Mary Kate O’Day and the Framingham State women’s basketball team will make their NCAA Tournament debut on Friday against Amherst College. (PHOTO COURTESY: Frank Poulin/Framingham State Athletics)
By Matt Noonan | @NoontimeNation
We’re just one day away from the start of the 2020 NCAA D-III Women’s Basketball Tournament, which means its time to highlight a few things you need to know about this year’s postseason while also sharing some predictions, too.
Which New England teams will be competing in this year’s NCAA D-III Men’s Basketball Tournament?
This year, there are 12 teams from our region that will begin their respective quests toward Columbus, Ohio tomorrow, including two teams that will be host sites for both the first and second rounds.
Here are the teams that will be representing New England in the 2020 NCAA D-III Tournament: Amherst College, Framingham State, Endicott College, Bowdoin College, Emmanuel College, Eastern Connecticut, Smith College, Husson University, New England College, Williams College, Western New England, and Tufts University.
What are the first-round matchups, times and locations?
Here is the schedule for tomorrow’s (Friday, March 6th) first-round schedule:
Tufts University vs. SUNY Poly, 5 p.m. (at Western New England)
Williams College vs. Albright College, 5 p.m. (at Ithaca College)
Eastern Connecticut vs. St. John Fisher, 5 p.m. (at Messiah College)
New York University vs. Emmanuel College, 5 p.m. (at Bowdoin College)
Smith College vs. DeSales University, 5:30 p.m. (at SUNY New Paltz)
SUNY Cortland at Western New England, 7 p.m.
New England College at Ithaca College, 7 p.m.
Brooklyn at Bowdoin College, 7 p.m.
Endicott College at University of Scranton, 7 p.m.
Framingham State at Amherst College, 7 p.m.
Husson University at SUNY New Paltz, 7:30 p.m.
Which teams could advance to Saturday’s (March 7th) second round?
Amherst College: The Mammoths are the favorites in their pod as they should be able to top Framingham State tomorrow and then beat either Merchant Marine or Rowan University on Saturday. The Rams should provide some challenges for the Mammoths, so don’t expect Amherst to run away from Framingham State following the opening tip.
Bowdoin College: The Polar Bears could be the favorite on their side of the bracket – they should be able to beat Brooklyn, but could face some challenges against either Emmanuel or New York University. But I think the Polar Bear has what it takes to not just win two games this weekend, but perhaps advance to Ohio and possibly play Tufts in the national semifinals.
Smith College: The Pioneers enter the postseason with a great deal of momentum. They won three straight New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) tournament games last week, including back-to-back contests against MIT and Springfield College. For the Pioneers to advance to the second round, they will need to slow down a Bulldogs squad that has won 14 consecutive contests. DeSales has four players on their roster that are averaging 10 points or more per contest so for Smith to prevail, they will need big games from Amelia Clairmont and Katelyn Pickunka.
Tufts University: The Jumbos are primed for a deep postseason run – they should be able to get past SUNY Poly, a team they beat earlier this season, and then either SUNY Cortland or Western New England on Saturday. The loss to Bowdoin in the 2020 New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) can certainly be used as motivation for games this weekend, as well as future contests later this month.
Williams College: The Ephs should certainly be in the mix for a second-round contest on Saturday, but face a talented Lions squad that fell short of winning their respective conference tournament championship. For Williams to be successful, they will need to find ways to stop Albright’s Dejah Terrell, who is averaging 22.4 points and 3.1 blocks per game. Additionally, they will need to keep their eyes Gabby Boggs, who is averaging 9.4 points and 9.4 rebounds. Williams will need a big game from Maggie Meehan, who enters the postseason clash averaging 13.7 points.
What first-round match-up will I be watching?
SUNY Cortland vs. Western New England: The Golden Bears have not played a game since last month. But one can bet they have been preparing for Friday’ match-up with a Red Dragons squad that is 7-5 on the road this season. SUNY Cortland is making its first tournament appearance since 2010 and will be led by Beth Bonin, who is averaging 18.2 points per game. Western New England should be able to counter with their senior trio of Emily Farrell, Courtney Carlson, and Meghan Orbann.
