Last year: 14-17 Overall (9-9 CAA) 7th in the CAA, Lost to VCU in the CAA Quarterfinals.
What Happened: Northeastern was expected to improve on its bottom three finish from last year, which it was able to do. However, the Huskies were still below the top class in the CAA. They seemed poised to make some noise in-conference after a nice away win at St. John’s, but then proceeded to lose their next six games including a conference match up against Old Dominion. The Huskies were able to win five of their first seven conference games, but were only able to win three games against teams that finished better than they did.
- Kauri Black (F): He was one of Coen’s most valuable assets coming off the bench. He had been a staple on the team for the last two years and was one of the few big(er) men that could score for the Huskies. However, after being a starter most of 2010-11, his relegation to the bench was not something Black wanted as he opted for a transfer to Tulsa, where he’ll be a grad student and use his last year of eligibility.
- Alwayne Bigby (G): He started the majority of games last year for the Huskies, however Alwayne was only the team’s seventh leading scorer. Bigby’s career at Northeastern centers mostly on what could have been. After playing well in his freshman year, his sophomore year was marred by a season-ending injury. Last year was supposed to be his breakout year, but instead looked a step slow after returning from injury, which meant the lock-down defense he was supposed to supply was not quite there. He has moved on to URI for grad school where he’ll use his last year of eligibility after graduating from Northeastern.
- Jon Lee (G): He will expected to be the focal point of the team this year, even with news that an injury will keep him out as much as six weeks. The returning captain was selected to the All-CAA First Team this preseason as Lee looks to continue to build on his break out season last year. He led the Huskies in multiple categories last year including minutes, assists, points per game as well as posting the best 3PT %. He also led in turnovers, an area he’ll need to improve on if the Huskies want to challenge for those top three spots.
- Joel Smith (G): The other co-captain is also returning for his senior year and is hoping to provide Jon Lee some relief on offense, and will now have to be the main scorer while Lee recovers from his injury. Smith has started on the team for the past three years and knows Coen’s system better than anyone. He is expected to carry most of the leadership duties with Lee. Expect the Huskies to cause trouble when Smith can find his space and attempt the jump shots he’s so good at making. After averaging the worst FG% out of any starter, not including Alwayne Bigby, Smith will have to take better shots in order for the Huskies to succeed. Regardless, I expect Smith to come out strong in his final year, leading to his best year here at Northeastern.
- Quincy Ford (F): Finished second in rookie of the year voting for the CAA. Ford blossomed for Northeastern in the second half, and really did all he could from keeping NU from being eliminated by VCU in the quarterfinals by posting a double-double. Ford provided the Huskies with a third option if either Lee or Smith wasn’t playing well early on, but down the stretch he became a more consistent performer than Joel Smith. In order for the Huskies to contend for a top three finish, Ford needs to continue his rapid development, and concentrate on both his passing and defense. Having a freakishly long wingspan, Ford has the potential to disrupt the passing lanes leading to many fast break points for the Huskies.
Outlook: Another year together should allow the Huskies to mesh considerably better than last year. Since they are returning four of their five starters, the Huskies will automatically be expected to contend for a top 4 finish. This extra year allows younger players like Ford and Reggie Spencer to work out in a college environment, and have a better understanding of Coen’s expectations. Spencer, will need to have added some muscle in order to be real effective down low. Since this is Jon Lee and Joel Smith’s final year, expect both players to finish their career here on a strong note. I’m looking for Smith to start the season on a roll, because he knows this is his team to carry with Lee out for the first six weeks. Northeastern could turn some heads in the weakened CAA, and if they can sneak out some upsets, come tournament time the Huskies could be Tourney bound.
- Brandon Challener
Basketball, Fall Sports, Team Previews
Last year: 24-9 Overall (14-4 CAA) 3rd in the CAA, Lost to VCU in the CAA Tournament
What Happened: The Patriots had a very solid season finishing third overall in a competitive CAA conference. They were extremely hot towards the end of the season winning 11 times in a 12 game stretch before consecutive losses to Northeastern (OT) and VCU. Prior to those two consecutive losses, the Patriots were able to grab a win against the eventual CAA Champion, VCU, as part of that 12 game stretch.
- Ryan Pearson (F): George Mason will be without its dominant big man, forward Ryan Pearson. In his senior season Pearson averaged a team best in points per game (17.0), rebounds (8.2), steals per game (1.3), and minutes per game (30.7). Pearson was the focal point of the Patriots’ entire game plan during the 2011-2012 season. He contributed on both ends of the floor whether it was rebounding, getting steals or scoring. His stellar performance earned him CAA Player of the Year and an AP All-America Honorable Mention
- Mike Morrison (F): The Patriots also graduated starting forward Mike Morrison. Morrison led the team in blocks, finishing with 64 on the season ranking him second in school history for blocks in a season. Morrison was second on the team in scoring averaging 9.8 PPG.
