Doherty’s the Hero as Huskies Win Sixth in a Row

By Milton Posner

If it wasn’t obvious by now, there’s some kind of magic in the air for Northeastern men’s basketball.

In a season thrown into chaos by the unpredictability of a pandemic, with the youngest roster in the CAA, amid injuries that sidelined three big men simultaneously, and after being pummeled by high-major teams throughout the non-conference slate, the Huskies are still undefeated in conference play.

They won their sixth straight game on Sunday afternoon after a Chris Doherty putback with 15 seconds to play. 68–66 Northeastern. Ballgame.

From the start, and for the entire first half, it didn’t appear that a finishing blow would be necessary. The Huskies leapt out to an 11–2 lead in the first six-and-a-half minutes behind a flurry of quick, assertive drives into the paint. Tyson Walker led the attack, earning a number of short floaters and jumpers in transition and in the halfcourt. He and Coleman Stucke would lead the Huskies with eight points apiece by halftime.

Meanwhile, the Cougars had about as much luck finding the basket as a blind pirate does finding buried treasure. The Huskies rotated well, shutting off easy lanes to the paint and forcing the Cougars into contested looks. When the Cougars improved the quality of their looks, they still struggled to find a rhythm, with Brendan Tucker being the sole bright spot. Minnesota transfer Payton Willis was scoreless, as was Saint Joseph’s transfer Lorenzo Edwards. Zep Jasper cashed in on just one of seven attempts.

“Our defense has traveled with us,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen. “[By the metrics] we’re the best defensive team in the league, and usually you need veteran players to do that. The freshman players get caught on the trick plays, or they haven’t seen certain actions enough. They don’t have enough in their reads in their database to be so consistent defensively.

“Our young guys [can] really absorb a scouting report. As a coach you’re always a little bit nervous in giving them too much, because you don’t want them thinking — you want them playing . . . But this group has been remarkable in terms of what they’ve been able to process and execute in the game.”

The first-half numbers reflect the Huskies overwhelming defense. Charleston shot 28 percent from the floor against the Huskies’ 50 percent, made one of nine threes against the Huskies’ four of nine, and lost the rebounding battle by eight. Most importantly, the Huskies led 34–20.

Six minutes later, the lead had evaporated.

The Cougars had already equaled their first-half total. Willis and Jasper had discovered their mojo. The Huskies inherited the Cougars’ first-half inability to penetrate the paint, then tacked on a few turnovers that jumpstarted the Cougars’ transition game.

By the midway point of the second half, Charleston had built a seven-point lead. Northeastern had mustered just ten points and still didn’t have a double-digit scorer. The tug-of-war that ensued over the next handful of possessions left the lead hanging at six with five minutes to play, easily the most serious threat to the Huskies since Hofstra had them in blowout territory in the second half on January 7.

But Northeastern woke up just in time. A couple of buckets apiece from Jahmyl Telfort and Shaq Walters did the trick, with a Walters stepback jumper tying things at 66 with a minute to play.

And then a catlike Telfort block on Tucker set the stage for an unlikely finish.

Walker ran a pick-and-roll with Doherty, then drove along the left side of the lane. Jasper pursued him and Osinachi Smart peeled off of Doherty to meet Walker at the rim. The contest worked, but Doherty was left uncovered in the middle of the lane.

The Huskies clogged the middle to pressure Jasper into a missed layup, then smothered Smart on the putback attempt. Game over.

“This group has come together quicker and without expectation, because you really don’t expect a team without a senior on the roster to play at this high level,” Coen noted. “We’re getting leadership from up and down the lineup. Guys really enjoy each other, they enjoy playing for each other. They don’t want to let their teammate down.”

As has become typical in conference play, the Huskies got balanced contributions up and down their roster. Telfort notched 16 points to lead the way. Walker chipped in 10 points and six dimes. Walters complimented his 15 points with eight rebounds, and played a large role in shutting down Charleston’s guards in the first half.

“He doesn’t get enough credit for where we are at,” Coen said of Walters. “He’s made big, big shots, he always guards the opponent’s best player, and his intensity and competitiveness is igniting the younger guys.” Coen also remarked that Telfort is “one of the best two-way freshmen I’ve seen come through this program.”

