Is it possible for a college basketball team to average more than 96 points per game and be 9-0 quietly? It must be, because that’s exactly what the Colby College men’s basketball team did to start the season.

The Mules beat Colby -Sawyer last weekend, 101-69, to keep their record perfect going into the mid-season break for finals and holidays. That win over the Chargers was the fifth time in nine games Colby went over 100 points. The Mules’ low scoring mark so far, the game in which they didn’t shoot particularly well and couldn’t find that offensive groove, was 81 points in an 81-67 win at New Jersey City University on Nov. 30.

The 9-0 start is Colby’s best in years, and this week, the Mules cracked d3hoops.com’s national top 25 at No. 19.

The Mules don’t play again until Dec. 31, when they play at the University of Southern Maine. Colby hosts rival Bowdoin on Jan. 5, in a non-conference game, then the Mules open New England Small College Athletic Conference play on Jan. 10 at home against Connecticut College.

Right now, third-ranked Middlebury is the only NESCAC team ranked ahead of Colby in the d3hoops.com poll. Amherst is No. 25. Season after season, the NESCAC is among the toughest conferences in NCAA Division III. Since 2000, Amherst has won two national championships. WIlliams has one title belt. Both have been to the finals multiple times. At least one NESCAC team has played in the Division III final four in 12 of the last 20 seasons.

The NESCAC is a meat grinder of a league. Colby hasn’t finished in the top half of the conference standings since the 2009-10 season, in which the Mules went 6-3 in league play to finish third, and 19-6 overall, ending the season as an NCAA tournament bubble team.

If there’s a team built to withstand the pressures of a NESCAC season, it’s this Colby team. No team is 100 percent slump-proof, but the Mules are as inoculated against a shooting tailspin as a team can be. Five Mules average at least 12 points per game, led by senior guard Sam Jefferson, whose 25.2 points per game place him 10th in the nation in scoring. Led by Jefferson’s 38, the Mules have four players in the top 50 in the country in 3-pointers made. Along with Jefferson, there’s Alex Doiron (29), Matt Hanna (27) and Noah Tyson (27). The NESCAC Rookie of the Year last season, Tyson made seven threes in last week’s win at Colby-Sawyer. It was a night when Jefferson was a little cold, making just 3 of 10 from three. One player’s off night is another’s opportunity.

The Mules shot 49 percent from the floor over their first nine games, 25th-best in the nation. Colby’s 96.6 points per game rank the Mules seventh in the country in scoring. They’re fifth in the country in 3-point tries, and fifth in 3-point percentage (43.4). With 148 threes, the Mules are third in the country in makes from long range. If you want to beat the Mules, you’d better be ready to move on defense, or slow it down and have an inside game the perimeter-oriented Mules struggle to defend. Colby’s average scoring margin so far is just over 20 points. Chances are, opponents are not going to win in a shootout, but a few conference foes could.

The conference schedule will tell us if the Mules simply fattened up on a weak non-conference schedule or have turned the corner and become a NESCAC contender. Six NESCAC teams allow less than 70 points per game. Colby shooters are going to have to adapt to fewer open looks. Along with Colby, four NESCAC teams average more than 80 points per game. The Mules are going to see those leads shrink, and even play from behind.

A national ranking and a 9-0 start is fantastic. Central Maine basketball fans should get out to Wadsworth Gymnasium and see the Mules play. Maybe they can keep up this pace, and maybe they slow down a little. It’s going to be fun to find out.

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