Saturday, January 31, 2009

GAMEDAY: Boston University vs. the University of Hartford

A winning streak is no easy thing to extend -- especially in the America East, where every one of the nine teams has shown the ability to beat any other on a given night. But the Terriers will look to do just that Saturday against the worst team in the conference (Hartford). The Hawks are on a five game losing streak, while BU will look to push its season-high winning streak to five games. If the Terriers win, they'll tie their longest winning streak in the last three seasons. The game is also televised nationally on ESPNU, which probably gives an added edge to Hartford and its fans as students and others who wouldn't normally attend the game will fill out the stands.

While the Terriers had two days off at the beginning of the week (which undoubtedly helped them regain the strength and stamina they lost over their last trying stretch of four games in nine days) their last two practices have left something to be desired. While the time off was necessary, one wonders if it will hamper the Terriers and remove them from their steadfast groove of solid play.

If that's the case, Hartford's an ideal opponent for BU to start its newest fatigue-plagued stretch against (four games in eight days). The Hawks have the worst record in the conference and haven't lived up to expectations. To make matters worse, they lost their best player in mid-December (junior guard Joe Zeglinski) and he won't return this season. Zeglinski was averaging 15.3 points per game. Since his departure, senior guard Jaret von Rosenberg has shouldered the load, scoring 13.7 points per game. While Hartford is a decent offensive team (63.7 points per game), their defense has been their downfall. In addition, the Hawks doesn't rebound particularly well (especially offensively), so if they're struggling from the field, they probably won't get many second chances at net.

For the Terriers, John Holland and Corey Lowe have been unbelievable since the beginning of conference play. Lowe is averaging 18.2 points per game, while Holland is averaging 17.8 points per game (third and fourth in the conference respectively). In addition to BU's two biggest scoring threats, however, the Terriers will need contributions from their big men in the middle. Scott Brittain has averaged 11.1 points and 6.1 rebounds per game since being re-inserted into the starting lineup. BU coach Dennis Wolff, however, is still looking for more out of his junior forward and much more from freshman forward Jeff Pelage. Pelage has been a bit of an enigma this season as he's shown flashes of brilliance, but hasn't been able to consistently display the proper effort necessary for a collegiate basketball player. If he does, Pelage could be an extremely dangerous weapon for the Terriers, especially given the shortened bench.

Projected starting lineups:


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

State of America East

Early in conference play, the standings have a tendency to appear out-of-order. Looking at the wins and losses, it's easy to imagine conference upheaval. Sure, one win by an upstart team might be an upset, but aren't two or three wins a trend?

There's parity in America East this year, for sure, but as three conference games become six or seven, the cream starts to rise to the top (and to continue the coffee metaphor, you might find an unpleasant residue at the bottom). Is your team's present outlook sweet or bitter? Let's take a look:

America East Power Rankings (records versus D-I opponents)

1. Vermont Catamounts
14-6 (5-2 America East), RPI 123, SOS 247
Last week: W 79-65 at Hartford, W 72-56 vs. New Hampshire
This week: 1/28 vs. Maine, 1/31 at New Hampshire

After starting off on the wrong foot in conference play Vermont has reasserted itself as the class of America East. Five straight wins by double-digit margins -- three of them coming on the road -- have propelled the Catamounts all the way up to the top of the standings. Marqus Blakely looks more human with each passing game, collecting only one double-double in conference play (how often does one double-double sound abnormally low?), but the Catamounts' exceptional balance leads to consistently strong performances.

2. Boston University Terriers
10-9 (5-2 AE), RPI 176, SOS 207
Last week: W 80-77 vs. Maryland-Baltimore County (2 OT), W 73-62 at Maine
This week: 1/31 at Hartford

The Terriers' marathon is finally over. Finding a way to string together wins without Tyler Morris and Carlos Strong originally appeared to be a daunting task, but it turns out BU is doing just fine with its depleted roster -- for now. Corey Lowe and John Holland have been asked to turn in superhuman performances. So far the duo has delivered, with Holland leading all America East players in scoring during conference play and Lowe ranking third. Lowe is also second in assists per game. Even more surprisingly, BU has been able to tough out wins. Who ever thought the Terriers could be described as a gritty team, or even a clutch team? In any case, this week offers a well-deserved rest leading up to a nationally televised game at Hartford, with a chance to be 6-2 at the break.

3. Binghamton Bearcats
11-7 (5-2 AE), RPI 152, SOS 258
Last week: W 60-47 at New Hampshire
This week: 1/28 at Maryland-Baltimore County, 1/31 vs. Maine

The Bearcats are without Dwayne Jackson, who has been suspended indefinitely, but didn't look any worse for wear while in Durham. D.J. Rivera had just six points, which can be interpreted in any number of ways. Maybe the Bearcats are finding ways to win without relying too heavily on their stars. On the other hand, maybe Binghamton's leading scorer is starting to wear down from the burden being placed on his shoulders. One of the quieter storylines has been the disappearance of Theo Davis, who has yet to log a single minute in conference play. In any case, the Bearcats haven't appeared to need Davis' services so far.

