I doubt many would have predicted Northeastern to be in the play in round. Of course, if William and Mary had stuck with Tony Shaver, a wildly successful coach, it is likely they would not be here either. With the Colonial telling James Madison to enjoy their new league, we are left with one play in game.
It was hard to predict that any team coached by Bill Coen could have such a poor season. The loss of Tyson Walker figured to make things tough. However, with everyone else returning and Bill Coen at the helm, it did not figure to be disastrous. The very smart crew at Three Man Weave chose them second in their Colonial preview. I thought they would finish fourth. We were both wrong. It was not only the loss of Walker but also a myriad of injuries throughout the year that wreaked havoc on the Huskies. Tyreek Scott Grayson was lost for the year, having played only six games. Coleman Stucke was in and out. He missed the last four games. Shaquille Walters missed five games. Several others missed time. Northeastern never found a rhythm. They will have a seven-man rotation for the conference tournament. They have a terrific coach. Stranger things have happened.
I have made it obvious on many occasions that Tony Shaver is one of my all-time favorite coaches. William and Mary made a good hire, but he is not Tony Shaver. Shaver built a program at a school that actually cares about academics. Year after year, Shaver’s teams over achieved. Sure, he never made the NCAA tournament. Had they not fired him, for sure, William and Mary would have won the Colonial the year after. With the terrific young talent he had and Shaver’s players always improving under his guidance, it is likely that many more titles were on the way. The Tribe was not expected to be very good this year, however, they played to a lower rating than my pre-season estimate. Youth and a lack of talent made Dane Fischer’s job difficult.
Northeastern began with eleven straight conference losses. A win over the conference’s best team, Towson, was followed by four more losses. They split their final two at home with a win over Wm and Mary and a loss to Elon.
Incredibly, William and Mary began conference with wins over Hofstra and Northeastern. A close loss to James Madison gave hope for a winning season. All that quickly crumbled.
The Tribe squeaked by Northeastern 72-71 but lost the recent rematch, 62-28. The tribe have flashed moments of excellence. The last loss to Northeastern shows the opposite and unfortunately, was the norm.
Where does that leave us? Both teams played below expectations. In conference tournaments, underachievers typically play better. That does not help pick the winner. Northeastern will be about a six point favorite. Their ceiling is much higher than that of the Tribe. I expect a good effort from William and Mary. If Northeastern is as bad as their final home loss to Elon, then they could even pull the upset. I have faith in Bill Coen. I expect Northeastern to play more to their level. If so, the Tribe will need more than a “flash of excellence.”
Northeastern 67 William and Mary 61