Tucker had another excellent game for the Cougars, posting 20 points. Jasper and Willis chipped in 10 points apiece for a Cougar squad that fell to 5–8 overall and 3–3 in conference.

The Huskies (7–5, 6–0 CAA) will return to Boston for Saturday and Sunday games against James Madison, both at noon Eastern. WRBB will call those games, with coverage beginning about ten minutes before tip-off. With all the uncertainty over how many games will be played this season, every win only makes it more likely that the Huskies run away with the CAA regular season crown.

“How can you not enjoy coaching this group?” Coen said. “Toughness and grit all the way around . . . This group has shown time and time again the type of resiliency that you love to see as a coach. They just never give up, they never stop believing in themselves and their teammates.”

Men’s Basketball Outlasts Elon to Earn Weekend Sweep

By Peyton Doyle and Milton Posner

BOSTON — Northeastern men’s basketball entered Sunday afternoon’s rematch with Elon after demolishing the Phoenix the day before. A game that stayed close through halftime was decided by a furious 11–0 run to begin the second half.

Sunday’s game was precisely the opposite. After opening a double-digit lead four minutes in, Northeastern (3–5, 2–0 CAA) held off a furious second-half comeback from Elon (3–3, 0–2 CAA) to win 66–58. The weekend sweep marks a stark turnaround for a Husky team that spent its non-conference slate being bludgeoned by high-major teams.

The Huskies began the afternoon on a torrid stretch, sinking their first eight shots. Freshman Coleman Stucke led the way, connecting on his first two triples. By the time Northeastern missed a shot, they led 19–7.

The Huskies’ run was driven in good part by their first starting lineup tweak of the season. With usual starting center Greg Eboigbodin suffering from spasms before the game, Jason Strong slid down to the five and Jahmyl Telfort joined the group.

“It changes my mindset,” Strong said. “Being the five, I have to be the best rebounder out there. I have to be the anchor of the defense and that changes my style.”

Northeastern Head Coach Bill Coen noted that while the move gave Strong a jump-shot and pick-and-pop mismatch against traditional post players, his most important rationale for the move was Strong’s familiarity with Elon’s Princeton offense.

“It was more about brains over brawn in that situation,” Coen explained. “He had done it before last year, he had played a little five against them . . . He was the most experienced guy at that spot and I thought he did a tremendous job.”

Elon answered Northeastern’s opening run with one of their own, working the ball inside to make it a 21–15 game with 12 minutes to play in the first half. Part of this was Federico Poser, Elon’s big man off the bench, contributing multiple buckets after not playing the previous day. Coen brought in Alexander Nwagha, who immediately made his presence felt down low with a spectacular block on Poser.

The Huskies turned right around and put together a 12–0 run, capped by a Jahmyl Telfort slam.

In the closing minutes of the half, Elon’s Hunter McIntosh reminded people why he is the reigning CAA Rookie of the Year, scoring six points to close the deficit to ten entering the break. 

Neither team had found the bottom of the net from downtown since the 15-minute mark of the first half. They each connected on a pair of triples in the first two and a half minutes after the break, although both finished with subpar efforts from distance.

“In the second half of a back-to-back series your legs go a little bit and you lose some of your three point range,” Coen said. “We had to rely a little more on getting to the basket.”

With 14 minutes to play, Strong ended a brief scoring drought for the Huskies with his second triple of the game. The junior finished with a strong 17 points and seven boards.

As Elon fought back down the stretch, even shrinking the Northeastern lead to three with four-and-a-half minutes remaining, Shaquille Walters and Tyson Walker stole the show for the Huskies.

“He’s our go-to guy, he knows it, our team knows it and our staff knows it,” Coen said of Walker. “At that juncture in the game, he [can] feel the game and make the appropriate play . . . A lot of guys have the ability but don’t have the mindset or the personality for it. He’s got the confidence to do that, and we’re going to rely on him heavily.” 

Walker and Walters combined for 13 points in the last seven minutes of the game, with Walker scoring or assisting on 13 of the Huskies’ final 15 points.

The Huskies’ next games come against the Hofstra Pride, who ended the Huskies’ season last year in the CAA Championship Game. Because the teams are travel partners, it will be the one traditional home-and-home for the Huskies in conference play. Game one begins Thursday night at 7 PM Eastern from Hempstead, NY.

