Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Looking ahead...

The season just ended but many are already looking to next year. As with most issues related to BC sports, there tend to be two camps. One group thinks losing Craig Smith and Louis Hinnant will send us to the bottom half of the conference. Others have blind faith in Al Skinner and think he will produce another winning squad with ease next year. I am leaning towards optimism. My reason for hope is the transition between the 2003 season and the 2004 season.

The 2003 team had an uneven, but winning season and was ultimately snubbed by the selection committee. Led by Troy Bell, they also received huge minutes from Ryan Sidney and Andrew Bryant. Those three represented 55% percent of the offense (with Bell carrying 31% of the load). While people were excited about the incoming recruiting class, no one expected BC to improve the following year. Surprising the
conference and showing that Skinner built a sustainable program, the 2004 team did improve and made the tournament. The loss of production was filled by newcomers Dudley and Marshall, improvement from Smith, Watson and Doorenkamp and a healthy Agbai.

With the loss of Smith and Hinnant, BC will lose 33% of their offense (23% from Smith, 10% from Hinnant). That is a much smaller hole than the one left in entering the 2004 season. Why won't new players and improving veterans fill the void again?

Dudley will do most of the scoring, but Rice, and believe it or not Oates, were surprisingly productive offensively. Williams and the freshmen are the big question marks. Can Williams build on his strong finish? Will any of the freshmen step in right away? Will Williams’ defensive presence offset any loss of offense? I say “yes” to all three questions. Al’s track record of finding at least one contributing freshmen will continue, Williams will be a force defensively and he will improve offensively.

Even if none of those things happen, I think the returning players (eligible transfer Blair, Dudley, Haynes, Marshall, McLain, Oates, Rice, and Williams) are a fourth or fifth place team in the ACC and a strong bubble team. As I’ve been saying the past few days, if we get any breaks and another diamond in the rough, we can still be a Final Four team.

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