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!

No comments: