Column: Program not defeated despite season-ending loss

By: Jonathan Raymond, News Staff

And so the men’s basketball team’s run in the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) ended a lot like their run in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) tournament ended.

Baptiste Bataille’s desperation three at the buzzer hung in the air, clanged off iron and signified the end of Northeastern’s 2009-2010 season. After the Huskies blew a five-point lead in the final minutes against another set of Huskies – those of Connecticut.

It was a disappointing end in a season that, unfortunately, was all too full of them. But that shouldn’t be what fans focus on when they look back and analyze this year. Because while it seemed at times there was a lot of two steps forward three steps back with this particular squad, the overall progress of this program did not fall into that trap.

If you had told me when I began at this school that the basketball team would have a season with multiple appearances on the ESPN network, talk of an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament, and then a trip to the NIT against a traditional power-school on ESPN2 at primetime, I would have been ecstatic.

The first game I ever went to was a nondescript win over Georgia State in January of 2007, with a generous attendance figure of 1,450. The Huskies went 13-19 that year, but managed to spot a 9-9 record in a solid CAA and it gave signs of hope for the future.

Well that future is here, partly. Coach Bill Coen, the team itself, and the fans should all pat themselves on the back for putting basketball on the same level as hockey at this school this season. The atmosphere at the games against Louisiana Tech, Old Dominion, Virginia Commonwealth and others were unlike anything I ever expected to see at Northeastern.

Yeah, it’s unfortunate that on more than one occasion these Huskies looked painfully close to taking one of those great leaps forward, ultimately to come up a little short. But they accomplished something by putting Northeastern back in the consciousness of college basketball observers throughout the country.

This year’s Northeastern team established the Huskies as a legitimate figure in the mid-major conversation. And the way Coen has recruited and developed his talent, for the most part, we have at least some reason to expect that to continue.

No, there was no regular season CAA title this year, as it looked like it might be. No, there was no NCAA tournament appearance, as it looked like there might be. And no, there was no victory over a power-conference school in a nationally televised game, as it so tantalizingly looked like it might be Tuesday night.

But Northeastern isn’t anonymous anymore. Not to its students, not to college basketball commentators and not to fans that care about this level of college basketball.

When freshmen step foot on campus next year, when they’re told about how great an NU hockey game is on Friday night, they’ll also hear about how good the basketball games are the following Saturday afternoons.

And that’s something to take from this year. It’s a place to grow from. And I’m excited to see where it all is in another five years.

It hurts right now, but there’s reason to believe it hurts more in the vein of Aaron Boone than Bill Buckner, if you catch my drift.

– Jonathan Raymond can be reached
at [email protected]