Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Mini update: Keys to the game

Crazy day so here are a few quick thoughts before game time. This should be a simple rematch. Wake looks like a broken team so I expect BC to come out control and not let up. There are still plenty of pitfalls. Here is what needs to happen.

Get Dudley involved in the post early. I expect Smith to still be a little fatigued. Wake did a good job on collapsing on Craig last game. Get Dudley the ball in the same role this game and have him either suck in the defense or dominate his man in the low post.

Go back to Rice. Tyrese has struggled of late. There is no better way to get him back on track than to get him the ball against the team he killed earlier this month. I expect Wake to adjust, which would mean he can penetrate and distribute. Whatever he does it should be more than hesitating on 3s and flying blind down the lane.

Come out strong early. Like I said, Wake is a broken down team. They have talent but are starting to mail it in. There is no reason to give them any hope. BC has lacked the killer instinct this year. Hopefully this is the game were it finally surfaces.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Where we are going and where we aren’t (basketball edition)

All kidding aside BC fans do care who and where we will play. After each Lunardi update there is a series of posts on Eagle Action about what it means. Like any snapshot in time, it doesn’t mean much. The tournament is not starting today, so saying where we would land if it did end today is a fun, but ultimately pointless exercise. However, you can say where we won’t play -- Atlanta and Greensboro. How do I know? Well it would take a total meltdown for Duke not to get a No. 1 seed. If the Dukies get their spot, they will be placed in the Greensboro pod and in the Atlanta region. Since it only looks like four ACC teams will be in the tournament, I think it is safe to predict that the remaining ACC teams (UNC, BC and NC State) will be dispersed over the other regions.

I think it is highly probably for us to end up in the Philadelphia bracket. This is my reasoning: The Philly bracket will have a Big East team as its No. 1 seed (UConn or ‘Nova). I don’t think they would put another Big East team as that bracket’s No. 4 or No. 5 (and it looks like the Big East will have a bunch of 4s and 5s). Therefore an ACC team like BC would be a perfect fit.

We’ll see how it plays out. Depending on our finish BC could be anywhere from a 3 to an 8.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Tin-foil hat time

An unidentified BC fan on Selection Sunday in 2003

With the win, BC has pretty much locked up a NCAA Tournament bid. However, any real BC fan knows that we are going to get screwed by the selection committee. Rational people will say past slights were due to our schedule, RPI, our finish…whatever. We really know what goes on behind those close doors. The committee gets together and says “can we keep BC out?” In most years we make it really hard. We are either unquestionably deserving or below .500. If we are on the bubble, the only thing you can count on is an NIT bid.

If the committee has to let us in, then they go out of their way to underseed us, put us against the same teams over and over, or put these “neutral site” games into defacto home games for our opponents.

Since many of the usual suspects that always end up in our immediate bracket are out or nearly out (Georgia Tech, Indiana, Utah, Kentucky, etc.) the committee will have to get more creative in the way they screw us. Here are some of their early plans. And even though BC is bound to be underseeded, we will still have to be at least a 7. A 7 means a lot of the committee’s machinations won’t happen until the round of 32.

Put BC in a huge disadvantage road game. I know with the new “pods,” the games are less neutral, but look for any of these uphill battles for BC: Texas in Dallas. Villanova in Philadelphia. Ohio State or Cincinnati in Dayton. Michigan or Michigan State in Auburn Hills. Utah St in Salt Lake City. UCLA in San Diego.

A storyline game. This is were BC becomes the sacrificial lamb for a good story. Last year it was facing BC alum Bruce Pearl. This year don’t be surprised to see BC vs. Tennessee or Pearl Part II.

Big East revenge game. The Big East is seemingly going to have 16 teams in the tournament (if BC was still in the Big East the number would only be 15) so saying we are bound to play one of them is not a stretch. But my money is on a “bad blood” game. So I don’t expect us to face any of the basketball-only schools, or one of the newbies from Conference USA. No, we will face a school that sued us like Pitt, West Virginia or inevitably UConn.

You’re not paranoid if everyone is out to get you. You may think I am crazy, but after I am proven right on Selection Sunday, you’re welcome to come and watch BC’s opening game in my bomb shelter. Just bring some canned food.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

NC State thoughts

That is the type of game that you’re relieved to win and devastated when you lose. Congratulations to Al for becoming BC’s winningest coach. (I’ll write a tribute to Al later this week.) As I said, this puts us in the Tournament, pretty much locks up a first-round bye in the ACC Tournament and showed this team can win a tight game on the road. Here are my thoughts:


Sean Williams. Regular readers know how I feel about the guy. This performance was unforgettable. The blocks, the deflections, and the added benefit of a few rebounds…outstanding game. He really carried the team in the OT. This team is still too helter skelter to be a lock for a deep run, but Williams is an element that makes me think we can. I was talking to the Evil A after and mentioned my theory: to go far in the tournament you need a few guys who can take over the game. As we stand now, Dudley, Smith, Williams and to a lesser extent Rice have shown they can take over games. They all have clear Achilles heels, but if they all get hot in some sequence, we can beat anyone.

The rebounding and perimeter defense. NC State shot 35 threes. Yes they still made 11, but BC did a much better job guarding the outside and of course grabbing the misses.

The overall defense. NC State is a good offense, and they had the chance to win the game on one possession four different times. BC came up huge in each.

Craig Smith’s game. He was exhausted and made some fatigue mistakes in overtime, but the guy had a monster game.

Sean Marshall. His shot selection still bothers me, but the guy made his free throws, and best of all worked down low. He is walking mismatch (in our favor on one end and our weakness on the other). We should use him down low since he can rebound and is a good post player.


The offensive play calling coming out of timeouts. The only apology I will make is that the guys were exhausted, but there was major confusion on nearly every late possession. Three times in Al’s career, BC has been bounced from the NCAAs after screwing up late possessions. Today was another example of late game ineptitude. How does Craig take that 3? How do we not go to Dudley to make something happen? If we are in a close game in March, I’ll be amazed if we make the right calls.

Tyrese Rice’s offense. He is super talented, but man he can get hot and cold. Today was cold. The worst part is that when he is not making his 3s, he starts to hesitate or goes flying wildly down the lane. I like the idea of driving to the basket, but give it to the finishers.

McLain’s defense. The guy was playing really well for most of the season, but he has been totally lost the last two games. He is not expected to do much, so the least he should do is not lose track of his defensive assignments.

Great win. The guys from StateFansNation weren’t impressed with our performance, but I like our chances in March. Now let’s finish strong, get revenge against Duke, and then make something happen in the Big Dance.

Friday, February 24, 2006

One game; many implications

Saturday’s rematch against NC State is not a must win, but BC’s performance will tell us a lot about their chances going forward.

A BC win would mean…
The first loss (and Virginia) were just off nights and this team is as good as the hype. A win would pretty much lock up a high seed for the ACC Tournament, provide another quality win for the RPI and eliminate any bubble talk.

A close loss would mean…
This team still has heart. NC State needs this win almost as much as BC, so it should be a dog fight. BC needs a solid effort after the first NC State debacle. A close loss still hurts RPI and leaves us on the bubble, but it would help morale.

Another blowout would mean…
The season is over. It would clearly put BC back on the bubble. But if this team doesn’t show up on Saturday, there is little to look forward too. If they give a lackadaisical effort on the road coming off a tough loss against a team that embarrassed them earlier this season, is there any reason to think they will play hard in the NCAAs?

I like our chances tomorrow. BC hasn’t been swept in a regular season series since 2002. I am predicting a win, a strong finish next week and a pretty good ACC tourney run.

Starting with CMU

BC resolved its bizarre scheduling snafu. We will open the season Thursday August 31 at Central Michigan on ESPN 2. I am not thrilled about our non-conference slate and would have preferred we used the Ohio U bail out to schedule a BCS opponent. However, this is not bad on the whole. It is on TV and gives the team a chance to work the kinks out before taking on Clemson. Now that the schedule is finalized (for real this time), I will start thinking about my predictions. Part of me could say 8-4 right now and be done…but there is a little voice inside my head that thinks this year could be special. We’ll see if I come to my senses.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Quick links

Most readers have probably read the story of BC grad Tyler Jewell already, but it merits one more link. I really have not been caught up in these Olympics, but love the people in fringe sports getting their chance to shine and honor friends (even when they are not connected to BC).

Here is a story on Denver's draft and potential need on the defensive line. Kiwi is the focal point of their "what if"s regarding the 3-4 defense.

An ACC preview from CollegeFootballNews.com. CFN is frustrating for me...they have a great concept and platform, but often fail to deliver. This article is just another example. They have some good things to say, but there is too much non-news and little analysis cluttering anything of interest.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Caught in a trap: UVA thoughts

Bad game. Bad effort. And as much as it pains me to say -- bad coaching. I still consider this a trap game since we have a bigger game around the corner, but the lackadaisical efforts the last two weeks is very disconcerting. This team has the talent to make a Final Four run. They could just as easily get bounced in the first round. I am at a loss. Here are my thoughts on last night’s game:

Likes (very few):

Craig Smith’s game. Certainly not his best but better than some recent duds. Sometimes it feels like we force things to Craig. Last night his points came within the flow. Some big rebounds too. The only guy who can really hold his head up.

Jared Dudley’s perimeter defense. Dudley had a lot wrong with his game but I wish others followed his lead around the arc. Instead of chasing, he squares his body low, gets in good position and uses his hands (three steals). No flailing at a lost man. No missed assignments. And no landing on his ass.


Everybody but Dudley’s perimeter defense. Granted UVA was hot, but we looked terrible. There is so much wrong that I will break it down into a few digestible parts.

--McLain, Rice and Marshall all lost men due to ball rotation (McLain wasn’t even in his man’s zip code a few times). We’ve used the ameba for years (with effectiveness). However the new guys (or slow guys) still get lost in the flow. This cannot happen in March.

-- Marshall has real problems with anyone smaller and faster than him. Why isn’t he using his body more? If the other team starts making Marshall run around screens, we need to yank him. Or at the very least, beat up his man on the offensive end.

-- Rice and Hinnant also looked bad and got burned off the dribble multiple times. Yet getting beat off the dribble shouldn’t be a problem -- we have a huge shot blocker waiting in the paint (like the Miami game). But inexplicably this shot blocker was still coming out to protect against the pick and roll -- leading him to get BEAT OFF THE DRIBBLE TOO! We should’ve realized this right away and said “Lou and Ty, guard your men tight. Sean stay under the basket and swat anything that comes near.” I know Williams did a great job jumping out on the perimeter against Miami and then getting back. It wasn’t working last night so we should’ve gone conservative early.

Transition defense. This was not a case of guys not getting back. More of losing the trailer as he sits on the arc waiting for the kick out. Once again, it is just about hustle and assignments.

Dudley’s scoring. I liked Jared’s D. And he had some really nice passes. But his shooting was off as was Rice’s, Hinnant’s and Marshall’s. Sometimes you just have those nights but I also think they were pressing after Virginia got hot. Instead of trying to answer with 3s we should have gone inside. Eventually the guys started hesitating. The turning point was at 14:15 in the second half. BC was down 11. We missed a few shots but kept getting the rebound. Eventually Hinnant got it to Rice beyond the arc. Rice -- who had missed a ton already -- hesitated on an open look. Singletary stole the ball and made a 3 at the other end. Game over at that point.

Coaching. I am the biggest Skinner fan and apologist around. Last night we had a poor game plan and made too few adjustments to get back in the game.

I really hope this team was looking past UVA towards NC State. At this point I don’t know what to expect.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Guest Blogger: Sexy Results

No one thought UVA would do anything is basketball this year…especially Ian. The Cavaliers have been the surprise of the conference and are poised to be a definite trap game for BC. Ian has agreed to guest blog -- despite his semi-retirement -- again and provide his thoughts on this year's UVA team below.

1. UVA is the surprise of the conference. Is is all Leitao? Could Gillen have posted a few wins with this team and schedule?

Last year, UVA had a grand total of 4 ACC wins. As of today, they have 6, and that’s with a team that lost almost every significant scoring threat in the offseason. You do the math.

Say what you will about Roy Williams replacing the starting five; they have McDonald’s All-Americans at their disposal. While there’s a chance Jason Cain might’ve gotten employee of the month at Krystal, I doubt many of UVA’s players got any sort of high school accolade. The Hoos were picked to finish last in the weakest ACC in years, and rightfully so. The fact that they’ve even eyed the bubble this late in the season should make Dave Leitao a lead pipe cinch for ACC Coach of the Year.

Credit where credit’s due to Leitao, but a large part of the sea change in Hoo basketball can be chalked up to the fact that Pete Gillen is no longer on the sidelines. Were it just a matters of straight-up wins and losses, I think Gillen might be still sweatin’ it up at U-Hall, but a confluence of factors poisoned the well to the point where the average fan’s feelings towards the team shifted from indifference to outright hostility.

In some ways, Gillen happened to have an inordinately low amount of luck for an Irishman. Yeah, the situation that Leitao came into was pretty bad, but cleaning up after Jeff Jones probably required Gillen to rock a Hazmat suit for the first five months. Everyone from the 1995 class ended up transferring or in jail (see: Courtney Alexander), and during mine and Gillen’s first year at UVA, the roster had the skills of a mid-level Missouri Valley team.

Instead of being the rock at point guard he was expected to be coming out of Brooklyn, Majestic Mapp attempted to break the NCAA record for injury exemptions. In his second year, UVA finished 19-10 with a 9-7 conference record and became the only team in ACC history to miss out on the tournament with an above-.500 mark. Too often, the team would be rewarded for a high conference finish with a de facto away game in the ACC tournament against the likes of Wake Forest or NC State. And the one time that he did bring UVA to the dance, they got shafted with a 5 seed, and to top it off, they lost a one-point game that let the committee know that they should never seed Gonzaga #12 ever again.

But in the end, the money changed everything. Despite never winning a postseason game of any kind during his first three years, Pete Gillen was rewarded with a 10-year, $9 million extension which paradoxically was short-sighted and crippling in the long term at the same time. That’s right: if you can keep a sinking ship just above water for a two-year span at UVA, you get rewarded with what I like to call the Craig Littlepage Fellowship. It should come as no surprise that the grumblings about Al Groh, months after his whopping $1 million raise, have a very similar tenor to the ones about Pete Gillen in 2002.

Expectations went through the roof, and Gillen was unable to deliver. No one expected him to bring back the Ralph Sampson Era, but if we were only a couple of years removed from reaching the Elite Eight. And yet, under the Craig Littlepage Fellowship, here’s Gillen’s victories in the postseason: Brown (NIT, 1st round. Yes- that Brown), GW (NIT, 1st round), Miami (ACC play-in game). That’s it.

All the goodwill from UVA’s quick turnaround and his affable press conference persona was squandered and the focus went on all the things that were undeniably becoming endemic to Virginia basketball. Players failed to improve over time. Defense was sloppy, if not non-committal. Questionable use of timeouts. The baffling inability to win on the road anywhere.

The worst part was that Virginia really did have some talent on the floor. It’s a little hard to illustrate considering that the only guy to even get a cup of joe on the NBA level was Roger Mason, and I’m pretty sure he and Rick Brunson got traded for each other every February. But the problem is, there was no system and even in the good days, it hardly resembled organized basketball. Adam Hall had the leaping and defensive skills of Andre Iguodala, but he never found a steady spot in the rotation. Donald Hand was fearless to the hoop, but was allowed to freelance too much. Chris Williams won ACC Freshman of the Year and plateaued, never becoming more than a guy who could get you the quietest 15 points you’ve ever seen. Travis Watson gave up five inches to Brendan Haywood and still schooled him. But he never had any other legitimate inside presence to take the heat off. Todd Billet and Keith Friel were pretty much the same guy, white boy transfers with almost Redick-like skills from the foul line and a knack for hitting the clutch three. But they were novelties with limited defensive skills. And the less said about the development of J.C. Mathis, Jason Rogers and Jason Clark, the better.

And worse yet, there was no indication that things would improve. And we weren’t even putting kids who were representative of the University on the floor anymore. Keith Jenifer was straight Baltimore thug, and after an illustrious career of turnovers, missed free throws and calling girls at O’Neill’s “white bitches,” he now plays at Murray State. Donte Minter couldn’t cut it in the classroom, and neither could Gary Forbes, who took his academically ineligible ass to U-Mass. Have all the fun you want with that one.

Gillen was defeated last year, and it showed. Had Todd Billett not made three game-winning shots within a month during the 2003-2004 season, it’s questionable whether Gillen even would’ve been around last season. Gillen had a habit of getting a couple of huge late-season wins to keep the wolves at bay, but the program unquestionably going backwards. Something, anything, had to be done before we attempted to fill an arena that stands to be twice as big as the already difficult to fill University Hall. As I’ll flesh out in Question 2, Leitao is the right guy for the team as it currently stands, but the most important thing for Virginia to do is start fresh in any way possible.

2. The Cavs offensive numbers are still pedestrian, but their adjusted defensive efficiency is surprisingly strong (ranked 48). What is the source of improvement: scheme, attitude or new players?

In terms of defense, when you consider what Gillen was throwing out there, the Hoos might as well be wearing different uniforms this year. They are straight up unrecognizable to me. Last year, UVA had the worst rebound differential in the ACC by a large distance, and now they’re in the top four, despite not having any legitimate post threat. This is completely attributable to the new regime. Fundamentally, UVA rebounds so well these days, it’s almost funny to watch. They boxed out so hard against ‘Zona that sometimes long rebounds would take two bounces. In the end, this is why Leitao was the smart choice as a coach in the short-term, and if his recruiting is any indication, in the long-term as well. To be quite honest, there were questions on how much Leitao could energize the community; while no one said it was a bad choice, it wasn’t a particularly sexy one. We got complimented in the same way people get props for picking a car with good gas mileage or taking a scholarship to Penn State instead of spending $30,000 a year to go to Penn.

But in the end, it made the most sense considering the alternatives. Most of our choices were a little too pipe dreamy (Rick Carlisle, Rick Barnes, Tubby Smith…who we might’ve been able to get if we waited a year) or clearly not that much of an improvement over Pete Gillen (Mike Brey, Karl Hobbs). And of course, there was the near-miss that would’ve sent stock in Charlottesville Pitchfork-and-Torch through the roof (Dave Odom).

For me, it was down to Leitao and my personal choice, Mark Iavaroni. The latter would’ve been the more creative choice, and he did bring a lot to the table, being an alumni and a big cog in creating the NBA’s most exciting attack (Phoenix). But there was no way that Iavaroni could’ve gotten off to a start this successful with the current roster. And moreover, I think UVA needed to go a different direction, because Gillen ran a running offense too. As the Chicago Bears have proven, the easiest way to mask offensive deficiency is to slow the game down and emphasize defense. Which leads us to #3…

3. All the improvements aside, is the key to beating UVA as simple as shutting down Sean Singletary?

Besides J.J. Redick, no one is more important to their offense in the ACC than Sean Singletary. Okay, he had just shot 3-21 against Georgia Tech, but he was out against Fordham, and we lost. At home. Granted, that probably doesn’t happen in January or 49 out of 50 times, but when Singletary struggles, the shooters just aren’t there yet to pick up the slack. J.R. Reynolds has become a good second option, but the recipe for a UVA win is to get Singletary and Reynolds to lead the way and some timely buckets (preferably on offensive rebounds) from Jason Cain and Milauskas.

Fortunately, Leitao is addressing this on the recruiting trail. His class for next year is easily Top 50 and possibly Top 25, having received commitments from places like Philadelphia, Stockbridge, GA, Gary, IN and Dallas, GA. While I am a little concerned about the reliance on outside talent (a trademark of the Gillen Era), I think that will hopefully change once the kids see the John Paul Jones Arena and UVA becomes a hot program.

For more on UVA and camp life in the Poconos check out Sexy Results.

Monday, February 20, 2006

President’s Day

This holiday used to be about Washington and Lincoln. Now it is a catch all for every U.S. president. Allow me to further tweak it by honoring Boston College’s current President, William P. Leahy, SJ.

It is not easy replacing a legend. Leahy’s predesscor, Father Monan was an icon at BC and often aknowledged as the savior of the school. When Leahy took over I don’t think anyone worried that he would keep the academic or fundraising aspects of the school on track. However, many wondered what this supposed sport novice would do to the Athletic Department. It didn’t take long to test him as the football and basketball teams had full off the field meltdowns in Leahy's first year. The way he handled both, the two important coaches he hired (TOB and Skinner) without any real input from our then lame-duck athletic director, and the ACC expansion will be Leahy’s lasting legacy with BC sports. For all the complaints I (and other BC fans) have about BC athletics, there is no denying that since Leahy’s hire, BC has produced numerous quality and championship teams and poured millions of dollars into our athletic facilities.

I’ve spoken to Leahy (albiet briefly) about BC sports. I don’t think he could tell you what happened in the overtime of the 1997 BC-Miami game…and I don’t think he gets nearly as frustrated or emotional as I do during games, but he does care about the team, the coaches and the fans. His care and his administrations continued support is appreciated.

I’ve seen plenty of highs and lows, but I would like to thank Father Leahy for his leadership and the success of BC athletics.

Friday, February 17, 2006

3rd Down Data: How does BC measure up?

Brian, the father of the blogpoll, has just created another cool tool for college football fans. He took the 3rd down numbers for all teams and graphed each individual unit against DI-A. Where does BC stack up? Take a look:

On 3rd down on offense, we are very efficient in short yardage situations and well above the college average. Conversely, in thirds and long, we struggle. I think this confirms many fans complaints about Porter’s willingness and/or ability to throw the ball downfield. It would be interesting to break out Ryan and Porter’s efficiency numbers separately.

We took more risks on defense this year and I think it shows. Our short yardage numbers are very strong as well as our third and very long. However, the third and 9 through third and 11 are below average. So much for bend but don’t break.

This is the distribution of our 3rd downs. According to the data we had more third and shorts than the average college offense. We also had fewer third and longs. This sort of speaks to my belief that Bible is better than most people give him credit for.

Defensively the distribution is a little more scattered. We are in fewer third and short situations, which is good. In turn this means that we defend more third and long situations. I guess this speaks to our strong run performance last year.

This final graphs is the raw numbers on offense Brian used to calculate this stuff. Please go to his blog to check out more cool stuff and analysis.

Miami thoughts

Everyone took the tale of two halves angle (one column in the Herald, Herald game story and Globe game story). I understand why the writers would go this way and watching the disinterested huddle in the first half really made me think that these guys don’t care. But I am starting to see something different. I think this is a veteran team that has confidence that it can and will win every game. They just need to figure how a team is beating them and then they (and Al) adjust. So where others see a lazy team coasting for stretches, I see a veteran team with limitations struggling with what the other team is doing. Once they figure it out and adjustments are made, they take over (Clemson’s pressure late, Miami’s collapsing zone, etc).


Team defense. The stats don’t jump out, but this team is really playing well defensively. The rotations and help are much better and I see fewer and fewer opponents with open looks. They also did a good job getting rebounds on Miami’s missed 3s.

Craig’s passing out of the post. It was mentioned during the game, but needs to be noted again. Now that we have outside shooting, Craig is that much more dangerous. In the second half he did a good job getting it back outside. Craig has been somewhat neutralized in the first half of recent games. I think we need to force the ball through him earlier. It gets him going and opens up the rest of the court.

Sean Williams’ play. Not an impressive stat line, but his contributions go beyond paper. He alters shots and changes the way teams play us. He is getting much better and slowing pick and rolls. He is quick and can jump out at the ball handler and then get back in place. Plus his dunk was sweet!


Craig working the refs. Craig hasn’t been getting many calls his way of late. Yet he is constantly talking to the refs, or worse pouting after non-calls. There was one case in the first half when he got decked on a drive. Miami got the rebound and pushed the ball down the court. Craig stayed seated with his hands raised looking for the foul. I know it sucks to get decked, but he’s got to get up in those situations and get back on defense.

John Oates not getting the calls. I am not an Oates fan but this guy cannot catch a break. I can’t think of a borderline call that hasn’t gone against him in weeks. His fourth foul last night was clearly charging, yet they always seem to call things on him. Other than not playing him, there is nothing Al can do. I don’t think he wants to or should talk to the refs. He should use those conversations to help Smith and Dudley.

Things are going according to plan. Virginia will be a tough game, but nothing this team hasn’t seen before.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Turning points

The first BC-Miami game was a turning point for BC. The Eagles came into the game still trying to prove themselves and overcome their slow ACC start. Although Miami entered the first matchup with six losses, the Canes were riding high with wins over ranked UNC and Maryland. Since that game both teams have gone in opposite directions. BC built off the Miami win and is 6-1 since. Miami is 3-3 since the first matchup and has let winnable games slip away.

The Miami game also served as a turning point for two players -- Tyrese Rice and Sean Willaims. Rice’s late 3 showed he could be a clutch shooter and Williams defensive stops were the first sign of the player who changed games defensively as a Freshman.

Where does that leave us tonight? BC wants to build on its improving record and solidify a bye in the ACC tournament. Miami desperately needs a win to keep their bubble from bursting.

What does BC need to do? This is overly simple, but rebound and hope Miami doesn’t make its 3s. The ‘Canes take a ton and made 10 in the first matchup. I would like to see Rice and Haynes get more time since they are our best perimeter defenders. Miami’s defense has been slipping of late and their current adjusted Defensive Efficiency is not that much better than BC’s. This game should be a BC win, but they haven’t made anything easy lately.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

What's up with Williams?

Considering he is a role player, Sean Williams generates a lot of discussion among BC fans. Part of it is expectations. Part of it is his highly-public offseason screwup. Many thought he would return and dominate. Instead it has been moments of brilliance combined with long periods on the bench, mistakes on the court and a few stretches where he looks like a contributing ACC center. His numbers are down and many are saying he is regressing. I’ve seen bits and pieces that make me think he is about to turn the corner and believed that his numbers only seem down due to reduced playing time and games. In an effort to see if my hunch was right, I broke down his per minute averages from last season and this one.

Blocks per min0.1350.096
Steals per min.0.0150.029
rebounds per min0.2020.188
points per min.0.2410.179

So on a whole his blocks, points and rebounds are down. His steals are up. But his pace on most of these stats is in line with last season. Certainly not progress but clearly not the regression that many fans are claiming. Where does he go from here? The first Miami game marked a beginning. Sean dominated defensively in the closing minutes. Maybe the second Miami game will mark another step up and his play will get better and better down the stretch. Or he could just keep going at his current pace and this will be his lost season. I hope for the former.

Beanpot fallout

Congrats to the BC women for winning their version of the Beanpot.

Throw the book at this guy. Mascot violence is funny in theory (I still laugh when Ace Ventura takes the first swing at the Eagle mascot). In reality this guy is a total dick. What sort of jerk tackles another person who is trying to entertain a crowd on ice? Think of it this way: would this guy have been arrested if he climbed the boards and tackled a cheerleader? Instead he was just kicked out of the game and is now being summonsed. If a BC student did this, I would feel the same way. I love stupid college jerkiness as much as the next guy but taking someone defenseless and hooded down (and Baldwin is often a girl underneath) is just lame.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A night to forget

I was in class last night, so I had to rely on scoreboard updates for Beanpot and Stony Brook results. Neither were good.