Huskies Douse Phoenix in Conference Opener

By Jordan Baron and Milton Posner

BOSTON — It was hard to know what to expect heading into Saturday afternoon’s contest.

The Elon Phoenix, courtesy of multiple cancellations, had missed scheduled games against perennial powerhouses Duke and North Carolina, and had parlayed the CAA’s weakest non-conference schedule into the best non-conference record. They were also missing key contributors Zac Ervin and Jerald Gillens-Butler, both of whom are coping with season-ending injuries.

In their scramble to fill their schedule, Northeastern took the opposite route, winning just one of six non-conference games against a steady diet of Power 5 squads. According to KenPom, they had the 17th toughest schedule in Division I. 

So, as has so often been the case in a pandemic season, it was tricky to gauge where the teams stood relative to each other. After an explosive 46-point second half handed the Huskies a 75–52 victory, perhaps we have our answer.

Both teams struggled in the first half, creating — and clanking — plenty of open shots. After the Phoenix (3–2, 0–1 CAA) dropped seven unanswered points, the Huskies (2–5, 1–0 CAA) found a rhythm, as Jahmyl Telfort and Coleman Stucke spotted up from deep to get Northeastern back into the game.

The Huskies were aggressive in the paint all game — pushing through traffic, driving to the rim, and landing themselves at the charity stripe. Elon generated very few first-half free throws as Northeastern — finally defending a team without huge height, weight, and strength advantages — committed just four fouls before the intermission.

As the teams entered the locker rooms, the Huskies held a 29–26 lead. There must’ve been some magic in the locker room, however, as the Huskies came out ready to rumble. 

Their suddenly unstoppable defense keyed the run, as multiple Husky forwards flew through the air to stifle Elon shots.

“We just settled down and shared the ball a little better on the offensive end, penetrated with a purpose, got better spacing and better ball handling,” Coen noted. “Our defense allowed us to get some rebounds and get out in transition and get easier baskets before their defense was set.”

Elon gradually sliced the 13-point lead to five with 12 minutes to play, but a red-hot Tyson Walker keyed another Husky run. Seven minutes later, the lead was 19 and the game was well in hand.

“Whenever Tyson gets his going and gives guys a couple threes,” Telfort said, “and other guys are aggressive driving to the rim, that changes the game for us.”

“We altered a couple things, what we were trying to do on ball-screen coverage,” Coen explained. “They had him bottled up a little bit, played him a little bit physically, and I thought he was just anxious. Instead of letting the game come to him he was trying to take over the game in the early portion. As soon as he relaxed and let the game come to him, his offense started flowing.”

And it was in garbage time that the game’s greatest surprise came to pass. With three minutes remaining, Stucke received a pass at the top of the key. With five seconds remaining on the shot clock after a wild, unproductive possession, and with Stucke focusing mostly on spot-up shooting this season, the hope of gaining anything from the possession was fleeting.

But Stucke sidestepped the defender, charged left, took flight, and slammed down a monstrous dunk in traffic. He hung from the rim for a few seconds before dropping to the floor with the Husky bench erupting beside him. 

The dunk proved to be the final nail in the coffin for Elon, as the Huskies grew their lead to 23 before the final buzzer sounded.

Telfort led the way for the Huskies with a career-high 20 points on seven-for-13 shooting. After standing out with elite spot-up shooting in the non-conference games, he showed a much deeper offensive package Saturday, replete with drives to the cup and consistent off-ball movement.

“I pride myself on doing everything on the court,” Telfort said. “I feel like I’m not just a shooter, I can handle the ball, drive it well, I can rebound, I can defend. So I just pride myself on showing that.”

Walker, who struggled with his shot early before finding his groove and range in the second half, posted 18 points, five boards, and six dimes. Stucke logged 15 points on five-of-six shooting.

The Huskies will take on the Phoenix again at home tomorrow. Jordan Baron and Milton Posner will call that game, with coverage beginning at 11:45 AM Eastern.

Men’s Basketball Falls to No. 9 West Virginia

By Milton Posner and Jack Sinclair

MORGANTOWN, WEST VIRGINIA — After the pandemic necessitated an abbreviated, last-minute non-conference slate, Bill Coen and his staff cobbled together the toughest schedule the team has had since Coen’s first year.

