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.

Emerald Bowl Update: Opponent Confirmed!

Representatives from the Emerald Bowl issued a press release a short while ago confirming that Boston College will be participating for the 2nd time this decade. That wasn't a real surprise. The surprise came when the announcement confirmed the rumors that Pete Carroll's USC Trojans would be the Eagles opponent. More on this later tonight as well as a recap of todays big win over Miami for the basketball team.

Friday, December 4, 2009

So...What Now?

In light of the news regarding Hofstra's decision to drop its football program amid high costs and low interest, BC is left without an opening day opponent for next season. As I mentioned yesterday this is the 2nd time in 3 years that an opponent has backed out of an agreement to play the Eagles. Last time, it happened during the season beforehand which gave the Eagles a little more time to find a replacement. As a result, they were able to pick up a mid-level 1-A team in Central Florida, rather than a 2nd 1-AA team (note: I refuse to use the FBS/FCS terminology).

This time though, considering that Hofstra is a 1-AA team, it would seem more realistic that AD Gene DeFillipo would go out and simply replace Hofstra with a team that was previously on the Pride's schedule. However, there is still a potential 1-A opponent on the horizon that is in a similar situation to the Eagles, which would draw a great deal of intrigue, considering the history and back story associated with it.

With the earlier news of Northeastern folding it's own football tent a few weeks back, the UConn Huskies are also looking for a new dance partner. Coincidentally, they also are looking to fill their opening weekend slot (September 4). DeFillipo is on record as saying that he would NEVER schedule UConn in any sport as long as he remained the athletic director at BC because of the very public and very ugly way that things ended between the Eagles and the Big East (UConn specifically). UConn head football coach Randy Edsall is on record saying that he would love to play BC in what would be a match-up of the only 2 1-A programs in New England.

The bad blood goes back to a lawsuit filed against BC and the ACC on behalf of the state of Connecticut (representing the University and several other Big East schools) for their "abandonment" of the Big East. The lawsuit cost nearly 2 million dollars in taxpayer money and was an incredibly petty temper tantrum based on the premise that the Eagles (along with VaTech and Miami) were "conspiring" to weaken the Big East. Eventually, the lawsuit was settled out of court, though BC was able to win judgments in the case to avoid paying an exit fee to the Big East.

Personally, I am in favor of this particular move. UConn at the time of the lawsuit was not yet associated with the Big East in football and therefore, nobody on that staff had a hand in the lawsuit, nor did they decree that they wouldn't ever play the Eagles in football because of the nature of their divorce from the Big East. In fact, Huskies coach Randy Edsall has been adamant that he would love the opportunity to pit his team against the perennial northeast football power. Having said that, I also would not under any circumstances play this game anywhere but Alumni Stadium. Playing against UConn in football is one thing, but stepping onto that campus following the turmoil is quite another. In no way does UConn have the cache to ask for a home game or a neutral site, nor should they have the nerve to ask for either scenario. I personally believe that if UConn were willing to play a no-return game against the Eagles at Alumni, Gene would listen to that offer.

What about you, the reader? What would it take for you to agree to schedule a game against UConn? Leave your comments!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Hofstra Drops Football!

In the wake of Northeastern University discontinuing it's football program after 70+ years of competition, fellow CAA school Hofstra is the 2nd school in as many weeks to do the same. The school announced today that it is discontinuing it's program after 60+ years.

The reason I'm posting this is because of the obvious...Boston College was scheduled to play Hofstra next season. This leaves a hole in the schedule, that I'm sure we'd all prefer they fill with a reasonably competent opponent. This is a great opportunity for BC to see if anyone else is still looking for a game for that week and to schedule a reasonable 1-A opponent.

This is the 2nd time in 3 seasons that BC has been forced to re-schedule on the fly thanks to a program dropping out of a game. In 2008, Army canceled a scheduled game with the Eagles, citing a desire to play lighter competition. BC was able to take a step up in competition by agreeing to meet Central Florida as a replacement.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Boston College 62 Michigan 58

The Scoreboard
                   1     2    F
Boston College 34 28 62
Michigan 24 34 58
The Story...

Taking part in the prestigious ACC-Big 10 Challenge, on national TV, and facing a pre-season top 15 team with one of the most explosive scorers in the country in Manny Harris, Boston College jumped out to as much as a 17 point lead behind the sizzling shooting of Corey Raji, and then held on down the stretch to win 62-58. BC led by 10 at the half while Harris struggled to score for the Wolverines. The Eagles though, shot the lights out, making 9 of their first 11 shots and punishing their Big 10 foe inside with sharp passing and strong off the ball cuts at the rim. Joe Trapani again struggled with his shot, but helped out by pulling down a team high 12 rebounds. In the 2nd half though, the defense struggled, and BC was unable to execute offensively the way they did in the 1st half. Down the stretch, a 17 point lead evaporated to as little as 6 behind a strong 2nd half from Harris. Finally though, Reggie Jackson sealed the game with some strong moves to the basket and 3 clutch free throws to put the game out of reach. A late layup by the Maize and Blue provided the final margin.

By the Numbers...

24...The number of points for Corey Raji in the game, representing a season high. Raji was absolutely amazing in this game on both ends of the floor. He drew the Manny Harris assignment in the game, and did a nice job of containing the penetration and forcing him to either give up the ball or take bad shots. Though he got hot late, some of the shots he made were of the circus variety. On the other end, Raji obliterated Harris with tremendous off the ball cuts that frequently left him open underneath the rim for easy layups. When he wasn't shooting inside of 3 feet, Raji was also consistent with his jumper and scored his 24 points on a stellar 11-16 from the field.

34...The absolutely ridiculous number of 3 pointers taken by Michigan in the game. People who know me know that I detest this style of basketball. It's a terrible style of basketball taught by coaches who either don't have the basketball knowledge to draw up a real offense, or who don't have the talent to execute a real offense. It's boring, ugly, and in general, bad basketball. More than half of the Wolverines shots were from the 3 point line in the game and they made just 6. Hideous performance by the Wolverines courtesy of their incredibly mediocre coach. I hope 1 day that this style goes the way of the 3 yards and a cloud of dust in football.

41...The aforementioned unwatchable style of basketball is also a good way to ensure that you will not be able to rebound the basketball. As a result, BC grabbed 41 rebounds to the Wolverines 26. This went a long way toward ensuring the win tonight. The Wolverines were limited in their second chance opportunities, and as a result BC was able to control the tempo of the game.

Thumbs Up...

Corey Raji

Hard to say more about the guy than I have already in the past 2 weeks. He's playing, quite simply, out of his mind. He's shooting a very high percentage, grabbing rebounds, playing strong perimeter defense, and intimidating shots from the weak side. He and Reggie Jackson have done a tremendous job compensating for the loss of Rakim Sanders (who should be back next week) and kept this team afloat.

Al Skinner

A lot of people are not big fans of Skinners coaching style (and for the most part count me among them), but the job Skinner has done the past 2 games of getting this teams attention and re-focusing them after the tough trip down to the Caribbean is remarkable. This team looked like it threw in the towel after the Northern Iowa game, and even admitted in the papers that it was suffering from a lack of confidence. But in the last 2 games, the team has played with more energy and intensity than at any other point this season. And this, without the presence of their best offensive player (Sanders), and with their 2nd best offensive player (Trapani) struggling with his shot from the very first game. A win over Miami this weekend will restore my faith that this is a team with a chance to do some major damage in the ACC.

Thumbs Down...

Free Throw Shooting

Yawn...same story different day. At some point this is going to come back and haunt them as it did last year on occasion. They made just 13-20 on the night and missed 3 of their last 4 while attempting to stave off the late rally by the Wolverines after BC went into a modified 4 corners offense with roughly 6 minutes remaining. Michigan struggled from deep the entire game and as a result the missed free throws ultimately didn't hurt them, but had the Wolverines started making shots, things could have gone a lot differently.

Tyler Roche

As predicted, Roche has come back to earth after returning to the bench in the 3rd game of the season. The hopes of him continuing to make shots after moving out of the lineup was apparently far fetched as he has made just 8 of 21 shots in that time and has failed to crack double figures in all of them. As the season moves along, Roche will need to start hitting shots and give this team a presence off the bench as playing their top 5/6 guys for 36 minutes a game will not win them too many games in conference. Courtney Dunn though played a tremendous game, especially on the defensive end with 2 blocks and 4 rebounds in just 12 minutes.

Overall...

A good solid effort from BC in a game that was played on national television against what is supposed to be an up and coming team. The only thing that worried me was that Michigan did the Eagles a HUGE favor by bombing away from deep an awful lot(even by their standards). The Wolverines rarely attacked the paint so it was difficult to get a gauge on where they stand from a defensive aspect. Reggie Jackson (15 points) again continued to display his athletic ability as he continually drove to the lane and was able to blow by whatever hapless defender attempted to stop him. Jackson also continued to play a solid all around game (8 rebounds, 6 assists) and appears to be making life difficult for Coach Skinner. I can't imagine how Skinner will be able to keep him out of the starting lineup once Rakim Sanders returns.

The Eagles will look to continue their recent stretch of good play on Saturday when they welcome in the Miami Hurricanes for the ACC opener for both schools. Miami has been absolutely on fire this season, and is currently undefeated at 9-0. I imagine there are still plenty of tickets available for the game, so get over to Conte Forum and cheer on the Eagles.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

More ACC Awards

As expected today, the ACC announced that Virginia Tech's Ryan Williams was named the Rookie of the Year in the conference, narrowly edging out BC's Luke Kuechly (34-29).

I have a much bigger problem with this decision than I do with Frank Spaziani only getting 2 votes as the ACC coach of the year. Spaz did pretty well in terms of keeping the team together following all the adversity that the team faced. But as far as coaching the team? There was a lot left to be desired.

Kuechly on the other hand did an amazing job, considering the situation he was put in. As good as Williams was, he didn't have near the impact on his team that Luke did on the Eagles. Kuechly is currently second in the nation in total tackles and has over 50 tackles in the last 3 games, which is a staggering number.

Ryan Williams is a worthy ACC Rookie of the Year winner, but I think when you are considering 2 equal players, impact on the team should be a major factor. Without Kuechly, the Eagles are a 5-7 team. Without Williams, VaTech plugs in someone else and still wins 9 games.

GT's Paul Johnson Named ACC Coach of the Year + Links

Just coming down the pipe as we speak, Paul Johnson will be named the ACC's coach of the year by a landslide. The Georgia Tech head coach has now won the award 2 straight years.

BC's Frank Spaziani, after being predicted to finish 11th in the conference, took the Eagles to an 8-4 record (5-3 in the ACC), but only received 2 votes in the poll. He finished behind Johnson, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, and Duke coach David Cutcliffe.

Boston College also announced today that it has reached a 6 year agreement with Under Armour to outfit the football team along with 29 other varsity sports beginning next season. BC will be in elite company, as UA also has exclusive deals with traditional football powers Alabama and Auburn. The deal represents the first of it's kind for the athletic outfitter in the northeast.