Men’s Basketball Jackhammers JMU

By Michael Petillo

BOSTON — The Northeastern Huskies defended home court on Thursday night, defeating James Madison 77–57 to secure a first-round bye in next week’s CAA tournament. Graduate transfer Guilien Smith led the Huskies with 20 points and Shaquille Walters dropped in 15 points to go along with six assists.

Northeastern (15–14, 9–8 CAA) jumped out to an early lead thanks to three early three-pointers by Smith and used a balanced scoring effort to stretch the advantage to 20. The second half was more even, but JMU never mounted a significant run.

The contributions of Smith and Walters were particularly valuable to due to the absence of starting point guard Tyson Walker, who is day-to-day after injuring his shoulder during Saturday’s game against Drexel. In his stead, Smith stepped into the starting lineup and played a season-high 36 minutes, nailing five threes and playing his signature lockdown defense.

“It felt great to get that first one to go and from there I was just feeling it,” Smith said.

Walters assumed most of the ballhandling duties with Walker sidelined. He comfortably handled JMU’s pressure and got Northeastern into their halfcourt offense throughout the game. 

 “He had to be the primary ball-handler out there tonight,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen said of Walters. “He had really great court composure and was able to quarterback the offense.”

In addition to overcoming Walker’s injury, the play of Walters and Smith allowed Northeastern to secure a win despite an uncharacteristic off night for Jordan Roland. Normally the Huskies’ leading scorer, Roland managed only 11 points amid stifling JMU defense.

The win gives Northeastern a two-game winning streak heading into Sunday’s regular season finale against Towson, who knocked off CAA-leading Hofstra on Thursday night. Coverage begins at 3:45 PM EST with Milton Posner and Alex Bensley on the call.

Northeastern’s Convoluted Playoff Scenarios

By Milton Posner

Claustrophobics beware.

With one week remaining in the CAA’s men’s basketball regular season, just four games separate third and eight place, and just two games separate third and sixth.

The Northeastern Huskies sit in sixth place with an 8–8 record. There are four games on Thursday, four on Saturday, and one on Sunday (moved to accommodate the CBS Sports Network). Nine games to determine playoff seeding. All 10 teams make the CAA Tournament, but only the bottom four seeds play in the first round on Saturday, March 7. The top six teams receive a first-round bye. Because of the league’s higher-than-usual parity — and because the top six teams will play, at most, three games in three days instead of four games in four days — securing the bye is critical.

TeamCAA RecordGames Back
Hofstra Pride13–3
William & Mary Tribe12–51.5
Delaware Blue Hens10–63
Towson Tigers10–63
Charleston Cougars9–74
Northeastern Huskies8–85
Elon Phoenix7–106.5
Drexel Dragons6–107
UNCW Seahawks4–129
James Madison Dukes2–1411

The top and bottom of the standings have more or less hardened. James Madison can move from tenth to ninth if they win both of their games and UNCW loses both of theirs, but James Madison’s recent play and the quality of their opponents this week makes that highly unlikely. Same goes for UNCW, which will remain in ninth barring two UNCW wins and two Drexel losses.

At the top of the standings, Hofstra has clinched a share of the regular season title and can claim sole possession with a split or sweep this week, highly likely given that they play last-place James Madison. William & Mary owns the tiebreaker over Delaware, and therefore cannot fall lower than second.

But the other six teams are in flux. Dissecting every possible outcome and ripple effect would take hours, so ahead of Northeastern’s games against James Madison and Towson this week, here are the Huskies’ possible outcomes from worst to best.

If Northeastern loses both games . . .

They will drop to 8–10. An Elon win over William & Mary would bring Northeastern and Elon into a tie. Because the pair have split their season series, it would trigger the next tiebreaker, record against the top team in the CAA. Both teams have lost twice to Hofstra, so Elon’s season split against William & Mary would give them the sixth seed and a first-round bye.

This is the only way the Huskies could possibly fall out of the top six. It would require them to lose to a solid team in Towson and the CAA’s worst team in James Madison, and it would also require a middling Elon team to beat William & Mary. This outcome is possible, but highly unlikely.

If Northeastern wins one game . . .

They will finish at 9–9 and guarantee a first-round bye regardless of which game they win. If Charleston loses both its games — unlikely but not impossible given their current four-game losing streak — the Huskies will vault over them for fifth place due to their season sweep of the Cougars. If Charleston win one or both of their games, the Huskies will finish sixth.

If Northeastern wins both games . . .

They will finish at 10–8 and guarantee a first-round bye. They finish fifth unless Charleston wins both of its games. If Towson loses to Hofstra on Thursday, Northeastern and Towson will finish with the same record, and Northeastern holds the season series tiebreaker.

Thus, a 2–0 record this week could put Northeastern anywhere between fourth and sixth. Rising from fifth to fourth helps with optics and bragging rights but is strategically and competitively useless because the fourth and fifth seeds play each other in the quarterfinal anyway.

***

Assuming the Huskies avoid the worst-case scenario and finish in the top six, they will face either Delaware, Charleston, or Towson. If this season’s games are any indication of how a CAA Tournament matchup will go, Northeastern would prefer Charleston, who they swept, over Delaware, who swept them. Northeastern is 1–0 against Towson, who they play on Sunday.

Two wins this week would also provide a massive momentum boost for the Huskies, who haven’t strung three wins together since the beginning of conference play.

The Huskies’ game against James Madison begins at 8 PM EST; WRBB’s live coverage from Matthews Arena begins about 15 minutes before tip-off.

Men’s Basketball Bests Drexel in Crucial Late-Season Matchup

By Milton Posner

PHILADELPHIA — The last time Northeastern faced Drexel, the Huskies tore the Dragons up in every way imaginable. The Huskies nailed nine of their 17 tries from beyond the arc as their balanced attack carried them to a 85–52 victory.

Northeastern played seven games between then and Saturday afternoon’s rematch with Drexel. They posted a subpar showing from three-point land in every one of those games and, unsurprisingly for a perimeter-oriented team, their offense has suffered. Five of those seven games were losses. Their perimeter performance Saturday was among the worst of the year, with just three of the Huskies’ 15 long-range bombs settling into the bucket.

But Northeastern finally found a way around the distance deficiency. Led by Jordan Roland and Shaq Walters, the Huskies used ball movement and timely cuts to earn numerous layups and outlast the Dragons, 77–68.

The win is vital for the Huskies’ playoff hopes, as it guarantees they won’t fall below seventh place and — combined with Elon’s loss to Towson on Saturday — greatly boosts their chances of finishing in the top six. The top six seeds in next month’s CAA Tournament receive a first-round bye, essential given the league’s remarkable parity and the rigors of playing three games in three days (four in four days without the bye). If the Huskies split their games against JMU and Towson next week, they will secure the bye.

Saturday’s win was also essential in rebounding from Thursday’s 22-point loss against Delaware.

