Top 10: How CAA Teams Fared in Non-Conference Play

By Milton Posner

With the CAA’s conference slate beginning today, WRBB examined the non-conference performances of all 10 CAA teams and ranked them from worst to best. The rankings are based on each team’s record and strength of schedule, with occasional deviations if a deep dive into a team’s schedule, margins of victory, or statistics warranted one.

CAA teams played 125 non-conference games and won 68 for a winning percentage of .544. Their average opponent, as determined by KenPom’s strength of schedule metric, was very slightly below the Division I average.

They also spent a sizeable chunk of the last six weeks bludgeoning Division II and III squads. Eight CAA teams won a game by 40 or more points, with three teams winning by 60 or more. The largest margin of victory went to the Towson Tigers, who flattened Division III Bryn Athyn by 69 points. Only Northeastern’s biggest blowout — a 57-point laugher against Holy Cross — came against a Division I team.

Though a comment or prediction is given for each team’s upcoming schedule, the rankings reflect only how the teams performed in their completed non-conference games. Each section is prefaced with the team’s record, strength of schedule rank (compared to other CAA teams), head coach, and, just for kicks, the player with the best name along with an explanation for why.

With that said . . .

#10: Elon Phoenix

Non-Conference Record: 4–9

Strength of Schedule Rank: Fourth

Head Coach: Mike Schrage (first season)

Best Player Name: Federico Poser — fun to say whether you pronounce it correctly or not

This is not to say that Elon had no bright spots in the season’s first six weeks. Stanford grad transfer Marcus Sheffield emerged as a premier scorer, posting 17 points per game to go along with five rebounds and three assists.

Freshmen Hunter Woods and Hunter McIntosh were also pleasant surprises for a team that lost its top five scorers from last year. Both are averaging double figures in scoring and shooting more than 40 percent form downtown. Woods also leads the team in rebounding.

The Phoenix even managed to hang with No. 5 UNC for the first 20 minutes of their November 20 matchup, despite the Tar Heels entering as 30 ½-point favorites. Though UNC pulled away at the start of the second half, the Phoenix faithful could take some small comfort in Sheffield’s poster slam over former CAA standout Justin Pierce.

But the good news ends there for Elon. The UNC loss was one piece of a six-game losing streak. Of their four non-conference wins, two came against Division II teams, one against a Division III squad, and one against a Kennesaw State club ranked 342 out of 353 Division I teams.

The Phoenix are last in the CAA in offense and scoring margin, and are the only squad shooting below 40 percent from the floor. They are last in offensive rebounds and rebounding margin. Their sole saving grace is their three-point shooting; they are the only CAA club making more than 10 threes per game and are fourth in three-point percentage. But even then there is a downside; they are worst in the conference at defending the three.

The emergence of Woods and McIntosh as scoring threats is welcome news for first-year coach Mike Schrage. But Elon’s lack of depth and veteran talent is evident. Given that the team finished with the CAA’s worst non-conference record despite multiple players exceeding expectations, it’s hard to imagine they can pose a threat during conference play.

#9: UNCW Seahawks

Non-Conference Record: 5–8

Strength of Schedule Rank: Third

Head Coach: C.B. McGrath (third season)

Best Player Name: Brian Tolefree — you don’t have to pay for him

If the William & Mary Tribe were the CAA program most ravaged in the offseason — four of their top five scorers fled to other schools after the dismissal of longtime head coach Tony Shaver — then UNCW was the program most ravaged in non-conference play.

Though the Seahawks weren’t expected to shine much after the graduation of monster forward Devontae Cacok and the transfer of junior standout Jeantal Cylla, they at least had a few exciting pieces to fuel coach C.B. McGrath’s up-tempo offense.

The first domino to fall was sharpshooting junior guard and leading returning scorer Ty Gadsden, who began the season sidelined by injury, played December 7 against Charlotte, and hasn’t played since. The team confirmed he is out indefinitely, indicating that he may return sometime this season. The same cannot be said for fellow junior guard Jay Estimé, who injured his knee, went under the knife, and will miss the rest of the season. The injuries, when combined with the departure of grad transfer Carter Skaggs in November, gutted a Seahawks’ roster struggling for experience (the Seahawks are one of seven Division I teams without a senior).

But the last and largest domino fell after the team’s non-conference closer against Vanderbilt on December 21, when sophomore point guard Kai Toews informed McGrath and his staff that he is leaving the program. McGrath called the announcement a “total surprise.” The team said Toews planned to pursue a professional basketball career in his native Japan; Toews announced on Twitter that he was “thinking of going on a professional path or transferring.” Toews said previously that he would like to compete for the Japanese national team at the FIBA World Cup and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Though he was averaging just five points, four rebounds, and three assists this year, Toews was a crucial component of the team’s future. Although he wasn’t a major scoring threat, he was named to the CAA All-Rookie Team last year after breaking the conference record with 253 assists.

In their stead, sophomore guard Jaylen Sims has picked up some slack, leading the team in points (15) and rebounds (6) per game while shooting a CAA-best 47 percent from behind the arc.

Sophomore forward Martin Linssen has also chipped in, logging 10 points and four rebounds per game in his first season with the Seahawks after transferring from Valparaiso. But the biggest surprise has been six-foot freshman guard Shykeim Phillips, who is averaging nine points per contest on 49 percent shooting. Though he isn’t scoring from the perimeter, he uses a smorgasbord of quick hesitations, jukes, and handles to dart to the basket for layups. Phillips began the season off the bench, but earned a starting spot several weeks in.

But, like Elon’s, most of UNCW’s five wins have come against Division III teams, with Campbell and FIU as the only DI victories. The four departures and injuries are reflected in the CAA-worst five-game losing streak they take into conference play. Their typically high-octane offense keeps their scoring, field goal percentage, three-point percentage, and assists in the CAA’s top five, but their field goal, three-point, and scoring defense all rank ninth.

Even if Ty Gadsden returns for a good chunk of conference play, enough damage has been done to put the Seahawks in contention with the Phoenix for the CAA’s bottom spot.

#8: Drexel Dragons

Non-Conference Record: 7–6

Strength of Schedule Rank: Sixth

Head Coach: Zach Spiker (fourth season)

Best Player Name: Coletrane Washington — greatest jazz name of all time

Like Elon and UNCW, Drexel needed to replace a mix of graduates (Trevor John, Troy Harper) and transfers (Alihan Demir). The three combined to average more than half of the team’s points last season.

Unlike Elon and UNCW, Drexel has maintained enough healthy talent to post a winning record in non-conference play.

The biggest component behind the Dragons’ success has been the miraculous progression of senior guard/forward Zach Walton, who jumped to Drexel from Edmonds Community College (not in the NCAA) and played just seven games last year before an injury ended his season. Walton had a breakout night in the team’s third game against Abilene Christian, dropping 22 points and sinking the game-winning three after reigning CAA Rookie of the Year Camren Wynter was denied the ball.

