Saturday, December 29, 2007

Sacred Heart Game

I attended the Sacred Heart game last night and I was pleasantly surprised by the turnout, a pretty lively half-full Conte Forum. Considering it conflicted with the bowl game, and took place during school break on a Friday night when plenty of other things are going on in Greater Boston, that's a pretty good showing. Hats off to the fans. As for the game itself, it was pretty uneventful. Sacred Heart came out hot and took an early lead, then BC went on a 22-5 run about midway through the first half to take control (not surprisingly, that took place with Cory Raji on the floor and Tyler Roche on the pine). The Eagles stretched the lead to 17 in the second half on a number of occasions before losing focus. Sacred Heart stroked a few threes and out-hustled BC for some loose balls, and suddenly the lead was down to 3 in the waning moments. But Ty Rice and Shamari Spears stepped up at the stripe to seal the deal, canning 10 of 10 in the final 4 minutes.

All in all, though I criticize BC's effort and inability to put a lesser team away, I was pretty happy with the game. Sacred Heart's late charge made this young team step up in the face of a major choke job, and BC stepped up. I think the more they face game situations like that the better, as more are surely coming down the road, especially in conference play.

A few observation:

1. John Oates had a pretty big game offensively for him, with 12 points on a few follow up dunks and a couple of threes. His big weakness (defense) was a non-factor in this one, as Sacred Heart had no one that presented even a semblance of an offensive challenge in the post. Tyrelle Blair chipped in 12 as well, for the same reason.

2. Speaking of Blair, I've said it before, but he must have the weakest hands in college basketball. Sacred Heart's tiny front line stripped him over and over again as he tried to go up for dunks. Amazing. I'd like to dine with him just to see how many times he drops his fork during a meal.

3. Tyler Roche. The box score says he went 3-4, but again no rebounds and two ugly, very ugly, turnovers that turned into layups the other way. For some reason, Roche seems to have major problems with that tiny bounce pass at the top of the flex, and I'm tired of seeing defenders jump his pass for the steal and easy bucket. I think Al is sick of it too, as he jettisoned Roche to the bench right after the second one, where he remained for most of the night (Roche played only 15 minutes). As for his rebounding - or lack thereof - Roche now has a whopping 2 boards in his last three games (spanning 67 game minutes). What's up with that? The guy is 6'7" for crissakes.

4. Tyrese Rice had a decent game (16 points), though he seemed a little bored. Nevertheless, I love the ball in his hands with the game on the line and the other team needing to foul. He is automatic with the free throws, and was in this one.

NBA Non-Sequitur - old friend Sean Williams submitted a killer line in the Nets' 109-106 win last night over Washington - 14 points, 10 rebounds and 5 blocks. I still find myself daydreaming about what might have been had Williams kept his head down at the Heights.

Turning to football quickly, as is well documented BC won it's best-in-the-nation 8th straight bowl game last night against middling Michigan State. While I applaud BC's preparation and congratulate them on the win, with all due respect I think the streak has a lot more to do with BC going to a lesser bowl and playing an inferior opponent every year than anything else (cue the tired travel rep debate). I think BC has been favored (and in some instances heavily favored) in all these bowl games, with the notable exception of the Music City Bowl tilt against Georgia a number of years ago, which goes down as the only big win in the streak in my view. Until the bowl system is either junked completely or changed to a merit-based one, I fully expect BC's unimpressive streak to continue, replete with more Muffler and Tire Bowl appearances against 6-6 and 7-5 opponents. Hooray.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Skinner and the NBA

With nearly two more years to perfect his play at the point, Ty Rice is looking more and more like an NBA player in my view. If he gets drafted (and I think he will, in the 2nd round next year), that means Al Skinner will have had a future NBA draftee in four straight recruiting classes - Craig Smith, Jared Dudley, Sean Williams (should be a senior this year) and Rice. Going back two classes further, and Troy Bell makes it 5 out of 7. Throw in the fact that a BC player has been Conference Player of the Year in 3 of the last 6 years (Bell in '01 and '03, Dudley in '07), and that's not a bad track record, one I'll bet compares pretty favorably with some of the big programs. I hear a lot of guys bash Al's recruiting, but I think the success these guys have enjoyed at BC and in the pros speaks to Al's ability to develop players. Regardless, it has to be a big selling point on the recruiting trail going forward.

Speaking of the NBA guys, Smith, Dudley and Williams all started for their NBA teams this month, with Smith (36 points against Washinton, 30 points against Milwaukee) and Williams (8 blocks against Sacramento) in particular registering some eye-popping stats.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Narrow Escape

BC pulled out a win against pesky Northeastern, in a game the Huskies controlled most of the way before the Eagles closed with a 13-5 run to steal the game. This one was all about the freshmen, notably Cory Raji (12 points, 6 boards) and Rakim Sanders (20 points), as former BC assistant coach Bill Coen clearly decided Tyrese Rice was NOT going to beat them, throwing a junk box and one D at the proflic guard. In the end though, Rice did beat them, dropping a tear drop with 2.2 seconds left to seal the deal.