“You look up and down the league and everybody seems to have one of those games that’s an outlier,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen observed. “We understand it’s the next play mentality . . . [we] have a mature team that doesn’t have a hangover effect into the next game.”

The Huskies jumped out to an early lead, keeping the pressure on the Dragons’ defense despite Roland heading to the bench with two fouls. Walters and Tyson Walker keyed the Husky attack in his stead, with Guilien Smith and Max Boursiquot joining them in nailing multiple buckets.

Roland attempted just two three-pointers, his lowest-ever total in a Husky uniform. It was, more than anything else, a function of Drexel’s defense.

“We all know what Roland does; he’s an elite shot maker, and if he gets going from three life can be pretty hard,” Drexel head Zach Spiker noted. “You want to make him work to get the basketball, you want to make him work to catch it in the right spot. So when you limit him from three and he back cuts, if you don’t have proper rotation he’s going to have a clean look at the rim.”

Nearly every Husky shorter than 6’6” spent most of the game doing just that. Roland, who usually spends most of his time outside the paint, often faked a flare toward the perimeter and slashed back toward the basket, receiving passes and displaying impressive touch and body control to lay it in over larger defenders. Shaq Walters finished a number of buckets inside en route to 16 points, while Boursiquot and Bolden Brace added 10 apiece.

The cuts yielded easy buckets early on, bolstering the Huskies’ resolve and energy. While the Delaware game was marked by stagnant offense and little off-ball movement, Saturday’s contest featured constant activity. Every Husky who made a pass instantly looked for the next cut or screen. Whereas Delaware pressured the Huskies’ passing lanes, Northeastern forced Drexel to choose between covering the passing lanes or the cutters.

“They’re a pressure-and-deny team,” Coen explained, “and when you do that [backdoor cuts are] one of the things that’s available to you.”

Drexel kept things close throughout, trading the lead with Northeastern in the waning minutes of the first half and responding quickly when the Huskies built an 11-point lead after the intermission. Led by 20 points from sophomore guard Camren Wynter and 17 from junior forward James Butler, the Dragons matched the Huskies with 36 points in the paint.

The Dragons also took excellent care of the ball all game, committing just nine turnovers. While the Huskies turned the ball over frequently in the first half, they lost the ball just three times in the second, making it difficult for the Dragons to build momentum and cut into the lead.

But besides the cuts for layups, Northeastern won its biggest advantage at the foul line. While both teams committed just four fouls apiece in the first half, the second half grew more and more chippy as the clock wound down. Northeastern’s 10 fouls were spread out across the half, and were therefore less destructive than Drexel’s concentrated 14. The Dragons shot just six free throws in the second half, while the Huskies shot 20 and made 18 of them. Roland and Brace both went six-for-seven, with Boursiquot and Walters cashing in multiple times as well. Though the Huskies made three fewer field goals than the Dragons in the second half, they outscored them by seven.

The Huskies did have one scary moment or, more precisely, a scary moment in two parts. A few minutes into the half, Butler received a pass on the low block with good position against Boursiquot. Walker rushed over from the weak side to help and reached in with his left hand trying to knock the ball away. When Butler raised the ball to avoid the steal, he caught Walker’s arm in the process, and the freshman point guard doubled over in pain.

Smith subbed in for Walker, who went to the locker room. Walker rejoined the team on the bench a few minutes later, re-entered the game, and played for six minutes without registering a stat before attempting a three and immediately grabbing his arm again. He exited for good this time, though he remained on the bench with his teammates.

“He just kinda ran into Butler and that’s kinda like running into a brick wall,” Coen lamented. “He got him pretty good in the shoulder so when we get back to campus we’ll get it evaluated.”

We won’t speculate on the condition of Walker’s left shoulder, but any time he misses is a body blow to the Huskies, for whom every game now holds critical playoff importance. If Walker is sidelined, Guilien Smith is the most likely candidate to replace him in the starting lineup, as Smith has proven his defensive mettle against some of the conference’s best guards. It would be the first game of the season in which Walker does not start.

The Huskies (14–14, 8–8 CAA) will play their penultimate regular-season game on Thursday at home against last-place James Madison. Michael Petillo and Christian Skroce will call that one, with coverage beginning at 7:45 PM EST.

Men’s Basketball Decimated by Delaware

By Milton Posner

Those moments when you’re riding high, when you feel invincible, when you feel like you have all the momentum and confidence . . . those are the moments you’re most likely to be smashed over the head with a hefty sledgehammer.

Such was the story of the Northeastern Huskies on Thursday night. They entered Bob Carpenter Center for a showdown with the Delaware Blue Hens, the best CAA team in non-conference plat, winners of seven of their last eight.

But Northeastern had every reason to feel good about their chances. After several weeks of failed crunch-time execution leading to blown second-half leads and close losses, the Huskies won both of last week’s games. Their win against Charleston was particularly encouraging, as the Huskies held the Cougars’ excellent offense scoreless for 10 straight minutes. Grant Riller, the conference’s best pure scorer, eked out nine points in the first half and didn’t score at all in the second. The Huskies ran away with the game.

But Thursday night’s game would not build on that success. Instead it would revive last month’s demons, as Nate Darling and the Blue Hens hit the Huskies hard and quickly en route to a 70–48 win. It was the Huskies’ largest loss since their 34-point NCAA Tournament defeat against Kansas last March, and their worst loss in conference play in nearly three years.

When the Huskies and Blue Hens met at Matthews Arena four weeks ago, Nate Darling’s unconscious second-half shooting (28 points on 11 attempts) keyed a steady comeback, and the Blue Hens overcome a 16-point deficit to win by two. Darling, who averaged more points in his last six games than any player in the nation, went right back to torching the Huskies.

He began with a catch-and-shoot three from the corner on the first possession of the game. A stepback long two, another catch-and-shoot three, three free throws, and a semi-transition pull-up three later, the teams headed into the first media timeout. With less than five minutes in the books, Delaware had opened up a 16–4 lead, one that they would never relinquish. Fourteen of those points were Darling’s, and he had yet to miss. It was the second straight game in which Darling scored a dozen or more points before the first timeout.

Darling would hit another three after the break, then miss his next five shots to end the game with a surprisingly modest, yet still game-high 17 points. Though Northeastern contained him for the rest of the game, the wounds he inflicted could not be stitched up.

It didn’t help that Northeastern’s offense wasn’t clicking. A few wide-open misses notwithstanding, the Huskies had a tough time generating quality looks. The Blue Hens pressured ballhandlers, kept them out of the paint, and made routine passes difficult. The Huskies, normally one of the best in the conference at protecting the ball, spent the first chunk of the game discombobulated. Tyson Walker threw away a couple of passes, allowing Delaware to get out in transition and build their momentum.

By contrast, the Huskies saw a set, staunch defense every time down the floor. The long-armed Kevin Anderson was particularly effective in denying clean looks to Jordan Roland, who registered a decent overall game but never reached the flamethrower status Husky fans have become familiar with.