4. Albany Great Danes
12-8 (4-3 AE), RPI 121, SOS 217
Last week: L 58-45 vs. Stony Brook, W 80-71 vs. Maryland-Baltimore County
This week: 1/28 vs. Hartford

Of the teams in America East with winning records, Albany is by far the most reliant on freshmen and sophomores. That bodes well for the future, but at present it produces some maddening changes in performance level from game to game. After appearing to be invincible at home for the first half of the season, the Great Danes came out flat against Stony Brook. Albany's high turnover rate on offense gets the Danes into trouble on occassion. Not coincidentally, Albany's turnover rate decreases substantially when the Danes play at home. Like other variations from game to game, the poor level of play exhibited against the Seawolves was corrected against the Retrievers. Watch out, Hartford.

5. Stony Brook Seawolves
10-9 (3-4 AE), RPI 196, SOS 277
Last week: W 58-45 at Albany, W 72-63 vs. Hartford
This week: 1/28 vs. New Hampshire, 1/31 vs. Maryland-Baltimore County

Stony Brook's brief trip to the cellar was quickly terminated last week with a pair of wins. The Brook's triumph against Albany was its best win of the year -- don't let the name fool you, Air Force is not particularly impressive this season. The Seawolves' freshmen have momentum. Now the task is sustaining it. UMBC is reeling from a combination of fatigue, injuries, and crushing losses, but New Hampshire comes first, and the Wildcats have beaten Stony Brook in six of the last seven meetings. Old habits die hard.

6. Maine Black Bears
7-12 (3-4 AE), RPI 252, SOS 228
Last week: L 73-62 vs. Boston University
This week: 1/28 at Vermont, 1/31 at Binghamton

Maine couldn't have asked for a better start against the Terriers last weekend. Up 27-9 in the first half, the Black Bears had things under control. Of course, that's precisely when things started to unravel. It wasn't necessarily the offense's fault. Maine averaged more than one point per possession for the fourth consecutive game. No, instead the defense collapsed. More than most teams, the Black Bears need a strong defensive performance in order to win. Ten teams have averaged more than a point per possession against Maine, and all ten of those teams have won. With two more conference leaders on the horizon, the odds of Black Bear success in the near future are fairly low.

7. New Hampshire Wildcats
6-11 (2-4 AE), RPI 274, SOS 292
Last week: L 60-47 vs. Binghamton, L 72-56 at Vermont
This week: 1/28 at Stony Brook, 1/31 vs. Vermont

The Wildcats carried momentum into their double-overtime loss to Maine. It appears that momentum decided to stay behind at the Alfond. Two consecutive losses, each by a sizable margin, leave UNH in a familiar position: seventh, precisely where it finished a year ago with similar personnel. Sooner or later the image of the Wildcats as a team loaded with talented perimeter players and jump-shooters is going to fade away, and rightfully so. That image, quite frankly, isn't accurate. New Hampshire shoots a lot of 3s, but fully 70 percent of them end up as misses. The Wildcats are much more competent on the defensive end, largely due to outstanding defensive rebounding. If UNH could do a better job of keeping opponents off the free throw line, its defense would be excellent. As it is, the Wildcats are relegated to being average defensively and atrocious offensively.

8. Hartford Hawks
6-15 (2-5 AE), RPI 250, SOS 156
Last week: L 79-65 vs. Vermont, L 72-63 at Stony Brook
This week: 1/28 at Albany, 1/31 vs. Boston University

Despite the loss of Joe Zeglinski, the Hawks have managed to not embarrass themselves too much in America East play. The problem is, they rarely manage to actually win a game. Nobody can criticize the Hawks' effort or desire, but losing repeatedly by reasonable margins doesn't get a team anywhere but the cellar. Once or twice a month the Hawks manage a strong effort, either on offense or defense, and pull out a win. Maybe in February we'll see another one.

9. Maryland-Baltimore County Retrievers
7-11 (2-5 AE), RPI 229, SOS 215
Last week: L 80-77 at Boston University (2 OT), L 80-71 at Albany
This week: 1/28 vs. Binghamton, 1/31 at Stony Brook

There's a lot more fight in the Retrievers than most last-place teams usually have. That's further evidence of the parity in America East this year. On the other hand, UMBC isn't likely to see much improvement from its star players, and there aren't many other sources to get additional production from, given the thin bench. This is the danger of under-utilizing the bench on a healthy team: when you need bench players to replace production, they aren't ready to step in. To be fair, UMBC never had much of a bench to work with in the first place, but the few remaining reserves aren't prepared to play at this level. Unless those players manage to step up, the Retrievers will find it tough sledding from here on out.

Conference performance
OOC record: 52-57 (Last 7 days: 0-0)
Conference RPI: 16 out of 31 (last week: 16)
Conference SOS: 20 out of 31 (last week: 24)

Conference SOS improved, probably because the AE is better than usual and AE members are playing conference games. There aren't any non-conference games scheduled until ESPN BracketBusters on February 21st.

Efficiency
All games:


Conference games only:


Now that America East play is almost halfway completed, there's enough data to produce a conference-only efficiency table with some real meaning. The methodology for generating this will be detailed a bit farther down, but first let's take a look at the numbers.

Anyone wondering what separates the Terriers and the Bearcats (well, besides the Terriers' win in Vestal), look no further than the efficiency margin for conference play. The Terriers' offense is the conference's best on a per-possession basis, and it's fueling Boston University's +10.3 overall margin. While the defense needs to be tightened up a bit, it's going to be hard for other teams to keep up with the Terriers' ability to score the basketball.

