Northeastern Basketball Schedules Announced

By Milton Posner

The Colonial Athletic Association announced its 2020–21 schedules for men’s and women’s basketball on Wednesday morning.

Teams will play 18 conference games across January and February, same as usual. But to limit travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, teams will play back-to-back games on Saturdays and Sundays against the same opponent in the same venue. If Northeastern’s men’s team faces a school at home on a given weekend, the women face that same school on the road.

Credit: Northeastern Athletics

The only exceptions are games against a school’s travel partner (closest neighbor), which will take place as a traditional home-and-home on Thursdays and Saturdays. This ensures that teams will play the same number of road games as home games. Northeastern’s travel partner is Hofstra.

The schedule innovations mean that roughly half of games will be played on the second night of a back-to-back, something CAA schools usually do only for tournaments.

“It’s certainly going to be a challenge to play two games in 48 hours with travel and everything else,” Northeastern men’s basketball head coach Bill Coen observed. “It’s going to be new for everybody. So it’s not going to be an advantage for one team or another. But we’ll have to be mindful and thoughtful about how we construct our practices and at least once a week have two really intense practices back-to-back to build up some capacity and some understanding of what that’s going to feel like. I think that that’s going to be the single biggest adjustment for us in the preseason.

Coen’s team has not commenced live practices yet, and has tried to adhere to pandemic protocols for the ones that happen. Coaches and players wear masks and distance from one another, plus there is a limit on the number of people allowed in the gym.

“As we . . . get into some live play, we want to [gradually accelerate] our activity,” Coen explained. “We don’t want to jump all into it because you got guys who didn’t go through our normal summer strength and conditioning program. Some guys had access to gyms, other guys were pretty limited on what they could do . . . We don’t want to go too quickly before we’re ready physically to compete and bang bodies.”

Game times, broadcast schedules, and tie-breaking formats have yet to be announced, and games can be made up if the pandemic forces delays.

According to the NCAA, schools can begin play as early as November 25. Northeastern has not finalized its non-conference slate, although it has  committed to a tournament in Washington, D.C., with George Mason, Howard, and UMBC.

Said Coen of the non-conference slate: “We have a very young team, and we’re searching for some games where we can have some learning opportunities and play differing styles and get some preparation against the press, get some preparation against a zone team, play different levels and different types of coaching styles. I think those are really great teachers, and give us the experience and tape that we need to move forward before we get into CAA play.” He added that where the Huskies play will depend on the rate of new COVID-19 cases in opponents’ states.

NCAA D1 Council Approves Nov. 25 Start Date for Basketball

By Milton Posner

The NCAA’s Division I Council voted Wednesday to kick off the men’s and women’s college basketball seasons the day before Thanksgiving.

According to Associate Athletic Director Scott MacDonald, Northeastern will finalize its schedules after the NCAA Board of Directors approves the council’s proposal on September 22. The Colonial Athletic Association, which houses both Northeastern basketball squads, is continuing to evaluate what its season will look like.

The council seems to be counting on the timing of the start to help ensure safety. By November 25, roughly three-quarters of Division I schools will have either concluded their fall terms or will have moved instruction online. Northeastern concludes fall classes on December 2 and finals week on December 11.

However, if cases spike between now and November, the start date could be pushed back. The council did not offer regulations on COVID-related game-day protocols or testing, although Matt Norlander of CBS cited “speculation from stakeholders” that Division I sports will have access to more affordable testing by the time the season begins. Northeastern, which already has a large testing operation and a low positive test rate in a low-risk state, has a decent shot at remaining healthy.

Because the season is starting 15 days later than originally planned, the NCAA reduced the maximum number of games teams can schedule. Men’s basketball teams can play 24 regular season games and one multi-team event of up to three games, or 25 regular season games and a multi-team even of two games. Women’s basketball teams can play 23 regular-season games and a four-game event, or 25 regular season games and no event. To meet sponsorship requirements and be considered for NCAA championship selection, teams must play 13 games against Division I opponents and should play at least four non-conference games.

