Thursday, December 17, 2009

Who's To Blame?

The BC basketball team has shown flashes of brilliance this season in wins over previously undefeated Miami, and road wins against Providence and Michigan. But the team has also exhibited really puzzling lapses of concentration and effort against lower tier teams like St. Joseph's, Harvard, and Rhode Island.

The critics on the Heights are calling louder than ever for the scalp of long time head coach Al Skinner, and while there is absolutely zero indication of a coaching change, or even displeasure in the job that Skinner has done from the administration, it's worthwhile to take a look at why this team can't seem to put together a consistent performance from week to week. Over the next few days, I'll examine a list of candidates, what the public is saying about those candidates, and what the reality is from my perspective...

Al Skinner

Perception:
Since putting together a veritable dream team (by school standards) in 2005, led by Craig Smith, Jared Dudley, and Sean Marshall and reaching the Sweet 16, Skinner has rested on his laurels. He has been lazy in recruiting, disinterested during games, and has failed to develop players in practice. This season has been the tipping point. After not recruiting a single new player to help replace the departed Tyrese Rice, the team has played down to its level of competition, showed major flaws defensively, still can't break a full court press, and can't inbound the ball. All of this can be directly related to Al Skinner's laid back approach, which is just a code word for "he doesn't care".

Reality:
As a coach, mentor, and leader, Skinner has been the perfect man to lead this program since all the trouble that was caused by Jim O'Brien. Al did a tremendous job bringing the program back to respectability and has generally brought in players that have performed on the court and in the classroom, and have been good representatives of the school that students and alumni can be proud of. However, his coaching prowess, is certainly up for debate. Routinely, his teams have been unable to break a press, have constantly turned the ball over on out of bounds plays, and have played down or up to their level of competition. Al has also struggled to adapt his coaching style to fit his teams personality (in this case, a more athletic up-tempo group). His attempts to squeeze round pegs into square holes with this group has really hindered their growth and development and has led to some of their struggles. He may not be the right person to lead this particular group. Skinner has been here a long time, and perhaps has gotten too comfortable at the helm. Perhaps new blood is needed, though it's not likely to be coming.

Tomorrow: Rakim Sanders

Saturday, December 12, 2009

BC Recruiting Update

Both ESPN and Eagle Action are reporting that 6'5 260 pound Dominic Appiah has committed to Boston College over Maryland and UConn. The Cheshire Academy (CT) defensive end initially did not have the Eagles in his final group and seemed destined to play for the Huskies. BC made a late push to land a player at a key position that is in need of a depth and talent infusion.

Appiah is expected to enroll in January to be ready for spring practice.

BC Scheduling Update

After the announcement of Hofstra's decision to cut it's football program, the school announced yesterday that Big Sky Conference member Weber State has tentatively agreed to take on the Eagles September 4th at Alumni Stadium. The game would represent the season opener for both teams.

According to the Boston Globe, Weber State contacted BC about the opening in the schedule and expressed an interest in a 1 time engagement. AD Gene DeFillipo has said that a tentative deal is in place, but the contracts have not been signed. There hasn't been any detail regarding the payout that the Wildcats will receive for playing the game.

The Wildcats finished last season 7-5 and made the FCS Playoffs, losing to William & Mary in the opening round.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

BC loses to Harvard...again

I was so furious at the end of this game last night I could barely move, thus the lack of a post-game recap of it. I've finally thawed and will be all over this tonight. Stay tuned.

Monday, December 7, 2009

News, Notes, Links

Early Thoughts on BC vs. USC in the Emerald Bowl.

I, like a lot of folks, am really excited for this game. Rare is the time that BC gets the opportunity to play a program of this caliber in a bowl game. Often times they've been relegated to playing low level major conference programs (read: Vanderbilt, North Carolina, etc.) or high level mid-major teams (read: Boise State, Toledo, Colorado State, etc.), which are generally one in the same. But in this case, the Eagles will be taking on perhaps the premiere college football program of this decade.

Yes, they're down. No, they're not BCS caliber this season. And no, the intensity level probably won't be very high, but for the Eagles, this is a great opportunity. This game will be played on national TV (ESPN) in prime time (8pm) on a day that generally will have friends and family gathered thanks to the holidays (Dec. 26). So there's a good chance that all of that, combined with USC being in the game, this will provide a very large stage for Frank Spaziani and the Eagles.

That can be two-fold though. BC has the opportunity to beat one of the great all-time football programs in a bowl game on national TV, but there is also the potential that USC rises above it's mediocrity and plays to it's talent level and absolutely drubs them as well. Despite their identical 8-4 records, make no mistake, these 2 teams could not possibly be more different. USC, despite their struggles, will have better talent in nearly phase and at nearly every position. The saving grace for BC likely will be the aforementioned intensity factor. BC will be absolutely jacked to play this game. I hardly see USC, which has spent the better part of this decade throttling Big 10 teams in the Rose Bowl or winning national championships, being nearly as excited. If BC can play with controlled energy, they can compete in this game.

