Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Hartford Beating

Wells this was a good ol fashioned ass-whuppin,' with the Eagles beating Hartford 94-60 tonight. Yes Hartford sucks, but let's give the guys credit for coming out with fire and putting the wood to the Hawks from the get-go.

Non-conference January games can be a letdown, but the Eagles were having no part of that, and the easy win served as a great tuneup for a huuuuge home game against VTech Saturday afternoon. By the way, the Hokies inexplicably lost at home tonight to crappy NC State of all teams, which really helps BC in the standings. Looking ahead perhaps, VTech?

Aside from taking care of business, there were a number of positives. A lot of guys found their stroke from downtown, with 14 treys overall (the most in a game for BC ever), and just about everyone played well (Ty Rice had 13 assists, John Oates had 11 points and Tyrelle Blair had a great big man line with 6 points, 7 boards and 7 blocks ). But the thing I like the most is that Tyler Roche finally got an extended look (20 minutes), and responded with 12 points on 4 three-pointers. Everything I read about this kid as a prepster was that he is a deadly shooter from long range, and BC desperately needs a guy like that in the rotation. I really really hope he earned some minutes with his performance tonight. The bench is too shallow, and there aren't enough guys in the rotation who can bury the rock from long distance. BC could use a guy like Roche.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Oates Benched?

According to this article in the Herald yesterday, Coach Skinner benched John Oates for Tyrelle Blair during the Duke game. Not sure if it's a benching going forward or just in-game. If the former, I applaud the move. I'm not an Oates basher, he certainly tries hard and he's a good soldier. But he could try a lot harder. In the last 5 ACC games, he scored only 8 points and grabbed just 10 rebounds. Total! That's pretty bad given all the minutes he gets (approx. 20 per game). Hell, if you just stand under the basket for 100 minutes, I would think that at least 10 basketballs would fall into your hands. So maybe starting Blair will put some fire under Oates feet, and he'll come off the pine with renewed vigor. With Blair starting, BC will get a few more blocks (he led the Horizon League in blocked shots as a freshman for Loyola-Chicago), a bigger body, and probably a few more boards. Blair doesn't have Oates' jumpshot, but Oates hasn't been hitting that all year. I like this move.

The Herald also published the first comments I've seen from a player (Ty Rice) about the Dope Dismissals. Check it out:

"Rice and his teammates are tired of answering questions about the loss of Williams and McLain. 'I didn’t think anyone could be so selfish,' said Rice, who hasn’t spoken to his ex-teammates since they were thrown off the team. 'I don’t want to talk to them. They let the team down. We lost two of our family and I felt like they weren’t loyal.'"

Ouch. I like it though.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Quick Thoughts

Not only is BC's rotation thin following the Dope Dismissals, the entire roster is shortstaffed. They only have 10 guys on the team for crissakes. I wonder if Skinner is holding tryouts for some bodies, because such a small roster presents problems on a couple of fronts. From a practice perspective, if someone goes down with an injury, it's tough to scrimmage unless one of the coaches participates. From a game perspective, if BC gets in one of those crazy foul-plagued games, the Eagles could find themselves undermanned to the point of perhaps not being able to field a team. I don't think I've ever seen that happen in major college basketball, but I have seen 6 guys DQ'd in the same game before. So it could happen.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Tobacco Smoke Show

Well, this is exactly what I feared, Josh McRoberts totally having his way against BC's suddenly weak front line, most notably John Oates, in an easy 75-61 win over the Eagles tonight. The Soft One (1 point, 1 rebound in 16 invisible minutes) has always been limited on defense, but even I was surprised at how bad McRoberts made him look. McRoberts scored at will, grabbed rebounds, blocked shots, and generally shoved Oates around like he was a rag doll. McRoberts is no Bill Walton, but he can make bad competition look bad, and tonight was Exhibit A. The primary storyline of this game was rebounding, where the Dukies absolutely slaughtered BC (41-29 total). The edge was even more pronounced on Duke's offensive glass, where the Blue Devils converted a 15-12 advantage into countless second chance points.