Linton arrived at the Dudley, Massachusetts campus after spending the past five seasons as an assistant coach at Army West Point where he helped the Cadets with numerous tasks, including scouting reports to working with the wing players at practice to assisting with in-game strategy.
Before assisting the Army West Point men’s basketball program, Linton spent time as an assistant at both his alma mater, Clarkson University, and Bowdoin College.
Coaching a program like Nichols certainly intrigued Linton, who is excited “to continue building on what has already been established” with the Nichols men’s basketball program.
“The chance to take over a program that represents excellence, both on and off of the basketball court was important to me,” said Linton when asked about becoming the new men’s basketball coach at Nichols. “Also, the growth potential of the program was equally intriguing, (as well).”
Nichols concluded its 2018-19 season with an impressive 28-3 mark. The Bison advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division III Tournament earlier this year, thanks to postseason victories against Amherst College, Middlebury College, and Rowan University.
Noontime Sports recently caught-up with Coach Linton to discuss his excitement for the upcoming season.
As a former Division III, men’s basketball player did you always want to coach or become a head coach at this particular level?
Absolutely. I had the great fortune to play for Adam Stockwell during my first three years at Clarkson. I remember sitting in his office as a freshman and sophomore, and him telling me that I would be a college basketball coach one day. Prior to that, I had casually thought about the idea of it, but after (those conversations) I began to own that reality. Everything I’ve done since was aimed at this goal of becoming a Division III head coach.
What do you know about the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC)? Are you excited to coach in a very competitive league?
I’m extremely excited to coach in this league. I know that it is made up of high-level coaches that have built some of the best and most competitive programs in New England. The talent across the board is impressive and something that I notice has improved since my departure from Division III. This is a conference that I believe should be a multiple bid league to the NCAA tournament (every season). I look forward to the challenge of being in that mix.
How did your experience with Army West Point shape you into the coach you are today?
I couldn’t be more grateful for my time at Army. The development that I was able to take part in both on and off of the basketball court was truly remarkable. It is the preeminent leadership development institution in the world. From the faculty to the cadets and all the variety of guest speakers that came through West Point, it truly was a hub for leadership development.
Basketball-wise, being able to coach at the Division I level just provides an amazing amount of time that you get to spend coaching and teaching the game to your players. We also fielded a junior varsity team at West Point, which allowed us as (to gain experience) being a head coach as assistants to the varsity. More than anything, being around the people day in and day out was the number one takeaway that I believe will shape me into the coach I am and hope to be.
Great coaches are great leaders. And great leaders are great people first.
Coach Brandon Linton inherits a Nichols College men’s basketball team that finished the 2018-19 season with an impressive 28-3 record. (PHOTO COURTESY: Nichols College Athletics)
What are some of the biggest goals/objectives you (and the men’s basketball program) hope to accomplish between now and the team’s first practice?
The biggest thing will be developing the framework for meaningful relationships with each other. That is from new staff to players and vice versa. It will also be amongst the current players as well. Acclimating the newcomers into the fold, while also continuing to develop even stronger bonds with your returning teammates (will be a must, as well). That will be our biggest focus prior to our first practice on October 15th.
A few quick-hitters, beginning with your all-time favorite memory of playing basketball.
Legitimately, no one believed we could get it done because there was honestly no prior reason to think so, but only the individuals in our locker room believed (we could win a conference championship) and that’s all that mattered. It’s something that has stuck with me ever since (and proves what) the power of belief can accomplish.
Who was a player you idolized growing up?
Tracy McGrady. Unfortunately for me, my teammates and coaches, however, I played nothing like McGrady, but when I got to college, I really enjoyed watching Rajon Rondo when he first started playing for the Boston Celtics. I enjoyed watching Rondo as a student-athlete with the Celtics – he was a big part of their resurgence. I played the point for Clarkson and I really respected how he played that position. And that’s probably why my three-point percentage was what it was, too.
Finally, if you could coach any basketball player, both current or past, who would it be and why?
Growing up in New York City, I was and still am a big fan of the New York Knicks. We’ve fallen on hard times for a good 15-20 years, however, as a kid, there were some awesome teams for me to follow.
