.9 ppg), F Tom Henneberry (14.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg).
Outlook: Manderson replaces seven-year coach Derek Shell after spending the last 10 seasons at Salem State as an assistant and associate head coach. Manderson helped guide the Vikings to eight MASCAC titles and two Division 3 Final Four appearances. "It's a major transition year for us with a new coach and a new system," Manderson said. "We're going to bring an aggressive style of play and hopefully surprise some teams." That's exactly what the Falcons did last season by winning the MASCAC championship and earning their first NCAA tournament berth. With the departure of Valliere, Selby and Henneberry, the Falcons will look to Ingram-Rubin and Nogueira to lead the way.
Friday*at Regis, 5
Nov. 19Clark, 7
Nov. 23Becker, 1
Dec. 3at New England College, 6
Dec. 5Mount Ida, 7
Dec. 7at WPI, 2
Dec. 10at Daniel Webster, 7
Jan. 4at Anna Maria, noon
Jan. 9at Salem State, TBA
Jan. 11Framingham State, 3
Jan. 14at MCLA, 7:30
Jan. 16at Keene State, TBA
Jan. 21at Bridgewater State, 7:30
Jan. 25Worcester State, 3
Jan. 28Westfield State, 7:30
Feb. 1Salem State, 3
Feb. 4at Framingham State, 8
Feb. 6at UMass-Boston, 7
Feb. 8MCLA, 3
Feb. 12at Fisher, 6:30
Feb. 15Bridgewater State, 3
Feb. 18at Worcester State, TBA
Feb. 22at Westfield State, 3
*At Regis Tip-Off Tournament.
Coach: Jeff Lindgren (second season, 13-13).
Conference: Commonwealth Coast.
2012-13 record: 13-13, 8-10 CCC.
Top returning players: Sr. F Ryan Sheehan (22.2 ppg), Jr. G Matt Langadas (13.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg), Jr. G Marlon Bennett (8.0 ppg), Sr. G Sam Horning (6.0 ppg).
Promising newcomers: G/F Jared Thompson, F/C Taylor Sarette.
Key losses: G Justin Kuntz (7.0 ppg, 3.4 apg), Craig Merrick (5.4 ppg).
Outlook: The Bison return their top four scorers from last year's team, which established school records for points (2,156) and 3-pointers (244) in a season. CCC first-team honoree Sheehan enters the season 458 points shy of the school scoring record, while Horning, Bennett and Langadas, a CCC honorable mention, add long-range scoring.
Friday at Lasell, 7
Nov. 20 Eastern Conn. State, 7
Nov. 22 *vs. TBA, TBA
Nov. 23 *vs. TBA, TBA
Nov. 26 MCLA, 6
Dec. 1 at Husson, 1
Dec. 4 Roger Williams, 7:30
Dec. 7 Gordon, noon
Jan. 2 at Westfield State, 7:30
Jan. 4 at Salve Regina, 3
Jan. 7 at Curry, 7:30
Jan. 9 Western New England, 7:30
Jan. 11 at University New England, 3
Jan. 15 at Endicott, 5:30
Jan. 18 Wentworth, noon
Jan. 21 Eastern Nazarene, 5:30
Jan. 25 at Gordon, 3
Jan. 29 at Roger Williams, 8
Feb. 1 Salve Regina, 2
Feb. 4 Curry, 7:30
Feb. 8 at Western New England, 3
Feb. 12 Endicott, 5:30
Feb. 15 University New England, 1
Feb. 18 at Eastern Nazarene, 7
Feb. 22 at Wentworth, 3
*At Amherst Tournament.
Coach: Hadley Camilus (seventh season, 85-82).
Conference: NJCAA Region 21.
2012-13 record: 15-13, 11-5 Region 21.
Top returning players: Anthony Rial (8.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg), Bismark Obeng-Mensah (2.9 ppg, 2.2 rpg)
Promising newcomers: Adam Conquest (Gardner), James Williams (transfer, Morehouse College), Jaylen Dottin (transfer, Anna Maria), Daequon Antoine.
Key losses: Ike Osafo (Western Conn. State), Jimmy Louissaint (Western Conn. State), Bilal Shakir, Dan Akeyo.
Outlook: The Wyverns suit up five players who are at least 6-foot-5, and unlike past years, the team will be oriented around its big men a couple of whom are very skilled post players. Growing pains are definitely expected with nine newcomers, but according to Camilus, they are a very coachable and resilient group.
Nov. 1 Central Maine CC (L, 69-59)
Nov. 5 Dean (L, 72-50)
Nov. 6 New Hampshire Tech (W, 53-52)
Nov. 9 Bristol CC (W, 75-72)
Nov. 12 Roxbury CC, 7
Today UConn-Avery Point, 7
Saturday at Lincoln College NE, 3
Nov. 19 at Springfield Tech, 7
Nov. 23 at Gateway CC, 1
Nov. 26 at Bunker Hill CC, 8
Dec. 5 MassBay CC, 7
Dec. 10 at Northern Essex CC, 7
Dec. 12 Holyoke CC, 7:30
Jan. 7 at Roxbury CC, 7
Jan. 14 CC of Rhode Island, 7
Jan. 21 at Northern Essex CC, 7
Jan. 23 Bristol CC, 7
Jan. 25 at UConn-Avery Point, 1
Jan. 30 Lincoln College of NE, 7
Feb. 1 Massasoit CC, 7
Feb. 6 Gateway CC, 6
Feb. 8 Bunker Hill CC, 2
Feb. 15 at MassBay CC, 1
Feb. 20 Springfield Tech, 7
Coach: Dave Lindberg (20th season, 234-267).
