New England Basketball Weekend Watch (Jan. 10th-12th)

NEWKNDHOOPSWATCH011020

By Matt Noonan | @NoontimeNation 

Another busy weekend of New England D-III college basketball is set to tip-off this afternoon and evening – hope you are ready for some great games to watch and follow!

Let’s begin with one game to watch in Medford, Massachusetts this evening as the Tufts University women’s basketball team welcomes Wesleyan University to Cousens Gymnasium for a 7 p.m. tip-off.

Friday’s clash between the Cardinals and Jumbos marks the official start of New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) play.

Tufts enters tonight’s contest riding an impressive 13-game winning streak, which has included recent wins over UMass DartmouthSUNYIT, and Wheaton College. Emily Briggs highlighted the Powder and Blue’s effort against the Lyons on Wednesday by connecting on 7 of 10 field goals for 19 points – she also made all three freebies. Erica DeCandido chipped in 13 points on six of eight shooting.

Wesleyan should certainly provide Tufts with some challenges on both ends of the court – the Cardinals have won eight of 11 contests thus far, including an early January clash with Babson College. The Cardinals began their 2019-20 campaign with six-straight wins.

In their last outing against SUNY Geneseo, last weekend, Caleigh Ryan and Katy O’Connor combined for 24 points, while Emma Roush added 10 points off the bench. 

A few other NESCAC women’s games to watch tonight and this weekend include Bowdoin College at Trinity College (1/10 at 7 p.m.), Amherst College at Middlebury College (1/10 at 7 p.m.), and Amherst at Williams College on Saturday, January 11th at 3 p.m.

On the men’s side of the NESCAC, keep an eye on Friday’s clash between Middlebury and Amherst. The Panthers have won 13-straight contests, including three consecutive 2020 meetings with Colby-SawyerSpringfield College, and Plattsburgh State. This particular outing should be a good test for the Panthers, but also the Mammoths, who began the new year with a 116-44 win over Lesley University before falling to Wesleyan three days later by a score of 79-77.

My prediction for Friday’s Amherst-Middlebury game is the following: The Mammoths will prevail and receive some major contributions from Grant Robinson, Fru Che, and Eric Sellew.

Tomorrow (Saturday, January 11th), WPI will entertain Babson in a very enticing New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) contest. The Engineers began conference play earlier this week against MIT, while the Beavers were edged on Wednesday by Springfield.

It’s too early to say this a must-win for the Beavers (or Engineers) as all eight teams play each other twice in a single-season, but this could be a potential preview of the conference championship game next month.

Other Games to Watch (and Follow) this Weekend: 

  • WBB: Framingham State at Westfield State (Saturday, Jan. 11th at 12 p.m.): The Rams can begin conference play with a win on the road against an Owls team, which has not won a game since beating Plymouth State in mid-to-late November.
  • WBB: Western New England at Wentworth Inst. of Technology (Saturday, Jan. 11th at 1 p.m.): Look for the Golden Bears to bounce back after losing to WPI earlier this week. A win over the Leopards would provide WNE with their fourth conference win and keep them within at least one or two games of the University of New England.
  • WBB: Brandeis University at New York University (Saturday, Jan. 11th at 1 p.m.): The Judges face another 10-1 squad in an important conference meeting. Brandeis has won 10 of 11 contests this season so I expect that momentum will help them against the Violets.
  • MBB: Keene State at Rhode Island College (Saturday, Jan. 11th at 3 p.m.): This is an important meeting for both teams as the Anchormen and Owls are in a three-way tie with Western Connecticut for the top spot in the conference. Look for the Anchormen to bounce back after losing to Western Connecticut earlier this week.

D3 Basketball: Women’s Top 10 Poll (Monday, Jan. 6th, 2020)

WBBTOP10SOCIAL

By NoontimeSports.com | @NoontimeNation

Prior to their initial Monday contest of 2020, the Tufts University women’s basketball team checked-in first overall in our weekly Monday New England D-III women’s basketball Top 10 poll followed by Bowdoin College (second) and Amherst College (third).

