Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Bedeviling: correction

Thanks to readers for pointing out my mistake. With the baby I've lost track of what day it is. The keys to the game are still in place and Wednesday morning I'll post a Duke guest blogger.

BC doesn’t have anyone who can guard J.J. Reddick. BC’s perimeter defense is susceptible to giving up bunches of 3s. Conte is not an intimidating environment. The last time BC faced a good shooting ACC power at home following a game against Georgia Tech, the Eagles got blown out. Those are just some of the reasons why BC shouldn’t win Wednesday. I think we can win. This is what needs to happen.

1. Jared Dudley needs to have a perfect game. We have no answer for Reddick. Smith and Williams should somewhat neutralize each other, so that leaves Dudley as our difference maker. Jared has struggled of late -- especially from the line -- but has a good big-game track record. The key tonight will be rebounding and getting to the line. I think Duke will pressure Hinnant, so Dudley will also need to help out bringing up the ball. A pumped up Dudley will also fire up the home crowd.

2. Patience on offense. The most encouraging aspect of the matchup is that BC’s offense is similar to Georgetown. We don’t run the Princeton offense or have the number of shooters they do, but the Flex does create a lot of high percentage shots and demands a lot of concentration and intensity from your opponent on defense.

3. Pressuring Paulus. Duke will get their points. The only uncertainty is how their talented, but still learning freshman PG will play. I think the key will be to put Rice and Haynes on him for long stretches. Both are smaller and quicker and have the chance to slow him down, delay their setups and create turnovers.

Baby Eagle was a good luck charm against Tech. Hopefully she’ll see another win Wednesday.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Watching BC-GT makes babies cry

Some wins are just not fun to watch. I have nothing against Georgia Tech, but their style of play -- athletic, quick aggressive defense and constant substitutions -- is going to give BC fits every year. Relentless aggressive defenses always do (UW Milwaukee, Pitt in many years, 'Nova under Wright). So with that in mind, I am glad BC got away with the win. Here are my likes and dislikes:


Craig Smith: Coming into the year, I thought this would be Jared Dudley’s team. Dudley is having a good year, but Smith has taken it to another level the past few weeks. The rebounding has been mentioned before, but the foul shooting turns him into the most dangerous player in the conference. (Whoever gave him the pointer needs to get in Dudley’s ear.) In past years, fouling Smith made sense. Now, he will kill teams that do it. He is having a great year. Let’s hope he keeps it up these next six weeks.

Rotations: The first game Al and staff couldn’t settle into a mix that worked until it was too late. Today they did a great job. Nine guys played and all played well (except maybe Oates). Al mentioned that they are learning how to play all these teams. I buy that to a certain extent, but at the same time, you have to be ready to play regardless if you’ve faced a team 100 times or are playing them for the first time. And in this game I think Al adjusted better than he did in the earlier Tech matchup. For example, the combo that was most effective and nearly won the first game was Smith, Dudley, Hinnant, McLain and Rice. I am sure Tech prepared to see that mix a lot tonight. It was barely used. Now when coming up with something new works, Al looks like a genius who is one step ahead. If it doesn’t he’s an idiot for ignoring what worked the first time. Tonight he got to be the genius.

Rebounding: Tech killed us on the boards last time. Not this time. Marshall and Hinnant made a difference combining for nine this game. They accounted for four in the first game.


Three-point shooting: We won a staggering amount of games without hitting threes last year. I don’t think this team can win six NCAA tournament games without better perimeter shooting. Although tonight might have been an off night for a team that never shoots the three very well, I think it would behoove Al to set up a few more 3s for Rice out of the flex. Not making threes is the type of thing that keeps many of our games closer than they should be.

Overall I am glad to get the win (the first with Baby Eagle). I am also glad Tech is behind us for another season. They are just not fun to play...or watch when their offense is off. I wish we had played a different team going into Duke as the Tech style can exhaust and frustrate a team (four of the last five ACC teams that played Tech lost their next conference game…and the fifth -- Maryland -- hasn’t played a conference game since, but followed the Tech game with a loss to Temple). BC needs to recover quickly and get ready for the Blue Devils.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Better than the Rose Bowl

Baby girl ATL_eagle was born at 4:30 PM today. Mom and baby are both doing well. Dad is looking forward to introducing her to BC sports during the Georgia Tech game Sunday afternoon.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Friday news roundup

This is unexpected: another Chapel Hill resident was hit and killed by a car en route to the BC game.

Trueblood hurt Kiwi in practice for the Senior Bowl. It looks like he will be okay.

BC sophomore Luke Russert is getting a new Sports Talk show on XM satellite radio. However, his dad's (NBC's Tim Russert) subtle publicity for the show is generating controversy among people who cover media. I work in my dad's biz and problems like this are tough to avoid. In most cases I think dad's are often just proud of their sons...so I sort of side with the Russerts on this. (Plus I would love to be a guest on Luke's show! Ha.)

Finally in another unusual note, Ohio University issued a press release announcing that its 2006 Football schedule was NOT finalized. This sparked rumors that Ohio U was trying to get out of its game with BC. If they drop us, BC will really have to scramble for another DIA game.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Breathing room: UNC thoughts

The team is finally out of its hole. They can’t let up down the stretch but one more loss here or there won’t kill them like a 2-4 start might have. I really thought this was the best effort of the season. As much as the offense looked really crisp last night, I think the team is winning because of better defense. The help, the transition, and the defensive rebounding were all improved. Here are my likes and dislikes:


Tyrese Rice: Another clutch performance. Earlier in the season when he was flailing around a bit I wondered if he really had the goods. He may have some rough nights ahead, but last night he showed that when he is on, he is really on. The shooting is one thing. But a sign that he is really coming along is the improved passing, finding the open men in the flex and most unbelievably for a guy his size -- backdooring on the baseline. Huge game.

Sean Marshall: I’ve been killing him lately so I have to give him credit for his big first half. Last night is how he should play most games: work the boards, drift out for the occasional three and run like hell to get back on defense. He is not a gunner and maybe he has it out of his system. He can contribute effectively without trying to shoot all the time or handle the ball.

The defense on Hansbrough:You might wonder how can I like a performance when a guy 26 on us? Because I thought he could have scored more. I liked giving him different looks. I also liked McLain getting long minutes fronting him. Akida might not have the bulk, but he moves well and was working hard against Hansbrough. Williams and Oates were a little more overmatched in one on one situations but the did provide variety.


The officiating: Read my logs and you’ll see I rarely whine about the refs, but I thought last night was a horrible game. Yes the total fouls were close. I thought there was a difference in how they were called. Hansbrough got ever call close to the basket and was able to turn a few of them into 3-point plays. BC was drawing fouls in non-shooting situations on the perimeter. And Smith was getting mugged. I just think you cannot protect one star and then leave the whistle in your pocket for another.

Dudley’s foul shooting: A new theme. I have no idea what is going on. I don’t think we can count on him from the line anymore. (Notice how Hinnant took the technical against Miami.)

Overall I like where this team is heading. I’ve called for a consistent rotation, but the variety that hurt us early seemed to help us against Miami and UNC. Hopefully we will take care of Tech this weekend.

Hoping to remove any bad karma from our first matchup, I used the Chik–fil-A coupon on the back of my Tech ticket stub for my lunch today.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Midweek news

First, most have already read about the strange, sad news last night. A charter bus driving the BC Basketball team hit and killed a cyclist. I don't know what the team is thinking, because honestly I don't know what to think. Not something you expect. Obviously his family is in the prayers of the whole BC community.

Now on to more trivial news...

BC released the 2006 Football schedule. Locking this down early is just another benefit of being in the ACC. I'll give my full take on the schedule later in the week (depending on when the baby comes).

Here is a little blurb on new signee Justin Jarvis.

In alumni news, Bruce Pearl is getting a lot of good publicity following UT's win over Florida. SI and the AJC both had profiles on the coach. Best of luck and I hope he never has to knock BC out of the tourney again.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Guest Blogger: Heels Blog

BC takes on the defending National Champs Wednesday. But the faces won't be familiar as most of the stars of last season's Tar Heel team are now in the NBA. To get BC fans ready, I asked Turner from Heels Blog to return as a guest blogger. Here are my questions and his thoughts on BC's first trip to the Dean Dome.

1. Barely winning after two loses. Is the team turning the corner or will it struggle all year?

I don't know that there is really a corner for this team to turn, unless it's a learning curve. People who follow the program expected this to be a 'down year,' but it doesn't make it any easier to watch. Heck, anything less than a repeat would be a down year, I guess. But there are good signs for the future in this young team. I'm not ready to write off this season, but it's clear that Roy is building for down the road. So it will be up and down. The Heels have all the classic signs of a young team: inconsistency, winning games they have no business winning and losing games they shouldn't be losing. It's fun to watch them grow, but it can be frustrating when you can see the potential is there. The maturity is not yet. Struggling all year? I just think you're going to see ups and downs. That experience is valuable for the near future.

2. Tyler Hansbrough is a force offensively. What is his defense like. Do you see him getting the Craig Smith assignment?

So far, Tyler has done well staying out of foul trouble. He goes after the boards like crazy, but he's been good at playing straight-up defense to not commit touch fouls. I don't know if he'll guard Smith or Dudley; I'm sure he'll see them both at some point. But it will be Tyler and David Noel on the BC bigs.

3. It seems like this team lives by the 3? Perimeter defense is BC's weakness. Who should we focus on?

The Florida State win was pretty unorthodox by Carolina's standards this season. The tendency had been to play from the inside-out, with Tyler the driving force behind how the offense works. Wes Miller's defense won him the start Sunday, and he hit the open shots he was given. Prior to that, the 3 pt percentage had been lower than we'd like. As far as perimeter D, if you force Wes, Danny Green and Reyshawn Terry into challenged shots, they'll miss. Don't let them get their feet set, or the percentage goes up. Make them take the difficult ones, and you'll stop the perimeter attack.

4. What is UNC's biggest weakness this season? How should BC attack?

The biggest weakness I've seen by far is the half-court slowdown offense, ESPECIALLY if Hansbrough is on the bench. The offense runs through him - he is option #1. Carolina knows it, the opponents know it, and yet he's been unstoppable. Stop him, deny, or whatever you have to do, and the vehicle breaks down. The Heels are fine in the open floor, but I'm still not confident in the half-court. If you extend the defense and make the Heels play out of the paint, you've thrown a serious wrench in the gears.

Read more about UNC sports at Heels Blog.

This and that

Jerry York signed an extension that will take him to 2011. This season's success with such a young team proves what a great program he has built.

Here is more on the Hockey team and Cory Schneider's shutout streak.

Mel Kiper has some thoughts on Will Blackmon. I don't know if Will will ever find a natural position. I think he can be an effective return man and back up WR. Hopefully someone will want his diverse, but not elite skill set.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Suddenly Super

When Matt Hasselbeck was drafted by the Packers, I remember exactly what I thought: “That is the perfect team for him. He’ll learn from the best and learn a system that is popular throughout the League. He can turn this into a nice little 10-15 year career as an NFL backup.”

Proves (once again) how much I know. But in fairness, you’d be hard pressed to find many on the BC campus in April 1998 that thought Matt would become a Pro Bowler heading towards his first Super Bowl. Joe Buck brought up the story this weekend about how Matt called Dan Henning a clown to his face when Henning left Matt on the bench at BC. No one mentioned which time he was left on the bench -- when he should have been starting over Mark Hartsell or when he was beat out by Scott Mutryn in the summer of 1996. Henning is and remains a moron, but a whole staff of people thought Matt was only the second best quarterback on the team. Hell, I even thought his brother Tim was going to be a better QB.

Matt deserves all the accolades for his success. He left BC with some of the tools to be great. Hasselbeck was always a smart and gutty player. It was his hard work that helped him build up his arm, size and speed to NFL levels.

Even though we left BC at the same time, Matt redshirted and was a year ahead of me academically so I never had a class with him. I did overlap his social circle a little from working with two of his roommates. My roommate also went to the same high school as the Hasselbecks. So I didn’t know him well, but I can say he is a genuinely good guy. He may come off cocky in some of these interviews, but he was doing missionary work on his spring breaks in college, was the type of guy that was friendly to strangers, and did all sorts of other goody two shoes stuff. And not in a "look at me" way.

BC has sent plenty of jerks into the NFL, so it is nice to see Matt Hasselbeck represent and exemplify the good things BC stands for. (He also married a BC girl, so you know he has good taste.)

ABC is broadcasting the Super Bowl, so Matt will have the chance to introduce himself. Even if he overlooks BC and mentions his high school, I’ll still be rooting for him. Go Seahawks!

Other sports

I call this a BC sports blog, but it mostly ends up being about BC football and BC men’s basketball. I don’t give the best team on campus -- the men’s hockey team -- nearly enough attention. In fairness it is hard for me to give good analysis considering I rarely get to see them on TV and the print coverage is minimal compared to the other sports. But they are in their usual position of first place in Hockey East and look like they reloaded successfully after many offseason departures.

While the BC men struggled early in conference play, the BC women have had an even rougher road in the ACC. Hopefully they will build off of their thrashing of Longwood.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Miami thoughts

This game was closer than it should have been, but a good win and maybe the best effort of the season. Here are my likes and dislikes.

Craig Smith. Another huge game. The Globe had an article Saturday on his rebounding goal. It looked like he tried to pass the 1,000 mark all in this game. The biggest one was off of Dudley’s second miss from the line late in the game. Craig has also improved his free throw shooting of late. My only disappointment was he was less involved in the second half…but that was because his team was getting him the ball.

Sean Williams. I think Williams should be starting. He is so active defensively that he really bails his teammates out. There were a few times when Miami defenders drove the lane in the second half only to dribble back out. Williams had to be on their mind. He also had a good steal (not credited in the stats) and few hustle plays and some rebounds. Offensive deficiencies aside, he is such a defensive improvement over Oates that I think he deserves the minutes.

