At 8-4 in CAA, Bill Coen has Northeastern near top of CAA entering rematch with Hofstra. (Photo courtesy of CBS Sports)
As Northeastern's men's hockey team sets its sights on the school's first Beanpot championship since 1988, one year before friend of the site Mike Brodsky arrived as a student manager for the Huskies, its men's basketball team seeks a victory that; although not as prestigious as the intra-Boston icecapades have become, would keep them right where they need to be entering the stretch run in Colonial Athletic Association play.
At 16-9 on the year, and 8-4 in the CAA, Northeastern seeks a sweep in the "Barone Bowl," the series against conference rival Hofstra that got its name from the "Everybody Loves Raymond" episode that saw Peter Boyle's Frank Barone character catch a record-breaking field goal at a Hofstra-Northeastern football game:
Back to the contest at hand, if we may. Northeastern comes in having lost three of five, the last of which to reigning CAA champion Delaware, but remains just one game behind league leader William & Mary for first place. Led by forward Scott Eatherton and lengthy wing Quincy Ford, Bill Coen's Huskies cause matchup problems for nearly everyone, and possess the conference's third-best defense, yielding less than 65 points per game.
The Huskies' suffocating efforts will be put to the test against the CAA's best offense in Hofstra, which averages over 78 points per game and features a quartet of double-figure scorers in its lineup, led by Niagara transfers Ameen Tanksley and Juan'ya Green, who earlier in the year recorded the program's first triple-double, doing so against LIU Brooklyn at Barclays Center in December. Sharpshooter Brian Bernardi and sixth-year senior sixth man Dion Nesmith are the other two players averaging 10 or more points per game for Joe Mihalich, with forwards Rokas Gustys and Moussa Kone serving as an interchangeable piece to the puzzle down low that combines to average 12 points and 11 rebounds per night.
To help get to know the Huskies better, our pregame question and answer session returns, with Phil Kasiecki of Hoopville.com, a frequent contributor in our analysis of UMass, giving us a closer look at Northeastern, who meets Hofstra for the first time since scoring a 91-83 victory over the Pride at Matthews Arena on January 14:
Jaden Daly: What would be the best way to describe Northeastern to this point this season?
Phil Kasiecki: Northeastern is a mature, well-coached team that does a lot of things well. They run a solid offense with several scoring options, play good defense and are a good rebounding team. There isn't one area in which they are exceptional. They have also grown very nicely from last season, when they lost a lot of close games and that added up on their psyche. T.J. Williams is a big key to them, not just because he is their point guard but also because he showed promise as a freshman and needed to make a good jump as a sophomore for this team to reach its potential.
JD: With four double-figure scorers in the lineup for Bill Coen, how much more can the Huskies be expected to run the floor?
PK: The Huskies will look to selectively run, something they did well when Hofstra played them in Boston. While they like to play a slower game than most teams, they will look to run more or less depending on their opponent. Against Hofstra, they played faster without being sped up, not making the kind of mistakes that teams that aren't ready to play fast might make against a faster team. Perhaps the best example of how well-coached they are came in this game, as Bill Coen embraced the idea of running selectively but still wanted to play in the halfcourt so as to not lose a guy like Scott Eatherton, which can happen when a team plays an up-and-down game.
JD: For those unfamiliar with Scott Eatherton, what kind of a player is he, and how much has he improved since transferring from Saint Francis University?
PK: Scott Eatherton has improved immensely since transferring. It is perhaps best described as a case of finding the right fit. The Huskies were high on him during his year in residence, and he blossomed right away last year with his rebounding and post scoring. While he can shoot, including from long range, his shot selection is excellent, and he generally has good judgment on when to try to score and when to pass. The Huskies know how to use him, and his effort never wavers, thus making him a factor most of the time he is on the floor.
JD: With Northeastern being a gifted outside shooting team, is it fair to anticipate a shootout between the Huskies' shooters and the duo of Brian Bernardi and Ameen Tanksley?
PK: I don't expect the Huskies to look for a shootout. I expect them instead to look to play a similar style to the way they played in Boston, which would include taking what Hofstra gives them. The Huskies rarely get into such contests, which is one reason they have had the success they have had. I expect them to do what they can to use Eatherton and other post players like Reggie Spencer as much as they can, and perhaps even have Zach Stahl go to work on the post on occasion as well.
JD: Finally, as the CAA season heats up, where do you feel Northeastern will ultimately finish, and what are their postseason chances regardless of the tournament they play in?
PK: Northeastern should finish in the top three of the CAA, right there with William & Mary and UNCW. The next two games after this are against those two teams (at UNCW and against William & Mary in Boston) and will likely go a long way in determining their finish. In postseason play, the Huskies could be a dangerous team as they can play just about any style opponent and are a mature bunch. They could easily lose to a more talented team, or one that presses effectively, but this is a team that can give someone fits even if it doesn't result in a win.