Both Bowdoin and Tufts have won 11 consecutive contests – the two squads will meet at the end of the month in Maine. Tufts concluded the month of December with some impressive wins over Christopher Newport and TCNJ, while the Polar Bears ended 2019 with back-to-back victories against Cal Lutheran and Chapman.

Since falling to Emmanuel College early last month, the Mammoths of Amherst have been impressive to watch – the Purple and White have recently scored wins against Chapman, Widener, and Stevens. Amherst will entertain Albertus Magnus on Tuesday, January 7th before visiting Middlebury College on Friday, January 10th and Williams College on Saturday, January 11th.

The Ephs commenced 2020 with a win this past weekend against Skidmore College – prior to their win against the Thoroughbreds, Williams scored wins against Babson College, Delaware Valley, and Ursinus.


New England D-III Basketball Women’s Top 10 Week Six Poll| Monday, January 6th, 2020

1. Tufts University 11-0, 0-0 NESCAC Previously: No. 1
2. Bowdoin College  11-0, 0-0 NESCAC Previously: No. 2
3. Amherst College 10-1, 0-0 NESCAC Previously: No. 3
4. Williams College 11-0, 0-0 NESCAC Previously: No. 4
5. Smith College 12-0, 0-0 NEWMAC Previously: No. 7
6. Brandeis University 10-1, 0-0 UAA Previously: No. 5
7. Western New England 9-2, 2-1 CCC Previously: No. 6
8. Rhode Island College 10-1, 3-0 LEC Previously: No. 8
9. Eastern Connecticut 8-2, 2-0 LEC Previously: No. 10
10. Wesleyan University 8-3, 0-0 NESCAC Previously: Not Ranked

ON THE RISE: Middlebury College, Springfield College, Trinity College, UMass Boston, University of New England, and WPI 


Previous Polls: Preseason Poll |Week OneWeek TwoWeek Three|Week Four Week Five

 

Around The Rim with Bob Whitney

Around The Rim Whitney Social

By Bob Whitney 

Some random thoughts after looking around at the local and national basketball landscape.

The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC)/Big Ten Conference (B1G) Basketball Challenge is always at the top of my viewing list each year – I love channel surfing.

This year, the Big 10 Conference reigned supreme with some impressive showings by Maryland, Purdue, Ohio State, and Penn State.

Purdue absolutely dismantled Virginia and exposed the ‘Hoos offensive shortcomings while Ohio State throttled North Carolina. It’s early but Ohio State is looking like they have the horsepower to make a run to the Final Four next April.

Speaking of the ACC, Boston College is on a four-game losing spin and facing a rigorous conference road trip this Saturday at Norte Dame. A highly-touted freshman class must grow up in a hurry or the Eagles will once again reside in the ACC’s bottom quartile.

Save the date: current No. 1 Louisville will visit Conte Forum on Jan. 29. Tip-off is scheduled for 9 p.m.

Carl Pierre, who played high school basketball at Boston College High School, is having an excellent season at UMass. The 2017 Catholic Conference MVP and two-time conference all-star selection is currently averaging 12 points per game.

Pierre and the Minutemen will visit Harvard on Saturday, December 7th with tip-off scheduled for 1 p.m. UMass will attempt to snap a four-game skid, which began prior to Thanksgiving with a 58-46 setback to Virginia. Harvard enters the non-conference clash at 4-4 – the Crimson have lost two-straight since beating Texas A&M last Thursday. 

Newton North’s Ethan Wright has seen an uptick in playing time this season with the Princeton Tigers. The second-year guard has logged 93 minutes in six contests this season – he even started a game last month against Indiana. Wright has scored 13 points on 5 of 21 shooting, including 3 of 14 from beyond the arc. He has pulled down 13 rebounds, including two offensive caroms to go along with five assists and two blocks.

Wright and the Tigers sit at 1-6 and are scheduled to compete next Tuesday, December 10th against Monmouth. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m.