Tyrese rice. As I said the shot was huge. Making it is great, taking it with confidence is even better. Too often since Troy Bell graduated it seems like no one on the team was willing or able to shoot the big shot late in the game. So far Rice seems like he’ll throw it up with the whole world watching. Fear is not an issue with him. As an added bonus Rice is also our best perimeter defender and the only guy who can beat his man off the dribble and drive to the basket.

The defense. We used a little ameba, a little 2-3 and long stretches of box and 1. It worked for the most part. Yes, the perimeter defense suffered in the second half, but that is a given at this point.


Our offense in the second half. This confused me. We’ve destroyed 2-3 zones the past few years with Dudley on the baseline and Smith at the high post. After success in the first half, we went away from it in the second. Why? Yes, I was glad to see Dudley get more involved in the second half, but there was no reason not to get Smith the ball more often. I have no problem with Oates taking 3s, but he needs to make sure that we have rebounders near the basket.

Sean Marshall. Terrible game. He has his flaws, but a few key plays really pissed me off. Getting swatted on a layup during a 2 on 1 break. Sean, if the guy follows you, pass it off to the trailer. His two turnovers in the second half were equally bad. The thing that really sent me over the edge was his last shot in the game -- a three from the corner. He chucked it up. Not a problem. Staying in the corner and watching it is a problem. He needs to follow his shot or get back. Fortunately someone on the bench pulled him and he sat for most of the second half.

Final thoughts
Why would I consider this the best game of the year? Miami is a good team and we beat them on the road, with good defense, clutch foul shooting and key plays from Rice and Willaims. No rest for the weary with Carolina coming up Wednesday, but I like the way the team is coming together.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Moon shot over Miami

Rice's extra long 3 was a huge shot. The team is finally playing like I thought they would. I still have my gripes and comments. I'll have a more expanded review Sunday.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Samson under center

Doug Flutie casts a long shadow at BC. Most of his legacy is in the record books and highlight reels. No one will ever be Flutie on the field…or under the helmet. When I say under the helmet, I am not talking about brains or football IQ. Flutie set the bar high in those categories, but he is untouchable in something else -- hair.

Flutie’s mane is impressive. During his Heisman years he sported sort of a feathered look with a middle part. Once he went to Canada, he let his locks grow out and fashioned one of the thickest and fullest mullets around. Even upon his return to the lower 48, he kept rocking the mullet. Yes, he’s trimmed it up recently, but the even now into his 40s, the guy has great hair.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is BC’s second-most famous current NFL QB -- Matt Hasselbeck. Matt is bald. Dr. Evil, Michael Jordan, Mr. Clean bald. I give Matt credit for shaving his side fuzz, but there most be part of him that is bothered by the lack of hair because the guy is never seen without a hat on. I was amazed that he goes hatless in the new United Way commercial. (But you’ll notice that in the commercial he is throwing the ball in an empty stadium. My guess is that he didn’t know the camera was there.)

So what does this have to do with BC? I have a theory. It states that since Flutie and his impressive locks, our most likeable and effective QBs have been bald, have receding hairlines and/or will be bald shortly after college. Look back:

Glenn Foley: Thinning on top. I haven’t seen a recent picture but my guess is he is bald now.

Mark Hartsell: Full head of hair and mullet to rival Flutie…also a complete stiff.

Tim Hasselbeck: Almost as hairless as his brother. Got TOB to his first bowl and bagged the chick from Survivor.

Scott Mutryn: Followed a Hasselbeck and was succeeded by a Hasselback. Had the same barber as the Hasselbecks.

Brian St. Pierre: Followed a good Junior year with a dud Senior year. Explanation -- his full pompadour.

Paul Peterson: Body like Flutie. Hair like the guy who still has a chance in the Rogaine commercial. I don’t think Paul will go Hasselbeck bald, but he is thinning…then again after his Mormon mission and JUCO time, he might have been 30 by the time he reached BC. (I kid ‘cause I care, Paul.)

Quinton Porter: His Caesar cut hides what I imagine is fast growing, thick hair. Needless to say, not in the Hass model. Lost job twice.

Matt Ryan: Fortunately for Eagle fans, Matt has two years of eligibility and fast receding hair line. Good times ahead.

**Unfortunately there aren’t many helmet-less pictures of the quarterbacks between Flutie and Foley. But based on the result on the field you can assume that Shawn Halloran, Mike Power, Mark Kamphaus, and Willie Hicks all had thick hair.

Now fellow BC fan Evil A hates our baldies (or at least the bald Hasselbecks). I am the opposite corner. I say embrace the bald. Other schools may look at a QB recruit’s arm or frame or touch. BC only needs to look at his hair. If it is flowing like Flutie, say no thanks. If he’s going to need a toupee by his first summer camp -- sign him up.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Cross thoughts and Lapham article

I didn’t see the game. From the sound of things, it wasn’t pretty. I am not putting too much weight into our struggles with Holy Cross. It is more important that the team pulled away in the second half and won the game.


Improved foul shooting. As much as I would like to think the team is going to turn it on from here, last night was probably just an aberration. I think the team will be inconsistent all year from the line. Hopefully their “on” free throw nights will be in close games.

Rebounding advantage. It is about time we dominate a team on the boards. I’ve often felt that Craig’s biggest contribution should be rebounding. He’s picked up the scoring load of late, but getting defensive rebounds will greatly improve our defensive efficiency.

Sean Williams. Like the foul shooting, I don’t know if this was a one time thing or the start of something new. Expectations were high for Williams before the bust. They were even higher upon his return from suspension. His first few weeks back have deflated most fans. Maybe now -- after a few weeks back -- we’ve reached an equilibrium. If he can start to contribute 10 points, 7 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 block a game, this team will get very hot.

The Herald basketball reporting. Shalin did some of his best work during last season’s basketball run. The rotation of Herald writers filling the void this season is off to a good start. As I’ve said before, being a beat writer for a college team can be kind of thankless. They are all working from the same material, so getting a good quote or unique take is tough. Yet, yesterday, Rich Thompson, set things up pretty well (in my opinion). First he captured Al’s postgame mood and then he included this quote (that the Globe did not):

“This game didn’t do anything for us if you want to know the truth. I don’t think a game like this gets played very often and played in this manner. If we lose it’s bad — if we win that’s what people expected.”

Most fans would agree with what Al said. But to hear Al voice it was surprising. And to get it in print was even more surprising. Good work by the Herald.


Dudley’s day. Another off shooting night...and three turnovers. Fortunately he was solid from the line and gathered two steals.

Sean Marshall’s night. Off again from long-range. I didn’t see it, but supposedly he also nearly connected on a punch (which would have led to a suspension). I really wish someone would sit him down and tell him what this team needs and doesn’t need from him.

In football news, a New Hampshire paper had a nice article on future BC lineman Rich Lapham.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Underappreciated star

With all the praise I lavish on Dudley, I probably don’t give Craig Smith his due. Tonight he is set to reach the 2,000 point mark. If he stays healthy, he’ll probably finish third on BC’s all-time scoring list. Quite an accomplishment considering he had to share the ball more than Troy Bell or Dana Barros did in their careers. Craig plays big yet has great touch for someone with his game. I didn’t think he’d be an NBA player, but his steady improvement might open some doors after the season is over. Let’s hope the 2,000 point mark is just the start of a strong final stretch to his BC career.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Holy who? Does anyone care about the Crusaders?

Rivalries help define college sports. BC doesn’t have one. Notre Dame fires up the fan base, but the Irish dismiss the matchup and the series is scheduled to end. And once the schools stop playing in football the rivalry will fade. How do I know? Just look at BC-Holy Cross.

Tuesday, BC plays its annual basketball game against Holy Cross. This game means nothing. And that is very unfortunate. Once upon a time, BC-Holy Cross used to mean everything. As the landscape of college sports changed, these two well-respected schools chose different paths and their connection and rivalry began to fade away.

Despite the dissipated football rivalry, the schools continued to play each other in some sports, including basketball. But without scholarship athletes the Crusaders could rarely compete. (HC has recently begun offering scholarships for men’s and women’s basketball.)

Ask current BC students about Holy Cross and the rivalry and you’ll get a quizzical look. It’s been more than two generations since it meant anything to students in Chestnut Hill. Supposedly it still means something to current Holy Cross students. I don’t know how any sporting event can mean anything when athletics are such an afterthought on their campus. Does it mean anything to me? Hell, I have a BC blog and I have a hard time writing something significant about Holy Cross. There is just nothing to say. It is too bad. Both schools could benefit from adding passion back to the matchup.

I wish the Crusaders would rebuild and create a niche like, say, Gonzaga. It is probably too late for HC. Too much has slipped away and its size limits things. Holy Cross’ basketball team plays a nice Cinderella every few years, but that is probably the only day of the year when Holy Cross fires up their fan base.

Sports don’t define a school. They can raise the profile and bring the community together like few other events. I keep reading how Holy Cross wants to improve its athletic department. Maybe they will one day. It would add that intangible element that the game lacks. Tuesday is just another game where BC should beat an overmatched small New England school.

And if BC doesn’t win (and Holy Cross has upset Al in the past), we’ll have a much larger problem than a faded rivalry.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Tell me what you really think

I love Jared Dudley. Partially because of a stat line like this:

25 points (9-14, 2-3 from 3pt, 5-5FT), 6 rebounds, 3 assists.

But also for comments like this (regarding Al Thorton’s day):

"He had 37 but only one assist. They've got to get a lot of people involved to get a 'W'."

This guy [Thorton] just went off for 37 against us, nearly stole the game and put us in an 0-4 hole in conference and Dudley has the balls to criticize his day in the postgame interview. Needless to say I eat this stuff up! I guess I am so used to BC players giving rote, boring interviews that I find Dudley refreshing. I am also an admitted homer…if someone else said this about a BC player, I would be livid. Ultimately this type of stuff is jerky when you lose and colorful when you win.

Let’s hope Dudley keeps talking and backing it up.

It's a start

Even when the team plays well things are interesting. However, a win is a win.

Huge game from Craig Smith. Dudley backed up his talk with his best game in weeks. Now the team needs to put Holy Cross away early and get ready for Miami (who cannot be taken lightly -- just ask North Carolina).

Friday, January 13, 2006

Outside opinions and attitude

Earlier this week basketball blogger and ESPN’s latest hire Kenpom wrote something that gave me a bit of hope:

"The ACC isn’t going to get much consideration for being the best conference because the top of the conference isn’t as strong as the Big Ten or Big East. But the bottom half of the ACC is stronger than the comparable group in any other conference."

Being a classic know-it-all, it makes me happy anytime an unbiased, respected opinion can confirm my highly-biased and emotional thinking. I am new to the ACC so I sent Ken a follow-up email on why he thought the ACC was better. Here is his response:

"I came to that conclusion mainly from just looking at both of my systems and seeing the entire ACC in the top 100. It’s really hard to pick who the worst team in the conference is. Let’s just say the worst team is UVa. They actually played pretty well at Gonzaga. Their embarrassing loss to Fordham was without Singletary who carries a huge load in their offense. Clemson might be the worst now without Mays, but then they beat Wake. Unless you’re Duke, there are no gimmes on the road this season. I could really see three games separating fourth from last with Duke/UNC/NC St. being the top 3."

So, what does this mean? BC has a rough road ahead (which we already know). But it also means confirms that the ACC is still the deepest conference in basketball. Hopefully the selection committee and the media will pick up on this and reward the middle of the pack ACC teams come March.

I also wanted to point out the Globe article today. It included some great Dudley quotes. Maybe the team attitude is changing. Let’s hope Dudley backs up his words this weekend.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Will they or won’t they?

Starting 0-3 in the ACC put a damper on most BC fans' expectations. Instead of making plans for the Final Four, fans are wondering if this team will even make the NCAA Tournament. I think an 8-8 conference record, winning our final two non-conference games and a 1-1 record in the ACC Tournament should be enough. History doesn’t confirm this gut feeling.

Since Florida State joined the Conference for the 1992-93 season, some inexplicable things have happened. Fortunately for BC, the selection committee more often than not has selected some questionable middle of the pack ACC teams. But the few exceptions over the years are enough to cause worry.

Here are the past surprises.

YearBubble TeamConference RecordSelected for NCAAs
1993Georgia Tech8-8Y
1995Georgia Tech8-8N
1998Florida State6-10Y
1999Wake Forest7-9N
2001Georgia Tech8-8Y
2002Wake Forest9-7N
2003 Georgia Tech7-9N
2004NC State7-9Y

If BC wins 10 conference games, they are in and the slow start is behind them. 9-7 would make things interesting. 8-8 would leave the team firmly on the bubble. Two things are clear in this short season: every conference game will be a challenge, and BC needs every win it can get down the stretch.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

A dozen dilemmas

Before I get into things, I’d like to point out Andy Katz’s write up of the game. He gets quotes from Dudley and Smith that the Herald and Globe did not include [shaking my head]. Andy attributes some of this season’s problems to the loss of Nate and Watson. I don’t buy it. Both were nice players. Neither were the foundation for our success. Last spring even an unbiased observer like Kenpom asked his readers to “find a player that deserved his playing time less than Doornekamp.”

This season is not over. If things don't change, it will be soon. I could list 100 problems, but thought I would focus on the biggies. Here they are and what I think should be done.

1. Dudley and Smith are not getting the ball enough. Although they accounted for 34 shots against NCSU, the ball needs to go to Dudley and Smith more! Every possession should get the ball to one of them in a scoring opportunity in the high post or low box. When the defense collapses, it will be on Smith and Dudley to find the open man.

2. The Flex. Some are saying scrap it. I disagree. I think it just needs to be stretched. We have guys working the perimeter, but our players are so ingrained to look for the cutter and/or open shot closer to the basket. This worked like a charm last year as we won despite our aversion to attempt threes. Now the defenses are collapsing. We are not getting good shots and we are not getting rebounds.