There will be a transition period from September 21 to October 13, in which teams can schedule up to 12 combined hours a week of strength and conditioning, sport-related meetings, and skill instruction, though skill instruction cannot take up more than eight of the 12 hours. Players must also have two days off per week.

Teams can begin full practices on October 14, six weeks before the season commences. They can conduct a maximum of 30 practices. Players can work out for up to 20 hours per week, though they cannot work out for more than four hours per day and must have one off day per week. Teams cannot play exhibitions or closed scrimmages before November 25, and though they can request to play games before then, the NCAA oversight committees have indicated they are unlikely to grant waivers.

Although the council did not make a long-term decision on recruiting, the dead period — during which coaches cannot visit recruits in person — has been extended to January 1.

Northeastern’s women’s basketball team went 13–16 (9–9 CAA) last year and secured the fifth seed in the CAA Tournament, which was canceled due to the pandemic. The men’s team went 17–16 (9–9 CAA), secured the sixth seed in the conference tournament, and defeated No. 3 Towson and No. 7 Elon before falling to No. 1 Hofstra in the final.

Men’s Basketball Finishes Third in Preseason Poll

Image credit: nuhuskies.com

By Milton Posner

Ahh, the CAA Preseason Poll. That wonderful time of year when the conference’s coaches, media relations directors, and media members (including a few from your favorite Northeastern student radio station) gaze deep into their crystal balls and relay the results of the upcoming season. The results of this annual divination ritual, released Wednesday, were among the closest ever, with five teams receiving first-place votes.

TeamPoints (First-Place Votes
Hofstra Pride331 (14)
Charleston Cougars323 (18)
Northeastern Huskies291 (4)
James Madison Dukes253 (3)
Delaware Blue Hens241 (2)
Towson Tigers194
William & Mary Tribe131
Drexel Dragons125
UNCW Seahawks118
Elon Phoenix48

Hofstra, the defending regular-season titleholder, narrowly topped Charleston despite receiving fewer first-place votes. Northeastern finished third without immediate neighbors, and James Madison squeaked ahead of Delaware.

Charleston senior guard Grant Riller took home Preseason Player of the Year Honors and headlined the All-CAA First Team.

First TeamGrant Riller, Charleston
Nathan Knight, William & Mary
Brian Fobbs, Towson
Eli Pemberton, Hofstra
Matt Lewis, James Madison
Second TeamJordan Roland, Northeastern
Ryan Allen, Delaware
Camren Wynter, Drexel
Desure Buie, Hofstra
Darius Banks, James Madison
Honorable MentionBolden Brace, Northeastern
Kai Toews, UNCW
Kevin Anderson, Delaware
James Butler, Drexel
Marcus Sheffield II, Elon

Hofstra, Charleston, and Northeastern, the top three finishers in the poll, were the top three finishers in the regular season last year, albeit in a different order. All three lost major contributors — Justin Wright-Foreman, Jarrell Brantley, and Vasa Pusica, respectively — to graduation. They, along with fellow first-teamer Devontae Cacok of UNCW, signed pro contracts. This was a familiar theme during the CAA offseason; many of the conference’s most talented players graduated or transferred, including William & Mary’s Justin Pierce, Drexel’s Alihan Demir, and Northeastern’s Shawn Occeus.

Hofstra will look to defend its regular-season crown behind a trio of guards: second-teamer Eli Pemberton, third-teamer and Defensive Player of the Year Desure Buie, and the sweet-shooting Tareq Coburn. Charleston will lean heavily on Riller and hope for increased contributions from their maturing role players, namely Brevin Galloway. Northeastern, the defending CAA champion, offers second-teamer Jordan Roland, versatile guard/forward Bolden Brace, and a mix of returning role players and freshman recruits. James Madison and Delaware look to rebound from losing years behind star guards and, in Delaware’s case, two high-powered transfers in Dylan Painter and Nate Darling.

WRBB will post detailed previews for each CAA team the week before Northeastern’s November 5 opening again Boston University. Michael Petillo and Milton Posner will be on the call; coverage begins at 6:45 PM ET.