Eagle in Atlanta -- atleagle.com
A Boston College sports blog capturing the highs and lows of being a BC fan living 1,000 miles from Chestnut Hill.
Monday, February 28, 2005
Ever to excel
Nice article in USA Today on basketball at Jesuits universities. When Father Leahy was hired, many feared that he would deemphasize sports. The opposite has occurred. He has given Gene D. free reign and the overall athletic program flourished without the school suffering. Based on this article, it looks like the Jesuits, as a whole, remain committed to quality athletics.
Sunday, February 27, 2005
BC won and Pitt lost on Saturday in games that were closer than either score indicated. People who didn’t watch the Pitt game might think they lost it at the foul line, but they were still in it with less than two minutes left. I really think not stopping UConn and forcing bad shots cost them the game. Here is my two cents on what BC needs to do on Monday.
BC on offense: I’m glad the team went inside with Smith and Dudley against Seton Hall because our guards finally went cold. Pitt looked a lot like Villanova and I expect them to get very physical and pressure the man with the ball for much of the game. I think BC will probably put Hinnant and Hailey on the floor together again. I really want to see the offense go inside. Smith will take a pounding, but he will also draw fouls. I expect a big game from Dudley with the usual strong rebounding and points in and around the basket.
BC on defense: Like I said, Pitt looks like Villanova, only their strength is their front line, not their back court. We don’t matchup well defensively. I expect a mix of zone and man and hope their guards keep clanging away from outside. We need to rebound well and eliminate their second chances. I would like to see more of the 1-2-2. UConn used it effectively to disrupt Pitt’s flow.
Prediction: I am worried about this game. But given the national audience and the lackadaisical effort on Saturday, I think BC will come out fired up. I have no idea what to expect from Pitt. They come in reeling and need this game to stop the bleeding. Despite my worries I say BC wins 67-63.
Interesting post from blogger Kenpom about the impact of blocks on overall team defense. Sean Williams has risen to popularity among BC fans by being our first legitimate shot blocker in 20 years. He is closing in on the team’s single season record. Even if his offense only marginally improves over the next three years, I think Kenpom’s research shows the impact he is going to have on the defensive end.
Friday, February 25, 2005
Schedule take 2; Hall preview
The ACC rereleased its future men's hoop schedule. Looks like they got the quirks worked out. No surprises and I think BC will be fine.
Short Seton Hall preview
Saturday is our chance to bounce back from our second loss of the season. Seton Hall is struggling and has been dealing with a series of off court issues of late. I would predict a romp, but they played us tough last time out. Strategy wise, I think BC should still force the ball in low to Smith. While this would seem to play into the Pirates’ physicality and desire to slow the pace, I just think we need to get back to what we do best –- Smith and Dudley close to the basket –- and avoid the jump and long-range shots we’ve been taking. We’re bound to be cold one night and hopefully it is not against a team that will hurt out RPI like Seton Hall.
Prediction: BC wins, 68-58.
Thursday, February 24, 2005
Broncos cool, Eaglechickens not
Interesting article from Darren Rovell on Boise State’s marketing and licensing. He states that "earlier this month, Boise State -- with only 52,000 alumni -- cracked the top 50 in royalties among schools that are represented by the Collegiate Licensing Company, surpassing the likes of Northwestern, Boston College and Georgetown."
This lack of interest in BC shows how important the new Red Sox deal is. BC tried to make our logos more edgy and appealing, but what we got was is now referred to as the "angry chicken" (logo in top right).
Leftover thoughts on loss
While fans and players are whining about the refs…again, I think 'Nova beat us fair and square (with an impressive 36-41 effort from the line). Yes they went to the line 18 more times than we did, but they played a lot of aggressive, physical, man D and really kept us out of a rhythm offensively for most of the game. They also exploited a big weakness –- ball handling. This BC team passes well, but Dudley, Hinnant, Hailey and Watson are the only guys who can dribble through midcourt pressure and/or dribble around tight defense away from the basket. This pressure led to Sean Marshall –- one of our better outside shooters –- sitting for large chunks of the game. I also felt that we wasted some opportunities with Sean Williams on offense. He is still raw and lacks confidence (and some of the skills) to make decisive moves when he has the ball. So needing dribblers, you saw Hailey and Hinnant out there together, which helped protect the ball but limited the offense.