Ten days later, he dropped a season-high 32 points in a win over Bryant. Though Walton’s 28 percent clip from downtown leaves much to be desired, his 13 points per game are keying a Drexel offense badly in need of scoring punch. His four boards per night and a steady series of highlights aren’t too shabby either.

Wynter and James Butler sit right behind Walton in the scoring column with 12 points per game. Both lead the CAA in a key category, Butler in rebounds (11.5 a game) and Wynter in assists (5.8). Butler’s inside presence is by far the biggest reason for Drexel’s strong rebounding margin, the third-best in the CAA.

But Drexel lacks both an elite scorer and a deep, balanced roster of offensive options, which will likely spell trouble in conference play. Their offense and defense both ranked eighth in non-conference play, and though their assist and three-point defense stats led the conference, they need to find another gear to exceed preseason expectations. They also need to figure out how to win away from home; they won five of their six contests in Philadelphia but lost all five road games.

#7: Northeastern Huskies

Non-Conference Record: 6–6

Strength of Schedule Rank: Eighth

Head Coach: Bill Coen (14th season)

Best Player Name: Greg Eboigbodin — save for the word “boing,” there’s no better way to describe the motion and feel of a trampoline

It’s surprising to see the Huskies this far down on the list, especially given that their scoring margin ranked third in the conference. But a .500 record and the third-weakest strength of schedule leaves them here.

That said, their bright spot was brighter than anyone else’s. In the season’s first few games, senior guard Jordan Roland torched every defense he saw, leading the nation in scoring and forcing his name into national conversations, award watchlists, and ESPN segments. He infuriated defenses with a flurry of difficult lefty floaters and overwhelmed them with twisting, drifting, contested threes from distances where no one in their right mind would think to shoot a basketball.

Roland’s best game came in an 84–79 win against Harvard on November 8. He scored 11 points in the game’s first three minutes en route to a 42-point firestorm that shattered the single-game school record held by Husky legends J.J. Barea and Reggie Lewis.

Though he tailed off somewhat as the season progressed, his 22.4 points per game still lead the CAA and rank seventh in the nation. His marks of 51 percent from the floor, 43 percent from three, and 93 percent from the foul line are all preposterous, and rank as the conference’s fourth-best, second-best, and best, respectively. He is also second in the conference in minutes per game (37.3) and has established himself as the clear favorite for CAA Player of the Year ahead of Delaware’s Nate Darling and Charleston’s Grant Riller.

Tyson Walker, Max Boursiquot, and Shaq Walters have stepped up at various times, giving hope that the Husky offense can become more balanced. Walker in particular has exceeded expectations, starting every game and taking the offensive keys from graduating guard Vasa Pusica.

But the consistency hasn’t been there. Senior guard/forward Bolden Brace, who was expected to be the team’s second scoring option behind Roland, has shot efficiently but hasn’t scored in volume, logging double figures in just four of the team’s 12 games. Without reliable scoring from him, Northeastern will be hard-pressed to remain a top-three CAA team.

The team also suffered from injuries to big men; 6’8” Tomas Murphy has missed the last eight games with an ankle injury and 6’10” Greg Eboigbodin has missed the last two. Though there have been some fine performances in their stead — namely back-to-back double-doubles by 6’5” utility man Max Boursiquot — the lack of size has presented problems for the Huskies. Though their CAA-worst rebounding numbers are partially attributable to their having the slowest pace in the conference, their challenges in crashing the boards without Murphy and Eboigbodin have often hampered their ability to build and maintain momentum in games.

The Huskies excelled from the outside, nailing a CAA-best 41 percent of their three-pointers, with their three most frequent perimeter shooters all shooting between 42 and 44 percent. They also sank 82 percent of their free throws, easily the best mark in the conference. But they allow the CAA’s highest field goal percentage, in large part due to the shortcomings of their interior defense.

The Huskies’ non-conference slate left plenty for coach Bill Coen to be optimistic about. But offensive inconsistency, namely from players not named Jordan Roland, left the Huskies with a .500 record when they could have fared much better.

#6: Towson Tigers

Non-Conference Record: 6–6

Strength of Schedule Rank: Second

Head Coach: Pat Skerry (ninth season)

Best Player Name: Demetrius Mims — m’s in all the right places

Last year, Towson struggled mightily, winning less than a third of their games while trying to incorporate 11 new players. This year, with 90 percent of their scoring and 86 percent of their rebounding from last year returning, the Tigers have a much better chance to develop.

Towson finished with the same 6–6 record as Northeastern, but Towson had a higher strength of schedule. Oddly enough, their most encouraging moment was a loss. Despite entering a mid-November game against the No. 15 Florida Gators as 18 ½-point underdogs, the Tigers kept the game close throughout. The clubs were tied with 80 seconds left before Florida salvaged a six-point win.

As expected, senior guard Brian Fobbs has keyed the Towson attack, averaging 17 points and five boards a night. However, his relatively low efficiency marks (41 percent from the field, 29 percent from three) will have to rise before he can join the elite tier of CAA scorers.

Sophomore guard Allen Betrand and senior forwards Nakye Sanders and Dennis Tunstall have continued their solid offensive production from last year. But all three will need to up their production before Towson can take the next step.

The Tigers’ reliably scrappy, energetic defense has shown up this year; they allow a CAA-best 65.4 points per game and boast the second-best rebounding margin and third-best steal total. But they don’t rank near the top of the conference in any meaningful offensive category and only Fobbs qualifies as any sort of offensive standout.

Their excellent defense can only take them so far, and if Towson wishes to capitalize on the senior seasons of Fobbs, Tunstall, and Sanders, the entire team needs to boost its scoring.

#5: Charleston Cougars

Non-Conference Record: 6–6

Strength of Schedule Rank: First

Head Coach: Earl Grant (sixth season)

Best Player Name: Zep Jasper — plenty of powerful plosives

Charleston is a general consensus top-three CAA team that finished 6–6 in non-conference play. At first glance, this might lead to comparisons with Northeastern, but Charleston had a decidedly superior non-conference slate.

Though they suffered blowout defeats at the hands of Oklahoma State and Central Florida, their other four losses were by single-digit margins to good teams: Central Florida again, Wake Forest, Richmond, and VCU. The Cougars fought through the most difficult non-conference schedule of any CAA team and emerged with plenty to be happy about.

They are led by senior guard and CAA Preseason Player of the Year Grant Riller, who is logging 21 points, four rebounds, and four assists per night. His scoring mark is good for third in the CAA (20th in the nation) and his field goal and free throw percentages are both top five in the conference. His scoring is coming in the same way it did last year: subpar three-point shooting and a sky-high percentage around the rim.

On November 29, Riller keyed a win over Providence and passed former teammate Jarrell Brantley for third on the school’s all-time scoring list. Two weeks later, he notched his 2,000th collegiate point.

