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Gober Previews Boston College!

Jim Gober has written some extensive previews of each ACC team and
offered them to DBR. Today he previews B.C.

Duke Preview

In its inaugural season as a member of the ACC during 2005-2006, having joined the ACC for all sports effective July 1, 2005, the Big East 2004-2005 regular season champion Boston College Eagles (+8.2 ppg, +5.0 rpg, +4.0 apg, 4.1 bpg, 45.6% fg, 34.2% 3-fg, 4.1 3-fg made/g, 71.2% ft, +297 ft attempts, +20 blocks, +0.7 bpg, +5 steals, +0.1 s/g, +0.7 to/g, 1.3 a/t, opponents: 41.4% fg, 35.7% 3-fg, 6.5 3-fg made/g, 1.0 a/t) will have the best combination of starting forwards in the ACC and the best two-player combination on any ACC team other than Duke.

6-7 senior PF Craig Smith (18.0 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 50.4% fg, 67.1% ft, 3rd Team All-American (NABC), Honorable Mention AP All-American, and 1st Team All-Big East, 2005 USA World University Games Team Invitation) and 6-7 junior WF Jared Dudley (16.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 3.2 apg, 2.0 a/to, 48.8% fg, 33.3% 3-fg, 75.4% ft, Honorable Mention AP All-American, 1st Team All-Big East, 2005 U21 National Select Team Invitation) provide the Eagles with inside power and point forward finesse. Smith is the brute force inside, while Dudley will remind ACC fans of Julius Hodge with his outstanding versatility, multiple skills and variety of team contributions.

With four starters and potentially a more talented starting center returning from the 2004-2005 team that started the season 20-0, BC may be even better in 2005-2006 than it was last season if it can maintain its excellent team chemistry and overcome a significant player suspension and a serious lack of proven depth.

The most serious problem for BC is that the status of 6-10 soph C Sean Williams (4.1 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.3 bpg, 65% fg, 52% ft, All-Big East Freshman Team) is uncertain following a two-semester college and basketball team suspension for smoking marijuana on repeat occasions and becoming very stupid, or vice versa.

If Williams does not return to Boston College in January 2006 ready to contribute right away or soon after his return, as most expect, BC’s potential to be a national top-10 contender and finish near the top of the ACC standings will be greatly diminished. Without Williams, BC would be saddled with a serious lack of team height, depth and quality inside beyond the Eagles’ undersized All-Americans, PF Craig Smith and WF Jared Dudley.

For BC to capitalize on its significant advantage over most opponents at the forward positions, the Eagles also must deal with several significant player losses that followed the 2004-2005 season. Starting 7-0 C Nate Doornekamp (5.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 0.9 bpg, 39.4% fg) and 6-3 2G Jermaine Watson (9.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 45.3 fg%, 40% 3-fg, 83% ft) were important role players who were seniors last season.

Doornekamp gave BC size, depth, rebounding and passing inside, and Watson, who was essentially the Eagles’ sixth man, was one of the four players on the team who averaged more than six points per game.

The anticipated return of Sean Williams is critical for BC to be at all strong at the center position and to replace Doornekamp, and immediate contributions from inexperienced freshman guards with potential is necessary for BC to replace Watson and have any meaningful bench support for the starters outside.

Hurting BC’s depth further, but only slightly, were the transfers of 6-0 soph PG Steve Hailey (3.4 ppg, 27% fg, 28% 3-fg, 70.3% ft) and 6-6 freshman WF Gordon Watt (1.3 ppg, 0.8 rpg, 30% fg, 28.3% 3-fg, 31 min.). Hailey provided BC with some ball-handling support at PG as the eighth man in BC’s player rotation, but his shooting last season was pathetic. Watt played in only six games at WF all season due in part to Dudley being a player who only rarely comes out of games.

The starters for Boston College at the guard positions are solid players who complement the talents of All-Americans Smith and Dudley. 6-4 senior PG Louis Hinnant (5.3 ppg, 4.8 apg, 2.4 a/t, 1.3 s/g, 33.3% fg, 32.8% 3-fg, 73.2% ft) is an outstanding floor general who combines his sensational 2.4 assists-to-turnovers ratio at point guard with Jared Dudley’s outstanding 2.0 assists-to-turnovers ratio at point forward to direct the Eagles’ controlled passing attack that generates an average of four more assists per game for BC than its opponents can muster. 6-6 junior 2G Sean Marshall (11.1 ppg, 1.3 a/t, 45.8% fg, 38.9% 3-fg, 62.8% ft) is the only proven scorer behind Smith and Dudley returning for the Eagles. Marshall hit the most 3-pointers for Boston College last season, and he was second only to Watson in 3-point accuracy at 38.9%. Marshall can provide depth at WF if Dudley ever needs any support at WF, and Dudley can move to 2G if needed to spell Marshall at that position.