On a more negative note, the Retrievers look pretty bad on a per-possession basis. Hartford has still been worse over the course of the entire season, but the Hawks' early-season schedule was significantly harder. Strength of schedule can be factored out when generating the conference table because everyone plays everyone else twice over the course of the season, and after almost one complete trip through the conference Hartford appears competent if not particularly threatening. UMBC is last overall and lacks potency on either side of the ball, ranking 8th in offensive efficiency and 9th in defensive efficiency.

As was alluded to earlier, New Hampshire is lacking on the offensive side of the ball. The Wildcats' deficiencies on offense haven't improved in conference play, either. Against an average defense, the difference between UNH's offense and the Terriers' league-best attack is more than one point per five possessions. Over the course of one game played at the pace of those two teams (59.5 possessions per 40 minutes for each team), that's about 12 points. UNH's defense ranks 4th in the conference, but defense gets you nowhere when you can't score. Both Alvin Abreu and Tyrone Conley have eFG% marks in the low 40s; the resulting offensive ineptitude shouldn't come as a surprise.

Now for a quick note about the methodology used for compiling these tables. Both tables' metrics measure the same things (points per possession and tempo), but over different sets of data. The overall table includes data from every game -- you can find the numbers at Ken Pomeroy's site, kenpom.com, under raw offensive efficiency, raw defensive efficiency, and tempo. Margin, as explained in previous editions of this feature, is the difference between a team's offensive and defensive efficiency.

The conference-only table requires a bit more work. Kenpom doesn't provide conference-only statistics, so the raw data for each game (points scored, points allowed, and possessions) were put in an Excel spreadsheet and used to generate the efficiency statistics. Adjustments are made for the number of overtimes each team has played -- the Terriers' tempo would be significantly higher if they weren't credited for an additional 30 minutes played. Each week's spreadsheet, starting with this week, is available upon request.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Day After: (BU 73, Maine 62)

Finally, the Terriers have a chance to breathe. And do more than that, actually, as their brutal stretch of four games in nine days (which turned even more demanding, physically at least, when the team played six overtimes periods in a span of three nights) is over. The silver lining? BU won all four games to vault them over the .500 mark for the first time since they were 5-4 in December and pull into a three-way tie with Binghamton and Vermont (both 5-2) in conference play.

What's more is the way the Terriers capped their four-game stretch -- with an 11-point victory in frigid Alfond Arena after trailing by 18 points in the first half (73-62). In all honesty, BU could have collapsed. They could have allowed fatigue to become an all-too-easy excuse for the early deficit (though it was actually a sloppy zone defense and lack of shooting) and still had a phenomenal week in conference play with a 3-1 record. But they didn't. Instead, this group -- which was has been mercilessly criticized throughout the course of the season and some of their careers for not being tough enough at the end of games to close out victories, even with a big lead -- summoned enough energy to overcome the deficit on the road and put themselves right back in the talk for conference title contenders. It's somewhere not many people would have placed the Terriers, especially after the news came that Tyler Morris and Carlos Strong were lost for the season, but BU has looked to have proven their doubters wrong.

While the result of the week that was is extremely impressive and encouraging (and the team is on a season-high four-game winning streak, averaging 83.3 points over those last four contests), BU's work doesn't get any easier, nor will it for the remainder of the season (with perhaps the exception of the BracketBusters game, which doesn't hold nearly the importance of BU's conference contests). The victory against Maine marked the beginning of a stretch where the Terriers will play three in a row on the road and five of seven.

While Corey Lowe (who set BU's all-time record for 3-pointers made in a career), John Holland and Jake O'Brien are the Terriers' main scoring threats since conference play started, the current run would not have been possible had it not been for the contributions from Scott Brittain and Matt Wolff. Brittain has almost worked back to his sophomore-year form and is playing with perhaps the most confidence he has in his career. Since the start of conference play (and consequently, his insertion into the starting lineup) he's averaging 11.1 points and 6.1 rebounds per game (and 8.0 in BU's last four). Wolff, while often criticized for not putting up flashy numbers, remains a key contributor for the Terriers -- games like his seven-assist, six-rebound performance against Maine and his defensive lockdown of Darryl Proctor late in Thursday's victory against UMBC are two prime recent examples.

In a wide-open conference, the Terriers have as much momentum as any other team heading into their bye week. Rest before Saturday's game at Hartford couldn't have come at a better time for a team fighting fatigue (and that will be fighting fatigue all season).

Pros:
-- 20 Assists: BU notched a season-high in assists with a season-high (for any Terrier) nine from Lowe and seven from Wolff. BU's win at Alfond last season sparked a major winning streak and a key turnaround after an offensive switch. The team has already started playing better prior to a visit to Alfond, but perhaps this win will keep them going.
-- Man-to-man defense: Though the Terriers have been playing a matchup zone for the majority of the conference schedule, BU coach Dennis Wolff decided to switch to a man and it helped fuel the 18-point comeback victory. It's a great sign that BU can now use two defenses effectively after primarily being a man-to-man team for the whole season.

Cons:
-- Slow start: For the second-straight game, BU started sluggishly. While fatigue may be an acceptable excuse, the Terriers can't get used to a winning formula of having to climb out of early holes.
-- Marques Johnson's minutes: While Johnson's performance against Albany may have been an anomaly, he should probably be playing more than three minutes a game because the Terriers may need him down the stretch, especially if fatigue does become a serious issue.

