Thursday, March 30, 2006

Quick update

I've been on the road the past two days, so I apologize for the limited blogging and funky formats. Here are some recent articles and my thoughts on them.


Craig Smith had surgery on wrist Thursday. This sucks. Not because the would've, should've from the Final Four, but because it will cost him in the NBA draft. Craig is a tweener to begin with and any question marks will cause teams to look elsewhere. I think Craig can be an effective forward in the NBA. Now he'll just have to work that much harder.


Here is an article on Cory Schneider. It doesn't take a hockey genius to realize that BC championship chances rest on Schneider's shoulders.


CSTV held a Q&A with Jared McGuire. I never worried about Football or Basketball making the transition to ACC. Baseball is a different story. They struggled early. Hopefully they will finish strong.


Jason Lilly was not invited back for a fifth year and is now considering transferring. Looks like Delaware is a likely destination.


WZBC Sports finally gets some pub (even if it is only in the Heights). As a proud 'ZBC Sports alum, it is nice to see what these guys have done.


Finally Captain Coop wrote a brilliant TOB interview parody two months ago. Now it is making the rounds again as an April Fool's Day Joke. Here it is in its entirety.

From College Football Insider:

O'Brien Plans to Bring Eagles to New Heights

Kurt Washburn, CAFE Staff Writer

Yes, Boston College fans. Tom O'Brien heard all the Boise jokes. But starting this spring, the Eagles' head coach says the joke will be on the rest of the ACE.

"We really heard it from our fans when we got the MFC Computers Bowl bid," said O'Brien in a recent chat from his office in Chestnut Hill. "But in reality, we finished 3rd in the ACC and got passed over by the other bowls. This year, we're going to make sure that doesn't happen."

BC finished 5-3 in their inaugural ACC season, and 9-3 overall, with a win over Boise State in the aforementioned MPC Computers Bowl in December. But since that wasn't good enough to earn a more prestigious bowl bid, the Eagles plan to take matters into their own hands in 2006.

"The bottom line is that we failed to reach our goals as a team because we lost a pair of games during the regular season that we should have won," says O'Brien. "And as head coach, I take responsibility for that. We just kept things too simple and expected to win on talent alone."

O'Brien says that this year's spring practice will be spent installing more aggressive defensive schemes intended to force opponents into making plays rather than containing them. On the offensive side of the ball, coordinator Dana Bible thinks that having a solid returning starter at quarterback will allow him to open the offense up and expose weaknesses in ACC secondaries, which in turn will create opportunities for the Eagles to do what they have done best under O'Brien: run the football.

"With (Junior Quarterback) Matt Ryan back and comfortable with what we're trying to do here, we are going to spend the spring expanding our vertical passing game and working on ways to spread the field. That is the trend in college football, and we need to do that successfully to achieve our goals as a team."

O'Brien says that those goals are going to reflect another change this year for the Eagles, who are the only team in the nation with an active 6-game bowl winning streak. "We're very proud of our accomplishments with (the bowl streak). But this year, we need to put that in the background and focus on taking the next step, and reaching an upper echelon bowl game where we can challenge a top program."

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Return of the blogpoll roundtable

Basketball is over so it is Blogpoll roundtable time again. Joey at Schembechler Hall is hosting the first one of the new season. Here are his questions and my answers. Check out Schembechler Hall to read what other bloggers had to
say.




1) It's early, but thus far, which offseason change or changes in college football are you most excited about?


I don’t know if excited is the word, but I am highly concerned and interested in what happens at Miami. Coker cleaned house in an effort to bring back Miami. What he did will have at least a five season impact on the ACC (good or bad).


The 'Canes have been the measuring stick for BC for so long, yet for the first time in two decades, BC seems like the better positioned program. Is this Coker’s last year? Will they regroup? Meltdown? And ultimately, from my myopic view, can BC beat them on Thanksgiving Day? It should be interesting.


2) With spring practice underway, what are the three concerns about your team that are causing you the most anxiety? (USC fans can't just list the departures of Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, and LenDale White.)

Can BC’s young defensive line fill the void left by Kiwanuka? I think they can. The defensive line is well-coached and well schemed. Plus the LB corp is so strong that the defensive line will look good anyway.

Can Matt Ryan sustain his high level of play? The young gunslinger won over many BC fans with his strong finish. Now instead of being the beloved backup, he becomes the focus of the program. Once again, I think he will shine, but that doesn't mean the rest of the ACC will be as accommodating.

Can BC continue its strong showing against ACC-peer programs? Last season, BC went 4-1 against the middle of the pack ACC teams. This was historically better than BC performed against middle of the pack Big East teams. Can they sustain this success in Year 2 of the ACC?

3) Care to take a stab at a preseason top five?

1. Notre Dame
2. Ohio State
3. LSU
4. Oklahoma
5. Florida

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.

Monday, March 27, 2006

More thoughts on the weekend

I’ll try to add more substance to my postseason analysis as the week progresses, but right now I just want to give my two cents to the whole George Mason Final Four thing and what it means to BC.


As a fan still recovering from Friday’s loss, it is very bittersweet. I was thrilled to see UConn lose and excited by the underdog winning, but I also kept thinking that if we had won, and if we beat Florida, we were only a win over George Mason from the Championship Game. Those are two big ifs and a slight to a tested George Mason team, but it is just how I think.


But stewing on it longer made me feel better. You see after the game I talked to Evil A and asked if BC would ever win a basketball or football championship in our lifetime. He of course said “no.” Yet the parity of college basketball, the single-elimination style tournament and some basic statistics provide hope. Getting in to the tournament is the key. We have the most tournament wins without a Final Four appearance. As long as we keep expanding that sample size (our tournament wins), we are bound to break through one year. On most years we will revert to the mean (1 win, second round loss), yet there will always be the chance of an outlier (Final Four trip). George Mason is proof that the more games played every year, the more likely a mid-major will make the Final Four (an outlier scenario). Based on the same sample size/outlier concept you can also add in that one of these days a 1 will lose to a 16. It is simple stats, the larger the sample size you’ll get a more reinforced mean (major conference and better teams winning it all) and the greater chance for outliers (George Mason). The only difference from most statistical analysis and reality of the tourney is that with larger sample sizes, the outliers have minimal impact. In the NCAA tournament the outliers get everyone’s attention, will be analyzed to death, and remembered forever.


In other sports news, Orson from Every Day Should Be Saturday has an audio interview with ESPN.com’s Bruce Feldman. It is a worthwhile listen and touches on a lot of topics. Towards the end he gets to BC and Matt Ryan. Basically he appreciates how good we are despite flying under the radar, thinks the ACC is down and we might have a chance and references a conversation where someone asked him if Matt Ryan might be an All-American. Now we are really getting ahead of ourselves with Ryan for Heisman talk, but it is interesting that people in Bristol (I am assuming that is where Bruce is having these conversations) are kicking his name around as a potential all-conference quarterback.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Villanova thoughts

This isn’t the same sort of recap I’ve written all year. Much of it has already been said by others so I might toss in a few things relating to the season and my thoughts on next year.


