The NCAA’s Division I Council voted Wednesday to kick off the men’s and women’s college basketball seasons the day before Thanksgiving.
According to Associate Athletic Director Scott MacDonald, Northeastern will finalize its schedules after the NCAA Board of Directors approves the council’s proposal on September 22. The Colonial Athletic Association, which houses both Northeastern basketball squads, is continuing to evaluate what its season will look like.
The council seems to be counting on the timing of the start to help ensure safety. By November 25, roughly three-quarters of Division I schools will have either concluded their fall terms or will have moved instruction online. Northeastern concludes fall classes on December 2 and finals week on December 11.
However, if cases spike between now and November, the start date could be pushed back. The council did not offer regulations on COVID-related game-day protocols or testing, although Matt Norlander of CBS cited “speculation from stakeholders” that Division I sports will have access to more affordable testing by the time the season begins. Northeastern, which already has a large testing operation and a low positive test rate in a low-risk state, has a decent shot at remaining healthy.
Because the season is starting 15 days later than originally planned, the NCAA reduced the maximum number of games teams can schedule. Men’s basketball teams can play 24 regular season games and one multi-team event of up to three games, or 25 regular season games and a multi-team even of two games. Women’s basketball teams can play 23 regular-season games and a four-game event, or 25 regular season games and no event. To meet sponsorship requirements and be considered for NCAA championship selection, teams must play 13 games against Division I opponents and should play at least four non-conference games.
There will be a transition period from September 21 to October 13, in which teams can schedule up to 12 combined hours a week of strength and conditioning, sport-related meetings, and skill instruction, though skill instruction cannot take up more than eight of the 12 hours. Players must also have two days off per week.
Teams can begin full practices on October 14, six weeks before the season commences. They can conduct a maximum of 30 practices. Players can work out for up to 20 hours per week, though they cannot work out for more than four hours per day and must have one off day per week. Teams cannot play exhibitions or closed scrimmages before November 25, and though they can request to play games before then, the NCAA oversight committees have indicated they are unlikely to grant waivers.
Although the council did not make a long-term decision on recruiting, the dead period — during which coaches cannot visit recruits in person — has been extended to January 1.
Northeastern’s women’s basketball team went 13–16 (9–9 CAA) last year and secured the fifth seed in the CAA Tournament, which was canceled due to the pandemic. The men’s team went 17–16 (9–9 CAA), secured the sixth seed in the conference tournament, and defeated No. 3 Towson and No. 7 Elon before falling to No. 1 Hofstra in the final.
Hockey East announced Wednesday that it intends to play a league season with all member schools participating, though it acknowledged the need for real-time scheduling changes in light of pandemic developments. The news was first reported by Jimmy Connelly.
The priority will be completing the league season, although teams can play other games if they can schedule them. The conference also intends to hold its annual tournament as usual, with eight teams playing across two weekends. Per Connelly, play is likely to begin in mid-to-late November or later, and will include as many as 30 league games.
For Northeastern, the biggest non-conference question is whether the 69th Annual Beanpot Tournament — typically the highlight of the season and by far the biggest draw among the student body — will be played in February, as it has been every year since 1955. If the Hockey East season is in full swing by then, the tournament stands an excellent chance of being played. But apart from shifts in the state of the pandemic, the wild card could be Harvard, which — unlike Northeastern, Boston University, and Boston College — does not play in Hockey East and has already suspended all sports until January 1.
On July 17, Northeastern announced the suspension of fall sports, encompassing soccer volleyball, field hockey, and cross country, with the hope that those sports could commence in the spring. Teams can practice in the meantime in accordance with Northeastern, NCAA, and public guidelines.
The conference said that schedule details, including competition specifics and a start date, will be released later. It acknowledged the need to develop multiple balanced schedule models for both men and women to accommodate interruptions. Exactly whether or when those interruptions might occur is anyone’s guess, though it’s worth noting that Massachusetts, where seven of the 11 Hockey East schools are located, has seen the rate of new cases rise and fall in recent weeks, though it has generally trended lower.
The league cited its geography as an asset in creating flexible competition schedules while mitigating non-essential travel. Per Connelly, this entails limiting travel to day trips to prevent overnight hotel stays. Only teams travelling to Orono, Maine and Burlington, Vermont — as well as the Maine and Vermont teams anytime they travel — will stay overnight.
The conference did not specify whether fans will be permitted to attend games, though the experiences of professional sports league around the globe indicate that the games will likely to closed to spectators. Hockey East’s professed commitment to athlete safety — whether through workout and resocialization protocols or an NCAA-guideline-compliant return to play — also makes fan presence unlikely.
Northeastern’s men’s and women’s hockey squads both have success to build on from last season. The men went 18–13–3 (11–12–1 HEA), and though they faltered somewhat down the stretch, they provided the year’s most electric moment when Jordan Harris sniped home a double-overtime goal to seal the Huskies’ third-straight Beanpot championship.
The women (32–4–2, 24–3–0 HEAW) also won a Beanpot title on a double-overtime goal, but it ultimately amounted to just one special moment in a campaign chock full of outright dominance. Behind the offensive powerhouse of Alina Mueller and Chloe Aurard — plus the scintillating goalkeeping of Aerin Frankel — the Huskies seldom stumbled, frequently handing out lopsided clobberings and going more than a month between losses. They will return all but three players from a team that breezed to its third-straight Hockey East Championship, spent much of the season ranked third in the nation and, poised for a serious run at a national championship before the season shut down.
As the COVID-19 pandemic rages nationwide, Northeastern University announced on Friday afternoon that it is suspending fall sports.
The decision includes soccer, volleyball, field hockey, and cross country, with an emphasis on trying to play those sports in the spring. A decision on basketball, ice hockey, swimming, and track and field — which are considered winter sports — will be made later. Spring sports (baseball and rowing), which usually play out-of-season games in the fall, will not do so this year.
The school cited the need to ensure the health and safety of athletes and the campus community at large. Northeastern is holding in-person classes this fall and has announced evolving procedures — including housing and class changes to encourage distancing — aimed at preventing the virus from spreading on campus.