Links
:
MBball wins fourth straight

Black Bears' start trumped by BU's finish

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Stat of the Week

5.2

Assists per game, that is. Since being benched by BU coach Dennis Wolff in the conference opener against the University at Albany, Lowe has started every America East contest at the point -- a place he's familiar with and has played before at BU, but that's certainly not his natural position. That said, Lowe is playing what is arguable the best basketball of his career (and has been awarded the America East Player of the Week award because of it), with a 33-point performance against Stony Brook, 26 points two days later against UMBC and 15 against Maine.

More impressive than the point totals, however, has been his ability to control the game. It's no mistake that BU has won four-straight games and six of seven since he's returned to the point. He's making the right reads on most offensive sets and notched a season-high (for any BU player) nine assists in Sunday's win against Maine. During the same time, he's committed just 3.8 turnovers per game, and that number is skewed thanks to seven turnovers in the quadruple overtime marathon. Lowe's current play is reminicent of the facilitator role he took on toward the end of last season when the Terriers went on their five-game winning streak.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Day After: (BU 80, UMBC 77 2 OT's)

Six overtimes in two games at Case Gymnasium is no way to treat the Boston University men's basketball teams' bodies, but it's one heck of a way to treat the fans -- especially with the results of both games were favorable for the Terrier faithful.

Despite the immense amount of minutes the short-staffed team has logged over the last two contests (coming in the middle of a four games in eight-day trip) the Terriers once again found a way to win in the face of a potential collapse. A polar opposite of the thriller against Stony Brook (which was close wire to wire... to wire, to wire) the Retrievers took a 9-3 lead in the first half before the Terriers gained control and upped their lead to 19 points a minute into the second half. Then the comeback -- fulled by one of the best players in the conference in Darryl Proctor and also by BU's fatigue (as BU coach Dennis Wolff said in the press conference).

Still for two teams whose benches were fairly short, the game was played as passionately as any in America East this season. Once again, Corey Lowe was able to summon extra energy as the game dragged on and help the Terriers to their third-straight win, especially when John Holland was admittedly tired toward the end of the second half and wasn't dominating the scoring like he did against Stony Brook.

Pros:
-- Corey Lowe's poise: Lowe once again dug deep and found that extra spark of energy that allowed him to make some crucial plays down the stretch and lead BU to victory.
-- Matt Wolff's 52-footer: Longest shot a Terriers' made since Corey Hassan knocked down a prayer past half court that he let go too late (against Maine at Agganis in the 2005-06 season), so it didn't count. Best part was, he almost pulled up from 52 feet and calmly knocked it down. No fist pump, smile, anything. Just a jog to the locker room up big.

Cons:
-- Near collapse: It's happened too many times to feel confident it won't again, but the last two wins certainly help alleviate some of those thoughts. Still, blowing a 19-point lead to a team with two players on the bench and a woozy starting point guard isn't encouraging.
-- Jake O'Brien's shooting: While it's a given players are going to have bad shooting nights, some of O'Brien's misses on his 2-of-11 evening were wide-open looks. He's had rough games like this before, but hasn't seemed to let it impact his game for an extended period of time.

Links:
How many more (over)times
Lowe records another big game
Terriers perfect exhaust system
Case of deja vu for Terriers

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Post-game Audio & Photos (BU 80, UMBC 77 2 OT's)



Audio from BU's 80-77 double overtime win against the University of Maryland-Baltumore County.

BU coach Dennis Wolff's opening statement
video

Wolff was unsure of how his team would perform after a shaky shootaround
video

Wolff talks about the possibility of fatigue with his short bench
video

Corey Lowe discusses a special burst of energy he gets toward the end of games
video

John Holland is fatigued after playing 104 minutes in two games
video

Scott Brittain reflects on gaining confidence after his best performance of the season
video

UMBC coach Randy Monroe's opening statement
video

Monroe talks about what he saw from his team in the second half
video

Monroe sings the praises of John Holland and Corey Lowe
video

Live Blog: University of Maryland-Baltimore County vs. Boston University



Tonight's game between the University of Maryland-Baltimore County Retrievers (8-9, 2-3) and the Boston University Terriers (8-9, 3-2) tips off at 7:00 p.m.

There's no word on whether Jay Greene will be active for tonight's game, so here are the starting lineups assuming he won't be playing.

University of Maryland-Baltimore County Retrievers
02 G Jay Greene
21 F Matt Spadafora
23 G Chauncey Gilliam
30 F Justin Fry
32 F Darryl Proctor

Boston University Terriers
02 F Matt Wolff
13 G Corey Lowe
21 F Jake O'Brien
23 F John Holland
31 F Scott Brittain

Final score: Boston University 80, University of Maryland-Baltimore County 77 (2 OT's)

Leading scorers:
UMBC -- Darryl Proctor, 27
BU -- Corey Lowe, 26

Leading rebounders:
UMBC -- Justin Fry, 9
BU -- Two tied at 9

Leading assists:
UMBC -- Jay Greene, 10
BU -- Corey Lowe, 6

GAMEDAY: University of Maryland-Baltimore County vs. Boston University

John Holland made headlines Monday by playing all 60 minutes of the Terriers' four-overtime win against Stony Brook. Some focused on the will and determination required to play every second of such a long contest, while others questioned the decision to rely so heavily on the starting five (every BU starter logged at least 47 minutes) during the busy conference schedule. With a depleted roster, do you go deeper into your bench to spread out the workload or ride your starters as far as they'll take you?

