Tag Archives: Rick Pitino

Around The Rim With Bob Whitney: Welcome Back College Hoops

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Former Braintree High and Kimball Union star Nic Timberlake in action last year for Towson University. Timberlake is now a redshirt freshman for Towson this winter after last season’s injury-riddled campaign. (PHOTO COURTESY: Bob Whitney)

By Bob Whitney | @WhitneyBob

In case you haven’t noticed the 2019-20 college basketball season is off and running, highlighted by a nationally-televised doubleheader last evening featuring the top four teams in the men’s basketball preseason rankings: Michigan State, Kentucky, Duke, and Kansas.

For all of us veteran purists, it was hoop heaven, the talent was amazing but the quality of play was spotty at best given such a huge stage on opening night.

That aside, it is my pleasure to pen a weekly hoop column for the hard-working Matt Noonan and his many followers here at Noontime Sports.

I have covered one of the Power Five conferences – the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), to be exact – for the last eight seasons, but this year I will focus on a little bit of everything but the primary focus will remain on all that is happening in New England – and that is a lot!

First of all, check out the Noontime Sports Men and Women’s New England D-III Basketball Preseason Top 10 Polls: (Men’s Basketball | Women’s Basketball)

A few thoughts from the basketball polls.

  • No surprise that Amherst College is perched at the top of both rankings. They have been the gold-standard regionally and a regular participant in the NCAA D-III Tournaments for years.
  • Speaking of Amherst, the men’s program suffered a sudden jolt in September when legendary coach David Hixon (after 42 seasons at the helm) opted to take a non-health sabbatical to deal with some family issues. The big question is can the program move on without Hixon’s leadership?

    Those close to the program feel that with the elevation of trusted assistant Aaron Toomey, who played under Hixon and helped win NCAA titles in 2012 and 2013, the transition should be seamless.

  • A game to watch (and to gauge how Toomey and his squad are managing the transition) is on January 10 when New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) rival Middlebury College travels to Amherst.

ODDS AND ENDS

  • There have been a number of rule changes introduced with the most important one being the extension of the 3-point arc from 17 inches to the international standard of 22 feet, 1 3/4 inches. Although testing of this change in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) last year found little change in shooting percentage, it was felt by the officiating honchos that it would alleviate congestion in the paint by forcing defenders to guard shooters further away from the basket. Stay tuned on this change.
  • All eyes will be pointing to Cambridge, Mass this season to see if the Harvard University celebrated senior class, led by awesome point guard Bryce Aiken, can finally win an Ivy League title, as well as earn an automatic tournament bid to the NCAA Tournament.

    Better yet, the Crimson will have some home-cooking help in March as this year’s conference tournament moves from the storied The Palestra to Lavietes Pavilion, March 14-15.

    The Ivy poo-bahs move to a conference tournament for men and women was a no-brainer – the atmosphere is pulsating and the quality of play is as good as it gets.

  • A shoutout to former Marquette University assistant Brett Nelson who assumes the reins at Holy Cross after Bill Carmody‘s decision to retire from the coaching ranks.
  • Did you know that we have a number of the top coaches in the women’s college game led by the legendary Barbara Stevens, who ranks fourth in wins among college coaches at Bentley University, Harvard’s Kathy Delaney-Smith, Stonehill College‘s Trisha Brown, Springfield College‘s Naomi Graves, and Babson College‘s Judy Blinstrub. If any of you have a daughter that may be destined to play at the college level the price of admission to catch one of these coaches in action will help with a final decision.
  • In my eight years following ACC men’s basketball, I had the privilege to hear firsthand from some of the great coaches in the game, including Coach Mike KrzyseskiRoy Williams, Jim Boeheim, Rick Pitino, and Mike Brey. Buzz Williams was a real stitch in the press room. But most impressive among this elite group of coaches was the University of Virginia‘s, Tony Bennett.

    Obviously, Bennett’s run to the national title was the big news last year but most noteworthy was his recent decision to forego a well-deserved a big raise. Bennett felt that his family was blessed and thankful for what they have and felt that the money would be better spent in funding a program to help athletes transition to careers after basketball. Bennett is destined to be the voice of the ACC once Coach K and Roy retire.

A FINAL THOUGHT

Best wishes to Kristen McDonnell who left the Braintree high school girls basketball program after a ten-year run which included four D-1 state titles and a bunch of sectional crowns. McDonnell is seeking a new challenge as the Norwood high school boys head coach.

