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The road to the Big Dance

The Northeastern University men’s basketball team is only two wins away from reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time in more than two decades.

But making program history will not be easy. Earning their first automatic Tournament bid since 1991 will require the Huskies to win the Colonial Athletic Association Championship, which begins on Saturday at the Richmond Coliseum in Richmond, Va.

The Huskies (19–11, 14–4 in CAA play) cap­tured the program’s first ever Colo­nial Ath­letic Asso­ci­a­tion regular-season title this year, locking up the cov­eted No. 1 seed in the con­fer­ence tour­na­ment and a first-round bye.

The bye gives the Huskies the edge over their conference opponents in making the Big Dance because it means they do not have to play in the quarterfinals. Instead they automatically advance to the semifinal round of the tournament and will play Sunday at 2 p.m. against the winner the George Mason-Drexel game. If the Huskies win, they would play in the final round on Monday at 7 p.m.

Both games will be telecast live on the NBC Sports Network. Fans can cheer on their Huskies at a watch party in afterHOURS during Sunday’s game. If the Huskies advance to the CAA championship game, there will be a watch party in the West Addition of the Curry Student Center.

The Huskies were a combined 4-0 against Drexel and George Mason over the course of the regular season, three wins of which were decided by 10 points or less. Their 63-58 overtime win against Drexel on Jan. 8 came amid an eight-game winning streak that solidified the Huskies as the conference’s top contenders.

Throughout a season in which jaw-dropping buzzer beaters and frenetic comebacks have been the name of the game, several players have excelled. Senior guards Joel Smith and Jonathan Lee—co-captains of the club—led the Huskies in scoring, assists, and minutes played. Six-foot-seven sophomore forward Reggie Spencer led the team with 187 rebounds and 19 blocked shots. Sophomore forward Quincy Ford was second on the team in steals with 37 and third in scoring with 12.9 points per game.

Lee has also been named one of 10 national finalists for the Senior CLASS Award, which recognizes student-athletes who excel both on and off the court. To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence—community, classroom, character, and competition. The award winner will be determined by a combination of voting among fans, media members, and Division 1 head coaches. Fan voting is open through March 25 via the Senior CLASS Award website or the Senior CLASS Award Facebook fan page.