But Oates was only half the story. The other half was the regression of Sean Marshall. Marshall was miserable, and it wasn't just a case of the shots not falling. What irks me most is that Marshall constantly put himself in a position to fail (as is his wont), driving into the paint, and taking bad, reckless, off balance shots. Someone needs to tell Marshall that he just can't finish, so driving into taller frontcourt players is a bad idea, especially since he shoots on the way down, giving the competition time to recover whatever step he has to block his shot. Marshall should tee up from 3 when he gets an open look, or drive for dunks when the lane is open. Other than that, he should look to pass on offense.

Marshall also singlehandely killed the last chance BC had at a rally. Down 63-57 with 4 minutes left, he missed an open 3, then fouled Lance Thomas on the fastbreak, who went to the line and converted. The next possession, Marshall was fouled and missed the front end of the 1 and 1 (a turnover at the stripe). Duke capitalized by making a couple more free throws and pushing the lead to 10. Game over. Marshall's line for the day? 2-11, 7 points, 4 turnovers, 4 fouls. That's not gonna do it Sean, not against Duke.

The thing I got out of this game is that going forward BC really has to be hitting on all cylinders offensively to steal some Ws against good competition, because their defense and rebounding are just not good enough to stop anyone. Tonight, they didn't have nearly the firepower they needed from their 3 big scorers (Marshall, Rice, Dudley). Marshall sucked, and Tyrese Rice was also off. Rice handled the ball well (only 1 turnover) and had some nice drives, but his perimiter shot wasn't falling, especially from international waters (1-7). In fairness, Duke had a nice gameplan for him, giving crappy white boy Greg Paulus a lot of help D, but Rice didn't help his cause with his bricklaying. Dudley gave them a decent, but not great game (17 points, 8 rebounds), so BC really struggled to score.

I was pleasantly surprised by Tyrelle Blair. As I have said in prior postings, I think Blair is a backup center, but if the guy he is backing up is Oates, a pretty strong case can be made for him to start by default, and I think Skinner needs to take a look at that. Blair submitted a very nice line of 9 points, 6 boards and 4 blocks, and held his own at times against McRoberts. Shamari Spears also played well. He shot only 5-14 from the floor, but a few of those shots just bled off the rim, so his shooting percentage could have been a lot better had the ball rolled his way. And I really liked the way Spears battled, he boxed people out and went hard after rebounds. I think he is shaping into a nice player.

This was not that bad a loss. I did not expect BC to win, and the L does not kill them. After all, many good teams have gone down at Cameron over the years, it's a tough place to play. The "glass is half full" view is that BC just played OK, yet were within 6 with the ball very late in the game. I like our chances in Round Two at Conte.

BC gets a respite against Hartford on Wednesday. In seasons past, I have considered these non-conference January games dangerous because of the letdown factor, but BC is a team that needs to make some adjustments, maybe get another guy into the rotation to take some of the stress off the regulars. So I welcome it.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

How Bad Are the Losses Really?

I just watched Providence trounce UConn at Storrs, which was very satisfying on a couple of fronts. First, it's always good to see the Huskies go down. Their fan base is replete with only-game-in-town yahoos, and Jim Calhoun is a certifiable a-hole. He took a number of shots at BC when they left the conference, and loudly proclaimed that UConn would never play the Eagles again. Fine with me, Jim, see ya at the World's Fair. Second, the win is good for PC, and what's good for PC is good for BC given the Friars upset of the Eagles in November at the Dunk. I know, I know, UConn is not what they were a year ago, but UConn is now college basketball royalty (much as I hate to admit it), so a win over them at their place is big for anyone, no matter the circumstances.

The PC game got me thinking: how ugly are the BC losses? The out-of-conference setbacks really aren't that bad when you take a close look. PC is 14-6 overall (4-3 in the Big East), with wins over Marquette, UConn and BC. Very much in the hunt for an at-large NCAA bid in other words. Kansas? The Jayhawks are 17-3 with an RPI of 12, 'nuff said. Vermont? Not as bad as you would think. The Catamounts have a Top 100 RPI (98), are currently 14-6, and lead the America East Conference. Duquesne is the most unsightly. The Dukes are 6-11 with an RPI of 210. However, BC was seriously undermanned when they played Duquesne, with Jared Dudley, John Oates and Akida McLean in streetclothes nursing injuries. And BC is not alone, the Dukes have put it together and upset a couple of other decent teams like Dayton (RPI 73) and St. Louis (RPI 97) in Atlantic 10 play.