Northeastern’s statement acknowledged similar decisions by fellow Colonial Athletic Association schools and by other conferences. The CAA, which comprises ten schools spanning eight states from Massachusetts to South Carolina, suspended its football season, but left decisions on other sports up to its member institutions, acknowledging the schools’ need to rely on different local and state guidance.
Six CAA schools — Northeastern, Hofstra, Delaware, William & Mary, Towson, and Drexel — suspended fall sports. UNCW and Charleston will compete, while Elon and James Madison are monitoring conditions and have yet to make final decisions.
The decisions come a day after the NCAA asserted that pandemic conditions must improve before fall sports happen. The NCAA also released guidelines, including testing strategies, daily self-health checks, the use of face coverings, and physical distancing during and outside of athletics. Decisions on competition vary by conference, though two nearby conferences, the Atlantic 10 and Patriot League, have suspended fall sports.
Northeastern will honor all athletic scholarships for the 2020–21 academic year, and teams will work out during the fall in accordance with Northeastern, NCAA, and public health guidelines.
Today was supposed to be Commencement Day. Northeastern’s graduating class would have filed into their seats on the floor of TD Garden, then strolled onto the stage, shaken hands with the school’s infinitely memeable president, and received their diplomas as their families celebrated their years of hard work.
But with an ongoing pandemic it is foolish to gather in groups of 20, let alone 20,000. In light of the graduation cancellation and the station’s inability to say a proper goodbye, I want to acknowledge two WRBB Sports graduating seniors for what they’ve contributed to Northeastern and what they’ve meant to me.
Michael Petillo (right) was our sports director this year, the culmination of a four-year journey. At my first WRBB show, I was struck by his analysis. He weighed in on every topic so clearly and cleanly you’d be forgiven for thinking he’d written and revised his takes beforehand.
The year after, we did our first game together after a schedule juggle left us both in South Carolina for the Charleston Classic. I was just beginning to broadcast Northeastern basketball regularly, and I looked to Mike for an example of how to call the action and pace the broadcast. Again, he seldom stumbled.
But it was this past season I’ll remember most, the season when Mike took over the sports director job that had, the previous year, provided ample responsibility for two people. Leadership of our station relies not just on sports knowledge and broadcasting skill, but on the personality and positive attitude to attract new broadcasters and make them feel valued. Mike made it look easy.
If Mike was the tip of the spear, Matt Neiser was the Swiss army knife.
Neez (right) did everything for this station — hockey and basketball, broadcasting and writing, even photography when the mood struck him. He was a constant resource for new broadcasters, the first to inform us of breaking Northeastern sports news, and somehow found time to direct our finances this year.
My first real broadcasting experience with Neez was the Wilmington–Charleston trip last year. When a piece of faulty equipment left us without our usual setup in a deafening arena, we took turns shouting our play calls into our earbuds, then made frantic rounds the next day to electronics stores in both Carolinas desperately seeking a replacement. Thank god we found one.
Of the games I called with Neez, my favorite was the men’s basketball game against Holy Cross in November. The Crusaders weren’t a great squad and the Huskies had lost two in a row, so we weren’t expecting much.
But the Huskies decided they just weren’t in the mood to miss shots that night. Their 101–44 win, the largest in program history, was sealed well before halftime. Neez and I couldn’t stop yelling, laughing, celebrating the sheer ridiculousness of what we were seeing. On the commuter rail back to Boston, he helped me write a game story that still brings me fond memories of the evening when the Huskies demolished a decades-old record.
Anyone who heard Neez call a game would never think to question his passion. For anyone who hasn’t heard him, his goodbye thread is ample proof (click here for the whole thing).
The most obvious Husky sports casualty of the pandemic cancellations was the women’s hockey team. Fresh off a commanding win in the Hockey East Championship and with just one loss in the previous two months, they were poised for a serious run at a national championship. They deserved that chance. Same goes for Neez, who deserved his chance to don his headphones one more time and call his first NCAA Tournament game.
Boys, you deserve to be on that graduation stage at TD Garden, the home of your beloved Celtics. You deserve as many high-leverage tournament games as a coronavirus-free world would have thrown at you. And you deserve an in-person sendoff from your broadcast partners, the ones you supported and elevated and welcomed into the fold. But this will have to do for now. When the pandemic passes and the sports resume on Huntington Avenue, the rest of us will do our best to follow your example and do a job you’d be proud of.
We are better broadcasters for having worked with you. We are better friends for having known you. And we are grateful for the years you gave us.
Not one week after a surprising, inspiring, rejuvenating run
to the CAA Championship game, Northeastern men’s basketball found itself in
Compounding the losses of CAA leading scorer Jordan Roland
and versatile four-year starter Bolden Brace to graduation, three players — Max
Boursiquot, Tomas Murphy, and Myles Franklin — announced their intent to
transfer from the program.
Franklin logged decent minutes in non-conference play this year, but saw his workload wither as the season progressed. Though he showed flashes of a stabilizing, disciplined presence at the point, many of his better offensive performances came in games where the outcome was no longer in doubt. After sitting on the bench for two years behind All-CAA First Teamer Vasa Pusica, then watching freshman Tyson Walker start over him all season, Franklin probably figured his playing team wouldn’t increase next year. As a grad transfer, he’ll be eligible to play this fall.
Murphy was supposed to see a larger
role this season, as the graduation of bruising big man Anthony Green left
shoes to fill in the paint. But after playing just four games, Murphy injured
his ankle in a mid-November practice. Though the team was initially hopeful he’d
return before too long, he’d played his last game in a Husky uniform.
The four-star recruit averaged seven
points and three rebounds per game across two full seasons, with excellent
shooting efficiency and a burgeoning perimeter shot to boot. Husky fans will
never get to see what higher usage would have done to his offensive footprint.
Murphy will head north to the University of Vermont. Because
he played only four games this season, it will count as an redshirt year, meaning
he has two years of eligibility remaining and can suit up this fall.