Never was that more apparent than Sunday afternoon, when Northeastern fell to No. 9 West Virginia, 73–51. The Mountaineers were the highest-ranked Husky opponent since No. 1 Michigan State more than five years before.

The Huskies certainly had their bright spots. Their first-half three-point shooting kept the game within reach. Coleman Stucke landed a pair of threes in the game’s opening minutes. Quirin Emanga, who played more minutes in this game than he had in the previous five put together, dropped 13 points — his previous college best was five — and took a number of rough charges down low.

“He was hampered by some ankle injuries earlier in the year, which hampered his development going in,” Coen said. “He played a little bit at the four for us today and that really helped us . . .  He scored some points, but I’m most proud of his defensive effort and his toughness.”

But the Mountaineers’ sheer size overwhelmed the smaller Huskies from wire to wire. Sure, Northeastern was missing 6’7” forward Chris Doherty, who was a late scratch with an unspecified injury. But it’s hard to say that his presence would have made a massive difference around the rim. Mountaineer big men Derek Culver and Oscar Tshiebwe, both of whom outweigh every Husky by at least 15 pounds, had their way underneath.

Early on it was Culver, who earned a number of easy layups by sealing off Greg Eboigbodin when Eboigbodin tried to front him, or by sneaking behind the Husky defense in transition for a runout. He finished with a game-high 18 points (8–11 FG) in just 24 minutes.

Tshiebwe would find his way to 12 points, but his rebounding resonated loudest. His 15 boards more than doubled every other player’s total and keyed a nine-rebound advantage for West Virginia on the offensive glass, one that yielded 22 second-chance points to Northeastern’s nine.

“They’ve got a big front line,” Coen said bluntly. “Those guys aren’t moving around. If they’re located at the weak side block, it’s hard to move them . . . You’re rebounding against one of the best rebounding teams in the nation.”

The Huskies made things even harder on themselves as the game progressed. Turnovers plagued them like COVID, as they amassed 19 by the final buzzer. The Mountaineers committed just eight, and most of them were dead-ball turnovers stemming from offensive fouls. 

“Some of them are execution errors and silly decision-making, others are style of play where [West Virginia] presses and turns you over,” Coen observed. “We’ve gotta get that number under 15 consistently when we enter CAA play. No turnovers mean you’re not taking any chances, you’re not running, you’re not pushing tempo, and that’s not good either. But typically our sweet spot is between 12 and 15 and we haven’t gotten to that spot yet. We’ve got work to do.”

The Mountaineers used their size to plug up the center of the court, notching 50 points in the paint to the Huskies’ 20. They also broke out a full-court press, making it tough for the Huskies to penetrate past the perimeter. And even when Tyson Walker got into the lane, he seemed more intent on dishing for corner threes than he did finishing at the rim, something Coen confirmed was key to the game plan.

“They have tremendous help defense and tremendous rim protection,” Coen said. “Often when you try to drive they have three or four guys attacking the basketball. I thought that was the right play. I thought we had some feet-set threes that, if we’d made them, could have changed the momentum of the game a little bit.”

Besides Emanga and Walker (10 points), no other Husky finished with more than seven. Though the Husky forwards avoided the foul trouble that had crippled them in prior games, the team could not match the Mountaineers in any category save for perimeter shooting.

The Huskies conclude non-conference play with a 1–5 record. How well that actually reflects their play will become clearer over the next few weeks, as the Huskies turn to a conference schedule devoid of high-major schools. They’ll get going against Elon on Saturday; WRBB will call that game live from the Cabot Center in Boston, with coverage beginning at 11:45 AM Eastern.

Men’s Basketball Comes Up Short Against Monarchs

By Catherine Morrison and Milton Posner

NORFOLK, VA — Northeastern came into Sunday’s game looking to even their record after a nail-biting loss to Syracuse on Wednesday. Instead, the Huskies suffered another close loss to a strong team, falling 66–62 to Old Dominion. 

The Monarchs (3–2) started strong, bolstering a moderate scoring pace with elite defense. The Huskies (1–3) hoisted 13 shots in the first seven-and-a-half minutes — and converted none of them. They seemed doomed to be blown out. 

