Northeastern basketball? What?
If you've forgotten that Northeastern has a basketball program, I don't blame you. But, if you looked at the CAA standings recently, you would have noticed that Northeastern leads the pack with a 9-1 conference record.
The Huskies, who returned every key player from a team that went 14-17 last year, were picked to finish second in the CAA in 2008-09. As their current standing shows, they are living up to the expectation.
Critics questioned Bill Coen's team after they struggled to a 3-4 record to open the season. A four-point victory at Providence was not as impressive at the time because the Friars were not a favorite to make the Big East Tournament.
Losses by 20 at Michigan, who was also not expected to be anything special, eight to Boston, 18 at South Florida, and 13 against Rhode Island left CAA coaches thinking that they put the wrong team as the preseason No. 2.
However, the Huskies have won 11 of their last 13 games, including recent defeats of George Mason and Virginia Commonwealth.
So, what lit the Huskies' tails on fire?
In truth, the answer is not provided by available statistics. Maybe Coen gave a couple of motivational speeches, or maybe the team realized that they were talented enough to top the Colonial Athletic Association.
Talent. Yes, that is something they have. However, Coen does not recruit superstars.
Junior Matt Janning leads the team with 15.5 points-per-game and his classmate, Manny Adako, adds 11.4 of his own. Everyone else contributes, but a team that scores a meager 62.8 points-per-game won't flaunt too many scorers.
The fact is that Northeastern does not need to score 70 or more points-per-game. Their goals are to slow the game down, to look for good shots on offense, and to play suffocating defense.
The defense doesn't force an outlandish amount of turnovers, but 15 turnovers forced per game is nothing to be scoffed at. Northeastern plays tight defense and forces tough shots. Opponents are shooting 41.8 percent against the Huskies' defense, which only allows 59.5 points-per-game.
If Northeastern is the last CAA team standing, which seems far-fetched as long as Eric Maynor is at VCU, they will not have an easy time in the Tournament.
Generally, the more talented team wins a slow-paced battle. Odds are that Northeastern will not be the more talented team. However, as the upset of Providence proved, the Huskies have the ability to beat bigger teams. In the Tournament, it'll depend on the luck of the draw.
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