Thursday, January 27, 2005

Still perfect

BC pulled out another huge win last night. With the Duke loss, BC and Illinois are the only undefeated teams left. They were down at various points but fought back with hustle and clutch free throw and three-point shooting. I didn’t see it as I was toiling away in class, but was able to catch the highlights and watch the scores. I know they will lose this season, but right now it seems like they are doing Curt Hennig impressions and everything is going in… "simply perfect."

After the game, Doug Gottlied gave a few backhanded compliments to the team on ESPN. It was the usual stuff: “pulling out narrow wins” “easy schedule” etc. Typical. While I am a believer in point differential when measuring football teams, in basketball the correlation is not as strong. Plus we are only two thirds through the season. And these close wins are signs that the team is poised and will hopefully pull through in the clutch. The schedule…well that is another Big East plan that backfired. They gave us a lousy schedule with very few in-conference marquee matchups. So Fat Mike successfully kept us off national TV, but inadvertently handed us the second best start in school history. Ha!

Here are some good stats about the start and team:

• Second best start in school history

• Second longest win streak in school history

• BC is 28-3 in its last 31 games back to last season

• BC now has the third best start in Big East history

One more thing, Dudley is getting the ink (from me too) and Smith is the known comdity, but Sean Williams is a true stopper on defense. He now has 41 blocks on the season. Just another diamond in the rough (which the New York Times even noticed).

Friday, January 21, 2005

Gut reaction to 2005 schedule

The ACC released its 2005 schedule this week and I’ve been smiling ever since. First let me say how great it is to get it this early. (In the Big East, where Pitt and Temple shared stadiums with professional teams it always seemed like our schedule was not finalized until August.)

Now look at the home schedule for 2004 and the major upgrade in 2005. 2004: Penn State, UConn, UMass, Rutgers, and Syracuse. 2005: Army, Florida State, Ball State, Virginia, Wake Forest, NC State. Wow. A nice mix, a marquee program and only one real dog (Ball State).

Now on to my ridiculously early predictions. (WARNING: This was done with very little analysis and will certainly be revised in the months ahead.)

Sept. 3 at BYU – Win. BYU will have a new coach and is low on talent. I don’t like us in road openers especially if Porter looks shaky, but my initial reaction is that this is a win.

Sept. 10 Army – Win. Home opener against a service academy. I think Ross will have them playing better, but we will still have a huge talent advantage.

Sept. 17 Florida State – Loss. I think this will be closer than most will predict. FSU has struggled on the road recently and will have a young QB, but I still think they will pull it out.

Sept. 24 at Clemson – Win. The team has won 4-1 in the last five games I’ve attended. Plus college friends and family will be there. We better win!

Oct. 1 Ball State – Win. We barely won this year. I expect a better performance. At this point we’ll surely be ranked.

Oct. 8 Virginia – Win. TOB has some anymosity against UVA. He dedicated the majority of his career there and was not even given a look as a head coach. I expect him to have the team well prepared. Plus they know Al Golden.

Oct. 15 Wake Forest – Win. There is no way we are losing three in a row to Wake.

Oct. 27 (Thurs.) at Virginia Tech – Loss. We were lucky last time in Blacksburg. Expect things to revert to normal.

Nov. 5 at North Carolina – Win. I was not impressed with UNC.

Nov. 12 N.C. State – Loss. After a down year, I expect NC State to be much improved.

Nov. 19 at Maryland – Loss. I’ll probably be at this game too. Like NC State, I just don’t see them being bad two years in a row.