But by far the biggest loss of the three was Boursiquot.
As Murphy’s absence stretched from mid-November into
conference play, Boursiquot took center stage. His offensive contributions —
nine points and five rebounds per game — were solid, and his versatility on
that end helped to keep the offense moving.
But his defense was otherworldly. Though he stood just 6’5”
and weighed 211 pounds, he started most games at center, routinely frustrating taller,
bigger players. He was as strong, pound-for-pound, as any player in the
conference, and he used his low center of gravity to dislodge the conference’s skyscrapers
and force them into areas where they were less comfortable.
The Husky defense allowed the fewest points of any CAA team,
and Boursiquot was the versatile engine. His speed, quickness, and agility
allowed him to bottle up guards on the perimeter, then battle big men in the
post without missing a beat. In two matchups with eventual CAA Player of the
Year and likely NBA draft pick Nathan Knight, Boursiquot held his own for long
stretches and earned high praise from Knight. His active hands were a constant
presence in passing lanes, forcing live-ball turnovers the Huskies converted
into transition buckets.
He was arguably the most valuable defensive player in the
conference. That Knight won CAA Defensive Player of the Year is unsurprising; award
voters are more likely to evaluate defense through basic stats like rebounds,
blocks, and steals, and Boursiquot was somewhat underwhelming on paper. But his
effort, strength, intensity, spatial awareness, and basketball intelligence
made him a sight to behold, and his exclusion from the All-Defensive Team was a
His finest hour came in the CAA Tournament earlier this
month. With Roland struggling to find his shooting touch, Boursiquot picked up
the offensive load, averaging 13 points on 58 percent shooting to go along with
seven rebounds. This in addition to guarding Towson’s formidable frontcourt, red-hot
forward Federico Poser of Elon, and human-tank hybrid Isaac Kante of Hofstra.
Because he redshirted last year after a hip injury,
Boursiquot will be a grad transfer, eligible to play this fall wherever he
Though the loss of Franklin will likely prove negligible for
head coach Bill Coen’s rotation, Boursiquot and Murphy were the two best
returning forwards. Notre Dame midseason transfer Chris Doherty will likely
provide a boost when he becomes eligible to play, but it will be up to 6’9” junior
Greg Eboigbodin to anchor the defense until then.
The versatility of Shaquille Walters, who assumed some point
guard duties in the last few weeks of the season, is suddenly paramount. So is
the scoring punch of Tyson Walker, whose nine shot attempts per game this
season pale in comparison to what he’ll likely post next year.
But the solution can’t be as simple as those two turning
into stars. Besides Walker and Walters, no returning Husky averaged more than
four points per game. For Northeastern to fill the shoes of their two graduates
and three transfers, everyone will need to step up.
WASHINGTON — Before the swarming zone defense, before
the frantic scrambles for offensive rebounds, before the drives and the
kickouts and the one-on-one brilliance, Tuesday night’s game was about
The Northeastern Huskies knew it better than anybody. Two
years ago, after locking up a share of the CAA regular-season title, battling
their way to the conference championship, and building a 17-point lead in the
second half, the Huskies slowly collapsed as the Charleston Cougars clawed their
way to an overtime victory.
The Cougars went to the NCAA Tournament. The Huskies went home.
That loss stayed with the Huskies. It fueled them. As they
embarked on their 2018–19 season, they focused on a singular goal: returning to
the championship game and seizing the moment that had slipped through their
fingers. After exacting revenge on Charleston in the semifinal, the Huskies did
just that, knocking off the Hofstra Pride, 82–74, to win the March Madness
berth they’d dreamed of for a year. It was vengeance, and it felt fantastic.
The Huskies went to the NCAA Tournament. The Pride went
But on Tuesday night, in a rematch with the Pride, the
Huskies found out what the other end of vengeance feels like. In a remarkably
close, ludicrously energetic championship game, the Huskies fell to the Pride,
The Pride are going to the NCAA Tournament. The Huskies are
“It’s tough,” a visibly choked-up Max Boursiquot said after
the game. “It’s called March Madness for a reason.”
“That feeling of losing and then coming back the next year
and having another opportunity is a special feeling,” Bolden Brace added. “You
don’t get that unless you lose . . . They played with an edge and played with
that desire to win and I think they deserve it.”
Though Hofstra was coming off blowout wins over Drexel and
Delaware, it was Northeastern that struck first, running up an early lead thanks
to aggressive drives. Sometimes those drives yielded layups, other times they yielded
open threes off the catch for Husky guards who filled to the corner when
Hofstra shifted to protect the paint. With his team trailing 10–3, Hofstra head
coach Joe Mihalich called for time.
While the scoring came more evenly after that, the Huskies
continued to earn quality looks. Hofstra famously plays a matchup zone, a
combination of zone and man-to-man principles that allows for pressuring
ballhandlers on the perimeter without the draining effort of man defense. The
Huskies, who struggled against zone defenses in their other CAA Tournament
games against Towson and Elon, countered by repeatedly entering the ball to
small-ball center Max Boursiquot near the foul line, warping the zone and freeing
up cutting and kickout opportunities. The Huskies’ threes were finally falling,
they hustled to every rebound and loose ball, and held the Pride at bay.
But the squad with the best regular-season record couldn’t
be subdued indefinitely, and when Husky point guard Tyson Walker aggravated a
left shoulder injury and went to the bench, the Pride seized the momentum and
sent their fans into a frenzy. Walker returned but struggled, finishing with
just four points.
“When he started the second half he just didn’t look right
to me, just didn’t look his normal competitive self,” Northeastern head coach
Bill Coen noted. “I gotta give him a world of credit just for going out there
and trying. His competitiveness, his grit and determination, and his toughness are
really admirable . . . that was a physical game and he put himself out there
and put himself on the line for the team and the program.”
After a few minutes of hanging around and trading buckets,
Hofstra finally drew even. Three Jalen Ray free throws were bookended by two
eerily similar sequences in which a Hofstra guard drove into the paint and had
a layup blocked, only for his teammates to secure the rebound and nail a three
as the shot clock ran down. The upshot of these three mediocre possessions:
Guilien Smith, not to be outdone, let the Pride have the
lead for all of 18 seconds.
