Sunday, December 13, 2009

What to make of the basketball team

Lapses are expected in any basketball season. Skinner teams are notorious for their their hiccups and no shows against some of the worst teams on their schedule. Unfortunately for this team, with the loss to URI, we now have four losses in the first ten games. Even if URI, Harvard and Northern Iowa end up being better than we anticipated, a good team shouldn't have lost all three. Losing all three is a sign of bubbles. It also negates any momentum from the Providence, Michigan, Miami run. Now there is no wiggle room. The team cannot lose another non-conference game and probably needs to win 9+ ACC games. No way we get in with a 8-8 ACC record.

As for Sunday's game, here are my thoughts...

-- Handling the press and free throw shooting are problems...but not the more troubling problems. Both areas have often been an issue for Skinner teams. We still could have won with the turnovers and missed foul shots.
-- The major problem remains defense. URI was 9-15 from 3 (and many of those were open looks) and interior D. How many times did they exploit mismatches or get cuts to the basket?
-- The other issue is our offense. We got impatient on offense and didn't set up the flex enough. We don't need to take 3s. The Dudley-Smith teams rarely took them. Instead we need to work for better shots in the flex. We only had 11 assists! That is troubling. These guys are veterans and should know where to find points in the offense.
-- We need to find a good lineup. Sanders probably tried to do too much tonight, but the bigger problem is that we now lack a good plan for minutes. I think Jackson needs more playing time. I have no idea who should sit more. My guess is that our best lineup is Sanders-Raji-Trapani-Jackson-Paris.

I still have faith. Al tends to pull things together and there is still a lot of talent on this team. But they need to play much, much better from here on out and it starts at D.


Dan Popko said...

I don't disagree with you that that would be our best lineup, but with the exception of small stretches last year when both Trap and Roche were on the floor has Skinner gone to a lineup without either Southern, Dunn or Ravenel. I would have to hope he would have tried that today if Roche hadn't gone down because moving Trapani to the five could only help break the pressure considering he is an at least capable ball handler.

As for the defensive lapses, some of those threes were great shots, others should not have been nearly that open. Sanders d in particular troubled me. I'd argue that on a good day he is the closest thing BC has to a lockdown defender, and I'l give his ankle the benefit of the doubt for little bit of today, but its looked more about effort and desire. He was very lax closing out on shooters and aside from literally one solitary possession in the first half where I'd say he gave max effort for very little reason he just didn't want it on d. On the handful of trips where BC tried a press he was very slow in his pursuit of the ball in the air even though he was playing a more free safety roll. Also I noticed Trapani half-assing his screens alot in the first half and seeming almost disinterested. Idk if its a focus thing or if the team is still down after Harvard, but it better pick up before the South Carolina game and then the start of ACC play. Once Rak gets his legs and gets back in metnally I can only hope it will get better.

ScreamingEagle said...

Another problem was the poor showing from the SuperFans. Yes, it's finals week, but with 9000 students we should be able to get more than 10 fans to the game. There were huge numbers of URI fans there, being very loud and obnoxious, and we had no one to counter that with. It was shameful. We basically gave them the home-court advantage, and it showed. Our superfans need to realize that they can't just show up for Duke and UNC, but that they need to continuously support our team, even at the smaller-name games.

Erik said...

What I'm frustrated about is not that we can't handle pressure, but that it's the 3rd straight year we can't handle pressure and there's no improvement. I won't assume the coaches don't realize it and don't work on it in practice, so how can we show zero improvement in that area?

Our guys are athletic enough that they should be able to move well enough to beat it.

I watch other teams press us and it looks like how a top ranked Kentucky or Duke team would be able to press an unathletic weak team like MIT.

I was a little frustrated by these things 2 years ago, but getting really frustrated about being unable to solve these problems. A fan could easily write off Al Skinner's demeanor, but there's 4 or 5 assistant coaches who see film and are at every practice working with players.

The fact that this team is actually pretty good makes it worse because they're underachieving.

I never got made that the '98-99 team that had walk on Dwayne Pina running the show because they weren't as good as other teams. This year's team is driving me bonkers so far.