3. Hinnant is too slow to guard many ACC point guards. Louis won’t make mistakes on offense, but he is proving to be overmatched defensively. Watson was the substitute last season. Rice and Haynes are the answer this year. They can be on the court at the same time as Louis. Yes, it forces us to go small. But constant ball pressure from Rice will help the overall defense more than an extra big man.

4. Rebounding. The Tech disparity was obvious. The State difference was a little more subtle. Either way, we are getting killed on the boards. I think spreading out the flex will help Smith and Dudley grab more, but Oates, Williams, McLain, and to a lesser extent Marshall need to be given refreshers in boxing out. Put playing time on the line: whoever works the boards gets stays in the game.

5. Rotations. This is the deepest bench Al has had at the Heights -- and it is causing problems. In previous seasons he knew what he had and how to patch it together. Now we have no cohesiveness. Williams and McLain’s return was supposed to provide a spark. Instead it has sent us adrift. They are both talented and limited. Yet the guys who are getting their minutes (for the most part) -- Marshall and Oates -- are equally limited…just in different areas. Al and the staff need to find a balance that works and stick with it.

6. Players don’t know their roles. Is Sean Marshall a scorer or spot up shooter? What is Sean Williams supposed to do on the offensive end of the court? Is Rice a 2 or a 1? What about Haynes? Rotations are a problem, but I also see a lot of guys trying to be something that they are not. Against a team like Rhode Island, this is masked by superior athleticism. Against an ACC team we just look like we are forcing things or players are getting in each other’s way.

7. Tired players. I don’t think the in-season travel is the issue. But I do think that Dudley and Smith’s extensive USA basketball tours and training camps this summer could be hurting their stamina.

8. Press clippings. Everyone -- including a certain BC obsessed blogger -- is guilty of this. BC cannot just show up and expect the conference teams will just fold in their presence. BC cannot just turn it on or off. Las Vegas might have created some bad habits for these guys. In those games they coasted and still pulled out victories. You can’t do that in the ACC especially when you are preseason favorite and especially when you are coming off a strong season. We get everyone's A game.

9. Free Throws. This team lived on the line in key games last year. Dudley has been off of late and it is beyond a rut. Someone needs to work with him and get things straight. While they are at it, give Smith some pointers too.

10. Perimeter defense. This always gets me because it predates Skinner. I remember Jim O’Brien teams getting killed from the outside. What is it? I would say slow teams, but that is somewhat of a cop out. I think, like the transition defense, it is about effort. Losing your man, late getting over, slow feet, it all adds up. I don’t see Skinner changing defenses. More time for Rice and Haynes should help somewhat.

11. Coaching. I love Skinner, but he is not doing his best job this season. As I mentioned, the rotations are the big issues, but I also think he needs to get this team focused. When they were getting blown out by West Virginia in the Big East tournament last year, he leveled with them at halftime. The comeback came up short, but they played with fire the second half. He needs to do that again in some form or another.

12. Attitude. This team quit against NC State. They were really whiny to the refs against Tech and flat in many other games. This all needs to stop. Whether they are not comfortable with the new league or tired or disillusioned or something else going on behind closed doors, it is visible in their body language and in the results. Someone needs to give them a dose of reality. Based on the quotes it sounds like it is sinking in...they have four days to change the mind-set.

Florida State is the first step in the long road back to significance. We’ll see a lot about the character of the team and the ability of the coaches in how they play.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Bad to worse

Shocked. Confused. Embarrassed. Disappointed. Frustrated. I could go on. When Al's early teams were struggling, I was the world's biggest Skinner fan. I believed that he would build a winner. And he did. Now I don't know what to think. The effort sucked. The strategy sucked. Everyone had a bad night except maybe Smith (his moping turns me off). Billy Packer is a cantankerous jerk at times but his diagnosis was dead on. I don’t think I’ve ever felt this low after a BC basketball game.

This better be the tipping point.

This team might pull together and sneak into the NCAA Tournament, but there is no way they last long.

I’ll provide more thoughtful analysis Wednesday.

Primers from Pack fans; news and notes

Tonight’s game is as close to a must win as you’ll find in college basketball this early in the season. An 0-3 hole in conference might be too deep to climb. Lunardi already has us as an 8 seed.

The guys at State Fans Nation were too busy to guest blog. However, their readers were up for the challenge. You can link here to see what some of them are thinking about tonight’s game.

Here is the News & Observer’s preview of the game.

I cannot get a handle on this team. According to Kenpom’s data, were are a more efficient offense this year. But our defense is suffering. Yet on Sunday, our offense looked sluggish while the defense seemed improved.

I think BC will respond tonight. If we don’t these next seven weeks will be excruciatingly long.

Monday, January 09, 2006

A different look at recruiting

Here is a good article from this weekend’s AJC that unveils some of the seamier aspects of recruiting. Not bribes and fixed grades -- manipulation and exploitation from the recruiting services. These kids are quasi-public figures so I have no problem with the reporting aspect of these services. What does turn me off is the manipulation of the rankings and the charging for junk science. There is plenty of blame to go around: coaches, players, the sites and fans all play into it.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Now I am worried

I could rationalize the Michigan State and the Maryland losses. I cannot rationalize this stinker. This team is starting to remind me of the '01-'02 and the '02-'03 teams. Those two won, but were considered disappointments. Like those teams, it seems like this BC team doesn’t respond well to challenges, looks lost on offense, and has trouble finding an effective rotation. The only brightspot was how well the Smith, Dudley, McLain, Hinnant and Rice lineup played together. But by the time Al found the right balance, the hole was too deep. Here are my takeaways:

Craig played great. I got on him earlier in the season, but tonight I had no complaints. He didn’t force shots. Despite getting mugged, he was creating points and working hard on the boards. He even helped out ball handling.

Rice’s ball pressure. In the second half, his ability to slow Tech really helped us settling in defensively. He is also becoming more effective running the offense. He protected the ball pretty well and was the only guy able to beat anyone off the dribble.

McLain’s overall game. His numbers might not show what I saw, but I was really pleased with Akida’s overall contribution. He is such an upgrade defensively over Marshall and Oates. He moves well, plays tight and didn’t get lost on switches. When we used a little trapping in the first half, his long arms and quickness were key reason it was effective.

Foul shooting. What is wrong with Jared Dudley from the line? Seeing him in person, you can’t pick up what is off. His line seems right. Maybe his release? I don’t know, but this is now starting to cost us games. A real letdown.

The offense in general looked horrible. We’ve always had trouble running the flex against teams that are aggressive in reaching for the ball. But if it was all steals and deflections I would just attribute it to difficulty with long athletics teams. This was something different. A team that was great at making the extra pass and finding the high percentage shot looked lost. Teams are bound to catch on to our style and demand tight defense against us. I understand. In those situations they should then force it on the low block to Smith and Dudley. Just do that over and over and let them dominate the boards and draw fouls. They did this effectively in the second half, but not enough in the first. Getting it to them low plays to both their strengths.

