Boston College ’09-10 Preview
Eagles may reach the depths of ‘the Heights’ unless everyone steps up.
by Dan Totten
The Farmer’s Almanac predicts the winter of ’09-10 to be yet another storm ridden debacle throughout Boston and New England.
Given that prediction, perhaps when Boston College visit St.Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands on November 20 for the Paradise Jam Tournament, the Eagles should consider signing themselves into a Caribbean witness relocation program. A true escape once they complete that tournament is right at hand since the team could hop a 15-minute speedboat to Tortola, BVI’s and party with the big Bomba himself. That way they could enjoy some tropical drinks and various island pleasures at Bomba’s Shack and spare their fans and fellow students the brutality of anywhere from a seventh place (at very best) finish in the Atlantic Coast Conference. A very distinct possibility exists that BC could fall even further and end up somewhere among the bottom three or four cellar dwellers this season.
How could this be you ask? Easy. While Al Skinner has semi-quietly amassed the title of BC’s all-time winningest hoop coach, he has not brought any new recruits into the fold this year whatsoever. NOT ONE. Zero, Zip, Nada. Also troublesome is that while BC returns four starters from a 22-12 squad that upset North Carolina last January, the Eagles were one and done in the NCAA Tournament. The Eagles have not done significant March Madness damage since 2006 when they made the Sweet Sixteen.
There is also a dicey proposition of the point guard position. It’s being handled on platoon basis by 6-1 junior from New Orleans, Biko Paris. Every indication is that 6-3 sophomore guard from Colorado Springs, Reggie Jackson, will share the PG duties with Paris. When was the last time a shared point guard situation led to a team’s improvement?
Skinner would have been wise to step up his grooming of both Paris and Jackson rather than rely on all-everything guard Tyrese Rice to control every aspect of games. While Rice was quite capable over his career, he also had some El Foldo exhibitions to say the least. Not the least of which was a loss against Harvard last January. Rice was non-existent on defense while Harvard guard extraordinaire Jeremy Lin exploded at the “Heights.” (Perhaps the Eagles were entitled to a letdown after beating eventual national champion North Carolina the week before, but come on – a letdown to Harvard. It was not just a letdown but a thrashing of epic proportions. But I digress. That game is a story for another time.)
Now that I’ve scared Eagles hoop fans, this season is not without possibility of redeeming bright spots. One of those possible bright spots is Jackson; who scored 17 in the Eagles upset over the Tar Heels on January 4. If Jackson continues to improve, using his quickness and court savvy along with potential for leadership, Paris may find himself struggling just to keep himself in the PG platoon.
Back to Tyrese Rice for a moment. The man could not crack the Washington Wizards roster and now finds himself playing for Panionios in Greece. Rice was a very talented college point guard. The world, especially the U.S. is filled with them, yet Rice was relied upon far too much with no eye toward grooming incoming talent.
Don’t get me wrong. Skinner is a coach to be respected and reckoned with, since he is after all a two-time Big East Coach of the Year, National Coach of the Year in ’00-01, A-10 Coach of the Year in ’91-92. Skinner’s playing experience included a collegiate career alongside Dr. J and Rick Pitino at UMass and he went onto play with Julius Erving with the New York Nets where they won an ABA title.
It simply seems that Skinner’s recruiting leaves a lot to be desired, especially now that he is recruiting against the powerhouse hoop teams of the ACC. Overcoming the basketball hysteria and championship pedigree of the Carolinas, Dukes and Marylands of the world is difficult to say the least, despite having a world class city in Boston and world class education at Boston College, not to mention a fairly decent history of hoop at BC.
This BC hoop history includes former coaches such as Celtic legend Bob Cousy, NBA champion and gold medal Olympic coach Chuck Daly, Jim O’Brien (former BC point guard, ABA player and Ohio State coach) and Dr. Tom Davis (former Iowa head coach) and Gary Williams (now with Maryland).
Many former BC hoop greats went onto the NBA, among them: John Bagley, Dana Barros, Bill Curley, Jared Dudley, Michael Adams, Troy Bell, Howard Eisley, Jay Murphy, Sean Williams and Craig Smith among others.
Notice anything regarding position played by many of the named alumni? Point guard. Let’s hope either Paris or Jackson can live up to the high expectations.
There are indeed other bright spots that could catapult BC above what most experts predict to be a seventh-place finish in the ACC.
Junior forward Joe Trapani, who transferred to BC from Vermont after his freshman year, is a player to watch. To use a reference from yesteryear, Trapani is a bit of a throwback in the Doug Collins mold. Collins was a 6-6 point guard who was also a non-stop bundle of basketball kinetic energy. Collins’ major strength was slashing to the basket and making quick scores and drawing fouls. Trapani does this well. A somewhat more recent comparison is to former Celtic Wally Szczerbiak (current Cleveland Cavalier) who, like Trapani, almost never saw a shot he did not like.
With Trapani old enough to be a senior but with a junior’s playing status, he may well prove to be the leader this team needs to take the reins and provide some strong leadership.
Junior 6-6 forward Corey Raji also could be a sleeper and posses the ability to pleasantly surprise at the Heights this year. While Raji posted decent stats last year — 9.9 ppg and 6.1 rpg — he was also dealing with a groin injury that hampered him from further success.
Last but certainly not least on the BC watch list is Josh Southern, a 6-10 center from Saginaw, MI. Southern seems to have the innate and raw ability. This season is his opportunity to pull it all together and become consistent with those flashes of defensive strength and at times dogged tenacity. Six points and 5 rebounds per game from a center in the ACC with as meager a cast of teammates that Southern had just does not help your team no matter how you slice it. Josh Southern – step up to the plate and deliver.
This BC team will handle their “local” New England opponents with some ease for the most part (although keep an eye on the Harvard match up on December 9 at BC — Harvard’s Jeremy Lin will return — while BC will be severely tested early in the season by Providence and Michigan, they should then go on a roll against locals and sub-premium competition. After that possibility of putting some decent Ws on the board, the Eagles face a mid-season onslaught of hurdles in Clemson, Duke and Maryland in a row. If that doesn’t kill their resolve they have the remainder of their schedule chock filled with tough ACC foes and BC will struggle with most of them.
Sorry Eagle Fans, I am predicting a drought this year with BC being able to muster only 15 wins in the regular season with no Big Dance anywhere in sight. There is simply too many ‘ifs’ on the talent, potential and chemistry. A cold winter followed by a colder spring.
Last question: When will Skinner and his staff bring-in blue chip talent in a few different positions? Yeah, recruiting against ACC legends like North Carolina, Duke and everybody else under the sun is tough. Yes, the BC academic requirements and demands are high – but for the love of big time college basketball, I make this simple request: please feed hoop junkies and fans all through New England’s needs. Skinner, get on the recruiting trail now and get some major talent before we all freeze to death over the next few winters in Boston.
Boston College ’09-10 prediction:
9th place – Atlantic Coast Conference , 15-15 record.
No Dance – No Madness , just cold, dark, dank New England winter.
The following sources were researched for this article: Bceagles.cstv, ESPN.com, Wikipedia, bcallaccess.com, Athlon Sports Magazine and AthlonSports.com.