Thursday, November 12, 2009

BC Basketball Preview

Last We Saw Them...

BC ran out to a quick start against USC in the 1st round of the NCAA Tournament, led by sophomore Corey Raji, but led at halftime by just 4. After some halftime adjustments by USC coach Tim Floyd, the Trojans, led by Dermar DeRozan were able to drive to the basket almost at will. When they couldn't score on those drives, Taj Gibson cleaned up a lot of the mess shooting an NCAA Record 10-10 from the field. Daniel Hackett contained Tyrese Rice, and the Eagles were unable to put points on the board in the 2nd half. USC outscored BC by 21, and went on to win 72-55, bringing an end to the BC career of the prolific Rice. The Eagles finished with a mark of 22-12.

What's Different Now?

Not a whole lot from a personnel standpoint. 8 of the top 9 players from last season return. The 1 player missing from last years rotation, however, is leading scorer and playmaker Tyrese Rice. Rice is one of BC's all-time leading scorers and the team will struggle to replace his point production.

The player with the unevnious task of trying to replace Rice, is junior Biko Paris. Paris' minutes have been as inconsistent as his play over the past 2 seasons (he actually played fewer minutes last year than he did as a freshman). Paris probably does not need to replace the point production that Rice brought, as much of that responsibility will fall on fellow juniors Rakim Sanders and Joe Trapani, but he will need to provide leadership from the position. Paris will be asked to get the ball to Sanders and Trapani, make the occasional shot, and not turn the ball over. Promising combo guard Reggie Jackson will begin the season off the bench, but Coach Al Skinner will likely not hesitate to make the switch if Paris is a liability. Biko, the New Orleans native, has been named a co-captain along with senior Tyler Roche.

What Needs to Improve...

Defense and rebounding. The team struggled last year to rebound the basketball with a thin and undersized front line. This became an even bigger problem when facing more athletic opponents, and was generally the reason the team would lose games (see: USC, Clemson, Virginia Tech, Purdue). With no new recruits, the front line will look similar to last year and could continue to be a problem. To offset this problem, the team will need significant improvement from junior Josh Southern who has been something of a disappointment since arriving on campus as a highly recruited freshman. Sophomore Evan Ravenel will also need to produce during his minutes this year, as he will be given an opportunity to back up at both forward spots.

The defense was also poor for an Al Skinner coached team who generally produces solid defensive units. The team struggled, especially on the perimeter, to keep opposing players out of the lane. The primary culprits were Tyrese Rice and Rakim Sanders. Both struggled with individual defense and gambled far too often for steals. Biko Paris should provide an upgrade defensively at the point guard spot, but Sanders will need to greatly improve his defensive skills to keep teams from picking on him.

If It Ain't Broke...

Offensively, this team should be fine. They shot the ball well from the field last season (44%) despite the efficency struggles of Tyrese Rice (41% FG). Often times the team was it's best offensively when Rice was on the bench because there was more balance to the floor and less predictability. Look for that to be the case over the long haul this season, especially as the team continues to gel together. Rakim Sanders and Joe Trapani should be able to lead the way, but look for at least 4 of the starters to average double figures, as well as Reggie Jackson off the bench. The flex offense (whether you love it or hate it) demands equal ball distribution, and with this particular team, if run correctly, can make them a ver effective unit. As a team they will need to improve their free throw shooting (73% as a team) and will need to find ways to score inside as they have no true low post threat.

The Road That Lies Ahead...

The non-conference schedule is a little more stout than it has been in the past beginning with a trip to the Paradise Jam Tournament in the Virgin Islands. BC will open that tournament against a weakened St. Jospehs squad. Depending on the results, the Eagles could lineup against Purdue for the 2nd straight year and a potential championship game with Tennessee is also looming. Otherwise, the more difficult portion of the non-conference schedule includes games at 15th ranked Michigan, home against South Carolina, and UMass.

Outside of those games, there are the usual suspects: Dartmouth, St. Francis, Harvard, Bryant, Maine, and NJIT (more on them later).

Once conference play begins, it's hard to envision a scenario where BC could have gotten a more difficult draw. Beginning on January 9th and running until February 20th, the Eagles will play 5 games against ranked teams (in order): @#24 Clemson, @#8 Duke, vs. #24 Clemson, vs. #8 Duke, vs. #4 North Carolina...yikes.

The Outlook...

As I mentioned, the non-conference schedule overall is good and the conference schedule is loaded. I think this team has the potential to be a really tough out against some of the better teams in the conference. We'll get a gauge on this team early on at the Paradise Jam against St. Joe's and then most likely, Purdue. If the defense and rebounding are improved, this is a definite tournament team. If they surrender points and turn the ball over in bunches as they did last year, there's no Tyrese Rice to bail them out of tough situations and they'll be NIT bound.

Record: 20-12
ACC Finish: 8-7 (6th)
NCAA Tournament: 9 seed

Overtime...

While the non-conference schedule is certainly better than what they played last year, the inclusion of the New Jersey Institute of Technology as an opponent is an absolute disgrace. This is a school in it's infancy of 1-A basketball. They've won precisely 1 game in the last 2 years, and have averaged less than 50 points a game during that stretch. There's no reason to schedule a team like this. All they're going to do is hurt the Eagles and their chances of making the tournament when it comes to RPI. I applaud the scheduling of Kansas, South Carolina, and other teams of that ilk, but these type of games cancel out a lot of that. I realize the conference schedule is difficult, but that's no excuse to schedule an opponent like this.

Stay Tuned For...

A recap of tomorrow's season opening game against Dartmouth will be up shortly after the final buzzer. A preview of Saturdays football game against Virginia is also just around the corner.

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