Rebounding. Someone besides Smith and Dudley has got to step up. Marshall, Williams and Oates were either out of position or worse not trying.

The rotations and lineups. Haynes, Rice, McLain, Dudley and Willaims were on the floor together for a prolonged stretch in the first half. This allowed BC to press, force bad shots and wreck havoc but they couldn’t score. Against a team like Tech, Oates is a disaster. He cannot move defensively and offers very little on the boards. He just took up space. Marshall wasn’t much use either. I am so tired of seeing him getting to his man late on an outside shot. The guy either can’t or won’t fight through screens. Plus Marshall’s recent hot streak has him looking to shoot first…which keeps Dudley and Smith out of the game. Pressing still causes problems. You know it is bad when Dudley and Smith have to bale out Hinnant.

Williams was a real letdown. His block was sweet but he seemed tentative the rest of his short time. If he is not going to play 30 minutes, then the assistant coaches need to tell him to try and block everything he can. What does he/we have to lose? He wasn’t grabbing rebounds. He isn’t getting minutes. Just go out there and swat everything.

Final thoughts:
This team cannot sleep walk through the season and expect to make a deep run into the tournament. I think the Smith, Dudley, McClain, Hinnant, McLain lineup is our best. It gives Al two ball handlers. It includes our best offensive threats. And is a good enough defensive lineup. Hopefully they will get more time together and will start to gel. I had high hopes for Williams…maybe he can work his way back. This team was built for the Big East and they are going to have to adapt and adapt quickly.

Crime scene photography: Georgia Tech

The game was tight, so I was too wound up to get in game action shots. This is the best I have to offer.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Guest Blogger: Golden Tornado

Although I live in Atlanta, I'm hardly an expert on Georgia Tech basketball. In order to get a better feel for the Jackets I invited Nathan from Golden Tornado to be the first Guest Blogger of the new year. Here are Nathan’s responses to my questions. Check out Golden Tornado for more on Georgia Tech sports.

1. BC and Georgia Tech met two years ago in the NCAA Tournament. The core of our team remains the same. You’ve had a full turnover in personnel. The faces are new, is the Tech style of play different?

The faces look like they are 15, that's certainly new. The style is the same on the face of it, but not nearly as effective. In 2004 GT was 5th in defensive efficiency, in 2005 we were 10th. This year? 60th. Now, I expect that to go up as the season goes along, but it's certainly a far cry from the elite lock down teams we've had over the past two years. Our biggest weakness on defense is on the perimeter right now, Fredrick and Morrow aren't nearly the defenders Jack, Bynum and McHenry were --and with Mario West dinged up we really don't have an elite defender at the guard spots. The overall plan stays the same though, tough defense, some pressure and an opportunistic offense.

Bring your hardhats in the post, because Jeremis Smith is a hardcore mother (he and Craig Smith might end up killing each other, seriously).

2. Georgia Tech has looked good at times this year (Michigan State, Vanderbilt) and ugly at others (Air Force). Young team learning how to play or just inconsistent efforts?

I really didn't think Air Force was that bad -- they are a good team and that's a ridiculously hard place to play (6200ft of elevation is fun!), not to mention that style makes any game look ugly. The one that was really bad was the loss to UIC at home. Ouch. This is a young team that's doesn't have a point guard, and that's a recipe for disaster at times. Also, we have struggled with some inconsistency, especially from Ra'Sean Dickey who's a monster one night and an absolute 0 the next. Hewitt has benched him trying to motivate him, that's going to be a big "if" to GT's season. Lewis Clinch, our big time freshman recruit, going down with a stress fracture right when he was starting to round into form didn't help with consistency.

3. Who should we pay attention to?

Anthony Morrow and Jeremis Smith. Both will be 2nd or 3rd team All-ACC this year and are big time players. Morrow is a flat out lethal shooter (48% from 3 this season - leading the ACC) with a wicked quick release and a nice midrange game. He had 28 and 9 against Vanderbilt, and is quite capable of filling it up. Morrow is just a sophomore and is still learning to play a bit better with the ball in his hands as opposed to being a purely spot up shooter, but at 6'5" he's extremely smooth and very difficult to guard. Jeremis Smith is the nasty banger that every team has to have, and the emotional leader of this team. He's a bit undersized, but a tremendous rebounder (right around 9 per) and an above average leaper. More importantly, he has a mean streak a mile wide and if you had to pick "ACC Player most likely to injure an opponent going for a board" he'd certainly be it. He's also probably our best ball handler ... which is scary.

4. What is the key to beating Tech this year?

Ball pressure. I'm starting the "Zam Fredrick II Drinking Game" for the ACC season (1 drink for every turnover, 2 drinks for every forced shot, 3 drinks for every time he walks into a trap at the timeline) - I'll be smashed at halftime. Zam is a scorer, pure and simple. Unfortunately for us, he has to play PG and that's really not his forte. Paco Diaw has helped out some, and I expect to see him more at the PG spot as the season goes on, maybe as soon as this weekend. We're going to turn it over a lot if you exert ball pressure, and it negates our inside game because our guards can't really make entry passes under those circumstances. Any ACC coach that doesn't pressure GT this year is doing Hewitt a huge favor.

This GT team is very young and has some big time talent on it (Morrow, Smith, Dickey and Clinch) as well as a couple of solid role players (Fredrick, West, Bell, Aminu, Diaw) ... but this isn't going to be "the year" for us. I'll be thrilled with an N.I.T bid, and next year with Thad Young and Javaris Crittenton added to the mix this team is going to be scary good and extremely dangerous. We'll be double digit dogs a lot in the ACC season, I expect around 6 conference wins - all at home.

Going to Tech?

I’ll be at the BC-Georgia Tech game on Sunday. If you are in attendance please come by Section 16 and say hello. It’s a Tech section so I think my BC hat and pregnant wife will stand out.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Dancing with the stars: my take on recruiting grades

Now that the season is over, the attention of the college football world shifts to recruiting.

I spend way too much time thinking about BC sports. However, I barely pay attention to recruiting. Why? The rankings are a political farce. Injuries, attitude, coaching, growth, grades, drugs, and maturity all impact a player from his signing day to graduation.

Look at the NFL. They have much better evaluation data to work with and still miss on plenty of players. Why do we put so much weight into what guys like Tom Lemming or Mike Farrell think? These guys are salesman and self-promoters…calling coaches and players and exchanging rankings for access. Farrell is a reporter, not a good evaluator. If he was a real judge of talent he would be making real money working for a team. Lemming’s scorched earth history speaks for itself.

Don’t believe that these rankings are highly subjective? Take a look at the 2002 class. (This is the oldest data available on both Scout and Rivals.) Explain the disparity in rankings? Could it be that Farrell -- one of Rivals main evaluators-- pumped up a friendly school like BC.