The Retrievers of Maryland-Baltimore County are an example of a shallow rotation taken to its logical extreme. When his team is healthy, UMBC head coach Randy Monroe opts to use just six of his players: Darryl Proctor, Jay Greene, Matt Spadafora, Justin Fry, Chauncey Gilliam, and Rich Flemming. Jake Wasco is the only other Retriever to play more than 10 percent of available minutes, just making it over the barrier with 10.3 percent. Amazingly, Darryl Proctor and Jay Greene are first and second in percent of minutes played for all of Division-I. Not only that, but Greene ranks as high as he does despite missing Monday's game against Vermont.

Greene, sidelined for Monday's game by a concussion, was joined on the bench that day by Rich Flemming, who had twisted his knee in practice the day before. Missing two players from an already thin squad, the Retrievers had no chance against Vermont in a 76-42 loss. The news got worse for UMBC after the game was over: Flemming's knee needs to be scoped. With the forward out indefinitely, an already thin Retriever front court grows even thinner.

Greene is the heart of the UMBC offense. While it's never safe to assume a player is ready to return from a concussion until he appears on the the court (Monroe considers Greene's injury day-to-day; Greene practiced yesterday), there isn't much to analyze without making that assumption. Ball security is the Retrievers' calling card. Greene's assist-to-turnover ratio exceeds 2.5, and as a team UMBC ranks eighth in the nation in turnover rate, surrendering the ball prematurely on less than 17 percent of its possessions. While much of this stems from Greene's excellence, Darryl Proctor is also a contributor, committing just 32 turnovers despite an extremely high usage rate.

If the Retriever offense starts with Greene, it usually ends with Proctor. The 6-4 senior forward is averaging more than 20 points per game in conference play, second only to John Holland. Proctor also ranks third in the conference in rebounds per game. Greene has had to assume an increased scoring role out of necessity, but Proctor is still the Retrievers' first option every time down the court. This is reflected in his scoring totals game-by-game. Proctor's lowest output for the season is 13 points; he and Binghamton's D.J. Rivera are the only America East players to score in double figures every game this season.

The Terriers have had just two days off to recover from Monday's marathon. UMBC is arguably the team most poorly equipped to take advantage of BU's lack of rest -- with such a thin bench, the Retrievers may be even more concerned than the Terriers about maintaining their energy level -- but fatigue is likely to play a role. The formula for beating Maryland-Baltimore County is relatively simple: slow down UMBC's primary offensive threats and take care of the basketball. The Terriers have the advantage heading into this one, but giving any team extra possessions promises nothing but trouble. Every team in the league has two or more losses, BU included, so this game is an important one.

Links:
M. Bball hosts wounded Retrievers tonight
Injuries may contain a silver lining

Projected starting lineups:


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Day After: (BU 99, Stony Brook 97, 4 OT's)

Remember how the Boise State-Oklahoma Fiesta Bowl was so bone-chillingly exciting that it made it onto ESPN Classic the very next day as an "Instant Classic"? Well, had the Terriers been on any sort of television station, their game against Stony Brook University yesterday afternoon could very well have ended up on that network give how thrilling the game was.

Not only was BU able to prevail in a close game (something this junior class is notorious for not being able to do) but the contest featured a number of exceptional individual performances -- John Holland's career-high in 3's and 60 minutes played, Corey Lowe's dominant take-over of the second half and overtimes, Chris Martin's sheer willpower and fight to keep his team in the game, Tommy Brenton's SBU record-setting 17 rebounds. All of those, mixed with a number of memorable plays including: Muhammad El-Amin's game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer, Scott Brittain's brilliant spinning post move just before that, Jake O'Brien's 3-pointer in the second overtime to give the Terriers hope, Lowe's length-of-the-court drive to tie the game, made it one of the more memorable experiences at The Roof in quite some time.

Sure, we could sit here and analyze how brilliant individual performances were, and don't get me wrong, I'm not taking any credit away from any individual, but aside from the small shooting percentage disparity, the stats were nearly identical. Rather, what the 500+ fans and reporters witnessed in Monday's quadruple overtime thriller was (though BU coach Dennis Wolff refused to acknowledge anything of the sort) a big step for the Terriers and one that showed they do possess the heart, grit and determination to win at all costs -- in the face of tough shots, untimely mistakes and four frickin' overtimes.

The win was a big step not only because they accomplished the feat with a short bench (Holland played a school record 60 minutes and both O'Brien and Lowe played 56), but because after giving up an 11-point second half lead or going down by five points with less than a minute to go in the second overtime, this team might have folded in the past. But not yesterday. Yesterday Wolff expressed how proud he was of his team for the effort they gave and in a virtual 180-degree turn from the efforts they put forth against Cornell and Holy Cross, BU was the team with enough will and determination to get the job done. Never have I seen, or many people there probably seen, such desire and passion from two teams for that long a period as even the first half was played at a high level (intensity and execution-wise). Usually overtimes are anti-climactic, but each extra session built upon itself right up until the final play where Stony Brook could have (and probably should have) tied it again with a tip-in by Brenton.