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:



Likes:


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.


Dislikes:


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.

Couldn't have happend to a nicer guy

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Hockey comes through

I am still recovering from Friday's loss and will write more on it later. Thanks to the BC hockey team for doing their best to lift the campus' spirit. They are returning to the Frozen Four after their upset of BU. I wish I cared as much about BC Hockey as I do BC basketball and BC football...they are a much easier team to root for.

Friday, March 24, 2006

This is the worst time of the year

You can imagine how I feel. So many mistakes, yet so close. I'll try to write a more intelligent take this weekend. Right now I am either going to cry like Adam Morrison or go kick the dog.

Villanova preview

All week I’ve been examining different aspects about this game. I’ve already said the keys are how well Villanova shoots, our ability to limit second chances and blocking half a dozen shots.


Now I’ll take a different angle for the preview. Here is what each BC player needs to do tonight.



Craig Smith -- to put it simply, he needs to carry the team. Another double, double is the minimum. He also needs to avoid foul trouble and shoot well from the line. What we don’t need is Craig handling the ball mid-court. He also needs to watch his turnovers.


Jared Dudley -- he’ll be under a little more defensive pressure than Smith, so all BC needs from him is a double digit scoring night and the defensive game of his life (I imagine he’ll matchup against Foye and Ray at various times). I also want Jared to have the ball in his hands late in the game as he will make the smartest play and is a clutch shooter.


Louis Hinnat -- he doesn’t need to repeat his Duke performance, but he does need to protect the ball. Villanova will press and I also think they will copy UNC’s strategy of shooting out at the entry pass into the Flex. Hinnant cannot be casual about starting the offense. He’s been great lately…hopefully it continues.


Sean Marshall -- I don’t think BC needs any points from their most inconsistent scorer. We do need a good defensive effort and a good rebounding night. I don’t think much of Marshall as a defender. He usually can’t keep up with the smaller guards. Yet a few times this year -- like the first Duke game -- he was able to use his size to wear on the opposing team's guard. Tonight is a size night. If he can slow any of the Villanova guys down, it will be enough of a contribution.


John Oates -- Anything we get from Oates tonight will be house money. Given the matchup, I think he’ll see less time than usual.


Tyrese Rice -- Rice needs to come up big. After Smith, Dudley and Hinnant, Rice is probably the next most important factor. He is going to be pressured and trapped throughout the game. He has shown the ability to pass out of it, but I expect it to be relentless tonight. He tends to get caught up in the excitement and make freshman mistakes. Obviously he cannot do that tonight. Finally, I expect Villanova to take a ton of 3s. We won’t need to match them all, but we will need the occasional bomb and we’ll look to Rice to take it.


Sean Williams -- I hope for big things, but we don’t need it. Just some solid minutes and holding onto any long rebounds (which can be a problem for him). Obviously if he gets hot (i.e. more than 4 blocks) we win.


Akida McLain -- he’s been MIA recently. I noticed him getting lost defensively against Virginia and he hasn’t seen the court much since. We could use him tonight since he is one of the few big guys with quick feet. However we don’t need him to win.


Marques Haynes -- he is another guy we don’t need to win, but if he can give us solid minutes, I’d be ecstatic. With a guard heavy opponent he will see the floor. Let’s hope he shines.


I obviously want BC to win. I think they can. I have no idea what sort of scoring prediction to make. I just hope this is the next step and not the end of the line.

Friday roundup

Talk about a tale of two cultures. UGA fans are up in arms about the new tailgating policy for Football games. As a BC fan I can only laugh. Eagle faithful would die for: 1. open parking, 2. RVs, 3. More than 2 hours of tailgating and 4. no post game curfew. Some UGA fans are griping about the port-o-johns too. BC fans have been using them for years (and hedges and parked cars...).


Bob Ryan writes another good piece on Jared Dudley.


BC continues to rebuff Texas' offer for a football matchup. I would love to see it, but understand the hesitation to add a huge power to the schedule. However, I would much rather see this game than the semi-MAC schedule we have penciled in. I hope the Athletic Department and coaching staff understand that the MAC games would become much more tolerable if they were offset with the occasional non-conference BCS team.


On a final note unrelated to BC but clearly related to blogging, check out what ESPN Radio's Colin Cowherd did to some Michigan bloggers. It is one thing to "borrow" (and I am being generous) without attribution. It is another to be a total dick about it. I am probably more fired up because I am blogger, but if this pisses you off, I suggest you email ESPN's Ombudsman George Solomon.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

More links

A write up in the New York Times. It includes good stories on Dudley and Smith's unique paths to BC. Getting guys who just want to play at a high level is such a simple straight-forward strategy. I cannot imagine a McDonald's All-American would enjoy a weekend watching bad movies with Bill Coen, but it didn't bother Jared Dudley. He just wanted to play. (I eat that stuff up.)


USA Today on Craig Smith


Mark Murphy takes on the Flex in the Herald. Shalin had a great run last basketball season, but Mark has done a good job filling his shoes. He mentions something I've hammered home -- Al adapted his Flex to his players. The Bell version was much more spread out.


A lot of BC fans hate Bob Ryan. I don't and when he is into something, he does a good job. Evidence: a breakdown of the makeup of the Sweet 16 teams.

Shoot

I've been looking at the box scores and recaps of Villanova's games trying to find the secret to their success and a recurring theme in their losses. I assumed that as a smaller team it was about rebounds or blocked shot. It's not. Even in their three losses the Wildcats held their own on the boards and did not get pushed around. The key seems to be their shooting percentage. In all three of their losses, Villanova went cold shooting 27.4% against Texas, 33.8% against UConn, and 35.2% against Pitt. This is not good news as BC is not particularly strong on slowing shooters. We tend to let them get their shots off and hope for rebounds. We'll probably have the same game plan Friday. Which means the game will likely come down to how well Villanova shoots.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Midweek roundup

Big night for the BC Women. They knocked off top seed Ohio State. This year was somewhat of a letdown for them, so it is nice to see them finish strong.


BC announced its long-rumored new ticket policy this week. Basically donations are needed to get and retain the best seats for Football and Basketball. It is easy for me to say from 1,000 miles away, but I think the Boston-area fans need to stop complaining about this. BC is far behind the curve on the donation issue. Nearly every school down here has some sort of system like this in place. If you think the total cost is too much for the product, then don't pay. It will send a message. You can follow BC without going to the games (I do). I think this is a needed step in the change of BC fan culture and will inturn raise the expectations on our Football and Basketball teams. If it doesn't work, BC will have egg on its face. But you can't blame them for trying.


A nice feature on Sean Williams in the Dallas Morning-News. Let us hope that he stays out of trouble for the remainder of his career.


Chris Collins won the Walter Brown Hockey Award. Congrats.