At the Garden, BC lost to BU again. I've been saying that I don't care...I lied. Not intentionally. It is just that seeing us lose to BU again pissed me off more than I expected it would. We can spin in it in a variety of ways (BU puts all their eggs in this basket, NCAA Championships mean more, etc.) but they own the Beanpot. Since it is only one game and the people change year to year, I am not sure what BC can do to break the BU strangle hold on the Beanpot Trophy. There's always next year...

Back at the Heights Stony Brook gave BC more trouble than they expected. I didn't hear the game and had a tough time figuring out what went wrong. You can attribute it to playing down to your opponent, and a little fatigue from the weekend, but that doesn't explain it all. Most of the recaps took the "lazy" angle. Fortunately the Herald came through with a reasonable explination:

"On virtually every possession, the Seawolves ran 20-25 seconds off the shot clock before looking to run their offense. The fact BC (20-5) allowed Stony Brook to dictate the pace irritated coach Al Skinner."

Based on the score, I suspected Stony Brook was stalling and I agree with Al that BC should be able to overcome this, but how come all the other writers took the lazy angle? This is just another example of good and bad coverage out there...that as well as the recent anniversaries of two of my favorite blogs (EDSBS and Gunslingers) and Ian's rambling epic to Valentine's Day got me thinking again about the mainstream media vs. bloggers. I have an I have Unabomber-like manifesto sitting on my hard drive on the topic. It is sprawling and lacks focus because there are so many things I want to say. I may unleash it one day. I may not. I will just say this in summation: thank goodness for competition and cheap technology. It rewards good work. Guys like LD, Orson and Ian can find loyal audiences that are searching for more than the rote stuff coming out of much of the mainstream sports media. The mainstream media still does some great things, but like all of us, they could always do better. Fortunately for all of us, good bloggers are raising the bar for everyone.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Snow day links

While friends and family in the Northeast dug out of waste-high snow, I had to brave a dusting that is probably melted by now...just another reason to love Atlanta. For those of you who are stuck at home, here are a few links to pass the time:

Tonight is the Beanpot final. While it us purely a bragging rights trophy, it does mark a turning point in the season. Everything from here on out is about getting hot for the NCAA tournament.

In a questionable scheduling move, BC hosts Stony Brook in basketball. And Al moves closer to becoming BC’s winningest coach. (I’ll give Al his due in the next few weeks.)

USA Today recognized our recent run.

Stony Brook comes into this game in a funk. I would call BC a strong favorite, but there is no betting line for the game.

Don't you hate when someone dispels something you firmly believe with actual facts and data? Well Kenpom shows that Duke doesn't get all the calls.

Hats off to the 200 people that braved the blizzard to see the BC women beat Miami. I cannot imagine what Conte felt like. It should be noted that like the men, the women righted the ship after a rough ACC start.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Clemson thoughts

Bobby Cremins drove me nuts during last night’s broadcast, but he was dead on about one comment -- BC needs to learn to put teams away. This game was in control and BC let Clemson back in. The forcefulness of the final minute -- when BC took back the upperhand – should have come into play five minutes earlier. Here are my takeaways.


Defense. Although the stats don’t show it, I thought last night might have been the best defensive effort of the season. The only reason the game was as close as it was were due to the difference in 3s made and some easy baskets Clemson got off of turnovers. The half court defense looked strong. Good rotations. Good switches. Shutting down of passing lanes. Getting Clemson to eat too much of the shot clock. Good effort by everyone.

Williams final minutes. Like with any savant, you put up with a lot of B.S. and ugliness for those moments of brilliance. When Clemson went small, Williams was a killer waiting in the paint. Especially in the final minute.

Sean Marshall playing close to the basket. This is where he should be. It is pretty clear that teams are going to shut down Smith and Dudley and force the rest of the team to beat them. Rice stepped up against Wake. Marshall stepped up against Clemson. Whatever he thinks of his shooting skills, it is his size where he usually has an advantage. If Sean sticks to backdooring and rebounding he’ll be a hero.


Ball handling under pressure. Although it hasn’t been an issue of late, it is not because the team has suddenly improved…we just haven’t been challenged much. Even Duke laid off a little. The Clemson tape should give all our remaining opponents any encouragement they need. Rice is very dynamic, but he still gets a little excited and cannot pass over the trap. This is why Hinnant and Rice should be on the floor at the same time -- it helps break the press.

Continued atrocious foul shooting. Nothing analytical to offer. Just sharing my fears. Every point counts. Hinnant missing the Technical…Smith and Rice missing some ugly ones. I guess you could call Dudley’s clutch shots a bright spot.

Stony Brook will be a nice relief from the conference play. I still feel good about the Miami game. The most troubling thing is that there really isn’t a statistical pattern to our wins and losses. I’ve been going over everything trying to look smart or get an interesting take, but there is nothing. We’ve won games when we made foul shots. We won when we missed. We’ve won with turnovers. Won when we’ve been outrebounded. Etc. I guess like last season’s undefeated start, this team doesn’t fit as cleanly into statical models as other winners. Until we win it all, we remain an unproven anomaly.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Tentative Depth Chart

Early this week an Eagle Action poster listed his projected two deep for next fall. Below is mine. I didn't have any true freshman cracking the list. Partly based on TOB's love of redshirting and partly because BC fans have been burned enough by high expectations for kids who never set foot on the Heights.

Looking at this on paper, I really like the team. The questions marks are:
1. Who will start at Tight End given the new depth of the position?
2. Who will start where on the O line (there has been talk of moving Beekman to Center)?
3. How will we account for lack of depth on the D-line (considering how often we rotate d-lineman during the course of a game)?

All that factored in, things look good. (They always do in February.)

Position1st team2nd team
WRTony GonzalezBrandon Robinson
LTGosder CherilusRyan Poles
LGJames MartenShadu Moore
CJosh BeekmanPat Sheil
RGKevin SheridanTom Anevski
RTTy HallCliff Ramsey
WRKevin ChallengerTaylor Sele
FBMark PalmerPaddy Lynch
TERyan ThompsonJon Loyte
TBLV WhitworthAndre Callender
QBMatt RyanChris Crane

PJohn AyersBill Flutie
KRyan OhligerBill Flutie
KRDejuan Tribble Andre Callender
LSDan LennonPatrick Sullivan
DEKeith WillisJim Ramella
DTBJ RajiRon Brace
DTJustin BellJerry Willette
DENick LarkinAllan Smith
OLBBrian ToalRobert Francois
ILBJoLonn DunbarMike McLaughlin
OLBTyron PruittRay Lankford
CBDejuan TribbleTaji Morris
CBKevin AkinsClarence Megwa
FSJamie SilvaLarry Anam
SSRyan GlasperPaul Anderson

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Wake thoughts

One trap avoided. Despite Wake being in disarray, getting this win -- on the road against a talented team, with off nights from our two stars -- should not be overlooked. Here are my takeaways:


Dudley and Smith’s night (with a few expectations listed below). Wake’s collapsing zone was obviously designed to stop Smith and Dudley. It worked. Yet despite their lack of points I really liked many of the things they did. Both had huge games on the boards. It is refreshing to see them attack the glass when other things are not working. Dudley was starting to heat up before he split his lip. Smith didn’t get involved in the offense due to foul trouble and Rice being hot…and it was a good thing. Some nights we just need rebounds. I remember Danya’s last year. He demanded the ball and it hurt the rest of the team. If Craig is big enough to get his points in the flow of the game when things are working well, than so be it.

Rice. It was one of those nights where everything was going in. I don’t expect it every game, but his presence and willingness to chuck it is comforting. He is going to need to work on his passing. Some of his turnovers were obvious showboating displays, but what concerned me was when he would get trapped and try to jump over the pressure. With his size, he is either going to have to keep dribbling or find little moves with his pivot foot to get separation.

Williams growing pains. Williams had another awkward night. But two mistakes stood out and showed me that he is trying and learning. The first was when he was called for a moving screen trying to set a pick for Rice. Not something you would put in an instructional video but another example of him at least trying to contribute offensively. The other mistake that I took as a good sign was when he blocked out his man from the basket on a rebound…which he didn’t get. Wake’s Williams swooped into the recently cleared space and grabbed the uncontested board. What I liked is that Sean is trying to box out and doing a good job on his man. He just needs a little more seasoning to understand what other players are trying to do. Once his feel for the game meets his athletic ability, BC will have an all conference player.


Foul shooting. Missing so many late made the game much more interesting than it should have been. No easy solutions. It just gets scary. Smith’s night worried me the most, since it appeared he fixed his stroke a week ago.

Smith’s foul trouble. Majerus nailed it -- Craig commits dumb fouls. For all of Coach K’s spin on the foul disparity, he was right about one thing: you need to know how to avoid fouls. Craig needs to play smarter. If he is in foul trouble there is no reason to reach for a steal or go for the block. Just play good fundamental ball and get rebounds.

Using Oates. Another slow start at the beginning of the game and the start of the second half. It is not all Oates fault, but he brings so little to the table. His fouls are dumb, not the type that wear on another player and seemingly result in a lot of three point opportunities. McLain is our best option at Center and should be getting most of the minutes.

Another win. Not the perfect game, but a great coming out party for Rice.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Guest Blogger: Chris's Sports Blog (Wake alum)

BC’s 0-3 start in the ACC was bad. Wake Forest’s 1-8 record in conference play is beyond horrid. The Deacons might be one of the most talented teams in the conference so no Eagle fan is taking this game lightly. And if football has taught us anything it is: BC will find unique ways to blow games to Wake Forest.

To get more information on the Deacons I invited Chris from Chris’s Sports Blog to guest blog on his alma mater. Fortunately for Chris’s mental health his blog deals with more than the Deacons. Here are my questions and his take on tonight’s game:

1. Wake Forest is easily the most disappointing team in the Conference and a lot has to go wrong to start 1-8. What do you think the biggest factors were/are in the horrendous start?

I’m not going to lie, I’m real tempted to just write “Skip Prosser” and move on to question #2, but I’ll remember I’m a guest on this blog and will conduct myself in a respectful manner forthwith. (However, I hereby reserve the right to make a joke involving J.J. Redick, A. Rod and a Brokeback Mountain matinee at any point during my future responses. I’m not made of stone, Bill.)

In developing this response, I’ve tried thinking of other possible reasons Wake has performed so poorly this season, but can’t really come up with anything other than Prosser. Clearly, the departure of Chris Paul after his sophomore season killed any chances the Deacs had of being a National Title contender in 2006, but Paul bolting to the NBA wasn’t unexpected. Nor was the graduation of Jamaal Levy, Vytas Danelius and Taron Downey. Players leave school early for the pros and guys graduate; that’s what happens in college basketball.

Wake can’t make any excuses about their pitiful play this season based on that, especially considering the Deacs roster still was pretty good without CP.

With the exception of Duke (and possibly your Eagles), Wake has the most talented team in the ACC. They boast two All-ACC players in Justin Gray and Eric Williams, have an athletic, if erratic, playmaker in Trent Strickland and had a well-regarded recruiting class come in this season. With a merely competent coach, Wake would be 4-4 in the ACC, at worst. With Prosser, they’re 1-8.

Just once it’d be nice to see Wake players move without the ball or create something with ball movement instead of driving recklessly towards the hole every possession. Sometimes I dream about Demon Deacon players boxing out on rebounds and defending the baseline. Then I wake up and watch them lose at home to Virginia Freakin’ Tech and thank my lucky stars I graduated three years ago so I don’t have to watch that crap in person.

Some other quick factors that have contributed to the Deacs brutal season:
1. Free throws. As a team, the Deacs shoot 66% from the line. In pressure situations, that percentage drops to negative-four. It’s amazing how often Wake’s 80% shooter will miss two shots from the charity stripe seconds before their opponent’s 55% shooter makes both. Justin Gray hits FTs at an 84% clip, but almost every time he’s shooting the front-end of a 1-and-1 or has two big FTs late, he’ll blow it. You can set your watch to it. If you don’t already have it set to Prosser calling a timeout with 20 seconds left in the first-half to set-up a play that results in a heaved three-pointer two seconds after the buzzer sounds.

2. Trent Strickland. Whether it’s an easy, breakaway dunk missed because of an attempted 360-reverse-windmill or a contested three-point attempt with 29 seconds left on the shot clock, Strickland always manages to make the stupid play at the wrong time. Oh, he’ll tease you with an unbelievable display of athleticism or a string of drained shots, but just when you let your guard down – WHAM! - he passes the ball to Dick Vitale while calling a timeout he doesn’t have.

3. Who am I kidding, it’s all about Prosser.

2. This team still has enough talent to beat most of its remaining opponents. What does BC have to do to shut down the Deacons and avoid this becoming a trap game?

It’s true, the Deacs have the talent to win any of their remaining games (and that includes their Valentine’s Day trip to Durham). The only question is, will the effort be there?

On Saturday against UVA, Wake was out-hustled and looked generally disinterested for the entire 40 minutes. The Hoos outrebounded Wake 42-22, including 17-4 on the offensive glass. If the Deacs put forth another effort like that, this game won’t be close. However, I’d be surprised if Gray and Williams let the team give such a lackadaisical effort at home (against an ACC newbie, no less), so let’s assume they play hard. If that happens, Wake can beat BC if two of the following four things happen (man, that’s a lot of ifs):

1. Justin Gray is hot. Seven-for-eleven from three-point range hot.

2. They don’t forget about Eric Williams in the middle. Too many times this season Wake has seen their big man in the middle dominate the early portions of the game and then have inexplicably forgotten about him soon after.

