SALT LAKE CITY—Northeastern senior center Anthony Green could not hide his emotions as he sat in the quiet locker room after the Huskies’ 87-53 loss to Kansas in the opening game of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday. The fourth-seeded Jayhawks had shut the door on his college career with abrupt finality, but at the same time he was proud of all that he and his teammates have built.
With 23 wins each of the last two seasons, as well as their recent title in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament, which carried them into March Madness for the second time in five years, the 13th-seeded Huskies are looking to next year from a position of newfound strength.
“It didn’t end how any of us wanted, especially the seniors,” Green said of himself, point guard Vasa Pusica and forward Jeremy Miller, who played their final game for Northeastern. “But we are proud of what we did this year. No one can take away that we are CAA champions and that we earned this spot.”
The Huskies will be expecting to contend for the NCAA Tournament again despite the loss of Pusica, who was first-team All-CAA in each of his two seasons after transferring from the University of San Diego. An obvious candidate to run the Huskies next year will be 6-foot-1-inch Donnell Gresham Jr., who became the primary ballhandler when Pusica missed seven games early this season. Bolden Brace, a versatile 6-foot-6-inch swingman, will assist with the playmaking.
Northeastern will be counting on strong senior leadership in the backcourt from Gresham, Brace, 6-foot-4-inch Shawn Occeus, and 6-foot-1-inch Jordan Roland, who set a school record with 99 3-pointers in his first season after transferring from George Washington University.
The Huskies will continue to benefit defensively from Occeus and Gresham, who are among the best perimeter defenders in the CAA.
While they will miss Green’s size on defense—at 6 feet 9 inches and 252 pounds, he was Northeastern’s only traditional center—his backup, 6-foot-8-inch sophomore Tomas Murphy, is a more versatile scorer.
Junior swingman Maxime Boursiquot, who started 32 games last year but missed this season with an injury, will provide a huge boost at both ends of the court. Redshirt freshmen Shaquille Walters, a 6-foot-6-inch wing, and Greg Eboigbodin, a 6-foot-9-inch sophomore, will bring upside to the Huskies.
Midway through the second half against Kansas, coach Bill Coen made a surprise move by inserting freshman forward Jason Strong and sophomore guard Myles Franklin. It was a signal that both will be contending for important minutes next season.
They will need time to recover from their disappointing result against Kansas, but the Huskies recognize there could be another opportunity in the near future.
“It doesn’t take away what they accomplished this year, and just getting to this point and playing in this tournament,” Coen said of his players moments after the loss on Thursday. “It was an experience we’ll all remember for the rest of our lives.”