Here is an article on Championship teams and the number of future NBA draft picks they have. I like the thought behind the article but I think it misses the point (and BC is ranked low since Smith is listed as the only NBA draft pick). You need talent to win, but it doesn't all have to be Senior and/or exit early talent. Smith is the only NBA draft pick for this season. However, Dudley and Williams could both be future NBA players. BC has enough talent to win.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Sweet

You remind me of...

When scouting Montana, Ed Cooley called the Griz a physically more talented Holy Cross. And like our game against the Crusaders, BC built on a first half lead and pulled away in the second half. These analogies are not perfect but they do provide good primer for what to expect. So which one of our previous opponents best compares to Villanova? I bet Cooley would say the Wildcats are a more talented Miami or a more athletic NC State. This, for the most part, is good news as BC went 3-1 against those two teams this year. Here are some of the lessons from those two opponents that can be applied to this game.


Miami
Although Villanova’s 4-guard lineup is unique, Miami’s 3-guard set up posses similar problems. In both Miami games their guards took a lot of shots and were pretty cold. BC allowed a fair amount of penetration in both games, but the Miami little men ran into Sean Williams. Williams snapped out of his malaise during the final minutes of the first Miami game and road that momentum the rest of the season. By the second game, Miami guards were dribbling towards the basket and then dribbling away just to avoid the shot block. Miami was unable to exploit their quickness with many points in transition. Most of the offense came in the half court.


NC State
The Wolfpack handed BC its worst defeat of the season. They also were part of BC’s most exciting game of the year, as a regulation barn burner became an overtime defensive struggle. NC State is not nearly as quick as Villanova, but their perimeter oriented offense has many similarities to the Wildcats. In the first game BC barely put up an effort and it showed. NC State couldn’t miss. The second game, NC State cooled off and BC did a much better job rebounding…oh, and Sean Williams had 8 blocks.



Lessons learned
Unfortunately we are not playing NC State or Miami this weekend. Villanova is clearly better than both. But BC’s ability to win was outlined in these two games: Sean Williams’ defense, defensive rebounding and hoping like Hell that Villanova doesn’t shoot well.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Revisiting BC vs. Villanova in 2005

BC and Villanova enter this Friday’s game as very different teams from last season. Both have tweaked their styles slightly. Both are coming in with a lot of confidence. And both have been tested in a variety of settings.


Yet the core group of both teams is very similar to the cores that met last season. The two split the series, with BC winning the first at Conte and Villanova evening the score back in Philadelphia.


Friday is a whole new ball game, but perhaps there are some lessons from last year.


Game 1: January 19, 2005. Chestnut Hill


BC completed a late comeback as Jared Dudley iced two free throws with seconds left. The final two points capped a huge night from Dudley (36 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals). BC built up a big lead early in the second half only to watch Villanova take control of the game with some big 3s. The story of the game -- besides Dudley -- was BC’s ability to shut down Villanova in the final minutes. Foye had a big game. Allan Ray did not. Craig Smith’s effort was mixed. He scored 12 but missed plenty of shots and turned the ball over four times.


Game 2: February 23, 2005. Villanova


Villanova got out to a huge lead by killing BC from the 3-point line early in the game. BC clawed its way back and held Villanova without a field goal for a nine minute stretch. Villanova bounced back with some more big 3s. BC forced fouls late but was unable to close the gap. Big nights from Craig Smith and Foye. Dudley came back down to Earth and Villanova was without Nardi.



Many have said this will be a good contrast of style. Last year’s battle produced two close games with unique moments of explosiveness and ineffectiveness -- within each game -- from both teams. If BC wins, this might be the start of a series of matchups against former Big East foes.

Sports Information and TOB show some balls

This past football season saw a civil war between BC fans on the main BC message board (Eagle Action, a Rivals.com site). A core group of the half-empty set were banned reportedly because the Rivals administrators received a “shut them up” edict from the Sports Information Department and the Football staff. (The half-empty group migrated successfully to the BC Scout board, Eagle Insider.)


I didn’t totally buy the fact the Sports Information department cared or went so far as to threaten access to Eagle Action. Every message board has a similar dynamic, so why would BC care and waste their time trying to police it? I also didn’t want to believe because that meant BC, TOB and his staff were clearly focusing on the wrong things and missing the big picture -- winning football games.


It has been a while since the supposed edict, but it now looks like BC is not as scared of criticism as some believed. Check out this surprisingly candid chat transcript from bceagles.com.


Now there were plenty of softballs, but some of the topics that TOB fielded included many of the fans’ constant gripes like:


1. Explaining Quinton Porter’s lack of progress
2. Lack of use of the fullback
3. Are we [BC] ever going to win a championship?
4. Criticizing TOB for his “cupboards were bare” comment
5. Late season fizzles in recruiting
6. Deferring to the second half of every game


Now TOB didn’t answer each with a Parcells-like bluntness, but to even read him addressing these questions on the official BC Sports site is a quantum leap as far as open criticism of BC is concerned. After a decade at the Heights, there is a still a large portion of the BC fans (including this one) who are torn on TOB. We appreciate his accomplishments, but are frustrated by the annual near misses of the big time and his subtle lowering of expectations. Two things will win over this group -- winning a real bowl game and starting to speak more candidly…so this is a start.

Adaptation: built for one conference, tested in another

The ACC was not an easy adjustment for BC’s basketball team. They lost their first three games in the new conference, including a major letdown at Georgia Tech and getting run out of their own building by NC State. Every observer had an explanation (still trying to find the right rotation, off nights, etc.) but many ACC faithful came up with the rational excuse that BC just wasn’t cut out for the ACC. Ignoring the fact that Al Skinner had built a perennial contender in an equally difficult conference (the Big East) there was something to be said for the difference in styles between the two conferences. BC had to get used to a whole new group of opponents, get used to the faster tempo of the league, adjust to the way ACC games are officiated and acclimate themselves to new hostile environments. Gone were some of the empty arena, quiet road games of the past. Games were going to be much less physical and much more reliant upon great guard play.


Like any good team and program, BC adjusted. Hinnant and Rice improved their ball handling and cut down on reckless turnovers. BC exploited their low post advantage and scored in bunches (just at a faster rate). The end result: an 11-5 conference record and a trip to the ACC Tournament Championship game.


The second result of the conference switch is just an untested theory…soon to be applied. I think this BC team is better prepared for NCAA Tournament success because the core unit has played in two conferences. In the last 18 months this group has faced and beat Villanova, West Virginia, Georgetown and UConn. They bring a confidence that they can take anyone at anytime. Yet the season in the ACC forced them to upgrade their ball handling and take more 3s. These weaknesses are not strengths (yet) but BC’s improvements helped them avoid an early disaster like last season’s UW-Milwaukee game.


No path to the Final Four is smooth, but BC’s path through two different conferences may be the unexpected foundation for a championship.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Montana thoughts

I am surprised by the angles the beat writers and Bob Ryan took on Sunday. BC looked great in the second half of the Montana game, but I don’t think this was the overwhelming display of superiority that the real writers did. BC looked very uninspired for the first half and was guilty again of playing down to the competition. But allow me to return to the survive and advance mantra…BC can rest up and get ready for a much tougher opponent. Here are my thoughts on the game.