Conference: Mass. State College Athletic Conference.
2011-12 record: 12-14, 5-7 MASCAC.
Top returning players: Sr. F Dane Jobst (Mahar Regional, 16.5 ppg, 12.1rpg), Jr. G Charles Gunter, Sr. Jeremy Ross (Wachusett Regional), Jr. Jake Ratcliffe (Northbridge High).
Promising newcomers: Fr. F Paul Brooks, Fr. G Noris Cuevas-Nova, Fr. G Marquez McKreith-Collins, Fr. G Ryan DiBernardo, Jr. G Brendan Rios (transfer, Saint Joseph's, Vermont).
Key losses: F Robert Hunter (16.8 ppg, 7.5 rpg), F Monte Goodwin (9.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg).
Outlook: With a talented mix of veterans and youth in both the front and backcourt, the Lancers' tough nonconference schedule should help them prepare for the MASCAC. With a focus on defense led by Gunter, Cuevas-Nova, McKreith-Collins and DiBernardo, the Lancers should create more offensive opportunities on the other end. Jobst, a second-team All-MASCAC honoree, and Brooks are the team's top rebounders, while Rios brings a strong outside shot.
Friday *at Eastern Conn. State, 5:30
Saturday *vs. TBA, TBA
Nov. 26 at WPI, 5:30
Dec. 3 UMass-Dartmouth, 7 (site TBA)
Dec. 5 at Western Conn. State, 7
Dec. 7 #vs. Trinity, 8
Dec. 8 #vs. TBA, TBA
Dec. 10 at Clark, 7
Dec. 13 at Springfield, 7
Jan. 2 at Regis, 7
Jan. 4 Wheaton, 1 (at Assumption)
Jan. 7 Fisher, TBA
Jan. 11 MCLA, 7 (at WPI)
Jan. 18 Bridgewater State, 3 (at Assumption)
Jan. 21 at Westfield State, 7:30
Jan. 25 at Fitchburg State, 3
Jan. 28 Framingham State, TBA
Feb. 4 at MCLA, 7:30
Feb. 8 Salem State, 3 (at Assumption)
Feb. 11 at Bridgewater State, 7:30
Feb. 15 Westfield State, 3 (site TBA)
Feb. 18 Fitchburg State, TBA
Feb. 22 at Framingham State, 3
*At Eastern Conn. State Tip-Off Tournament.
#At Ed Hokenbury Classic, Norwich.
Coach: Chris Bartley (13th season, 232-94).
Conference: New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference.
2012-13 record: 26-3, 10-2 NEWMAC.
Top returning players: Sr. F Ryan Kolb (14.1 ppg, 6.0 rpg), Jr. G Sam Longwell (12.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg), So. G Aaron Davis (5.8 ppg, 2.9 rpg), So. G Zach Karalis (10.1 ppg, 39 assists), Jr. F Domenick Mastascusa (5.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg).
Promising newcomers: Fr. G Sean Doncaster, Fr. F John Mastascusa.
Key losses: G Marco Coppola (injured, 16.0 ppg), C Joe Wesoloski (4.3 ppg).
Outlook: Coming off a 10th consecutive season of 20-plus wins and their seventh NCAA Division 3 berth in a decade, the reigning NEWMAC champion Engineers have been bitten by the injury bug with the loss of leading scorer and all-conference guard Coppola to ankle surgery. Still, the Engineers have a solid returning core in Longwell, all-conference second-teamer Kolb, and last year's NEWMAC Rookie of the Year Davis. "Many outsiders believe the loss of Marco will devastate our team, and our returning guys are not good enough to play at a championship level," said Bartley, who won the Glenn Robinson National Coach of the Year award last season, and will be joined by new assistant coach Ryan Flynn. "We are excited to attack that challenge together."
Saturday at RPI, 3
Nov. 19 at Curry, 7
Nov. 21 Salem State, 7
Nov. 23 at Castleton State, 3
Nov. 26 Worcester State, 5:30
Dec. 3 Tufts, 7
Dec. 5 Newbury, 7
Dec. 7 Fitchburg State, 2
Dec. 10 at Colby-Sawyer, 7:30
Dec. 14 Keene State, 2
Jan. 3 at Becker, 2
Jan. 8 at Springfield, 7
Jan. 11 MIT, 2
Jan. 15 Babson, 7
Jan. 18 at Emerson, 1
Jan. 22 Clark, 7
Jan. 25 at Wheaton, 3
Jan. 29 at Coast Guard, 5:30
Feb. 1 Springfield, 3
Feb. 5 Emerson, 5:30
Feb. 8 at Babson, 2
Feb. 12 at MIT, 6
Feb. 15 Coast Guard, 1
Feb. 19 Wheaton, 7:30
Feb. 22 at Clark, 3
COMPILED BY RICK EGGLESTON