Amid preseason hype, Huskies focused on preparation

While the Northeastern University men’s basketball team’s peers are expecting the Huskies to perform with aplomb and finish atop the Colonial Athletic Association this season, head coach Bill Coen and company’s focus is squarely on getting ready for their season-opener against Boston University on Sunday.

“The first game is the only one I’m worried about,” said Coen, who is entering his ninth season leading the program. “You want to make sure you are prepared for that day. That you have everything ready to go, everyone is healthy, and you can manage your emotions.”

The Huskies’ season opener on Sunday will be played at TD Garden in Boston and is part of the Coaches vs. Cancer Tripleheader. The game will be televised on NESN. Tip off is 12:30 p.m.

Student tickets for the annual clash with BU are available at the Ell Hall box office or online through MyNEU, and include a game-day t-shirt. Students interested in joining the official basketball student section, The N Zone, should follow @TheRealNZone on Twitter and Instagram.

After finishing the 2013-14 season with a sub .500 record and in fifth place in the CAA, the Huskies were picked by the league’s coaches, media relations directors, and media members to win the conference title this season—a feat the team achieved two seasons ago.

“Obviously it’s an honor to be picked by your peers,” Coen said. “It certainly demonstrates they have a certain amount of respect for your program. But we all know that goes out the window once the ball goes up on Nov. 16.”

A lot of the confidence in the program comes from the fact that the Huskies are returning four starters and six of the team’s top seven scorers from last year.

The team is led by senior forward Scott Eatherton, the reigning CAA Defensive Player of the Year who earned a spot on the 2014-15 preseason first team all-conference squad. Eatherton said being picked to win the conference has given the Huskies a lot of confidence to achieve their goals, but noted that titles are won on the court and not on paper.

“There’s a lot of energy in practice,” said Eatherton, who last season led the team in scoring (15.9 points) and rebounds (10.2) and finished with 19 double-doubles, good for fourth most in the nation. “We are all ready to get this season started.”

The Huskies will also get back second team all-conference selection Quincy Ford, the junior swingman who missed the majority of last season due to injury. Fellow junior David Walker, who was named to the CAA all-defensive team last season, earned a preseason all-conference honorable mention this season.

“We are playing a lot faster, which brings a lot more energy with it,” Walker said. “That really gets us going. But we can always get better.”

Northeastern’s schedule features 13 non-conference games, including a rematch from last season with Florida State University on Nov. 18 in Tallahassee, and a California road trip in which the team will play Cal Poly (Dec. 17), Santa Clara (Dec. 20), and St. Mary’s (Dec. 22). The Huskies will also compete in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut the weekend of Nov. 22-23.

The Huskies open CAA play on Saturday, Jan. 3 at Delaware. The team will make at least 10 television appearances throughout the season, including four nationally televised games—three on NBC Sports Network and one on ESPN3.