Likes:


Sean Williams defense. Williams still let’s rebounds slip through his fingers and is a nonfactor in the set Flex. Defense is a different story. He looked great blocking and disrupting shots. And there’s more to it than that. I often see Sean directing traffic and flashing out and slowing the screens. I don’t know if his “directions” are obvious or even listened to, but they signal a growing maturity that he and BC need. Back to the game…he took it over defensively. I didn’t feel BC was in control until he started shutting down the Griz in the second half.


The foul shooting. The constant Achilles Heel was not an issue in either game this weekend. Odds would suggest it will cool off this next round but I’ll take 31 for 38 over the two games.


Rebounding. After getting outrebounded against Pacific, the team came out and dominated the boards against Montana. Many were cheap gimmes on our own missed shots, but the team shut down the Montana offense in the second half by not allowing many second chances.



Dislikes:


Dudley and Smith’s shot selection. Ignore the kudos both received for a minute. They both carried the team in this weekend, but I saw a lot of forced shots on Saturday. Just look at the percentages. This offense is dependent on good shots, not forcing it over double and triple teams. They can get away with it against a smaller, weaker team like Montana. It won’t be as easy going forward. They both just need a subtle reminder to remember the cutters and kick outs.


Sean Marshall’s shooting. I wish we would use him closer to the basket. He has gone from a inconsistent shooter to a liability. The only bright spot is that he tends to break these awful stretches with good games. Look for something (anything) Friday.


First half defense. I’ll attribute it to tired legs after a long stretch of games, the altitude and the travel. No one played with much intensity and allowed some awful backdoor cuts.



These guys should be proud of their accomplishments. You saw glimpses of what makes them one of the most dangerous teams in the country. You also saw reminders of why they lost to teams like Georgia Tech and Virginia. Now let’s see them regroup and bring it this Friday.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Survive and advance

Not the most inspiring weekend of basketball. The team allowed Pacific back in and then looked really flat and uninspired for the first half of the Montana game. At this point there are no points for style, so I’ll take survive and advance. There were plenty of good things about the game. I’ll have more expanded thoughts Sunday.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Montana preview

I wasn't that scared of Pacific. Montana makes me a little more nervous. Part of it is due how both teams played in the first round and the other part is that Montana takes and makes a lot of 3s. Teams that don't rely on the 3 (Pacific) shoot a ton against us. Now imagine a Cinderella that shoots well against our sloppy perimeter defense. Scary. Here are my other thoughts.



Keys to the game
This is a good matchup for BC's best two player. Nevada's Fazekas was able to score against the Grizzlies close to the basket. It was only when he went outside that he got cold. Montana has no answer for Smith and Dudley. (But then again neither did Pacific and we know how that ended.) Since they are working off of the short turn around, I imagine Montana will use a lot of zone in an effort to slow our Flex down. This would seem to lend us the opportunity to get Marshall involved (in a good way). A week ago Marshall was able to work the zone as the baseline option. We should go back to that against any zone look on Saturday. I also think we should push the tempo a little. We are stronger and faster than Montana. We should not let them keep the scores and scoring opportunities to a minimum.



What I want to see
Nevada did not play poorly and still lost to Montana. We need to play as sound as we did against Pacific -- minimal turnovers. I would also like to see more of the press with Williams out front. His length and speed were very disrupting. We need Rice and/or Marshall to step up and produce some points. Smith and Dudley and Hinnant cannot do it all. Rice looked like he shaked off the cold start. Can Marshall? Defensively we cannot allow the open looks or the second chance opportunities. We haven’t used a true zone in weeks. Maybe we should against Montana in an effort to improve our rebound off of missed 3s. We also need to avoid fouls. That is how the Griz beat Nevada.


BC should win this game easily. We have more experience, more talent, are better scoring per possession and much better than the Grizzdefensivelysivly. Yet, they cannot take this lightly or let up when they are ahead. The team showed its killer instinct against Maryland last week. Now would be another good time to use it.

Pacific thoughts

V for Vendetta Victory: Natalie Portman gets ready for BC's next game.


The theory goes “survive and advance.” Does the survival part consider the fans? This game teetered on nightmare territory for long stretches. It is a shame too, because Dudley and Smith played great for about 48 minutes. Both made huge mistakes that almost cost us. And both atoned when the game was on the line. What concerned me most was the no show by other key players and a few other problems that made this game way to close. Here are my likes and dislikes.


Likes:


Smith and Dudley’s low post games. Our next opponent (Montana) and if we dare look beyond them (Nova) cannot stop Craig and Jared down low. This game showed how hard it is to contain them when you are facing them for the first time. We forced Pacific to abandon their desired defense and switch to a collapsing zone. Unfortunately we got complacent. But both looked great within 10 feet of the basket.


Louis Hinnant’s forcefulness. Perhaps he is just riding a wave of momentum or it is all coming together in his final days, but we are clearly seeing Louis Hinnant at his best. He is scoring and getting off shots with the clock winding down. He is making open shots. He is controlling the offense as the point guard and shifting to the 2 guard slot with ease. Great offensive stretches from byrd.


The steals and using Sean Williams in the press. Although the total defensive effort was poor, nearly everyone did a good job disrupting passes. Williams out in front in the OT made a huge difference. I would like to see us go to that the rest of the way.


Rice and Williams in the second overtime. These guys both have the ability to change the game. Neither did for the first 45 minutes. The last five is all that mattered. Huge play after huge play. They both even had touches that could have been steals too. Hopefully this will build confidence for Saturday.



Dislikes:


Williams initial defense of Maraker. What happened here? The size made a difference, but clearly no one prepped Sean on how to deal with Pacific’s biggest star. You know things are off when Oates is more effective in one on one defense.


Sean Marshall’s entire day. As Kenpom wrote in the pregame matchup, Marshall is a good rebounder for a 2-guard. He is not a shooter. And he is not really good in transition. The guy killed us today. I think he should be on a short leash the rest of the way.


Dudley’s two huge errors in the closing minutes. Jared had a great day and usually makes smart plays but fouling a guy behind the 3-point line when we are up with less than a minute is inexcusable. Don’t even go for the block. He also lost his man in the pick and role leaving Maraker wide for the 3 to tie the game. BC doesn’t play good defense to begin with. We certainly don’t need our best defender making bonehead plays.


Smith dribbling in the open court on the last potential shot. I know that the scheme allows for all the guys to bring it up, but Craig should not be anywhere near the ball. He needs to be under the basket waiting to flush home any last second heave. This is the second time this season he was in a position to win when he wasn’t our best option. Despite the messes, we won both games. We won’t get that lucky again.


