Friday, February 27, 2009

The Day After: (BU 76, Maine 65)

Regardless of the fact that the victory came against the University of Maine (one of the two clear-cut sub-par teams in the conference), the Terriers pieced together one of their most complete team efforts of the season. The win was significant in marking the 1,000th win in program history in the 100th season of basketball at Boston University.

In addition, John Holland became the second player under BU coach Dennis Wolff to score 500+ points in a season and he's clearly developing into one of the best offensive players to ever set foot in Case Gymnasium/Agganis Arena. His Dr. J-esque dunk last night against two Maine defenders was just as good as not better than his rim-rocker that earned the number one spot on SportsCenter's Top 10 a few weeks ago.

Jake O'Brien and Jeff Pelage also threw it down last night in the 76-65 victory, as Pelage's flush capped a 10-point, 12-rebound performance that emphasized a stretch of his best play of the season. For the Terriers, Pelage's improved play and consistency couldn't come at a better time as they've got one game remaining (against the University of Hartford) before the start of the conference tournament (BU is locked into the third seed and will play the 2:30 game against the No. 6 seed on Saturday).

While the win ensured the Terriers' first winning season since 2004-05, it also marked the return of a team fans became familiar with during BU's eight-game winning streak. Holland and Pelage both recorded double-doubles (though Holland's could have easily gone to O'Brien as the two came down with a rebound, and Holland ripped the ball from O'Brien to get credit for his 10th board) and Lowe had one of his best facilitator games of the season (seven assists, one turnover) and found his shooting stroke in the second half.

The most important thing is that the Terriers are feeling more confident in their abilities than they were a week ago and even though O'Brien and Lowe are playing on tender ankles, the training staff feels they are healthy enough to play and the week off before the start of the tournament should be very beneficial.

In the press conference, Gatorade was set out for the players (an uncommon occurrence), to which Holland exclaimed when he walked in, "We have Gatorade tonight!" Wolff promptly responded, with a straight faced, dry-humor tone, "Let me have John's Gatorade since he didn't pass the ball to Matt." There's no better scenario for a team than to be loose and playing well entering the tournament and if the Terriers win on Sunday (senior day) against Hartford, they'll be just that.

A note: Be sure to log onto the blog at 12:00 p.m. on Sunday for a special live blog of the women's basketball team's game against the University of Maine, run by Scott McLaughlin, Jake Seiner and Dan Ventresca. They will blog the final two games in BU's quest for a 16-0 conference season as well as the America East Tournament in Hartford.

Pros:
-- Jeff Pelage's aggressiveness/double-double: The imposing rookie has strung together a week of increasingly impressive performances between games and practice and it shows. If he can continue playing at such a high level entering the tournament, the Terriers have as good a "secret weapon" as any team in the bracket.
-- Corey Lowe's second-half shooting: Lowe found his stroke after a rough first half from beyond the arc. Coming out of the locker room, he his his first shot in warmups and gave a look like, "why couldn't I do that the whole first half?" He certainly did in the second, and if he can continue to stay locked in (both passing- and shooting-wise) it will greatly benefit the Terriers.
-- Jake O'Brien's tolerance: O'Brien suffered a sprained ankle Tuesday and it was significantly swollen, yet toughed it out and delivered an 18-point, 9-rebound performance on Thursday.

Cons:
-- Maine's first-half offense: Maine was finding too many open cuts to the basket and scoring with ease. Other teams will learn to exploit BU's zone in a similar manner if things don't tighten up.

Links:
Terriers simply grand
M. BBall tops Maine in postseason tuneup

Post-game Audio: (BU 76, Maine 65)

Audio from BU's 76-65 victory over the University of Maine.

BU coach Dennis Wolff's opening statement
video

Maine coach Ted Woodward's opening statement
video

Jake O'Brien talks about playing through his sprained ankle
video

John Holland on BU's second-half intensity
video

Jeff Pelage explains the difference between now and a few weeks ago
video

Wolff discusses Corey Lowe's emergence from his shooting slump
video

Wolff reflects on what it means to coach BU's 1,000th victory
video

Woodward talk about the progress of his underclassmen
video

Thursday, February 26, 2009

America East Championship scenarios

Below are the possible scenarios for the seeding of the America East Tournament (March 6-8 in Albany) as forwarded from the league office.