PlayerRivals RatingScout Rating Comments
Larry Anam****Backup safety. Outplayed by younger two-star (Silva)
Josh Beekman******Approaching 30 starts. Awesome, consistent player. My 2005 Offensive MVP
Will Blackmon********Great talent. Never found a natural position at BC.
Ricky Brown****Key if unheralded player. Led team in tackles as Junior
Jeff Burns****Non factor. Busted for DUI before Boise.
Karin El Nokali****Never got higher than third on the depth chart
Anthony Gonzalez***Not ListedClutch performer. Best hands on the team.
Jason Lilly****Role player. Often injured.
James Marten****Stud starter.
Shadu Moore********Non factor. Cannot break into starting lineup.
Jake Ottolini*****backup.
Survival Ross**Not listedNamed starter in 2004 opener. Road the bench since.
Taylor Sele****Back up.
Jeremy Simpson*****Suffered a career ending neck injury. Never played a down.
Jim Unis********Played as a true frosh. Career cut short by concussions.
Al Washington****Solid four-year starter.
Robert Ziminski****Non factor.

As you can see, the rankings didn’t accurately forecast anything. Beekman, Washington and Brown all carried this team. Yet their rankings were inline with guys like Burns, El Nokali and Ziminski. You just don’t know what is going to happen to an 18-year-old on his leap from high school to college.

My advice: instead of worrying about why we didn’t land this guy or that, think more about player development and depth. I don’t care about what Rivals thinks of our 2004 class or if someone like Shadu Moore is a **** or ***.

How the coaches manage and develop talent is important to me. I do care about why the staff hasn’t found a game breaking receiver in nine years. I do wonder why it took so long to develop depth at Linebacker. Players make a difference. Recruiting rankings do not. Winning trumps it all. No one is going to remember who had the best recruiting class in say 1997. They will remember that Michigan and Nebraska won National Championships.

Final Blogpoll Ballot

Although I ranked USC No. 1 most of the season, I was rooting like hell for the Longhorns. I respect the Trojans, but ESPN's premature 11-part series calling them the best ever sent me over to the Burnt Orange side. Congrats to Texas and their fans.

Congrats are also in order for Brian. His idea -- the blogpoll -- really took off. The bloggers didn't change the football world. If anything we confirmed how flawed any poll is. As Texas showed, it is best to decide things on the field.

My final ballot:

1. Texas
2. Southern Cal
3. Penn State
4. West Virginia
5. Ohio State
6. Louisiana State
7. Alabama
8. Virginia Tech
9. TCU
10. Wisconsin
11. UCLA
12. Notre Dame
13. Georgia
14. Oregon
15. Florida
16. Boston College
17. Auburn
18. Miami (Florida)
19. Clemson
20. Texas Tech
21. Louisville
22. Oklahoma
23. Nebraska
24. Cal
25. Tulsa

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

UMass thoughts and links

I listened to the UMass game online during the Orange Bowl. From the sounds of things it seemed like our best effort of the season. I like the balance on scoring. I like the improved FT percentage. I am not thrilled with Marshall being our leading scorer and Dudley having a quiet night. I think that will change when games get more intense. Despite only playing a few minutes Williams seems to be making a difference.

Al says this is a different team than the one that played Maryland. I’ll get my first chance to see them in person this weekend. I’ll let you know if I agree.

David Glenn has started an ACC Blog. Definitely worth checking out, including this post on how our amateur athletes clean up during bowl games.

Finally, I like to toot my own horn on what a super football genius I am, so let me point back to my preseason predictions on five teams. Pretty close overall. (I am a regular Biff Tannen.)

Turning TVs into tickets

Boise didn’t help change BC’s travel reputation, but it confirmed that BC is a very good TV draw. Gene D and the athletic department need to start pitching this aspect of our team now. We pleasantly surprised Jefferson-Pilot this season with our TV performance. ESPN knows that BC is one of the non-marquee teams that improves ratings. Bowl organizers should hear it again and again this offseason. Ticket sales count first, but telling your title sponsor that the ratings surpassed forecasts doesn’t hurt.

Now some might interpret these ratings as confirmation that our fans care enough to watch but are too fickle to travel to less desirable bowls. I see it differently. The Wall Street Journal wrote about Bowl ratings [sorry, subscription] and unexpectedly some of the best traveling teams (Tennessee, West Virginia, LSU) were ratings drags on bowl games. The Journal’s article was far from scientific and pointed to TV markets as a big factor. I think TV markets remain the biggest factor, but there is something else to the ratings decline. Perhaps the ratings drop with these "travel schools" because all their fans are at the game! So if our total audience is bigger than WVU’s or LSU’s is there any reason to think we can’t nurture our fan base and get more people to travel? I don’t think we can ever bring out the numbers that say Tennessee can, but 75% of what they sell is not too much to ask. It can be done. I just think it is going to take a grass roots effort from our Athletic Department and a tweak of the spin our fans are hearing now.

There is no simple solution to improving our travel rep. The TV numbers show that people care. Getting them to care enough to travel is the next step.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Thoughts from my couch

One of few benefits of rooting for a team that always plays before New Year’s Day (or January 2 in this case) is that I can watch all the big games dispassionately and just enjoy the unique matchups. Here are my thoughts I what I saw:

Cotton Bowl: Florida got up early in the Outback, so I found myself watching this more than I expected. (For all the oldtimers clinging to the Bowl system, all you need to do is look at the Cotton Bowl. This game had as much tradition, passion, and great matchups as any of the other New Year’s Day games. The BCS and SWC split relegated it to JV status. If there is a playoff, hopefully a game like the Cotton Bowl will reemerge for the non-playoff participants as a NIT-like destination. Off my high horse, back to thoughts on the game.) Alabama’s defense was very impressive. Too often when teams play these new schemes, they sit back and react. The Tide did not sit back. Like the Florida game, Alabama came after Texas Tech. Sure they got beat for the occasional big play, but Hodges was hit enough that he started scattering his throws. You can get pressure on these schemes, you just need to trust your DBs and everybody better make their tackles. On the other side, Croyle was off too…he missed a lot of passes. He made them when it counted. The game-winning kick was awful. I was sure it was going to be short. What do I know? Nice season for ‘Bama. It is good for college football to have them back on the scene.

Outback Bowl: Urban Meyer has plenty of critics but the guy has balls. Everyone is talking about WVU’s fake punt, but I think Florida’s -- from their own 19 in the fourth -- was more risky and a better call. Iowa got jobbed on the onside call. The officiating throughout the bowl season was atrocious. We have replay, yet it wasn’t used (or misused) in multiple games. Leak still looks out of sort on the option portion of the spread-option. The score was close, but probably not as good of a game as the Cotton Bowl.

Gator Bowl: Is there a team that is less fun to watch than Virginia Tech? Williams was tossed for getting into it with a ref. Vick pulled a Laettner-Butler cheap shot. They won, but it wasn’t pretty. Despite the loss, I do tip my hat to Petrino. He sent a walk-on out there and still moved the ball. The walk-on QB (Cantwell) played tough. He broke his nose early and stayed in. Back to Vick…I met Michael once in a casual setting and he was one of the most relaxed, friendliest superstars I had ever come across. Marcus seems like a real dick. If the stomp had been a one-time thing, you might excuse it. But the stomp, the sex with minors, the flipping the bird to fans add up to one thing: a$$hole. Beamer will do nothing about it. But this kid is not that great of a talent to put up with this nonsense.