- Sherrod Wright (G): Sherrod Wright made a big impact in the backcourt of a team that relied heavily on its big men. Despite only starting in 14 of 32 games, Wright was able to finish the season third on the team in scoring (9.6 PPG) just .2 PPG behind senior forward Mike Morrison. Wright is a terrific shooter from behind the arc, averaging 40.4%, however he only shot 52 three-pointers on the season. Wright led the CAA in FT-percentage connecting on 85.9% of his attempts.
- Vertail Vaughns (G): Vertail Vaughns started every game in the 2011-2012 season for George Mason. He finished fourth on the team in scoring averaging 8.8 PPG. He led the team with 42 three pointers on 35.6% shooting.
- Bryon Allen (G): Allen started all but two games last season for the Patriots. Allen ranked fifth in scoring on the team averaging 7.5 PPG. Allen led George Mason in assists with 3.7 APG, which also ranked him fifth in the conference.
Despite losing its best two players in Morrison and Pearson, George Mason should be able to compete for the CAA Title in a weakened conference. This team is extremely young without a single senior on its entire roster. This lack of experience will certainly hinder this team at times. There will be a lot of pressure immediately thrust on to returning guards Sherrod Wright, Vertail Vaughns and Bryon Allen. All three of these players contributed to a successful team last season however the team was centered on its terrific frontcourt of Morrison and Pearson. The Patriots have a massive hole at the forward position that must be filled, but if their returning guards can pick up the slack expect this team to be competing for the CAA Title.
- David Kroopnick
Basketball, Team Previews
Last Year: 22-14 (13-5 CAA) 4th in the CAA, Lost to Drexel in the semifinals of the CAA tournament, Lost to Mercer in the quarterfinals of the CIT after losing Kent Bazemore when he was arrested.
What Happened: Old Dominion started its season against a strong non-conference schedule culminating in hard-fought losses to Kentucky and Missouri. However, they were unable to parlay the tough play into a real resume-building win, only overtaking a mediocre USF in Connecticut. However, they turned things around by midseason after winning eight of nine in CAA play. Their fourth place finish was guaranteed by the fact that they never were able to beat the top three of Drexel, George Mason and VCU, home or away.
- Kent Bazemore (G/F): The go-to guy for Taylor’s Monarchs last year. When he got hot, Bazemore was one of the premier scorers in the CAA. Not to be outdone, his work on the defensive end was what caught the Gold State Warriors attention in the Summer League as he recently signed a two-year deal. His work was noticed in the NCAA as well where he received the 2011 Lefty Driesell National Defensive Player of the Year award for his hard work and antagonizing defensive play. His loss will be irreplaceable to Old Dominion. However, all the accolades and success were overshadowed by his arrest during the CIT quarterfinals for a DUI he committed last summer.
- Chris Cooper (F): Cooper played a great 1B player for this Monarch’s team. A monster down low, he was one of a few group to average a double-double with 11.3 points per game and 10.7 rebounds per game collectively. His presence was highlighted when he grabbed his home arena’s, the Ted, record 22 rebounds against James Madison. Old Dominion will be hard pressed to replace his presence in the post.
- Trian Iliadis: (G): This promising veteran seemed to be finally primed to put together a fantastic season for Old Dominion. Unfortunately, his senior season was cut short in February when he tore his ACL. He had developed into a guard that helped do everything from dishing out dimes, finishing third on the team, to picking the other teams’ pockets; he finished with the second most steals on the team. While he never really took over games, but was a constant threat on the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
- Nick Wright (F): This leader is on track to be co-captain with his other senior, and has adapted the frantic pre-season workouts of a man that knows it’s his final season. Most importantly, he’ll have to get it together off the court after he was suspended for the first three games. On the court, he’s going to have to develop into a continual threat if ODU wants to compete with the top teams. Wright put together some great stretches, highlighted by an early season run of four double-digit point games but was plagued with stretches of ineffectiveness.
- DeShawn Painter (F): Recently transferred from NC State. He was considered by some to be the Wolfpack’s best reserve. The NCAA cleared him, so that he did not have to sit out a year, after a heartfelt decision to return closer to home in order to be near his ailing grandmother. Working with Wright, the two have dedicated themselves to mentoring the young team into one that will work hard to continue the Old Dominion success the school has come to expect. In order to complete that goal, he’ll have to improve after averaging 6.2 ppg and 4.3 rpg off he bench.
It’s hard to ever count a Blaine Taylor coached team out. But given the fact that the Monarchs cannot win the CAA conference due to the impending move to Conference USA, it is hard to imagine them staying focused if they don’t perform in their early-season nonconference games. If they do underperform, they might meander to a finish in the middle of the pack. Instead of concentrating on the team, Taylor might instead let the upperclassmen begin to work on their profiles out of college and allow the coach time to experiment with his young team. However, if they surprise and win some of those high profile out-of-conference games we could see a very focused and committed team that surprises in the CAA.
Basketball, Team Previews