By this point the energy in the building was palpable. Each
team sensed the audible footsteps of the other and the gradual ticking of the
clock, and boosted their energy accordingly. It didn’t matter that their
workload — three playoff games in three days — was unprecedented in their
schedules this season; they played like their jerseys had been set ablaze.
“The way we summoned that energy was just playing together
and using each other and feeding off each other’s energy,” Brace said. “When
somebody was down, I think there was always someone there to pick them up, and
I think that just goes to show you how good of a team we were this year.”
A turnaround jumper from Shaq Walters afforded the Huskies a two-point halftime edge, far narrower than their double-digit halftime margins in their last two games. But that was the only real constant for much of the game: neither team could free itself from the other. For a 23-minute stretch spanning both halves, neither team built a lead greater than five points.
There was plenty for the Huskies to be happy about at the
break. Boursiquot, Walters, and Brace all had at least five points and three
rebounds, and all of them were shooting efficiently. On the opposite side of
the box score, Eli Pemberton decidedly wasn’t; he’d missed eight of his 11 shots
amid excellent pressure from Walters and Smith.
But there were also deficiencies that allowed the Pride to
close the gap. Roland, the conference’s leading scorer, had shot the ball just
three times. Hofstra pulled down six more offensive rebounds than Northeastern
and netted 10 second-chance points to the Huskies’ none. Isaac Kante, the lone
man in the middle on a team built around guards, snatched 10 rebounds.
The second half began with promise, as Brace knocked down a
catch-and-shoot three from the corner. Brace often played with hesitation this
season, opting for ball fakes, halfhearted drives, and slow-moving handoffs
instead of relying on his elite perimeter shooting. That version of him
completely vanished in the CAA Tournament, as he performed with the conviction,
determination, and leadership of a senior who didn’t want to play his last
Desure Buie didn’t want to play his last game either. While
his scoring buoyed the Pride all night, it was his passing that turned heads,
excited fans, and catalyzed the Hofstra run. He began with a quick first step
around Walker, which forced Walters to help off Pemberton. Without looking,
Buie wrapped a magnificent bounce pass around his head to a now-wide open
Pemberton in the corner, who finished off the play to retake the lead.
Just seconds later, Buie snuck up behind Boursiquot and
jabbed the ball loose. On the ensuing two-on-one, Walters planned his chase-down
block, timing his approach and jump to meet Buie at the rim. But with the level
of grace and smarts Buie has shown this year, he wasn’t about to be on anyone’s
highlight reel. Instead he added to his own and forced Coen to call timeout.
The Pride looked poised to pull away and the Huskies needed
an energy boost. And did Max Boursiquot ever respond.
Boursiquot has been anything and everything the Huskies needed to turn around a season marked by an unrealistic number of close, disappointing losses. He provides shooting, passing, positional versatility, perimeter and post defense, rebounding, and, most importantly, energy. He treats every rebound and loose ball as if it’s his birthright.
Right out of the timeout, Boursiquot, under duress, threw a picture-perfect cross-court pass to Roland for a triple. When Roland missed a three the next trip down, Boursiquot bodied Kante — who outweighs him by about 30 pounds — to snatch the rebound, received a pass at the top of the arc, and beat Kante with a right-to-left crossover and first step so quick that he seemed to teleport from the perimeter to the block. Even when he stumbled and lost the ball on a drive, Boursiquot grabbed it from Kante and threw a spot-on pass to a teammate — all while sitting on the floor.
When Boursiquot’s offense forced Mihalich to call timeout, his
message to Kante in the huddle was simple: we need to defend Max Boursiquot
because he’s killing us.
That said, Kante had his way offensively with Boursiquot on
a handful of possessions. Kante would establish deep position, earning himself either
an easy layup off a feed or an offensive rebound when a perimeter shot clanged
off the iron. Though Boursiquot enjoyed slightly greater success when fronting
Kante to deny him the ball, the Pride forward still posted a preposterous nine
points and 15 rebounds. He had as many offensive rebounds (six) as the entire
But it was not Kante that governed play down the stretch. It
Buie had an admirable campaign a year ago, but was considered
the third offensive option behind Pemberton and two-time CAA Player of the Year
Justin Wright-Foreman. After Boursiquot and Roland each picked up their fourth
foul and headed to the bench with 5:23 to play, and with Hofstra’s other top
scorers — Pemberton and Jalen Ray — not shooting efficiently, Buie seized his
He began with a tough, drifting, pullup long two, a
difficult shot with low value. He made it anyway. As Northeastern’s offense
sputtered amid suffocating on-ball pressure from the Pride, Buie stretched the lead
to nine with a quick drive, a pump fake to get Guilien Smith in the air, and a
strong finish through contact.
With less than two minutes left and the shot clock ticking
down on a stagnant Hofstra possession, Buie sized up a top-notch defender in
Guilien Smith, threw him a few crossovers, and fired up a contested three when
the dribbles failed to earn him a sliver of separation.
Buie wound up on the floor. The ball wound up in the bucket.
Despite Roland’s impressive drifting three a short while
later, Buie’s bucket proved the dagger. The Huskies’ second-half fouling had
put the Pride in the double bonus, so the Huskies couldn’t get lucky with the
Pride missing the front end of one-and-ones. They could only watch as the Pride
made every one of their free throws.
The Pride had their first March Madness berth since 2001.
They also had their revenge.
“It is awfully sweet,” Mihalich said after the on-court
celebration, his undone blue tie still hanging from his neck. “Not just because
we won. It’s something to be really proud of. We beat a bunch of champions. The
championship went through them.”
“This feeling is everything,” Ray said. “This has been our
mission since day one . . . this time we completed our mission.”
“We came up about 20 minutes short,” Coen said. “I thought
we played a really strong first half, very competitive game overall, and these
guys played their hearts out. But in the end I thought it was a little bit too
much Desure Buie.”