3. Somebody else (Strickland, Chris Ellis, Harvey Hale, Michael Drum, Kyle Visser) steps up with a solid 18-point effort.

4. Before the game Skip Prosser gets clipped by the BC team bus.
I’m only kidding of course. There’s no way Kyle Visser will score 18 points.

BC will find the best way to beat the Deacs is to not beat yourself. That’s about as clich├ęd as it gets, but it’s the truth.

Al Skinner would be wise to switch defenses often (including going to the under-utilized 1-3-1 zone) and remind his guards to get the ball inside to Craig Smith and Jared Dudley. If they can get Eric Williams in foul trouble, it will be a long night for the Deacs.

BC doesn’t seem to have an up-tempo offense and they’d be wise to stick with their half-court sets tonight. With some ball movement, they’ll be able to get open shots against Wake’s porous D. The biggest mistake the Eagles can make would be trying to push the ball up the court to take quick shots.

3. You’re pretty vocal in your criticism of Skip Prosser. Given his past flirtations (Pitt) and rumors of his future departure to Cinci, you might not have to deal with him much longer. All that being said: who is the real Skip Prosser? Handcuffed recruiter at Wake whose brilliance will be on display once he returns to a school with more “liberal admissions” or a guy who was in the right place at the right time at Xavier and is being exposed at Wake?

The real Prosser is probably somewhere in between. Nobody can deny the recruiting prowess he has had at both Xavier and Wake Forest (David West, James Posey, Justin Gray, Eric Williams and Chris Paul are just some of the talents Prosser brought to two schools with limited basketball history). And he also makes sure his guys graduate, another trait that endears him to university presidents.

But another undeniable fact about Prosser is his subpar record in the postseason. He has a 6-9 career record in the NCAA Tournament and has only made it to the Sweet 16 once in those trips (despite entering the dance twice as a #2 seed).

Prosser supporters often cite his excellent record in the ACC (prior to this season, only Duke had a better intraconference record since Prosser arrived in Winston-Salem in 2001. And Bill Guthridge was the only coach with a higher ACC winning percentage in his first three seasons), but that’s meaningless if his teams can’t win when it counts. And they don’t.

Wake was so good during conference play during Prosser’s first four seasons because their teams were great. Josh Howard won an ACC Player of the Year award and Chris Paul was a first-team All-American under Prosser. Yet neither could lead their team to the Elite Eight because once March rolled around, running the ball up-and-down the court at a breathless pace stops working and a team has to actually have some semblance of an offensive gameplan. In the regular season it was enough to try and outscore teams, defense be damned. That doesn’t work in the Tournament, as Wake Forest has found out.

If he goes somewhere else, it will likely be more of the same: Solid recruiting, regular season success and postseason disappointment. Eventually everbody there will discover Skip Prosser is a good guy, but a bad coach. Right now, nobody knows that more than fans of Wake Forest basketball.

Check out Chris's Sports Blog for his take on sports, the Redskins, and the many sins of Skip Prosser.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Flex 101

A few weeks ago one of my readers asked about the Flex. It is BC’s base offense in basketball. There are many variations, but the overriding themes are ball movement, plenty of picks and screens, and high percentage shots. Skinner has used it exclusively while at BC. Yet he has tweaked it based on his current players. When Troy Bell was on the team, the movement tended to stretch to the perimeter. The past few years with Smith and Dudley, the movement has become much tighter to the point where it looks like all ten guys are in the paint. The key to BC running it remains patience and passing. Al has always had good passers who look for and often find the cutter or open man.

For further and better explanations, here are some diagrams from the web:

This is a good example of how our offense starts. As I said, we tend to keep the movement closer to the key when running the offense.

This is from ESPN. We play something close to the “Maryland Flex.”

Here is an example that shows various plays out of the Flex.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Bad calls and other things

There is a lot of subjectivity in officiating, so good teams, good players, well-known/intimidating coaches get calls. Over the course of a season, you’d hope these things balance out. I don’t think BC lost the Duke game solely because of the non-call or the imbalance in the number of calls. Yet the disparity in seemingly every Duke conference game is disappointing. Fortunately the ACC noticed. But Duke still gets a free pass from the most influential entity in college sports -- ESPN. Gunslingers rips ESPN a new one each weekend with their College Gameday (football version) reviews…check out their take on ESPN's Duke spin on the basketball version of Gameday. Golden Tornado's take is interesting too. He aggregated some analysis on the controversy and highlights the calls going Duke’s way in close games.

In better news Dudley was named Co-Player of the Week.

The Beanpot is a fun event, but never got me fired up. I would much rather see BC win the Frozen Four. It is a bigger deal at BU where they have nothing else going on. To show what an underwhelming event it is, SI on Campus asked reps from the four schools for their takes. Thankfully Kevin Armstrong acquitted himself well, but the other schools’ writers’ mail in efforts -- given the platform (SI) and the supposed importance of the event – shows how much the Beanpot is lacking.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Quick thoughts...Dudley is back

I didn't see the game, so this is all based on recaps...

A few weeks ago I wondered if we could send Dudley to the line in a pressure situation. (The coaches must have felt the same way, since they had Hinnant taking the technicals.) Yesterday, Dudley proved he is still a great player. If you combine the Virginia Tech game with his Duke effort, I would say he is out of his funk. Best of all, he is stepping up when Smith is in trouble. Look out if they both get hot.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Home stretch

BC enters Saturday’s game at 4-4 in conference. Nine regular games remain and eight of those are in the ACC. This season has been a collection of frustrating moments and glimpses of promise. I think it is fair to say this team has enough talent and poise to beat anyone in the country. They also have enough overconfidence and limitations that they can lose any of these remaining games (they would really have to not show up to lose to Stony Brook).

All that said, I think the team finishes strong. 5-4 still gets them in the NCAA Tournament. But realistically this team should finish 7-2.

My breakdown:

Sweeping Virginia Tech.
Beating Stony Brook with ease.
Splitting with an underachieving Wake Forest.
Beating Clemson.
Beating Miami again.
Beating Virginia (probably our biggest remaining trap game).
Losing, but keeping it close with NC State.

If it plays out close to this, I think it will be a sign of this team’s metal for March. Coming out strong against Virginia Tech will be the first step.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Football notes

Vega covered recruiting and our pending schedule issue with Ohio U pretty well in this article.

My two cents on both:

Recruiting...I like the mix of regions. As I’ve said before I give little weight to the rankings (middle of the pack according to most services). I am concerned about lack of depth on the offensive line. Check back in with me in five years and I’ll tell you how good this group actually was. I also hope to have a recruiting-themed interview with a BC staff member in the next few weeks (we’ll see if Sports Information approves the line of questioning.)