But the young team got back in the game with a strong performance by Shaq Walters, who logged 10 first-half points on his way to a game-high 17. Old Dominion’s scoring was more evenly spread, with double figures from Joe Reece, Malik Curry, and Kalu Ezikpe, plus at least one field goal from everyone else. This well-roundedness helped the Monarchs to a three-point halftime lead.

The Northeastern freshmen made a huge difference in the second half, backing up Walters and spreading the scoring around. Coleman Stucke overcame a sloggy start, notching seven straight points to key a run and ending the game with a season-high 12.

Six-foot-seven-inch Chris Doherty chipped in eight points and nine rebounds, establishing himself as a badly needed interior presence against a strong, athletic Old Dominion squad.

“We were flat after the first media timeout,” Northeastern Head Coach Bill Coen said. “I thought Chris came in and really gave us a lift and competed on the backboard. In the second half I thought he did a really nice job carving out space down low, rebounding, and defending the ball.”

The game looked markedly different from Northeastern’s first three contests. Apart from the low number of fouls — the first one on either team came twelve-and-a-half minutes in — the Huskies turned the ball over just nine times, five fewer than their previous best.

“Some of it is style of play,” Coen observed. “UMass pressed for two games, full-court pressure. Syracuse got a lot of steals up top; they lull you to sleep and jump the passing lanes. This is a totally different team. They drew you in, made you come into the paint, and had six blocks. When we got into the paint, we struggled to finish over their size and length . . . They don’t extend the floor as much.”

The Huskies couldn’t capture the three-point magic that jump-started their offense in Syracuse. They shot just 29 percent from beyond the arc, with Walters and Tyson Walker combining to go two-for-11.

Walker also had a pair of injury scares, one toward the end of each half. Though neither forced his exit from the game, Coen acknowledged that he would be examined before Tuesday’s game against Georgia.

“It’s just the nature of how he plays,” Coen remarked. “He gets into the lane, he attacks the basket, he’s going to take some bumps and bruises.”

Coen also confirmed that freshman forward Jahmyl Telfort, who won CAA Rookie of the Week after averaging 13 points through the team’s first three contests, missed today’s game due to a sprained ankle sustained in practice. He is considered day-to-day.

The team is also looking to schedule a sixth non-conference game for the last week of the year. For now, Tuesday’s game in Athens, Georgia is their last one before they open conference play January 2 at home against Elon. They will try to break through after two close losses and give themselves some momentum heading into the conference slate.

Northeastern Men’s Basketball Gives Syracuse a Run for Their Money

By Jordan Baron and Milton Posner

On Wednesday afternoon, the Northeastern Huskies were a young, undersized team entering the jaws of a basketball shark. They drove west to Syracuse to battle a team coached by a man who’s won more games than many of us have watched, the same team that most recently polished off Boston College by 38 points.

But in an expected turn, the Huskies led for much of the game and never trailed by more than seven. Though they ultimately fell to the Orange, 62–56, they walked away with plenty to be happy about.

Amid stringent Husky defense, the Orange struggled to hit shots, converting just 32 percent of their shots and a measly 11 percent of their threes. Although the Huskies didn’t block many shots, they had quite a few tips and touches that kept the Orange offense guessing.

“We tried to make life difficult for them,” said Northeastern Head Coach Bill Coen. “We’ve got some pretty good size on the wing, guys who can present some challenges and get up in shot pockets and make guys uncomfortable. For a young group, they really absorbed the scouting report.”

Early on, Husky freshman Coleman Stucke and Jahmyl Telfort splashed home three triples apiece to key the offense. Stucke sagged off eventually, but Telfort finished with 16 points to lead the team.

“He’s got a couple of mornings free where he doesn’t have classes — he’s in the gym all the time,” Coen said of Telfort. “When you’re blessed with the kind of talent that he has and you marry that with an incredible work ethic, you can see him evolving. He can go off the dribble, he can make a three, he rebounds the ball well, he’s a good two-way player, he’s a good defender.”

But the Orange countered with sophomore guard Joseph Girard III, who would finish with a team-high 21 points and six steals. Although his shooting was not exactly efficient, he was the only Syracuse player to hit a shot from beyond the arc, and he also hit all nine of his free throws.

