A lot of teams are hoping to win their conference tournament this week and punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament.
The Northeastern Huskies don’t have to.
They’re already in.
Northeastern beat William & Mary, 72-61, in the Colonial Athletic Association Championship on Monday, earning its first bid to the NCAA Tournament since 1991. Bill Coen, who is in his ninth year as head coach at Northeastern, is elated.
“I really am,” he said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “I’ve been (in) the tournament with Coach (Al) Skinner at Rhode Island and again at Boston College a number of times, and there’s absolutely nothing like it. It’s my first time as a head coach, so that’s going to be a little bit different experience, but I’m so excited for our kids. To be able to go through this, it’s a lifelong dream of anybody that’s associated with basketball – whether you’re a fan, you’re a player, you’re a coach – to be a part of this. When we were coming on (at the start of your show), I heard the music and you already start to get excited.”
The Huskies (23-11, 12-6) won three games in three days to qualify for the tournament, beating Delaware, 67-64, and UNC-Wilmington, 78-71, before taking down William & Mary by double figures.
Northeastern ranks just 148th in the country in scoring offense (68.6 points per game) but 13th in field-goal percentage (48.6 percent). Three Huskies are averaging double figures – Scott Eatherton (14.6 points per game), David Walker (13.4) and Quincy Ford (10.4) – while T.J. Williams and Zach Stahl are averaging 9.7 and 8.3, respectively.
“We came back to campus on Tuesday, and there was a great crowd welcoming us home and meeting us as the bus pulled up to the university, so that was inspiring,” Coen said. “We’ve had a couple meetings. We’ve had some conditioning and shooting practices. We’re going to start to get back after it tomorrow.
“But I think the biggest thing is to really pace yourself and try to hit your stride again,” Coen continued. “We were in such a zone in Baltimore. To get back to that spot by the time we play (our first tournament game would be nice).
Northeastern shot 26-of-44 (59.1 percent) from the floor and 12-of-20 (60 percent) from three-point range in its win over William & Mary.
Coen said he owes a lot of credit to Skinner, for whom he coached from 1989 to 2006.
“Very, very formative (experience),” Coen said. “I worked for Al for 17 years, and you couldn’t ask for a better guy to work for. (He’s) a great human being.”
Several former Boston College assistants under Skinner are now head coaches elsewhere, including Tim O’Shea (Bryant), Ed Cooley (Providence), Pat Duquette (UMass Lowell) and, of course, Coen.
“It’s not often that everybody in and around a program (gets an) opportunity,” Coen said, “and that’s a credit to Al and his mentorship.”
Coen coached the Huskies to the CBI quarterfinals in 2008-09 and has twice led them to the NIT, most recently in 2012-13.
Northeastern is 9-3 in its last 12 games.