Northeastern makes its move in Colonial

January, 22, 2009

Quick hitters for Thursday:

• Got a chance to see Northeastern on Wednesday night, and I really liked what I saw in the Huskies' 58-57 win over George Mason. They have plenty of scoring options when they play the way they did against the Patriots.

Matt Janning gets to the rim and can consistently make 3-pointers. He scored 20 points, made three treys and picked up two steals.

Eugene Spates, who hasn't been consistent for the Huskies, made two critical 3s for 10 points and played with confidence. Matt Smith came off the bench to make three 3s, and Manny Adako and Nkem Ojougboh can score in close.

The Huskies beat Providence on the road, knocked off Indiana (which isn't saying much this season, but it still bodes well for a CAA team to beat a Big Ten team on the road), and are off to a 7-1 start in Colonial play.

"We can play with anybody," Janning said. "That's the mindset of everybody in this locker room."

Northeastern has to go to Old Dominion and Virginia Commonwealth in the next two games, so whether NU can be a real threat to VCU and George Mason is yet to be determined. What is a known commodity is how much Bill Coen is making Northeastern a real player in this league. The facility at Matthews Arena is for hockey, not hoops. But Coen puts a quality product on the floor and should continue to make this a consistent winner.

If the Huskies defend, they'll contend. Making shots the way they did against George Mason is the equalizer for any team in the postseason. NU was 8-of-18 on 3s, didn't miss a free throw and shot 54 percent overall. If the team can keep hitting those numbers, it will be a factor to win a game in the NCAAs (if it gets a bid).

• Not sure if it's just seeing familiar names on George Mason's roster like John Vaughan (who is recuperating from his concussion), Darryl Monroe, Dre Smith and Louis Birdsong, but there is a quiet confidence among the Patriots that remains from the 2006 Final Four.

George Mason still has that swagger, that presence born from its miraculous run.

George Mason coach Jim Larranaga said the Patriots aren't running as much as they'd like, but that because there isn't much size, they've been a bit more conservative.

• The more conferences I see, the more I love the Pac-10 scheduling. Playing a true round-robin is the ultimate way to decide a champion. Northeastern does play George Mason twice this season. But VCU doesn't play at NU. The Huskies play VCU only once -- on Tuesday in Richmond, Va. Mason plays VCU only once, as well. So this is a classic example of how scheduling can determine the outcome of the champion. VCU gets both of the other two top contenders at home and doesn't have to meet either on the road.

• Northwestern coach Bill Carmody said he's going to remind his players about Minnesota. Yes, the same Minnesota team the Wildcats beat Sunday. The Gophers were coming off a road win at Wisconsin in overtime. Yet they couldn't sustain their success and lost in Evanston. Northwestern is coming off a road win at Michigan State, and the next game is at Michigan on Saturday.

"Minnesota came in really hot, feeling really good about themselves, and we knocked them off," Carmody said. "Michigan beat UCLA and Duke, so it's not like we're playing a team that can't play."

Carmody isn't ready to think NCAAs yet. Northwestern has wins over Michigan State on the road, Minnesota at home and in a nonconference game against Florida State in Evanston. But getting to .500 in the Big Ten (NU is 2-4 now) won't do it alone.

"Ten years ago, a .500 mark in the Big Ten might, but that's not going to get you in as often now," Carmody said.

Northwestern has never been to the NCAA tournament. For more from Carmody, listen to Friday's ESPNU college basketball podcast.

• Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg said he could have kept the Duke game closer had he stayed with his starters late in the game. But he wanted to send a message that the Hokies were getting away from their culture -- a culture of toughness in their program. Duke waxed Virginia Tech 69-44 (30-13 in the second half), and since then the Hokies have won four straight, including Wednesday's win at top-ranked Wake Forest. Listen to Greenberg on Friday's ESPNU college basketball podcast.

• Bryant University coach Tim O'Shea wasn't too down after the Bulldogs were the victims of NJIT's first win after 51 straight losses.

"Give Jersey Tech credit, and the coaching staff, for hanging in there," O'Shea said. "We know it's a tough transition to Division I. They played with great energy and made tough shots and deserved to win. They played hard. Hopefully there will be a day when someone comes to our gym that our fans would storm the court. This wasn't a huge upset. If they were going to get a win, Bryant at home might have been the one they thought they were going to get."

• Central Florida's Jermaine Taylor is a hidden gem. He put up 31 on Southern Miss in the Golden Knights' 12-point win Wednesday. He's averaging 23.6 points a game.

• The depth in the Big Ten, save Indiana, is showing with Iowa's beating Wisconsin in overtime and Northwestern's taking out Michigan State. But will this help get more bids? It's hard to say at this juncture.

Stephen Curry had 31 for Davidson in a blowout win over Furman.

• Saint Joseph's is riding Ahmad Nivins all it can. He had 34 points and 16 boards in the Hawks' one-point overtime win over Duquesne.

• I'm not shocked that Wichita State is winning in the Missouri Valley now. The Shockers showed plenty of grit in Orlando in November and have taken out Creighton and now Illinois State in the past week. Wichita State is 2-6, but that's two of the best wins in the Valley.

• Northern Iowa continues to roll, moving to 7-1 by beating Bradley.

• BYU has now lost two games at the Marriott Center after UNLV shocked the Cougs with a six-point win. BYU had won 53 straight home games before Wake Forest won there earlier this month.

• Jim Christian is doing a phenomenal job. TCU is off to a 4-1 start in the Mountain West (13-6 overall) in his first season in Fort Worth. TCU beat Wyoming in overtime Wednesday behind Kevin Langford's 36 points and eight boards. TCU has already knocked off UNLV, too.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer



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