Revisiting Some Exciting Moments From The NCAA D-III Basketball Tournament

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By Matt Noonan | @NoontimeNation 

Today would have been the sectional finals for eight NCAA D-III women’s basketball teams. It would have also been a day of third-round men’s basketball action with eight teams vying for spots in next weekend’s quarterfinals.

Sure, we don’t know who would have extended their respective season an additional day or week, but the opening weekend of the 2020 NCAA D-III Basketball Tournaments did produce some exciting outcomes and finishes, as well as some dramatic moments, which I have highlighted below. 

Here are a few moments that I will remember from the opening weekend of both NCAA Tournaments, enjoy!

Tufts’ epic comeback against Western Connecticut. Trailing the Colonials by 21 points at the break, Tufts leaned on Luke Rogers and Carson Cohen to lead the Jumbos past Western Connecticut in an exciting opening round contest last Friday, March 6th in Medford, Massachusetts.

Rogers led the Jumbos with a double-double of 16 rebounds and 15 points while Cohen chipped in 14 points, including two three-pointers.

The win prompted an enormous celebration, which would continue the following day when Tufts beat RPI, 75-66, to secure a date with the College of Brockport in the third round.

Smith College advances to its first-ever “Sweet 16.” The Pioneers entered the postseason with some serious momentum – they scored three-straight wins in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) tournament and had not lost a game since early February. That momentum carried the Pioneers to not just one, but two postseason wins last weekend over No. 20 DeSales (81-72) and SUNY New Paltz (62-60).

Their win over SUNY New Paltz was highlighted by a late 10-0 run during the final minutes of the fourth quarter, which was capped by a go-ahead and eventual game-winning basket by Amelia Clairmont.

Jim Calhoun makes his initial NCAA D-III Tournament debut. After leading the University of Saint Joseph’s (Conn.) to its initial Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) title in just its second season as a varsity program, coach Jim Calhoun earned his first trip to the NCAA D-III Tournament. But unfortunately, the Blue Jays’ appearance in the tournament didn’t last long as Hobart defeated the Blue and Gold, 78-74, in the opening round.

The setback to the Statesmen concluded an impressive second season by the Blue Jays, which was highlighted by a 25-game winning streak that stretched from late November to early March. Additionally, the 2019-20 season included an impressive milestone for Calhoun, his 900th win in January.

Eastern Connecticut’s defense highlighted its opening-round win. It was the Warriors’ defense that helped Eastern Connecticut top St. John Fisher, 60-43, in the opening round and score its first NCAA Tournament victory since 2015.

St. John Fisher was limited to 13 points or less in each frame, including seven points in the second quarter.

The 43 points were the lowest total Eastern Connecticut had surrendered “in 18 years of NCAA Division III competition.”

Williams College returns to its first NCAA D-III “Sweet 16” in seven years. The Ephs were a team to watch this season – they won 20 of 28 contests and came within a few baskets of advancing to the 2020 New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) championship last month. But despite losing in the NESCAC semifinals to Tufts University, the Ephs were able to bounce back as an at-large bid to this year’s “big dance” and win back-to-back contests against Albright College and Ithaca College.

Williams trailed Ithaca, 16-14, after opening quarter before outscoring the hosts in the final three sessions to secure a 69-61 win, along with a spot in the NCAA D-III “Sweet 16” for the first time in seven seasons. Maggie Meehan led the Ephs with 18 points on 7 of 17 shooting while Mikaela Topper added 16 points, four rebounds, two assists, and two steals.

Rogers’ Double-Double Powers Tufts Past Western Connecticut

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Luke Rogers recorded a double-double of 15 points and 16 rebounds in Tufts’ first NCAA D-III Tournament contest. (PHOTO COURTESY: Evan Sayles / The Tufts Daily Archives)

By NoontimeSports.com 

Just days after finding a way to outlast Colby College in the 2020 New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Championship, the Tufts University men’s basketball team once again needed some second-half magic to edge Western Connecticut, 74-72, in the opening round of the NCAA D-III Tournament in Medford, Massachusetts on Friday evening.

Trailing the Colonials, 46-27, at the break, the Jumbos stormed back, outscoring the visitors, 47-26, in the second session to secure a date with RPI tomorrow in the second round on their home court.

Luke Rogers, who finished Friday’s contest with a double-double of 15 points and 16 rebounds, overcame a slow start by netting 14 of his 15 points in the second half while recording 11 rebounds, including three offensive caroms during the final 20 minutes. Rogers helped the Jumbos even the score with a layup with 32 seconds remaining before Carson Cohen sealed the win by knocking down a pair of freebies with five seconds remaining.

Legend Johnson attempted to win the game on the ensuing possession with a three-pointer, which did not fall through the hoop. The missed shot was followed by an emotional celebration between the Tufts players and their fans, who rushed the court as the buzzer sounded.

Cohen concluded the game with 14 points on 5 of 11 shooting while Tyler Aronson, who was playing in his first NCAA Tournament game, finished with 11 points, two steals, one assist, and one rebound. Dylan Thoerner came off the bench and contributed 12 points on five of eight shooting.

Western Connecticut’s Ahmod Privott led all scorers with 21 points to go with five rebounds and four steals while Fenton Bradley scored 19 points on 8 of 12 shooting.

Tufts, which improved to 22-6 overall, was making its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament in three years.  Western Connecticut concludes its season with a 20-8 overall record.

