Thursday, November 4, 2010

Boston College men's basketball 2010 preview

What an off-season we had with this Boston College team, which began in Greensboro, NC following their embarrassing loss to Virginia.  Shortly thereafter, longtime coach Al Skinner was fired and replaced by Cornell coach Steve Donahue, who led a complete turnover of the coaching staff.  All of this led to a wave of defections from the program and the loss of all of the incoming 2010 recruits.  So then, what we're left with as we head into the 2010-2011 basketball season (the exhibition game tips off on Saturday afternoon) is a new-look Eagles team.  Expectations are low but the ceiling is...well, just where is the ceiling for this season?

First, let's start with the changes to the makeup of the team, and go from there.

Au revoir: Losses since 2009-2010
Al Skinner, head coach
Pat Duquette, associate head coach
Mo Cassara, assistant coach
Bonzie Colson, assistant coach
Preston Murphy, director of basketball operations
Tyler Roche, forward (graduation)
Rakim Sanders, guard/forward (transfer)
Evan Ravenel, forward (transfer)

If you want to count some of the other losses, they would be:
Ted Sarandis and Bill Ebben, broadcasters
Reebok uniforms

Well hello: Gains for 2010-2011
Steve Donahue, head coach
Joe Jones, associate head coach
Nat Graham, assistant coach
Akbar Waheed, assistant coach
Woody Kampmann, director of basketball operations
Gabe Moton, guard (recruit)
Matt Humphrey, guard (transfer)
John Cahill, guard (walk-on)
Chris Kowalski, forward (switch from BC baseball to basketball)
Danny Rubin, guard (recruit)
[Jon Meterparel, broadcaster]
[Nicer-looking UA uniforms]

That's a pretty big turnover from last season; as such, it's automatically difficult to place this team in predictions because we've never seen half these guys on the court or courtside before, aside from Ice Jam.  The ACC coaches, however, didn't seem to have such difficulty: they put us in at 10th in the conference.  It's probably fair, given how miserably BC failed last year (albeit with a completely different coaching staff and several different players).  If the Eagles want some respect, they're going to have to go out and earn it.

What's the schedule the Eagles will face, you ask?  Why, it's this one here, of course.  When it was released on September 2, I offered my thoughts in this article.  It's a very interesting one indeed, and it kicks off next Friday night at the Conte Forum against St. Francis of New York at 7pm.  I'd say the chances of Donahue going 1-0 as BC's head coach are pretty good.

Who will have to step up for BC if they're going to resurrect themselves following the rock-bottom that was 2009-2010?  For starters, I don't think there's any doubt that the most athletically-gifted player on the Eagles is Mister October himself, Reggie Jackson.  This is the same guy, of course, who dunked over John Southern's head at the Ice Jam.  It will be up to him to lead the Eagles offensively, and both on and off the court.  Of course, his game wasn't flawless in 09-10, but this team will need a spark, and he's the one who has to provide it.  Working in Steve Donahue's "motion offense" (which is broken down here -- apologies if the link doesn't work) as opposed to the air-tight Al Skinner flex should help things.  In fact, as Donahue said in his recent ESPN chat, "I think that you'll see [our] guys playing with a lot more freedom in our half court offense as well as our run game. You will also see the use of the three point line more often."  I like, and that sounds like it's right up Reggie's proverbial alley.  I'm eager to see what he can do with Donahue.

He must get significant contributions from seniors Joe Trapani, Biko Paris, and Corey Raji.  Trapani averaged a point more in 09-10 than the previous season, but spent about a hundred fewer minutes on the court.  He has been fairly consistent, scoring about 14 points per game, but that consistency needs to be notched up a little higher.  Corey Raji is a big guy at 6-6, and like Trapani, he was around the top of the team in rebounds per game (Trapani was 1, Raji was 2).  We know what the flaws in his game have been, however -- that includes finishing off those lay-ups which don't drop.  Finally, Biko Paris has proven himself to be alright at times, but he just doesn't score many points.  In his BC career, Biko is averaging 4.7 points per game, though his assists jumped way up last season.  Considering how even the best player on the team right now, Jackson, didn't shoot that great last season, I'd say the whole team has to get much better at it if BC is to have any hope of winning games of note this season.  As for Paris in particular, he's going to have to come up with a better offensive output than his norm.  That's a fairly general statement, but quite true: putting points on the board was a major problem for BC last year, coming in 9th in the ACC in that category.

If those four guys play well, Boston College should be alright, but of course, it takes more than just four guys to win.  Josh Southern had a relatively poor 2009-2010 season, scoring only 4.4 points per game and registering only 11 blocks in 31 games (for purposes of comparison, Cortney Dunn, two inches shorter than Southern, had 19 blocks in 29 games, having started none of them).  BC can't afford another season of the kind of lackadaisical defense they got from Southern, former Eagle Rakim Sanders, etc.

So, how do I think BC will do this season?  To me, they're a great enigma.  There are five new players on the team this year, and obviously I can't give you any idea of how they're going to do.  As for the guys we know, I know Coach Donahue and staff have been working these guys very hard to get them in game shape, and I know that Donahue brings a more exciting type of offense that should open up opportunities more than Skinner's system did, so I'm at least optimistic in that respect.

I think BC's floor is a season as bad as last season, and BC's ceiling is a season like 2008-2009: BC plays a solid season and fights their way into the tournament.  That's a pretty broad range, but there is a lot of uncertainty in play here.  It wouldn't take much to improve over last year, and I'm not particularly bent out of shape over losing a guy like Rakim Sanders (as I never thought he lived up to expectations anyway).  It would have been nice to keep the recruits, but they never stepped on the court for BC, so I've moved on.

You do have to admit, though, it is exciting to see what a new-look Eagles team can do.  I know I'll be watching, and hoping for the best.


  1. You gotta figure we handed most teams 10-15 points per game the last two years by being incapable of handling a press and getting the ball over half court. We also had our publicized struggles on in-bounds plays. If Donohue can fix those things, we're immediately in better position to win games.

  2. We are in a way better position then last year, because even though sanders was a talent, he did not come to play every night. Give me five guys that know their strengths and weaknesses, and one potential star which a team can look to for tough buckets, you have a chance to win every time and will win. The schedule favors for a good year. Only thing is injuries.