I spent the first few moments of the CAA Championship sitting in traffic. It’s not uncommon for me to miss the beginning of 7:00 games, as I routinely find myself stuck in the I-66/Route 7 merge around that time.
But this past Monday’s commute was more enjoyable than most. After Chad Dukes instructed listening ears to roll out the trashcans, the Westwood One broadcast switched to a certain Baltimore venue that I had visited less than 24 hours before. Suddenly, I wasn’t so worried about being stuck in traffic.
I hit my exit as starting fives were announced, and the game tipped off when I was just one turn away from my house. But stoplights kept me from pushing the gas pedal.
And all that short while, Northeastern was pressing its pedal to the floor.
Northeastern went up two, then four, and had taken a 10-0 lead just two minutes and 15 seconds into the game.
And all the while I was still sitting in my car.
Of course, there’s nothing damning about falling 10 points behind in the first three minutes of a college basketball game. That’s like heading into the bottom of the first inning in a 2-0 hole. But going into the weekend, the big question concerned which Northeastern would show up: the team that picked up the CAA’s best pair of road wins at Richmond and Florida State, or the team that was stomped out at UMass the day before Thanksgiving.
The consistently promising group that flashed major potential in Puerto Rico last year, or the guys who couldn’t make big free throws in nearly every game thereafter.
The squad that so easily dispatched of William & Mary and Hofstra in the regular season, or the the one that looked uninspired against Delaware and Elon.
When you saw the Huskies show up in full force like they did on Monday, you weren’t the least bit surprised to witness them guide the program to its first-ever CAA Championship and its first NCAA Tournament berth since 1991 just two hours later.
It wasn’t quite so cut and dry — William & Mary had moments where it knotted the game up. And despite an abysmal showing for most of the second half, William & Mary still made a late 16-0 charge to make things interesting in the final 90 seconds.
But the Huskies set the tone early, and never trailed.
Quincy Ford delivered his best game on the season’s biggest stage, and reminded us of something we may have forgotten during his redshirt year: that he’s one of the league’s most uniquely talented players.
Scott Eatherton continued to prove that less is more, having sacrificed his formerly voluminous and gaudy numbers for efficiency and subsequent championships.
Juniors David Walker and Zach Stahl, who got small but sour tastes of championship life in their freshman years, had spectacular moments throughout the weekend.
Caleb Donnelly tied a career-high with 13 points, capping off a spectacularly productive weekend in which he averaged nine points per game on 72.7% shooting and hit 7-of-10 from downtown.
Ford’s championship blowup notwithstanding, the Huskies’ success hasn’t come on the back of individual dominant performances. It’s about balance, and having four guys in double figures on the reg.
Phil Kasiecki vividly recounted Northeastern’s path to its first conference championship in Coen’s ninth year at the helm.
I only feel qualified to speak of NU’s more recent history.
But this is something we could see coming. Northeastern flashed this potential in ’12-’13. The Huskies had to find new lynchpins in ’13-’14 after Jon Lee and Joel Smith graduated. Then seniors Lee and Smith had declared themselves “the head(s)” of the program, but were quick to render Ford as “the neck.”
Last year was a growing year, but the signs of future success were present. With Eatherton finally eligible after transferring in from St. Francis (PA) and Reggie Spencer already in tow, Coen had assembled his best frontcourt to date.
Thus, I’ve been mentally preparing to write this article for 16 months, after watching Eatherton and Spencer take it to Georgetown in San Juan. We lauded Coen’s willingness to push his team to outside of its comfort zones then, and notice how it’s paying off now.
We’re a day away from finding out whether the Huskies will be going to Seattle or Charlotte, or Jacksonville, Pittsburgh, or Louisville. Coen and the Huskies have done their jobs, and are now at the whims of the Selection Committee.
If they floor it like they did Monday Night, they’ll be ready to make moves wherever they end up.