Showing posts with label BC Basketball. Show all posts
Showing posts with label BC Basketball. Show all posts

Thursday, March 20, 2014

BC Basketball Needed a Change in Direction

A week ago, Boston College's basketball season ended when they lost 73-70 in overtime TO Georgia Tech in the ACC Tournament. This week, head coach Steve Donahue's tenure at BC also ended. It was a much needed change, for both the team and for Donahue.

BC lost 24 games this season. 9 of those were by 4 points or fewer. The Eagles were 3-9 in those close games (one of those victories was over Florida Atlantic). They had the ability to keep up with good teams, even beat Syracuse on the road, but when games were determined in the last 2-4 minutes their performance level typically dropped. They didn't rise to the occasion, they did the opposite.

As a team they were too tightly strung. They played too much with their brains and not their bodies. They lacked aggression, thinking too much instead of acting. Basketball is a game of decisiveness, and they played with indecision.

In the recruiting department they resembled an Ivy League team more than ACC team. They had quality players like Olivier Hanlan, and a handful of decent role players, but no strong athletes who could carry a team either defensively or offensively. And guys like Hanlan played soft and weak, especially when games were on the line.

And before BC people use the old "Academic Standards" refrain, those standards might make it tough to win 24 games, they don't make it so you lose 24.

Steve Donahue is a good coach. He's just not the right coach. In hindsight, BC took a guy from a small pond (Cornell and the Ivy League) and transplanted him to a shark infested ocean. Donahue got his Cornell Big Red to the Sweet 16, which is impressive, but winning two NCAA games pales in comparison to playing 18 ACC games a season.

Donahue's Eagles could win big games every once and awhile, but struggled with consistency. They could be great for 40 minutes, but failed to be good for 400 minutes. This year they were 240th in the country in points per game, 269th in points allowed, 326th in rebounds, 154th in shooting percentage.

Hopefully Donahue finds a job that fits better. Let's also not forget that he inherited a BC team that was struggling. So he was tasked with turning a team around in one of the toughest leagues in the country.

Harvard's Tommy Amaker is reportedly the leading candidate for the opening at BC. I like Amaker, but I'm not sure it's smart to once again hire an Ivy League success story. Amaker has turned Harvard into a relative powerhouse in one of the worst leagues in the country. Big fish, small pond.

Then again, he's coached in power conferences before, in both the Big East (Seton Hall) and Big Ten (Michigan). He also played in the ACC at Duke.

Then again, he never brought Michigan to the NCAA tournament and was criticized for teams that underperformed in pressure situations. That kind of sounds like what BC's been experiencing under Donahue.

THEN AGAIN, Amaker helped rebuild a Michigan program that was recovering from a scandal. Under Amaker, Michigan had significant success in the NIT. As a program, BC is in recovery mode. They shouldn't be looking for someone who can bring them to the promised land, they need someone who will turn the program around and get things going in the right direction.

But if you're Amaker, do you want to coach at BC? If you do well and bring the program back to NCAA contention, but can't get any further than the opening rounds, they'll replace you. If you don't turn things around, they'll replace you.

It is a challenge. And Amaker seems to thrive on challenges. I'm writing this 10 minutes before his Harvard Crimson tip-off in the NCAA Tournament. If they do well, he might have better job offers than BC.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Boston College Beats Syracuse, Wins One for Dick Kelley

Boston College was tied for last in the ACC coming into this game. The only ACC team they'd beaten was the other team in the basement, Virginia Tech. BC had losses against Providence, Toledo, VCU, Harvard. They barely beat Florida Atlantic and needed overtime to beat Sacred Heart. They'd lost 5 straight, were 1-8 in their last 9, and 2-12 in their last 14.

A few days ago I actually thought that BC might have a chance in this game. But I dismissed the idea very quickly because BC has struggled to finish games all season long. So even if they kept up with Syracuse, they wouldn't make the necessary plays at the end of the game. My initial reasoning behind the dismissed notion was based on BC playing Syracuse relatively close in January, losing 69-59. And Syracuse looking ahead to a big game against Duke this weekend. Also, Syracuse has barely won their last few games.

BC did what they had to do in order to win. They hit 3-pointers (11 of 22), and they didn't turn the ball over after halftime (12 turnovers in the first half, only 5 in the second and OT). Syracuse helped BC out. The Orange shot an abysmal 20 for 62 (32.3%) from the field, only hit 2 of 12 3-pointers, and were 17 of 24 with their free throws. Down the stretch missed free throws killed the Cuse.

