By Seth Orensky, Contributor.
Boston University's men's basketball team opens the 2011 season with a home game against Northeastern.
Date/Time: Friday, November 11, 2011-5p.m. EDT.
Location: Case Gymnasium (Capacity: 1,800), Boston, MA.
Broadcast Info: The season opener for these teams will be broadcast live on radio on WWZN (1510 AM), with Doug Brown on play-by-play and Brian Maurer as his analyst. WTBUSports (BU's student radio station) and WRBB (Northeastern's Student Radio Station) will also have coverage of the game.
All-Time Series: Northeastern leads the all-time series 71-67 but the Terriers have strung together three consecutive victories. The two teams first met in the 1920-21 season and were both members of the America East conference until 2005 when the Huskies joined the Colonial Athletic Association.
Storyline: America East champions Boston University and cross-town Northeastern will renew their rivalry in both team's season opener with several familiar faces absent from the rivalry. A season after the teams moved their annual game from Thanksgiving break to the opening weekend, star players John Holland (BU) and Chaisson Allen (NU) will be nowhere to be found, along with former Terriers head coach Pat Chambers.
With Holland and Allen, the leading scorers and defenders on their respective squads, graduated, these two squads will have to establish new identities as they enter the 2011-12 season.
BU will be led by new boss Joe Jones, the former head coach at Columbia University who spent last season as an assistant at BC under Steve Donahue. Jones, who hails from the same Villanova coaching tree as Chambers, inherits a roster that returns 10 of 11 players and is coming off back-to-back 21 win seasons.
Sophomore point guard D.J. Irving and senior Darryl Partin will look to lead a Terriers squad picked to finish first in the preseason America East poll for the fifth straight year. Irving, the fastest player in America East and likely the entire state of Massachusetts, is being labeled as a possible Player of the Year in the conference. Helping Irving shoulder the load, will be Partin, a second-year transfer from LaSalle who averaged 14.3 points per game as a junior.
The Huskies are coming off their worst season in Bill Coen's tenure, finishing with an 11-20 record and a first round exit in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament. Northeastern returns all but two players from a year ago and will have five new faces on the floor this year, including Niagra transfer Kashief Edwards.
Coen, another former BC assistant who served on Al Skinner's staff, will rely heavily on junior captains Joel Smith and Jonathan Lee. The two guards were Honorable Mentions for the CAA preseason teams and are the top two returning scorers from a season ago.
Prior to the game, BU will raise their sixth America East Championship Banner, the school's first since 2002.
Players To Watch: D.J. Irving's speed can't be exaggerated and he used last year's game as a showcase of his skills. Irving finished with 14 points and 5 assists in just 27 minutes of play at a rowdy Matthews Arena. Expect Irving to come out even more aggressively this year, looking to improve upon his eight points a game average, with Holland no longer on the roster to bail out the Terriers.
Niagra transfer Kashief Edwards was brought to Huntington Ave. to occupy the paint and help a Northeastern squad that was abysmal at rebounding last season. In the team's annual intra-squad scrimmage, Edwards led all scorers with 19 points as the Black Team defeated the Red Team. The 6-5 Edwards will have his first test tonight against a much taller Terriers front line.
Darryl Partin will face the most pressure of any player on either squad this season. Deemed by many as the player who will have to fill Holland's shoes (however unfairly), Partin will struggle with as many mental battles as physical ones on the court. While he struggled turning the ball over last season, Partin is a pure scorer who averaged nearly 20 points per game at home last year. Expect Partin to try to do too much, especially early on in the game in front of the home fans.
Prediction: While both teams will struggle to adjust to playing without their best players, expect BU to have the advantage with more proven scorers and the home court advantage. The last four games in this series have all been decided by 10 points or less and that trend will likely continue. Final Score: Boston University 68, Northeastern University 62.