By: Greg Levinsky
For the ninth-straight year, the Boston University men’s basketball team opens up its regular season slate with a contest against local rival Northeastern University. A trip to face the talented Huskies, the reigning co-CAA regular season champions will serve as a solid measuring stick to see where the Terriers are at to start the year. Tip is set for 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday night at Matthews Arena.
Northeastern lost just one rotation player from a team that went 23-10 a season ago, and returns its top seven scorers. Boston University head coach Joe Jones said the Huskies present a challenge similar to a team that would challenge as a Patriot League favorite.
“You have to play against team that are going to challenge you to get better,” Jones said.
Pencil junior forwards Tyler Scanlon and Max Mahoney as well as sophomore Javante McCoy into the core of the rotation. All three started last year. BU returns a fourth starter, in sophomore guard/forward Walter Whyte, but he is out four to six weeks with a bone bruise near his left ankle, Jones will turn to more underclassmen to fill the void.
A 6-foot-6-inch slasher, Whyte missed four games during his freshman year. He’s been in and out of a walking boot since the end of the 2017-18 season.
Jones said they’re healthy otherwise.
Mahoney was a 2018 Patriot League All-Conference Third Teamer last year, and returns as BU’s leading scorer after posting 12.9 points per game. McCoy averaged 8.9 points per game as a true freshman and shot an efficient 43.5 percent clip from beyond the arc.
Scanlon is an all-around threat. The 6-foot-7 small forward put up 10.5 points and team-highs of 5.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game as a sophomore after an All-Rookie Team campaign. Jones said he expects Scanlon to take another leap forward as a junior thanks to increased physicality among other things.
“His ball handling has gotten a lot better,” Jones said. “He’s gotten stronger, and his ability to get by defenders has really improved.”
Northeastern will be one of the top mid-major teams in the country. If they string together a few wins to open their non-conference slate, they could vie for some top-25 votes.
Senior lead guard Vasa Pusica tore up the Colonial in his first year after transferring in from San Diego. He averaged 17.9 points per game and 5.1 assists per game, earning 2018 Lou Henson All-American, 1st Team NABC, USBWA All-District and First Team All-CAA honors.
Shawn Occeus joins Pusica in the back court. The junior was named the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year last season, and was the only other Husky to average double-digit scoring at 10.8 points per game. Senior center Anthony Green and junior wings Donnell Greshman Jr. and Maxime Borsiquot return as starters.
Game planning for the dynamic backcourt of Pusica and Occeus was a challenge, Jones said.
“Those guys are terrific,” he said. “We may not be able to stop them. We just want them to take the shots we want them to take.”
In the eight meetings in Jones’ tenure, the Huskies have a 6-2 series lead. Two games have gone into overtime, and all have been decided by 10 points or less.
“The games have been epic,” Jones said. “There’s great energy from both teams.”
Greg Levinsky can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregLevinsky