Column: Anticipation for the return of the N-Zone

Column: Anticipation for the return of the N-Zone

by Jared Shafran, News Staff

Last year, the Northeastern men’s basketball team had a lot to be thankful for. It won 20 games, finished as one of the best teams in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA), and made some noise in the postseason by nearly defeating perennial power Connecticut in the opening game of the National Invitational Tournament.

But the attitude around the program has changed, largely because of its new fan section: The N-Zone.

This passionate group of students brought energy and idealism to a campus that had only been known to hockey. In the wake of the football program being dismantled, The N-Zone’s creators had perfect timing. Students were looking to become more active fans and this new group gave them the opportunity they were looking for.

With Matthews Arena welcoming a Big East foe in Providence last December, the stage was set for the first of many games to hook the students on to the program. The fans not only came, but also saw a great performance: One that just fell short of a win, but was a valiant effort that most would not soon forget.

Once conference play started, the team got over some early adversity and started rattling off the wins, showing the fans yet again why they could believe.

Senior forward Matt Janning was the perfect captain for a new fan to come and watch. His poise and confident, not-cocky approach allowed him to serve as the leader of the team. Junior guard Chase Allen learned how to step behind the arc to complement his earlier successes at driving to the hoop. Senior forward Manny Adako was just himself, hitting that baby-hook in the lane time and time again. The new recruits like freshman guards Alwayne Bigby and Joel Smith were likeable and slowly learned how to fulfill their roles.

By the time the ESPN2 Bracketbuster game came around in February, The N-Zone had students packing the court, going nuts in front of the camera, and chanting for their favorite players. Basketball referees were actually being heckled at Matthews Arena, something usually reserved for hockey officials.

Don’t get me wrong, the Doghouse is fantastic at what it does and nothing gets me going like a packed balcony and Benny Hill with a minute to go in a tied game. But now there is another option for kids who don’t like hockey.

Ask any one of the basketball players what his favorite moment of the season was and he will start gushing about all the fans slapping his hands at the end of every home game. The seniors who worked so hard for four long years here could leave knowing they played their best and the fans appreciated what they had to offer.

Yes, Darren Costa officially put the group together and head coach Bill Coen was the mastermind behind the floor seats, but none of it would have been possible without students actually filling those seats and voicing their support.

With the starting core moving on, some might think that The N-Zone was just a phase, but there is no reason it should be. The team has its home opener against Boston University. Yes, the same Boston team we all love reminding how much it sucks to be on Commonwealth instead of Huntington.

In recent years, the rivalry game was played during the week leading up to Thanksgiving. But this year, the change was made to move it a bit earlier to Nov. 12. I know it’s a long way away, but that night in November happens to be a Friday.

For years, followers of the program have been wondering how basketball would draw if they played on Friday nights like hockey did. Now that we have a chance to find out and The N-Zone is behind the team, it should be pretty rowdy night on the hardwood at Matthews.

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