Tufts Secures Top Spot In Second NCAA D-III Northeast Regional Rankings

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By NoontimeSports.com | @NoontimeNation 

For the second-straight week, the Tufts University women’s basketball team secured the top spot in the NCAA D-III Northeast Regional Rankings.

The Jumbos, who have won 24 consecutive contests, will look to continue their current momentum on Saturday, February 22nd when they host Wesleyan University in the opening round of the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Tournament.

Amherst College checked-in second this week – the Mammoths will also be competing in the opening round of the NESCAC Tournament this weekend against Bates College.

Western New England, which is currently the top team in the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) secured the third position followed by Bowdoin College (fourth) and Eastern Connecticut (fifth).

Williams College checked-in sixth overall. The Ephs will host Trinity College in the NESCAC Tournament this weekend – the Bantams secured the 12th position on this week’s rankings.

Springfield College checked-in seventh overall while Rhode Island CollegeBabson College, and UMass Boston placed eighth, ninth, and tenth, respectively.

Smith College secured the eleventh position – the Pioneers are currently one of the top five teams in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) heading into the final Saturday of the regular season.

D3 Basketball: Brandeis will attempt to win its second-straight New England Big 4 Challenge this weekend

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Brandeis University will attempt to capture its second-straight New England Big 4 Challenge championship this weekend. (PHOTO COURTESY: Babson College Athletics)

By Matt Noonan 

Brandeis University captured the 2018 New England Big 4 Challenge last season with a commanding 74-49 win over Babson College and will attempt to win the title again this weekend when they compete in the two-day, four-team tournament at Salem State University.

The Judges will begin their title defense against Tufts University on Saturday, December 7th at 12 p.m. Babson and Salem State will square-off afterward at 2 p.m. The winner of both contests will advance to Sunday’s championship game at 2 p.m. which will follow the consolation game at 12 p.m.

Brandeis will certainly be a team to watch this weekend after beginning their current campaign with a 5-2 mark, but the same could be said for the Beavers of Babson, which enter the weekend tournament with an impressive 7-0 record. The Green and White’s seventh win – an 87-82 victory over Amherst College earlier this week – was highlighted by Frank Oftring, who netted a career-high 30 points to go along with 10 rebounds. 

Tufts saw its five-game winning streak to start its 2019-20 campaign snapped earlier this week against WPI. The Jumbos scored some impressive non-conference wins prior to their initial setback last month against MIT and UMass Dartmouth.

Salem State will attempt to snap its current five-game losing streak this weekend when they face Babson in the opening round. The Vikings have not appeared in the win column since last month when they defeated Anna Maria College, 89-76.

The winner of the tournament will receive the Crotty Cup, which is named after Michael Crotty Sr., who was the Founder and Director of the Middlesex Magic.

“The tournament features four very good teams from four different leagues, to celebrate the game of basketball and a dear friend to each of us in Michael Crotty Sr., Founder, and Director of the Middlesex Magic AAU Club, who left us far too soon,” said Salem State coach Chris Harvey, via the tournament preview.

While Brandeis has won four New England Big 4 Challenges, Babson has won three – their last came during the 2016-17 season when they captured the program’s first-ever NCAA championship. Tufts has won two titles, while Salem State captured its first-ever tournament crown two years ago.

Catching Up With Coach Jay Civetti (Tufts University)

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OJ Armstrong and the Tufts University football team will attempt to capture their fourth win of the season on Saturday, Oct. 26th against Hamilton College. (PHOTO COURTESY: Jonas Powell)

By Brian Willwerth | @BriWillwerth 

With three games remaining in their 2019 campaign, the Tufts University football team sits at 3-3, in the middle of the pack in the New England Small Colleg Athletic Conference (NESCAC).

On Thursday, we caught up with head coach Jay Civetti to talk about the state of the Jumbos.

“When you graduate all five of your offensive linemen (from last season) … I think we knew coming into (the current season that) it would be a challenge,” said Civetti, who also mentioned losing last season’s co-offensive player of the year in quarterback Ryan McDonald.

“It’s a challenge to get that prepared and ready to play,” he added.

But other players have stepped up, especially up front. Also, wide receiver OJ Armstrong is starting to pick it up, coming off a game where he racked up a season-best 142 yards and three touchdowns in their win over Bowdoin College.

“(He) had a breakout game last week, and we’ve been waiting for that to happen,” said Civetti when discussing Armstrong’s impressive play against the Polar Bears.

On defense, the front seven is pretty much the same from a year ago, but Civetti says some guys in the secondary have stepped up, including Johnathan O’Neal and Brandyn Jones. Civetti says he’s been impressed with what he’s seen thus far from the defense in the past couple of weeks.

One player who is not a newcomer but is the team’s leading tackler is senior linebacker Greg Holt, who has posted 62.0 total tackles in six contests this season. Holt is currently second in the conference in total tackles and tackles per game (10.3).

“He’s been an all-league player every year,” said Civetti of his senior linebacker.

“There’s really not any team that can ever really quantify how special a leader he is on the field, and just a remarkable person off the field, too.”

Tufts has two of its last three games at home, starting with a matchup against another 3-3 team tomorrow (Saturday, Oct. 26th) against Hamilton College. The Jumbos have beaten the Continentals in their last two meetings, including in 2017 when Tufts needed overtime to score an opening day win against the New York squad in Somerville.