Outback Bowl: Every BC fan has his pet name of who he would like to see take over BC if and when TOB leaves. For the past two years mine has been Al Borges (Auburn OC). That bandwagon hit a little speed bump yesterday. The porous Auburn defense deserves most of the blame, but Cox was off on a lot of his passes. Borges didn’t seem to make adjustments for his shaky QB. This was probably the least interesting game of the day.

Fiesta Bowl: I like Charlie Weis. I think he will do well at Notre Dame. They got pushed around, yet were still in the game in the fourth quarter. I might even make them my preseason No. 1 next year…yet one thing bothered me about him and this game. Brent Musburger relayed an exchange he had with Weis in their pregame meetings. According to Brent, he told Weis (paraphrasing) “this might be the toughest defense you faced all year…” Weis challenged Brent back with “have you seen Tennessee?” The way Brent told the story, it came off like Weis was scolding/belittling him. Now this is just a little exchange and had little to no impact on the game. But it stuck with me. And I read it a few ways...let me explain. First, I grew up with Parcells and I know he gets into it with the media, but I never understood the need. Why try to constantly prove you are the smartest guy in in the room? Especially with a low-credibility guy like Brent Musburger? It just comes off as insecure. I think the better way to handle it is either the Holtz method “gee, Brent, they might be the best defense I’ve ever seen in all my years of football” or the Belichick method “maybe (followed by awkward silence).” Second, if Weis really did underestimate this defense and think it was inferior to Tennessee, than this must have been an eye-opener. Either way he comes off as a bully or unprepared and cocky. Weis did so much right this first year that the sour notes seem more pronounced. I still think he is the real deal and will have the Irish in the BCS every year.

Sugar Bowl: I like Georgia. I want them to win. I am not emotionally invested in the Bulldogs. So when they go down early, I can casually switch over to the Gauntlet II and not feel bad. “Early night and I’ve got work. Sorry they lost, but at least I’ll get some sleep.” I come back to the game at 10:30 and the Dawgs are chipping away. Now here is how weird I am. I cared so little about this blowout that I could watch a crappy MTV show and look forward to going to sleep, yet the faintest hint of a comeback and a WVU meltdown pumped me up. So I watched the rest of the game and really thought UGA was going to pull it off. Richt’s clock/game management seemed Bowden-esque. WVU played well and Rich Rod deserves credit for the fake. The game should also provide hope to Florida fans -- a spread can be effective against an SEC team. You just need the right people and a good line. I wasn’t pissed about the loss. I was pissed I stayed up until 1 AM and didn’t get to see the greatest comeback in Bowl history.

Football 2005 In Review: Defensive MVPs

The defense carried this team. Their only questionable game was Virginia Tech, but even in that contest they did enough to keep us in it. I could mention Raji and Williams here, but I already listed them in my surprises. Here are the three are my three defensive MVPs.

1. Mathias Kiwanuka. This is the obvious choice. Kiwi didn’t have the year many hoped, but he was still the biggest difference maker on the field. His ability forced the opposing teams to double him or adjust their gameplans, which opened the doors for his teammates. The three things that stood out in my mind: him chasing down Booker in the FSU game, his overpowering performance against N. C. State and his response to the Brad Butler incident. Those three moments/games really capture what a unbelievable talent he was (running down an all-conference back), his dynamic pass rushing ability, and his heart. Sure he lost his cool against UVA, but at least he didn’t turn the other cheek. I think his demeanor and background made many people think you could push Kiwi around. UVA learned that he could take as well as he could give. Kiwi was a great college player and an even better representative of the school. I wish him the best of luck and thank him for four wonderful years.

2. Jamie Silva. I was on the Silva bandwagon this summer and wondered why we would start Anam over him. He made me look smart shortly into the season. He is known for his big hits, but I think that takes away from his best skill -- his instinct. Jamie constantly seemed to be in the right place at the right time. On a team that has a track record for inconsistent tackling, he was a close as we come to a sure thing when it came to wrapping people up. He had a few plays against Wake that saved the season. Silva was nearly perfect in red zone situations. My fear is that he might start free-lancing too much (he was out of place a few times against BSU), but that is a small gripe considering all that he did for the team this year. Silva was tough, smart, consistent and a pleasure to watch.

3. Ray Henderson. I’ve probably written more negative things about Ray Henderson than anyone else on the team. Some of it was deserved, but I’ll give credit where it is due -- the guy made some big plays this year. Regardless of the missed tackles, Ray’s game against Maryland and his return against Boise St. were critical to our season. Sometimes I think the leadership thing gets overplayed, but when you have a stoic staff somebody needs to fire up the troops like Ray did. Our linebackers might be faster next year. They might be better tacklers. I doubt they will be as heads up as Ray was this year.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Football 2005 In Review: Offensive MVPs

This is not a star-laden team. Plenty of guys are all conference worthy. Many will play in the NFL. But if you take the season as a whole, no one name stood out each week. There is no Reggie Bush. No Brady Quinn. In writing up my MVPs I could have gone a number of ways. Here are the three guys that I thought really made the biggest difference on offense.

1. Josh Beekman. Our linemen get plenty of accolades…almost all deserved. They all played well this season and carried the team. They provided plenty of time for young QB, helped control the game in some hostile territories and kept the defense off the field. The collective unit could be named as the MVP, but that would be a disservice to the job Josh Beekman did this season. Beekman came to play every week. His consistency produced near perfect games. I never caught him having an off day. I never saw him get consistently beat. He was great in one-on-one situations. Great pulling. Great in helping out his linemates. I never saw Josh ole anyone. If you watch away from the ball, you’ll see him sustaining his blocks regardless of what is going on around him. But that is not to say he is oblivious -- look at how he picked up Ryan’s fumble against Boise St. The smallest guy on the line stood out, not with his size but with his play.

2. Matt Ryan. Ryan’s numbers are not the stuff of legends. His comeback against Wake and his bounce back at Clemson are. I wasn’t totally surprised to see Ryan start this year. I was totally surprised by how well he played and what a difference he made. His understanding of the offense and willingness to push the gameplan awakened our receivers. His arm tops every QB of the TOB era. Before the season I wondered if I would it would take years to see a QB at BC capture Paul Peterson’s energy and excitement. It only took two months. Ryan played tough and smart and was the biggest reason this season didn’t go down the toilet.

3. Will Blackmon. Unfortunately Blackmon’s career will be defined by what he didn’t do or become. He wasn’t a great receiver this year, but he was our best playmaker. So so hands. Okay routes. No problem. Just get him the ball and he’ll make something out of nothing half the time. His game against Boise St. combined his raw play making with some clutch catches. At least we got to see skills come together once -- and in an important game. This season Blackmon proved that he was a team guy and dynamic with the ball. The team would not have been successful without him.