Patrick Heckmann, a junior guard from Mainz, Germany, carried BC in overtime. If you look at the box score his overall contribution seems minimal. In 25 minutes off the bench he scored 9 points with 4 rebounds. He had a block, a steal, and committed 3 fouls.

In the overtime, Heckmann scored 5 of his 9 points, including a layup with 0:46 left that gave BC a 58-57 lead. Heckmann also had a block and a rebound.

This was a vital contribution because players like Ryan Anderson were falling all over themselves trying (and failing) to make big plays in the big moment.

The other OT hero was Lonnie Jackson. Syracuse fouled him twice with under a minute left because he's a 56% free throw shooter. It was still a 1-and-1 situation, so any missed free throws could have been game-deciding. Jackson hit all 4 free throws. Many players see their FT% go down in pressure situations, Jackson's went up. Way up.

BC scored 12 points in overtime. 5 were from Heckmann, 4 from Jackson. Jackson also had an assist on an Olivier Hanlan three pointer in OT.

I enjoyed this win for two reasons. I hate Syracuse. I'm friends with a number of their fans from my time living in Central New York, and when they put their orange goggles on, it's always annoying. SU fans struggle to see reality when it comes to their beloved Orange. They're impossible to converse rationally with.

The main reason I enjoyed this win, however, was because of the passing of Dick Kelley. You've probably heard broadcasters speaking of him during college games this past week. If not, I'll just tell you that Dick Kelley was the assistant athletic director for media relations at BC, which made him a focal point within BC's athletic program, a hub of communications for a wide variety of people and groups. He'd interact with athletes, coaches, other departments in athletics and in the school, just about everybody. Before games you'd see him patrolling media row, having countless conversations with anybody and everybody, and then he'd ask a BC player to pass him a ball during warm-ups and they'd talk for a bit. He died at the age of 48 last Thursday after a 3 year battle with ALS. And it was one hell of a battle.

Dick Kelley was a man who cared deeply about his work, and about what his work could do for other people, from the media to student athletes. He treated everyone with remarkable kindness and a warm smile, which makes sense since he had a remarkably kind family. He was, and forever will be, a big part of the BC family.

This win was for Dick Kelley.


Photo Credit:
USATSI

Monday, February 10, 2014

Jabari Parker Makes You Say "Wow"

Duke was in town to play Boston College Saturday night, and the Blue Devils brought potential top-5 pick Jabari Parker with them. Parker drew a small army of scouts to Conte Forum, along with Boston Celtics GM Danny Ainge. They did not leave disappointed

He led Duke to an 89-68 shellacking of BC with 29 points and 16 rebounds. Five of his rebounds were on the offensive glass. He had as many total rebounds as BC had defensive rebounds.

What got my attention was how often he made me say "Wow." As if every time he made a play I was surprised. Even as he made similar plays over and over. Every time he did I was just as amazed. This was because he seemed to make these plays so effortlessly.

I'm not saying he wasn't trying. I'm saying he made the game look easy.

He played with smoothness and ease. He didn't have to push his body to make plays, it was as if he was following his body. He wasn't tense. He just flowed. His jumps looked easy, his shots, his drives, his rebounds, his dunks. I'd say he looked almost graceful, until he slammed the ball through the rim or brushed off an opponent.

He played like he was born to do nothing else. He dominated casually, like it was second nature for him to be great.

It's important to note that he was playing against a bad basketball team. A bad team that's also lacking in size. BC is 6-17 and 2-8 in the ACC.

It's also important to note that I have no experience or expertise evaluating college basketball talent then predicting how it will translate to the NBA.

However I do know special athletes when I see them. They make their game look easy. They don't look fast until they run, don't look strong until they use their muscles. And when you see what they're capable of, all you can do is say "Wow." Because even if you've seen it 100 times before, it still amazes you. Like Calvin Johnson or Rob Gronkowski. Like Martin Brodeur or Patrick Roy in their primes. Like Vladimir Guerrero years ago. You're stunned by something you've seen them do before.

That's what Jabari Parker did. He surprised me every time he did something he'd already done before.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Stephan Savoia

Monday, February 11, 2013

BC Wastes Opportunity to Upset Duke

Duke had been forced to fly into Boston that morning. They were without Ryan Kelly, who averages 13.4 points per game and is a 52% three-point shooter this season. BC would be pumped to play their biggest game of the year. Duke would be playing yet another inferior opponent, the last place team in the ACC. There were all the ingredients for a possible upset.

Duke did their part for the Cinderella story. They turned the ball over (13 turnovers, and BC had 11 steals), committed stupid fouls, made mistakes on defense.

BC, however, were the ones that didn't fulfill their end of the bargain. Duke was begging to be beat, and the Eagles didn't take advantage. They had a 2 point lead and the ball with 1:27 left. They were tied 61-61 with 30 seconds left, when a visibly nervous Joe Rahon lofted a three-point attempt that bounced off the top of the backboard. They were down 62-61 with 7 seconds left when their best player, Olivier Hanlan, missed a jumpshot.

A win against Duke would have salvaged BC's season. It would have given a team of underclassmen massive amounts of confidence in the future. They would remember beating the #4 team in the country, and would feel capable of beating anyone.

A win against Duke and BC would have received top-billing nationally and locally. It would have attracted more students and alumni to basketball games. It would have been a recruiting tool. It would have given job security to head coach Steve Donahue. It would have been a memorable moment for a program that's been forgettable for years.

As I've come to expect from BC Athletics (excluding hockey), BC choked. Opportunity presented itself, and BC bungled the gift. Fate spread her legs for BC, and the Eagles prematurely ejaculated. They have the talent, they have the opportunities, they just don't have The Clutch: that intangible quality that allows a player to perform at his best at the most important moment of his life.

It's too bad.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Mary Schwalm

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Harvard Wins Basketball Beanpot

Ten years ago, if you'd proposed a Beanpot style tournament for the college basketball teams in Boston, the idea would be dismissed because BC would be the undoubted favorite. How things have changed.

Harvard beat BC 79-63 last night. It was the Crimson's 5th straight victory over the Eagles.

What's really unfortunate for BC is that Harvard wasn't supposed to be that good this year. Harvard lost co-captains Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry before the season due to a cheating scandal. The Crimson were 3-3 coming into this game. One of their wins was over MIT (the Engineers compete in Division III). Another win was against the Manhattan College Jaspers.

BC was actually favored to win last night's game, and it was close at halftime, with Harvard clinging to a 31-29 lead. Then the Crimson started the 2nd half with a 7-0 run and kept their foot on the gas. BC simply could not stop them. Harvard went on an 11-0 run after the first media timeout. The game was effectively over with 12 minutes left to play.

Sivani Chambers scored 21 points for Harvard. Wesley Saunders added 18. Jonah Travis scored 14. For BC, Ryan Anderson stood out, scoring 23 very hard points, mostly down low. No other Eagle scored more than 15, and only two others scored more than 10.

Harvard won the physical battles. They got some key offensive rebounds and had 9 team steals compared to BC's 2. They also got to the line more often, and shot better with their 3-pointers.

Ten years ago BC was a perennial NCAA tournament team, the undisputed best college basketball team in Boston, and behind UConn the second best team in New England. Now, there's no other way to put it, BC is Harvard's bitch.

Photo Credit:
Boston Globe

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Boston College 64, #17 Florida State 60

It's been a rough year for the few BC basketball fans that bother to show up to the Conte Forum each game. The Eagles were 7-16 coming into last night's game, at the bottom of the ACC standings. But those who did show up were treated with an upset win over Florida State, who were sharing the top of the standings with North Carolina.

To say this has been a rebuilding year might be overly polite to the Eagles. BC is loaded with freshmen, and this season is essentially a lengthy pre-season for the 2012-13 campaign. You can tell that coach Steve Donahue is trying to teach his team how to play the game properly, so once their skills are honed, they can contend to return to the NCAA tournament.

Which means this season's games look more like practices and scrimmages. Except when BC hits 10 of its 22 three-pointers and Florida State turns the ball over 14 times.

I think the Eagles will be respectable in a few years. This wasn't a glimpse of things to come as much as it was a statistical aberration. But it was quite fun to be there and watch it. And the 4,000 or so who showed up got more than their money's worth, and got their loyalty rewarded.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Will BC Basketball Win More Games than BC Football?


BC lost a closely fought game to Penn State last night 62-54. And the ACC finished the BigTen/ACC Challenge 4-8. BC basketball is now 2-5 with losses against Holy Cross, UMass, St. Louis, and New Mexico. They needed overtime to beat UC-Davis, and their other win was a 3 point squeaker over UNH.

It's a rebuilding year for BC basketball, as second year coach Steve Donahue tries to resurrect a program that was left in a shambles by a lack of recruiting by Al Skinner.

BC football, meanwhile, went 4-8. They even lost to Duke. The one bright spot was junior linebacker Luke Kuechly. He was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, and is projected to be the top LB in the Draft, should he decide to leave early. He recorded an astonishing 191 tackles this season.