Coach Trish Brown and the Stonehill College women’s basketball team are off to an impressive 6-2 start. Sure, their lone setbacks have come against Bentley and Molloy, but they have been fun to watch, especially in their last two contests against Assumption College and Franklin Pierce.

Emily Bramanti, who played locally for Westford Academy, credited all of her teammates in their most recent win against the Ravens for stepping-up and making plays when needed.

“That is just the greatness of our team is that any night anybody can step-up and play, so it’s really exciting to see how far we can get going,” she said following the Skyhawks’ 68-59 win over the Ravens.

Bramanti concluded her team’s eighth contest with a team-high 16 points.

Stonehill hosts Saint Anselm College on Saturday before heading to Daytona Beach Florida two weeks later to compete in the Daytona Beach Shootout.

Finally, the Babson College men’s basketball team scored an exciting and impressive win last night over Amherst CollegeFrank Oftring, who grew up in North Attleboro, Massachusetts netted a career-high 30 points in the win to go along with 10 rebounds.

Babson’s Andrew Jaworski finished with 23 points with four of those points being recorded during the final 30 seconds of the second half.

Babson, which is 12-3 against the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) dating back to the 2016-17 season, will look to continue its early-season momentum this weekend when they compete in the New England Big 4 Challenge at Salem State University.

I’m getting ready to head back to warm and sunny Florida so I’ll be writing from the Sunshine State next week.

KEEP SHOOTING, Everyone!

New England Basketball Notebook: Harvard Shines In Season-Opener

Men's Basketball between the Harvard Crimson and the Columbia Lions

Bryce Aiken and the Harvard University men’s basketball team are motivated to return to the NCAA Tournament this upcoming season. (PHOTO COURTESY: David Dermer/Harvard Athletics)

By Matt Noonan | @MattyNoonz11

For Harvard University, Tuesday’s 84-27 victory over MIT was an ideal way to begin a new season, but also an opportunity to gain some much-needed momentum heading into an important non-conference clash on Friday with Northeastern University.

Multiple Crimson players contributed on both ends of the floor against the Engineers, including first-year forward Chris Ledlum, who recorded his first collegiate double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds. Senior Christian Juzang netted 12 points, while classmate Chris Lewis stuffed the stat sheet with nine points, seven rebounds, one assist, and one block.

Harvard’s 57-point victory margin matched the 1945-46 team, which established the mark with their win over Northeastern.

While it certainly was an impressive start to their 2019-20 campaign, Harvard, as well as their coach Tommy Amaker, know they have more work to do in order to accomplish their preseason goals. And one of those goals, according to senior guard Bryce Aiken, is to return to the NCAA Tournament, something the Crimson have not done since 2015.

Harvard has come close to returning to the ‘big dance,’ but has fallen short the past three seasons in the Ivy League tournament. Additionally, they saw their run toward a National Invitational Tournament (NIT) title conclude twice within the past two years, including this past March when they lost a heartbreaker in the second round to North Carolina State University.

But despite falling short of accomplishing past preseason goals or winning tournaments and championships, Aiken remains optimistic. He believes this year’s crew can “make history,” and from what fans witnessed the other evening against MIT, perhaps the senior guard believes this year’s squad is truly capable of not just winning an Ivy League conference tournament but challenging other teams from across the country for the ultimate prize, a national championship. 

“The biggest motivation for us as seniors (this year) is leaving with a bang, man,” said senior Bryce Aiken, who elected to return to campus for one more season after initially entering his name for the 2019 National Basketball Association (NBA) Draft last April.

“We haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament, so that is the biggest motivating factor for us.”

Added Juzang, “It’s been three years of all of us (for) things you can look at and you can call motivation (from) the Ivy League championship games, the NC State game, and we could point to a bunch of different things, but I think the biggest thing is (we’re) internally driven, not getting pushed around by the expectations and whatnot.”

The expectations, as both the coaches and student-athletes know, is rather high for a team that is scheduled to face some stiff competition this month against Northeastern, University at Buffalo, and Texas A&M. Harvard could also face the University of Maryland this month, too – they would need to beat the Aggies of Texas A&M in the opening round of the Orlando Invitational, which is scheduled to commence on Thanksgiving Day.