If anything, the win finally puts to bed the notion that the Terriers are flat-out unable to close out games. Corey Lowe had the most to do with that during his performance for the ages in the second half and overtimes (scoring all 33 of his points in that time span), but so did the entire team, right down to two of their more important missing pieces in dress clothes at the end of the bench in Tyler Morris and Carlos Strong, who were just as emotionally invested in what was happening as the players on the court.

Both teams deserve an immense amount of credit (not to sound like a coach, but it's true) for being able to find a way to keep playing for 20 extra minutes and continue playing at such a high level. It's not something any of these players have done before in their collegiate careers and it's probably something they'll never do again.

While none of BU's games have seemed to impact the next (take the extremely encouraging loss against Notre Dame which led to a five-game losing streak for example), it will once again be interesting to see how the Terriers respond following one of the most resounding wins in program history.

Pros
:
-- John Holland's minutes: Holland, who used to be criticized for a lack of toughness as early as the beginning of this season, certainly toughened-up for this one as he never left the floor. Holland played all 60 minutes of the marathon, a feat he will hold in the BU record books for quite some time (probably all-time) and one that commands an immense amount of respect.
-- Corey Lowe's takeover: Lowe was absolutely dominant after "waking up" in the second half, connecting on half of his field goals (11-of-22), a game-tying layup with four seconds left in the second overtime and a number of fearless drives to the basket.
-- Scott Brittain's move: While it was only one play, and many could be selected, to see such a powerful confident move from the big man at crunch time is something nobody has seen from him much in the past and it's a great sign for BU moving forward.

Cons
:
-- Jeff Pelage's missed dunk: Pelage had a great game and continues to improve, but the dunk could have given BU some serious momentum. Instead, the miss helped Stony Brook complete their 11-point comeback.
-- Zone rebounding: This really shouldn't be here as anything to criticize in the third and fourth overtimes should be thrown out the window, but the Terriers did have some trouble rebounding out of the zone, which forced Wolff to use a man-to-man defense later in the game.

Links
:
ESPN Radio Interview with Dennis Wolff
BU-Stony Brook was an extra special game (Bob Ryan)
Gone in 60 minutes
BU wins in fourth overtime
Stony Brook falls in 4OT's to BU

State of America East

It's been a long week in America East play -- for the purposes of this feature, it was an eight-day week! -- and the extra time hasn't helped alleviate anyone's confusion. Up is down and down is up, with bottom-feeders pulling surprise upsets, conference leaders falling faster than new ones can be anointed, and more than one contest requiring extra time. Yes, it's a long week filled with longer games, which means it's time for our longest regular feature. To the power rankings!

America East Power Rankings (records versus D-I opponents only)

1. Vermont Catamounts
11-6 (3-2 America East), RPI 131, SOS 241
Last week: W 70-56 at Boston University, W 83-72 at Stony Brook, W 76-42 vs. Maryland-Baltimore County
This week: 1/22 at Hartford

Mike Lonergan's team must be listening to some Bachman-Turner Overdrive in the locker room, because after a slow start to conference play the Catamounts are taking care of business. Okay, it sounds cheesy, but you get the point. Close losses to the upstate SUNY schools were tough for the Vermont faithful to swallow, but two double-digit road wins and yesterday's demolition of UMBC have helped to right the ship in a hurry. In this year's jumbled conference, a 3-2 record isn't a hole to climb out of. The Catamounts are within easy striking distance of first place and have three relatively soft opponents on the horizon. Of course, it's tough to say which opponents are soft and which aren't this year, but it shouldn't surprise anyone if Vermont is 6-2 and streaking two weeks from now.

2. Albany Great Danes
11-7 (3-2 AE), RPI 105, SOS 233
Last week: W 72-66 vs. Binghamton, L 72-61 at Maine
This week: 1/23 vs. Stony Brook, 1/25 vs. Maryland-Baltimore County

With wins over Vermont, Boston, and Binghamton, Albany finds itself in excellent shape. The double-digit loss to Maine is troubling, though: it's the Danes' second loss of ten or more points to teams Albany was expected to beat. The Danes are perfect at home, which will serve them well as conference play continues, and three upcoming home games suggest the Danes will win more in the near future.

3. Boston University Terriers
8-9 (3-2 AE), RPI 204, SOS 220
Last week: L 70-56 vs. Vermont, W 81-64 at Binghamton, W 99-97 vs. Stony Brook (4 OT)
This week: 1/22 vs. Maryland-Baltimore County, 1/25 at Maine

Losing to Vermont in Agganis certainly wasn't what Dennis Wolff wanted from his team, but the Catamounts' two subsequent results suggest BU may have caught Vermont at the wrong time. In any case, the Terriers earned a huge win in Binghamton to even their conference record before outlasting Stony Brook in yesterday's epic four-overtime game. Despite the loss of two significant contributors, BU's current roster appears more than capable of getting the job done. With UMBC reeling after its loss in Burlington, the Terriers have a golden opportunity to build a winning streak and force their way into the regular season title picture.

