March 11, 2008
CHESTNUT HILL Al Skinner, who isn't used to losing at Boston College, offered an explanation as to why this year's team did just that.
"We had some success, and we started deviating from what we were doing," the BC coach said after the regular season-ending home loss to Georgia Tech. "Then we had a hard time trying to recapture that. I told the guys in the locker room to take the film home, look at it and see yourself."
The Eagles lost their last six games of the regular season and 11 of their last 12. All of that came after back-to-back home wins over Wake Forest and then-No. 21 Miami. The young BC team had seemed to recover from a blowout loss at home to Kansas and then an unacceptable loss to Robert Morris, a very good team but a mid-major just the same.
ACC teams just aren't supposed to lose to mid-majors, and the fact that it was at home made it even worse.
But the Eagles did recover. Skinner was stupefied as to why his team didn't move against Robert Morris. Then BC came out and ran Wake out of the gym, to the tune of 112 points. Then Miami fell.
Were these young guys getting it? No. The season turned to mush after that, and there were a number of reasons for it. Among them:
- Teams began to scheme, even more so than before, against Tyrese Rice because they knew the little guard just had to do it all.
The concept going forward was to make life as tough as possible for Rice every time BC had the ball. As the season wore on, Rice's alternatives dwindled. Freshman wing Rakim Sanders got off to a good start, a truly promising start, but teams schemed against him, too, although he did rally a bit at the end.
Even when Rice went off, as he did when he scored an amazing 23 points in the first 6:59 against North Carolina on national television you may never see a better seven minutes of basketball from a guard the opponent often adjusted. UNC's Ty Lawson decided to pick up his old friend from Virginia way out by midcourt, making him work hard for everything he got in the second half.
- No senior leadership.
Seniors Tyrelle Blair and John Oates are big men. They're good kids. Heck, Blair broke the school record for blocked shots in a season. Sean Williams is in the NBA. Blair isn't going to the NBA. Oates? He was a decent contributor on a team with players such as Jared Dudley, Williams and Craig Smith, all NBAers. He's not the kind of player you can depend on for more than a little.
So, there was no inside presence, not on offense, anyway.
- The league.
You just can't get away with a team like this in a league like this. Had Williams stayed and there was never any reason to think he would, which is why Blair was brought in as a transfer in the first place the Eagles would have flown in 2007-08. As it was, it was Rice, and then it wasn't nice.
This is not to say there isn't promise here. Young kids get better. These guys will get better, and the group will be joined and aided by frontcourt player Joe Trapani, who sat out this year after transferring from Vermont.
Skinner made sure that freshman big man Josh Southern, whose body is more big-league than when he arrived at The Heights, played serious minutes in serious games. Rice, of course, will be a senior next season.
You had to wonder at least a bit about Rice's comments after the loss to Georgia Tech, but give the kid credit for seeing the glass half-full.
"We are definitely going to go into the tournament confident," he said. "That's the only way you can have any kind of success. We are going to try to put this season behind us and look at it as the start of a new year."
Next year will be a new year, and a time for BC to put its first losing season since 1999-2000 behind it. Learn from it, get older and better, move on.
Blair, by the way, went over the 100-block mark for the season, in the quietest record-breaking season one can imagine. He blocked three in the final game of the regular season to land at 102. Williams had set the old record with 75 last year, but he did it in just 15 games in his troubled final season.
Speaking of Trapani, he was seen at the UNC game on crutches. It was nothing serious, though. He had rolled an ankle in practice and needed a couple of weeks to get better.
NFL SCOUTS PLAN CAMPUS VISIT
With BC's spring football practice slated to start March 25, the bubble that covers Alumni Stadium was set for a major media event a week earlier. Pro Day for NFL scouts will be held March 18, and it was a big enough happening for the school to accept media credential requests.
Obviously, the man in the middle of the media and NFL storm will be Matt Ryan, the No. 1-rated quarterback in the draft.
Ryan elected not to throw for scouts at the NFL Combine, the feeling being that there was nothing for him to gain. He was there and took part in the other activities, scoring huge grades in the interviews that impressed anyone listening.
Ryan was set to be one of 17 BC players scheduled to work out for the NFL types that day. There has been all kinds of talk about where he'll wind up in the draft. Would Miami's Bill Parcells repeat what he did with Drew Bledsoe in New England and take a quarterback with the first pick? Did the Falcons' release of Joey Harrington mean they're set to take Ryan with the third pick?
When the subject of Brady Quinn and his rapid fall in the first round last year was brought up to BC coach Jeff Jagodzinski, he just expressed confidence that Ryan is a different and better player than Quinn.
Regardless of where he goes, Ryan will go prepared to lead. Even in a program that always has been loaded with intelligent and well-spoken kids, Ryan stands out. One local media type dubbed him "Senator Ryan" during his senior year, because of the way he handled himself off the field and particularly with the media.
Meanwhile, Jagodzinski said he was getting indications that offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus also could go in the first round as a right tackle and not as a left tackle, the position he was forced to play as a senior because of the roster situation. Cherilus appears ready to join the long line of BC offensive linemen who went on to good things in the NFL.
Among the other BC players scheduled to work out were safety Jamie Silva (too small for the NFL? don't bet against this overachiever), punter Johnny Ayers and linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar.
Players from Northeastern, Massachusetts and Harvard also were slated to work out at BC's Pro Day.