2009 America East Men’s Basketball Championship
*Listed in parenthesis are the remaining games for each team

Binghamton (13-3, None)

Locked up 1 seed (Won season series over UVM 2-0)

Vermont (12-3, at Maine)
Locked up 2 seed (Can be only team with 12 wins)

Boston U. (10-5, vs Hartford)
Locked up 3 seed (Can be only team with 10 wins)

Stony Brook (8-7, at UNH)
a. Will finish 4 with WIN at UNH (Can be only team with 9 wins)
b. Will be 5 seed with LOSS vs UNH (Both teams finish 8-8, lost season series to UNH 2-0)

New Hampshire (7-8, vs SBU)
a. Will be 4 seed with WIN vs SBU (Both teams finish 8-8, won season series over SBU 2-0)
b. Will be 5 seed with LOSS vs SBU AND Albany WIN vs UMBC (Both teams finish 7-9, won season series over Albany 2-0)
c. Will be 6 seed with LOSS vs SBU AND UMBC WIN vs Albany (Both teams finish 7-9, split season series, UMBC wins tiebreak due to win over Binghamton)

Albany (6-9, at UMBC)
a. Will be 6 seed with WIN at UMBC (See UNH scenario b)
b. Will be 7 seed with LOSS at UMBC (Only team with 6 wins)

UMBC (6-9, vs Albany)
a. Will be 5 seed with WIN and SBU WIN at UNH (UMBC and UNH both finish 7-9, split season series, UMBC wins tiebreak due to win over Binghamton)
b. Will be 6 seed with WIN and UNH WIN vs SBU(Only team with 7 wins)
c. Will be 7 seed with LOSS (Only team with 6 wins)

Maine (4-11, vs Vermont)
Locked up 8 seed (Cannot catch Albany or UMBC)

Hartford (2-13, Boston U.)
Locked up 9 seed (Cannot catch Maine)

Here's how Saturday's bracket is shaping up thus far:

Saturday, March 7

12 p.m. – University of Vermont vs No. 7
2:30 p.m. – Boston University vs. No. 6
6 p.m. – Binghamton University vs University of Maine/University of Hartford
8:30 p.m. – No. 4 vs No. 5

Live Blog: University of Maine vs. Boston University



Today's game between the University of Maine (9-18, 4-10) and Boston University (15-12, 9-5) is set to tip off at 7:00 p.m. from Case Gymnasium. The contest is the second-to-last of the year for both teams.

Here are the starting lineups for tonight's game:

University of Maine Blackbears
3 F Troy Barnies
12 G Junior Bernal
21 C Sean McNally
22 G Mark Socoby
32 G Gerald McLemore

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 Terriers 76, University of Maine Black Bears 65

Leading Scorers:
UM -- Gerald McLemore, 16
BU -- John Holland, 20

Leading Rebounders:
UM -- Troy Barnies, 10
BU -- Jeff Pelage, 12

Leading Assists:
UM -- Junior Bernal, 4
BU -- Corey Lowe, 7

GAMEDAY: University of Maine vs. Boston University

With two games remaining on the regular season schedule (both against the bottom two teams in America East), the Terriers are presented with the unique opportunity of being able to focus solely on playing better basketball knowing that they've got the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament locked up.

While the Terriers got down by 18 in the first half when they made the trip to Alfond Arena earlier in the season, they managed to win by 11 in what was a defining contest of their eight-game winning streak.

In that game, Corey Lowe notched 15 points in that game to go along with a season-high nine assists. Lowe is expected to play tonight (according to BU coach Dennis Wolff) after spraining his ankle against Iona on Saturday and if he still hasn't regained the consistency on his shot that's escaped him since BU's second loss to Vermont, he could once again focus on becoming a facilitator.

Lowe's play serves as somewhat of a microcosm of the play of the team, as the junior guard has been in a funk of late, and (with the exception of their most recent win over Iona) so have the Terriers. Still, if Lowe is able to return to full health (both physically and mentally) the Terriers will have to be seriously considered to make a run at a conference championship, especially given the way Jeff Pelage has played of late. The challenge, as always, with Pelage is to remain consistent in his performance.