4. Binghamton Bearcats
10-7 (4-2 AE), RPI 168, SOS 262
Last week: L 72-66 at Albany, L 81-64 vs. Boston University, W 66-59 vs. Hartford
This week: 1/22 at New Hampshire

The Bearcats are never short of surprises. Just when the team appeared to be ready to assert itself as conference favorites, momentum swung the other way -- and it did so in a hurry. Beating Hartford at home helps, but it doesn't stop the bleeding, just slow it down. But wait, there's more: Per the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Dwayne Jackson has been suspended indefinitely. Is concern unjustified here? Perhaps, but perhaps not. Some teams don't handle success well, particularly newfound success. Most of Binghamton's core contributors weren't even on the team last year.

5. Maine Black Bears
7-11 (3-3 AE), RPI 238, SOS 235
Last week: L 76-71 at Hartford, W 72-61 vs. Albany, W 78-75 vs. New Hampshire (2 OT)
This week: 1/25 vs. Boston University

Maine in fifth? What? Calm down. Spots five through nine in this week's power rankings are about as close as can be. A few things put Maine just a hair above the next four contenders. Maine has three conference wins in a conference where wins aren't easy to come by. Maine also has a positive point differential in conference play. While Maine has two losses against teams below it in these rankings, both of those losses were road losses, and both were decided by less than five points. On a neutral court, either of those games could have ended differently. None of those things make Maine clearly better than teams six through nine, but in combination they're reason enough to give the Black Bears the fifth spot.

6. New Hampshire Wildcats
6-9 (2-2 AE), RPI 266, SOS 317
Last week: W 65-47 vs. Maryland-Baltimore County, W 68-59 at Dartmouth, L 78-75 at Maine (2 OT)
This week: 1/22 vs. Binghamton

Yes, New Hampshire was last in the power rankings one short week ago, but things are changing quickly in this conference. Consider how close New Hampshire came to being 3-1 and atop the America East standings. For all the Wildcats' troubles away from Durham, UNH has won both its home games against conference opponents and has a chance to make a real statement against Binghamton on Thursday.

7. Stony Brook Seawolves
8-9 (1-4 AE), RPI 231, SOS 287
Last week: W 60-52 at Dartmouth, L 83-72 at Vermont, L 99-97 at Boston University (4 OT)
This week: 1/23 at Albany, 1/25 vs. Hartford

There are no ties in basketball, but you can't get much closer to one than Stony Brook did against the Terriers yesterday afternoon. Stony Brook is last in the conference and needs to find a way to grab some W's, but the Seawolves aren't guilty of poor play. It's been close but no cigar for Stony Brook this month. The Seawolves are a young team, but they need to remember what provided the difference in close wins from earlier this season and apply that knowledge. Unlike previous years, this team knows how to win -- they just aren't right now.

8. Hartford Hawks
6-12 (2-3 AE), RPI 239, SOS 172
Last week: W 76-71 vs. Maine, L 69-60 at Maryland-Baltimore County, L 66-59 at Binghamton
This week: 1/22 vs. Vermont, 1/25 at Stony Brook

The Hawks are another team finding ways to take care of business at home in the AE, winning both their games in Hartford. The problem here isn't just Hartford, it's the schedule: if Hartford can't beat Vermont at home, two road games follow. The Hawks could easily be 2-6 halfway through conference play. After scoring 26 points in a win over Maine, Jaret von Rosenberg's output has dropped the past two games; Hartford needs Rosenberg to replace Joe Zeglinski's point production in order to win consistently.

9. Maryland-Baltimore County Retrievers
7-9 (2-3 AE), RPI 208, SOS 208
Last week: L 65-47 at New Hampshire, W 69-60 vs. Hartford, L 76-42 at Vermont
This week: 1/22 at Boston University, 1/25 at Albany

It's not that UMBC is markedly worse than the rest of the teams in America East. It's just that the margin for error in Baltimore is so much thinner. Subtract a player, even two players, from Boston or Hartford, and those teams are still competitive. Compare that to the Retrievers' performance in Vermont yesterday. Without Jay Greene or Rich Flemming on the floor, Maryland-Baltimore County was painfully thin. Bakari Smith, Brett Burrier, and Jake Wasco are not productive players at this level, at least not yet. Even with Greene and Flemming, UMBC was blown out by New Hampshire and has struggled elsewhere, even at home. The Maine win was painfully close at the end, and Stony Brook proved to be more than the Retrievers could handle -- and those games were at home. UMBC's road performance has been abysmal, and with two road games upcoming, that doesn't bode well for the Retrievers.

Conference performance
OOC record: 52-57 (Last 7 days: 2-0)
Conference RPI: 16 out of 31 (last week: 16)
Conference SOS: 24 out of 31 (last week: 24)

Two wins over Dartmouth pushed the OOC record slightly closer to .500. Other than that, there's nothing going on with the conference metrics.

Efficiency margins


As you might have noticed by now, the full-season efficiency table isn't the most useful tool to evaluate conference play. Stony Brook might finish second in the conference when it's all said and done, but the Seawolves' play against conference opponents suggests otherwise. Don't worry, there's an easy solution: starting with next week's feature, we'll be adding a second table showing efficiency margins for conference games only. Not only will the addition help weight more recent performance by throwing out all the results from November and December, but restricting the sample to America East games also partially controls for strength of opponent, making the raw efficiency numbers more useful.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Around the League: 1.19.09

Monday's games:

Binghamton 66, Hartford 59
The Bearcats got 50 of their 66 of their points from the bench. Unusual? Not really -- Kevin Broadus benched his starting guards for yesterday's game before introducing them shortly after the tip. Hartford (6-13, 2-3 America East) gave the Bearcats trouble early by employing a tight zone defense, but in the second half Binghamton (11-7, 4-2 AE) found its shooting touch and outscored the visiting Hawks 47-32 in the final 20 minutes. D.J. Rivera led all scorers with 24 points; Reggie Fuller added 10 rebounds and 4 blocks for the Bearcats, who find themselves back atop the conference standings after snapping a three-game losing streak.

