Sunday, November 27, 2005

Leaving Las Vegas

Earlier this year, basketball super blogger Kenpom endorsed the one game theory. In short, one loss is not indicative of a team’s ability. I was going to use this as my theme when I thought BC was going to lose to Drake on Friday. BC pulled it out. Then again, I was ready to apologize when the team fell 13 behind OK State on Saturday. No need. BC won again. These two tough victories in the Las Vegas Invitational were the best thing I think could happen to BC’s basketball team. First they survived two tight games. That builds confidence heading into the ACC regular season and hopefully into March. Second it was a wake up call that as talented and experienced as this team is, no game is a gimme. Until there is a change of status on Sean Williams, BC has a short bench and some defensive challenges. If BC had waltzed through the Las Vegas Invitational, I think they would have built up a false sense of invincibility. Now they know any team on their schedule can beat them and they can beat any team on their schedule. BC survived similar scares early last year en route to the school's best start.

Drake was scary. Dr. Tom provided a blueprint on how to play BC -- full pressure. I expected as much after we struggled with UW-Milwaukee last season.

Oklahoma State is not ranked but I think they will be a tournament team. That should help our tournament resume.

My concern coming out of the weekend: tempo. BC shouldn’t be playing games in the 70s. While we have plenty of people who can score, it doesn’t play to our strengths. We are better at working the clock to get high-percentage shots in the half-court offense. We are not a particularly good three point shooting team or a great transition team. Up tempo games will cost us eventually.

Other concern: Craig Smith’s foul shooting. Craig is going to get to the line a lot this year. He needs to make a higher percentage than he did this weekend. Or else he will be a liability in close games.

Things I liked: the continued improvement of Jared Dudley. When the games were on the line, he took both over. He also continued his impressive run from the stripe.

I also liked that Rice and Marshall stepped up as reliable scorers. Last year Smith was the focus of our opponents. I worried that this year opponents would try to shut down Dudley and make the other guys beat us. With Marshall and Rice showing they can score in bunches, I think the team has enough balance to pose many challenges to first-time opponents.

Finally I liked Craig Smith’s role (when he was not in foul trouble). Craig has a greater defensive burden this year. For the team to succeed, he needs to rebound and play solid defense against the other team’s big man. He doesn’t need to be the focal point of the offense. Rice and Marshall showed that they can make baskets, so there is no need to force things to Smith. Let him rebound and get points when they come. He might get frustrated, but the scouts will like seeing him progress in this area.

Overall this is a good start heading into Maryland and Michigan State.

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