Keep shooting. See you next week!

Bad Boston Sports Starts

The Red Sox better shape up otherwise things could change quickly.

By Matt Noonan

Over the years Boston and its fans have watched their various sports teams, whether it be the Bruins, Celtics, Red Sox or Patriots stumble out of the gate, but usually, prevail. Although, there have been those seasons that started poorly and never finished with a championship.

With the Boston Red Sox 2011 season going somewhat in a different direction than many believed, allow us to examine some of the Bruins, Celtics, Sox and Patriots worst starts.

Boston Bruins: The Boston Bruins are still waiting for that special moment to hoist a Stanley Cup trophy primarily for their younger fans who were born after their fifth championship in 1972 against the New York Rangers. Yet, with the 2010-11 season slowly winding down, the question remains, could this indeed be “the year?”

Although, unlike the 2011 Boston Red Sox, the Bruins didn’t stumble out of the gate in October and November, but as of recently look like the town’s baseball club since they can’t seem to always secure wins. Yet, whatever one’s thoughts on the Bruins are currently, this team certainly can’t compare to the squad that took the ice in 1924, which by far was the worst team in franchise history.

Worst Start: Their first season in the NHL the Bruins began with a win against the Montreal Maroons, but then lost 11-games in a row. They finished the season with just six wins, which clearly upset their fans. Despite their incredibly slow start, the Bruins would eventually win their first Stanley Cup nearly four years later during the 1928-29 campaign, but the debut season was downright awful and something many Bruins fans will remember.

Boston Celtics: Let’s face it, when it comes to Boston sports it is quite easy to say that the Celtics are the equivalent to the New York Yankees. The Green and White own the most banners and trophies compared to the other three teams, but after their most recent NBA championship in 2008 against the Los Angles Lakers, they have been somewhat on the losing end.

Worst Start: Louisville Cardinals head coach Rick Pitino hadn’t even “walked through the door,” but instead was most likely  M.L. Carr‘s Celtics finish their worst season in franchise history. The Celtics posted a [2-8] record through their first 10-games and didn’t even record 10 victories before January of 1997. Boston was awful and certainly the laughing stock of the NBA, but when a team wins just 15-games, don’t count on a championship or banner.

Boston Red Sox: No one, absolutely no one expected the Red Sox to slip and fall out of the gate. Despite four losses in a row, the season is far from over.

Worst Start: In 1932, the Sox began their season in a similar way that the 2011 team with a [0-4] record. Yet after playing just 10-games, Boston was looking at a [2-8] record and would finish the season with 43 wins and 111 loses. Doesn’t that record sound like the current day Kansas City Royals or Pittsburgh Pirates?

New England Patriots: The Patriots brought the winning ways back to Massachusetts and the city of Boston in 2002, as they defeated the St. Louis Rams in the Super Bowl XXXVI. Ever since their dramatic win the torch was past onto the Red Sox and Celtics. Yet, despite an epic failure to finish the ’07 season undefeated, as well as a few bad playoff outings, the Patriots Super Bowl drought from ’05 continues.

Worst Start: In the NFL teams have to win at least 10-games in order to be qualified for a possible playoff berth, but while that goal seemed certainly lofty to the Boston and New England Patriots, the squad from 1990 would be considered the absolute worst of them all with a [1-15] record. The Patriots only win came during week two against the Indianapolis Colts, but despite an early [1-1] record, the Patriots would lose the remainder of their schedule. The Patriots had to go through three quarterbacks, as well as watched the team finish fifth in the AFC East Division.

Noonan: March Madness Bracket is Busted

Sadly, Duke fell short to Arizona, which most likely "busted" March Madness brackets!

By Matt Noonan

Take a look at your March Madness bracket, how does it look? Do you have a lot of teams, such as Duke, BYU and maybe San Diego State crossed off?

How about all those who picked Rick Pitino to lead Louisville to the “Sweet Sixteen” or “Final Four,” how do you feel today?

Also, I do need to spark some controversy, so how is everyone doing in Kentucky on this wonderful Friday morning? Are you excited for the Wildcats to take on Ohio State on Friday? Will John Calipari lead his group of young men onto the elite eight?

Well, allow me to be the first to admit that once again, my bracket is officially busted, again. I had Duke repeating their exciting run from last year, but now, my favorite piece of paper from the past few days has gone out with the kitchen trash and I have officially begun the countdown for the MLB season, yet, how much baseball can I endure during the first week?

