Chris McHugh offers some thoughts on the ACC-Big Ten Challenge!
The annual competition between the ACC and the Big 10 has been anything but a "Challenge" with the ACC winning all 8 editions of the contest. Calling this a challenge does disservice to the word. In reality, the Big 10 has been beaten like a red-headed stepchild. However, rather than dwell on the Big 10, which seems to be very down this year with the exception of Wisconsin and Ohio St., I wanted to share my observations about two ACC teams that have reason for concern.
Trouble at the Heights
BC has reason to worry? Wait, didn't they get a much needed win against Michigan State after laying eggs against Vermont and Providence. Yup, sure did. After reviewing the tape of this game, two things became clear: 1) Craig Smith was more important to this team than just about any other departing player in the country and 2) BC is not going anywhere in the ACC or nationally this year.
Smith covered up many of the flaws of the BC teams over the past four years. He was always the man in big situations and served as the key cog in BC's plodding, archaic flex offense. Teammates were able to chip in due to the attention Smith drew and the presence he brought to the offensive end. Smith's success this season with Minnesota in the NBA after being a second round pick confirms that he was underappreciated during his time at BC and more integral to their success than many thought.
The Eagles are going to struggle without him. Aside from Jared Dudley, who was outstanding on Wednesday night, the talent is not there. Sean Marshall can scream and pound his chest as much as he'd like, but he still doesn't bring anything to the table besides streaky shooting and a lousy attitude. John Oates is a 7 footer whose lone attribute is the ability to make open three point shots. They are replacing Louis Hinnant, an underrated and cagey point guard, with Tyrese Rice, a young shoot-first guard masquerading as a point man. Sean Williams is a freakish athlete and gifted defender, but he is essentially a non-factor on the offense end besides the occasional dunk. Al Skinner has been talking up how improved his offensive arsenal is, but after watching the Michigan St. game, I see little evidence of the improvement.
BC is likely a tournament team, but they strike me as a flawed, 5th place team in the ACC, not 2nd or 3rd as many predicted before the season. The ACC is far too improved with the likes of UVA and Maryland looking far more promising than BC at this stage. Their off-season losses are far more significant than realized and will prevent them from repeating or improving upon their third place finish of a year ago.
Putting the "U" in Ugly
Yikes. Early losses to Buffalo and Cleveland St. were a good indicator that it's going to be a long year for Miami. Unfortunately, your scribe had a wager on Northwestern in this game and had to tune in to watch this 9:30 game played in a half-full gym between the two least talented teams in their respective leagues. "Watching paint dry" does not quite do justice. It got to the point where I was actually hoping the game would be preempted by Quite Frankly with Stephen A. Smith, a slightly more tolerable exercise in torture.
Credit to Miami-they actually battled very hard against Northwestern and nearly pulled out the win, but it's apparent that they don't have the pieces necessary to do battle in the ACC. In the past three seasons, they have never exactly been a quality squad. However, with Guillermo Diaz and Robert Hite, you always felt like they at least had a puncher's chance, even against some of the ACC's best. Diaz and Hite were that talented.
Now, the cupboard is almost bare. They have some passable role players in Denis Clemente, Jimmy Graham, and Anthony King. Jack McClinton, a sophomore transfer from Siena, is an intriguing prospect who went off for 30 points in the loss to the Wildcats.
Unfortunately, that won't be enough. They are a good bet for the ACC Basement, 3-13 sounding about right. We know they are always good for a win (or three) against Maryland. Aside from that, hard to see where they will be able to pick up W's with this cast of character.
At least they have football. Oops.