Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Signs of Spring

Spring practice began March 29 so there is a spike in football talk (but not coverage in the Boston media). Tom O’Brien is the lead of the ACC Insider on ESPN.com. There was nothing new, but it is nice to see BC get the publicity. Of course TOB and BC Sports Information worked in the talking points. For new readers, the talking points are “TOB’s amazing rebuilding effort,” “the bowl streak,” and “discipline/graduation.”

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Let the Duke hating begin

Living in Atlanta, I am surrounded by a bunch of Dukehaters. I never felt strongly about the Blue Devils (however Jason Williams taunting Walls in 2001 showed they are not all Angels). And while the Packer/Vitale/media love affair with Duke turns my stomach, I give Coach K credit for 1) winning 2) using the media. Both are tough and he does it well.


All that said, the Coach K Amex commercials are getting noticed. The AJC ran a story on the ad Tuesday. In the article they get quote from UGA’s Dennis Felton (which you would expect in an Atlanta paper), Georgia Tech Coach Paul Hewitt (who often whines about Duke) and finally a quote from Al Skinner(?!?). The Skinner quote was innocuous but I was just surprised that the writer sought him out and that he agreed to give a quote. Who knows, maybe Al will be more vocal in the ACC. Or he is just joining the majority of the conference in whining about the Blue Devils.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Blocks, blocks, and more on blocks

Although he is already a fan favorite, some BC fans are worried that with Nate gone, Sean Williams increased minutes will stunt the scoring. I disagree and will dig deeper into the offensive issues later in the offseason. But even if our offensive numbers suffer, the defensive numbers should improve dramatically with Williams increased minutes.


First, for some background, let me relink blogger Kenpom’s post on blocks from earlier this season.


Now look at the top ten college defenses at the end of the regular season and you’ll see that the average blocks per game was 4.58 with UConn (the nations’ top D) averaging a whopping 9.1 per game. (By Sportsline’s rankings BC was 47th in D.) BC averaged 4.1 blocks per game. Williams alone accounted for 2.3 of that 4.1. And a block itself is not the only impact of a shotblocker. An inside force can alter shots, keep people from driving, enable double teams and force your opponent into lower-percentage, outside shots.



Now here are some conservative assumptions to project next year’s output. Sean made a big impact with limited playing time averaging .1375 blocks per minute. Next year, given Al’s short bench I project him to play 30 minutes per game. I’ll assume that with the increased minutes Sean won’t keep up his torrid pace (or else he’ll foul out of every game). So let’s say that his block production per minute declines by 25%. And I’ll forecast a 30 game season (assuming some success in preseason and ACC tournaments).


Williams' projection: Williams’ 2005-2006 projection would be (.135776[avg per minute]*.75[Decline with increased minutes]*30[minutes per game]*30[games per year]) = 92 blocks. That would shatter the school record that he just set and probably make him one of the top 10 individual blockers in college basketball. That increase would also cover any potential shortfall from Nate Doorenkamp’s defensive absence.


Team projection:Without Nate and Sean the team averaged .8 blocks per game. I’ll assume that that the rest of the team will fill at least a portion of Nate’s 28 blocks (say 50%) and maintain their 2004-2005 contribution.


So the team’s season projection would be: 92 [Williams’ expected total] +(28*.5)[50% of Nate’s production] + 24 [.8*30] = 130.


Even going conservative the increase is 5% over last season’s total. So even if Williams does not progress offensively his increased minutes should help BC in many other ways.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Season ends in second round

Saturday was pretty painful. Like last year, I thought that if we just pulled through in the second round we would have gone far. Yet in both cases we lost close games in the final minutes. Fans are gripping about the chokes and sloppy basketball, but ultimately I really think it was both teams playing to their strengths and UWM avoided mistakes with the game on the line.


I look at college sports through maroon and gold colored glasses, but really this team should be disappointed in the way it closed the season. They accomplished quite a bit -- best start in league history and co-regular season champs. Ultimately it was a team with one well-rounded player -- Dudley; one player who brings a lot of upside but has some limitations -- Smith; and then a series of role players who are very limited in certain aspects. We needed better ball handlers Saturday and we don’t have them. The most disappointing aspect of the game was the play of the two seniors Watson and Nate. But neither has played well for weeks.


Next year should be solid. We return most of our production and I expect Williams to mature offensively.


Now that the season is over this blog will change. I’ll add my two cents about Women’s hoops and the Men’s Hockey, but I expect to fill the space with background and stats pieces.