Final record: 7-4. Hopefully that will be enough to get a Peach Bowl bid. More likely -- another third tier bowl.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Thank you Dan Coleman

I thought about this post in the shower this morning. Too bad Andy Katz beat me to the angle. Regardless, the homesick Gopher might have been the luckiest break BC fans ever had. Dan Coleman was a well regarded recruit from the Twin Cities. He arrived early in 2003 to practice with the team and take some classes. He was gone by August. Reportedly homesickness(but I've heard other things). Anyway, with a free scholarship, Al and Company took a flyer on a lightly recruited kid fom SoCal. A year and half later the recruit, Jared Dudley, is easily the third best player of the Skinner era (and over four years he may have a chance to be better than Bell and Smith). Last night he capped off a career-high scoring night with two clutch free throws with 5 seconds left as BC beat 'Nova 67-66. The Eagles remain undefeated and are now 4-0 in the Big East. Jared is skinny and doesn't always look pretty, but he has a great feel for the game, makes plays and does the little things. What a find. Now I don't think BC can maintain this pace for the season, but I do think this early success and combo of close wins and blowouts speaks well for their chances in March. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

More wins, no love

The basketball team beat another ranked team on Sunday and remain undefeated. Yet they are only No. 9 in both polls. Not sure what it's going to take to get some attention. Meanwhile it is the second longest win streak in school history.

I love the way they are playing right now. Sure they struggled earlier in the season and squeaked some wins, but that's history. On Sunday after a neck and neck first half, they pulled away on the road against the best West Virginia team in years. Really aggresive D. This might be Al's best team. Hopefully they'll keep it up and get on TV here and there. The internet is not doing them justice. Happiness in the ATL.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Book club

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Mrs. ATL_eagle surprised me at Christmas with a book that I’ve been meaning to read, Every Week a Season. In it, Brian Curtis documents the ins and outs of a program during the college football season. He spent a week at nine schools, including Boston College. It was a fascinating (for me anyway) book to read during Bowl Week. So first let me give an overall review and then I’ll dive deeper into the TOB chapter.

If you are a fan of any of the schools featured (BC, Maryland, Tennessee, LSU, Arizona State, Colorado State, Georgia, Wisconsin, and Florida State) read this book. It is not an expose. Yet the Coaches gave Curtis access to everything. (This unique perspective probably required a positive treatment for the coaches.) But even diehards might learn a thing or two about their favorite team. Some of the chapters get repetitive and I would have liked more on the players and assistants. A solid effort and quick read, overall. ATL_eagle Grade: B

As mentioned in the review, all the coaches come off well. This is to be expected. Yet, reading between the lines and comparing the coaches to each other is inevitable. In this I would say TOB comes off well, yet all the BC fans’ points of aggravation with TOB were on full display. Curtis confirms TOB’s role as a “steward” of the program. Most of the planning falls on the coordinators. This is similar to some of the other coaches featured (namely the more established ones like Bowden and Alvarez). Yet, Nick Saban – who seems to do more coaching than TOB – paraphrases a Buddy Ryan concept that captures the head coaching dilemma: “when I became a head coach, I lost my best assistant…me.”

TOB is not totally detached. He approves the gameplans and adjustments. During the 2003 Miami game (the week Curtis covered) TOB was actively challenging the coordinators about breakdowns and adjustments. The lasting TOB mark on the program is probably the structure he has built. The perception of rigid, predictable order is reality. In the book, his players even admit to the occasional boredom with the way things go. Ever the Marine, Curtis describes TOB’s locker as the most orderly he saw. This order has resulted in a well coordinated recruiting system, third-tier bowls and a collection of mostly solid citizens on the field. There was no indication in the book that TOB is doing anything to make us any more than that.

And one last nitpick; all my talking points were worked in. This just confirms that Sports Information and TOB helped shape Curtis’ image of the program.

I also just finished Stewart O’Nan and Stephen King’s Faithful. It is a shared diary of the 2004 Boston Red Sox season. Another solid effort. I felt the book suffered from a little too much game-by-game recapping by O’Nan and not enough Stephen King. I am not a Sox fan, but I respect the passion these two have. The diary of a diehard helped inspire this blog. Going forward, I’ll try to avoid the recaps, since most readers can get that elsewhere and try to stick to the King style contributions (essays on the team, unique nuggets and the emotional reactions of being a fan). ATL_eagle Grade: B

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Crystal ball

Many critcs and fans question our ability to compete in the ACC, but it looks like some of the pundits have come around. The AJC's Tony Barnhart (whom I like) thinks we'll be a Top 25 team next year, and's Pat Forde thinks we'll challenge for a Top 25 spot. What does the ATL_eagle think? I'll let you know once I hear a little about spring practices.

