Basketball Scouting Report: Northeastern
There are a few teams in the United States that are fun to play against in the same way that a root canal is fun. Saint Louis is one of them, Wisconsin another, Virginia still another. Vanderbilt bogged down on Monday against SLU's suffocating, airtight defense. The experience was properly miserable for the Commodores, but that 57-49 loss can become a positive for this team if it learns how to develop a more fluid and responsive halfcourt offense in time for the SEC season. Cultivating a strong defensive work ethic has been a core need for most of the non-conference season, but in this final pre-SEC tune-up, it will be important for Vanderbilt to display better habits and sharper instincts at the offensive end of the floor.
Head coach Bill Coen has had some competitive teams in his tenure at Northeastern dating back to 2006, and last season, Coen guided his school to the championship game of the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament. However, the Huskies lost to James Madison, falling short in their bid to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1991. Northeastern's last NCAA tournament win came in 1984. The coach? Jim Calhoun, before he moved to Connecticut in 1986 and rewrote history at a program he built from the ground up.
Northeastern still aspires to get where Calhoun once led the program, but the Huskies must start over first. They've had great teams over the past decade, with J.J. Barea being one of their foremost stars (on the 2005 squad that made the final of the America East Tournament, losing to Vermont), but this team doesn't appear to be one of them. Losers of their last two, the Huskies enter this game at 3-10 with losses to some low-level opponents. Northeastern is taking a step back now so that it can move forward in 2014-2015.
With the absence of any major senior presence on the team, perhaps the Huskies are a year or two away from competing for more than a CBI berth.
Forward – Scott Eatherton – Junior, 6-9, 230; 2013-14: 17.4 points per game, 10.2 rebounds per game,1.5 assists per game
Eatherton is one of the few bright spots on Northeastern, averaging 17 and 10. He shoots a very strong 57.7 percent from the floor and has an exceptional efficiency rating. He rarely is going to take a bad shot and he's without question the biggest focal point for Vanderbilt's defense.
Forward – Reggie Spencer – Junior, 6-7, 210; 2013-14: 9.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg
Spencer misses out on account of the looks Eatherton gets, but he is still a solid sidekick for Eatherton. He does an above average job on the glass but is perhaps the better guy for Vanderbilt to attack when Northeastern is on defense.
Guard – T.J Williams – Freshman, 6-3, 190; 2013-14: 6.4 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.6 apg
Williams has struggled with his shot early in the season and it appears to carry over to other areas of his game. He isn't making a significant impact anywhere, but Coen clearly has faith in Williams's ability to right the ship, given his 24.3 minutes per game.
Guard – Demetrius Pollard – Junior, 6-2, 200; 2013-14: 7.8 ppg, 1.2 rpg, 1.4 apg
Pollard is the least efficient offensive player in the Huskies' starting five. If there's one area of his game that must be guarded, however, it is the three-point shot. Run him off the arc and you can get him out of his comfort zone.
Guard – David Walker – Sophomore, 6-6, 176; 2013-14:11.5 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 3.1 apg
Walker is a volume scorer who really needs a lot of shots to get his points. That should play into Vandy's hands. There are a lot of shooters on this team, but very few capable passers.
In what is generally a eight-man rotation on a roster with only nine players that have seen any minutes this season, Coen looks to three guards: Zach Stahl, Derrico Peck, and Marco Banegas-Flores. Stahl averages 7.3 points and 3.5 rebounds per game, while Peck and Banegas-Flores own virtually nonexistent statistical footprints. Essentially, Stahl is the only reserve who has demonstrated the ability to be a productive player. Northeastern basically has only six players who can make meaningful contributions for any extended length of time. That's a foremost reason why this team has languished this season… and will continue to do so, barring an infusion of reinforcements.
Keys to the Game
1) Be patient on offense. Northeastern is a turnstile on defense, giving up over 49 percent shooting from the floor on defense, including 37.6 percent shooting from three-point range. If Vanderbilt is patient it can generate a lot of easy baskets.
2)Be aggressive on defense. The Huskies truly lack a playmaker on offense and have a bunch of me-first players. As a result you see the team's assist totals. Rarely does a Husky make the appropriate pass, and if Vanderbilt keeps that in mind it can probably get away with less than ideal fundamental defense as opposed to other games.
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