By the time eight minutes had been played, Darling’s scoring had been supplemented by a Justyn Mutts tip-in, two free throws from Anderson, and a pair of inside buckets from Colin Goss. Delaware led 24–4.

In a play that encapsulated the Huskies’ struggles, Greg Eboigbodin leaped, snatched a rebound, and went right up for a putback bucket. But the momentum from his jump carried him underneath the hoop, and his shot was blocked by the underside of the backboard.

Not that the backboard was the only one blocking Husky shots. Dylan Painter, the 6’10” transfer from Villanova, made his presence felt on the inside, blocking three shots in the first half. Northeastern guards who were already having a tough time driving into the paint were further dissuaded by Painter’s paint patrol.

The Huskies finally got something going around the middle of the first half, with Roland keying an 8–0 run. But the lead never dipped lower than 15 points, and Ryan Allen’s brilliant and-one dissolved any lingering Husky momentum.

Delaware led 43–21 at the half. Northeastern’s total was their lowest in any half this season, a product of an offense unable to generate clean looks consistently. Bolden Brace remained aggressive but made just one of his eight shots. Shaq Walters notched two buckets but often stagnated the offense by catching the ball, taking a couple of meandering dribbles in the midrange, then dishing the ball to a teammate. Neither Guilien Smith nor Jason Strong, both efficient shooters who played meaningful minutes off the bench, tried a shot all night. By contrast, all but one of the Blue Hens who saw first-half action had logged a bucket.

The second half changed absolutely nothing, as both teams scored 27 points. Darling and Roland, two of the CAA’s minutes leaders, played less than their averages once the score was a foregone conclusion. Vito Cubrilo, who had played just 16 minutes all season for the Huskies before Thursday, entered the game with almost 17 minutes remaining. His only shot attempt was a doomed drive against Goss, who pounded Cubrilo’s layup toward the floor. Cubrilo is the only Husky this season who has seen the court but not scored.

This is not to say that the second half lacked interesting moments. Delaware energized their home crowd with a few dunks from Allen and Mutts, the latter of whom has established himself as one of the conference’s best highlight generators.

But it was Jordan Roland who recorded the play of the night. After hitting a tricky standstill, no-rhythm three over Painter the possession before, Roland used a behind-the-back dribble and a massive stepback to separate himself from Kevin Anderson. When Anderson leaped forward to contest the shot, Roland leaned in, trying to draw a three-shot foul.

But Roland’s stepback had created too much room for that, so Anderson landed cleanly. Roland was left to jack up a twisting, flailing, double-clutch, left-handed prayer from several feet beyond the deepest part of the three-point line, a shot he tried only because he was banking on a foul call, and a shot that no right-minded player would attempt under normal circumstances.

With any other player you’d assume the shot was a fluke, but Roland hit a similar left-handed three against Hofstra two weeks ago.

Miraculous though the shot was, it was ultimately a splash in a disappointing bucket. No Husky besides Roland and Walker scored more than five points, and even those two combined for just 26 points on 27 shots. The team shot 37 percent from the floor and 29 percent from downtown. The Huskies scored just 48 points, their lowest total since a 47–44 win over Towson more than four years ago. They haven’t scored so little in a loss since December 2014 against Harvard, and haven’t done so in conference play in more than six years.

Fortunately for the Huskies (13–14, 7–8 CAA), Towson and Drexel both lost Thursday night, meaning the Huskies remain in sixth place, one game behind Towson and a half game ahead of Elon. With only three games left to play in a conference season marked by remarkable parity, securing a sixth seed or higher is imperative for the Huskies. The top six seeds get a first-round bye in the CAA Tournament, a major advantage given the small number of games and the fatigue of playing on consecutive nights. The Blue Hens (20–8, 10–5 CAA) remained in third place.

The Huskies will look to rebound Saturday afternoon against the Drexel Dragons, who they defeated last month by 33 points. Michael Petillo and Milton Posner will call that game, with coverage beginning at 1:45 PM EST.

Men’s Basketball Routs Cougars Behind Dominant Second Half

By Milton Posner

BOSTON — You’d be forgiven for thinking that disaster was in store.

As they entered Matthews Arena on Saturday morning, the Northeastern Huskies had lost five of their last seven contests, each one featuring a blown second-half lead, faltering defense, and lackluster rebounding.

Their Saturday afternoon opponent seemed perfectly primed to exploit those weakness. The Charleston Cougars rank third in the CAA in scoring. They boast quality three-point shooters and athletic big men, and senior guard Grant Riller routinely drives to the basket with impunity, torching defenses with hyper-efficient shooting around the basket.

Flash forward to the 13:46 mark of the second half. The Huskies lead by two. Neither team has led by more than five points, and the lead has changed hands nine times. The game appears destined for the same close finish as the teams’ meeting last month.

The Husky defense throttled the Cougars for the next ten minutes. Passes were picked off, balls stripped from careless dribblers, shots contested into misses and those same misses corralled. A combination of Jordan Roland jumpers and Max Boursiquot layups produced 17 points. The Cougars scored none, and that was all Northeastern needed. They built a 19-point lead en route to a statement 65–51 win.

This can’t be emphasized enough. Northeastern, a team that has struggled in the past month defending CAA cellar-dwellers, held the third-place Charleston Cougars scoreless for 10 straight minutes.

“We wanted to make sure we defended without fouling,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen said. “It’s really hard to keep them off the foul line, especially with Grant Riller, who’s great at attacking the basket and getting to the line. I thought one of the best things we did today was defending without fouling and finishing defensive possessions with rebounds. When we do that we’re able to get out in transition and cause some great offensive possessions.”

The Huskies’ defensive dominance was a team effort, but two players made outsized contributions. The first is Guilien Smith, who guarded Riller for most of the second half.

Riller is generally regarded as the favorite to win CAA Player of the Year. Smith held him scoreless for the entire second half. Riller finished with just nine points on 12 shots and turned the ball over three times.

“Riller’s a guy who can get hot early and really carry a team . . . he’s going to go down as one of the best all-time CAA players,” Coen noted. “Guilien was tremendous today. He was laser-locked in, did a great job on his defensive assignment, rebounded the ball, played with a physical presence, really gave us a chance . . . [He had] high energy and was there step-for-step with him and kept him in front, which is really difficult to do.”

The other spectacular Husky defender was Boursiquot, who is building as good a case as anyone for Defensive Player of the Year. Boursiquot held his ground in the post all game against Charleston forwards Sam Miller, Jaylen McManus, and Osinachi Smart, the smallest of whom still has two inches and 20 pounds on Boursiquot.

“I pride myself on defense and seeing guys defend just gives me more and more energy to keep defending,” the redshirt junior explained. “Seeing other guys do it, it’s a beautiful thing to see.”

Charleston lapsed into inefficient isolation basketball. Weak-side movement ground to a halt as players took turns trying to create for themselves and failed under strong on-ball pressure from Husky guards. Northeastern, just as Coen emphasized, defended without fouling, holding Charleston to a season-low 51 points without putting them in the bonus in either half.

The Huskies, led by Boursiquot, turned their stops into offense. Coen considered Boursiquot’s effort — six rebounds and a career-high 18 points — to be his best of the season.

“There’s always a difference in height or a difference in size when I play the five,” Boursiquot explained. “So there’s always a quickness advantage. I was more aggressive today; I think I exploited that . . . I got a couple drop-off passes for dunks which gave us energy and a good boost.”

Tyson Walker posted an active 11 points in what Coen called perhaps his “best game in a while.”

Jordan Roland added 17 points and five rebounds. Though he never found the range from downtown, he helped the Husky offense with a number of shot-creating passes and preserved Northeastern’s movement and spacing.

Bolden Brace, who has arguably slowed the offense at times this year with hesitant play, was as aggressive as he’s been all season. He sought driving lanes, broke down the Cougar defense, and logged 13 points, mostly on layups. He also followed up a 14-rebound performance against UNCW on Thursday with an eight-board afternoon on Saturday, helping the Huskies best the Cougars on the offensive and defensive glass. He was visibly and atypically fired up, screaming “LET’S GO!” on his way to the huddle after a Husky run forced Charleston head coach Earl Grant to call timeout.

“He’s an x-factor for us,” Coen said. “When he rebounds the ball and pushes the tempo, it makes it easy for other guys to get easy baskets.”

The sum of those efforts led to what Coen called, as far all all-around play was concerned, “our best half of the year.”

The win marked a milestone for Coen, as he passed former Drexel head coach Bruiser Flint in career conference wins. Coen’s 159 wins are second only to Jim Larrañaga’s 183. But in the post-game press conference Coen was in an altogether different headspace, one that reminds us of the power of sports to connect people.

“In the short term, we’re all about trying to win basketball games,” he said. “In the long term, we’re trying to create an environment where we create unbreakable bonds between teammates, coaches, staff, relationships that last a lifetime. We’re very fortunate to do what we do. I’ve been blessed with some great coaches in my life that influenced me and have taken time away from their families to help me fall in love with the game and be a better person.”

He then explained that Larry Kollath, a teammate of his from Hamilton College in the 1980s, had recently succumbed to cancer. Kollath’s funeral service was scheduled to begin at 2 PM on Saturday in Asheville, North Carolina, just as Northeastern was putting the finishing touches on its win.

“There’s about 40 Hamilton guys that are down there celebrating his life,” Coen said. “Larry Kollath was a college All-American, but he was an All-Universe human being. Great friend, and I love him, and I’ll miss him.

“I shared with the team before [the game] that it’s my hope and goal as a coach to create an environment and a bond that someday, when adversity hits their lives, their teammates are there by their side.”

Men’s Basketball Subdues Seahawks, Summarily Snapping Subpar Skid

By Michael Petillo

BOSTON —  Coming off a tough two-week stretch in which they lost four straight games, Northeastern returned to Matthews Arena on Thursday and picked up a much needed win, defeating UNCW 71–63. The Huskies held the Seahawks to just 24 first half points and Jordan Roland poured in 27 on the night to lead the Huskies.

Northeastern burst out of the gates with a sense of urgency, holding UNCW scoreless for the first six-and-a-half minutes. That set the tone for a strong defensive showing in which Northeastern forced 11 first-half turnovers and led by 10 at the break.

The second half was more of the same for the first few minutes. Undersized forward Max Boursiquot brilliantly defended the Seahawk big men, using his active hands to create turnovers and easy buckets for the Huskies in transition. 

“Defense is something I try to bring every game; I think it’s my best attribute,” Boursiquot said. “I have a long wingspan and I try to set the tone for other guys. Size doesn’t really matter to me. I think I can guard one through five. I just have a dog mentality about it.”

Northeastern’s lead had stretched to 16 points before UNCW mounted their biggest run of the game. With 11:30 to play, freshman swingman Jake Boggs knocked down a triple, the first of five consecutive threes for the Seahawks. Guard Brian Tolefree contributed three of the five makes during that span. But Northeastern weathered the Seahawks’ hot stretch with sound offensive execution. The Husky lead never dipped below ten during the UNCW’s four-minute downtown deluge.

“I thought we had a good enough cushion there, but they came back and every team’s going to make a run at you,” head coach Bill Coen said. “You can’t take your foot off the gas and you have to play buzzer to buzzer.”

The win was doubly important for Northeastern (12–13, 6–7 CAA), as it snaps their losing skid and, combined with a Drexel loss to William and Mary, moves them back into sixth place in the CAA. The league’s top six teams earns a first-round bye in next month’s conference tournament.

The win also moved Coen into a tie with former Drexel coach Bruiser Flint for the second-most career CAA wins with 158 wins, an accomplishment Coen, true to form, understated.

“There are a lot of players that have come through this program that have won a lot of games,” he noted. “It’s been many years since I’ve scored a basket or grabbed a rebound . . . it’s about the student athletes and we’ve had some great guys in the program.”

Next up for Northeastern is a Saturday showdown with third-place Charleston. Milton Posner and Matt Neiser will call that game, with coverage beginning at 11:45 AM EST.

Second-Half Woes Sink Men’s Basketball Again

By Matt Neiser

HEMPSTEAD, NY — The Northeastern men’s basketball team came into Saturday afternoon’s game against Hofstra on a three-game losing streak, desperate for a win as William & Mary, Charleston, and Hofstra have begun to separate themselves at the top of the CAA.

Looking for revenge after Eli Pemberton’s last-second game-winner in their last matchup, the Huskies came rocketing out of the gate and built a sizable first-half lead. But Northeastern’s demons followed them to Hempstead, as they succumbed to yet another second-half comeback and lost 75–71.

The Huskies’ (11–13, 5–7 CAA) defense stifled the Pride (18–7, 9–3, CAA) early on, keying an 8–0 run to start the game and forcing a timeout from Hofstra head coach Joe Mihalich just two minutes in. Shaquille Walters started the game matched up with Pemberton, who dropped a team-high 24 points in the reverse fixture at Matthews earlier this season. Walters defended his assignment exceptionally, using his size and length to bother the 6’5” Pemberton, who is used to rising up over defenders for shots. Clearly affected by Walters, Pemberton missed his first five shots and seven of his first eight.

Likewise, freshman Tyson Walker’s defense on Desure Buie — Hofstra’s leading scorer this season — was a huge part of the Huskies’ early success. Buie clanked six shots to begin his afternoon and struggled throughout the game to create separation from Walker.

While Walters and Walker kept things in check defensively, Jordan Roland kept it rolling on the offensive end. The redshirt senior poured in 19 efficient first-half points, going seven-for-12 from the field while knocking down a trio of triples. Fellow senior Bolden Brace knocked down six free throws en route to eight points of his own in the first 20 minutes. 

Despite the great individual efforts in the first half, a Buie buzzer-beating jumper cut Northeastern’s lead to 10 heading into the break. With Hofstra’s league-best offense looking to break free and the Huskies’ penchant for letting teams back into games, the second half was bound to entertain.