The opportunity presented to the Terriers -- two games at home against the bottom feeders of the league -- is pretty ideal given the concerns surrounding the team's fatigue as well as their attempt to turn things around prior to the start of the tournament. There's no better way to do it that these two contests.

With a win on Thursday, the Terriers would notch their 1,000th victory in program history in this, their 100th season of basketball. ... Sophomore forward John Holland has 490 points on the season. With 10 more, he would become just the second player under Wolff to record 500 in one season. The other is Tunji Awojobi, who did so twice. ... The status of freshman forward Jake O’Brien, who turned his ankle on practice Thursday, is currently unknown.

Links:
Corey Lowe will play on Thursday
M. BBall prepares for postseason v. Maine

Projected starting lineups

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

BREAKING NEWS: Corey Lowe to play against Maine

According to BU coach Dennis Wolff, Corey Lowe will play in BU's next game against the University of Maine on Thursday (7:00 p.m. at Case Gymnasium) and has recovered quickly from what appeared bad right ankle sprain in Saturday's win over Iona.

Before practice on Tuesday, Wolff said that Lowe was "fine," the swelling had been eliminated and the sprain was a mild one. The junior guard shot around, but didn't fully participate in the practice session. Lowe is expected to run full-speed tomorrow, though he appeared to be favoring the ankle a tiny bit during shooting drills.

The announcement comes as a bit of a surprise given the average recovery time for a sprained ankle as well as the (now incorrectly) presumed severity of the injury, but if he truly is healthy, getting Lowe back into form prior to the start of the America East Tournament could be hugely beneficial for the Terriers.

In addition, freshman forward Jake O'Brien turned his left ankle when he landed on another players' foot after grabbing a rebound toward the end of practice. O'Brien was helped off the floor and had the ankle taped. His status for Thursday's game is unknown.

Monday, February 23, 2009

State of America East

With precious few games remaining in the regular season, races once defined by mystery are beginning to show signs of resolution. Eleven days before the conference tournament's start, some teams already know their final station in the America East standings. Even ignoring the tournament, however, there are plenty of teams whose fates are not yet decided. Four teams are racing to avoid a quarterfinal matchup with the conference's top three contenders; only two can succeed. At the top of the table, Binghamton and Vermont are staring each other down -- if the Bearcats blink, the Catamounts can sneak away with an NIT autobid.

Let's get down to business.

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

1. Binghamton Bearcats
18-8 (12-3 AE), RPI 99, SOS 223
Last week: W 62-44 at Hartford, W 70-69 vs. New Hampshire (OT)
This week: 2/26 vs. Maryland-Baltimore County

There's just one game left on Binghamton's schedule. That gives the Bearcats just one opportunity to slip up and lose the inside track to the regular-season title. Binghamton doesn't blow opponents away -- just three double-digit wins in conference play compared to Vermont's nine and Boston University's seven -- so Thursday's battle with the Retrievers should be interesting even before factoring in the title implications. Close games don't seem to faze the Bearcats, though: look no further than Bingamton's results against the Catamounts. Binghamton is battle-tested and ready for March.

2. Vermont Catamounts
22-7 (12-3 AE), RPI 86, SOS 206
Last week: W 77-65 at Maryland-Baltimore County, W 78-70 vs. Buffalo
This week: 3/1 vs. Maine

The Bearcats may appear headed for a regular-season title, but the Catamounts are in position to pounce should Binghamton falter. Vermont didn't need to further qualify itself as a title contender; still, Saturday's televised BracketBuster matchup provided an excellent opportunity. The Catamounts did not disappoint, dispatching Buffalo for a national audience. A Maine team with very little to play for isn't the best tuneup for post-season play, so Mike Lonergan will have to hope the BracketBuster experience pays off in Albany.

