Week One – Massachusetts Division III Men’s and Women’s Top-5

James Wang and his Williams College Ephs begin the season atop our Noontime Sports DIII Men's Basketball Poll!

By NoontimeSports.com 

Tuesday marks the official start date for a variety of Division III Men’s and Women’s College Basketball teams in Massachusetts, and with that being the case, here’s a look a some of the teams to watch during the opening week of the season.

Also, as a side note, Noontime Sports will provide a weekly Top-5 and certainly, we’d appreciate, as well as encourage any feedback from coaches, players or fans. Feel free to contact us with thoughts or opinions at NoontimeSports@gmail.com.

Men’s Basketball:

1.) Williams College – The Ephs ended their season with a crushing two-point loss to Wooster in the Division III Final Four, but appear destined to return to Virginia for the second year in a row. D3Hoops.com has Williams ranked third nationally, and that’s probably because of senior guard James Wang and junior guard James Klemm, who finished the season as two of the team’s top three scorers. Yet, one of the biggest questions entering the upcoming season will be who’ll fill the void of Troy Whittington, who led the squad with 250 rebounds. Williams will kick-off their season on Friday (Nov. 18) when they host Southern Vermont.

2.) Amherst College – Despite squandering an 18-point lead in the NESCAC, (New England Small College Athletic Conference) semi-finals to Middlebury, the Lord Jeffs came within two games of Division III championship, but fell to their archrival, Williams College. This season, Amherst will seek revenge against Middlebury and Williams, as well as battle the Ephs for the top spot in conference. Also, without Connor Meehan as the team’s main floor general, the Lord Jeffs will have to rely on sophomore guard Aaron Toomey and senior guard Taylor Barrise to carry the load. Amherst’s season begins Friday (Nov. 18) against Plymouth State.  

3.) Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) – After a rather difficult loss last Friday to Harvard University, the Engineers will look to kick-off their season with a victory on the road at Curry College on Tuesday (Nov. 15) before returning home on Thursday (Nov. 17) against Gordon College. MIT’s six top scorers are back from last year’s [20-9] team, including preseason All-American Noel Hollingworth.

4.) Brandeis University – The Judges start the year ranked just outside the Top-25.  Head coach Brian Meehan will try to duplicate the start he saw last year, when his team won its first eleven games, en route to a [19-9] campaign that ended with a victory in the ECAC New England Championship game.

5.) Worcester Polytechnic Institution (WPI) – After losing the NEWMAC, (New England Men’s and Women’s Athletic Conference) championship to MIT in Worcester, the Engineers ended their postseason run with a loss in the second round to Amherst. WPI will need to find someone to replace Jeffery Robinson, who led the team last season with 471 points. WPI begins its season on Wednesday (Nov. 16) at home against Husson.

Women’s Basketball:

Can the Amherst College Women's basketball team return to the championship again this season? (Photo courtesy of NESCAC's website).

1.) Amherst College – After winning the Division III championship, the Lord Jeffs will enter the year ranked atop numerous polls as the team to beat.  Yet, despite adding four new members to their squad, the Lord Jeffs championship unit remains in tact with senior guard Caroline Stedman and senior forward/center Lem Atanga McCormick. The Lord Jeffs begin their title defense on Saturday (Nov. 19) when they host Norwich.

2.) Babson College – Despite ending their successful campaign with a loss to Amherst in the playoffs, the Beavers experienced one of their best seasons in program history with 30-wins, and appear to be even hungrier than last year. Seniors Kathleen King and Nicki Wurderman, along with junior Sarah Collins will be the main focal point of the Beavers offense and defense, and you can bet they’ll cause nightmares for opposing coaches. Babson will begin its NEWMAC title defense on Tuesday (Nov. 15) when they host Salem State.   

3.) Williams College – For the last two seasons, the Ephs have either ended their campaigns in the first or second round of the NESCAC playoffs, but this year, they appear to be a front runner to challenge Amherst. Senior Jill Greenberg will be one of the key players to watch this season, especially since she finished last year with 247 points and 71 steals, as well as led the squad with 133 assists. Also, the Ephs will need to find Taylor Shea’s replacement on the boards. The Ephs begin their season against Whitman at home on Friday (Nov. 18) before facing Babson on Saturday (Nov. 19).

4.) Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) – For the past two seasons, WPI has always finished second behind Babson, but could this be the year the Engineers challenge the Beavers for first place in the NEWMAC? The Engineers will rely heavily upon senior guard Lauren Hannmann, who finished the year with 322 points, 26 steals, and 23 assists. WPI begins their season on Tuesday (Nov. 15) against Brandies.   

5.) Tufts University – Replacing Colleen Hart will be the biggest challenge for the Jumbos entering the upcoming season. Tufts has been to the NESCAC playoffs the past two years, but has struggled against both Amherst and Williams. The Jumbos finished last season winning 10-of-11 games at home, but faltered on the road with a [5-5] record. If the Jumbos are going to challenge the Ephs and Lord Jeffs, they have to win on the road. Tufts kicks off their season against Babson on Saturday (Nov. 19) at the Williams Tip-Off Tournament.   

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NCAA Division III – Men’s Basketball Previews at WPI

By Matt Noonan

Believe it or not, March Madness is set to begin somewhat early, as Worcester Polytechnic Institute will be the host for four Division III NCAA basketball teams on Friday and Saturday, as the road to Final Four in Salem, Virginia is set to begin.

Here are just two of the many games that will be occurring this weekend across the country, but between the four schools, WPI, Amherst College, Skidmore College and Bridgewater State University, only one will advance to the Sweet Sixteen.

Here is our game-by-game break down, as well as score predictions.

Amherst College [22-3] vs. Skidmore College [18-9]: Both schools enter the game with something to prove, yet the Lord Jeffs of Amherst College have to show that they are a legit team, especially after ending their season with a quarterfinals loss to Middlebury College in the NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference) conference tournament.

The Lord Jeffs began their season with 21-wins in a row before seesawing to the finish line. However a major reason for their teams success this season belongs to senior guard and co-captain, Connor Meehan, who through 25-games has recorded 330-points and 26-steals, as well as leads the team with 89-assists. Other players to watch on the Amherst side includes Willy Workman, Aaron Toomey and Taylor Barrise, who are all primed for a successful opening round game.

As for Skidmore College, they finished their season with five back-to-back wins. They also won the Liberty League for the first time in school history, as well as defeated Hamilton College, 68-52. During the conference championship, the Thoroughbreds shot extremely well from beyond the arc and connected on 16-three pointers. Expect Skidmore to attempt multiple three-pointers against Amherst College, but also, force a variety of turnovers too, which is something the Thoroughbreds have done quite well this season (420 forced turnovers).

What the game should come down to is shooting in and outside the paint, building momentum, rebounds, along with shooting the long ball. Skidmore may fall apart against a powerful Lord Jeffs team who has appeared in the tournament quite frequently, so don’t expect an early upset to occur.

Prediction: Amherst College 73 – Skidmore College 60

Bridgewater State University [19-9] vs. WPI [22-5]: Similar to Amherst College, WPI did not win their conference tournament, as they were upset by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), 63-52. However, WPI dominated their opponents, as well as the NEWMAC (New England Women’s and Men’s Athletics Conference) and finished atop the league standings with a [11-1] record. The Engineers, who were led by senior guard, Jeffery Robinson and junior center, Matt Carr, combined for 757-points, 56-steals, 49-blocks and 268-rebounds.

WPI led the conference in scoring defense, as they kept all of their opponents to a total of 1,574-points through 25-games, which may play a factor against a Bridgewater State University team that is used to scoring lots of points. However, WPI struggled immensely from the free-throw line this season, converting on 361-518 attempts, which could play a factor in Friday’s game.

Similar to Skidmore College, Bridgewater State University may indeed be the underdog, but a rather competitive one. The Bears finished the month of February with a record of [8-1] and will certainly want to capitalize on their Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference championship victory against Salem State.

The Bears are a team that can certainly stretch the lead, but also, gain momentum quickly. Against the Salem State Vikings, the Bears went on a 15-0 run to remain in contention in the second half, as well as connected on a majority of their free throws. Hitting clutch shots at the line will be pivotal against the Engineers, especially during the closing minutes of the second half.

All in all, this particular game is set up to be a very equal contest, which should come down to shots in the paints and free throws. If WPI can bounce back to their winning ways, which occurred early this season, as well as limit the Bears senior forward Nicholas Motta, then the Engineers will advance to the next round. However, if the Bears can force the Engineers to take quick shots, limit their chances on the board, as well as force turnovers, well then, expect Bridgewater State to move on.

Prediction: WPI 74 – Bridgewater State University 72

Saturday’s Second Round Match Up Prediction, (Amherst College vs. WPI): What a game this will be. Two powerful offenses and defenses, which will surely score points, but once the game is over, expect the Lord Jeffs to earn an important victory, as well as advance to the Sweet Sixteen.