Weeks after competing in the Orlando Tournament, Harvard will commence conference play in mid-to-late January against Dartmouth College before ending the month with a visit to the University of Pennsylvania, which opened its 2019-20 season with an 81-80 win over the University of AlabamaPenn lost to Harvard last March in the Ivy League semifinals but was picked second in the conference preseason poll.

Yet, before Harvard worries about Dartmouth, Penn, and other future foes, they will keep their focus on Northeastern, a team that beat the Crimson last November, thanks to a game-high 35 points by Jordan Rolland. Rolland will certainly be a player the Crimson will need to slow down in order to pick-up their second win of the season, but from a quick glance at this year’s roster, Harvard is loaded with talent to slow down their opponents’ top players, and will certainly receive a boost from an impressive and hard-working first-year class.

Amaker praised his freshman class, which was ranked 38th nationally, according to 247Sports.com. All five newcomers logged time on Tuesday against MIT and have seemed to adapt to the college game quite well it seems.

“I have been impressed with our first-years,” said Amaker during the team’s media day last Friday. “This is a tough-minded group. They are physical – you look at who they are (with their) bodies and (what) they are capable of taking in … they have been durable, but they have been very (impressive) with their durability, dependability, and then fitting in.

“Our future is good hands with this first-year class.”

No matter who is on the floor Friday and later this season – Aiken, Ludlum, Juzang, sophomore Noah Kirkwood or seniors Seth Towns and Henry Welsh – Harvard is expected to compete and play some impressive basketball that should translate into more wins and an exciting 2019-20 season.

News and Notes from New England: 

  • Andrew Fleming became the 31st player in the University of Maine men’s basketball program to net 1,000 points as the senior helped the Black Bears defeat Merrimack College, 84-64, on Wednesday evening. Fleming, who was named a preseason America East All-Conference honoree, recorded 37 points and 10 rebounds against the Warriors to go along with five assists and two blocks.
  • Keep your eyes on the Saint Anselm College women’s basketball team this weekend – the Hawks, who were picked to finish atop the Northeast-10 Conference will tip-off Saturday, November 9th against Bloomfield College at 6:30 p.m. After facing the Bears, the Hawks will cap their weekend with a late Sunday afternoon contest against the University of Bridgeport.

    Senior Shannon Ryan will be one of many student-athletes to watch on the Hawks this winter. Ryan recorded a double-double of 29 points and 18 rebounds last weekend against Bishop’s University.

  • WPI, which secured the fourth spot in our New England D-III Men’s Basketball Top 10 Preseason Poll, tips-off its season against ninth-ranked Brandeis University on Friday. Both teams are two squads to watch this winter – the Engineers were picked to capture the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC), while Brandeis is expected to continue its success from last year under second-year coach Jean Bain.
  • Finally, make sure to read Bob Whitney‘s first column, Around The Rim – I am very excited to have Bob join our team this winter to produce some additional basketball content. Bob has covered the college and high school game for years and will be a great addition to our Noontime Sports staff.

Catching Up With Laura Pierce (Fitchburg State Women’s Basketball)

WB_PierceHC

Laura Pierce, who competed and coached at Wheaton College, was recently named the new women’s basketball coach at Fitchburg State University. (PHOTO COURTESY: Fitchburg State Athletics)

By NoontimeSports.com | @NoontimeSports 

Laura Pierce was ready for that next step in her coaching journey.

She had gained valuable experience at both Wesleyan University and Wheaton College as an assistant for both women’s basketball programs but appeared eager – and ready – to become a head coach.

And that eagerness – and readiness, too – paid off as she was recently named the new women’s basketball coach at Fitchburg State University.

“I am excited to get to work with the young women to create a culture in which our program makes Fitchburg State proud on the court, in the classroom, and in the community,” said Pierce in the press release announcing her hiring.

Pierce inherits a Falcons squad that finished 9-17 a year ago, including 2-10 against Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) foes.

