Sunday, December 24, 2006

Lost in Lawrence

U-G-L-Y. BC took quite a pounding yesterday at the hands of the 12th-ranked University of Kansas, as thorough a beating as they have suffered since Pitt thumped them at home in the waning days of the 04--05 campaign. As I said in my preview, all the Kansas papers have been describing the Jayhawks as an inconsistent team, but one that can absolutely blow your doors off when they put it all together. Well KU certainly brought their "A" game, and put the wood to the Eagles. The game was essentially over late in the 1st half when Kansas switched to a zone defense, and promptly broke a 16-16 tie with a 31-7 run (not a misprint).

This was bad news on a number of fronts:

1. It represented a collosal missed opportunity. The Jayhawks haven't played anybody decent in almost a month, and came out of the gate pretty slowly with a number of sloppy turnovers. But BC was just as careless, especially Ty Rice (more on that later). Had BC pounced on Kansas and went up by 8-10 points early, it might have been a different game, or at least a different half. In the grander scheme of things, this was also a blown chance to have a nice, loud out-of-conference win. Kansas is young but extremely talented (6 McDonald's All-Americans). They will continue to improve, and by the end of the year might be a Top 5 team. Had BC managed to upset the Jayhawks, it would have been a big statement win. With the loss, BC has no more opportunities for such outside the ACC, so the Eagles are left to pull for UMass and Michigan State to have big years, so the wins over them look good come Selection Sunday.

2. Sean Williams had a huuuuge game (19 points, 15 rebounds, 7 blocks). Why is this bad news? Because BC-KU was a nationally televised affair on a dead Saturday during a holiday weekend. Everyone in the country was watching this game, including the NBA scouts. According to this article, there were 16 credentialed NBA scouts in attendance. Now everyone knows what we all know, that this guy is a f'ing freak. So make no mistake about it, Williams just vaulted from 2nd round flier to 1st round certainty in the 07 NBA Draft. Whether Williams returns to BC for his senior year is now extremely tenuous. I don't know Williams or anyone who does, so I don't know what he's thinking, but if he is drafted in the 20s (where I have him now), he could probably ink a $3.5M deal for three years. Would you turn that down? Let's face it, he's not going to be a scientist or a lawyer, he's going to be an NBA forward, might as well get started making the big bucks now. "He’s the best I’ve ever seen,” KU guard Russell Robinson said of Williams. “He comes out of nowhere.”

3. As stated above, the game was there for all to see, so the entire country got a good glimpse of BC and all it's warts. Compounding the glare was the fact that BC was the undercard for the much-hyped Ohio State-Florida tilt, so everyone who tuned in for that game at 4:00 PM EST, got 10 minutes of the end of the BC drubbing. Not good.

4. John Oates and Akida McLain went down with injuries. I'm not a big fan of Oates, but he does have a role, he's a big guy who can grab a few boards, get some put-backs, and drill the occasional three. So it will hurt if he's out for a long time (the Globe indicated he had an "injured left arch," whatever that means; the Herald says he is day-to-day). McLain is a bigger concern. He could really help BC down low, and if he's out for a while that will be a problem. He reportedly has a "severely sprained ankle." I had a few of those back in my playing days, and they can really hobble you for long stretches of time, perhaps the entire season. So that sucks for the Eagles.

The Heroes:

The only hero in the game for BC was Williams. He continues to show that his improved offense is no accident. He's looking to score and taking it to the hoop. Also, his shot-blocking is absolutely breathtaking (no news bulletin there). Getting 6-7 blocks against the likes of Sacred Heart and Fairfield is one thing, but doing it against the thoroughbreds of Kansas is another. His prowess on the boards was a little misleading though. With Oates and McLean out, someone had to clean up the glass.

The Villains:

1. Sean Marshall (2-5, 5 pts, 3 turnovers) pulled another disappearing act against a quality opponent. This guy gets all his numbers against the mid-majors, but comes up small against the big boys (7.0 ppg v. Mich. State, Maryland and Kansas this year; 17.2 ppg v. everyone else). He needs to stop pouting when his shot isn't falling and concentrate on defense and rebounding. I counted at least two occasions when he missed a shot, and then watched his man race up court for a long pass and a dunk. That can't happen. He also has to improve his rotations (see below)

2. Ty Rice needs to knock off the careless passes, it's getting ridiculous. His assist-to-turnover ratio is close to 1:1. That's horrible. I have generally been a Ty guy, thinking he brings more to the table than he takes away. But the turnovers are becoming a big concern, and his shooting, particularly from trifecta range, has been god-awful lately (and this season in general). Nevertheless, I was alarmed to see him pass up his jumpshot. He is a great shooter, and I want him jacking that three when it's open, even if it's not falling. That's his shot. I don't want him driving to the hoop, especially against a tall athletic team like Kansas. When that happens and Marshall fails to rotate over, it leaves BC open to fastbreak opportunites, which we saw time and again yesterday.

3. Al Skinner. There is no bigger Skinner fan than me, but you've got to call some timeouts when you're getting blown out of the gym on the road like they were in the first half. Al has always had a "let em play" attitude, but that was a little extreme. Also, it's looking more and more like the Marqez Haynes-Ty Rice combo should be on the floor more. My biggest criticism of Al is his loyalty. We saw this in spades during the Nate Doornekamp era, and we're seeing it here with Marshall. Haynes should be eating into Marshall's minutes, especially when Marshall's only asset - three point shooting - has abandoned him.

4. Shamari Spears. I hesitiate in calling Spears a villain, but the game he submitted revived my concern that he will have a tough time getting his shot off against bigger and more athletic competition when ACC play starts. He has looked good against the mid-majors, but 1-2 from the floor with 3 boards in 23 minutes doesn't cut it in the big-time.

Yesterday's abysmal outside shooting (4-19 from three) made it painfully evident that BC lacks a perimeter game. KU went with the zone early and dared BC to shoot. That paid big dividends for the Jayhawks, and we can expect to see more and more of it in the future when teams check out the tape of this one. I for one am really disappointed we haven't seen more of Tyler Roche. I am not there at practice, so I say this with no authority, but everything I read about Roche during the recruiting process was that he is a dead-eye shooter from long range, and he's 6-7. BC could really use someone like that to keep the defenses honest and avoid long scoring droughts like we saw against Kansas. But it looks like Roche is out of Al's rotation, which means he probably won't see the floor all year. Al is the anti-Tom Izzo, he likes to have 7 or 8 guys in a rotation and no more, even if a guy on the bench has game (e.g., transfer Gordon Watt, who is now starting for Purdue).

Lastly, did anyone else find it annoying that Jared Dudley was named BC's Player of the Game by CBS? I love Dudley, but that was probably his quietest game of the year, and he was pretty much a non-factor. Williams was clearly BC's MVP, but CBS no doubt hyped Dudley coming in and forced the script down the viewers throats. That's why I hate these dumbed-down national telecasts, especially come tourney time.

Next up is a home game Thursday 12/28 against Duquesne. The Eagles should lick their wounds with the 3-7 Dukes, but there are no guarantees with this team, as we found out against Vermont.

No comments: