Russell, your observations are spot on.
For the pro-NESCAC people, Amherst only became competitive in Jim Plumer's 4th year. Before that they had many years of not being competitive. Until someone can knock Middlebury from their pedestal on a regular basis the NESCAC is no different from the other conferences that have one team that annually seems to make it to the NCAA tournament and those teams are the same teams every year as Russell already pointed out. Nobody cares about the also-rans. Until Amherst broke through and won the national championship 2 years in a row they were an also-ran and that's pretty much where they are again. Even Middlebury is among the second tier teams in the NCAA playoffs. Nobody really expects them or Gustavus or River Falls to be able to win the title, so it's all relative.