In the ACC, the Eagles have only lost at Clemson, a Top 25 team most of the year and probably a lock for the NCAA tourney barring a collapse. The rest of the ACC schedule is so strong that BC really can't have a bad conference loss. Other than Miami (RPI 167), every ACC opponent the rest of the way is in the RPI Top 50.

So right now, it's all about the numbers. If the Eagles can somehow get to 19 or 20 wins, they have a pretty good argument for getting into the dance. They're at 14 right now, and should pick up the last out-of-conference W next week when they host Hartford (now THAT would be a bad loss).

Friday, January 26, 2007

Duke Preview

BC heads down to Tobacco Road this weekend for a showdown with the Blue Devils Sunday night (5:30 P.M.). Duke is one of those teams (the Yankees and Notre Dame Football being the others) that I absolutely despise. The common thread is the air of superiority that they and their insufferable fans all have. Duke is particularly annoying in that every Top 100 prepster in the country is dying to go there, so the Dukies cherrypick the perfect profile ones (i.e., good grades, parents are educators, dates the homecoming queen), and then shamelessly brag about how Duke wins "the right way." Whatta crock. When Fudge Packer and Gay Bilas gush over them on CBS I wanna throw up in my mouth.

As is well documented, after Steve Lappas got canned Coach K is the only large rodent left coaching major college basketball. And the truth is that he is the most duplicitous coach out there. Every year Duke has a Top 5 recruiting class, yet every year they have a short bench. A disconnect? Not really, since Coach K likes a rotation that only goes seven deep, he throws a bunch of talent against the wall and sees what sticks. The sin is that I very much doubt he discloses that on the recruiting trail. But these dopey lemmings should be warned: if you're not in the Dukies' rotation by mid-November, you should be making transfer plans. Just ask Eric Boateng, a ballyhooed McDonald's All-American who transferred to Arizona State last year, or Jamal Boykin, a Parade All American who transferred to Cal this year. In fact, I'll bet there are more high school All-Americans who have left Durham in the past 3 years than have ever attended BC. Parenthetically, I look at a guy like Duke Freshman Gerald Henderson, a McDonald's All American, and I want to smack him in the head. He was a friggin' stud in high school, and now he's averaging 3ppg in ACC play in limited minutes. Why not go to a place like BC? His dad played for the Celtics for crissakes (made the steal that won the '84 championship over the Lakers), and he would have started right away and put up big numbers. Unbelievable.

Now for the game. This will be a tough one for BC, playing a pretty good team in their gym before a hostile crowd. I think the Dukies are overrated, especially Greg Paulus and his 1:1 assist-to-turnover ratio, but Josh McRoberts will present a really really tough matchup for the Eagles. He's inconsistent, but that's only when he's playing against decent competition in the post (e.g., Craig Smith last year). I would have liked BC's chances had they not booted Sean Williams off the team. But without Williams, I think McRoberts is going to have a field day against soft John Oates and graceless Tyrelle Blair. So it could be ugly down low. On the other hand, I think there is a possibility Ty Rice will devour Paulus. Hell, Paulus couldn't run with Louis Hinnant last year, and Rice is twice the player Sweet Lou was, especially on offense. The X factor might be how Sean Marshall defends DeMarcus Nelson. Nelson is an athletic guy with good range, so Marshall needs to get in his jock on defense and stay there. And whomever is on Jon Scheyer needs to do the same; that frosh can flat out shoot, and he's been playing with a lot of confidence as of late. My prediction? If BC can stay with the Dukies through the 1st half, I think things could get interesting, especially if Jared Dudley takes advantage of his mismatch (he will have one).

Hey it's my birthday Sunday, and there would be no greater birthday present for me than a W over the hated Dukies at Cameron. So let's win one for Angry Eagle, fellas!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Forecast and "the Bubble"

BC is in the home stretch of the season, and despite their 6-1 conference record, they are in a precarious position. I have said before that I think they need to go 11-5 in the ACC to be assured an NCAA tourney bid. 10-6 might do it, especially coupled with a win or two in the ACC tourney, but I would be squirming in my seat the whole way. The unsightly early season losses to Duquesne and Vermont, the Dope Dismissals, and a 5-6 fade would put them on the wrong side of the Bubble in my view.