The perimeter defense. Pacific doesn’t shoot many threes. Thursday they made 10. Why? Because our perimeter defense stinks. No other way to put it. We are too slack and don’t switch very well on the perimeter. I also couldn’t believe Hinnant was getting beat off the dribble again. It is not like he was facing the lightning quick Sean Singletary. This was Pacific. If we play like that against Nova we will get run out of the building.


Defensive rebounding. How did we let Pacific have so many second chances? Inexcusable.


Getting away from our offense too early. Killing clock makes sense. Settling for outside shots does not. Even with a crowded lane, forcing the ball to Smith and Dudley is a higher percentage shot than Sean Marshall chucking it from outside.



I am still is shock over the whole day. What is scarier is that from the looks of things Montana is very similar to Pacific. The team got a scare. Now how do they react?

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Close shave

Is the score right? I still cannot believe it. Obviously my heart is still racing. I'll have coherent thoughts later today/early tomorrow. Thank God we got that out of the way. I would also like to apologize to those close to me. Let me explain (regular readers might relate to this too). Because I am so into this, I suck people who might not care nearly as much into my world. My wife was sucked in a long time ago. But now my parents, my father-in-law, and my sister all get worked up over BC too. My dad left me a message from an airport lounge that he thought my mom was going to have a stroke before their flight. BC is not good for your health. Hopefully for everyone's sake that was just one stinker and the next game will not be nearly as bad.

Classic matchup

While everyone else is focused on the odd early morning starts or BC getting national respect, Kenpom brings it back to the matchup. BC vs. Pacific is his breakdown of the day. Great insight into how the teams mirror each other. He is down on BC's long term chance because of our defense. While I don't think our D is great, I think are numbers were inflated because of the ACC Tournament. We have enough defense to win six games. We'll see if my hunch is stronger than the experts numbers.

My tribute to Al Skinner



I've been meaning to write this for a week or two and wanted to post this before the game today. Because regardless of what happens today, or Saturday or over the next three weeks, I can say that Al Skinner is the best coach at Boston College and clearly the best basketball coach the school has ever known.


The numbers and accomplishments support this theory -- all-time winningest coach, two Big East regular season titles, one Big East tournament title, Coach of the Year honors, five NCAA Tournament appearances -- but there is more to Al than that.


His demeanor and the way he carries himself support this theory. He’s gracious, mostly unflappable, and keeps the whining and politicing to a minimum (at least until this year’s seeding).


The style of play supports my theory on his greatness. Some people bemoan the Flex. I get excited by it. BC’s offense is one of the best in college basketball and annually one of the most consistent. Watching the guys share the ball and find open men is a thing of beauty. And those who are critical just need to look back to the horrendous “dump it in the post” offense that JOB used.


Speaking of JOB, Al’s accomplishments in the wake of mess left behind by our former coach are a major part of why I think he is our best coach of all-time. Not only did JOB leave the cupboard very empty but he poisoned the well for any successor. Jim O’Brien did his best to let the media and AAU coaches know that BC was a racist institution that didn’t care about basketball (or sports) and that Al would surely fail. (Even once Skinner turned the corner friends of JOB also slipped in digs on Al’s work ethic.) Al’s rebuilding effort was monumental. He had to find players and get credibility back to the program. He took a job that many others turned down. And he did it with quite confidence.


The quite confidence leads me to Al’s biggest strength -- his eye for talent. As it is often mentioned, his BC rosters have been filled with the underrecruited and unwanted. He’s gone into Big Ten, Pac 10 and Big 12 country and found All-American players that were overlooked. His confidence in his staff’s evaluations and his confidence in his system have led to numerous players coming to Boston to prove themselves at the highest level. These kids -- many with chips on their shoulders -- play with a hunger, toughness and flair that is fun to watch. Some can get a little out of hand with their trash talking or celebrations, but can you blame them? They are kicking the asses of people who didn’t think much of them in the first place. And they were given that chance to prove themselves by Al Skinner. College sports is about winning and doing everything in your power to get the latest superstar to your campus. Al’s old-school method of giving kids a chance to work on their game and get an education is what it should be about. I am glad it is what Boston College basketball is about.


Building something from nothing, reaching a high level of performance, sustained excellence and holding yourself as a role model to others. These things are all you can ask of a leader and representative of your community. Al Skinner embodies BC and should be the model for our athletic department.


I want BC to win this tournament for a number of reasons. One of the big ones is to see Al finally get the national credit he deserves. Congrats to the coach on becoming BC’s all-time winningest coach and for being the best coach on campus.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

My bracket

This year is tough. I obviously want BC to win, think they can and have picked them to beat Duke in the Final. Yet nothing else in my bracket was easy to pick. In past years there were always a few teams that I liked. This year I’m getting bad vibes from all the possible contenders. UConn -- they are beatable and, as everyone has said, seemed unmotivated this year. Tennessee -- I love Bruce Pearl but they peaked a month ago. Villanova -- even if they weren’t in BC’s bracket I’d be nervous about Ray and how they ended their season. Memphis? Texas? Iowa? I don’t feel good about any of them.


Here are my picks


All the higher seeds advancing in the first round except for NC State, San Diego St, Seton Hall and Wisconsin.


Sweet Sixteen
Nova, BC (of course), Oklahoma, Georgetown, UConn, Illinois, North Carolina, Tennessee, Memphis, Gonzaga, UCLA, Kansas, Duke, LSU, Iowa, Texas


Elite Eight
BC, Oklahoma, Duke, Texas, Illinois, UNC, Kansas, UCLA,


Final Four
BC, Duke, UCLA, UNC


Final
BC over Duke


So I have three ACC teams in the Final Four. Highly unlikely, but nothing else felt right. It is all a crap shoot anyway.


Anyone interested is still welcome to join the blog’s Yahoo Pick’em.


Group ID#: 66700
Group Name: Eagle Blog
Group Password: skinner

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

My 2 cents

With the tournament talk heating up, I've been able to share my thoughts on BC at a few other outlets.


Read my Deadspin write up here.


I was also a guest on Sports Bloggers Live today (I think it will be up Tuesday evening). You can listen to and/or download the podcast off of their page.


Thanks to Will from Deadspin and Jamie from Sports Bloggers Live for including me.

Pacific preview

There is no way BC should lose to Pacific. The Tigers have a giant-killer rep, but this year’s version is not as strong as their past teams. Not to say that I don’t take them seriously. Here are my thoughts…



BC’s offensive advantage


Their [Pacific] defensive numbers are not good. Yes, they are better than BC’s numbers but we were playing Duke, North Carolina and NC State. Pacific had trouble slowing down the likes of Long Beach St. and Fullerton and Davis (all passed the 70 point mark). They haven’t faced an offense as efficient as ours all season. And they haven’t played a team running the Flex all year. The counter argument is that they have played a physical brand of basketball and the Pitt game last year showed they won’t be pushed around. I argue that calling this BC team physical undermines how talented they are. Sure Dudley and Smith bang with the best, but both are great passers from the low post and will work the ball to find the best shot. As soon as last year’s Pacific team faced a squad that scored as well as BC (Washington) they were run out of the building.