At least we know it can get better from here, much better. Once Rakim gets back in game shape and starts taking over, everyone else might feed off that.

Opinionater said...

That is an excellent assessment of BC's performance last night vs. URI and their problems to date. URI was, by far, a superior team with exceptional quickness, athleticism, and a smothering defense. It was a mis-match from the start, all they way to the end.
There was a brief interlude of passion and execution in the second half, cutting the lead to 4 points with 10:00+ to go, but a URI time out (pay attention Al) abruptly stopped that run and the lead was back up to 14 soon after.

A few telling quotes from the original post: "Skinner teams are notorious for their hiccups and no-shows against some of the worst teams on their schedule" and "Both areas (handling the press and FT's) have often been an issue for Skinner teams".

URI pressed full court for almost 40 minutes--and excellent strategy for URI who had athletes and depth. Yes, once again we looked to make the inbound pass to the closest player to the baseline corner, sailed passes into the stands, etc. etc. The press brought out the glaring deficiencies of our backcourt and of the coaching staff. The assessment was accurate---not handling the press is not a new problem, but rather a continuing, over many seasons, and a disappointing weakness of an Al Skinner coached team.

URI was the better team--by far. This is difficult to admit considering the A-10 vs. ACC implications. BC has a looooong way to go. For those of us who have followed the team over many (more than you know) years, it appears to be "deja-vu all over again".

As I also wish for Randy Moss and the Patriots, may this team find some heart, intensity, and cohesion (a.k.a. coaching) under the Christmas tree before we take on the ACC! In the meantime, bring on Bryant UNIVERSITY!

Lally said...

Erik, I have to assume you're a junior at BC right now if you think we've only had trouble breaking the press for the last three years...

Free throws and turnovers. We're making too many of one and not enough of the other. We're just giving away points and we'll be an inconsistent team unless that can change.

Bravesbill said...

There is all this talk criticizing BC fans for not making it to the games this year. With such a terrible product on the court, why on earth would they want to go to begin with? It's simple economics. Follow the pro sports model. Why would anyone spend both valuable time and money watching an awful team lose to other bad teams? If BC wants more fans, schedule interesting games or put a decent product on the court. There weren't any shortages of fans during the Craig Smith-Jared Dudley days. If BC wants its students to skip studying for finals for a few hours, give them a reason to do so. Why would any student put themselves at risk of doing poorly on a final exam just to watch a crummy team? If BC was good, or it actually played a tough non-conference game against a team that people actually have heard of, a lot more students, alumni, and city folk would have attended.

eagleboston said...

Raise your hand if you wanted TOB, the winningest coach in BC history, to leave because he could not get BC football to the next level. Now, raise your hand if you wanted TOB to leave but fully support Al Skinner as basketball coach.

I only took 2 philosophy classes at BC but this would seem to be an illogical point of view.

Looking at the paltry attendance, I'm guessing a lot of people are voting with their wallets with regards to their support of BC basketball under Al Skinner.

rumple said...

We also need to be mindful that final examns start at BC today.

Given that BC recruits higher calibre student-athletes, and has a demanding standard that it expects its student-athletes to meet, the BC players were undoubtedly and understandably distracted by the heavy burden of studying for finals.

Once these guys take care of biz in the classroom, I am sure they will take care of biz on the court.

rumple said...

And, yes, BC does have high standards.

Here is the NCAA's just published graudation rates for men's basketball in the ACC.

BC is 4th, and well above the national average. (look at Maryland -- 8%, now that program should be put on probation!)

1. Wake 100%
2. Duke 92%
3. FSU 80%
4. BC 78%
5. UNC 75%
6. Miami 73%
7. V'Tech 67%
8. Virginia 56%
9. NC St 45%
10. G'Tech 38%
11. Clemson 37%
12. Maryland 8%

modest34b said...

Good one Gorgias

I am sure the basket weaving, Sociology 101 or other cake course finals won't be too taxing on our student-athletes!

(ps has anyone ever actually seen a b-ball player take a final? I never did)

Brett said...

Never seen a bball player take a final, but I had history core with Johnny Ayers. He slept through the final. He was there, in the class. Just sleeping. Awesome.

cjack said...