The remaining 9 ACC games consist of exactly 1 game they should win (Miami away), 3 games they should lose (Duke away, UNC home, VTech away), and 5 "swing" games (VTech home, FSU away, Duke home, Clemson home, GTech away). So getting to 11 conference wins will be no easy task, as they will probably have to hold serve against the Hurricanes and take 4 of the 5 "swing" games, unless they pull a huge upset at Durham or Blacksburg, or home against the incredibly talented Tar Heels looking for payback.

The most likely candidates I see for W's among the "swing" opponents are VTech, FSU, GTech and Duke. VTech is a completely different team on the road (just ask FSU and Miami), and BC has already proven they can hang with FSU. GTech will be tough, they have a couple of fantastic freshmen. But I'm not sold on the Ramblin Wreck, they've been mighty inconsistent this year. Same goes for Duke; I think Greg Paulus totally sucks (perhaps the most overhyped player in the country), and McRoberts is just a big tease. Clemson scares me though, I just don't see the Eagles knocking them off, even at home.

If the season were to end today, BC (RPI 34) would probably be in as a No. 6 or 7 seed (see Bracketology), but according to this nice article from ESPN's Andy Katz, the season doesn't end today for the Eagles, it's just beginning. I couldn't agree more.

Recruiting Classes

With the Twin Dope Dismissals, Al Skinner's class of '04 (Sean Williams, Akida McLean, Gordon Watt) is pretty much a total washout, despite having a boatload of talent (Watt transferred to Purdue and is starting and scoring 9 ppg for the Bolermakers). Yes, John Oates was kinda sorta in that class, but was not so much a recruit but a late signee after he fell through the cracks and was offered an open scholarship in August, much like Jared Dudley the year before.

The dismissals will not only hurt the Eagles this year for obvious reasons, but next year as well, when BC will be sorely lacking senior leadership. Skinner has done a great job over the years adding 2 new players or so to the rotation every season, blending veterans with newcomers. That formula has led to continuity and success. It will be broken next year. However, as is well documented in prior postings and on other blogs, BC will be welcoming its best and largest class next year (5 solid recruits). Let's hope the kids can play, or it could be a long season of growing pains.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Florida State

I attended the game tonight, and it was one of the best games I have witnessed in a long, long time. I don't think either team was up by more than 5 points at any point in the game, a total see-saw, thrilling affair. Coming in, I thought BC needed to win at least 5 and probably 6 of their final 10 ACC games to get an NCAA tourney bid, so this was a huge "hold serve." Florida State is no shrinking violet either, with wins over current Top 25 squads Florida and Virginia Tech, and near misses against Clemson and Georfia Tech. A few thoughts:

1. Ty Rice might have sealed 2nd or 3rd team All-ACC honors with his performance tonight (26 points, 6 assists, 1 turnover). But it wasn't just the numbers. He hit big shot after big shot, drove to the hoop with authority, and handled the rock almost flawlessly with intense perimeter pressure on him. If he had played anything but a great game tonight, BC loses this one by 15.

2. Sean Marshall obviously drilled the big three at the buzzer for the win, but he also hit the boards hard (10 rebounds) and had some big baskets when BC's offense stalled.

3. Jared Dudley had a routine game for him (23 points, 6 boards), but that means stellar for anyone else.

4. Marquez Haynes chipped in some nice defense and had a few key free throws.

5. Shamari Spears had quiet numbers (4 points, 5 rebounds), but his boards were big and he had one absolutely crucial steal in the final minutes.

6. John Oates and Tyrelle Blair. These guys were invisible, and their enhanced minutes is the most disconcerting byproduct of the Sean Williams and Akida McLean dismissals. Oates was exposed again by a quick team. The guy just can't move his feet on defense, and everybody knows it. Blair is basically a backup center who can deliver the occasional block, but he has no touch around the hoop and has weak hands.

7. Down 5 with less than 5 minutes to play, BC went with a smaller, quicker lineup (i.e., Oates and Blair were on the pine), and it paid huge dividends - BC went on a 13-6 run to close the game and grab the W. While they can't play this lineup every game and especially against size, in spots they should go to it without hesitation. Plenty of scorers on the floor, and no glaring holes on D.

I am fired up. A big emotional win was exactly what the team needed to get its mojo back after the Clemson debacle. Heading down to Duke now is a "no lose" proposition, they are not expected to win, and it won't kill them if they do. So I expect them to play loose, and I expect them to play well. And who knows, maybe they can steal one against the overrated Dukies, who have had some weird struggles against medicore competition at home this year (e.g., Holy Cross, Kent State).

Monday, January 22, 2007


I did not see the Clemson game because I was on vacation, but I followed it. Needless to say, I am more than a little disappointed in the outcome. I thought that BC would come out swinging after the dismissals of Williams and McLean, but they obviously didn't and got thumpted. Make no mistake about it, Clemson is a good athletic team, playing at home and probably a little angry coming off 2 losses (including 1 blowout) against a couple of the better conference teams (Maryland and UNC). But a 20 point loss is a drubbing in my book, no matter the circumstances. I'm just hoping this was more about Clemson than BC. If the latter, the Eagles have to regroup and fast, cuz the schedule gets a little tougher from here on out, starting with a decievingly good Flordida State squad (No. 22 RPI) at home tomorrow night and Duke on the road this weekend. The big time players have to step it up, and the role players (especially Oates, Blair and Spears) have to show some game.

This is one of the weirdest seasons in memory.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Baaaaaad News for BC

Sean Williams and Akida McLean were booted off the team today according to multiple sources, including ESPN's Andy Katz in this Article. The rumor I heard from a guy close to the program is that they were caught lighting up a doob after the game. I also heard McLean's earlier 9 game suspension was for dealing drugs.

Un-friggin-believable how goddamn stupid these guys are. Williams went from surefire NBA 1st rounder if he declared this year, and possible lottery pick if he played his senior year and continued to improve. Now if he makes it anywhere, it will be despite all the baggage he has to drag around with him . We're talking millions and millions of dollars he just lost. Williams' children, let alone his great great great great grandchildren, just lost their trust funds. If our legal system were perfect, they could sue him for idiocy with no statute of limitations precluding their claims. And McLean? That guy was the ultimate unfulfilled promise - a long 6'9" lefty with a nice shooting touch. He could have turned himself into a great college player, and perhaps work himself into the NBA or a good Euro league. No chance now, I'll bet he never even graduates from college anywhere. I've always said there is a fine line between being an NBA guard and a security guard, McLean will learn that the hard way.

So where does that leave the Eagles? When I first heard the news, I was driving in my car and I had a very visceral, profane reaction. But as I calmed down, I got more rationale. The loss is really limited to Williams. It's a big loss for sure, he is a spectactular talent who can change games. But maybe Tyrelle Blair can step in a little, and maybe Shamari Spears can step up a little and fill some of the gap. Though BC could have used a healthy McLean, his absence will be no great loss - he's barely played this year, and the team has done just fine without him. And really, maybe it's good riddance to both of these bad apples. We only hear the result. Given their multiple suspensions and second chances, these thugs must have been brazenly flouting team rules at least, and the law at worst. I don't see how that could not have been disruptive for the rest of the team.

Al Skinner has faced more adversity this year than in any year of his career. The Eagles had lost 25 man-games to injury or suspension through last night's game, all of which involve rotation guys (mostly starters). That figure will balloon to 51 with Williams and McLean off the team for the balance of the season, and that's if everyone else stays healthy (Dudley?) and out of trouble (Spears?). I'll bet that's more than any team in the country. Teams can go one of two ways when faced with adversity - they can either crumble or pull together. I hate to sound like a homer, but I think this BC team will be fine. Jared Dudley and Sean Marshall seem like good kids, and this is their team and their senior years. I think they will pull the team together and circle the wagons. And I think the finality of having these losers off the team will be like a breath of fresh air around Conte Forum. What the hell, that's my prediction and I'm sticking to it - look for a big loud win over Clemson this Saturday.

Articles and Other Stuff

Here are the game articles from the Miami Herald, the Orlando Sentinel, the Boston Herald, and the Boston Globe.

If you count up the votes for "other receiving votes," BC is now viewed as the 33rd best team in the country in both the AP and Coaches Polls.