What makes March Madness so enjoyable is that every year, millions of people, no matter whether they are college basketball die-hards, co-workers or friends and family, take just a few minutes or possibly, hours, to fill out a bracket.

Even President Barack Obama has continuously shown his support for the tournament, both the men’s and women’s might I add, by filling out a bracket and allowing ESPN an all-access pass into the white house to hear what the chief and commander of America has to say about the tournament.

People like myself, Obama and even, Snoop Dogg, may not always enjoy watching our picks or predictions slip away, but what we do enjoy the most is a great game of basketball. So far, a majority of the games have been enthralling.

Who doesn’t enjoy a late three-pointer to win the game? Aren’t you a fan of a Matt Howard rebound and layup for Butler? Don’t you want to see free throws down the stretch win games?

Besides, we all know that sports fans, especially college basketball followers live for these exciting and exuberant moments.

All in all, while my bracket is indeed busted, there is always hope that one-day, I, along with all of those who picked the various games wrong, will be able to stand up and cheer after the championship is complete and say, “My bracket didn’t get busted!”

Until that day comes, I might as well sit back, relax and enjoy the rest of this college tournament.

Also, since Duke has officially been eliminated, I’ll be rooting for Jim Calhoun’s bunch, the University of Connecticut Huskies to win another NCAA Division I championship.

NCAA March Madness Day One Wrap Up

By Matt Noonan

Butler barely got by Old-Dominion, but can they sneak by Pittsburgh on Saturday?

Thursday was obviously a true “March Madness day.” A few brackets have been busted, some fans have dropped tears like the Miami Heat and others, such as those down in New Jersey who attend Princeton University are still shocked by the Wildcats beating their Tigers men’s basketball team, but hey, life goes on.

Any who, let us take a look back on the day’s action, as well as get everyone set for Friday’s 16-game slate, which should feature some enticing matchups that could clearly bust a few more brackets.

Game of the Day: It has to go to Butler-Old Dominion and while this may have not been the most well executed contest of them all, it clearly had that dramatic ending with the cherry on top. The Bulldogs seemed to pick up where they had left off last year during the tournament, as Butler somehow maneuvered themselves toward a NCAA title game against Duke in Indianapolis, but the end result to their fairy tale run was a loss

However, with the game on the line and Old Dominion trying to force overtime after hitting two critical free-throws, Butler senior forward Matt Howard recorded his second offensive rebound of the day and immediately scored at the buzzer to solidify the win for the Bulldogs.

Again, this may not have been the most well put together victory by the Bulldogs, but Butler will certainly need to regroup fast before their “date with destiny” against Pittsburgh on Saturday.

Upset of the Day: It seemed obvious that the true upset of the day belongs to Morehead State, as the Eagles flew past Rick Pitino’s Louisville Cardinals, 62-61. Yet, what made this upset so special was certainly the final play by Morehead State’s senior guard, Demonte Harper, who knocked down the game winning shot with less than 10 seconds remaining in the second half.

Louisville entered the tournament on a down note, as they lost to University of Connecticut during the Big East conference tournament, which seemed to carry over to Thursday’s contest against the Eagles. At times the Cardinals displayed their flaws and showed that they weren’t quite a strong enough team, especially since Louisville was unable to extend their leads during the first and second half.

The Cardinals defense appeared lackluster at times and even seemed out of sync on offense. Louisville took on the role that a majority top-seeded teams does against a weaker opponent, shoot from outside the paint. The constant misses added up and eventually coast them a chance to advance to the next round against Richmond. Instead, the Eagles live another day and certainly will have to play at their best against a talented Richmond team that was able to sneak by Vanderbilt for their first win of the tournament.

Statistic of the Day: Clearly, the “stat of the day” belongs to Kentucky’s freshman guard, Brandon Knight who may missed his first seven shots of the game, but was the hero when the Wildcats needed a score. Sure, other players throughout the day may have recorded 15, 20 or 25 points, but how many of them began the tournament [0-7]? Knight’s special moment will clearly be remembered, but the only way it will be glorified is if the Wildcats can maneuver a way to win the East bracket, as well as eventually win the National Championship too.

Don’t consider Kentucky a favorite to knock out Ohio State, Xavier, University of North Carolina or Syracuse, but again, Knight will want to built off of his heroic moment, as well as knock down shots to begin their next game against an up and down West Virginia team.

Looking Ahead to Friday: Indeed, the opening day of the tournament was exciting, but Friday promises to be even more enjoyable.

Games to watch: Michigan vs. Tennessee, Akron vs. Notre Dame, Villanova vs. George Mason, Georgetown vs. VCU and believe it or not, Kansas vs. Boston University.

While it is certainly is a long shot, one other game to certainly watch out for will be University North Carolina vs. Long Island, which could be a possible #15 vs. #2 upset, but most likely, the Tar Heels will win, so don’t get too excited Blackbird fans.

NCAA March Madness Tournament: Day One Updates

Kentucky needed a Knight and shining armor to beat Princeton, 59-57 on Thursday!

Good afternoon and welcome to yet another exciting March Madness tournament. We’ll be providing various updates on the critical games from the first day of the March Madness tournament, enjoy and make sure to follow us on Twitter (@NoontimeSports) for quick thoughts too.

#4 Kentucky 59 – #13 Princeton 57: For moments, especially in the second half, it seemed as if the Tigers were going to go on a run similar to Cornell University in 2010, but less than 30-seconds remaining and the ball in the hand of Kentucky’s freshman guard Brandon Knight scored a beautiful right hand lay up, leaving the Tigers with just two seconds to respond.

Excluding various fouls that were recorded, Princeton took control, as well as recorded various leads throughout the second half, as both squads  seesawed back and fourth. Yet, the Wildcats relied on some clutch three-pointers by freshman forward Terrence Jones and junior guard DeAndre Liggins.

The Tigers went [3-6] during the final three minutes from the field, but also, appeared unable to fend off the Wildcats.

Princeton was led by senior guard Dan Mavraides who scored 14 points, while junior guard Darius Miller led Kentucky with 17 points.

#13 Morehead State 62 – #4 Louisville 61: Morehead State’s senior guard, Demonte Harper may have hit the biggest shot in his career, as his three-pointer with seven seconds remaining in the second half secured an Eagles upset against Rick Pitino‘s Louisville Cardinals.

Harper, who finished the game with eight points, assisted his team by securing three rebounds and assists, but the biggest player in this game had to be Morehead State senior forward Kenneth Faried who recorded a team high 17 rebounds.

While both teams were tied at halftime, Louisville eventually jumped out to a slim second half lead, but continued to struggle at times against the Eagles defense, which constantly forced only one shot on offense during their multiple series. However, Cardinals junior forward Terrence Jennings successful was able to record a slam dunk with a little over a minute remaining the second half, which gave Louisville a four point lead.

After Jennings basket, the Cardinals were held scoreless for the final 80-seconds, as the Eagles senior forward Kenneth Faried knocked down two important free-throws and then blocked the game winning shot to secure the victory.

Morehead State was indeed the first true “March Madness upset,” but certainly, keep an eye on the Eagles, as they will soar into their next game against the winner of Vanderbilt-Richmond.

#8 Butler 60 –  #9 Old Dominion 58: Despite tallying four fouls, senior forward Matt Howard quickly collected a loose ball and scored an easy lay-up to push the Bulldogs past Old Dominion for their first tournament victory.

Both teams constantly seesawed and traded leads throughout the first half, but after the Bulldogs committed a “silly” foul during the closing minutes, Howard would save his team from going to overtime with his heroic rebound and quick basket during the closing seconds.

Butler may have not dominated the stat chart, but their ugly and inconsistent play ended up working, as the Bulldogs move onto the next round where they will face the winner of Pittsburgh-UNC Asheville.

Old Dominion was led by senior forward Frank Hassell led his team with 20 points and collected six rebounds.

#5 West Virginia vs. #12 Clemson 76: The Mountaineers overcame a 16-6 first half deficit and rallied during the second half to get past the Tigers in round one. Junior guard Darryl Bryant led West Virginia with 19 points, as well as finished three rebounds and two assists. He finished [8-9] from the free throw.

West Virginia was clutch from the line, as the entire squad finished [25-31], while Clemson finished [21-26].

Despite trailing for a majority of the first half, West Virginia grabbed the lead during the opening minutes of the second half. The Mountaineers displayed great defense, especially toward the end of the game when sophomore guard Dalton Pepper stole the ball away twice.

Clemson’s junior guard Andre Young led the team with a team high 22 points, while sophomore forward Devin Booker led the Tigers with eight rebounds.

West Virginia has advanced to the next round and will face the winner of Kentucky-Princeton.