3. Boston University Terriers
15-12 (9-5 AE), RPI 150, SOS 179
Last week: L 66-54 at Stony Brook, W 63-57 vs. Iona
This week: 2/26 vs. Maine, 3/1 vs. Hartford

BU stopped its slide at three with a win over Iona but suffered a major blow, as Corey Lowe was sidelined toward game's end by a sprained ankle. Even if Lowe manages to return in time for the conference tournament, the probability of effective performance from the junior guard is unknown. Ignoring the wide array of possible outcomes related to Lowe's injury (some of which are positive -- it's not unreasonable to link Lowe's poor play the past two games with the possibility of fatigue, and being sidelined will allow him to rest), the Terriers have two should-win games left on the schedule. Maine and Hartford shouldn't be more than speed bumps for a contender, but without Lowe BU will need more offense from its complementary players. Jeff Pelage's nine points on Saturday were a positive sign.

4. Stony Brook Seawolves
14-12 (7-7 AE), RPI 179, SOS 205
Last week: W 66-54 vs. Boston University
This week: 2/26 at Hartford, 3/1 at New Hampshire

Strange things happen on Senior Night. Strange and wonderful if you're Michael Tyree, who scored 25 points in the Seawolves' victory over Boston University. The win punctuates the Seawolves' improvement from the first half of conference play to the second. After losing its first two games against the top three teams in America East by reasonable but substantial margins, Stony Brook forced overtime in the next three games before beating BU for the home finale. Of the teams lying outside the conference's upper echelon, the Seawolves most closely fit the definition of "tough out."

5. Albany Great Danes
14-13 (6-8 AE), RPI 155, SOS 173
Last week: W 80-69 vs. Maine
This week: 2/26 at New Hampshire, 3/1 at Maryland-Baltimore County

Yesterday's Stat of the Week highlighted Albany's newfound efficient offense, using strong offensive rebounding and plenty of free throws to overcome poor shooting from the field. New Hampshire sends opponents to the line on a regular basis, but how will the Great Danes fare against an opponent with excellent defensive rebounding? Albany's offense sputtered against the Wildcats the first time out, but that performance was defined by even worse shooting than usual from the Danes. Albany plays both New Hampshire and UMBC, giving the Danes a chance to secure fifth place without any outside help; a win on Thursday would go a long way toward guaranteeing a positive outcome.

6. New Hampshire Wildcats
10-15 (6-8 AE), RPI 236, SOS 236
Last week: W 63-54 vs. Maine, L 70-69 at Binghamton (OT)
This week: 2/26 vs. Albany, 3/1 vs. Stony Brook

After slipping midway through conference play, the Wildcat defense has smothered opposing offenses in recent weeks, holding Albany, Maine, and Binghamton below one point per possession. Mediocre offense continues to hold the Wildcats back, but solid play while protecting the basket will keep New Hampshire competitive after the regular season comes to a close. Still, it should be noted that everyone's favorite sleeper pick hasn't caught the rest of the conference napping. This year's Wildcat team has displayed modest improvement at best.

7. Maryland-Baltimore County Retrievers
11-15 (6-8 AE), RPI 201, SOS 166
Last week: L 77-65 vs. Vermont, L 71-65 at Rider
This week: 2/26 at Binghamton, 3/1 at Albany

UMBC plays hard but doesn't quite have the horses to run with the big guns. Saturday's loss at Rider underscores this point. Jay Greene, Darryl Proctor, and Chauncey Gilliam are all capable scorers. Beyond those three, the Retrievers don't have much. When the rest of the roster combines for just 11 points, UMBC isn't going to win many games. Two road games await: the first against a team seeking the regular-season title, the second against a team battling the Retrievers for seeding. There are no easy games left. Time for the rest of the roster to step up.

8. Maine Black Bears
8-18 (4-10 AE), RPI 277, SOS 217
Last week: L 63-54 at New Hampshire, L 80-69 at Albany
This week: 2/26 at Boston University, 3/1 vs. Vermont

The Black Bears were promising at times. Unfortunately for Maine-iacs, this team seems to be running out of steam, losing seven of eight heading into the season's final week. After competent play early in the season, Ted Woodward's team has played itself right into the play-in game. If the Black Bears can pull a double upset to reach six wins in conference play, two New Hampshire losses can get Maine to seventh. A Friday night tilt with Hartford at SEFCU Arena is far more likely.