I’ll conclude the 2004-2005 basketball season with this quote from Al in Sunday's Herald "Eventually, we keep knocking on the door (and) it's going to happen for us."

Friday, March 18, 2005

UW Milwaukee preview

In my last scouting report I said BC should go inside. Instead the team shot the lights out from outside. So what do I know? I am glad we won and sometimes you have to take what the other team gives you, but hopefully this team won’t have to rely on Marshall and Watson to go far. Here is my take on the UW-Milwaukee game:


BC on offense: I expect UW-Milwaukee to do what Penn did -- double Smith and Dudley inside. But I don’t see Marshall being as big a factor in this game. UWM will press and that usually means Sean sits. So if the Panthers double and press, look for Craig to force a few more shots and for BC to work the clock and try to get some midrange looks for Dudley off of screens and movement. Watson should get a lot of minutes, so I expect him to score off of some open looks. Nate will have his chances too, but he has played so poorly lately that I would not count on him. I think scoring will be much tougher this time around and we will need strong rebounding from Smith. We didn’t need many second chances against Penn. We will need them Saturday. BC was sloppy with the ball in the first round. Fortunately the Quakers were as bad. BC will need to make better passes and decisions on Saturday.


BC on defense: We haven’t faced many teams that will push the tempo like UWM. We have faced plenty that will try to light us up from outside. After making 10 3-pointers in the first half of their win, there is no reason to think that the Panthers won’t try it again. We need to play tight on the perimeter, disrupt their pace periodically and rebound. When inspired -- like Syracuse and Penn -- Craig can be a great defensive rebounder. So hopefully he can do it again.


Prediction: BC wins 75-70. The pace should be fast, especially if we allow them to control early. I feel good about the way the team is playing and our talent level. If BC can slow it down and exploit their physical advantage I think they will win.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Post game thoughts

BC came out better than I expected and won 85-65. So much for my suggestion of going inside. The team was aggresive from outside right from the start and played their best 20 minutes of the season in the first half. They didn't sustain the momentum in the second and let Penn chip away. Sloppy ball handling and some foul trouble made it interesting before they regained control late in the game. Sean Williams had his best game of the season so I am feeling good about Saturday's matchup against Milwaukee-Wisconsin. I'll post a preview Friday.

Other Eagles in Cleveland

There’s a nice feature on Boston College grad and UW-Milwaukee coach Bruce Pearl in the AP’s coverage of the Cleveland site. Hopefully he’ll land a high-profile job this offseason.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Penn preview

My sister graduated from Penn, so under any other circumstance I would be rooting for them to be this year’s Cinderella. While the Ivy rep has not won a first round game in nearly a decade, I don’t think BC should take the Quakers lightly. Onto the preview and what BC has to do:


BC on offense: Once again, the team needs to go inside, inside and inside some more. Although Penn can probably handle the physical style better than most, I am really most concerned about high-percentage shots and coming out flat. Instead of Nate setting the early tempo it should be Dudley and Smith -- our best players and the most difficult matchups. Also, I expect Penn to follow West Virginia’s model and try to kill us from outside. If they do, we can’t try to match them. I think that was our mistake in a few games this year. Get Dudley inside and get him to the line. Forget about the three until you really need it (like WVU).


BC on defense: Penn will try to come out and take advantage of our porous perimeter. As many have said the majority of perimeter defense is effort. We need to stay tight on the passers and cannot leave people open. And we must do a better job on defensive rebounding. Penn rebounds well, so even if Craig struggles scoring, he can make the difference on the boards (which he hasn’t done since Syracuse). With Watson being a question mark I don’t know if we will be able to use the 1-2-2 like we did in the second half of the schedule.

Prediction: 64-50. Neither team will have much of a crowd there, but if Penn gets going early, the neutral fans will quickly jump on the underdog’s bandwagon. BC needs to come out strong and not try to match their strategy. There is no reason this team cannot go far, but they cannot look ahead.

Blogger bracket

Here is my bracket from Yoco’s blogger challenge. No surprise I picked BC to win it all. While in my heart I want BC to win, deep down I don’t think they will. But this, and most pools, will be filled with UNC and Illinois so I’ll be the contrarian. I used to spend hours analyzing each matchup only to watch someone with no basketball knowledge win every year. So the past few years I’ve gone with my heart.


Also, found this nugget this weekend. Arizona’s 97 team is the last title winner to close their season with more than three losses in their final 10 games. BC’s record in its last 10: 6-4. While these are independent events, the close of the season has been a strong indicator off championship success. Pray that BC is another outlier.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Hot topics

I haven’t posted much the past few days because Mrs. ATL_eagle and I were in Florida for a short getaway. Seems I missed a lot of hurts feelings about our 4 seed and tons of speculation about the Jermaine Watson story.