Johnny Ayers was not sleeping. He was telekinetically acing the final. He is that good. He is also the first person to get a hit against Daisuke.

JP from Dorchester said...

Took History with Troy Bell back in the day. He showed up for the final and was the first one done. Not sure what that says, but he was there.

EagleEye2002 said...

I had a class with Uka Agbai my freshman year and he was a senior. He was incredibly smart, participating in the class constantly, and asnwering questions. I remember talking to him before the final and he seemed like a great who excelled academically.

morrina said...

Embarrassing = more URI student fans in Conte than BC student fans. One sign said: "Hey SuperFrauds, represent." I think that pretty much says it all. The AD should be giving away tickets at this point.

As far as the team goes, I don't see consistent effort. We are less talented than some teams, but we almost always get outhustled.

TheFive said...

In regards to the last post---Uka was a model BC student-athlete and a great guy.

This BC team has some serious flaws, all of which have been apparent throughout this year (or throughout the past few), and none of which has been addressed.

Our defense, particularly our perimeter defense, is absolutely horrific. BC's D has gotten worse each of the last five years according to KenPom, and it is astoundingly bad at the moment. Neither Paris nor Jackson can come even close to stopping anybody off the dribble. Our wing guys are somehow unable to close out on open threes.

We have, for literally a decade, been incapable of defeating teams that play effective full court press. We spent the entire first half inbounding to the double-teamed guard in the near corner. Our half-time adjustment appeared to be Al telling the guys to box out their men on the inbounds pass, and they'd receive a lob over their shoulder in return. That worked...well, poorly---a total shock!

This team is more talented than most BC teams, and has some serious athletes---particularly Jackson and Sanders. Al couldn't find a way to get both of them on the court for most of the game, and when they were, they often were making the same cuts at the same time. That's inexcusable.

Finally, Paris may end up being a decent point guard. Right now it looks like he's thinking rather than playing. We had two 3 on 1 breaks that he guided to no points. He forced several threes and runners (the latter of which, miraculously, he made, while teammates were wide open on cuts to the basket.

The product on the floor dropped precipitously when assistant coaches Cooley and Cohen left. Our defense was bad at the time of their departure. It has been atrocious since.

Al isn't going anywhere, ever. And for those comparing him to TO'B, I wonder if you could point to TO'B's National Coach of the Year Trophy? Or a conference championship? Or the third-winningest record in the ACC since we've been there?

But if the trendline that this season is on does not change --- that is, a .500 record, and not even an NIT berth --- Al needs to clean house.

Bravesbill said...

Has Al ever led BC to the second weekend in the NCAA Tourney? Did TOB ever lead BC to a BCS game, even in a very weak Big East Conference in 2004? No to both. TOB should have been fired, and Al should be fired as well. BC will never make it to the next level with Al at the helm.

Erik said...

You can't deny Agbai

Erik said...

Bravesbill - did we play Villanova in the Round of 32?

Everyone else - I think GDF masterminded this Harvard/URI stretch to get us off the Weber State fiasco.

I don't remember every being as pesssemistic about BC Athletics as I have been the past 5 days. I need to be reeled back in by the Southern Cal game.

Big Jack Krack said...

I'm over the flex, the lack of D, the inability to inbound the ball - I'm really over Coach Skinner. Time to move on, coach - and maybe you'd be kind enough to take the AD with you.

I agree with eagleboston - the fans are voting with their feet and wallets.

Before I moved away from Boston, I had season tickets for years - and always went to the games. That would not be the case now.

Groundhog said...

students don't fail to show up at games because they think we're going to lose. they don't show up because they assume we're going to win.

mod10aeagle said...

This BC hoop team is not enjoyable to watch, even when they win. Okay, Jackson had a highlight dunk, but other than that they are dull, unathletic, and unimaginative. The flex is only entertaining when it's run flawlessly by hard-working and talented ballers like Dudley and Smith. Otherwise, it's full-contact four square. It's like watching a game of attrition -- one team just waiting for the other to make more mistakes.