The Huskies shot well from three-point range in the first half — knocking down 39 percent — and matched the much taller Orange on the glass. But they struggled with turnovers, committing nine in the period. Four were credited to Walker, who kept trying to find Telfort with tough-angle passes that sailed out of bounds. 

The second half began with disaster for the Huskies, as Walker dove for a loose ball and smashed his head against the shin of an Orange defender. He laid face-down on the floor before rolling onto his back, receiving assistance from trainers and coaches, and slowly walking off the floor under his own power. He did not re-enter the game, and Coen confirmed that he will be examined in Boston to determine whether he can play on Sunday.

Vito Cubrilo subbed in, looking to take Walker’s place as playmaker. He did his best, slotting five points off a three-pointer and some free throws, but the offensive rhythm was thrown off, as was the Huskies’ ability to break the occasional full-court press Syracuse threw at them. 

“We were without Tyson in the second half and he’s our number one creator, a guy that gives other guys some confidence,” Coen said. “So we had to shift roles a little bit.”

Still, the Huskies remained strong on defense, and thanks in part to the Orange missing some open looks, stayed in the game. Entering the final five minutes, they found themselves losing by just three points. Greg Eboigbodin and Shaquille Walters traded off playing time to stop them both from fouling out. Northeastern fell behind by five with four minutes to play, but Jason Strong, who had been quiet offensively all game, sank a three to bring the Huskies back within two. 

This is where things slipped away. Some careless Husky fouls and turnovers gave the Orange the opportunity to pounce, and they did, building a two-possession lead they wouldn’t relinquish. 

The Huskies’ three-point shooting fell off in the second half, neutering their most valuable weapon against a Syracuse 2-3 zone that ceded outside shots to protect the paint. Northeastern also committed 12 turnovers in the second half, compared to just five from Syracuse. The Huskies’ defense continued to shine, however, as they kept pace on the boards and forced another low-scoring half from an offense that hung 101 points on ACC foe Boston College in their last game.

“I was really proud of their effort,” Coen said. “I thought our defensive help was really strong. We just mishandled the ball a little bit too much. Little execution errors on the offensive end.”

Other than Girard, Syracuse’s top contributor was sophomore forward Quincy Gurrier, who scored 18 points and snatched 16 rebounds.

“The difference in the game was Quincy Guerrier,” Coen said. “Sometimes you just can’t do anything if he’s got a physical advantage, there’s not enough strategy that can get you out of that. He’s a world-class athlete and he’s strong and explosive.”

But despite the loss, the game will certainly prove instructive for the Huskies. Coen likes to use non-conference contests to show his team different styles and sets. The home-and-home with UMass forced them to reckon with a full-court press, and today’s matchup may prepare the Huskies well for the zone-playing Hofstra Pride.

“We’ve got some tape so we can get better on our zone execution, we’ve got tape so we can learn in terms of our press break,” Coen said, “and that experience will pay dividends once we get into CAA play.”

The Huskies will travel south to Virginia to face Old Dominion this Sunday. Milton Posner and Catherine Morrison will broadcast that game live from Chartway Arena in Norfolk, VA, with coverage kicking off at 1:45 PM Eastern.

2020–21 CAA Preview: Northeastern Huskies

Last season: 17–16 (9–9, sixth place CAA); lost to Hofstra in CAA Final

Head coach: Bill Coen (15th season)

Preseason Poll Projected Finish: Seventh

Departures — ppg/rpg/apg (fg% / 3fg% / ft%)

  • G Jordan Roland — 22/3/2 (48/39/88)
  • G/F Bolden Brace — 11/7/2 (45/39/82)
  • G/F Max Boursiquot — 9/5/1 (57/36/67)
  • F Tomas Murphy — 9/3 (71/X/X) played only four games

Additions

  • G J’Vonne Hadley
  • G Jahmyl Telfort
  • F Alexander Nwagha
  • F Coleman Stucke
  • F Chris Doherty (sophomore)

By Milton Posner

Last season was a profoundly strange one for the Northeastern Huskies.