With 19 seconds to play and the outcome no longer in doubt,
both coaches opted for a platoon swap. While the Hofstra players enjoyed the
applause, cheers, and adulation of a jubilant fan section, the Huskies filed
off the court and into the waiting embrace of Bill Coen. The moment was
especially poignant for Brace, Roland, and Smith, who ended their college
careers on a brutal loss.
“I thanked those guys for their unwavering commitment
to Northeastern University, to this program, all their hard work and
dedication,” Coen said, his voice breaking a bit. “So much goes unseen — the
long days in the weight room, long days of training, hours of practice, hours
of individual time, hours of watching tape. It’s a commitment, and that group
was a special group.
“Bo has played in three CAA Championship games in his four
years; he’s made an incredible mark on this program. Jordan has made an
incredible mark on this program. And I think if you asked every player on our
team, maybe the favorite teammate in the locker room is Guilien Smith. In a
short time he’s made an incredible impact in terms of relationships, and
ultimately that’s what this whole experience is all about.
“You’d love to win championships each and every year, but .
. . what lasts is the mutual respect that you earn by giving your best. And
when you do that, whether you win or lose, nobody can take that from you for
the rest of your life. These guys will share a bond because they know they gave
it up for each other, and that’s the real championship in my mind.”
faces Hofstra in the CAA Championship tonight at 7 PM. Michael Petillo, Matt
Neiser, and Milton Posner will have the call from Washington D.C., with
covering beginning around 15 minutes before tipoff.
WASHINGTON — No. 6 seed vs. No. 7
seed in a ten-team tournament. It sounds like an early-round matchup that no
one cares about because neither team will threaten for the title. Right?
Wrong. It’s actually a semifinal,
and both teams beat top-three seeds to get there.
Confused? You must be new around
here. Welcome to the CAA.
Northeastern and Elon, two teams
most onlookers probably did not expect to make deep postseason runs, found
themselves face-to-face in the CAA Men’s Basketball Championship semifinals on
Monday night after beating No. 3 Towson and No. 2 William & Mary,
respectively, the night before.
Despite similar postseason
expectations, the teams’ seedings arose for different reasons. For
Northeastern, it was mostly a lack of consistency and inability to close out
tight games. For Elon, it was more a lack of depth and talent.
Things finally began to make a
little more sense in the semifinal, as the deeper, higher-seeded team came out
on top for once. Using an early-game run to thrust themselves in front, the
Huskies never looked back as they put together a convincing, wire-to-wire 68–60
victory to advance to the championship game for the third year in a row.
Defense has been the Huskies’
calling card all season. They called on it once again on Monday, stifling the
Phoenix offense throughout the night. Bill Coen’s squad was locked in, flying
all over the court with the boundless ferocity of their canine namesake. It
took nearly six minutes for the Phoenix to put a number on the board, by which
time Northeastern had tallied nine points.
“Our defensive energy to start the
game really set the tone for us, allowing us to get into transition a little
bit, and get our confidence going,” remarked Coen.
Elon head coach Mike Schrage had plenty of praise for Coen’s defensive game plan.
“Give them credit. They had a lot of juice and a good game
plan, a unique game plan in how they guard our offense [after] not even a
one-day prep,” Schrage remarked. “Defensively, he’s a great coach. He did some
really good things to exploit our defense.”
The biggest driver of
Northeastern’s blistering two-way start? If you’ve followed this team at all
the past few weeks, you probably guessed already: Max Boursiquot. By the time
Elon scored their first basket, the redshirt junior had already accumulated
four points, two rebounds, and two steals. His energy was infectious; his
teammates followed suit as they stayed attached to bodies, contested shots, and
secured rebounds to limit the Phoenix’s offensive opportunities.
While Boursiquot buoyed the Husky defense, Bolden Brace carried the offensive torch. Brace, who’s no stranger to big games against Elon — he dropped a career-high 40 points against the Phoenix his freshman year — splashed home three triples in a four-minute span partway through the first half to extend the Northeastern lead to 13. The senior added a layup to finish the first 20 minutes with a game-leading 11 points and push the Husky advantage to its peak: 35–15.
Junior Shaquille Walters, who Coen
identified as one of the team’s most improved players this season, left his
mark on the opening half as well. The London native drilled a shot-clock-beating
three from all the way across the pond, then followed it up with a pair of free
throws, a steal and gorgeous one-handed feed ahead to Brace for his
aforementioned layup, and an assist on a Jordan Roland three-pointer. All told,
Walters dished out a team-high four assists in the half.
It’s fortunate for the Huskies
that many different players made a significant impact in the first half; Roland,
who had a relatively quiet game against Towson the night before, struggled again
to start the semifinal. Though he chipped in eight first-half points, it was on
an inefficient 3–10 shooting.
Roland did find other ways to
impact the game; he finished the half with two rebounds, three assists, a
block, and zero turnovers. However, he was nowhere near his usual lofty
That’s been the biggest question for Northeastern this season: can they stay competitive when Roland isn’t on his game? In this tournament, the answer’s been yes. Boursiquot, Brace, Walters, and Co. have all stepped up, and that’s why the Huskies are playing in the championship game.
Despite chugging along for much of
the half, the Huskies’ offense sputtered as they neared halftime. The Phoenix
took advantage, mounting a quick 6–0 run that forced a timeout from Coen with
33 seconds remaining. Roland hit a baseline jumper right out of the huddle to
bring the Northeastern lead back to 16 points, throwing a splash of water on
The Phoenix kept striking that
flint in the second stanza, but the Huskies were right there every time to
stamp out the nascent flames. After the two sides traded a few baskets to begin
the frame, freshman Hunter McIntosh knocked down a triple. Roland responded
with a trey of his own, but the Phoenix came right back with an 8–0 run
courtesy of a short-range McIntosh jumper and three straight interior makes
from Federico Poser to cut the Husky lead to 11.
All-CAA Second Team swingman
Marcus Sheffield finally joined the party after that, pouring in 13 points in a
six-minute span as Elon whittled the Northeastern lead to seven with just under
three minutes remaining.
“He’s one of the hardest matchups in the league. Luckily we have a guy with Shaquille’s size and length who can kind of match it,” Coen remarked. “He’s quick enough to keep him off the dribble and long enough to get a hand in his shot pocket. That being said, I’m not sure anyone can guard him when he gets going.”
The Huskies were on their heels,
but a familiar face burst back onto the scene to save the day.
“I just kind of felt like the game
was getting close,” Roland explained. “I just wanted to do my part to help
close out the game. I wanted to get a little more aggressive toward the end of
the game even though I wasn’t shooting that well.”
Pull-up, triple, good.
Elon got two looks at a
three-pointer on the other end, but McIntosh and Sheffield couldn’t connect.
Crossover, three-ball, money.
There’s the Jordan Roland Husky
fans are accustomed to — the one who takes over games.
Elon was relegated to the foul
game after that, and the Huskies knocked down enough shots at the charity
stripe to close the game out.
Northeastern becomes just the
fifth team in CAA history to reach three straight championship games, setting
up a rematch of last year’s battle with the Hofstra Pride. The title-game
rematch will be just the third since the league’s inception.
Coen started both Sunday and
Monday’s press conferences by reiterating how grateful he is to still be
playing this late into March, adding, “With everything that’s on the line, an
NCAA bid and everything, there’s nothing else like it.”
Brace, a senior, is reveling in
the pressure of his final season, remarking, “I’ve finally realized that every game could be my last and
it’s made this tournament super awesome and I’m having a lot of fun with it.
Hopefully we can get another one tomorrow.”
have a tough task ahead of them, as No. 1 seeded Hofstra comes into the game
blazing hot. Joe Mihalich’s squad won their previous two tournament games by an
average of 16 points, including a 14-point drubbing of an impressive Delaware
team in the other semifinal.
Said Coen of the impending
matchup, “I think they’ve played with a chip. I think they’ve had great senior
leadership. It’s going to be a difficult game for us, but that’s what you want
if you’re a competitor. You want to go against the best, you want to try
yourself against the best, and that’s what this time is all about.”
plays Elon in the semifinal of the CAA Tournament today at 8:30 PM EDT. Michael
Petillo, Milton Posner, and Matt Neiser will call the game, with coverage
beginning about 15 minutes before tipoff.
WASHINGTON — An atypical day for the CAA is, well, typical.
Sunday’s schedule saw four quarterfinal games, all of them
bemusing to one degree or another.
Hofstra 61, Drexel 43
This contest was decided, more than anything else, by starkly
contrasting star performances.
On one end, Hofstra senior guard Eli Pemberton rebounded
from a decent but unremarkable first half to eviscerate the Dragons in the second.
He began the half with a three-pointer, a driving layup, and a putback after
snatching an offensive rebound in traffic. A three-point halftime lead had
swelled to ten, Drexel called timeout to regroup, and Pemberton let out a
primal scream as his teammates surrounded him.
Pemberton maintained the energy even as Hofstra built an
insurmountable lead, diving for a loose rebound with seven minutes left and his
team up 20. He finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Pride.
Pemberton’s exact opposite was fellow All-CAA Second Team
guard Camren Wynter of Drexel, who had his worst college game at the worst
possible time. Hofstra’s matchup zone defense made things difficult for the
Drexel guards, who were left to pass aimlessly on the perimeter and toss up an
array of tightly contested layups that trickled off the rim. Wynter took just
eight shots, failed to score, and turned the ball over five times. Zach Walton
(17 points and 10 rebounds) and James Butler (14 points and 14 rebounds) were
left to shoulder almost all of the burden for a sputtering Drexel offense.
Drexel will be back. Barring transfers, they will return
their three top scorers next year. But it is Hofstra that moves on to the next
Delaware 79, Charleston 67
It’s a testament to how insane the CAA has been this year
that these teams were the fourth and fifth seeds in a ten-team tournament.
You’d be forgiven for thinking each was a top-three team. In Grant Riller and
Nate Darling, each team had one of the league’s most dynamic, talented scorers.
Each boasted a strong, versatile, athletic frontcourt that makes life difficult
for their opponents on both sides of the ball.
But ultimately it was Delaware — a team flush with high-powered
transfers and homegrown juniors maturing at the perfect time — that looked the
The Blue Hens built a slim first-half lead largely thanks to
two strong points. The first was Darling, who rained down consistent fire on
the Cougars from all over the floor, including a couple of difficult one-on-one
shots the Cougars couldn’t do much about. The other was a strong defensive game
plan similar to the one Northeastern used against Charleston last month: keep
Grant Riller out of the paint.
This is a tall order, but the Blue Hens largely succeeded in
the first half. Riller tried a number of tough shots around the basket and grew
frustrated when his attempts to draw fouls didn’t succeed. After the game,
Darling pinned the defensive success on the decision to have Justyn Mutts guard
Sam Miller, allowing Delaware’s guards to switch on screens without worrying
about the sweet-shooting Miller pick and popping to the three-point line. Riller
got hot in the second half, but by then the Blue Hens were in the driver’s seat.
Delaware scored 47 second-half points to advance to the next round, where they
will face No. 1 Hofstra.
It also marked the last college game for one of the best
players the CAA has ever seen. Riller overcame a season-ending injury during
his freshman year to make three All-CAA First Teams and score 2,474 points, trailing
only David Robinson and Charles Jenkins on the conference’s all-time list.
Elon 68, William & Mary
At first it seemed improbable, then mildly unlikely, then
reasonable, then likely, then certain.
This year, William & Mary had their best regular season
in seven decades. They were stacked and versatile, best exemplified by senior
forward Nathan Knight, who was crowned CAA Player of the Year and Defensive
Player of the Year two days earlier. By any measure, Knight is one of the best
players the conference has ever seen.
And now he’s done.
The Phoenix sledgehammered the Tribe from the opening tip. By
the time Tribe head coach Dane Fischer called for time with three-and-a-half
minutes gone, Marcus Sheffield II had led Elon to a 13–2 lead.
Though Sheffield would soon drop off and wind up with a
merely solid if inefficient stat line, Elon forwards Hunter Woods and Federico
Poser picked up the slack. Poser posted his second straight good game, nailing
a number of short shots. Woods dropped 20 points and 15 rebounds, playing the
entire game and expending so much effort that his sweat-laden jersey was distinguishable
in color from his teammates’. He nailed five of seven tries from beyond the arc.
The Tribe eventually fought their way back, buoyed by
thousands of fans who traveled the relatively short distance from Williamsburg
to Washington D.C. Those fans, easily the loudest of any crowd in the
tournament thus far, boosted the Tribe during their steady second-half run.
The energy in the last 10 minutes was on an entirely
different level, peaking when Van Vliet’s titanic rejection of a layup led to a
momentum-building three by Quinn Blair down the other end. Blair, soon joined
by the William & Mary bench, motioned repeatedly to the crowd to get loud,
which they happily did.
When Bryce Barnes’ three-pointer cut the lead to two, the
crowd was so loud that it drowned out the Elon marching band.
But Elon’s starters took turns hitting shots at opportune
moments, and the Tribe would never quite catch them. A No. 7 team that few gave
much of a chance is now in the semifinals, where they will play No. 6
plays Elon at 8:30 PM EDT on Monday in the semifinal of the CAA Tournament.
Michael Petillo, Milton Posner, and Matt Neiser will be on the call from
Washington D.C., with coverage beginning about 15 minutes before tipoff.
WASHINGTON — The calling card of Northeastern’s conference
season was an infuriating one: they couldn’t figure out how to win close games.
They forfeited second-half leads large and small, going long stretches without
a bucket and letting other teams pillage them down low with little defensive
So when the Huskies went up 16 a few minutes into the second
half, and when Towson mounted a furious run to trim the lead to four, Husky
fans could be forgiven for fearing the worst.
But not tonight.
With their season on the line and the Tigers bearing down on
them, the Huskies found another gear, securing a 72–62 win and advancing to the
semifinals of the CAA Tournament. They will face No. 7 Elon on Monday night in
the first six–seven semifinal matchup since 1993.
The game began in a rather unexpected fashion. Pat Skerry’s
Towson squads are known for size, strength, and defensive intensity, all of
which manifest in fierce play around the basket. But the Huskies used a number
of lateral cuts and slides to earn strong position in the paint, and their
ballhandlers ably found the cutters for layups. Max Boursiquot set the tone for
this style of play, scoring Northeastern’s three buckets and finishing with 16
points (7–10 FG). Greg Eboigbodin also notched a pair of buckets off
penetration and drop-off passes from the Husky guards.
“We knew Towson was going to blitz on
ball screens, so we had a game plan to slip me to the mid-post and try to be
aggressive,” Boursiquot noted. “My teammates were doing a great job of finding
me and I was doing a good job of getting in and out of screens.”
Eventually the Huskies diversified their attack, with Bolden
Brace chipping in some outside shooting. His three triples keyed a 15-point,
eight-rebound performance that helped to negate several of Towson’s physical strengths.
In an odd scheduling quirk, Northeastern had played Towson a
week before in their last regular-season game. Northeastern head coach Bill Coen
attributed the Huskies’ three-point loss in that game primarily to Northeastern’s
excessive second-half fouling, which give the Tigers a hefty advantage from the
charity stripe and landed several key forwards in foul trouble.
Tonight there would be no repeat mistake. The Huskies played brilliant defense throughout the first half, limiting the Tigers to 23 points and fouling just five times. By holding their defensive positions on the low block and maintaining verticality when contesting shots, the Huskies turned the Tigers’ famous physicality against them, drawing offensive fouls that killed any chance Towson had at offensive momentum. It also placed nearly every Towson starter in foul trouble.
“We left our feet a lot when the ball came [inside],” Skerry
said. “We were a little bit all over the place.”
After a slow start, Husky point guard Tyson Walker turned on
the jets to boost Northeastern’s lead to 10 by halftime. Walker injured his
shoulder two weeks ago against Drexel, and until he emerged from the tunnel
before the game it was unclear if he would play. But he said the shoulder felt “perfectly
fine” and undoubtedly played like it, netting 14 points.
The true oddity for the Huskies was Roland,
who went scoreless in the first half amid foul trouble. When he finally stole a
pass and slammed home a breakaway dunk with 18:24 to go in the second half, he
immediately picked up his fourth foul and headed to the bench.
Coen deployed him in short bursts for the rest of the game, playing him for just 10 minutes in the second half when Roland would normally play all or almost all of it. He finished with just eight points after missing most of his shots and committing two turnovers. (The Huskies as a team were extraordinarily disciplined, turning the ball over just seven times to Towson’s 15.)
Northeastern wasn’t missing Roland,
though, and after a pair of bailout threes from Walker and Shaq Walters — plus
a layup form Guilien Smith — the Husky lead stood at a game-high 16 points.
But Towson finally tightened the
screws, switching to a 3-2 zone.
“They were findings guys for a lot of
layups . . . we couldn’t handle them off the dribble,” Skerry explained. “We
probably played a lot more zone tonight than we’ve played in 20, 25 games, but
we needed it to try to get back in the game.”
The zone threw Northeastern’s offense off the rhythm it had established from the opening tip. The Huskies started turning the ball over and forcing up contested long-range shots. Towson, normally the slowest-playing team in the CAA, used every defensive rebound as a chance to push in transition. Between their layups, foul drawing, perimeter shooting, and offensive rebounding, the Tigers went nine possessions without an empty trip. The zone threw Northeastern’s offense off the rhythm it had established from the opening tip. The Huskies started turning the ball over and forcing up contested long-range shots. Towson, normally the slowest-playing team in the CAA, used every defensive rebound as a chance to push in transition. Between their layups, foul drawing, perimeter shooting, and offensive rebounding, the Tigers went nine possessions without an empty trip. The run was keyed by Brian Fobbs — who finished with 21 points to lead all scorers — as well as Nakye Sanders and Dennis Tunstall, who each scored nine without missing a shot.
Combined with their rediscovered defensive restraint — they
didn’t commit a foul for the first ten minutes of the second half — it allowed the
Tigers to seize the momentum, with a resounding rejection by Sixth Man of the
Year Nicolas Timberlake prompting a Jakigh Dottin layup that trimmed the lead
But with Towson bearing down on them
like a bowling ball, the Huskies refused to fall. Brace hit a quick three off a
baseline inbounds to stem the tide, then Boursiquot threw down an basket-shaking
jam off a slick pick-and-roll feed from Walker.
But the final dagger would come with a
minute left when Walker stole an errant dribble and flew downcourt. With Towson
big man Nakye Sanders bearing down on him, Walker tossed a pass to Walters —
the man who filled in for him at point guard last week — who flushed home a
clean one-handed dunk to seal the game and end Towson’s season.
The Tigers truly had a commendable year, leaping several spots in the conference standings after posting one of the largest record improvements of any team in the country. But this is the CAA, where absurdity is the new normal and calling a team an underdog proves only that you’re about to lose the money you bet against them.
The Huskies’ next opponent is a perfect
example of that. After needing last-second heroics from Marcus Sheffield just
to squeak by the worst team in the conference, No. 7 Elon scrapped their way to
a win over No. 2 William & Mary and Nathan Knight, their newly crowned Player
of the Year. Northeastern and Elon will square off at 8:30, and god only knows
what happens then.
“We’re really, really excited to still be playing basketball
in March,” Coen said with a wide smile. “It’s the greatest month of the year,
and if you’re involved at all — as a player, as a fan, as a coach — the excitement
around these tournaments is just unbelievable.”
MA — There was a theme for the 2020 Hockey East Championship, a theme the Northeastern
Huskies hammered home forcefully and often: goals, goals, and more goals. That
theme propelled the Northeastern Huskies to an unforgettable 9–1 victory over
UConn and their third consecutive Hockey East Championship.
began the day with 149 goals on the season, and they decided to add to that in
a big way. The Northeastern Huskies played the Huskies of UConn, a team they
had beaten three times during the regular season by a combined score of 10–2.
By the time Sunday’s game wrapped up, Northeastern had doubled that margin.
Northeastern came out firing early and often, applying heavy pressure on the UConn defense and tallying several opportunities in the first five minutes. Junior defenseman Skylar Fontaine gave Northeastern its first goal of the day as she finished off a brilliant feed from forward Alina Mueller. Including the two quarterfinal games against Vermont, the semifinal against Maine, and her goal on Sunday, Fontaine had scored or assisted on the Huskies’ last eight goals.
Northeastern doubled its lead soon after, as Jess Schryver finished off an excellent pass from Chloé Aurard for a 2–0 lead. The goal was initially called back for interference, but replay confirmed the score.
lone goal came just two minutes later, as an awkward bounce off the boards put
goalie Aerin Frankel in a difficult position and allowed UConn forward
Catherine Crawley to put the puck in the back of the net.
That’s when Northeastern really decided to take things seriously.
Huskies stayed aggressive for the rest of the game, tallying minutes upon
minutes of offensive zone time with exquisite puck movement that made it seem
like they had eyes in the back of their heads. Mueller triggered the avalanche
with a minute to play in the first period, fielding a pass in the high slot and
firing an impeccably placed rocket into the bottom left corner.
The second period was easily the
lowest-scoring, but its lone goal was easily the most impressive of the night.
Just one minute in, Matti Hartman was skating away from the goal near the right
dot when a quick pass flew behind her. Without looking at the goal, Hartman subtly
flipped her stick behind her back and poked it through traffic for the Huskies’
fourth score. It’s difficult to tell from looking at her reaction whether or
not she was trying to score, but the result was gorgeous either way.
Hartman’s fellow captains Capistran and Brooke Hobson logged assists on the play. After the game, Hartman remarked that three had been waiting for a such a goal for some time, and that they finally got their chance.
period was a nonstop Northeastern tidal wave, with goals from Chloé Aurard and
Katie Cipra coming in the first 40 seconds.
end of the period Jess Schryver, Codie Cross, and Peyton Anderson had joined
the party, yielding the 9–1 final score that set records for goals and scoring
margin in a Hockey East Championship. Eight different Northeastern skaters punched
home a goal, with Schryver the only double-dipper among them.
“I had confidence in the team, seeing how relaxed they were before the game,” coach Dave Flint said. “I felt good about them going out and taking care of business.”
spoke on the team’s recent results, noting “with the recent success, it’s
important to remember where you came from. Freshman year was tough and so was
sophomore year. We were about .500 that year, and we’ve tried to remember that
struggle going into games like this.”
took home Tournament MVP for her efforts throughout the Hockey East Tournament,
including a one-goal, three-assist performance in the championship. Mueller now
has 66 points on the year as the leader one of the most formidable attacks in
college hockey. Aurard matched Mueller’s performance with four points of her
own in the championship game.
coach Dave Flint praised the entire first line, noting that they played like a
“buzz saw” for the entirety of the contest. Flint also reflected on his time at
Northeastern after the game, explaining that he has learned to focus on the
players in the locker room rather just look ahead to victories and bring in
recruits. Flint emphasized the impact former Husky Kendall Coyne had on the
locker room during her junior year and says that competitive mindset has been
maintained during the past several years.
Aerin Frankel took home goalie of the tournament, although she didn’t have much to do in this game. Northeastern’s defense stepped up on the biggest stage, forcing UConn into several turnovers throughout the game and preventing the bad Huskies from having significant offensive zone time.
Flint briefly discussed the future after the game, stating, “You can get up there and you can achieve excellence, but how are you gonna sustain it? That’s the challenge for us now looking ahead to the [NCAA] tournament.”
will likely play Princeton in the first round of the NCAA Tournament next
weekend, though specific details will be announced later. WRBB will have the
call for that quarterfinal matchup.