I fell in love with basketball by watching John Starks play. I would always wear his number (three) whenever I could in youth tournaments and recreational leagues. The passion and swag that he played with was everything to me. He embodied what it meant to be a New Yorker, as well. He was hard-nosed, did whatever it took for the greater good of the team, and took the challenge of guarding the best players on the other team. He also jacked three-pointers, too, which was still a newer thing for the game during the 1990s.
John Starks is definitely someone I would love to coach.
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Keep your eyes on Tufts University: The Jumbos recorded their second shutout of the season on Sunday with an 18-0 win over Plymouth State to bump their overall mark to 17-2.
Tufts has become one of my teams to watch in this spring, especially after an impressive regular season, which saw the Powder Blue and White lose just once before falling to Middlebury College in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) championship.
The Jumbos have what it takes to advance to championship weekend, but face a tough task this Saturday against a talented TCNJ squad, which outlasted Colby College on Sunday in its second-round match-up.
TCNJ lost to Tufts earlier this season but rebounded with some important New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) wins, including a conference championship victory against Rowan University.
The Lions advanced to the semifinals last season but fell to Middlebury Colleg after beating Bowdoin College, Franklin & Marshall, and William Smith in the 2018 NCAA Tournament.
If the Jumbos are going to beat the Lions and advance to the sectional finals, they will need a big performance from Emily Games (67 points on 52 goals and 15 assists) and Colette Smith (54 points on 40 goals and 14 assists).
Smith netted the clincher late in the second half in Tufts’ initial meeting with TCNJ, which helped the Jumbos squeak out an exciting 8-7 victory.
If Tufts defeats the Lions on Saturday, they will then need to duplicate their performance against the winner of St. John Fisher versus York College (Pa.).
Middlebury to meet Bowdoin in Third Round: After falling to Bates College in its season-opener, the Panthers of Middlebury have ripped off 18-straight wins, including a 22-3 second-round win over Johnson & Wales.
Middlebury will attempt to stretch its winning streak to 19 when they host Bowdoin College on Saturday.
Similar to Middlebury, the Polar Bear secured a first-round bye and defeated William Smith, 13-5, thanks to six points (five goals and one assist) from Fiona Bundy and five points (four goals and one assist) by Katie Miller.
Bowdoin’s Erin Morrissey and Aaliyah Biondo combined for seven saves on 12 shots in the team’s 10th win over the Herons.
Earlier this season, the Panthers outlasted the Polar Bears, 21-18, so don’t expect Middlebury to run away from Bowdoin on Saturday.
Middlebury outscored Bowdoin, 12-8, in the opening session of their lone match-up in March, while the Polar Bears outscored the Panthers in the second half, 10-9. Bowdoin led Middlebury, 8-3, in the first half, but surrendered a nine-goal run that provided the visitors with a four-goal lead at the break.
Jane Earley helped Middlebury beat Bowdoin by netting a team-high five goals, so she will certainly be needed again in this match-up, especially if the Panthers would like to advance to Sunday’s sectional final.
The winner of Bowdoin-Middlebury will advance to semifinals – I think they both can defeat Illinois Wesleyan or Franklin & Marshall.
Which New England team will advance to the national semifinals?
I still believe Tufts has a chance to compete for a national crown over Memorial Day Weekend, but they must get past TCNJ, which will certainly be a tough test for the Powder Blue and White.
Bowdoin or Middlebury certainly have what it takes to advance to the semifinals, too – I would say Middlebury first, Bowdoin second – but I wouldn’t overlook Wesleyan University, as well.
Wesleyan, however, faces a really challenging path to the semifinals as they would need to beat Washington & Lee on Saturday followed by most likely Gettysburg College, which is scheduled to face Denison University in the third round.
Similar to Tufts, I have enjoyed following Wesleyan this spring, so if they somehow find a way to the semifinals, then I think they can make it to the championship round.
Amherst College may have an easier path to the semifinals, but they will need to play their best lacrosse against Catholic University on Saturday in order to secure a sectional final meeting with either Colorado College or Salisbury University.