This afternoon, the Red Storm welcome the Northeastern Huskies to Carnesecca, hoping to refine their attack against a competitive squad. There's a lot to work on with a young team. Both the offensive and defensive sides need crispness, the team needs to maximize scoring opportunities, and the team has to get a stronger game in the paint.
Northeastern has been developing their youth into a team that compete with the top of the CAA. They should be a good opponent for the Red Storm before they head out for two pivotal road games against Kentucky and Detroit.
I asked the appropriately-named NU Hoops Fan (@NUHF on Twitter) a few questions about the Huskies to get to know them a little bit better.
A few answers... after the jump.
see also the Rumble Game Preview: St. John's vs Northeastern Huskies
Q. What's the feeling around the team this year? Is there a hope that Northeastern can reach postseason play, maybe even the NCAAs?
We're cautiously optimistic. We lost our point guard/leading scorer/rebounder last year (Chaisson Allen), who was a four year starter. We do return however 6 guys who have started in the past. Jon Lee, Joel Smith, Kauri Black, and Ryan Pierson all started 20+ games for NU last year. Alwayne Bigby started 28 games in the 09-10 season for NU before redshirting last year, and Kashief Edwards was a starter at Niagara. So there's experience on this squad.
The CAA is as wide open as ever this year. While Drexel and George Mason bring the most back from last year, almost every one else lost significant pieces of their team. We're optimistic we can gel as a team and compete for a post-season bid in March!
Q. Northeastern is one of the few teams on St. John's schedule I haven't seen very much of. But knowing Bill Coen's background with Boston College... I thought he was a defensive coach? What happened with the defense last year and how is it better this year? (Or is it better?)
Bill Coen's now been at Northeastern six seasons. Last season was a transitional season for us. We lost a bunch of experience from teams that went to the NIT and the CBI, and beat some good teams during their tenure at NU (Indiana, Providence).
We started 3 sophomores and a freshman for most of the season, and took our lumps. We were thin in the frontcourt and didn't rebound the ball well at all. Our rebounding was probably in the bottom 10% of the NCAA. Our best man on man defender (Alwayne Bigby) was injured early on and took a medical redshirt, and he was missed.
This year, we've added Edwards from Niagara as a transfer - and he gives us experience and toughness. Kauri Black is playing well for us, and Bigby is back. Combine that with two freshmen who really can defend (Reggie Spencer and Quincy Ford) and rebound (Spencer), and we're a totally different team in the front court. Jonathan Lee is also an excellent defender.
3. What do the Huskies tend to do on defense and offense? Do they play zones? Do they use their big men?
Defensively we mix it up a bit. We've started to press a little more this year because of our length and depth. We'll play both zone and man (sorry for the non answer) depending on the situation.
We've been able to use our big men more because of their athleticism and flexibility. Quincy Ford is a 6'8 freshman who is very long and athletic. Kauri Black is 6'5 and can play off the ball as well.
Offensively, Bill Coen has historically been known for running the flex, but you may see some different offensive sets from us now that we have real aggressive big men in Pollard and Edwards, and guards who can attack the basket. Black gives us a different look as well as he's a very good ball handler for a forward.
4. Tom Pecora of Hofstra used to regularly complain that the construction of the Colonial Athletic Association - a league centered closer to Virginia - made it more difficult for Hofstra to compete in recruiting and made travel hard on his teams. Is there any evidence of that for Northeastern, a school located even farther north from the rest of the CAA? What are your thoughts on Pecora's complaint?
Personally, I think Tom's comments don't hold much water, based on NU's results. I'm sure he had his reason for his well hypothesized "Southern Bias" in the CAA (Witness Hofstra being snubbed for the 2006 NCAA Tournament despite beating Mason), but I haven't witnessed it at NU. Northeastern historically has played VERY well against VCU and ODU and George Mason on the road.
In 08-09 and 09-10, NU won at VCU in back to back seasons (we were the first CAA school to do so in a long time), and we were the only school in the CAA in a long time to win at ODU, Mason, and VCU in the same season in 08-09. Ironically, we've never won at William & Mary. We've struggled more against Hofstra and Drexel - the two schools located closest to Northeastern.
Until last season Northeastern NEVER had a losing record in the CAA. While it made for some good media play, for Northeastern, I don't see it.
5. Who is the best post defender on the Huskies? The best all-around defender? The best athlete?
Best post defender - probably freshman Reggie Spencer, and he's still raw.
Best all around defender - probably Alwayne Bigby or Jon Lee
Best athlete - good question, not sure.