Introducing Cinderella: Northeastern defeats top-seed Hofstra to win CAA crown

AP Photo/Mic Smith
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Hofstra spent much of this season living the good life. The Pride had a stumble in November against Marshall and then took expected losses at Maryland and VCU before ripping off 16-straight victories to emerge as on of the more intriguing mid-majors in the country. Northeastern then got them in Boston – no big deal – before eyebrow-raising losses to UNC Wilmington and James Madison, the latter coming at home. Still, a pretty great regular season.

That’ll likely be the pinnacle for the Pride.

Hofstra’s bid for an NCAA tournament berth came to a close Tuesday when CAA runner-up Northeastern knocked them off in the title game in impressive fashion with an 82-74 win in which the Huskies led by as many as 18 points.

Hofstra shot just 39 percent from the floor and 30 percent on 20 3-point attempts while the Huskies were 14 of 31 from 3 and shot 50 percent from the floor overall. Northeastern’s Vasa Pusica scored 21 to lead the Huskies, who actually coughed up their huge lead and were tied with the Pride by the 9-minute mark but eventually pulled back away to nab their first tourney berth since 2015.

Justin Wright-Foreman scored 29 to lead Hofstra, but he was just 9 of 22 from the floor and 2 of 9 from 3-point range, doing much of his damage at the free-throw line for Hofstra, which hasn’t made the NCAA tournament under coach Joe Mihalich despite winning or sharing the CAA regular-season title twice in four years.

CONFERENCE: Colonial Athletic Association

COACH: Bill Coen

RECORD: 23-10, 14-4 CAA

RATINGS:

  • KENPOM: 79
  • NET: 82

PROJECTED SEED: Northeastern has some truly nice wins on its resume, including two over Hofstra, but some nasty losses are likely to relegate the Huskies to something close to a 14. That’ll give them a difficult first-round matchup, but they won’t be completely overmatched against whichever 3-seed they get matched up against.

NAMES YOU NEED TO KNOW: Vasa Pusica, a great name with plenty of game. The Serbian national and San Diego transfer shootings 49.5 percent from the floor and 38.5 percent from 3-point range to lead the Huskies in scoring at 17.6 per game, and he also is tops in assists (4.4) and steals (1.5). Jordan Roland puts up 14.8 points per game while shooting 40.5 percent from 3-point range.

BIG WINS, BAD LOSSES: The Huskies got a huge win in November when they knocked of Alabama on a neutral floor. They also beat Harvard in Cambridge, and beat Hofstra once in the regular season before claiming a second win against the Pride in Tuesday night’s title bout. On the other side of the ledger, losses to Delaware (KenPom 259) and Towson (289) are going to get noticed by the committee.

STATS YOU NEED TO KNOW: Northeastern is going to concern whatever high-major coaching staff that will be tasked with scouting it because of everything they can do from the 3-point line. The Huskies convert from distance at a 38.8 percent clip, which is 14th-best in the country. Perhaps the scarier thing, though, is they shoot a ton of 3s, ranking 21st nationally with 46.3 percent of their overall attempts coming from beyond the arc. They’re going to hoist a whole handful of triples in their first-round matchup and if they get hot, that’s an upset waiting to happen.

HOW DO I KNOW YOU?: If you’re a college basketball junky, you might recognize some Huskies from previous stops as the roster is has a number of transfers, including Vasa Pusica (San Diego), Greg Eboigbodin (Detroit), Jordan Roland (George Washington) and Shaquille Walters (Santa Clara).

FINAL THOUGHT: Pusica is the real deal, and the Huskies’ ability to convert from 3-point range are going to make them a pesky opponent. If they’re able to get up their customary amount of 3-point attempts, it could be a real problem for opponents and a magical run for the Huskies.