Despite these problems, we almost stole another. I thought tempo would be the key to the game and we unfortunately did not do much to slow them down in the first half. Once we went to the full court 1-2-2, it threw the Wildcats off. If we had gone to it a little earlier, I think we could have beaten them.
The loss is disappointing. And I think we’ll drop another in the Big East Tournament, but I am still confident about this team’s chances in March.
I think Villanova has a lot of talent and could win the Big East Tournament. Yet at the same time it wouldn’t surprise me if they go in to the NCAAs hot like their 1995 team and flame out early.
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
NESN joins the fray
Last week the Red Sox announced a new marketing deal with BC. This week, NESN (the Sox's sports network) added a BC blog to their site. Sign of crosspromotions to come? We'll see. This is the first professional (that I know of) to start blogging about BC. Welcome Jayme Parker and hopefully she'll have something to say.
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
While others will point to the UConn or UCLA game, I think the turning point of the season was BC’s 67-66 win over Villanova. Now, coming off an emotional win, the team’s face off again Wednesday in Philadelphia. Here is my take:
Prediction: While this seams like another likely stumbling block I still like our chances. Final score: 60-54.
Monday, February 21, 2005
No. 3 in polls; 3s on my mind
BC reached No. 3 in both the AP and ESPN poll. It is the highest ranking in school history.
While I know it is premature to start comparing this team to other recent championship teams, I just couldn’t help myself. And the stat that keeps bothering me when looking at this team is 3-point attempts. While the attempts are increasing and you can’t complain about the record, the team is headed down unchartered waters. Take a look. [SCROLL...TABLES ARE FUNKY IN BLOGGER]
|Team||3PA||3PM||3s per game|
|2005 Boston College||426*||137*||3.83|
|2000 Michigan State||669||253||6.49|
|* BC’s projected numbers|| |
As most fans know, the 3-pointer can bury a team or spark a comeback. I worry that being this untested, the team is going to be cold from outside on a night when they need it. Hopefully the off night is in the Big East tournament, not the NCAAs. BTW, all of this year's top teams have taken more 3s than BC.
Also, want to pass on compliments to Mike Shalin’s recent work. Mike and Mike (the two BC beat writers) get a lot of flak from BC fans. I am sure that being on the beat as long as they have can get monotonous. However, it seems like Shalin is riding the enthusiasm surrounding the program to put a little extra effort in his work. The most recent nugget he included was this: “Remember Colin Falls' 7-for-12 performance from long range in Notre Dame's win against Boston College? The sophomore is just 6-for-28 in three games since.” Nothing earth shattering, but he deserves kudos for adding the extra effort. On the other side, Blaudschun –- subbing while Vega was at Daytona -- kind of mailed it in on the Syracuse wrap up.
Court rushing, calls and 'Cuse
Saturday’s home win went a long way towards building BC’s respect. With a national audience and an excited crowd watching, the Eagles beat No. 9 Syracuse 65-60.
ESPN.com’s Pat Forde had a nice write up. There was a lot to say about the game and in his lead he mentioned the fans and gripes about the refs. I have to defend my alma mater on these little critiques.
While generally I think storming the court is overdone, I’ll give the Superfans a pass on this one. Our home schedule has been dull this season and this was the first meeting of two top ten teams in the building’s history. And even though we were ranked higher, our fans and players still brought an underdog mentality to the game. All those factors combined with the gutsy style of play and the ability to deal with some questionable calls exploded into an on-court celebration. The players liked it and it will probably be the only time this season, so I say let the kids have fun. BC fans are usually criticized for their lack of emotion, so this was a refreshing change.
As for the questionable calls…fellow blogger, the Evil A, predicted before the game that the “refs would not allow us to win the game.” While I don’t think there was an out and out conspiracy, I do think BC’s position in the league and Al’s demeanor sometimes leads to Boeheim and Calhoun getting calls. The calls were so questionable in this game (lowlights included, two technicals, a made basket on a Syracuse charge and numerous no calls while our post players got murdered) that even Len Elmore said the refs were having an off night. Fortunately it seemed to rally the players. If this lopsided officiating continues, winning the Big East Tournament would be nearly impossible.
Final thought on Syracuse (whom we might see again in the tournament). Funny team. I think they have a lot of talent -- Gerry McNamara and Warrick both worried me -– but they seemed flat the whole night and didn’t seem to play with much urgency. Even as they chipped away at the lead towards the end of the game, they seemed somewhat uninterested. Where was the relentless, confident team that stole games from Rutgers and Notre Dame? They have talent, but can they regroup before March?
With many of the top teams losing this past week, BC will probably move up in the polls. They also remain in contention for a No. 1 seed in the tournament.
The next challenge is Villanova on Wednesday. Check back in for a preview later this week.
Friday, February 18, 2005
Big build up for 'Cuse
Although no longer undefeated, BC is finally getting attention. Lots of it. Great article from ESPN.com’s Pat Forde. He calls BC “the school that hype forgot…” He also goes on to praise Gene D, the football program and our overall athletic department.
SI.com’s Seth Davis selected the Syracuse-BC game as his featured game of the week. Seth likes BC. Here’s my take:
BC on offense: While we are hot from the outside of late, I still think the key is breaking down the zone and getting good shots close to the basket. Craig Smith needs to get out of his funk and Jared Dudley should be creating inside, not bombing away from outside. Let’s hope Sean Marshall continues his hot streak.
BC on defense: Like all Syracuse opponents I worry about Gerry McNamara. We had trouble guarding perimeter against ND. Expect Syracuse to exploit that weakness. If McNamara is hot, it could be a long night. Not as concerned about Warrick. He is a great player and will kill Nate or Smith in a matchup. I think Al will put Sean Williams on him. Williams is an offensive liability, but is a perfect match for Warrick. If Al doesn’t increase Sean’s time, I think Dudley will get the assignment.
Pick: BC wins, 64-57. The last time Syracuse came to BC for an important event it turned into a total meltdown. There is less at stake in this game, but I would still like a little revenge.
Thursday, February 17, 2005
Gut reaction to future ACC hoops schedule
The future ACC hoops schedule was released and things look great from here. I am still very happy with the move the ACC and think the New Big East is a mess with plenty of duds on the basketball schedule. However, some BC fans are griping. I decided to tackle the main complaints and look at them from a “good news, bad news” perspective.
The critics can harp but that won’t change my opinion. This is progress and there is no reason we can’t compete with this set up.
3s lead to 21
As I predicted, Rutgers zoned BC and pressured Smith. Despite Smith getting frustrated, BC handled it well and defeated Rutgers 74-64. BC is now 21-1.
The game wasn’t televised so I was forced to follow online and what caught my attention was how aggressive we were from the 3-point line, going 8-18 from long distance. This is after going 9-22 from beyond the arc against Notre Dame. As Shalin pointed out this barrage comes after making just 64 treys in the previous 20 games. In fact as of Thursday, February 17, BC was last in Division I -- as in 330th -- in 3-point attempts, with 235. If teams continue to zone us, and Syracuse obviously will, the number of attempts should start to creep up. But it is good to know we can make them when we need to. At the end of the day, like Al says, we need good shots, regardless of where they are from.
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
Back to work
After a week off, BC returns to the court tonight to face Rutgers. The question is how will the team respond to their first loss of the season? Fortunately, Rutgers is reeling. They have lost 10 of their last 12, with one of those wins coming off of a questionable call in the Seton Hall game. However, Notre Dame provided a blueprint on how to play BC: 2-3 collapsing zone on Craig Smith and try to bury BC with 3s. This plays right to Rutgers’ strength as they live and die by their guard play. If Scarlet Knights are cold from the outside, BC runs away. It could also be close if Craig Smith is still off. I like our chances and expect the team to respond after suffering its first loss.
Other good news: Steve Hailey is back. Expanding back to an eight-man rotation should give the team some added freshness and takes some of the burden off of Louis Hinnant (who was great in the ND game).
Also, ACC commissioner John Swofford will be in attendance (nice to see him make the effort). I guess he also wanted to hear what the Red Sox had to say.
Finally, national coverage of BC football and basketball tends to fall into two angles: the little engine that could or the team that is not really that good/hasn’t played anyone. That is why I’ve become such an Andy Katz fan. He has been a huge Al Skinner supporter for many years and actually digs a little deeper and tries to take a different angle when writing about BC. Andy’s a Newton boy and his dad is on the faculty which somewhat explains his bias. But his positive news and notes are really refreshing. Take a look at No. 7.
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
Sox to the rescue?
For diehards BC sports marketing has provided endless frustration through the years. Disappointments included games not getting picked up for TV, mediocre turnout for competitive basketball teams, and seemingly indifferent licensing support from Reebok (true story: this weekend I was at the mall and came across high school merchandise -- Oak Hill, Mt Zion -- and distant colleges like Gonzaga and Fresno State, but no BC apparel anywhere). Hopefully that will change with this announcement. It seems like the heavily leveraged Red Sox are looking to grow their business and BC will be one of the first clients for their new sports marketing arm the Fenway Sports Group.
This has to be an improvement as BC’s past effort have had the effect of a pebble in the ocean. Despite the Patriots ascent, the Red Sox are still the 800-pound gorilla in Boston and hopefully will use this power to promote BC. The two parties have had a long history together due to the former ownership group being run by BC Trustee John Harrington. The new football complex was a gift of the Yawkey foundation (former owners of the Sox). And BC plays the Red Sox in Spring Training every year. Also, Fenway recently expressed interest in hosting the ACC baseball tournament.
In my mind the big upside to the deal is the Sox’s ownership position with NESN. If NESN is willing to carry more BC games, it seems like the ACC’s syndication/production arm (Jefferson Pilot) will too. Overall that is just more good news for displaced fans like me.
Also, BC won the consolation game for the Beanpot. I am so sick of BU winning this thing. The bragging rights would've been nice, but I rather win the NCAA title.
Wednesday, February 09, 2005
First loss, hope and recruiting update
It sucks to lose. It sucks to lose to Notre Dame. It sucks to lose during your first national television appearance. It sucks to lose after everyone was predicting the loss, including your opponent’s former coach. It sucks to lose after reaching No. 4 in the rankings (the highest ranking in school history). It sucks to lose – period.
That said…I didn’t expect BC to go undefeated. And that it took a lights out shooting night from Notre Dame including a blitzkrieg from beyond the arc, a few questionable whistles down the stretch and Craig Smith’s worst shooting performance of the season to beat us by three points. This team has heart. It needed a test. It needed to work on its perimeter defense (which looked like a Jim O’Brien team). And it needed to get this stinker out of the way.
They now have a week off to regroup. I think this team can put together another run or two and go far into the tournament. Regardless of how the season ends, they deserve a round of applause for this tremendous start and streak (the best in school and Big East history).
It has been a busy week so I wasn’t able to chime in on recruiting. According to the experts it was a down year for BC. They had limited scholarships and did not target as many Five-Stars. The "one that got away" was Jersey linebacker Brian Cushing. Supposedly it came down to BC and USC and he is now a Trojan. It is hard to compete with LA and championships. Recruiting is funny business. I think the rankings have some merit but are far from fool proof. Over the last decade many teams have won championships without marquee classes. As my former colleague Stewart Mandel pointed out, if you reranked in hindsight based on NFL talent and on field accomplishments, things would be different. I have more to say about recruiting in general and past travails, but will save it for a slower time. I am also trying to solidify an interview with a recruiting expert. One final note about recruiting…I was surprised with Mike Vega’s slant on the class. He took the let down angle, which in rare for him. Shalin has slipped in more criticism of TOB the past few seasons, but Vega has more consistently towed the party line. Maybe after eight seasons with TOB, they are finally feeling secure in what they can get away with and still have access.
Wednesday, February 02, 2005
Rankings and another win
BC reached No. 5 in the latest polls. It is the highest ranking in school history. Fortunately they did not let it go to their heads as the team came out and defeated West Virginia 62-50. In other news, today is signing day. I'll post my opinions once the class is announced.