This was a tough loss because it was so close, so much had been building towards this and because they could’ve won it all. I don’t think that it would’ve been a cake walk after ‘Nova, but there is a lot of parity in college basketball this year and any of the top 16 seeds could beat any of the others on any given night.
From an emotional/fan perspective this is the toughest basketball loss of my time as a BC fan. The disappointment was palpable but doesn’t even come close to how bad I felt after the 2004 Football loss to Syracuse.
For what it is worth, here are my likes and dislikes:
The coaching job. This game brought out some of Al’s critics. One of my favorite Eagle Action posters Flutie22Phelan20 even took Skinner to task. I disagreed on the message boards and I’ll restate my case here. BC dictated the pace of the game and style of play. He made decisions that got Dudley the shot to tie it in regulation and got Smith the basket on the low post with 12 seconds left in OT. We overcame their press and didn’t have to do anything exotic to slow down their top players. The offense was not its best and we didn’t get into the tight flex often enough (I’ll get to that later) and hindsight might say he should’ve called a timeout with 3 seconds left in the OT, but those are nitpicks. I would’ve liked more minutes for Sean Williams, but the team was ahead when Oates was on the floor. We are not in the Final Four, but I think this game and this season solidified my faith that Al can coach under any circumstance and has built a program that will be a perennial winner. This might have been our best chance at a National Championship, but the window is not closed.
Sean Williams. The mercurial shot blocker came of age the past month. I’ve wondered if he could ever develop any offensive game. He seemed too weak or too slow when grabbing rebounds and only a general effectiveness when running the flex. This game gave me a lot of hope (considering he only scored seven points). The example was late in the game when Sean Marshall came off a screen at the top of the key and drove the lane. Williams, as he is supposed to do in the flex, rolled off his screen and cut to the basket and you could hear him call “Sean! Sean! Sean!” Marshall passed him the ball and Williams slammed it home. The aggressiveness, the understanding and ability to finish gave me hope. If he goes home this summer, works with the pros and stays out of trouble next year Sean can be all conference.
John Oates. I got on Oates for much of the season, but no one improved as much over the course of the year. He will always be limited, but he is getting much more confident and becoming a much more effective rebounder. I don’t think he’ll ever be a 35 minute a game player but he deserves minutes next year.
Smith’s rebounding. Craig did many great things in this game. His defense was excellent (2 blocks and 2 steals) but the rebounding was huge -- 10 defensive rebounds. Craig will leave the Heights as one of BC’s most accomplished players: Second on the scoring list, first on the rebounding and most wins over four years. I wish he had a better ending, but even when other parts of his game were not on, he still did what he could for BC to win.
Louis Hinnant’s running of the offense. Like Smith, Hinnant was a great player who I really liked. He’s been on fire the past month. Unfortunately this was not his best effort. Two charging fouls. Four total turnovers. And he needed help getting the ball up the court -- therefore slowing our set up. Great guy. Great player. Off night. It happens. Best of luck to Louis going forward.
Tweaking the Flex. I thought Villanova would attack the bounce passes like UNC did. Instead they did a few things that kept us out of sync. First when we went tight, they did a great job sticking with their assignments and keeping their hands up in the passing lane. They also did their best to keep Dudley and Smith from getting to their primary positions. I would’ve liked to have seen us either force it down to the low post more or more to our mini-triangle offense we use against zones. Smith, Dudley and Marshalls size could’ve created some problems there.
The mental lapses. That is all I can call the turnovers. Few were due to pressure. Most were classic miscues or thinking before you got the ball. Dudley had a few head scratchers. Smith was careless with a few passes. Rice did his flying blind stuff down the lane. Together it cost us much more so than the predictably poor foul shooting.
Sean Marshall’s last 30 minutes. He was a key to the strong start but the rest of the game was not great. He missed some shots, got cutesy with some ball handling and then lost his man with 3 seconds left. We need big things from Marshall next year. He needs to figure out what type of player he can and wants to be. He is not a defensive stopper. He is not a gunner. He is best as a scrapper. That is the message that needs to be sent.
An emotional year that began last May when Williams got busted ended in the most painful way. The refs were bad, but ultimately not the reason we lost. I am looking for a silver lining and it is one thing: Dudley, Rice and Williams form a core that with the right pieces and a few good breaks could get us to our fist Final Four.