After 24 league games (including the ACC tourney games last year), BC is 18-6 against ACC opponents, and has a losing record to only Duke (and the 2 losses were by a combined 4 points). The breakdown is as follows:

Maryland: 2-1
Georgia Tech: 1-1
NC State: 2-1
Florida State: 1-0
Miami: 3-0
North Carolina: 2-0
Duke: 0-2
VTech: 2-0
Wake Forest: 3-0
Clemson: 1-0
Virginia: 1-1

'Nuff said BC Bashers!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Another Easy Win

BC put the wood to Miami tonight for their 4th straight easy conference win, and 10th consecutive W over the 'Canes (nice to stick it to them in hoops to offset their football dominance). Skinner's charges definitely seem to be finding their groove. The Eagles went up by 20 midway thru the 1st half, and the Hurricanes never really challenged, even though BC put it in cruise control in the second frame.

The Heroes:

1. Sean Marshall (15 points) and Jared Dudley (18 points, 5 boards). Another solid outing for the seniors.

2. Ty Rice. 16 points, 12 assists (career high) and only 3 turnovers. Rice couldn't find his range from three, but he had some strong drives and pretty teardrops. A little shaky on defense, especially in transition, but his play of late is really showing me he has what it takes to be a solid pointguard in this league.

3. Shamari Spears (9 points, 10 boards). He was huge on the boards for the second straight ACC game. He had some really stupid turnovers with interior passing, but that's a little nitpicky.

4. Sean Williams (10 points, 6 boards, 3 blocks). Got in some foul trouble, but a pretty solid effort with limited minutes.

The Villains:

1. John Oates. This a real stretch calling Oates a villain tonight. He submitted a subpar game, but it really wasn't that bad. His rebounding was so-so, his defense weak, and his offense non-existent (3 points). But a lot of that might be attributable to Miami big man Dwayne Collins, who had a monster game.

2. Transition D. BC got burned often and ugly by the 'Canes in the second half, when they were off to the races on every defensive rebound. The rotation D has reared it's ugly head on a few occasions in the recent past, and I think some adjustments might be in order. Rice likes to drive, and someone has to rotate back when he does that. But a lot of that happened tonight after BC got the big lead and was coasting.

Other Thoughts:

1. Billy Packer - why does that know-it-all dork hate BC so much? Goddamnit, he is annoying. With BC up 15-20 virtually the whole game, all he could do was rave about Collins and talk about how BC "better be careful." Whaaaat? Miami never got closer than 12, and that was with 3 minutes left. C'mon. BC is in your beloved ACC, Billy. Get used to it.

2. Nice to see Akida McLean on the floor after his injury, albeit for only a few minutes. Having McLean back in the rotation could be huuuge.

3. Sean Williams was quoted in the paper professing his intent on returning to school next year, and returning the faith BC has showed in him. Nice to hear, but I'll believe it when I see it. He is a no-brainer 1st rounder - who would turn that dough down?

4. BC is now 18-3 in ACC play over the past 21 games going back to last season (tourney games included), and has beaten every team except Duke. And they get two cracks at the overrated, insufferable Blue Devils in the next few weeks.

Switching gears a little, Sports Illustrated came out with their 2007 college football Power Rankings, and the Eagles check in at No. 20. The only ACC team ahead of them is VTech. ND is nowhere in sight I'm pleased to say (God I hate the Irish), but it concerns me that 4 Big East teams made it, including BC recruiting rival Rutgers.

Hurricanes in Town Tonight

Christ, it's pretty lame that the Globe and the Herald both failed to publish a game day article on a Boston College ACC tilt for the third game in a row. That is unheard of down South, and gives substance to the tired refrain of opposing coaches on the recruiting trail deriding Boston as a "pro sports town." In any event, here's the preview of tonight's game from the perspective of the Miami Herald. Thank God for the Internet.

BC has won 5 in a row and Miami is in a downward spiral, having lost 5 of 7. So BC should roll, right? Not so fast. If history teaches us anything, it's that the Eagles time and again come out flat in circumstances like this, and Miami has always given BC trouble. Getting off to a good start against the Hurricanes this evening is thus critical - smack them down and don't take your foot off their neck.

Yesterday, this Article came from the Boston Herald about Sean Williams' defense improving at the expense of his shot blocking. The writer takes the position that setting up the blocks puts Williams out of defensive and rebounding position. I couldn't agree more. In my post after the Duquesne game, that was my big criticism. Williams and Blair had 17 blocks combined, but BC was killed on the offensive boards, and the overall defense was terrible, swats notwithstanding. There has been a marked improvement in overall defense since that game, and the Herald article credits Skinner for the adjustment, citing player quotes. Another example of why the guy is a great coach.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Swatmeister and Other Thoughts

Sean Williams getting some props from Sports Illustrated in this online piece.