9. Hartford Hawks
6-23 (2-12 AE), RPI 298, SOS 171
Last week: L 62-44 vs. Binghamton, L 57-35 at Marist
This week: 2/26 vs. Stony Brook, 3/1 at Boston University

This year's cellar-dwellers have lost what little offense they had. Saturday's result may be the most embarrasing one yet: just 35 points in a 68-possession game against Marist. Even New Hampshire's toothless performances against Vermont and Boston University featured offensive efficiencies north of 60; the Hawks were toying with 50. Someone has to finish last, so Hartford's position isn't the sad part. No, it's sad that the Hawks are playing every bit as poorly as their record suggests.

Conference performance
OOC record: 54-59 (Saturday: 2-2)
Conference RPI: 16 out of 31
Conference SOS: 16 out of 31

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Stat of the Week

123

Offensive efficiency usually isn't considered a base statistic, but considering its overall usefulness, maybe it should be. Albany's 80-69 defeat of Maine today at SEFCU Arena is notable not because of the result, but because of how the Great Danes obtained it. In 65 possessions, Albany managed 80 points; for efficiency purposes, that's a rate of 123 points per 100 possessions.

Normally highly efficient offense requires at least reasonably proficient shooting; the Great Danes' relatively poor performance from the field over the course suggests an offensive outburst would be unlikely. Indeed, today Albany's effective field goal percentage was below 50 percent -- the Danes managed a still-reasonable 49.1 percent. Where Albany made up for its low eFG% was, well, everywhere else.

Although the Great Danes missed 31 of their 57 shots, the Danes grabbed 13 of those misses. Albany's aggressive play on offense also yielded dividends in the free throw department, producing 31 attempts from the charity stripe. The Danes converted on 24 of those attempts. If the Danes' shot totals seem rather high for a 65-possession game, look at the rest of the box score: just six turnovers for the home team.

Albany's current roster isn't loaded with shot-makers, but today provided a blueprint for the Danes come tournament time -- if Will Brown can get his team to repeat this performance a couple of weeks from now, Albany will be a tough out.

The Day After: (BU 63, Iona 57)

The win marked two straight years BU's won the ESPNU Bracketbusters game, but much more importantly, it put an end to BU's three-game losing streak in which the Terriers appeared to be reverting to their "old ways" that plagued them mid-season. Instead, however, the win may serve to get the Terriers back on track and with games against the bottom two teams in the conference left before the tournament, it could serve as a springboard for playing better basketball come the first weekend in March.

Pros:
-- Jake O'Brien's shooting: Granted he was getting some open looks, but it's still good to see him knocking them down. There's been some inconsistency in his shot over the course of the season, but if he can get into a rhythm from the outside, the Terriers could be dangerous.
-- Jeff Pelage's play: Same said of O'Brien can be said for Pelage. He's a physical post presence that the team's been lacking, but has been playing much better of late. Increased productive minutes from the rookie would help all facets of BU's game in the tournament.

Cons:
-- Lowe's turned ankle: It's unknown how long Lowe will be out for, but the injury certainly didn't look good, and seeing any player hobble off the court on crutches is never a welcome sight, especially when he's one of the best to play at BU. The Terriers will need him for the tournament, and all eyes will be on his recovery.
-- Turnovers: Twenty one turnovers against any team is never good, but BU has begun to set a trend of accumulating turnovers against man-to-man defense more often than not. It's what bothered them most (among other things) against Vermont and may serve as an unfortunate blueprint for opponents if the trend continues.

Links:
Gael-force win for Terriers
Freshmen O'Brien and Pelage step up for BU

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Post-game Photos & Audio: (BU 63, Iona 57)



Audio from Saturday afternoon's 63-57 win against Iona College.

BU coach Dennis Wolff's opening statement
video

Wolff comments on the team's first winning regular season in three years
video

Wolff talks about Iona's comeback and the sloppy play
video

Wolff explains why Scott Brittain was on such a short leash
video

Wolff talks about Lowe's game/effort
video

Jeff Pelage talks about his comfort level against Iona
video

Pelage talks about playing in the middle of the press-break
video

Jake O'Brien discusses how his offense fuels his defense
video

John Holland tells what he felt when Corey Lowe went down
video

Holland feels the win was important to regain momentum
video

Live Blog: Iona College vs. Boston University

Note: Boston University junior guard Corey Lowe sprained his right ankle (the same one he turned two games prior) in the second half and left the gym on crutches. The average recovery time for a sprained ankle is 2-3 weeks, meaning it's a toss-up as to whether Lowe will be ready for the tournament and doubtful he'll be 100 percent healthy if he does play as he first game is exactly 14 days from now.