Defense is played with the feet, not the hands, and this crew has the slowest feet on the court night after night. It looks to me like they just don't work hard enough -- in the offseason, in practice, or in the games. Mediocre talent with a soft work ethic is not a good combination.

Would any of these guys start for any other ACC team?

Bravesbill said...

Erik, they did play Nova in the Sweet 16 which is my bad. It still doesn't change the fact that BC has made the Sweet 16 just once in Al's tenure, and has never advanced past it, even with great teams. Now look at all the disappointments BC has had under Al's reign. Does UW-Milwaukee ring a bell? Or USC in 2001 or USC in 2009? How about his 2003 underachieving squad which missed out on making the Tournament in Troy Bell's sernior season?

Unknown said...

For a bit of context, right now URI (51), Northern Iowa (53) and Harvard (60) are all ranked between 51 and 60 in the Kenpom rankings, so none of these are currently bad losses in terms of BC's at large resume. The St. Joseph's loss clearly is bad and Harvard's ranking will not be as strong in March after they have played their Ivy League slate. Still, as long as BC gets more wins like the one against Miami (25 in kenpom) in ACC play, they will certainly have a good shot at making the tournament.

mod10aeagle said...

If the team was devastated by swine flu I might consider losses to Northern Iowa, Harvard and URI acceptable, but I can't think of any other circumstance, regardless of any ranking system, when that would be the case. None of those schools should be able to out-recruit, out-coach, or out-play BC in anything. The idea that they aren't "bad losses" because these teams are ranked higher is nuts. The fact that they're ranked higher than BC ... sorry, I just threw up in my mouth ...

Unknown said...

One of the underlying problems with student fan support that nobody talks about is the complete disregard Al Skinner shows for the BC Student Body. There is no effort put out on his part to get students excited about the program. Why not implement a Midnight Madness at the beginning of the year like many other schools have? Something that would get the fans excited early on where they could get to know the players and watch them show off their skills.

In '05 (may have been '06 cant remember for sure), the Athletic department decided to sell student tickets on a first come first serve basis, and Conte was absolutely packed with kids waiting in line to get tickets. The players were walking around the concourse saying hello and thanks to all the fans, and there was a genuine excitement for BC basketball.

Anyway, a few of the players led by Jared Dudley and Sean Marshall decided it would be cool to put on a dunk contest in the practice gym for all the fans while they waited in line for seats. Word spread and people rushed over to try to find a spot to watch. Skinner decided he didn't want the players participating in something like this and called the whole thing off. Everyone was bummed, even the players. This is the defining Al Skinner moment for me, and I always come back to that when I hear people ripping the students and wondering why nobody shows up for the games.

TheFive said...

The numbers actually tell a worse story than the performance on the court.

We are 139th in total defense. We are 170th in field goal % defense. We are 341st in turnovers forced (which has to be close to the bottom of all D-1).

70sGuy said...

could not agree more with eagle boston, big jack krack and bravesbill....

We are in Year 10 of the Al Skinner era...with no elite 8 appearances or fan enthusiasm in sight....

do you think we would have attendance problems with bruce pearl in charge?...its TOB all over again with Al.

At some point this falls on Gene.

Weber St...really? Gene deserves to see football games on 360 and empty seats at Conte with the way these programs have been "game managed" Shinskie style.

BMas90 said...

mod10eagle is right on, as are a few other of the posters. BC hoops under Skinner has never taken care of the ball, shot well from the line and played tough defense (except when Williams was back in the zone swatting shots) - all things that come from practice and coaching that emphasises things that should be automatic. I am a Philly hoops guy who played in high school for a legendary coach whose players occupy numerous coaching positions in college hoops - Pat Chambers at BU, Dan Liebowitz at Hartford, Bruiser Flint at Drexel and now Jerome Allen at Penn). I grew up learning that you played tough D, rebounded the ball, took care of it and hit at least 75% of your free throws. I have a hard time embracing Skinner and the personality of his teams, even though he has had success over the last 10 years.

Ry said...

Interesting article on Skinner...'s-Skinner-has-his-fans-in-the-NBA-

Unknown said...

not sure if i agree on paul anderson for second team safety