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.

Women’s Basketball Finishes Sixth in Coaches’ Poll

Image credit: nuhuskies.com

By Milton Posner

The Northeastern women’s basketball team placed sixth in the annual CAA preseason poll released Thursday. Unlike the men’s poll, in which coaches, media relations directors, and media members vote, the women’s poll asks only the coaches, who are barred from voting for their own team.

TeamPoints (First-Place Votes)
James Madison Dukes81 (9)
Drexel Dragons70 (1)
Towson Tigers65
Delaware Blue Hens59
UNCW Seahawks47
Northeastern Huskies40
William & Mary Tribe32
Elon Phoenix28
Charleston Cougars15
Hofstra Pride13

James Madison, the unanimous title favorite, showcases a formidable lineup headlined by Preseason Player of the Year Kamiah Smalls and three second-team members: Lexie Barrier, Jackie Benitez, and Kayla Cooper-Williams. Benitez earned Sixth Player of the Year accolades last season; Cooper-Williams led the conference in blocks and rebounds en route to winning Defensive Player of the Year.

The Dukes won a program-record 29 games last year, went 17–1 in conference play to notch the first seed, then were unexpectedly bounced in the tournament quarterfinal by ninth-seeded Hofstra, the first time a one seed had ever lost so early.

James Madison cast its first-place vote for Drexel, which features last year’s Player of the Year Bailey Greenberg and four other returning starters, including CAA All-Rookie selection Keishana Washington. Drexel boasted the best defense in the nation last year, but ultimately fell to Towson in the CAA title game. Towson returns four starters, including preseason first-teamers Kionna Jeter and Nukiya Mayo.

First TeamKamiah Smalls, James Madison
Bailey Greenberg, Drexel
Kionna Jeter, Towson
Nukiya Mayo, Towson
Nicole Enabosi, Delaware
Second TeamLexie Barrier, James Madison
Jackie Benitez, James Madison
Kayla Cooper-Williams, James Madison
Samone DeFreese, Delaware
GiGi Smith, UNCW
Honorable MentionShannon Todd, Northeastern
Deja Ford, Charleston
Niki Metzel, Drexel
Victoria Reynolds, William & Mary
Lacey Suggs, UNCW

Last season, led by guard Jess Genco and forward Gabby Giacone, Northeastern led the CAA in field-goal percentage (42.3) and three-point percentage (36.6). The Huskies fared well in non-conference play, posting an 11–3 record, but won only nine of their 18 CAA games to finish sixth. The program made its first ever WNIT but lost in the first round to Butler.

Head coach Kelly Cole will have to overcome the graduation of Genco — the program’s all-time third-leading scorer and its record holder in minutes, assists, and three-pointers — and Giacone. Shannon Todd, who averaged 11 points per game last year and earned preseason honorable mention, will be asked to do more offensively, as will Ayanna Dublin, Katie May, Stella Clark, and Kendall Currence.

Northeastern opens its season at home against South Dakota at noon ET on November 5.