The Falcons did qualify for the MASCAC Tournament last winter but saw their bid for a conference crown conclude in the quarterfinals against Bridgewater State University.

Coaching in the MASCAC is something Pierce is very excited about – she described the conference as “really competitive,” while also noting that “you have to bring your best effort every (single) evening.”

Said Pierce, “My hope is that we enter the gym every day with the mindset of effort, focus, and attitude because it will help us be successful, both this upcoming season and in the future.”

Prior to becoming an assistant for both the Cardinals and Lyons, Pierce enjoyed an impressive career at Wheaton, tallying 622 points, 253 rebounds, 424 assists, and 68 steals in 100 games played. Pierce, who was a three-year captain, also attended “So You Want to be a Coach” Program at the Women’s Final Four in Tampa, Florida in April of 2015 before graduating from Wheaton one month later.

Noontime Sports recently spoke with Pierce about her excitement for leading her own program, but also what she learned as both a student-athlete and assistant from Coach Melissa Hodgdon.

What excites you about coaching your own program?

Being able to teach the game I love while shaping these young women’s lives.

Coaching is about so much more than the X’s & O’s (on a chalkboard). It’s about building relationships and mentoring (your players) to become the best they can be, both on and off the court. I have had many coaches and mentors along the way that I have played for and coached with, and they have all have shaped me into the coach and person I am today.

I think the exciting thing about coaching your own program is having a vision and being able to shape that vision throughout the season. It’s all about the process and we’ve got a lot of work to do, but it’s such an exciting time for the Fitchburg State women’s basketball program.

Do you feel your previous stops as an assistant at Wesleyan and Wheaton have prepared you for a successful first season with Fitchburg State?

Absolutely. Kate Mullen, who is the is the head coach of the Wesleyan women’s basketball team, took a chance on me – she hired me right after I graduated college (in May of 2015) and I will be forever grateful to her for providing me with my first collegiate coaching role.

Coach Mullen gave me the opportunity to coach and prepare to play against teams in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC), which is one of the most competitive Division III women’s basketball conferences in the country. 

I am really fortunate that both Coach Mullen and Melissa Hodgdon gave me an opportunity to learn and grow as a young coach (these past few years). I consider them not just mentors, but great friends, as well.

Tell me about your experience learning and playing for Melissa Hodgdon. How did she help mold you into the current coach you are today? 

I honestly had never heard of Wheaton until Coach Hodgdon began recruiting me. But attending Wheaton and playing for her was the best decision I ever made.

Coach Hodgdon challenged me every day to become the best basketball player I could be so I could reach my highest potential on the court with hopes of leading the Lyons to a New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) championship.

Her biggest impact though is she genuinely cares about each and every one of her players.

I missed my entire sophomore year with a knee injury, but that didn’t stop Coach Hodgdon from including me in team activities. She made sure I was included and kept me engaged throughout the entire season while allowing me to see the game from her perspective. And once my sophomore year concluded at Wheaton, I knew I wanted to become a collegiate basketball coach when I graduated, so I began gaining experience as an intern at the Duke University women’s basketball camp, along with several local camps, too, before I returned to campus for my senior year.

A few years after my final season with the Lyons, I returned to campus after completing my graduate assistantship program at Wesleyan – I knew (deep down that) I wanted to return to Wheaton and assist Coach Hodgdon, who established a program that meant so much to me, both as a student-athlete and assistant coach.

Being able to work (and learn) from Coach Hodgdon as an assistant was an amazing experience. She challenged me to become the best coach while giving me responsibilities that prepared me for my next step in my coaching journey.

Finally, what goals and objectives do you have for the team heading into the upcoming season?

We have a great group of young women returning this year as well as a couple of incoming first-year student-athletes that are excited to get to work. We’re going to focus on getting better every day, whether that be in the classroom, weight room, film room or on the court.

We are also going to have this mindset of getting better (every single day). But our number one goal is always going to be to represent the Fitchburg State community with class and pride.


Stay connected with our New England basketball coverage on Twitter by following @Noontime_Hoops