This afternoon's game (part of ESPNU's Bracketbusters weekend) between the Iona College Gaels (12-15, 7-9) and Boston University Terriers (14-12, 9-5) is set to tip-off at 1:00 p.m.

Here are the starting lineups:

Iona College Gaels:
03 G Scott Machado
04 F Gary Springer
05 G Rashan Dwight
11 G Milan Prodanovic
30 F Jonathan Huffman

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 63, Iona College 57

Leading scorers:
IC -- Two tied at 12
BU -- John Holland, 24

Leading rebounders:
IC -- Scott Machado, 4
BU -- Jeff Pelage, 8

Leading assists:
IC -- Rashon Dwight, 8
BU -- Corey Lowe, 8

GAMEDAY: Iona College vs. Boston University

The number three is abound prior to this afternoon's ESPNU Bracketbusters game against the Iona College Gaels, who the Terriers will be meeting for the fifth time in school history (series is tied 2-2). Three games remain in the regular-season schedule and the Terriers have locked up the number three seed in the America East Tournament -- which begins in less than two weeks -- and they're currently on a three-game losing streak, including two losses to the league's top two teams that knocked them out of contention for the regular-season title.

Following the non-league matchup against a middle-of-the-pack team in the MAAC, the Terriers will round out their conference slate with two home games (one at Case Gymnasium, the other at Agganis Arena). With one win in any of their final three games, the Terriers will ensure a winning season for the first time in three years, and the first winning season any current player has experienced, with the exception of Matt Wolff (who was at BU in 2004-05). While that certainly isn't the goal, it's a significant mark nonetheless, as it shows progress (albeit, not to the level of which many thought the program could reach) with a core group of players.

While the previously mentioned threes are important, The number three is also part of the most recent controversy surrounding the Terriers, as in, 13 -- Corey Lowe's number. Lowe, who was benched in the second half of BU's most recent loss (Wednesday to Stony Brook) has had a history of slight controversies while at BU, and this appears to be another. It could be a quick one, however, as BU coach Dennis Wolff said Friday before practice that Lowe will start against Iona and play his normal minutes the remainder of the way barring any other unforeseen incidents.

As far as playing time goes for the team as a whole, not just Lowe, Wolff said he doesn't plan on changing his approach to the final three games at all. He said he will continue playing the starters and isn't going to change their roles (in terms of minutes played to potentially avoid fatigue prior to the tournament). Given the six-day rest between the final game against Hartford and BU's first tournament game, Wolff feels that amount of time coupled with the reduced practice schedule/intensity will be enough to have his squad rested and ready for the most important weekend of the year.

As far as this afternoon's game goes, it simply serves as a chance to begin playing better basketball following three losses -- all three presenting a few flaws in what seemed like a pristine Terrier team during its eight-game winning streak. With no questions lingering about what seed BU will be in the tournament, perhaps that lack of pressure will enable the Terriers to focus purely on playing better basketball, which is what they need to start doing quickly. Lowe had served as somewhat of a microcosm of the team over its last 11 games, playing brilliantly in BU's eight wins and not as well in the losses. The Terriers won their Bracketbusters game last season against St. Peter's, and while the result of the game won't impact the standings, it's an important contest for the Terriers, if only to lock up their first winning season in three years and put a stop to the three-game losing streak. Too bad tip-off isn't at 3:00.

Projected starting lineups

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Day After: (Stony Brook 66, BU 54)

From the second he stepped on the court as a freshman, Corey Lowe has started 74-of-76 games (with the two exceptions coming last season) and boasts a career average of 34.1 minutes per game. He's been the unquestioned face of the program over the past three seasons and one of the most exciting players in BU history, as he's already taken over the top spot for most 3-pointers made in a career and is 11th on the all-time list in points scored.