Not to diminish Kuechly's accomplishment, but BC's offense was hardly ever on the field. Kuechly also played punt coverage, and BC punted a lot. In other words, he had more opportunities for tackles than most players.

BC's offense was without Montel Harris for most of the season. But even with him, they would have struggled to score. And if you're an offensive high school recruit, why would you want to play at BC?

This is a tough time to be a BC fan. Unless you like hockey. And this is the time that you'll see many BC fans find other things to do. At last night's basketball game, the student sections were almost empty. BC fans follow their team when it's trendy. Then forget them when it isn't. I guess that's the case with most sports teams, but the effect is even more dramatic at BC.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

BOSTON COULD SEND 3 TEAMS TO TOURNAMENT


It's the one month of the year that I actually follow basketball and can't get enough of it. And the city of Boston might send three representatives to the big tournament. BU, Harvard, and BC all have very good chances of earning bids.

BU will host Stony Brook Saturday afternoon at Agganis Arena to determine the America East Championship. The Terriers beat Stony Brook twice this season, boast a 12-4 conference record, have won 10 straight, and haven't lost at home since December. BU haven't made the NCAA tournament since 2002.

Harvard (yes they play in Boston, their court is in Brighton) is in one of the more interesting situations in college basketball. The Ivy League doesn't hold a tournament, and sends its regular season champ to the NCAAs. The Crimson beat 1st place Princeton 79-67 over the weekend. Princeton plays Penn tonight. If Princeton loses, then Harvard wins the Ivy League outright. If Princeton wins, then they and Harvard will meet in a playoff game at a neutral site (Yale). That game would be played on Saturday. Harvard hasn't been in the NCAA tournament since 1946. That tournament featured a field of 8 teams, including NYU and Oklahoma A&M.

By the way, Harvard beat both BU and BC this season.

BC have been popping in and out of the at-large bubble all season. They finished 5th in a lackluster ACC, don't have an overly impressive resume, and if a few upsets occur in the mid-major tournaments, BC might have to do work in the ACC Tournament.

The good news is that BC faces Wake Forest in the opening round of the ACC tourney. They trounced Wake a few days ago, 84-68. But they need to win this game. With losses against Harvard, Yale and URI already marring their schedule, they can't afford to add 8-23 Wake Forest to that list.

After Wake, the Eagles would face Clemson, who they lost to in February. Although it's easier to beat Clemson than it is to beat UNC or Duke. With both teams on the bubble, BC vs. Clemson might essentially be a play-in game into the NCAA tournament. BC last appeared in the NCAAs in 2009.

So come Selection Sunday, there may be three Boston representatives in the 68 team field. Or none.

PS: Can we retire the phrase "punch their ticket?" It's just so antiquated, overused, and stupid.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

DOES BC BELONG IN THE TOURNAMENT?

Yes. No. Maybe. Most people have them on the bubble, with their blowout win over Virginia Tech temporarily putting them in. But this post isn't about BC, or whether or not they should be in the tournament. To be honest, I don't follow college basketball closely enough to have an informed opinion on that.

This post is about the NCAA Tournament in general, and why it shouldn't expand. BC will help me demonstrate that point. Because they're not very good.

The Eagles occupy the middle of a very top-heavy and shallow ACC. Only 2 ACC teams are ranked. BC's 8-7 conference record is loaded with wins against Virginia and NC State. They did beat Virginia Tech twice, although they also lost to 9th place Miami. Twice.

Before that, they lost to Harvard and Yale. Thankfully, they didn't have to face Princeton, the top Ivy team. Princeton, by the way, only has one loss against Ivy League opponents, compared to BC's two.

BC might not even be the 2nd best team in New England (UConn being the best). They lost to URI, and they barely beat UMass and Providence. Apart from an early season, neutral site win over Texas A&M, they haven't beaten anyone impressive in or out of their conference.

They've got some good players, but no depth. And those good players all go through lengthy cold streaks. They're not awful. They're not great. If they make the tournament, it's not a joke. It's also not an injustice if they don't make it.

Finally, here's my point. If the tournament were expanded to 96 teams, BC would be a lock. They along with a few dozen other painfully mediocre teams. The field would be overly saturated by 10th place teams with .500 conference records.

There are plenty of good arguments to keep the NCAA field close to 64 teams. To me, though, this is the most alarming and convincing. This year, BC has been the quintessential bubble team. What would the bubble teams be like with 96 slots to fill? Wisconsin-Milwaukee? Long Beach State? Maybe NC State with their 15-14 overall and 5-10 conference records. The Wolfpack are 104th in RPI, and 54th strength of schedule. Why not them in the 96 team field?

Photo Credit:
AP Photo