Amherst College is too powerful of a team to let their NCAA championship dreams fail this weekend, so expect them to get by Skidmore easily, but be challenged against a well rounded WPI squad.

Prediction: Amherst College 68 – WPI 63

Overall Weekend Winner Prediction: Ameherst College advances to the Sweet Sixteen

NCAA Division III – Men's Basketball Previews at WPI

By Matt Noonan

Believe it or not, March Madness is set to begin somewhat early, as Worcester Polytechnic Institute will be the host for four Division III NCAA basketball teams on Friday and Saturday, as the road to Final Four in Salem, Virginia is set to begin.

Here are just two of the many games that will be occurring this weekend across the country, but between the four schools, WPI, Amherst College, Skidmore College and Bridgewater State University, only one will advance to the Sweet Sixteen.

Here is our game-by-game break down, as well as score predictions.

Amherst College [22-3] vs. Skidmore College [18-9]: Both schools enter the game with something to prove, yet the Lord Jeffs of Amherst College have to show that they are a legit team, especially after ending their season with a quarterfinals loss to Middlebury College in the NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference) conference tournament.

The Lord Jeffs began their season with 21-wins in a row before seesawing to the finish line. However a major reason for their teams success this season belongs to senior guard and co-captain, Connor Meehan, who through 25-games has recorded 330-points and 26-steals, as well as leads the team with 89-assists. Other players to watch on the Amherst side includes Willy Workman, Aaron Toomey and Taylor Barrise, who are all primed for a successful opening round game.

As for Skidmore College, they finished their season with five back-to-back wins. They also won the Liberty League for the first time in school history, as well as defeated Hamilton College, 68-52. During the conference championship, the Thoroughbreds shot extremely well from beyond the arc and connected on 16-three pointers. Expect Skidmore to attempt multiple three-pointers against Amherst College, but also, force a variety of turnovers too, which is something the Thoroughbreds have done quite well this season (420 forced turnovers).

What the game should come down to is shooting in and outside the paint, building momentum, rebounds, along with shooting the long ball. Skidmore may fall apart against a powerful Lord Jeffs team who has appeared in the tournament quite frequently, so don’t expect an early upset to occur.

Prediction: Amherst College 73 – Skidmore College 60

Bridgewater State University [19-9] vs. WPI [22-5]: Similar to Amherst College, WPI did not win their conference tournament, as they were upset by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), 63-52. However, WPI dominated their opponents, as well as the NEWMAC (New England Women’s and Men’s Athletics Conference) and finished atop the league standings with a [11-1] record. The Engineers, who were led by senior guard, Jeffery Robinson and junior center, Matt Carr, combined for 757-points, 56-steals, 49-blocks and 268-rebounds.

WPI led the conference in scoring defense, as they kept all of their opponents to a total of 1,574-points through 25-games, which may play a factor against a Bridgewater State University team that is used to scoring lots of points. However, WPI struggled immensely from the free-throw line this season, converting on 361-518 attempts, which could play a factor in Friday’s game.

Similar to Skidmore College, Bridgewater State University may indeed be the underdog, but a rather competitive one. The Bears finished the month of February with a record of [8-1] and will certainly want to capitalize on their Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference championship victory against Salem State.

The Bears are a team that can certainly stretch the lead, but also, gain momentum quickly. Against the Salem State Vikings, the Bears went on a 15-0 run to remain in contention in the second half, as well as connected on a majority of their free throws. Hitting clutch shots at the line will be pivotal against the Engineers, especially during the closing minutes of the second half.

All in all, this particular game is set up to be a very equal contest, which should come down to shots in the paints and free throws. If WPI can bounce back to their winning ways, which occurred early this season, as well as limit the Bears senior forward Nicholas Motta, then the Engineers will advance to the next round. However, if the Bears can force the Engineers to take quick shots, limit their chances on the board, as well as force turnovers, well then, expect Bridgewater State to move on.

Prediction: WPI 74 – Bridgewater State University 72

Saturday’s Second Round Match Up Prediction, (Amherst College vs. WPI): What a game this will be. Two powerful offenses and defenses, which will surely score points, but once the game is over, expect the Lord Jeffs to earn an important victory, as well as advance to the Sweet Sixteen.

Amherst College is too powerful of a team to let their NCAA championship dreams fail this weekend, so expect them to get by Skidmore easily, but be challenged against a well rounded WPI squad.

Prediction: Amherst College 68 – WPI 63

Overall Weekend Winner Prediction: Ameherst College advances to the Sweet Sixteen