BC Football vs. USC Links

Both the Emerald Bowl and BC are thrilled with the match-up. Pete Carroll? Not so much.

The decision came down to who lost worse on Saturday and would drop further, USC or Cal?

Senior safety Taylor Mays says the Trojans aren't just going to San Francisco for the scenery. They want to win the game.

BC Basketball vs. Miami Links

The Eagles allowed another double digit lead to get away but still came away with the win.

Reggie's free throw shooting and rebounding down the stretch spoke louder than his ferocious dunk.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Reggie Jackson's Dunk

Absolutely filthy...

Boston College 61 Miami 60

The Scoreboard
                   1      2      F
Miami 25 35 60
Boston College 31 30 61
The Story...

For the 3rd consecutive game the Eagles played a tremendous first half, this time led by the electric Reggie Jackson, and ran out to a solid 6 point lead at halftime. Immediately after the half, BC came out with the intensity necessary to put the previously undefeated Hurricanes down for the count, leading by as much as 17. But, also for the 3rd consecutive game, the team fell asleep at the wheel down the stretch and allowed Miami back in the game. The 'Canes had 3 chances to either tie or win the game in the final minute, but Jackson grabbed 2 rebounds off those chances and sank 4 free throws to preserve the win. It was the first loss for Miami this season and BC's 3rd consecutive win after an ugly showing in the Paradise Jam.

By the Numbers...

34.5%...BC's shooting percentage for the game. The Eagles made just 20 of 58 shots in the game and were even worse from the 3 point line in the game (3-18). It stands to reason that under that scenario, they'd have lost the game most times. So, what did BC do so well as to offset the shooting woes? Well...

20-3...The astounding offensive rebounding edge that BC had against Miami. Of the 38 shots the Eagles missed during the game, they rebounded over half of them. That is an absolutely amazing number and is the sole reason BC held on to win the game. Miami managed just 19 total rebounds in the game to BC's 43. I made a huge deal about BC's rebounding question marks entering the season, but they've quickly made a fool of me. They're tops in the ACC presently in rebounding and have outrebounded every opponent so far this season.

7:3...Biko Paris' assist to turnover ratio. Paris has gone relatively unnoticed this season due to the emergence of Reggie Jackson and Corey Raji this season, but Biko has done a nice job of managing the team and not turning the ball over. One major area of concern was BC's ability to handle ball pressure. That is another situation in which BC has excelled this season and much of the credit goes to the junior from New Orleans.

Thumbs Up...

Reggie Jackson

I'm running out superlatives for this guy. He has absolutely done it all for the Eagles this season in an effort to prove that Rakim Sanders wasn't the sole offensive option for this team. His athleticism and high motor have provided the Eagles with an energy that hasn't been seen on the Heights since Troy Bell roamed the campus. His dunk in the 2nd half was thunderous and really provided an emotional lift for the team. Jackson led the team today with 18 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists with only 2 turnovers. More importantly, he grabbed 2 huge rebounds in the final minute and made clutch free throws when the game was on the line. Reggie now leads the team in rebounding with 8.1. As a reminder, Jackson is only 6'3.

Corey Raji

Like Jackson, Corey Raji has made the most of his increased role in the offense while Rakim Sanders continues to recover from a badly sprained right ankle. Raji was the only player on the team to shoot over 50% from the field today (6-13, 17 points) and also grabbed 9 rebounds, 7 of them offensive. Raji also improved on his dismal free throw shooting by making 5-6 from the line. He also, as usual, guarded the most explosive offensive player from the other team, holding guard James Dews to half of his season average.

Thumbs Down...

Joe Trapani

This has got to stop. Trapani, after being one of the most efficient players on the team last season (44% shooting), has struggled mightily with his shot this season and his 1-13 today was simply awful. Joe has now dropped below 37% shooting for the season despite (or perhaps because of) his increased role in the offensive scheme. It's still early in the season, so a turnaround certainly isn't out of the question, but you get the feeling that the more the competition level goes up, the more he is going to struggle.

Overall...

After a great deal of public questioning of this teams character (myself included), the team has risen to the challenge winning games against quality opponents while being short handed due to the loss of Sanders. These last 3 games were supposed to be an early litmus test as to what type of season this would be and I have to admit that I did not think they would be able to muster enough together to win even 2 of these games. The adversity the Eagles faced in the US Virgin Islands has served to bring them together with an "us against the world" mentality. The key now though, will be for the Eagles to not relax as the schedule lightens a little bit with games against Harvard, URI, and Bryant on the horizon next. Anything less than a 3-0 stretch will be completely unacceptable for this team.