Last laugh

Leaving the Big East was a no brainer and every school in our situation would have done the same thing (all of them tried behind the scenes). Yet it sparked plenty of ugly behavior from the remaining Big East schools. The most outspoken and obnoxious critics were Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and UConn basketball coach Jim Calhoun. All this background made last night’s upset of No. 9 UConn that much sweeter. BC won 75-70 with Craig Smith on the bench most of the game in foul trouble. I didn’t see the game, but based on the gametracker, radio broadcast and highlights, it appears that we played very aggressively on D; attacking the ball and breaking up passing lanes. I am really excited about the season and love sticking it to UConn, their slanderous coach and their bottle throwing fans.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Final rankings

The Final AP and Coaches Polls both ranked BC at #21. With a Top 25 ranking, two wins over ranked teams, a 9-3 record, a shared conference championship and a bowl victory, on paper this season would appear to be TOB's most impressive. But these accomplishments don't relieve the pain I feel from the narrow defeats against Pitt and Wake and the no show against Syracuse.

Plus I will be hearing about these accomplishments ad nauseam from BC PR machine for the next nine months.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Mail time

Much to my surprise, I received email from a North Carolina fan before the game regarding my scouting report and then after regarding my assessment that the Heels are not well coached. With his permission, I am starting a mailbag using part of his second email.

“…can you really say that he was out coached? One fake kick broke our back. Before that the game was pretty even.”

I agree that the fake was the turning point. And by saying that Bunting is a bad coach, I don’t want to imply that TOB is Lombardi. But, before the kick Peterson was moving the ball…again. Bunting – a defensive guy – did not seem to be making adjustments to our above average O. BC is not Utah or Louisville. The 37 points was the highest scoring output of the year. Failing to adjust to our boot action was the most obvious lack of coaching.

The other was the dichotomy of second-half calls. We stubbornly stuck to the ground and really started to wear on your guys. Your offensive coaches turned away from the run when it had fair to good success in the first half. Also, Durant is a playmaker, but not a great passer. Instead of the mid-range throws (that he and your receivers had problems with), you should have tried more deep balls. You obviously scouted us well enough to know that it would work, yet only went deep a few times, even after scoring on a deep TD.

I am sure I’ll have more info on Bunting as our series continues. Thanks for the email. Any other readers can email me your comments and questions here.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Postgame report

Final Score: BC 37, UNC 24

Good overall game. Indicative of our season: good returns, lapses on D, Peterson moving the ball, poor kicking, and a huge special teams play when needed. I won't do too much post game analysis since it is stale now (Jan 1, 2005) and there will be plenty to say about BC football before next season's opener.

I watched from my in-laws' beach house. As mentioned earlier, I was so letdown after 'Cuse that I had no desire to change vacation plans for the Tire Bowl. Mrs. ATL_eagle could tell I was off too, because it took me a while to get into the game.

Paul Peterson finished his BC career in gutty fashion. Fighting through the broken hand only to snap his leg in the fourth. You'll be missed Paul P. Further gushing about Peterson will appear on this blog in the offseason.

For any UNC fans reading...I feel for you. Bunting is not running a good program and you guys are probably stuck with him for at least another two seasons. I think UNC has talent, but they are not well coached. Some bad schemes. Bad tackling and too many arm catches from the wideouts and tight ends.

Always good to end the season on a high note. And here is a funny TOB picture that should bring a smile to any fan's face.

Also, I am reading Stewart O'Nan and Stephen King's diary of the Red Sox season. Their idea somewhat inspired this blog. I am half-way through and will give a final review when I finish the book.