To reiterate, we faded down the stretch and deserve a 4.


As for Watson, the whole thing sounds funny. And Tuesday, the landlord came out to dispute Jermaine’s version of what happened. Some of Al’s players have had offcourt problems in the past so this might be more of the same. However, I give very little weight to what the landlord says. The typical landlord for student housing around BC cannot be trusted and will do or say anything to make a student look bad. Hopefully this is not a larger issue that will blow up in the coming weeks. I expect things to be swept under the rug and for Jermaine to play as if nothing happened. The team can win with or without him. I am just hoping for a happy conclusion.


Look for my Penn preview and full bracket Wednesday. While in Florida, I read Dean Oliver’s Basketball on Paper, an awesome Bill James-like book. I’ll crunch BC’s numbers after the season.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Gut reaction to seed

BC was given a 4 seed in the Chicago bracket. If they advance to the Sweet 16 they'll face No. 1 Illinois. I am not happy with the 4, but the team played (or stumbled) its way into the spot. I'll put up more detailed previews once I have a chance to read more about the teams. My gut reaction is that we have the toughest time against guard lead teams that shot well from outside...and our Bracket is full of them. But I think we can beat Illinois and do well. It depends all on which team shows up. The first step is beating Penn.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Post loss tidbits

Great article from Adrian Wojnarowski on the Big East’s unfair treatment of BC.


Also, it looks like Gene D. and Mike Tranghese put on a good face after their spat. Regardless of what they say, I think there will always be bad blood.


From the post game articles it looked like Al got upset (as upset as he gets) at halftime and appealed to the team’s pride. Fortunately they showed it. Who knows what will happen next week?

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Door hits BC on way out

While the minor sports will play a few more games and tournaments in the Big East, for all intents and purposes, Thursday’s loss to West Virginia marked the end of BC’s affiliation with the Big East. And what a way to go…


In the subhead of this blog, I say that I am capturing the highs and lows of being a BC fan. This game was a microcosm of that experience. I was very low as WVU made 3 after 3 and left us for dead at the half. My heart raced as we crawled back in the second half (at 64-58 I really believed we were going to steal it). And at the end I was left disappointed but optimistic.


I never thought we would win the Big East Tournament for a litany of reasons. Like Syracuse fans, I share the “Big East Tourney is nice, but we really only care about the NCAAs” attitude. Down 22 at the half, I thought this team had peaked in January and was mailing it in. Yet the spark and guts they showed climbing back in the second half has me believing again. Success in the Big Dance will clearly depend on our draw. If we play a team that can shoot from outside, we could go home early. I think we are a 3 or 4 seed now which means will probably play a plucky team looking to be this year’s Cinderella. After this loss, I want them to lick their wounds and get ready to play the whole 40 minutes.


Congrats to West Virginia. They came ready to play and didn't fold as the pressure mounted. Hopefully they can knock of the winner of Pitt-Villanova.

Offseason football coverage

Short story in the The Roanoke Times. Nothing new, but glad someone is covering BC Football this time of year. One tidbit of note: O'Brien credits some of the recent success to down times at Syracuse. Now that we are in different conferences and the Orange have a new coach will that advantage grow or become meaningless?

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

West Virginia preview

BC takes on West Virginia on Thursday. WVU destroyed Providence in the first round of the Big East Tournament. Everyone is still calling them a bubble team but against Providence the team seemed highly motivated and ready to take on anyone. Here is my take:


BC on offense: Against Rutgers last weekend, BC went back inside and made an effort to get the ball to Dudley. I think they should do more of the same against the Mountaineers. While the team controlled the second half against WVU in the previous two games, WVU comes into this game hot from the outside making 12 3s against Providence. BC cannot fall into the trap of trying to match them from outside. Control the tempo, work the ball for good shots and go to Dudley and Smith all day.


BC on defense: Our perimeter defense has been a weakness. Hopefully Al will throw out the occasional 1-2-2 and try to disrupt their flow. If WVU keeps trying to bomb away we just need to make sure we rebound well (while making 12 they missed 19). Our interior D is stronger than Providence’s so I don’t see the WVU shooting .460 from the floor again.


Prediction: BC wins 66-57. And I think a BC win locks up a 2 seed. West Virginia is a good team and deserves to be in the NCAAs regardless of the outcome of our game (how did they lose to Seton Hall?).