The only other depth at the guard positions comes from 6-0 freshman 2G Tyrese Rice (Prep Stars # 127) and 6-2 freshman PG Marquez Haynes (Prep Stars # 155).

Tyrese Rice, who achieved the sixth highest career scoring average in Virginia high school basketball history, is an outstanding shooter who buries threes and hits over 80% at the free-throw line. Rice’s only limitation as a basketball player and 2G is his height, but he should be a terrific scorer at the college level if he can meet BC’s tough academic requirements. If lefty Rice can fill Watson’s role as the scorer off the bench for BC, another question will have been answered as to whether Boston College can equal or exceed its sensational team performance during its Big East swan song and lame duck season.

Haynes should more than offset the loss of Hailey at the PG position, and he may provide BC with another scoring option at 2G.

Besides being the leader of the Texas All-Stars in the annual Oil Bowl high school basketball game against the Oklahoma
All-Stars, Haynes showed his athleticism by winning the slam-dunk competition. With Rice and Haynes, Coach Al Skinner likely once again has overcome mere recruiting rankings and found some solid players who have athleticism and toughness and are good fits for the BC system.

Prime examples of Skinner’s recruiting philosophy and success are Smith and Dudley. Coming into his freshman season, Craig Smith was underrated to a fault by recruiting experts, many of whom foolishly rank high school players based upon NBA potential instead of college potential.

Though Smith may be a few inches short of ideal for the NBA, his enormous strength, toughness and quickness for a college PF allowed him to become a phenom in the Big East as soon as he entered his freshman season (19.9 ppg, 60.8% fg in Big East games, 2nd Team All-Big East).

Containing Smith will be a difficult task for ACC teams that are not especially strong inside. With Smith and Dudley leading the way, Boston College dominated its opponents on the boards last season (+5.0 rpg) and hammered and drove the ball inside to score easy baskets and get to the free-throw line far more than its opponents did (+297 ft attempts).

Amazingly, Jared Dudley was not even ranked by Prep Stars when he arrived at BC. During his freshman senior, Dudley proved that the east coast experts missed completely in their rankings of him just as they had missed on ranking fellow Californian Smith during the previous year (11.9 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1.3 spg, 3rd Team Freshman All-American (College Basketball News), Big East All-Freshman Team (1 of 2 unanimous selections)).

Similarly to departed NC State star Julius Hodge, Jared Dudley helps his team with ball-handling, scoring, passing, rebounding, defense, winning and the intangibles. Most importantly, he combines with Craig Smith to give BC two established All-American caliber basketball standouts at the forward positions.

If athletic soph C Sean Williams returns from his pot-headed suspension in January 2006, he will give BC the missing ingredient to have a super frontline. Williams will be asked to focus on defense and shot-blocking, and it will be very likely that he will exceed the contributions of Doornekamp at the center position significantly. In only 17.2 minutes per game in 2004-2005, Williams averaged 2.3 blocked shots, the third best blocked shots per game average in the Big East Conference.

If Williams does not return for the 2005-2006 sesaon, however, or if BC loses Smith or Dudley for any period of time due to injury or other causes, the Eagles are in trouble. The only replacement for Williams is 6-10 soph C John Oates (0.8 ppg, 1.2 rpg, 15 min.), who provides a big body but needs time to develop into a decent reserve.

Oates saw only 15 minutes of action in 6 games last season. 6-7 soph PF Akida McLain (3.9 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 51.7% fg, 50% ft, 76 min.) provides some support behind Smith and Dudley for the few minutes they are not in the game, but McLain saw only 76 minutes of action in 9 games as a freshman himself.

6-8 freshman PF Evan Neisler (Prep Stars # 243) may not be the answer to BC’s depth concerns in the frontcourt either, since he is from Raleigh, NC and was not recruited by other ACC teams. ACC teams, including Wake Forest, did recruit BC’s other freshman from the heart of ACC territory, Virginian 2G Tyrese Rice.

Given the available options, Boston College may move Smith to center, Dudley to PF, Marshall to WF, and use Rice or Haynes at 2G in a lineup with Hinnant at PG if Sean Williams does not come back. Though that lineup would be filled with offensive potential, the Eagles obviously would be undersized and would encounter defensive match-up problems.

Based upon the great job Al Skinner does as BC’s coach though, the presence of two established All-Americans as team leaders, the physical and mental toughness the Eagles displayed last season, and the probability that Sean Williams will provide the missing piece to the Boston College lineup, the second best team in the ACC in 2005-2006 is likely to be the newest member of the conference.