Men’s Basketball: CAA releases preseason predictions

Men’s Basketball: CAA releases preseason predictions

Just about everything is going to change for the men’s basketball team as the members prepare to embark on their inaugural season in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA).

Per CAA requirements the Huskies will play all of their conference home games in Matthews Arena as opposed to the cozy confines of Solomon Court. But the change in venue is just the tip of the iceberg.

The Huskies, who were picked to finish sixth in the CAA preseason coaches/media poll at media day last week, will need to step up in their new league, as the Colonial is a much more competitive conference than the since-departed America East.

The preseason Mid-Major Poll has three CAA schools ranked in the Top 25 and three others, including Northeastern, receiving votes.

Defending CAA champion Old Dominion is ranked behind Gonzaga at No. 2, while Hofstra is No. 20 and George Mason No. 22.

The Huskies have roster consistency in their favor.

Aside from the graduation of guard Marcus Barnes and the influx of four freshmen, this team will look a whole lot like last year’s squad that went 21-10, finished second in the America East and played in the National Invitational Tournament for the first time in Northeastern history.

NU’s star guard, Jose Juan Barea, flirted with the NBA Draft after ranking among the country’s top 10 in points (22.6) and assists (7.6) per game last season, but decided to give it one more go on Huntington Avenue. Barea, an America East All-Conference first team pick last year, was selected to the CAA Pre-Season All-Conference first team, and will again run head coach Ron Everhart’s offense.

Everhart is a rising star among Mid-Major coaches and was a candidate for the top spot at Tulane this offseason after upping Northeastern’s win total for the third straight year. He, too, is back, and what was once a young squad of recruits is now a battle-tested group of vets pining for one more run at an NCAA tournament bid.

However, the Huskies have their work cut out for them. The best teams in the CAA don’t have overwhelming offenses; they strangle teams with tight defense and Barea will be their No. 1 target. If the Huskies want to win games, they will need to spread the ball around, and improve on their +3.5 scoring differential from last season.

ODU, picked to repeat as the conference champ, plays stingy defense and fronts a very balanced offensive arsenal led by reigning CAA Player of the Year Alex Loughton. The forward was named the preseason player of the year and joins Barea, forward Nick George of Virginia Commonwealth, forward Harding Nana of Delaware and guard Loren Stokes of Hofstra on the CAA Pre-Season All-Conference first team.

Shawn James, last season’s America East Rookie of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, will look to continue his strong shot-blocking in the new league – he was second in the nation last year with a 5.4 blocks per game average. Although the Colonial game is more physical, James will be aided by 6-foot-10 freshman Benson Egemonye. The Benin City, Nigeria native will likely slip into the starting lineup and allow James to play the four, with Bennett Davis coming off the bench.

The Huskies kick off their season against Brown Friday, Nov. 18, when they travel to Central Connecticut for the Mohegan Sun Classic in New Britain.

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