The positives I take out of this game are the continued improvement and assertiveness of Sanders and Raji, easily the gems of the freshman class. One big gripe: the confounding minutes Al keeps giving stiffs Tyler Roche and John Oates. Newsflash: these guys just can't play. I'm sure they are good soldiers and nice practice players, but Roche (20 minutes, 1-6, o rebounds) and Oates (20 minutes, 0-2, 2 rebounds) are virtually invisible out there. You have to play Raji and Sanders as much as possible. The plus/minus when they are on the floor together is astounding.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Bowl Thoughts

All this hand-wringing over our travel rep is, in my view, just that. We don't travel well because we don't have a huge following, you either went to BC or you hate BC. However, fortunately for BC (and unfortunately for college football fans in general), the BCS has ruined the bowl system. I am old enough to remember when New Year's Day mattered, when there were 8 games or so and every one of them had some kind of national championship implication. No more. Now the only game that counts is the championship game, and to a lesser extent the other three BCS bowls. The rest of the games are ESPN filler. Let's face it, there really is not much of a difference in interest between the Gator Bowl and the Poinsetta Bowl, and I'll bet the ratings back that up. Hey that's a good thing for BC - the watering down of importance means it's all or nothing for everyone, not just BC. Either you play yourself into a BCS bowl or you go to one of the countless Who Cares Bowls. The only people watching those games are the fans in the stands and their followers back home. I guarantee you that no one outside of Auburn and Clemson circles will be watching the Chick-Fil-A Bowl with more than passing (or gambling) interest. Same goes for the Champs.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Man Crush on Rice

Everytime I watch Tyrese Rice, I marvel. During the game last night I was thinking he was having an off night, but when all was said and done, he had 26 points, a bunch of clutch shots, and a great headfake to shake two defenders for a clean look at a trey to tie the game at the buzzer. Had he hit it, Rice would have almost single-handledy brought BC back from a double-digit deficit with 7 minutes to play. And have you thought about his free throw shooting? The guy is drilling 90% and hitting all the big ones.

I think we should all appreciate what we are watching here. Rice came to the program an undersized, underrecruited (sound familiar?) hotdogging tweener. But he has learned his craft and developed to the point where he may finish this year as one of the Top 5 point guards in the country. Think about it: who is measurably better? At the end of the season, I'll bet it will be a battle between him and Ty Lawson for First Team All-ACC (and I think most would agree Lawson has a little more talent filling the lanes around him). Who would've thunk it two years ago?

And to put it in historical perspective, I have been watching BC for over 20 years and I cannot think of a BC point guard a whole helluva lot better than him. Howard Eisley? Nice player, but not nearly as explosive. Duane Woodard? C'mon. Troy Bell and Dana Barros? Both were more scorers than point guards. John Bagley and Michael Adams? Close, but I'd take the whole Rice package over them any day. What do you think?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


The young Eagles mailed it in a little tonight and got caught by a game UMass squad, 83-80. If you were concerned about freshman mistakes coming into the season, this was your Exhibit A. BC had a litany of lazy passes, turnovers and forced shots. Tough time with the press, little hustle on loose balls. Not a good game, and you wonder how much of it was attributable to a victory hangover following BC's big ACC road win over Maryland Sunday. In any event, the Eagles lost this game early in the second half, when they frittered away a 3 point lead at the break and fell behind 15 points.


Ty Rice. Not the greatest game for Ty. He was rattled a little by UMass' full court press, but in fairness he really didn't get much help. Backcourt mate Tyler Roche was moving like Frankenstein and the Minutemen exploited that, double-teaming and trapping Rice at every opportunity. Ty still finished with 26 points, his turnovers (4) were not that bad given the pressure, and he had a clear look at a 3 to tie the game at the buzzer (clanked it off the back of the rim).

Corey Raji. Again a solid game, but in limited minutes. When he was on the floor, BC made some big runs. I really don't know why Al is not giving this kid 30-35 minutes a game (more on that below). Raji did not enter the game until the 11 minute mark of the 1st half, and did not re-enter until the 12 minute mark of the 2nd half. Why?

John Oates. Had his most meaningful offensive game in memory with a couple of big threes, some key free throws and a couple of big boards. But his defense was again atrocious - I will have images of Gary Forbes blowing by him for weeks.

Biko Paris. Generally handled the ball well in the face of tight pressure, with a few unsightly exceptions. Had a few big hoops and made some nice passes. But Biko again showed his age, committing some ugly turnovers (especially on entry passes to Blair).


Tyer Roche. I don't know what it is with this guy, but he looked half asleep out there. He hit a couple of shots, but sucked on defense and looked lost on the press. Al has to sit him down and give Raji some more time.

Al Skinner. I love Skinner, but the Roche over Raji thing is getting as head-scratching as Oates over Williams and Doornekamp over anybody. I know Al is still searching for a rotation, but it is clear that guys like Raji and Paris have to get a lot more time.

Free Throw Shooting: The stats may be OK (inflated by Rice), but it says here BC lost this game at the line when Roche and Blair went 1-6 early in the second half, right when UMass was going on its 21-6 run to takecontrol. Raji also clanged two freebies late in the first half when BC was looking to push the lead to 8.