And entertain it did. Well, if you’re a Pride fan at least.

With Max Boursiquot committing three fouls in the first half, Husky head coach Bill Coen went to Jason Strong to start the second half. Equal to the task, the redshirt sophomore compiled a quick six points over the first 3:14 of the frame — the only Husky to score in that span. 

“Jason’s got some ability . . . he played with some energy today. We needed it,” Coen said. “I thought he made some really nice plays for us.”

His last basket of the stretch put the Huskies up 46–32, and they looked to be in the driver’s seat.

From then on, those pesky demons reared their ugly heads once again. From the 18:24 mark to 10:23, Northeastern was whistled for 10 fouls to Hofstra’s one. When the dust settled, Roland and Boursiquot each had four fouls, while Walker and Strong sat at three apiece. The free throws awarded from those fouls helped the Pride rip off a 21–6 run over the next seven minutes after Strong’s bucket, capped off by a Jaylen Ray three-pointer to give Hofstra their first lead of the game at 53–52 with just over nine minutes to play.

Roland briefly regained the lead for the Huskies with a jumper of his own, but Buie responded with a pair of swagger-filled triples and a couple of free throws to push the Hofstra lead back to seven points. Try as they might, Northeastern just couldn’t find the juice to claw their way back. 

Strong drilled a clutch three-pointer with 33 seconds left to cut the deficit to three.

After Ray went one-for-two at the charity stripe, Roland missed a trey on the other end. Guilien Smith came up with an offensive rebound off the miss, and the ball found its way back to Roland. The Huskies’ star proceeded to hit one of the most ridiculous shots you’ll ever see — an off-balance, left-handed, Hail Mary of a prayer. Because it’s Jordan Roland, it of course swished right through.

Now in a one-point game, the Huskies tried their best to play the foul game. But six straight made free throws from Buie and Ray held the Huskies at bay, as Northeastern fell to the Pride for their fourth straight loss and fifth in six games.

“I don’t know if I have a message [to the team]. You’ve gotta play winning basketball. Somebody’s gotta make a winning play,” Coen lamented. “A defensive stop, a rebound, a shot . . . obviously we’re not finding a way to win, we’re finding a way to lose.”

Roland finished with a game-high 32 points while pulling down five rebounds. Strong, with 14, was the only other Husky in double-digits. Walters chipped in nine points, nine boards, and four assists of his own, while Brace contributed eight, eight, and three. Ray and Buie ended with 22 points apiece to pace the Pride, while Pemberton added 12.

Northeastern will look to break out of their funk on Thursday, when UNCW makes its way to Matthews Arena. WRBB will provide live coverage, starting with pregame analysis at 6:45 p.m.

Men’s Basketball Loses Third Straight, Drops Below .500

By Milton Posner and Adam Doucette

ELON, North Carolina — The last name the Northeastern Huskies visited the Elon Phoenix, dominant overtime play gave the Huskies an 11-point win and moved them to 2–2 in CAA play.

That was January 10, 2019. It was also the last time the Huskies would possess a losing conference record. Until Saturday.

The Huskies entered the Schar Center having lost their last two and three of their last four. In a game that, at least for standings and momentum purposes, was a must-win, the Huskies faltered down the stretch and let Elon slip past, 74–69. Northeastern is now 11–12 and 5–6 in conference play. They are alone in seventh place.

Elon entered the game shooting more threes than any other CAA team, but averaging only 33 percent on those attempts. They shot plenty of threes on Saturday, but unfortunately for Northeastern they made 53 percent of them, including six makes on eight attempts in the first half. Unlike Thursday against William & Mary, the Huskies struggled to close out the three-point line, giving Elon a number of great looks. Freshman guard Hunter McIntosh’s 12 first-half points led his team to a 36–30 halftime lead. (McIntosh finished with 24 points and missed just one shot all game.)

Elon also came up big on defense. From the beginning, Northeastern guard Jordan Roland struggled to find his rhythm and didn’t score until the three-minute mark of the first half. He finished with 19 points but made just four of his 16 shots. Elon head coach Mike Schrage credited the 6’6” McIntosh whose “positional length” allowed him to tightly contest Roland’s shots.

“The job we did on Jordan Roland and Tyson Walker — big difference in the game,” Schrage noted. “Our guards were better today.”

Northeastern coach Bill Coen seemed to agree, saying of Roland, “He’s got to be aggressive, he’s got to be our leader, no one’s denying that. But I think everybody in the gym knows that at the end of the game he’s going to get it. So he’s got to use that to his advantage and maybe create easy baskets for his teammates . . . He’s a little bit frustrated right now because he can’t get quality looks.”

Elon also stifled the Northeastern offense by neutralizing its screening actions. When the teams met last month, Northeastern did an excellent job making contact on its screens, getting Elon into the habit of switching them. Elon refused to switch this time, double teaming the ballhandler — often Roland — to deny a shot or pass.

“If you’re coming off the screen with the sole intent to score, you’re gonna miss the window when that guy’s open,” Coen said. He also agreed that the Huskies need “better spacing on offense and better play and player movement.”

“The ball’s sticking right now,” he noted. “We’re dribbling the ball too much and not passing and cutting enough. When you hold the ball . . . the defense loads up on all the good players and you end up not getting as good a shot as you would like.”

One of the bright spots for Northeastern was Shaquille Walters, who kicked off Northeastern’s scoring with an and-one layup and stayed aggressive throughout the first half. He notched nine points on five shots to lead the team at halftime.

Though a massive Marcus Sheffield block on Tyson Walker — and Sheffield’s subsequent three-pointer — made it seem as though Elon would control the second half too, Northeastern reversed the tides. The Huskies pushed the ball inside, sometimes earning layups but more often earning free throws. After missing seven of their 11 tries from the line against William & Mary last night — a clip Coen cited as the largest reason for the loss — the Huskies made all 19 free throws tonight.

“We came into practice yesterday and made sure got our rhythm from the line,” Coen said. “Free throws are about routine and confidence. We’re a good free-throw-shooting team.”

The Huskies’ impeccable foul shooting somewhat mitigated a subpar effort from the field, which saw them shoot 39 percent from the floor and 29 percent from beyond the arc. Northeastern also displayed active hands the entire game, forcing a season-high 14 steals and generating 26 points off turnovers.

“We were trying to fit really close passes,” Schrage explained. “They ramped up their pressure even more . . . Pick six turnovers are the worst and we gave up too many of those. That’s where the lead swung in their direction really quickly.”

With 4:26 to go in the game, Northeastern had outscored Elon by 14 points in the second half, led by eight, and appeared to have the game in hand. But Sheffield, Elon’s top scorer this year, scored 14 points to power an 18–5 run. He hit big shot after big shot, none more important than the huge three pointer he nailed with 1:25 left to go that gave Elon a two-point lead. Sheffield ended the night with 28 points on 10–15 shooting including three-for-six from three-point land. Elon made five of its last six shots; Northeastern made one of its last 10.