Inside they don’t really have a matchup for Smith or Dudley. And based on the way Hinnant played in the ACC Tournament, I would say we also have the advantage at point guard.



BC’s defensive advantage


Pacific should play into BC’s defensive strengths as they are a more methodic, slower paced team. They are very efficient, however, they are not a bombs away squad that has killed BC in the past. They work the ball and convert a high percentage of shots.


Maraker scares me. He is the well rounded, good passing, mobile big man that has given BC so much trouble in the past. Earlier this year opposing big men were killing BC. Paul Davis, Cedric Simmons and Ibekwe all had huge games against the Eagles. As the season progressed and Sean Williams earned more time in the lineup, we did a better job defending low post players (McLain, Dudley, Smith and even Oates also improved their low post defense). Their guards are good, but not beat you off the dribble types.



In conclusion


So we are facing a sound, but relatively untested team in Pacific. They play a low risk style similar to BC and are not afraid to get physical. They don’t rely on the 3-point shot. They don’t apply a lot of pressure. Their interior defense is below average. There is no reason BC should not control this game. Slow Maraker, control the tempo and rebound well and this game is BC’s. Hopefully it will be the first step towards Indianapolis.

Morning roundup

Kenpom’s ratings don’t provide much hope on BC winning our bracket.


The team is angry and disappointed about the schedule, travel and seeding. Hopefully it all serves as motivation and not a distraction.


Pacific’s star has been feeling under the weather of late. (BTW, this article quotes me via my blurb on Deadspin.)


The women’s team will face Notre Dame in its opening round game. I am sure the schools’ history had nothing to do with the pairing.


BC Assistants Bill Coen and Ed Cooley are candidates for the Delaware job.


Formere BC assistant Paul Biancardi stepped down as Wright State coach. He is the key player in the Ohio State scandal. His counterpart (and another former BC assistant) Rick Boyages is staying afloat.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Tourney tidbits

Here are some early tidbits on the NCAA Tournament


Only one 4 seed has won the National Championship.


Only seven 4 seeds have made the Final Four over the last 20 years.


BC’s offensive showing in the ACC Tournament boosted our ranking. According to Kenpom we now have the 5th most efficient offense in the NCAA. The flipside is that the great days that Duke and UNC had pushed our defensive ranking to 100. Pacific is 58th offensively and 73rd defensively.


Dodd, Vitale and Phelps, picked BC to advance to the Final Four. A slew of other experts (including Katz and Forde) are hedging with a “don’t be surprised if BC makes it” statements. BC’s own Bob Ryan came out and said this team will make the Sweet 16. Frankly this makes me sick to my stomach (with nervousness, not disgust). I tend to bet against conventional wisdom and right now the bandwagon is pretty full.


Here’s a quick capsule on Pacific from USA Today.

Blog bracket

I set up a Yahoo! Pick em for regular readers or anyone else interested. Don't be shy. Click here to enter.

Here is what you need to know:

Group ID#: 66700
Group Name: Eagle Blog
Group Password: skinner


Let the games begin.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Weekend wrapup

I was traveling this weekend so I apologize for the limited blogging. This week I’ll post my entire bracket, preview Pacific and post my Skinner piece. In the meantime here are my thoughts on this weekend.



UNC win


Obviously a great game. Despite the stats I was really pleased with the defense -- great defensive rebounding which kept us in control of the game. Good efforts from nearly everyone. It really was the most complete game of the year. Based on Saturday I knew that this team could play with any team in the country. They played the right way -- unselfishly -- and are peaking at the right time.


Duke loss


Like the players, I don’t consider this a moral victory. However, I was over the loss the minute I got back in my car to continue the ride home. We controlled the second half, despite poor games from Rice and Marshall and a off night from the line. I was pleased with Haynes and McLain had his best game in weeks. The much-maligned Oates had his best game of the year and his best stretch of the year. I did like Al’s late game strategy…even Craig forcing the shot in the double team. Both Duke games might have been ours with different officiating crews. It would have been nice to win the ACC in our first year, but I think we proved enough.


The Paulus-Hinnant scuffle


This is why everyone hates Duke. Their brand of floor slapping hustle basketball is pesky and annoying to begin with and then the self congratulation after every little floor burn play takes it over the top. I am not sure which Duke player I hate the most. I know the current BC team has some braggarts, but the Duke guys are in a whole different league. When you mix in the annoying players, the media love and Mr. Holier than thou Coach K, you’ve got the most dislikable group of people in the country without their own reality TV show (unless you count ESPN’s college basketball coverage). All that said, the refs handled the situation right. I am totally behind Hinnant. You can’t let the whole bench celebrate in your face. What is unfortunate is that if he doesn’t push Paulus there would not have been a technical on Duke. The refs don’t have the balls to call a taunting/celebration penalty on the Blue Devils. It was only after Hinnant escalated that they had to act. Hinnant followed it with the game of his life. Good for him. I also liked the way the rest of the team rallied and Skinner handled it perfectly.



The 4 seed


Call me paranoid but I knew we would be underseeded. While we are in the toughest bracket, it could’ve been worse. No UConn. No West Virginia. No Tennessee. No obvious road games. You have to beat someone to advance and I like our chances against a Villanova team with a lot of question marks.



On Saturday I was talking to the Evil A and said I would trade an ACC title in exchange for an early exit. I obviously didn’t get my wish (and I take it back anyway!). This was a great weekend for this team. They should know that they can hang with the best teams in the country under the most intense atmosphere imaginable. Everything is coming together and nearly everyone is playing their best ball. Now let’s go out there and win the whole fucking thing!!!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Mini Maryland thoughts and mini Carolina preview

First Marylyand
Great effort last night. Very refreshing to see the team come out strong. I liked nearly everything. The team handled the press well. Craig looked great. Oates had his best stretch of the season. Dudley and Marshall both looked great from outside.


What I didn’t like -- the intensity level late…it is hard to maintain the huge lead, but at times I thought they let up a little. I also didn’t like Rice’s shot selection in the second half -- still a little to chaotic. Dudley’s low post troubles in the second half were a little worrisome, but Maryland has one of the bigger front lines in the ACC.


Overall it was a really good start.



Carolina preview

For our efforts we get to face the hottest team in the country. I still like our chances and think we should stick to the same model as last game -- Smith and Dudley over and over (make Hansbrough work hard defensively). The stud freshman will get his points, but last game he sat for long stretches to rest. Hansbrough will not be the reason for the win or loss -- it will be about BC containing his teammates (who are playing much better than they did in January).


BC can win this game. They don’t need it, but I think it would really help our seeding and we would get another shot at Duke.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Revisiting Georgia Tech

I don’t want to play Georgia Tech again. BC split the series and both were ugly displays of basketball. Tech is just one of those teams designed to give us fits. I also worry about Paul Hewitt this time of year. I think he has a tendency to over coach games (and whine) during the regular season. Yet come time for the ACC Tournament and he has it all figured out. Tech is Maryland’s problem first. If we do face the Yellow Jackets Friday, here are some things to remember:


What happened?