Shamari Spears and Tyrelle Blair. these guys were pretty invisible against a mostly smaller UMass lineup. Spears in particular had a ton of shots blocked. But my big beef with these two was that they played with no fire, and it showed in their work on the boards.

Rakim Sanders: Had no presence whatsoever tonight. I'm giving Sanders a pass here, the announcers said he did not practice this week and was nursing a pretty sore hip after injuring it in the Maryland game.

That's it. All in all, a sucky game that BC let get away from them in the second half. But these are young kids. Most of the mistakes I'll chalk up to inexperience, and I did like the way they fought back (like the Providence loss). I just wish they could have escaped with a win, and learned the lesson without the L.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Buckle Your Seatbelts...

...we could be in for a ride. I've reserved judgment on this year's edition until today, but I've seen enough. Al Skinner has done it again, assembled another group of young'uns for a possible run at an NCAA tourney birth in a so-called rebuilding year. The Eagles took it to Maryland tonight in their house, coming away with a gutsy 3 point win which wasn't really that close (BC led by 10 with a couple of minutes left before the Terps threw them a minor scare).

Every year I get more and more impressed with Skinner, and this year is no exception. It's amazing. He loses 2 guys to the NBA plus a 4-year starter and they don't miss a beat. Right now, they're 7-1 overall, 1-0 in the ACC, with wins over Michigan, Maryland and surprising Rhode Island (check out their RPI). The only loss being to a strong Providence team (RPI 11) in overtime on a neutral floor. If BC can get by Massachusetts and hold serve against the remaining mid-majors on their out-of-conference slate, they could be 12-2 (assuming a loss to Kansas) when conference play resumes in January. If that's the case, I say 7 more ACC wins (doable with FSU, Wake, Virginia, VTech and GTech all losing big players) plus one in the ACC tourney gets them into the Big Dance. Whatta year that would be.

At the de facto quarterpole, here are my evaluations:

Ty Rice: appears to have elevated his game even more. He always had talent, but in the past, especially two seasons ago, he tried to do too much, he forced shots, committed ugly turnovers, was guilty of the occasional hotdogging. No more, he rarely, rarely makes a bad decision. This is one of the premier point guards in the country, and he is starting to look like a possible 2nd round NBA pick.

Shamari Spears: not a big leap in his game from his freshman year, but he is physical and gets tough rebounds. His free-throw shooting looks better and he has a nice touch on the fadeaway. I expect him to be a productive player against everybody except the elite frontcourts. In other words, look for him to be a factor most of the season, but disappear against the likes of UNC, Duke and Kansas.

Rakim Sanders: don't be discouraged, you can tell this kid is the real deal with an NBA-type body and good hops. But he seems to be pressing a little with silly charges and forced shots. That's to be expected with a freshman. I think once he realizes he can't just blow by, through or over people like he did in HS, he will settle down and develop into an ACC star.

Corey Raji: this kid is awesome, the surpise of the year so far. He reminds me of Kenny Walls with the lefty stroke, but has much, much more game than Walls ever did, with rebounding and passing polish. He brings amazing energy off the bench and seems to have a really high BBall IQ. 17 crucial points tonight, and he almost single-handedly beat Providence last weekend. Looks fearless with the treys.

Biko Paris: another solid player in the making who will commit his share of freshman mistakes (a few dumb turnovers tonight). But I think he is an ACC caliber player who will make his mark in the league by the time he's done. I'm hoping he continues to progress to the point where he and Rice are getting the bulk of the backcourt minutes together. If that happens, teams will press us at their peril.

Tyler Roche: he can't play, unfortunately. I said last year that we would know everything we need to know about Roche early this year, and unfortunately it's bad news. He is limited to spot-up shooting wide open threes (and not effectively thus far). Other than that, he is totally useless on the floor. More to the point, when he's on the court, Raji isn't, which is a very bad thing. Al has to send him to the pine and soon.

Tyrelle Blair: Blair may be the best defensive player in the league, and perhaps one of the best in the country. 11 blocks tonight, 8 last game. You could see how fearful the Terps were of him when they went into the lane in the second half, and we all watched their shooting percentage plummet. Sean Williams he is certainly not, but the dropoff isn't as far as you'd think. He also appears to have worked on a couple of offensive moves, which is bonus. Still kind of weak in the rebounding area for a 7-2 guy.

John Oates: same as last year, no defense, but 5 fouls a game and the occasional offensive lift. One area of improvement I've noticed - less crazy threes. Oates is limited and I'm not a big fan (especially defensively), but if he can come off the bench and throw his fouls around judiciously, he can be an asset, albeit a minor one. If he plays more than 10 minutes a game we are in trouble.

Here's what I would like to see: more of Rice, Paris, Sanders and Raji on the floor at the same time, with Blair or Spears filling out the lineup, depending on the size of the opposition. When BC has that combo, they take off.

Hats off to Al - this looks like a great recruiting class already, and once again he has a really nice blend of young talent and accomplished vets.