BC has an RPI ranking of 37 right now, which would put them in the NCAA tourney on that criterion alone if the season ended today. They have three wins over Top 100 teams, Maryland (24), Michigan State (25), and UMass (72) to shout about. Even the losses aren't that damaging. Obviously going down at Kansas (21) is nothing to be ashamed of, but the Providence (53) and Vermont (97) losses don't look as bad as they felt at the time given the seasons those teams are having - Providence is 12-4, and Vermont is 12-5. The Duquesne setback hurts, but remember that BC was played the Dukes with three rotations guys sitting on the bench nursing injuries (Dudley, McLean, Oates).

Next on the slate is Miami at home tomorrow night. The Hurricanes are a weird team. They beat conference heavies GTech and Maryland, but have had bad losses to the likes of Binghampton, Buffalo and Cleveland State. As I said in my previous post, I expect a war. If the Eagles prevail, it will be a seat squirmer - it always is with Miami.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Virginia & Wake Victories

This was a big, big week for the Eagles. As I have said before, I think BC needs to go at least 10-6 in conference (and maybe win 1 game in the ACC tourney) for a really good shot at an at-large bid. So racing out to a 4-0 conference start puts them in great shape, as they only need to go .500 the rest of the way to get there. And if they can somehow close out conference play by going 7-5, they would probably end up at least 21-10 (assuming they take care of business at home against Hartford and go 1-1 in the ACC Tourney), with an 11-5 conference record to brag about. I can't see the NCAA Selection Committee keeping them out with that profile, especially in light of the fact that suspension and injuries have kept the Eagles from fielding a full complement of players for every game - BC has lost 12 man-games to suspension (McLean 9, Willliams 2, Spears 1), and another 12 man-games to injury (Oates 2, Dudley 3, McLean 7). For those of you still lamenting the Vermont and Duquesne games, I think the high profile wins over teams like Michigan State, Maryland, Virginia, Wake and even UMass (check it out - they are having a great year) will overshadow the ugly losses when you consider the short bench BC has had to play with.

How much weight should we give the Wake and Virginia wins this week? Wake does look kind of soft, but Virginia is solid. The Cavs blew out Gonzaga a few weeks ago, and gave North Carolina all they could handle (at Chapel Hill a couple of days ago) before the Heels pulled away for a 10 point win. And 4-0 in conference is 4-0.

I'm getting fired up about this team again because I sense that Al Skinner has been poking, prodding and tinkering with his rotation, and he is close to hitting the sweet spot that he seems to hit every year. I like the way the perimiter defense has stepped it up. I like the soft press that has led to so many easy buckets. I like the fact BC went on serious runs against NC State, Wake and Virginia. Though they had to withstand some comebacks, the important thing is that they did. Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. And the foul shooting, a bane last year, has been excellent.

I also like BC's chances down the road because it looks like they clearly got a favorable ACC schedule. The best teams BC will face in conference play appear to be Maryland, Duke, Clemson, GTech and UNC. They only have to play Maryland, GTech and UNC once each, and they got the Terps and the Heels at home.

A few quick comments:

1. It was great to see such a large crowd at the Virginia game yesterday. Usually those home games during winter break are pretty small gatherings, but the joint was full, even if it wasn't jumpin'.

2. I continue to be pleasantly surprised by Sean Marshall. I still think he can't finish inside, but his rebounding and defense have improved, and it looks like he's found his stroke from downtown.

3. Ty Rice is playing well, though he had a quiet game against the Cavaliers. Usually BC sinks or swims with Rice, but the Eagles got a nice win when he had an off-day. Given his inconsistency, that is a very good sign.

4. For those of you who did not see the end of the Wake game, it was a little disconcerting watching Marquez Haynes wilt under pressure when forced to play the point. Haynes is a nice player, plays good D and has a decent offensive game. But with Rice in foul trouble, Haynes showed he is not an adequate point guard. Wake pressured him into 6 turnovers down the stretch, and many of them were of the panic variety.