If the Ohio U game falls through, I would love to see us pick up a big game against a BCS opponent instead of another MAC school. I like next year’s team and think starting the season in a big game could be a nice shot in the arm for the program. MAC games don't inspire the team or fan base.

Duke thoughts

If you had told me that Jared Dudley would go for 28, the team would out rebound Duke, only have two more turnovers than Duke, shoot 76% from the line, and hit nine 3s, I would say BC wins.

As we know…they didn’t. It was a great game and a tough loss. So is this a moral victory? No. BC is too experienced to feel good about coming close. However, I did think there was a lot of good to take away from this game.


BC kept it close. This might tread into moral victory territory, but considering this team came back against the best team in the conference with Craig Smith in foul trouble and then went basket for basket at the end, it showed a lot of heart. For every mistake late, (McLain getting beat off the missed foul shot), there was a key heads up play (Haynes steal followed by Hinnant’s timeout). I don’t think BC is the best team in the conference but I now have confidence they can beat anyone on any night and can dig themselves out of big holes. I take solace in the key minutes from McLain and Haynes. We will need them this year and certainly next year.

Jared Dudley. This was reminiscent of some of his big games last year. He did the little things (rebounding) calming guys down, firing the crowd up. And he did the big things like making some big 3s and hitting six of his seven foul shots. Hopefully his mini-slump is over. This might sound silly coming off a loss, but I really believe that as long as BC has Dudley, we have the ability to beat any team in the country.

The atmosphere at Conte. Getting up for the big games has never been a problem for BC fans. It is usually the middle-tier games where our fans sit on their hands. But if BC is ever going to change the fan culture, it will be by building off of the big games. Last night’s “Solid Gold” effort was a good first step.


ACC Officials. I hate whining about the refs…but I am going to do it again. Skinner mentioned the disparity in foul shooting and the Smith calls were questionable, but you know things are unfair when the biggest Duke homer of all time -- Dick Vitale -- screams at the non call on Rice with seconds left in the game. I know a lot of Tech fans and their response to me after this game: “welcome to the ACC.”

The strategy after the Haynes steal. I am not going to hammer Al for this. His strategy is pretty consistent. When BC is down late, he always goes for the easy basket and then fouls. Yet like my criticism of TOB, I think you need to be able to vary form your plan once in a while. I know the 3 is the low percentage shot and he had a small lineup with only one rebounder (Dudley) but sometimes you have to say what the hell. Duke is so solid from the line that you are just going to run out of time doing going for 2 and fouling. If Rice, Dudley or Hinnant had missed a 3 with 18 seconds left, I don’t think you would hear many complaints from BC fans.

After the game, Andy Katz said this contest was important for both teams. Duke pulled out a close one and BC showed they are as good as promised. I agree. If anything, I am glad that it was so close at the end. BC’s last two seasons ended with late game mistakes. Maybe this experience will pay dividends in March.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Guest Blogger: Blue Devil Hoops

We are all familiar with Duke, but I wanted to get a little more info before the game. I asked Paul from Blue Devil Hoops to give us some insight into this year’s team. Go to Blue Devil Hoops throughout the season for more on Duke, ACC basketball and college basketball in general.

1. JJ Redick has added more dimesions to his game. How would you recommend stopping him?

Redick has been very difficult to stop this year. In the past, teams ran out at him at the 3-point line and forced him to put the ball on the floor. This year, though, his inside game has become much more polished, and as a result, forcing him inside just means 2-points instead of three, rather than a stop or a turnover. So what can be done to stop him? Redick lives off screens - some on-the-ball, but mostly off-the-ball to get himself open. They key is to deny the effectiveness of these screens. For on-the-ball screens, the screeners man should show hard to force Redick back a step, and then try to trap him to force the ball out of his hands. He's a much better ball-handler, but he's still not excellent, and I think he's probably vulnerable to an aggressive trap 30 feet from the basket, particularly if it's off a screen on the wing where the sideline can serve as a third defender. And if he finds the open man out of the double team, at least it's someone else taking an open shot, and not Redick. When he's getting screened off-the-ball, you have to bump, grab, hold, etc. to try to keep him from getting free. This will likely result in some foul calls, but it will also wear him out a bit, which could matter if it's a close game late. This can also serve to deny him the ball since it will allow his defender to keep up with him better. But let's be honest - he's still going to go for at least 20.

2. BC will obviously try to follow the Georgetown blueprint. Was that game the way to beat Duke or was it just Georgetown playing the nearly perfect offensive game?

The Georgetown game is a blueprint only for teams that have the capability to do what they did. All five guys played out on the perimeter, and then back-cut on Duke's defense when they tried to jump passing lanes. One of the reasons this worked well is because all 5 guys on Georgetown's team could handle the ball and make good passes, and they could all hit shots if left open at the perimeter. Notice that they used this offense only when Green was playing the 5, not Hibbert, because Hibbert couldn't handle the ball up top well enough to make good passes under pressure, and couldn't shoot well enough to force the defense out on him. From what I've seen, BC doesn't have the personnel to make this run. They don't have the shooters to force the kind of tight coverage on the weakside that would prevent help-side defense from rotating to defend the back cuts, and their bigs - Smith, Oates, and Williams - aren't comfortable enough with the ball at the 3 point line to withstand defensive pressure and make a clean pass.

3. I think Paulus is the key to the game. Am I overlooking another factor?

Paulus is a key, but not necessarily the key - simply because he could have a sub-par game and Redick and Williams could still make this a Duke win. Now, if Paulus has 10 turnovers and no assists, the Devils would almost certainly lose, but I don't think there's anything in his performance history (or BC's defensive history) that would make this likely. More likely is a 5-9 assist, 3-6 turnover, 6-10 point performance, and I don't think that the difference between 10pts, 9 assists, and 3 turnovers and 6 points, 5 assists, and 6 turnovers from him will make the difference in this game.

I think the game comes down a lot more to whether BC plays defense. In conference play, they're 10th in defensive efficiency, but there are reasons to think that could turn around in this game. One of BC's biggest defensive weakness is denying offensive rebounds (they're last in the conference), but getting offensive rebounds is Duke's biggest offensive weakness. BC also has done a good job forcing turnovers, and Duke hasn't been excellent at holding on to the ball. If BC can control the boards and force turnovers, they'll limit the number of shot attempts Duke takes. But that won't necessarily fix everything, because BC's other big problem is FG defense. Part of this comes from weakness on the defensive glass - lots of offensive rebounds for your opponents usually means more easy shots. However, BC has been doing a terrible job defending the 3 - opponents are shooting 46.8% in conference from beyond the arc. They can do a fantastic job on the boards, but if Duke hits at this rate from the outside, the Eagles will be sunk. So I think the key is how committed BC decides they want to be to defense. If they control the defensive boards, force turnovers on 20% or more of Duke possessions, and actually get a hand in the face of Duke's shooters, they'll probably win. Of course, they've only done one of those three things well all year, so it might be too tall a task.

For more on Duke, go to Blue Devils Hoops.