More hardware for Skinner

Al was named Big East Coach of the Year for the second time Tuesday. Hopefully he’ll pick up a few national awards too. Jared Dudley was named Most Improved.


As I've mentioned, Mike Shalin of the Boston Herald has been picking up steam lately. There were an unprecedented four BC articles in Wednesday’s addition of the Herald! One on Skinner and Dudley’s awards, two features on Skinner, including his future (everyone thinks he’s staying at BC), and a BC angle on the WVU-Providence game.


The Globe only had two articles on BC. And Blaudschun had a general Big East piece.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Explaining what goes on behind closed doors

Great article from SI.com’s Seth Davis on the selection process. He explains 10 things he learned after hearing a presentation from the NCAA’s Greg Shaheen. I’ll address the points that impact BC’s selection this year:


1. The RPI matters a lot. Just not in the way you think it does. Basically your RPI doesn’t matter, but your opponents’ RPI does. BC should fare pretty well in this regard due to the relatively strong schedule and some good out of conference wins against UCLA and Holy Cross.


2. Margin of victory does count. Sort of. This has more to do with losses than wins. Which helps BC. We didn’t blow people out and were only blown out once.


5. Head-to-head matchups mean something. Here is where Seth loses me a little. He says that when things are equal a head-to-head matchup becomes important. If this is true how can anyone explain the 2003 snub when BC was left home but an NC State team we beat in Raliegh got off the bubble.


6. The committee members and NCAA staff are free to do their own investigating. This has to do with the whining and/or selling of the program. BC has not be one of those schools that campaigns for a bid and therefore I think we’ve suffered (3 seed in 2001, playing Texas in Dallas in 2002, 2003 snub, etc.). Maybe the move to the ACC will help our future pitches.


9. Technically speaking, the number of teams per conference means nothing. But then Davis goes on to quote an unnamed source about how it does matter. Really this should only impact bubble teams. Not important to BC this year, but critical in after the ACC move.


With all that said, this is my prediction on BC's seeding. Win the Big East Tournament and we are a No. 1. Advance to the Semis and we are a 2. Lose on Thursday and we are a 3.

All Big East

Congratulations to Jared Dudley and Craig Smith for being named First Team All-Big East. Sean Williams made the All-Rookie Team.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Snubs and success indicators

Mike Tranghese’s snub of the men’s basketball team got BC AD Gene DeFilippo fired up. You can argue the merits of rewarding the trophy on the road, but I really attribute Gene’s outburst to the build up of the last two years. Since the ACC talks began, Trangeshe has taken many jabs at BC and Gene -- while being less critical of Miami, Va. Tech and Syracuse. Gene remained silent until now. Who knows why the remaining Big East teams sit on the sidelines as Tranghese continues to plays petty games with ABC/ESPN, BC and other conferences? The inevitable split of the Football and Basketball schools will be messy under his management.


All the talk over regular season titles and trophies got me thinking: what is a better indicator of NCAA success –- Big East regular season titles or Big East tournament titles? Turns out there is not a strong correlation with either. BE Tourney winners advance further (on average), but the mean for both is the Sweet 16. And the correlation between winning the Big East Regular Season title, Big East Tournement Title and the National Championship is very small (.17).

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Sunday, March 06, 2005

Big East Co-Champs

Congrats to the Men’s team for winning a share of the Big East Regular season title. By virtue of our defeat of the Huskies we also earned the No. 1 seed in the Big East Tournament. We’ll play the winner of the Providence-WVU game on Thursday. My preference would be Providence since WVU will be highly motivated and fighting to get off the bubble. The upside is that we played well against both this season. If we move on, we’ll face the winner of Villanova-Pitt, so I remain pessimistic about our chances to win the Big East Tournament. I’ll post previews later in the week.


On this blog, I’ve focused mainly on Men’s football and basketball and have ignored our other sports. But let me congratulate the Men’s Hockey team for capturing the Regular Season Hockey East title. Also, the women were upset by Villanova in the Big East tournament, but have been ranked most of the season and will hopefully have a strong showing in the NCAAs.

More early football press

It looks like the national media is more optimistic about BC’s 2005 football season than I am. Sportsline ranks us at No. 19. I’ll stick with my early judgment The big questions will be Quinton Porter.