“He can get his shot any time,” Schrage said of Sheffield. “You could always use or two guys like that.”

“It felt like their either scored a bucket or got fouled,” Coen said. “We didn’t get stops in the last three minutes . . . Our defense let us down today.”

When the Huskies first started dropping conference games by close margins, the problem wasn’t exclusively their execution down the stretch. Against William & Mary it could be Roland’s seven points, against Hofstra it could be the Huskies’ innumerable first-half turnovers, and against UNCW it could be the sudden surge of energy interim head coach Rob Burke brought to his squad.

But after another second-half lead fizzled out, this time against an eighth-place team that had won just two games since Christmas, it has become clear that crunch time failings are this team’s most glaring weakness.

The Huskies will have a week off before their matchup with the tied-for-first Hofstra Pride. Michael Petillo and Matt Neiser will call that game, with coverage beginning at 3:45 PM EST on February 8.

Men’s Basketball and The Knight That Won’t End

By Milton Posner

WILLIAMSBURG, Virginia — The green-and-gold-clad players leapt joyfully on the sidelines. The similarly dressed fans erupted into deafening cheers. And the scoreboard, for the final time on a frantic Thursday evening, changed its mind.

But Northeastern fans who were paying attention — and perhaps even a few who weren’t — would have noticed something peculiar. Hadn’t this happened before? Hadn’t Nathan Knight, William & Mary’s uber-talented, hyper-versatile senior big man, done this to them in almost exactly the same way about four weeks before?

For anyone who thought that the eerie similarities between Northeastern’s games against William & Mary and Hofstra reeked of basketball screenwriters too lazy to conjure up an alternate script, the Tribe’s 59–58 win over the Huskies re-opened every recently healed wound.

Once again, a superhuman defensive effort by Max Boursiquot was wasted. Though Knight and fellow big man Andy Van Vliet combined for 23 rebounds, they mustered just 24 points on seven-for-23 shooting.

“Huge credit to Max,” Knight said. “He’s deceptively strong . . . a lot stronger than he appears on paper. His physicality and his quickness, being the size of a guard with the strength of a big, really grants him some upside on the defensive end playing against guys like me who play a little more inside out.

“He’s 212 [pounds], I’m 250, so I try to take advantage of that size by getting the ball as close as I can to the basket. He did a tremendous job today of pressuring our bigs, making us catch the ball where we didn’t want it when there were plays drawn up for us to get on the block.”

But once again, after being locked down by Boursiquot in the first half, Knight came alive in the second, this time logging 13 points on four-of-five shooting from the field and five-of-six from the line.

“The biggest thing was our guards making themselves available when we got the ball in the post,” Knight said of the second-half surge. “Backdoor cuts, getting into open spots for us to see them and get them the ball. Also just being a little more aggressive when we got the ball in the post.

“Being aggressive like that puts a lot of pressure on the defense. It makes them decide: are they going to come help or are they going to stay on the shooters? Applying that kind of pressure was probably the biggest change from the first to the second half, when we weren’t as aggressive getting to the rim, settling for long shots, jump hooks 15 feet away from the basket. But the biggest thing for us was getting into their bodies and making them decide. And it paid off for us.”

And once again, Knight broke Husky hearts with a last-second layup. The Tribe placed Van Vliet and Miguel Ayesa, both excellent three-point shooters, in opposite corners, forcing Northeastern to respect their spacing.

“He gets the ball where he wants to get it and there’s not a whole lot we can do,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen remarked. “We thought it was coming to him, but I didn’t think it was going to be off the dribble. Max has a quickness advantage there, so I thought they’d post him and hunt a foul.”

But the Tribe had other plans, inbounding to Knight 75 feet from the rim with 6.8 seconds to go. Boursiquot stayed attached to Knight until the big man reached the lane, at which point Boursiquot probably figured there was nothing left that he could do and that his teammates would pressure Knight. But Bolden Brace stepped out of Knight’s way, Shaq Walters’ rotation was too little too late, and the Huskies fell short when (once again) a halfcourt heave from Tyson Walker didn’t fall.

“It was drawn up for me to go make something happen,” Knight said of the play. “Seven seconds is a long time in the grand scheme of things. They’re obviously not going to let you walk the ball up the court and you don’t want to launch the ball down the court, so someone has to go get it. We were expecting some pressure, so the best way to get the ball in my hands was to go get it.”

But while the lasting image of Thursday’s game will be Knight’s game-winner and the striking resemblance it bears to his last game-winner against the Huskies, it would be disingenuous to pretend that Knight’s layup is the reason the Huskies lost. After all, Northeastern limited star center Andy Van Vliet to a meager seven points on two-for-11 shooting. They plugged passing lanes, pressured ballhandlers, and denied post players the chance to work in open space. The Tribe shot just 37 percent from the field and a pathetic 12 percent from beyond the three-point arc; Northeastern outshot them handily in both categories while limiting the CAA’s best offensive team to one of its lowest outputs of the year. So how did they lose?

“It wasn’t a defensive loss,” Bill Coen stated flatly. “It was a free throw loss.”

Free throws, as Coen pointed out, are arguably the last way Northeastern would expect to lose. Entering Thursday, the Huskies boasted a free-throw percentage of about 80 percent, the best mark in the CAA and the third-best mark in the country. Yet the Huskies made just four of their 11 free-throw attempts in the second half.

The free throw tallies were a function of accuracy but also of each team’s volume of fouls. While the Tribe certainly dealt with foul trouble — Bryce Barnes, Knight, and Van Vliet all picked up four fouls, with Knight missing minutes he otherwise wouldn’t have — the bug bit Northeastern hardest.

Greg Eboigbodin fouled out with nine minutes still to play. Brace picked up his fourth foul with 18 minutes to go. Boursiquot was whistled for his fourth down the stretch. Shaq Walters played most of the second half with three. Because the fouls were so concentrated in the Husky frontcourt — none of the guards had more than one — they further wounded the Huskies. Northeastern was trying to contend with a surging Nathan Knight — inarguably the most powerful post force in the conference — without much minute-to-minute lineup consistency.

Jordan Roland’s performance also sheds light on the game’s momentum swings. Roland’s respectable stat line is the product of a high-octane first half (16 points on 10 attempts) and a near-invisible second half (two points on four attempts).

“There was no change schematically,” Knight said of his squad’s defense on Roland. “Huge credit to Luke Loewe — probably one of the best on-ball defenders I’ve ever seen in my life. It was him on top of a group of guys out there determined to stop him. Jordan Roland is a dynamic scorer, scores the ball in a bunch of ways. One of the biggest things for us was making him uncomfortable and having a crowded floor when he did get the ball in space. Make him get the ball out, make the secondary guys beat us.”

That said, Roland’s effort was not without larger meaning.

While the win kept William & Mary atop the conference standings with an 8–2 record (16–7 overall), the Huskies dropped to 5–5 (11–11 overall). With Delaware and Drexel not playing Thursday, the Huskies assumed sole possession of seventh place.

Some measures would indicate the Huskies are better than that. Their average margin (6.8 points) in conference play is still best in the CAA, and their five losses have come by a combined nine points (Thursday’s one-point loss follows four two-point losses). But even the admittedly small ten-game conference sample indicates that the Huskies are struggling to execute at the end of games, an issue they’ll need to resolve given the CAA’s preposterous parity this season.

“It’s frustrating to be this close,” Coen said. “We’ve been around the block here and there’s nobody in this league that we can’t compete with . . . it should have been more than a one-possession game.”

The Huskies will travel a couple hundred miles south for a Saturday tilt against the Elon Phoenix. Milton Posner and Adam Doucette will call that game, with coverage beginning at 3:45 PM EST.

CAA Men’s Basketball Has Gone Completely Insane

By Milton Posner

If you took a shot every time a CAA coach, player, or commentator said the word “parity,” you’d probably wake up the next morning with a raging hangover, an empty wallet, a lower-back butterfly tattoo, and no clue how you wound up two cities over.

It’s entirely justified. The Hofstra Pride, last year’s regular season champion, finished just one game ahead of the second-place Northeastern Huskies. The last-place UNCW Seahawks finished just one game below James Madison and Towson. The year before, Charleston and Northeastern tied for first, with four teams — Elon, Drexel, Delaware, and James Madison — tied for last.

This is the definition of parity: few outliers. In any given year, a handful of the CAA’s ten teams have a legitimate chance at the conference championship and the automatic March Madness berth that comes with it.

The conclusion of Saturday’s games marked the halfway point of the conference season. Each team has played every other team once, with the distribution of home and away games as even as possible. A cursory glance shows the parity we’ve come to expect; three teams boast 6–3 records and three more boast 5–4 records.

But a deeper dive reveals something completely different. This is not just parity; this is insanity.

Whether by pure chance or the interference of a few rogue basketball gods looking for a laugh, the Colonial Athletic Association’s men’s basketball teams have spent the last month setting, then destroying, the expectations of fans and analysts. By way of a midseason roundup, I’ll try to make sense of the ongoing tornado, beginning with . . .

Game-Winners

Let’s define “game-winner” as a field goal made within the last 10 seconds that gives a team a lead they don’t relinquish. The six game-winners in CAA play have produced two storylines.

The first, and the less interesting of the two, is how often Hofstra is involved. Four of their nine games have been decided by game-winners, with the Pride winning twice and losing twice.

The second, more interesting storyline is the convergence of Northeastern and Delaware.

The Huskies began conference play with wins over Towson, James Madison, and Elon by a combined margin of 41 points. Delaware stalled, losing four of their first six CAA contests in a surprising turnaround for a team that won the most non-conference games of any CAA squad. But game-winners would quickly swing each team’s fortunes.

For Northeastern, last-second shots proved fatal. The first one, a forced layup from William & Mary star Nathan Knight on January 4, handed the Huskies their first conference loss.

Five days later, Hofstra star Eli Pemberton decided that one Husky loss on a last-second lefty layup wasn’t enough, and did it to them again. This time a national television audience got to see it.

The following week, Delaware, by this point trending toward the conference cellar, found themselves in a dogfight with bottom-tier Elon. Ryan Allen drove, drew three defenders, and found infrequent three-point shooter Jacob Cushing atop the arc for the decider.

One game later, Kevin Anderson launched himself to the top of SportsCenter’s nightly top 10 when he fielded an inbounds pass, swerved around reigning Defensive Player of the Year Desure Buie, and drove the length of the court for the layup that gave his team a win. Tyus Edney was probably smiling somewhere.

So when the two teams met on Saturday, and when Delaware steadily closed the lead in the second half, you’d be forgiven for assuming a dramatic ending was in store. Would Delaware’s third consecutive game-winner hand Northeastern their third last-second loss in as many weeks? Would Northeastern flip the script on the Blue Hens (and the rest of the CAA) with their own season-defining moment?

Neither. Delaware finally tied the game at 67 with 3:55 remaining. Of the 16 points scored between then and the final buzzer, 10 came from the free-throw line. The last field goal splashed through with 1:53 still left on the clock. When Tyson Walker tried to drive for a game-tying basket with five seconds left, he stumbled and coughed up the ball. The final score — 76–74 in Delaware’s favor — was the product of a sluggish march toward an uncertain conclusion. A game ripe for fireworks fizzled instead.

It’s unreasonable to expect juicy, coherent, fulfilling storylines after just nine conference games. But these squads had polar opposite game-winner storylines. The way the first 35 minutes of Saturday’s game played out inspired hope that a dramatic finish was in order. When such a finish failed to materialize, it was easy to wonder whether the storyline was over. Or, just maybe, the narrative letdown was in itself a story.

But those who require a different sort of absurdity are in luck because . . .

The CAA’s Blowouts Make No Sense

A blowout is defined here as a game decided by a margin of 20 or more points. There were five blowouts in the first half of CAA play.

As with the game-winners, there are two we will ignore because they are of incidental concern. This is primarily because both games — a 27-point Hofstra win on January 4 and a 22-point Drexel win on January 16 — came against the Elon Phoenix, who sit in ninth place and haven’t finished a season higher than seventh place in three years. Especially given that they graduated most of their key players last year, it is understandable that stronger teams can run up the score on them. It is the other three blowouts that make no sense.

On January 2, William & Mary stormed into Hofstra’s house and knocked off the reigning regular-season champions 88–61. Eight Tribe players scored at least six points, and their five starters nailed 25 of their 31 shots. The Tribe held the guard-heavy Pride to a meager four-for-25 from beyond the arc.

The smashing of Hofstra looked to be the crowning jewel in what became a six-game winning streak. But this is the CAA, where all observations are eventually proven wrong.

On January 18, the undefeated Tribe were flattened by the Drexel Dragons 84–57. Zach Walton, Camren Wynter, and James Butler combined for 60 efficient points. Drexel shot the ball well inside and out and limited Tribe center Andy Van Vliet on both ends. It was Drexel’s third straight win, pushing them to 5–2 in conference play and putting everyone on notice.

And . . . yeah you see where this is going. Five days later Northeastern steamrolled Drexel off the floor 85–52, the largest margin of victory in CAA play this year. Even more remarkable was that Northeastern built a 32-point lead by halftime, responding to Drexel’s first bucket with 18 unanswered points and flooring the gas pedal for the rest of the half. Jordan Roland and Bolden Brace turned in stellar performances on both sides of the ball, and seven other Huskies scored at least five points.

Then Northeastern turned around and lost their next game.

In a league with remarkable parity, you wouldn’t expect consistent, overwhelming dominance from one or two teams. But what do you make of swings this large? What do you make of it when the literally cartoonish stereotype of one fish eating another fish, then being eaten by a third larger fish comes to pass on the hardwood?

Even if the blowout train stops here, the abject craziness of the conference slate still begs the question . . .

Who is Actually the Title Favorite?

The meaning of life and the existence of god might be easier questions to answer than this one, so I’ll present the best case I can for each team, starting from last place and working my way up.

James Madison: The Dukes are 1–8 in non-conference play and have the worst average margin of victory (–8.3) of any CAA team. That said, they had the third-best non-conference record and are extremely young, with their top six scorers comprising three juniors, a sophomore, and two freshman who are still developing. Their precipitous plunge in the last month is one of the biggest surprises of the year, and it isn’t unreasonable to think they can rediscover their form in time for the CAA Tournament.

Elon: My mom always taught me that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

UNCW: Two weeks ago, the Seahawks’ entry would be the same as Elon’s. They had just lost to Elon by 17 — Elon’s first conference win marked UNCW’s 11th straight loss — and remained the last winless squad in the CAA.

Two days later, UNCW fired head coach C.B. McGrath, who managed just 26 wins in two-and-a-half years at the helm. The promotion of assistant coach Rob Burke to interim head coach didn’t cause much buzz around the league. Why should it? It was mid-January and the Seahawks hadn’t won since before Thanksgiving. Grad transfer Carter Skaggs and point guard of the future Kai Toews had left the program, and junior guard Jay Estimé was done for the year after knee surgery.

But Burke and the Seahawks were about to put everyone on notice. After battling Hofstra to a two-point loss, they faced off against Northeastern on January 18. Burke’s sideline demeanor was just as captivating as the action on the court. His energy was limitless; he jumped around and clapped and encouraged his players. He turned to the crowd, encouraging them to get loud. At one point he started doing jumping jacks. When Shykeim Philips nailed a shot to end the first half, Burke slammed his hand on the scorer’s table.

His energy somehow increased during his team’s second-half comeback. Sometimes he displayed a defensive stance, sometimes he got down on one knee and pounded the floor with his open hand. Trask Coliseum was electric, with fans and players alike feeding off Burke’s energy. By game’s end, he was sweating as much as any of his players.

The Seahawks are still just 2–7 in conference play, and their seven straight losses might keep them from a top seeding even if they run the table. But in three games since Burke took over — against the preseason poll’s top three teams, mind you — they’ve had a two-point loss and two two-point wins. They can’t be ignored any longer.

Northeastern: Spots two through seven on this list are all within one game of each other, so that the CAA’s tiebreakers put Northeastern seventh is hardly a matter of concern. But what’s curious about the Huskies’ 5–4 record is that their average margin of victory (7.7) easily outstrips every other CAA team.

Three of Northeastern’s five wins came by 16 or more points; when they win, they win convincingly. But all four of their losses have come by two points. It’s disingenuous to say that the Huskies are therefore eight points away from a 9–0 record, but their loss margins indicate that their win–loss record could be just as misleading.

Even if forward Tomas Murphy misses the rest of the season — something head coach Bill Coen seems increasingly concerned about — the Huskies still have enough dynamic scoring to contend for the CAA title. There isn’t a player in the CAA who can match the shot-making of an on-fire Jordan Roland, and freshman point guard Tyson Walker has shown flashes of stardom and established himself as the favorite for CAA Rookie of the Year. Throw in Max Boursiquot’s versatile defense, and the defending conference champions are in decent position to do just that.

Drexel: The Dragons arguably have the worst chances of any team outside the bottom tier, but their 27-point win against William & Mary and the emergence of Camren Wynter as a bona fide star mean that they can’t be completely written off. The continued development of James Butler and Zach Walton gives Wynter some backup, though all three need to click for the Dragons to have a shot at beating top teams.

Delaware: It’s tough to say where the Blue Hens stand now. They began the season with nine straight wins, lost seven of their next ten, and have now won three straight games by a combined four points.

That said, they’re scary. None of their top five scorers are seniors and two are transfers, so their development and chemistry progression throughout the rest of conference play could make a difference come tournament time. Nate Darling is a flamethrower, dropping 28 second-half points on Saturday against a Northeastern team that had no answer for him. Kevin Anderson is shooting threes at an elite level in addition to his usual all-around contributions, and versatile forward Justyn Mutts’ play has bolstered the Blue Hens’ attack. Don’t be shocked if things pick up for them soon, especially as Villanova transfer Dylan Painter gets more comfortable in the rotation.

Towson: After losing their first three conference games, the Tigers reeled off six straight victories, all of them by seven or more points. The emergence of sophomore guard Allen Betrand as a backcourt force alongside Brian Fobbs has upped the Tigers’ attack, and, as is typical for a Pat Skerry team, they lead the league in scoring defense, field goal defense, and rebounding margin. If their offense can take another step forward in the next month, no team will feel comfortable against them.

Charleston: The Cougars won their first five, and though they have lost three out of four, only the William & Mary loss was by more than three points. That Grant Riller’s scoring volume hasn’t increased from its non-conference level masks the fact that his three-point shooting, long his biggest offensive weakness, has jumped from 26 percent in non-conference play to 44 percent in conference play. Throw in slightly increased offensive contributions from Brevin Galloway and Sam Miller, and the Cougars are as threatening as they’ve been all season.

Hofstra: Desure Buie has established himself as arguably the conference’s best two-way guard, and his shooting efficiency is on par with Jordan Roland’s. Isaac Kante’s numbers are inflated — unsurprising for a big man on a guard-heavy team — but his inside play has helped cover up the team’s size weakness. Tareq Coburn’s 45 percent mark from downtown in conference play has bolstered the Pride’s attack.

The Pride haven’t always looked great this year, but they’re still a threat. If second-leading scorer Eli Pemberton ever finds his shooting efficiency, watch out.

William & Mary: Though the Tribe have lost two of their last three, their white-hot start laves them as the only CAA squad with seven wins. Though some teams boast solid stretch fours, there are only two genuine centers in the CAA who can protect the rim and score from anywhere at an elite level. William & Mary has both of them.

Nathan Knight is playing his usual elite basketball, Andy Van Vliet is just as scary when he gets going, and Luke Loewe went from afterthought backup to elite perimeter marksman. Throw in Thornton Scott and Bryce Barnes and you have a balanced team on both sides of the ball. When they’re clicking, it’s hard to imagine another CAA team keeping pace. So . . .

Where Does This Leave Us?

What is left to do when parity becomes absurdity? How do we predict? How do we analyze? How do we set our expectations?

I’m just going to sit back, not take anyone’s predictions too seriously, and enjoy the ride. The biggest gift of all this madness is the gift of the unknown — just about any team can realistically beat any other team, in any place, by any margin. I want to see whether Rob Burke’s energy makes UNCW into a contender despite a talent deficiency. I want to see whether anyone can stifle William & Mary’s twin towers. I want to see whether Northeastern’s performance rises and falls with Roland — and Charleston’s with Riller — or whether their supporting casts will back up the stars.

There is no king in this conference. The throne is wide open. Let the crazy continue.