The Northeastern men’s basketball team tips off its season Tuesday night when it hosts Boston University at Matthews Arena. The Huskies hope to build on the success of last season when they came within moments of clinching a berth in the NCAA Tournament when they lost the Colonial Athletic Association championship game in overtime.
Head coach Bill Coen said that the emotion the players displayed in the locker room after that game showed him how much they cared for one another, and made it clear to him that they would bounce back and use that loss as motivation this season. The team, he said, has set its sights on finishing first in the conference and winning the tournament championship.
“A lot of guys understood the opportunity that we missed,” said Coen, who was named the conference’s Coach of the Year last season, “and I think there was a lot of resolve in doing whatever we can to see if we can put ourselves back in that same position for the season going forward.”
He said that the Huskies will have a good shot to reach their goals if they finish in the top three in the conference in both offensive and defensive efficiency.
A vote of coaches, media relations directors, and media members has picked Northeastern to win the Colonial Athletic Association championship. The Huskies return nearly their entire roster, including a starting five led by senior guard Vasa Pusica, who averaged a team-leading 17.9 points and 5.1 assists per game last season.
Coen said that the team’s depth and unselfish approach are its greatest strengths. The top five scorers return from last season, including junior guards Shawn Occeus, the Colonial Athletic Association Defensive Player of the Year, and Bolden Brace, the conference’s Sixth Man of the Year.
The Huskies will need all the firepower they can get. Their opponents early in the season include several teams that made the NCAA Tournament last year, including Syracuse, Davidson, Bucknell, and St. Bonaventure. Northeastern will also face Alabama, another team that earned an NCAA bid, in the first round of the Charleston Classic, a tournament that also includes Purdue, Virginia Tech, and Wichita State.
Coen said that facing strong competition early in the season will prepare his team well for its conference schedule and strengthen the Huskies’ chances of earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament if they don’t win their conference.
“When you play the best competition, you get a very real sense of where you’re at in your development and your progress,” he said.
Coen said that the team has focused on being as mature as possible in its preparation, workouts, conditioning, and mindset. “If we’re not more mature, how can we really play better? We’re just older,” he said.
This is ninth consecutive time Northeastern has faced BU in its season-opener; the Huskies have won seven of those eight games.
The game will air live on NESN, starting at 8 p.m. The radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub will also hold activities and giveaways outside Matthews Arena before the game and in the arena’s main lobby during the game. Northeastern is also holding a donation drive for students affected by the apartment building fire on Hemenway Street on Oct. 27. Students who donate new or gently used clothes and new school supplies at The Spot, which is located behind the hoop closest to the lobby of the arena, will receive free food and a T-shirt. Northeastern employees and other fans who bring items to donate to the front entrance of Matthews Arena can purchase a game ticket at a discounted rate of $5.