“We’re here boys,” Huskies junior forward David Walker exclaimed as he stepped off the bus at the team hotel just after 9 p.m. Tuesday night.
Indeed the Huskies are here, and that here is Pittsburgh, where the Northeastern men’s basketball team will be competing in the NCAA tournament for the first time in 24 years.
It was a thrilling day for the team, one that began back home in Boston on campus. A group of about 100 Northeastern students, faculty, and staff greeted the Huskies outside Chicken Lou’s on Forsyth Street for a final send-off before the basketball team headed to Logan International Airport to catch its flight to Pittsburgh. Joining the players and coaching staff were members of the Northeastern pep band, cheer team, and dance team.
The crowd roared when the team emerged from the Cabot Center at 4:15 p.m. to board the bus, but not before the players greeted the Northeastern faithful. Fans cheered, waved towels, and snapped cell phone photos, while Paws worked the crowd like only Paws can.
Once at Logan, the Huskies were loose and relaxed while waiting for their flight. Walker had his Dr. Pepper—his favorite pre-game drink—in hand, while Quincy Ford smiled as he stutter stepped and did a spin move around head coach Bill Coen as the two crossed paths in the airport hallway.
And how about this for a good omen: the Southwest Airlines operations agent who greeted the team and scanned tickets prior to boarding is a Northeastern parent. “Go Huskies!” he yelled while briefly ducking into the plane before takeoff.
One of the flight attendants echoed that message: “We know you are going to win. I believe in you,” she said over the intercom.
There’s definitely a great sense of excitement around this Northeastern program making its first NCAA tournament appearance in 24 years, and the coaches and players are clearly focused on the task at hand. Moments after he boarded the plane Coen fired up his laptop and immersed himself in watching game film of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, the Huskies’ opponent on Thursday afternoon.
After arriving at the hotel Tuesday night, the team settled in with some light stretching, caught up on some game-film review, and then gathered together for a team meal. Wednesday will be a big day of preparation—the day before the Huskies take the floor to compete in the Big Dance.