After the graduation of All-CAA First Team point guard Vasa Pusica, there were serious questions about where the scoring and offensive leadership would come from. Within two games, Jordan Roland had broken a single-game Northeastern scoring record held by J.J. Barea and Reggie Lewis. That game was a precursor for first-in-the-conference, seventh-in-the-nation scoring season, one powered by volume three-point shooting, stealthy drives, and an arsenal of fearsome floaters deployed with either hand.

For most of conference play, the Huskies’ point differential stood among the best. But because their first five losses came by a combined nine points — and included three game-winning layups —  the Huskies hovered around the middle of the conference. They squeaked into the sixth seed to earn a first-round bye in the CAA Tournament.

And then they beat third-seeded Towson just a week after losing to them in the last regular-season game. And toppled an Elon team that was peaking after upsetting a juggernaut William & Mary squad. And made a dramatic — albeit unsuccessful — run at top-seeded Hofstra in the title game despite Roland’s struggles.

It was hard to know what to expect from the Huskies on any given night, but they were competitive throughout the year and found their groove in time for the conference tournament. Besides the superb, fluid scoring of Roland, they boasted the all-around contributions of Bolden Brace, the electric offense of Tyson Walker, and the suffocating defense of Max Boursiquot.

This season poses even more questions than last season. The loss of leading scorers Roland and Brace to graduation was inevitable. But the transfers hurt. Big man Tomas Murphy, who played just four games last season before injuring his ankle, elected to spend his two remaining years of eligibility at Vermont. Boursiquot entered the transfer portal, but no news has surfaced of him choosing another school, signing a pro contract, or doing anything else. Rising senior Myles Franklin, possibly frustrated at a lack of minutes, bolted for the Division II team at Point Loma Nazarene University.

These departures drain the Huskies’ scoring, and the loss of Boursiquot robs them of a stud who can protect the rim, hold firm on the block, and guard all five positions.

Northeastern is the only CAA squad without a senior or grad student. Every other team has at least two such players, and six teams have four. For the first time in a few years, the Huskies likely won’t have an All-CAA First Team guard running the show.

But if their pieces develop nicely, the Huskies can hang with any CAA team. Head Coach Bill Coen — who is the longest-tenured coach in the conference and sits 10 wins away from the program record — is tasked with making something out of this unproven yet promising team.

It begins with his returners. Sophomore guard Tyson Walker was named to the preseason second team after nearly winning Rookie of the Year last season. He’s an electric dribbler, driver, and finisher, and displayed flashes of elite perimeter shooting last season. But without Jordan Roland to key the offense, Walker’s playmaking will be put to the test.

Shaq Walters showed playmaking promise last year after Walker hurt his shoulder. He protected the rock, made quality reads, and drove the offense in key stretches, albeit in a limited sample size. If he can continue that play, he and Walker can be dual playmaking threats and give the Husky offense a dangerous dimension. But for that to happen, he’ll have to improve his own scoring threat beyond his basic slashing and driving.

Look for Jason Strong to take the next step as well. He’s largely been limited to a spot-up role in his first two years with the team, but has shown flashes of all-around promise and strung together an assortment of quality performances.

Coen has emphasized the positional versatility and length of his newcomers, which include four freshmen and one transfer. All weigh more than 200 pounds and come in between 6’6” and 6’8”. Perhaps the most promising is freshman J’Vonne Hadley, an excellent leaper with a strong first step, handle, and finishing ability in the halfcourt and transition. He’s the sort of athletic wing the Huskies haven’t had since Shawn Occeus went pro.

Alexander Nwagha looks promising as well. At a long-limbed 6’8” and with a quick first-step to the ball, he boasts a sizable catch and influence radius that could make him a viable rim protector. He is a solid leaper for his size, can run in transition, and is mobile enough to function well on the block.

Rounding out the newcomers are Jahmyl Telfort, an aggressive driver with a comfortable-looking pull-up jumper; Coleman Stucke, a knockdown spot-up shooter; and Chris Doherty, a Notre Dame transfer who adds some bulk down low.

Bottom Line: The Huskies have less proven talent than they’ve had the last few seasons, a bad sign in a league often powered by star juniors and seniors. But they also have enough positional versatility, length, and well-roundedness to challenge anyone. If the freshmen can’t contribute, their seventh-place preseason poll finish just might come true. But if they can, the Huskies could find themselves knocking on the door of the CAA’s top tier.