That said, there is room for Riller to improve, particularly regarding his 26 percent mark from three-point land. He’s had a strong season, but at his best he is the conference’s greatest scorer and arguably its top player overall. He hasn’t hit his ceiling yet.

The Cougars lack a clear second scoring option behind Riller, but junior guard Brevin Galloway and senior forwards Jaylen McManus and Sam Miller have all assumed larger roles in the offense. Miller in particular has stood out, notching seven points and seven rebounds per contest thanks in part to moderately efficient perimeter shooting.

The Cougars boast a strong defense, led by a combined four steals per game from Riller and Galloway. Though their CAA-worst perimeter shooting badly warrants improvement, many of their other low ranks in team stats compared to other CAA squads can be explained away by their slow pace of play and the tough competition they’ve faced so far.

Their record isn’t fantastic, and there is room for improvement up and down the roster. But don’t be fooled; this Cougars team is still dangerous.

#4: James Madison Dukes

Non-Conference Record: 7–4

Strength of Schedule Rank: Seventh

Head Coach: Louis Rowe (third season)

Best Player Name: Michael Christmas — because Christmas time is here

At the outset of the season, James Madison appeared poised to snap a streak of three consecutive losing seasons, and they haven’t disappointed so far.

Leading the way is junior guard Matt Lewis, who ranks fifth in the conference in points (18), rebounds (7), and minutes (35) per game, and adds a third-best five assists per game as well. He’s taken the lead on a team with no seniors in the regular rotation.

His backcourt partner and fellow junior Darius Banks is faring almost as well, averaging 14 points (on 41 percent from downtown) and five boards a night. He has also continued his thievery from last year, swiping the ball 1.6 times per contest.

And if that wasn’t enough junior talent, try 6’8”, 250-pound junior forward Dwight Wilson, who missed the first four games of the season but has averaged a double-double since. Or junior forward Zach Jacobs, who chips in eight points and six boards a game.

But the performance nobody saw coming, especially with so many returning offensive centerpieces, is freshman forward Michael Christmas, who is putting up nine points and six rebounds per game, shooting a comical 46 percent from three on decent volume, and has established himself as a one-man highlight reel.

The Dukes’ team stats require a bit of context to decipher. At first glance, their counting stats and percentage stats appear to tell opposing stories. This is explained by the team’s pace of play, easily the fastest in the conference. The Dukes have the 26th-fastest pace out of 353 Division I teams; the next closest CAA team is Hofstra, nearly 100 spots down the list.

More possessions mean that the Dukes score more and give up more points, skewing their counting stats. The percentage stats tell a more accurate story. James Madison is eighth in the CAA in field goal and three-point percentage; save for Banks and Christmas, the regular three-point shooters are converting less than a third of their tries. They also struggled from the charity stripe, making just 65 percent of their free throws.

The Dukes shone on defense, limiting opponents to the lowest field goal percentage and second-lowest three-point percentage of any CAA team. They also led the conference in blocks.

The Dukes’ offense has a high ceiling and is likely to improve as the season progresses. But it is their defense that has turned heads, going from a middle-of-the-pack unit last year to — along with Towson — the conference’s best so far this year. If they can overcome the offensive hole left by the graduation of Stuckey Mosley, the Dukes can join the CAA’s top tier.

#3: Hofstra Pride

Non-Conference Record: 9–4

Strength of Schedule Rank: Tenth

Head Coach: Joe Mihalich (seventh season)

Best Player Name: Stafford Trueheart — no idea why he’s playing basketball instead of commanding the English army in the 12th century

Hofstra begin their non-conference schedule with a mandate (a first-place finish in the CAA Preseason Poll) and the question of how to replace the offense of graduating guard Justin Wright-Foreman, the two-time reigning CAA Player of the Year and arguably the best scorer the conference has seen in years?

But, as it turns out, you can lose Wright-Foreman and still have the best and deepest backcourt in the conference. It begins with a pair of seniors: Eli Pemberton and Desure Buie.

The pair have remarkably similar numbers. Pemberton averages 17.1 points per game, good for sixth in the conference; Buie’s 16.6 points rank eighth. Pemberton is third in minutes per game with 35.6; Buie is right behind him at 35.5. Pemberton averages six rebounds per contest; Buie notches six assists, good for second in the conference. Buie has also retained the defensive brilliance that won him CAA Defensive Player of the Year last year; he leads the conference with 2.7 steals a night.

Junior guards Jalen Ray and Tareq Coburn round out the backcourt, averaging a combined 18 points and 11 rebounds. Coburn’s seven rebounds per contest lead the team, while Ray has been the most efficient scorer among the Hofstra guards, shooting 41 percent from downtown.

Sophomore forward/center Isaac Kante, who sat out last season after transferring from Georgia, has established himself on a squad short on rebounding and defensive presence down low. He is averaging nine points on 61 percent shooting to go along with seven rebounds.

The Pride also scored the biggest win of any CAA team so far this season. On November 21, they walked into Pauley Pavilion and toppled UCLA.

Keyed by 29 points from Buie and 27 from Ray, Hofstra came back from a 13-point first-half deficit to take the game 88–78. It was the Bruins’ first loss of the year and one of the biggest wins in program history for Hofstra.

The Pride are the best-scoring offense in the CAA so far, though their numbers are inflated by their relatively fast pace of play and their strength of schedule, which was the weakest of any CAA team. Their four main guards are all among the conference’s ten best free throw shooters, with Buie’s 91 percent second only to Northeastern’s Jordan Roland. The team as a whole knocks down 78 percent of their foul shots, second only to Northeastern’s 82 percent. The Pride have the most steals, most offensive rebounds, and best assist-to-turnover ratio of any CAA team.

Hofstra’s biggest causes for concern inside depth (as evidenced by their middle-of-the-pack rebounding numbers) and efficiency — they ranked seventh in field goal percentage and three-point percentage.

The Pride enter conference play riding a three-game winning streak. They have a quartet of guards that can outpace anyone. If they can find the efficiency and inside play buttons, they will be an imposing bunch.

#2: William & Mary Tribe

Non-Conference Record: 8–5

Strength of Schedule Rank: Fifth

Head Coach: Dane Fischer (first season)

Best Player Name: Thatcher Stone — if people were once again named after their professions, you’d hire him to build you a sturdy house

This one was a surprise.

A month after their CAA Tournament exit last season, the Tribe looked like a bomb had hit them. Tony Shaver, their coach of 16 years, had been fired. Justin Pierce, Matt Milon, Chase Audige, and LJ Owens — four of the team’s five leading scorers who had a combined eight years of eligibility remaining — had transferred. Leading scorer Nathan Knight was thinking about bailing on his senior season and declaring for the NBA draft.

New head coach Dane Fischer walked into this mess and pulled everything together. The Tribe posted the CAA’s fourth-best winning percentage in non-conference play; the three teams ahead of them had considerably weaker schedules.

It begins, as any William & Mary conversation inevitably does, with Knight. When he decided to return for his senior season, the Tribe retained the conference’s best big man and, along with Charleston’s Grant Riller, a solid candidate for Player of the Year. He hasn’t disappointed, posting nightly averages of 20 points and 10 rebounds, with his 56 percent mark from the field and 1.5 blocks per game leading the conference. Along with Northeastern’s Jordan Roland, Knight was named to the watchlist for the Oscar Robertson Trophy, given annually to college basketball’s best player.

As spectacular as Knight has been, his elite play was expected. What wasn’t as expected was the establishment of senior center Andy Van Vliet as an elite two-way player. The seven-foot Wisconsin transfer is averaging 15 points and 10 rebounds a night, the latter tied with the 6’10” Knight for second-best in the conference. His is sixth in the conference in field goal percentage and blocks.

Good shooters are not hard to come by in the CAA; good shooters who are seven feet tall are rare. Both Knight and Van Vliet can space the floor, nailing 35 and 39 percent of their threes, respectively. This allows Fischer to play a twin towers lineup without sacrificing perimeter shooting, creating matchup and switching nightmares even for well-balanced defenses.

The Tribe also have benefitted from a pair of guards: grad transfer Bryce Barnes and junior Luke Loewe. Barnes is averaging eight points, three rebounds, and four assists a night in his first and only season for the Tribe after three years playing for Milwaukee. Loewe has taken a gigantic step forward, upping his production and efficiency across the board. He’s averaging 11 points a night on a hyper-efficient 53 percent shooting from the floor and 47 percent from downtown.

Sophomore guard Thornton Scott has missed nine straight games with a lower leg injury. In the four games he played — all of which the Tribe won — he showed tremendous progress from last year, averaging 13 points, five rebounds, and four assists with an absurd 52 percent clip from downtown. If he returns soon, it will add another weapon to an already well-stocked arsenal.

The Tribe won their first four games out of the gate, three of which came on the road. One of those wins came against Wofford, courtesy of a game-winning layup by Barnes. Before Barnes’s shot dropped, Wofford had won its last 17 home games in a row.

Fischer has picked up his predecessor’s tendency for a relatively even distribution of minutes. Van Vliet leads the team with just 30 per game, trailed closely by Knight and Loewe. It begs the question of what happens if Fischer decides to up their minutes, leaving opponents to face his twin towers for longer stretches.

William & Mary’s team stats reveal no obvious weaknesses so far. Their scoring, assist rate, points allowed, margin of victory, field goal percentage, field goal defense, and three-point percentage all fall between third and fifth. They rank second in defensive rebounds and blocks, and first in rebounding margin. Even their bottom-half offensive rebounding and three-point defense aren’t far off from respectable levels.

Entering the season, the Tribe were a question mark, with Knight projected to dominate but nothing else assured. With non-conference play complete, the Tribe have joined the CAA’s top tier and have as good a shot at the CAA title as anyone.

#1: Delaware Blue Hens

Non-Conference Record: 10–3

Strength of Schedule Rank: Ninth

Head Coach: Martin Inglesby (fourth season)

Best Player Name: Nate Darling — any Delaware fans who think he’s cute have an easy poster idea waiting for them

December 3, 2019. Hofstra, the winner of the CAA Preseason Poll, was 6–3. Northeastern, the defending conference champion, was 4–4.

The Delaware Blue Hens, who most preseason observers had placed outside the CAA’s top tier, were undefeated, winners of nine straight games. And though they fell to earth by losing three of their next four to close non-conference play, the statement had been made: Delaware is the team to beat in the CAA.

Although many had high expectations for junior guard and UAB transfer Nate Darling, he has outplayed those expectations and then some. His 21.4 points per game are second only to Northeastern’s Jordan Roland and rank 16th in the nation. He has played more minutes and made more threes than anyone in the CAA, and his stellar three-point percentage of 42 ranks third. Throw in his four rebounds and three assists per contest, and Delaware has the best CAA transfer since Northeastern nabbed Vasa Pusica from San Diego.

But because one excellent transfer isn’t enough, the Blue Hens have another: sophomore forward Justyn Mutts. In his first season with Delaware after leaving High Point, Mutts is logging 14 points per game on 53 percent shooting (second in the conference to Nathan Knight) and 9.6 rebounds (fourth in the conference). As if that weren’t enough, his highlights are electric.

Now, for the returning play . . . what? They have another transfer? He’s from Villanova? He’s 6’10”? He dropped 19 points in his Delaware debut? Sure, why not? This might as well happen.

Dylan Painter is a midseason transfer, so he only recently became eligible, playing in Delaware’s final two non-conference games. The Blue Hens won nine games in a row, then added a major piece to compliment Mutts down low.

And finally we turn our attention to returning junior guards Ryan Allen and Kevin Anderson. Both have long been ticketed for CAA stardom but have seen serious injuries impede their progress. They’re healthy now, and at the perfect time. They have similar numbers: double-digit scoring, a field goal percentage in the high 40s, and a three-point percentage around 40 percent.

The Blue Hens are third in scoring, points allowed, field goal and three-point defense, and defensive rebounds. They lead the conference in scoring margin, field goal percentage, and assist-to-turnover ratio. Though they ultimately fell 78–70 to No. 20 Villanova, they proved they could hang around against a superior team. In the season’s fourth game, Painter and Anderson combined for 69 points.

Last year, Delaware finished with a losing conference record and lost in the semifinal round of the CAA Tournament. Now they’re stacked, and the road to the conference’s March Madness bid goes through them.

Men’s Basketball Falls to Eastern Michigan

By Milton Posner

Photo by Sarah Olender

Anyone who glanced at a pre-game matchup sheet could hazard a guess at how Tuesday evening’s game would go. Northeastern, which entered the game fifth in the nation in three-point percentage, would rely on outside shooting. Eastern Michigan, which entered ranked ninth in the nation in scoring defense, would use their height and length advantage to pressure the Huskies inside.

Those assumptions bore out on the court in Ypsilanti, Michigan, with Eastern Michigan (9–1) outlasting Northeastern (5–6) and escaping with a 60–55 victory. It was the Huskies’ second straight loss and the second time this season they’ve fallen below .500.

Though the Eagles were paced by double-digit scoring efforts from Noah Morgan (19), Yeikson Montero (10), and Ty Groce (10), their biggest advantage was seven-footer Boubacar Toure, whose seven-point, six-rebound, two-block stat line underscores his impact. He established himself defensively from the opening tip, pressuring Northeastern’s inside shots and forcing them to attempt more and more threes as the game progressed.

Northeastern’s ability to counter Toure was diminished, with big men Greg Eboigbodin (6’10”) and Tomas Murphy (6’8”) sitting out. Murphy, usually good for 10 points and versatile midrange play, injured his ankle and hasn’t played since November 16 against Old Dominion.

The task of guarding Toure fell to Max Boursiquot, who, despite his inarguable defensive strength and versatility, is seven inches shorter and 30 pounds lighter than the Senegalese center. The disparity was never more apparent than when Toure snatched an offensive rebound and dunked, seemingly unbothered by three Huskies surrounding him with their arms raised.

This mismatch contributed to a noticeable disparity in play styles between the squads. Eastern Michigan pushed the ball inside and rebounded their misses, while Northeastern passed around the perimeter to earn open threes. The Eagles encouraged this by playing a 2–3 zone, shutting off interior passing lanes and keeping the Huskies out of the paint.

Eventually Northeastern started rebounding their own misses, earning a number of easy kickouts to the perimeter. Guilien Smith hit back-to-back threes, then Myles Franklin nailed another after Toure’s massive block on Roland sent the ball caroming off the glass and out to the three-point line.

Northeastern led 17–13 with 11:54 remaining. They wouldn’t score for almost eight minutes, as Eastern Michigan interior defense held strong and Northeastern went cold from downtown. Behind Montero’s multiple buckets, the Eagles scored ten unanswered points during that stretch to take a six-point lead. A steady Northeastern comeback briefly tied the game before an Eastern Michigan basket gave them a 31–29 halftime lead.

Northeastern was shooting 43 percent from outside the arc, but just 23 percent from inside it. They closed the rebounding gap against the larger Eagles, though their increased aggressiveness resulted in 10 fouls and 13 Eastern Michigan free throws in the first half.

Though the exact positioning of the defenders varied, Eastern Michigan continued their zone after the break, and Northeastern responded by relying even more heavily on outside shooting. They stuck to a similar game plan — get the defense scrambling, move the ball on the perimeter, and earn open shots. But after connecting on six of their 14 attempts from downtown in the first, Northeastern hit just five of 17 attempts in the second. Several times, the Huskies passed up a potential transition layup for a kickout to the three-point line.

Everything Northeastern did in the second half, Eastern Michigan had an answer. Northeastern regained the lead midway through the period on a Jordan Roland three; Eastern Michigan responded with a two-handed jam from Toure and a layup from Morgan. Franklin tied the game with a three; Montero finished a spinning layup under duress. Tyson Walker hit a corner three on a friendly bounce; Montero scored another spinning layup.

Northeastern found themselves trailing 58–55 with 30 seconds remaining. Whatever play head coach Bill Coen drew up during the timeout was quickly abandoned when the Eagles abandoned Max Boursiquot on the left side. Boursiquot retreated behind the three-point line, fired, and watched his game-tying attempt clank off the rim. After Walker’s putback dripped off the cylinder, Montero hit two free-throws to put the game out of reach.

Though Northeastern’s play was not without flaw, Boursiquot’s missed equalizer was a microcosm of their biggest difficulty in this game: missed threes. Many if not most of their tries were good looks, but not enough of them fell. Their total of 11 makes on 31 attempts is decent enough percentage-wise, but ultimately posed problems in a game where the Huskies tried more threes than twos.

Northeastern’s other problem was their two best players. Jordan Roland and Bolden Brace combined for just 18 points on five-for-23 shooting from the floor and four-for-16 from three.

Boursiquot had the best game of any Husky, finishing with an efficient double and strong defensive play given the height and length deficits he faced. Myles Franklin also had a solid game, finishing with six points, six rebounds, and five assists.

Northeastern’s 55 points marked their lowest total of the season, though unsurprising given that Eastern Michigan entered the contest holding opponents to 57.3 points per game. The Eagles’ size, length, and inside aggressiveness yielded a 30–12 advantage in points in the paint and an 11 percent advantage in field goal percentage.

A win in Thursday evening’s game against Detroit Mercy would finalize the Huskies’ non-conference record at .500. WRBB will not broadcast the game, but will publish a recap online.

Men’s Basketball Tops Weber State Behind Three-Point Torrent

By Milton Posner

Photo by Sarah Olender

As Northeastern took the court against Weber State Wednesday morning, they were fresh off a close defeat at Drake’s hands, a defeat caused in part by 19 Northeastern turnovers and the resulting disparity in shot attempts.

For the second day in a row, Northeastern give the ball away 19 times. But this time, they did everything else right, and walked away with a 79–69 win over the Wildcats in their third and final game in the Gulf Coast Showcase in Estero, Florida.

Northeastern hit first, and they hit hard. Tyson Walker opened the game with a three-pointer.

When Weber State’s Cody John responded with a three, Jordan Roland hit right back with a triple of his own. On the Huskies’ next possession, Bolden Brace snatched an offensive rebound from the jaws of three Wildcats. The contested fadeaway three they earned from the rebound doesn’t seem like a bargain on its face. But when it’s Jordan Roland taking the shot, this sort of thing can happen.

A moment later, when Shaquille Walters threaded a bounce pass to Walker for a transition layup, Weber State was forced to call for time. Three minutes in, Northeastern had opened an 11–3 lead.

When the teams resumed play, Northeastern decided the right corner was looking pretty good. Brace set up shop there, Roland dished him the rock, and Brace nailed a three, passing Chaisson Allen for sole possession of sixth place on Northeastern’s career three-point list.

Seconds later, Roland stole the ball, pushed the pace, and found Walters behind the line in the same spot. Good.

Next possession, same shooter, same spot. Good.

After two made free throws by Greg Eboigbodin, Brace tried a pump-fake, sidestep three from the same spot. Same result.

After two games of tough shots, the Husky offense had finally clicked. The ball moved without friction, passes were crisp, players moved without the ball. Passers screened for the players they dished to and any player who caught the ball immediately did something with it, preventing Weber State from rotating to shooters in time. The open looks helped NU shoot 57 percent from three — including 10-for-14 in the first half — a marked improvement from the 31 percent they shot in last two games.

Northeastern swarmed Weber State’s passing lanes, choking their offense, forcing live ball turnovers, and generating easy transition looks. That, plus the infrequent whistles in the first ten minutes, aided the Huskies’ momentum and helped them jump out to a 20-point first half lead.

Then Northeastern turned the ball over five times in two minutes, Weber State trimmed the lead to 13, and it appears as though yesterday’s habits were returning to bite the Huskies.

But Eboigbodin and Roland had other plans. Their superb play to close the half handed the Huskies an 18-point lead entering the locker room.

In the last three games, Eboigbodin has played more minutes — and scored more points — than in any of the games before. Wednesday’s game saw his best effort yet, as he logged 13 points (5–6 FG, 3–3 FT) pulled down seven rebounds, and dished out three assists without turning the ball over once. He showed off his agile post moves with a couple of jump hooks, finished a nifty lob from Walker, and even drove to the basket for an and-one layup.

But his best play came a minute into the second half. He had the ball on the wing when Brace took a free-throw line screen and curled along the right side of the lane toward the basket. The screen didn’t get Brace much separation and he wasn’t expecting a pass. But Eboigbodin threw a bounce pass so perfect that Brace, who wasn’t looking, corralled it and laid it in without a hitch.

Roland, who scored a combined 22 points in his last two games, came alive Wednesday with a 24-point showing. Eleven of those points came in the last four minutes of the first half, courtesy of two three-point fouls — he made five of six free throws — and two three-point buckets.

Brace turned in his first quality performance since his 20-point, 12-rebound showing against UMass on November 12. He picked up just two fouls — which allowed him to play 36 minutes — and notched 18 points (7–10 FG, 4–6 3FG) and seven boards. It was just his second double-digit scoring effort in eight games this year, and it showed how much more efficient, well-spaced, and free-flowing the offense can be when teams need to worry about him and throw as many bodies at Roland.

Though the stat sheet would claim Tyson Walker’s eight points and five assists were somewhat negated by his four fouls and four turnovers, his passing was eye-popping. He threw crisp, accurate, cross-court passes to open shooters, demonstrating chemistry and positional awareness that would be excellent for anyone, let alone a freshman point guard in his eighth game with the team.

Shaq Walters, starting his sixth game this season, turned in eight points and eight rebounds. He nailed a couple of first-half threes, indicative of his expanded skill set and role in the offense.

After three games in three days, the Huskies (4–4) can rest for six days before their Wednesday tilt against Maine at Matthews Arena. Michael Petillo and Matt Neiser will call the game for WRBB, with coverage beginning at 6:45 PM EST.

Nineteen Turnovers Sink Men’s Basketball Against Drake

By Milton Posner

Photo by Sarah Olender

As the game clock steadily ticked off its final seconds, Jason Strong took charge. He took the ball out top, put his head down, and drove down the right side of the lane. He tossed the ball with a gentle hooking motion, and his layup settled neatly into the basket with 0.6 seconds remaining.

His teammates were frustrated. A couple of them had yelled at Strong as he charged down the lane. Bolden Brace gestured animatedly to no avail.

Northeastern needed a three, not a two. Strong’s layup pulled cut the deficit to one, and there wasn’t enough time left to do anything about it.

An execution mistake. But Northeastern’s 59–56 loss to Drake on Tuesday afternoon didn’t stem from Strong’s mistake alone.

It began with turnovers. Both teams had 64 possessions, and Northeastern gave the ball up on 19 of theirs. Nearly every Husky had at least one giveaway; five players had more than two. Jordan Roland led the way with six; Max Boursiquot — despite playing just 12 minutes before fouling out — had four.

The turnovers handed the Bulldogs a 20–7 advantage in points off turnovers, but in a game without a ton of transition basketball, the biggest turnover-induced hurt came elsewhere. Northeastern lost despite outshooting Drake by 14 percent, a fact possible only because Drake attempted 59 shots to Northeastern’s 39. Northeastern’s turnovers — combined with the Bulldogs’ 11–2 offensive rebounding margin — allowed for the gap in attempts.

Foul trouble hampered the Huskies in the first half, with Brace and Tyson Walker both heading to the bench with two early fouls. It was the third consecutive game in which foul trouble has limited Brace’s playing time. Walker, who exited after just five minutes, did not return. The personnel losses hurt a team already missing starting big man Tomas Murphy, who has missed the last three games with an ankle injury.

Heavy Drake fouling put Northeastern in the bonus around the halfway mark in the first half; they spent the last four minutes in the double bonus. The Huskies turned this into an 11–4 free-throw advantage, which helped them reclaim the lead after an 8–0 Drake run to open the game. Myles Franklin led the way, netting five points from the charity stripe.

Roland struggled for the second straight game. Though he enjoyed some success driving to the basket and nailed a spectacular, standstill, fadeaway three-pointer. Drake’s constant, intense defense often denied him the ball and crowded him on jumpshots. He made just one of six attempts from three and lost the ball trying to burrow his way to the basket through multiple defenders. He finished with 13 points and, for the first time this season, ceded the title of nation’s top scorer. Delaware guard Nate Darling now tops the list.

That said, this and-one floater was gorgeous.

Brace stayed out of foul trouble in the second half and netted himself a milestone. His two three-pointers tied him with Chaisson Allen for sixth place on Northeastern’s career list.

Shaq Walters played a strong first half for the Huskies, scoring nine points and helping the Huskies to a 7–0 run and a three-point halftime lead.

Roman Penn and Anthony Murphy led the Bulldogs, combining for 32 points. Penn had an inefficient shooting night but made up for it at the foul line, while Murphy nailed six of his 11 shots and pulled down seven boards.

Though the offensive struggles felled Northeastern, their defense was largely solid. They rotated well to perimeter shooters, limiting the Bulldogs to a measly 24 percent from downtown. Greg Eboigbodin played well on the interior, contesting inside shots and picking up just two fouls, a big improvement considering his foul troubles in the season’s first few games.

But it was ultimately in vain. The mistakes kept piling up — errant passes, unsure ballhandling, a slew of travels and offensive fouls, anything to end possessions without attempting a shot. The frustration came to a head on the last play.

With Northeastern inbounding the ball down three with 11 seconds remaining, it’s possible head coach Bill Coen instructed his team to sprint downcourt, get a quick two, and foul. It would certainly explain Strong’s no-hesitation drive. But Myles Franklin stumbled catching an inbounds pass in the backcourt. Though he ultimately saved the ball, it ate several precious seconds off the clock. When Drake put the lead back up to three with a pair of free throws, Northeastern couldn’t do anything with 0.2 seconds left.

Northeastern will play its final game of the tournament tomorrow at 11 AM EST against the loser of the Murray State–Weber State game.

Men’s Basketball Falls to South Alabama

By Milton Posner

Photo by Sarah Olender

As Boston trudges inexorably toward winter, as the days end earlier, the winds blow harder, and the temperatures drop, the Northeastern Huskies migrated south, if only for a few days.

They flew to Fort Myers, Florida for the Gulf Coast Showcase, an annual eight-team tournament. The Huskies’ three-day, three-game slate is, according to head coach Bill Coen, “perfect practice” for the CAA Tournament in March.

The Huskies — fresh off the most dominant win in program history — returned to earth, losing 74–62 to the South Alabama Jaguars Monday afternoon. The Huskies’ 62 points are a season low, and a stark departure for a team that averaged 79 points through their first five games.

Four double-digit scorers — Chad Lott, Josh Ajayi, Trhae Mitchell, and Andre Fox — powered a balanced Jaguar scoring effort. Lott shone among the four, netting 19 points on nine shots and pulling down seven rebounds. Ajayi logged a 14-point, 10-rebound double-double.