Vermont 76, Maryland-Baltimore County 42

With both Jay Greene and Rich Flemming sidelined by injury, the visiting Retrievers never had a chance in this one. Vermont (12-6, 3-2 AE) led by 17 at the half and continued to build on its lead throughout the second half. Maryland-Baltimore County (8-9, 2-3 AE) was crippled from the outset, but it would have been nice to see more than three Retrievers score. Maurice Joseph led the Catamounts with a career-high 19 points fueled by six made threes.

Maine 78, New Hampshire 75 (2 OT)

Stony Brook and Boston University weren't the only schools determined to play past the end of regulation. Host Maine (8-11, 3-3 AE) needed all 50 minutes to knock off New Hampshire (7-9, 2-2) and prevent the Wildcats from retaining possession of first place. UNH grabbed 25 offensive rebounds but shot just 25 percent from the floor in the extra frames, including five missed shots in one final frantic possession. Dane DiLiegro had 12 points and 12 boards for the visitors before fouling out in the second overtime trying to prevent a Malachi Peay layup; the layup was Maine's last made field goal but gave the Black Bears the lead for good.

Tuesday's games:
No games scheduled. America East play resumes on Thursday.

Post-game Audio & Photos (BU 99, Stony Brook 97, 4 OT's)



Audio from Boston University's historic 99-97 quadruple overtime win against Stony Brook.

BU coach Dennis Wolff's opening statement
video

John Holland talks about playing a BU record 60 minutes
video

Holland and Wolff review the ups-and-down of the marathon
video

Corey Lowe discusses the reason for his slow start to the game
video

Lowe looks back on how he changed his approach in the second half
video

Wolff analyzes BU's play at home and on the road
video

SBU coach Steve Pikiell's opening statement
video

Pikiell is extremely confident in his rookie players
video

Pikiell talks about how the program's progressed
video

Live Blog: Stony Brook University vs. Boston University



This afternoon's game between the Stony Brook University Seawolves (9-8, 1-3) and the Boston University Terriers (7-9, 2-2) tips off at 3:00 p.m.

Here are the starting lineups:

Stony Brook University Seawolves
10 G Bryan Dougher
11 G Marques Cox
35 G Muhammad El-Amin
23 F Dallis Joyner
24 F Tommy Brenton

Boston University Terriers
02 F Matt Wolff
13 G Corey Lowe
21 F Jake O'Brien
23 F John Holland
31 F Scott Brittain

Final Score: Boston University 99, Stony Brook University 97 (Four OT's)

Leading scorers:
SBU -- Chris Martin, 26
BU -- Corey Lowe, 33

Leading rebounders:
SBU --Tommy Brenton, 17
BU -- Scott Brittain, 9

Leading assists:
SBU -- Chris Martin, 4
BU -- Corey Lowe, 7

GAMEDAY: Stony Brook University vs. Boston University

Any year but this, a game at home against Stony Brook would be very easy to predict. The Seawolves have never won at Case Gymnasium since they joined America East, going 0-7 at The Roof since the 2000-01 season. In fact, the Terriers have had SBU's number in all meetings, holding a 12-3 record against them all-time. This year, however, Stony Brook is vastly improved and at 9-8, they've opened some eyes around the conference.

That eye-opening didn't transfer to conference play, though, as Stony Brook has stumbled out of the gate to a 1-3 record. They defeated Maryland-Baltimore County to start their AE slate, but then dropped contests to Binghamton, Maine and Vermont (with a win against Dartmouth thrown in the middle to disrupt a would-be losing streak) to set them up for this afternoon's matchup.

Led by junior guard Muhammad El-Amin, who takes 34.7 percent of the Seawolves' shots (a mark that ranks 19th in the nation), the Seawolves can score in a number of ways -- much different than the days when Ricky "do it all for us" Lucas played for coach Steve Pikell. El-Amin is averaging 14.2 points per game and has strung together seven games of double-figure scoring entering today. Complimenting the junior are a pair of freshman who've been very active for SBU -- Bryan Dougher and Tommy Brenton. Dougher is averaging 11.8 points per game while Brenton is a double-double machine as he's already got four this season and leads the team in rebounding (7.8 rebounds per game, 7.3 points per game).

Given BU's increased interior attack, it will be interesting to see how the Terriers handle Brenton on both ends of the floor. If BU rebounds out of the zone as well as they did against Binghamton (heck, if they do a lot of things as well as they did against Binghamton) they'll be in good shape. Again, the player to watch for the Terriers will be John Holland, who's been lighting teams up lately with 97 points in four conference games. If BU wins this afternoon (in a game that was switched from 7:00 p.m. to coincide with Martin Luther King Jr. ceremonies), they'll be above .500 in conference play for the first time all season and it will be their first winning streak since they won three-straight from November 18-25.

Projected starting lineups: