Tag Archives: Roy Williams

Around The Rim With Bob Whitney: Welcome Back College Hoops

20181106_223717

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!

NFL 2011: NFC North Predictions

Can Aaron Rodgers and his Green Bay Packers win another Super Bowl?

By Matt Noonan 

One of the toughest divisions in the NFL just got a tad bit better. In fact, all four teams will compete against one another, but when it’s all said and done, Chicago and Minnesota should rue the day, while Detroit leaps past them in the standings. Green Bay is most likely the favorite, however, any injuries or Super Bowl hangover could allow the Lions a chance to sneak into the top spot.

1.) Green Bay Packers [11-5] – It’s hard to think that the Packers won’t experience a “Super Bowl” hiccup, but then again, anything’s possible. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is primed to improve this year, as well as build off the success he experienced last year. The Packers also get a few key components back to their offense, tight end Jermichael Finley and running back Ryan Grant, who sustained serious season ending injuries last season. Expect the defense to ramp up their intensity, as well as support their offense too, especially if they’re in trouble, but all in all, the Packers are certainly a lock to make a run toward Super Bowl XLVI.

2.) Detroit Lions [9-7] – The key for the Lions is to remain healthy. Quarterback Matthew Stafford hasn’t finished an entire season, so here’s hope that he, as well as running back Jahvid Best can overcome any bumps and bruises this year. Also, expect their defense to provide loads of pressure on opposing quarterbacks, especially defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

3.) Chicago Bears [8-8] – Does anyone truly believe that Jay Cutler is a legit quarterback in this league? Seriously, who thinks he’s amazing? Cutler isn’t exactly a leader or Mr. Clutch, but this season, expect him, as well as his Bears teammates to take a step backward. There are injuries and other issues, as well as linebacker Lance Briggs’s “trade drama.” Also, does anyone expect Roy Williams to make a major impact on offense? Overall, it should be another typical year in the “Windy City” for the Bears and their fans.

4.) Minnesota Vikings [6-10] – Who truly believes that Donovan McNabb is the answer for this team? Anyone else believe that Christian Ponder will earn the starting job mid-way through the season? The Vikings have a lot of questions marks on offense and defense, but hopefully first year head coach Leslie Frazier can salvage six or seven wins.

Willwerth: March Madness Predictions

Coach K led Duke to an exciting National Championship in 2010, but can the Blue Devils repeat in 2011?

By Brian Willwerth

With the March Madness tournament slowly approaching, our very own Brian Willwerth has decided to provide fans with some intriguing predictions, so let’s see if his ideas or thoughts actually come true.

The NCAA tournament kicked off on Wednesday with the newly-created “First Four match ups” in Dayton, Ohio.  The march to the Final Four in Houston begins at 6:40 p.m when UNC-Asheville takes on Arkansas-Little Rock.  Since there are four extra teams in this year’s tourney, here are four random things worth looking out for over the next few weeks.

Will there be a repeat national championship?

You don’t have to go back very far to find the last time this happened – Florida won back-to-back titles in 2005 and 2006.  This year, all eyes will be on Duke, the #1 seed in the West Region.  If the higher seeds all hold serve in that bracket – and that’s a big if – the Blue Devils face a potential matchup with Connecticut or San Diego State in the regional final.  Still, with Mike Krzyzewski at the helm, Duke will be a contender to cut down the nets in Houston.

Who will be this year’s Cinderella?

Everyone loves a Cinderella – a lesser-known school that makes a bold run in the tournament.  Remember George Mason’s run to the Final Four in 2006?  The Patriots beat teams coached by Roy Williams, Tom Izzo and Jim Calhoun to get there.  Butler’s run to the national championship game last year was magical, but I cringe at those who called Butler a Cinderella. The Bulldogs were ranked for much of the year. Butler and George Mason are both in the field again this year. Brad Stevens and Jim Larranaga know what it takes to get to Houston.  Do they have more magic in them to make a run?

Will a #16 finally beat a #1?

Full disclosure: I am Boston University alum.  I am thrilled to see the Terriers in the tournament, even as a #16 seed.  For a team out of the America East, just earning a spot in the Big Dance is cause for celebration.  But BU has a history of getting blown-out big time in the tournament, as is the case with many #16 seeds.  The same daunting task awaits teams like Texas-San Antonio, Alabama State, Hampton, UNC-Asheville and Arkansas-Little Rock (two of those teams will advance from Dayton to play the top seeds.)

How long will it take for Gus Johnson to “lose it?”

My guess: not very long.  If the Pac-10 Tournament Final is any indication, Johnson is already in March Madness form.  He’ll call the second set of “First Four” games in Dayton on Wednesday, and then it’s off to Cleveland for games on Friday/Sunday.  And with the new TV format – all of the games will be televised live over four networks – there are no limits for fans that just can’t get enough Gus Johnson in March.