Though Mitchell scored his 14 points on an efficient nine shots, his biggest contribution was defending Northeastern’s Jordan Roland, who entered the game averaging an NCAA-leading 30 points per game. Mitchell hounded Roland, denying him the ball and preventing him from developing a rhythm. When Roland did catch the ball, he often saw two defenders jumping out at him, eating up any space a ball screen might have bought him. Even when he looked to draw the defenders and dish to open teammates, South Alabama’s constant pressure allowed them to enlist an ever-ticking shot clock as a sixth defender.

Roland hit a number of difficult shots through the team’s first five games, but today’s shots were next to impossible — flailing floaters, twisting layups, long threes, almost always tightly contested by one or two Jaguars. Many of them missed the rim entirely. A frustrated Roland finished with nine points on 3-for-13 shooting. He still leads college basketball in scoring, beating out fellow CAA guard Nate Darling (Delaware) by four tenths of a point.

Despite his struggles, Roland still notched the game’s two biggest highlights. The first came with five minutes remaining in the first half, when he stole the ball, drove downcourt, and hacked it through over Lott.

The next came about halfway through the second half, when he splashed a no-rhythm thirty-footer from out top.

The Huskies struggled to control the ball, yielding 23 points to the Jaguars on 16 turnovers. South Alabama’s inside dominance is slightly apparent in their six-point advantage in the paint, but becomes clearer with their 18–8 advantage in made free throws. The higher-quality shots they earned inside allowed them to outshoot the Huskies from the floor by 13 percent.

Bolden Brace, who would normally shore up these deficiencies for the Huskies, was scoreless in just 17 minutes on the floor, as early fouls sent him to bench for the second straight game. He fouled out with a minute left in the game after attempting two shots.

There were some encouraging signs for Northeastern, as the intense pressure on Roland forced younger players to step up on offense. Freshman guard Tyson Walker and sophomore big man Greg Eboigbodin had their best games of the young season. Walker — who, earlier in the day, was named CAA Rookie of the Week for the second time this season — dropped 20 points (8–13 FG, 2–3 3FG) and four assists in 29 minutes, assailing the Jaguars with jabstep jumpers and dashing drives.

Eboigbodin set season highs in points (12) and rebounds (9). His best play of the night came a minute into the second half, when he threw down a two-handed dunk. Three seconds later, the lights in the arena went out, leaving both squads to strategize and shoot around in the dark for about 15 minutes while building personnel scrambled to address the malfunction. Broadcasters cited a malfunction of the computer that controls the lights; Husky fans might jokingly argue otherwise.

Myles Franklin poured in eight quick points to key the Huskies’ first-half comeback, but went silent for the rest of the contest. Despite a second-half stretch where every bucket changed the lead, it was ultimately a game of runs. South Alabama forged a 15–2 in the first half; Northeastern answered it to take a one-point halftime lead. South Alabama made a run late in the second half; Northeastern had no answer. An eight-point lead became a 12-point lead through desperate intentional fouling down the stretch.

The Huskies (3–3) move to the left side of the bracket, the Jaguars (4–2) to the right. The Huskies face the Drake Bulldogs tomorrow at 11 AM EST.

Men’s Basketball Claims Largest Win in Program History

By Milton Posner

WORCESTER, MA — From 1096 to 1271, the Roman Catholic Church waged a series of wars against Muslim powers in the eastern Mediterranean. Though the Crusades arguably increased Christianity’s reach, the Church’s wealth, and the Pope’s power, the Crusaders repeatedly failed in their main goal of retaking the Holy Land.

On Tuesday night, in a conflict with far lesser stakes, the Northeastern Huskies rode into Worcester to battle the Holy Cross Crusaders on the basketball court. The modern Crusaders fared even worse than their namesake.

In 100 years of men’s basketball, Northeastern has never dominated like they did Tuesday night. It was overwhelming. It was absurd. It was borderline unfair. They eviscerated Holy Cross 101–44.

The 57-point margin of victory eclipsed the previous record of 56 set against Connecticut in 1946 and equaled against Suffolk in 1984. It is the second school scoring record the Huskies have broken in their last four games, with Jordan Roland’s 42-point masterpiece against Harvard on November 8 setting a new individual record.

Holy Cross got the scoring going with a free throw two minutes in. It was their only lead of the night, and it lasted for 15 seconds.

Their first field goal was a three-pointer five minutes in. It would be their last bucket from downtown for 35 minutes.

Northeastern turned the first half into an unmitigated farce. They clogged the passing lanes, poked the ball away from incautious ballhandlers, and reaped the benefits with easy transition buckets down the other end. They pushed the pace on almost every possession whether they had stolen the ball or not, as they recognized early that the Crusaders couldn’t keep pace.

Jordan Roland, the nation’s leading scorer entering the game, played perhaps his best basketball of the season in the first half. He dropped 21 points on 8-for-9 shooting and made all five of his threes. Almost every perimeter shot he took was tightly contested, fading away, or both. He was in such a rhythm that he almost shot from 30 feet while bringing the ball up. When a hard close forced him to shovel the ball to a teammate, his wide grin matched the feeling he and every fan in the arena had: it probably would have gone in.

Though Roland didn’t have as dominant a second half — he played just 27 minutes all game in light of the Huskies’ enormous lead — he did hit the most unbelievable shot in a game full of them. After a hesitation move forced his defender to run into him near the foul line, Roland chucked the ball up. He was nearly parallel to the floor, shooting with an awkward flailing motion, only because he thought a foul would be called.

It wasn’t, but Roland made it anyway. He finished with 28 points on 11-for-13 shooting, including 6-of-7 from downtown. When he left the game for good with 12 minutes remaining in the second half, he was one point shy of outscoring the Crusaders by himself.

“Jordan is the centerpiece,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen remarked. “I’m actually shocked when he misses.”

When Roland wasn’t dominating, Jason Strong was. The seldom-used forward contributed 17 minutes on a night when regular starting big man Tomas Murphy sat with an ankle injury (Coen doesn’t expect the injury will sideline Murphy for long). Strong nailed seven of his eight shots — including all four threes — and finished with a career-high 18 points and six rebounds. His textbook, upright shooting form was on full display.

“I think he’s been a little bit frustrated at times early on,” Coen said of Strong. “But he attacked practice this week. That’s the type of player he can be. He might be our second-best shooter [after Roland].”

By halftime, Northeastern had opened up a 63–23 lead. Coen typically waits to empty his bench until the closing minutes of a blowout, when his lead is secure beyond any reasonable doubt. By the end of the first half, all 11 Huskies that dressed to play had seen the court. Strong, Quirin Emanga, Vito Cubrilo, and Guilien Smith — who entered tonight’s contest with a combined 13 minutes of playing time this season — played 53 combined minutes tonight.

“It was an opportunity for us to go deeper in the bench,” Coen observed. “We’re going to need that later on in the season, certainly in the tournament down in Florida.”