BC split its series with Tech. The first game at Alexander was a major disappointment. Al juggled the lineup throughout and the team went through long scoring droughts. BC clawed its way back in the second half but lost track of Zam Fredrick on a late possession. Fredrick nailed a 3 and that was the ball game.


In the second game, the result was better but the style of play was not. BC did not shoot well but rebounded much better and made some clutch foul shots down the stretch.



Since the second game…


Tech’s season got worse. Hewitt tried numerous lineups hoping to change results. He also shortened his bench. Nothing seemed to work as Tech was unable to pull out close games and had a few stinkers too. (They also got hosed on a call against Virginia Tech.) Despite picking up two good wins down the stretch -- NC State and Wake -- Tech mailed it in against Clemson in their regular season finale.


How will this game play out?


Hewitt has admitted to having a hard time getting through to his team. I think it will click against Maryland. However, if they do get by the Terps it will be a lot to ask this young, inconsistent team to beat BC the next night. If BC plays Tech, look for another physical, sloppy, inside game...but not as close as the last two meetings.

Stats vs. Opinion

Yesterday I used Dean Oliver's formula to rate Smith and Dudley. Today Dave unveiled his own tweak of the Prouty Ratings. In this formula Dudley also comes up as a first teamer. Dave's numbers also favor Rice.

Eye for talent

I’ve read ACC pundits criticizing Skinner’s recruiting. They argue that BC will need to “step up” their recruiting to compete in our new conference. I never really bought into that as Al’s style has worked in an equally competitive conference for nearly a decade. He has a great eye for talent and then implementing that talent into his system. For evidence you just need to look at his players that have made all freshmen teams.


2000 -- Troy Bell
2001 -- Ryan Sidney
2003 -- Craig Smith
2004 -- Jared Dudley
2005 -- Sean Williams
2006 -- Tyrese Rice
*Credit to Eagle Action poster Glass Slapper for compiling the list.



This run has been great and I trust Al’s eye more than most recruiting experts. There is an unknown on the horizon -- the NBA’s new age rule. This change will force the best young players back into college. Al’s been finding diamonds in the rough and inserting them during a time when the top 10 high school players are going to the NBA. Now that those same type of players will go to school (and many presumably will play in the ACC) it will be a little bit tougher to land on the All-Freshman teams. With the over all talent level improving Skinner will need to keep finding these overlooked superstars. He’ll also need to have fewer misses as competition in all of college basketball should improve.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Who is better?

As you probably know, Craig Smith was named first-team all ACC. Jared Dudley was named second-team and Rice made all-freshman.


Dave mentioned something that many of you know I feel -- Jared Dudley is better than Craig Smith and voters get sucked in by the reputation and higher per game average. I also think Dudley had a better year last year. This year he was a little more inconsistent and at times seemed to defer to Smith. Now I love both. They are both great players and I am glad to see them honored, but Dudley is more valuable. In an effort to quantify my gut I decided to crunch the numbers using a version of Dean Oliver’s offensive rating. (Oliver is the Bill James of basketball. Read his book if you like hoops and stats.)



Oliver's offensive formula takes the numbers of points produced (including production from assists and offensive rebounds), divides that number by the total individual possessions (another number that sums points with things like turnover and attempts) and multiplies that by 100 (the common multiple for basketball ratings).

Here are their 2005-2006 offensive ratings

Smith110.5
Dudley113.4



However, showing that my gut is not always right, Dudley did not have a better year last season. In fact both players greatly improved their ratings this year (partially through their assists and partially through getting to the foul line a lot more).

2005-2006 offensive ratings

Smith82.8
Dudley88.1




At the end of the day these are just numbers trying to quantify something that still has a lot of subjectivity. Regardless of who is first team and who is not, I hope both want to finish strong and win something (the conference tournament or the whole damn thing)!

Morning roundup

Yoni Cohen has an interesting take on how the new RPI formula favors mid-majors and teams that travel. Fortunately BC has been a pretty good road team under Al. Our weak out of conference schedule is what hurts our RPI the most.


An new look at college point shaving. Guess which school was mentioned? I don't think 5% of games are fixed, but I do think unorganized shaving goes on more than the NCAA would like to admit.


While the Globe takes a break, the Herald has produced two BC features. Yesterday on finishing strong and today on Rice.


College Hoops Gazette likes our chances in the ACC Tourney.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Revisiting Maryland

We play the winner of Maryland-Georgia Tech Friday night. BC was 1-2 against those two this year. In an effort to prepare for either team I am taking a look back at both. Maryland is up first.



What happened?


BC lost its first ACC game on the road by two. An off night from Dudley, poor foul shooting, a screw up with 2.2 seconds left and the need to cover for John Oates defensively all factored into the loss.


Since the game…


Maryland sputtered going 11-9 and 7-8 in conference. Much of their struggles were attributed to the loss of Senior Chris McCray. But the Terps had some real lousy defensive efforts in the middle of their season. Things looked really bad a week ago when they got thrashed by North Carolina (there is a lot of that going around). However, two wins this past week has put them back on the bubble. If they beat Georgia Tech, they will know that another win against BC will get them into the Tournament.


How will this game play out?


I don’t take either team lightly, but I would rather play Maryland than Georgia Tech. With an off night from Dudley and an undermanned team, Maryland still only beat us by 2 at home. The key to the game will be Hinnant and Rice’s ability to handle the defensive pressure and get our offense set up in the half court with plenty of time. Ibekwe had a huge night last game. He has come down to earth since. This time around I feel much better about our ability to contain him and Caner-Medley (with McLain and Williams sure to get more of Oates minutes). I also don’t think they can stop our interior scoring.




BC doesn't need a win, but playing well in the ACC tournament is a must. A first round loss would be a bad harbinger for the following week.

Monday, March 06, 2006

ACC Tourney things to think about

Since 1954, the 3 seed has won the ACC Tournament seven times.


Year3 seed winner
1970NC State
1988Duke
1989UNC
1990Georgia Tech
1997UNC
2003Duke
2005Duke


Of these seven, three made the Final Four (Duke ’88, Georgia Tech ’90 and UNC ’97). Three lost in the regional semis and the 1970 NC State team lost in East regionals (pre-65 teams getting in).


Bill Guthridge was the last coach to win the Tournament in his first year in the conference.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Virginia Tech Thoughts

As bad as the game was, I was not disturbed by the sloppy win. At this point in the year a win is a win. All the Tournament bound teams are looking ahead. The bubble teams and bad teams are the ones trying to prove something. Believe it or not my takeaways from this game leave me very excited about our two upcoming tournaments.


Likes:


Using the ¾ press effectively. I don’t think this season has been Al’s best but I am really encouraged by the varieties of defenses used this year. Come tournament time it will be important to mix it up. If someone presses us, we can press them back, etc. It is not rocket science but makes prepping for BC on short notice (a key to tourney success) a little more difficult.


Holding on in a close game. You might wonder what I could like about a near world class choke job. Well sometimes you learn a lot more from those near disasters than you would in a loss or winning in a blow out. BC has screwed up plenty of close games (this will be a running theme for me in the next few weeks) so escaping and learning is important. This is a smart team and the odds are we are not going to miss foul shots, look lost on D or not get the inbounds in pass next week or the week after.


Louis Hinnant stepping up. I wish Craig’s last game was as good as his fellow Senior. Hinnant has played much better the past few weeks. He is not the best ball handler but handles the flex well and most importantly is making open and clutch shots. It is a cliché, but you need good guard play to succeed. We don’t have the best, but Lou is solid and peeking at the right time.



Dislikes:


Craig helping out on the press. Excuse me but WTF? I know it was Senior day and Craig has improved his dribbling but he doesn’t belong out there in that role. Fortunately they adjusted and put Dudley back there in the second half. Each possession is critical and we will face the press in the next few weeks. The only guys who should be back handling it are Dudley, Rice, Hinnant and Haynes. (The Craig thing speaks to a larger issue…making adjustments to late. The “let them play” philosophy works so often but every once in a while the coaching staff needs to adjust quickly.)


Not using the baseline runner against the 2-3. Excuse me but again WTF? We kill 2-3s with this and don’t use it at all on Saturday. I don’t get it. Also, what was with the lob passes across the zone and into the post? The whole thing was a little ill-conceived.




No one is going to save this game for ESPN Classic. Overall I am glad to get it out of the way. I may being viewing things through maroon and gold colored glasses, but I don’t think foul shooting, the press (for the most part) and or the 2-3 will be an issue the rest of the way.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Virginia Tech mini preview

BC lucked out in the earlier matchup with Virginia Tech. Considering the way the team has been playing and that it will be Senior Day, I don’t think this game will be as close. Here are my quick keys to the game.


Keep Smith out of foul trouble. Fouls limited his minutes the first time around. It is Craig’s last home game so he should get plenty of touches. On the defensive side, I hope we keep him a little further out than he normally plays in the amoeba/matchup. Craig (and Dudley) can dominate their post players offensively. Keeping them on the floor is the key.


Get out to an early lead. Virginia Tech is better than their record but not a strong road team. I think any early BC lead at this stage of the season would be kind of crushing.


Don’t try to match their perimeter game. Tech’s offense is better than their defense. Last time we let them back in by letting them shoot and by straying from our game plan (low post scoring). This time, I’ll repeat my mantra that we should match every 3 with close to the basket ball movement to Smith or Dudley.



The team has already finished better than I predicted they would. A win will give us a great chance at the 2 seed in the ACC Tournament. Although Conte might not be the most intense place to play, I don’t think Smith and Hinnant will let this team lose on Saturday.

Friday roundup

BC finished strong in the NCAA's first APR study. However, there are so many loopholes and bad math supporting the study that I don't think our results will mean much in the future. Regardless of who is counting and how they are counting, I hope BC continues to place a high level of importance on graduating its athletes.


The Hockey team's recent sputter continued last night. Hopefully they will regroup before the postseason.


Here is a nice article on Flutie. I wish more former BC athletes were as involved with the school as Doug.


Towards the end of this article the writer says Smith might be the best basketball player in the history of BC. Craig has been great but I still think he is behind a few others like Bell and Barros.


Towards the end of this notebook, Al credits his new record on his players and longevity. I think he deserves the lion's share of credit and will follow up with more on that this weekend.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

One man's junk...

BC fans are divided on many topics. One thing that everyone agrees on is that Chet Gladchuk’s time as Athletic Director was a disaster. During his tenure at BC, the basketball, football and hockey teams all encountered difficulties and/or scandals. Some of his hiring decisions were questionable (at best). Chet rubbed many alums on the fund raising circuit the wrong way. The marketing efforts were subpar…it seemed like everything that could go wrong did. When he left the Heights he had the popularity of a snake oil salesman. Well I guess he has rehabbed his image since because he was just named Athletic Director of the Year.


I have no love lost with Chet but congratulate him for making the most of his second chance.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Strange bedfellows and links


Looks like diehard LSU Football fan James Carville is getting on the BC Basketball bandwagon.


In other news, the BC women are limping into their ACC Tournament.


Here is Davesez's rundown of the Conference and its bubble teams.


This NC State Scout page explains the ACC tiebreaker format pretty well. Long story short: if BC wins Saturday and UNC loses, BC is the 2 seed.


Statefansnation has an interesting look at the Massey Rankings and what their predictions are for our seeding.

Wake thoughts

Wake mailed it in after they got in a hole and BC had a few rough spots, but overall it was very solid game. Here are my thoughts:


Likes:


Switching Dudley and Marshall's roles attacking the zone. Last year and earlier this year we would put Marshall on the wing, Dudley on the baseline and Smith in the lane when attacking the 2-3. Dudley and Smith were deadly with the high-low. Yet Marshall rarely exploited the open looks. Last night Marshall was on the baseline and Dudley was at that wing. Marshall is not as effective as Dudley down low (but he still has his moments) and Dudley is a better perimeter shooter and passer, so overall it was an upgrade and nice adjustment to Wake’s strategy in the first game.


Breaking the pressure. Wake was hardly aggressive with their traps and presses, but when they did apply pressure, BC broke it easily. Honestly, my biggest fear going into the tournament is facing a team with an effective trapping defense. Last night’s success was encouraging.


Foul shooting. Not to get all statistical on you (and this is not my strong suit) but obviously each foul shot is an independent event. A rough game from the line (NC State) doesn’t guarantee that the next will be better (Wake). But over the course of a few games the foul shooting is likely to revert to its statistical average. I am always relieved when it does. My fear with multiple bad games from the line is that we are not a good foul shooting team. As it stands now, we are an above average, yet very inconsistent, foul shooting team. If we can just get rid of the inconsistency I will stop worrying all together.



Dislikes:


Our starts. Skinner had this to say: “We’ve had a tendency to get off to slow starts. I don’t know what the reason is…". I’ll give you one reason -- Oates. It is not all on him. The team does often come out flat, but Oates is a huge defensive liability. Against a good team, he will cost us early points. I don’t expect the coaching staff to change now, but we need to have the quickest hook possible for him as we get into tournament play.


Rice's play making. Rice is dynamic and players like him are hard to contain. Someone just needs to sit him down and explain that he can make plays and look good, he just needs to pass with a little more control.


Marshall’s outside shooting. Where did anyone get the impression that Marshall was a good shooter? He’s looked awful lately. Despite misplaying a few passes, I think he has looked much better closer to the basket.





I like how the team is coming together. Hats off to Skinner for keeping them on track after the awful start. Now let’s win on Saturday and lock up the 2 seed in the ACC Tournament.