5. I read in the paper that Akida McLean participated in a full practice the other day. If McLean can come back from the ankle sprain and give them some meaningful minutes, that would be huge. He is one big dude, and has a nice touch with the left hand. Playing him and Williams together would give BC a sick front line, especially on defense.

6. Shamari Spears had a really, really nice game against Virginia, perhaps the best ACC game he's played. He got a number of important boards, and one critical put-back when the Cavs were making their final run. I hope that gives the kid some confidence, as he was playing without any the past few games.

7. Miami is next up, and that will be one of those war games. Miami is never that great, but like Virginia Tech, always plays BC tough, especially on the road. The Eagles get them at home on Tuesday, and I hope they come out early and smack them into submission.

8. BC is now 16-4 over the last 20 ACC games spanning two years, tied with Duke for the best record in the conference. I love pointing that out to the BC-haters who predicted the Eagles would get smoked when they joined the ACC!

Sunday, January 7, 2007

NC State

BC crushed the Wolfpack in Raleigh yesterday in a wire-to-wire thumping that may have been the Eagles' best all-around effort of the season. I know, I know, the Pack is weak this year (picked pre-season to finish last by the ACC coaches), but a road win is a road win, and Al Skinner's charges made it look easy. So easy in fact that I was musing about the naysayers who mocked BC's move to the ACC, claiming the Eagles could not compete in what has been traditionally the best hoop conference in the land. To those naysayers I point out that after last year's 0-3 conference start, BC has won 15 of 18 ACC games (including the ACC tourney), and 2 of the losses were against No. 1 Duke by a combined 4 points. Indeed, I'll bet if you asked the other ACC coaches who the toughest conference opponent to prepare for is, a lot of them would say our nice little group from the Heights.

After the Duquesne loss, I was admittedly a little worried about this team. The defense had been atrocious. But against Yale and NC State, things have picked up. And this is not the first time Skinner has had to make significant defensive adjustments. Early in the 2003 season, I recall BC was getting sliced and diced from the perimiter this badly. After Villanova put up 92 points and pinned BC with a home loss, Skinner made the changes and the Eagles went on a roll all the way to the NCAA tournament. I see the same things happening here. NC State couldn't buy a good look at the hoop.

As I stated in an earlier post, I thought the Dudley injury might be a blessing in disguise. I am now convinced that it was. While no new player emerged (Tyler Roche, you missed your opportunity), a number of players stepped up their game:

1. Sean Marshall. There has been no bigger basher of Marshall than me, but over the last 4 games or so, Marshall has become a big-time scorer, and he is crashing the boards (14 v. NC State). He is even hitting the big shot for once, not just a lot of meaningless buckets early. Yesterday's game very well might have been the best game of his career.

2. Ty Rice. I have always viewed Rice as a tease. He has a lot of talent, but often wastes it gunning for style points, which usually translates into maddening turnovers. But since Dudley went down, he has found his shot from three, his drives are sound decisions and open up the offese, and his handle has greatly improved. Yesterday he had 10 assists and only 1 turnover.

3. John Oates. I have been a mild critic of his game, especially on defense, but his injury showed how valuable he has become to this team. Sean Williams shot-blocking makes up for his defensive deficiencies. Yes, his offense is limited to the occasional put-back and three, but his rebounding has improved markedly (8 boards yesterday).

4. Marquez Haynes. Kind of a quiet game yesterday, but extended minutes during the Dudley absence show that he can play when called upon. He brings speed, sound defense, a little flash offensively, and a decent jumpshot.

5. Shamari Spears. Still a work in progress. I am a little worried he is going to turtle up in ACC play, but as long as he can grab rebounds and give the Eagles a little offense off the bench, he can be a productive rotation guy.

6. Dudley and Williams. What else is there to say? Williams was a little quiet yesterday (4 points, 5 boards, 3 blocks), but they really didn't need him with Marshall taking over and the game well in hand early. Dudley had the most subtle 20 point game I've ever seen, which is further testament to how great a college player he is.

If BC can steal a win at Wake Tuesday, they could be back in the mix for an at-large NCAA bid. With the Vermont and Duquesne losses, I think they need to go at least 10-6 in conference play, and if they can get a win over the Deacs, they would simply have to go .500 or so the rest of the way to get there.

I sense this team can go on a run, and it should be noted that they have not had their full complement of players for a single game this season. The NCAA committee will take note of that if BC can get to 20 wins.