Northeastern shot a ludicrous 71 percent from the floor — and 75 percent from three — in the first half. Some of the threes were difficult, contested shots that went in anyway, but many of them were open shots earned through crisp passing, strong ball screens, movement off the ball, and a nearly constant transition pace.

“When you’re catching the ball in rhythm, [you get] much better shots,” Coen said. “We shared the ball at a high level tonight, and I think that set the tone. That type of passing got contagious, and then the basket got real big for us.”

Northeastern’s 42–24 rebounding edge makes sense in light of Holy Cross’s abysmal shooting (17–57 FG, 2–27 3FG). It’s easier to get rebounds when the other team is bricking most of their shots. But Northeastern’s 11–9 offensive rebounding edge is nothing short of remarkable considering they had so few opportunities to get them. Greg Eboigbodin led the rebounding with eight, followed by Strong’s six. Emanga and Shaq Walters both registered five-point, five-rebound games.

Eboigbodin scored six efficient points, but his biggest contribution was his defense. He played a season-high 25 minutes and committed one foul, a season low. His coverage on Holy Cross’s ball screens — stepping up on good shooters, dropping back to contain drivers, and hedging when appropriate — defended Northeastern’s interior territory against the Crusaders and helped the Huskies build and sustain momentum.

Tyson Walker, Myles Franklin, and Max Boursiqout all finished in double figures. Walker stood out, earning 15 points with a series of drives.

Besides shooting and rebounding, Northeastern won the battle of assists (23–7), steals (13–7), fastbreak points (21–6), points in the paint (38–22), and points off turnovers (24–6), among others. There were no individual bright spots for the Crusaders; their four leading scorers combined for just 32 points and all of them missed more shots than they made. Leading scorer Drew Lowder missed all six of his three-point attempts in Holy Cross’s biggest home loss since they started playing at the Hart Center in 1975.

The win bumped Northeastern to 3–2 on the year; the Crusaders are winless in four games. Northeastern will fly to Fort Myers, Florida for the Gulf Coast Showcase, where they begin play against South Alabama Monday at 11 AM ET.

Even though Northeastern entered the game on a two-game skid, and even without the hot-handed Tomas Murphy, the Huskies were expected to handle Holy Cross. They were not expected to bludgeon them to this degree, in this manner.

The first half was a wonder, when any Northeastern player could cast up a contested three with everyone in the building assuming it would fall. The hot shooting, mixed with the volume of turnovers the Husky defense forced, made it seem as though Northeastern was making more shots than Holy Cross was taking. The game was a fastbreak and the Huskies were running it.

It wasn’t suspenseful. It wasn’t competitive. It bordered on being a joke. But, especially for the first 20 minutes, it was a sight to behold.

CAA Preview: Northeastern Huskies

Last season: 23–11 (14–4 CAA, second place), won CAA Tournament, lost in first round of NCAA Tournament

Head Coach: Bill Coen (14th season)

CAA Preseason Poll Finish: Third

Losses

  • G Vasa Pusica
  • G Donnell Gresham Jr.
  • G/F Shawn Occeus
  • F/C Jeremy Miller
  • C Anthony Green

Additions

  • G Vito Cubrilo
  • G Tyson Walker
  • G Guilien Smith
  • G Quirin Emanga
  • G/F Shaquille Walters
  • F Greg Eboigbodin
  • F Connor Braun

By Milton Posner

Notwithstanding the clobbering from Kansas that sent the Huskies home, Northeastern had an superb 2018–19 season. They overcame injuries to key players as they battled through a challenging non-conference slate, then finished second in the conference standings behind a balanced offense and crippling perimeter defense.

In the CAA Tournament, they dismissed UNCW, exacted revenge on Charleston for the previous year’s tournament final defeat, then knocked off the Hofstra Pride and its unanimous Player of the Year Justin Wright-Foreman to capture the conference crown. The March Madness berth was Northeastern’s first since 2015.

Two-time CAA first-teamer Vasa Pusica graduated, as did bruising center Anthony Green and backup big man Jeremy Miller. Northeastern also lost two juniors. Savvy combo guard Donnell Gresham Jr. joined the Georgia Bulldogs for his final college season. Lockdown perimeter defender Shawn Occeus turned pro and was drafted 35th in the NBA G League Draft by the Salt Lake City Stars, the G League affiliate of the Utah Jazz. He joins Jarrell Brantley and Justin Wright-Foreman, both CAA first teamers, in the organization.

Sweet-shooting senior guard Jordan Roland figures to be the Huskies’ biggest offensive threat. He was the team’s second-leading scorer last season behind Pusica, with his school-record 99 three-pointers accounting for 60 percent of his points. He did most of his damage as a spot-up shooter, letting Pusica and Gresham create in the pick-and-roll and benefitting from the open looks their gravity created. Without them, Roland may have to create more opportunities for himself through drives, floaters, and off-the-dribble jumpers.

After two productive years coming off the bench — the second one worthy of the CAA Sixth Man of the Year Award — Bolden Brace made the starting lineup last year. He didn’t disappoint, starting all 34 games — the only Husky to do so — and averaging ten points per game on 47 percent shooting from the field and 41 percent from three. His six rebounds per contest led the team, and his 6’6”, 225-pound frame let him slow speedy guards and hold firm against bruising forwards. The Huskies will need every ounce of his versatility this season.

Redshirt junior Max Boursiquot can provide solid offensive contributions and defensive flexibility, though the hip injury that sidelined him last season may affect his mobility. Jason Strong, Myles Franklin, and Shaquille Walters saw limited minutes off the bench last year, but will likely be called on to score a bit and prop up the Huskies’ formidable three-point defense. Redshirt sophomore Greg Eboigbodin, who practiced with the team last season, will try to fill the hole the graduating Green left in the middle.

Quirin Emanga stands out among the new recruits. He’s an athletic 6’5’ guard/forward with a seven-foot wingspan and a burgeoning skill set. For a more detailed player profile of Emanga, click here.

Connor Braun is a mobile 6’8” forward with solid handles and driving ability. Vito Cubrilo’s speed and quickness earn him buckets on drives, he’s got a sweet-looking perimeter stroke, and, like Emanga, has played high-level European youth ball. Guilien Smith averaged 12 points per game his sophomore year at Dartmouth but missed almost all of the next season due to injury and saw his minutes — and numbers — drop when he returned. If he returns to form, he can mitigate the loss of Pusica at point guard. Tyson Walker, at just six feet and 162 pounds, will look to stand tall with his flashy drives and transition speed. Bill Coen, now the CAA’s longest-tenured coach after the firing of William & Mary’s Tony Shaver, is tasked with blending the new talent.

Bottom Line: This will likely be the first time in six seasons Northeastern doesn’t have an All-CAA first team player. This makes their balanced approach even more important. Unlike last year, they have a slew of new players whose production will prove necessary. How well Bill Coen incorporates the new players, and how well they perform, will determine whether Northeastern contends for a second straight CAA title or falls to the middle of the pack.