After basketball season ends, I’ll dig a little deeper into our pluses and minuses heading into the new season and new conference.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Rutgers preview

Rutgers' season has been over for weeks. Yet watching their game against Notre Dame, I saw a team trying to win. Instead of rolling over, they were still in it late in the second half. That resolve scares me a little heading into this weekend’s game at the RAC. Here is my short preview:


BC on offense: Get Dudley the ball. When Smith struggled, the team kept coming back to him in the following games. This time Dudley is coming off his worst game of the season and the team as a whole has been flat since Syracuse. Last time out, Rutgers played a fair amount of zone. By getting the ball to Jared in the gaps, he can get some easy baskets, energize the team and take pressure off of our guards.


BC on defense: BC should be well rested after having the whole week off. Rutgers will continue to bomb away from outside. In their last five games, the Knights have hoisted 98 3-point attempts. Look for more of the same this weekend. BC will probably counter by putting Hailey and Hinnant on the court at the same time. Tight perimeter defense and rebounding off the misses will be the key.


BC needs this game. To assure the regular season title. To break out of their recent malaise. To get the swagger back. Rutgers can make their season and everyone else in the Big East smile with a win. I expect a hard fought game. And the RAC is a tough place to play.


Prediction: BC wins 71-62.

The game is not on TV and I won't be following online. Mrs. ATL_eagle and I are headed to the BC club of Atlanta's wine tasting. Very collar up.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

More mail

A few Pitt fans sent me email after the drubbing. Most of it was the usual trash talking. One reader did stumble over a fair point, which I will address.


“You BC guys whine about the referees but don’t even realize that some of them do ACC games. What do you think is going to happen when you play Duke and North Carolina. BC will never get the calls…”

He rambled about a few other things, but I wanted to address the ref complaint. Big East basketball is physical and always has been. Yet Al Skinner has never used that style and is stoic on the sidelines. That combo leads to us getting roughed up and our fans complaining about non-calls. But complaining about calls is not unique to BC fans. Everyone does it, especially when the number of calls are lopsided. In our losses to ND and 'Nova, impartial commentators even questioned the calls. I've already admitted that Pitt beat us fair and square.


Next year, you’ll hear BC fans complain about calls in the ACC. Duke and UNC get the calls because they are Duke and UNC. It is just par for the course.

College sports in Boston

It is often said that Boston is not a college sports town. Some challenge the theory and excuse it with various contributing factors. I agree with the critics. BC has a strong core audience and when the team plays well the locals take note, but day-to-day there is not much interest from the casual fan.

The latest example of lack of interest is media coverage. Exhibit A: articles on BC sports in the Boston Globe and Boston Herald on Thursday, March 3, 2004 (not exactly the offseason) = 0.

Articles in my local paper the Atlanta Journal-Constitution = 1.

Articles on Sportsillustrated.com = 1.

Neither article is earth shattering, but it is positive coverage. In the AJC article Tony Barnhart, one of the premiere college writers, gives capsules on all the ACC football teams.

The SI.com article is from their on campus series and was written by a Heights writer, Kevin Armstrong. Good for him.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

News and notes

BC scored well in the NCAA graduation rankings. Shalin took it as an opportunity to laud BC’s athletic department.

Also, BC got a small mention in a Sportsline blurb (scroll to No. 6). Doyel wants to see us play Minnesota in the tournament for the Dudley-Coleman storyline.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Picking up the pieces after Pitt

I was in class and followed the game online and assumed by the nature of the gameflow and our past history with Pitt, that we just got beat up. But after watching it on TIVO last night, I realized we got beat and Pitt exposed major flaws on both ends of the court.


Our defense has been strong this season. We play an ameba-like matchup-zone, with lots of switching. That style has created a lot of turnovers and a good rebounding margin. Yet we don’t have a one-on-one defensive stopper, especially on the front line. Last night Pitt cleared space and allowed their big men to kill Nate, Smith and Williams in one-on-one situations. This created momentum and they made some outside shots too. We needed to stop them and couldn’t. After narrowing the score to 34-32, Pitt scored on eight-straight possessions. Forget about the "physical play," "a must win for Pitt," or any other explanation/excuse –- you have to make defensive stops to win.


On offense, we needed more from Dudley and we were too quick to rush outside shots. Craig Smith was getting off shots –- some good, some bad. But too often no one was there to grab the misses. With the guards not hitting anything and Jared not creating for himself, we should of sent it to Smith every time and ask Dudley to crash the boards.


BC won’t win the Big East Tournament. I think we are now looking at a 3 seed in the NCAAs. However, I think this team can win it all. They will have a battle against physical teams like Villanova or Pitt that disrupt the motion in our flex, but they have time to bounce back. Will they?