Wednesday night against Stony Brook University, he played a season-low 11 minutes. It appeared as though Lowe (17.5 points per game) was being held on the bench by BU coach Dennis Wolff to avoid picking up his fourth personal foul, but it soon became apparent Wolff wasn't going to send his starting point guard back out, saying "we went with the guys who I thought would give us the best chance to win."

While the Terriers did manage to cut into the Seawolves' 15-point lead and pull within one without Lowe on the floor, there's no doubt he would have helped BU's winning effort. It's the second time this season Wolff has made the decision to bench a healthy Lowe, while the other was disciplinary because he picked up two technical fouls in the same game against Holy Cross.

Granted Lowe's had his bouts of mild controversy before (missing two games freshman year, the technicals this season, etc.), but one would be hard-pressed to believe the Newton native could have done something so drastic in the first half of the loss to Stony Brook to warrant his benching for the entire second half. Even if he did something wrong, the benching comes as a surprise because when he and John Holland combined for 17 points in the loss to Binghamton Wolff said postgame that "when Lowe and Holland combine for 17 points, we're not going to win many games." Unless Wolff really needed to send another disciplinary message to Lowe, the decision is significant if that quote supports his logic, given that the mission of any team this time of year is to be playing as a cohesive unit and on top of their game come tourney time.

On the heels of being benched against Albany, Lowe turned around and soon helped propel the Terriers to an eight-game winning streak, playing the best basketball of his career. In order to gain enough confidence as a team in the three games remaining before the tournament, Lowe (presuming he will be awarded his regular amount of playing time as Wolff said he would following the SBU loss) will need to return to his high-level of play that carried BU through its best stretch of basketball since 2005.

Pros:
-- Second-half comeback: As unusual as the benching of Lowe was, the fact that the Terriers were able to come back without him on the floor bodes well for the future when he may actually have to sit out for foul trouble.
-- Matt Wolff's performance: Wolff grabbed a game-high eight rebounds and dished out seven assists to make up for his poor showing (and benching the game before) as well as Lowe's absence (assist-wise).

Cons:
-- Post-presence in the first half: The Terriers didn't make much of an effort to get the ball inside in the first half and it was a large reason why they were down big at the half. To the coaching staff and players' credit, the forwards did a much better job inside in the second half.
-- Slow start: It seems as though an all-too common theme this season has been a slow start to the game. Always having to come back is no way to play basketball, especially on what have to be tired legs with all four starters averaging over 30 minutes per game. Whether it's in the way the players practice, the way the coaching staff prepares the team or a combination of both, one slow start in the tournament could be all it takes to dash BU's title hopes.

Links:
Terriers lose to SBU; Lowe benched
Time to panic?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

GAMEDAY: Boston University vs. Stony Brook University

Last night win by the University of Vermont has officially locked the Terriers out of first place and made a second-place finish significantly harder for BU to obtain. All but locked into third place, BU can focus on reversing its two-game slide.

While the Stony Brook Seawolves aren't capable of catching the Terriers in the standings, they are more than capable of beating BU. Anyone doubting the accuracy of that statement should refer to the teams' first meeting this year, a four-overtime duel which Stony Brook nearly won.

Corey Lowe and John Holland totaled just 17 points in Saturday's 60-59 loss to Binghamton. Last time out against Stony Brook, the Terrier stars combined for 62. Tonight's figure should lie somewhere between those two values -- not exactly going out on a limb here -- but perhaps more important is how those points are attained. BU can survive another six-point outing from Lowe, but not if those six points require 15 shot attempts plus missed free throws. Given the Terriers' dependence on Lowe for scoring output, 15 or more shot attempts is likely if not guaranteed, so if the shot distribution is anywhere near typical, the Terriers will be looking for double digits from their star guard.

The Seawolves have built a solid defense based on advantages in rebounding and turnover rates. Stony Brook ranks just outside the top ten percent nationally in defensive turnover rate (23.5%) and is also in the top 20 percent nationally in defensive rebounding percentage (69.8%). The Seawolves' primary defensive weakness is contesting shots from inside the arc: opponents have made nearly 51 percent of their two-point attempts this season. Scott Brittain has been productive as of late and should be able to contribute tonight.

Links:
M. hoops travels to Stony Brook tonight

Projected starting lineups:


Monday, February 16, 2009

State of America East

With the cream of America East’s crop separated from the pack, it was a matter of time before the top teams decided upon an order. Two games of massive importance yielded two wildly different results. Meanwhile, a former contender fell by the wayside while a team once left for dead continued its climb back to respectability. Let’s cut to the chase:

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

1. Binghamton Bearcats
16-8 (10-3 AE), RPI 99, SOS 212
Last week: W 60-59 at Boston University
This week: 2/18 at Hartford, 2/22 vs. New Hampshire

The Catamounts have a half-game lead in the standings to go with the league's best offense and defense, yet it's Binghamton with the inside track to the regular-season title courtesy of a win against the Terriers last Saturday. For whatever reason, the Bearcats have had Vermont's number this season, finding ways to win in crunch time. Athleticism may have something to do with it -- D.J. Rivera's ability to get to the rim suggests he's a Big East star, not an America East talent. If the Bearcats win out (and we're not making any assumptions), the top seed grants Binghamton a road back to Vestal excluding both Vermont and BU. Talk about a happy Valentines' Day.

2. Vermont Catamounts
20-7 (11-3 AE), RPI 108, SOS 243
Last week: W 75-47 vs. Boston University, W 69-64 vs. Stony Brook (OT)
This week: 2/19 at Maryland-Baltimore County, 2/21 vs. Buffalo

John Holland's thunderous dunk was heard all the way in Bristol, CT, as the Terrier star was number one on SportsCenter's top plays. The dunk also woke a sleeping giant. The Catamounts went on to win by 28. Stony Brook surpisingly proved to be more of a challenge and survived a full 40 minutes before succumbing in overtime. Vermont has been frustrating almost beyond belief this year, sometimes unstoppable, other times eminently beatable. A loss in either of the remaining conference games will all but guarantee Binghamton the top seed; if the mortal version of the Catamounts show up, a 13-3 conference record is far from guaranteed.

3. Boston University Terriers
14-11 (9-4 AE), RPI 147, SOS 190
Last week: L 75-47 at Vermont, L 60-59 at Binghamton
This week: 2/18 at Stony Brook, 2/21 vs. Iona

Corey Lowe and John Holland are all-conference material, but they, too, have their down moments. Averaging more than 38 points between them in conference play, Lowe and Holland combined for just 17 in BU's loss on Saturday. It's unlikely the duo will manage 17 or less in any of BU's remaining games or in the tournament, which bodes well for BU's chances should Binghamton appear on the schedule for a third time. The challenge for the Terriers will be getting there. Since the Terriers are all but locked into the three seed, a Bearcat regular season title would leave the Catamounts as BU's most likely semifinal opponent. The odds of solving that particular puzzle are somewhat less comforting.

4. Stony Brook Seawolves
13-12 (6-7 AE), RPI 191, SOS 232
Last week: W 58-47 vs. Albany, L 69-64 at Vermont (OT)
This week: 2/18 vs. Boston University

Could the Seawolves be a .500 team this year? It appears the answer is: yes, most certainly. Even more surprising, Stony Brook is in position to secure itself a very winnable matchup in Albany -- and it won't be the play-in game, either. The Seawolves defend and rebound, and unlike the Great Danes, they play under control. Rebounding and turnover advantages are important. Speaking of rebounding, Tommy Brenton is still the only player in America East averaging more than ten rebounds during conference play.

5. Maryland-Baltimore County Retrievers
11-13 (6-7 AE), RPI 199, SOS 207
Last week: W 81-76 vs. New Hampshire, W 80-63 at Hartford
This week: 2/19 vs. Vermont, 2/21 at Rider

Don't look now, but the Retrievers have won three straight, including two on the road. Is this a resurgence from the current title-holders, or just a product of scheduling? It's probably a little of both. Still, at the very least UMBC has escaped last place. The Vermont game is a probable loss, as is the Retrievers' trip to Vestal, so Randy Monroe's team will need to outperform expectations if a quarterfinals date with the top three is to be avoided. Manage that, and the odds of making some noise in the tournament will be much improved.

6. Albany Great Danes
13-13 (5-8 AE), RPI 156, SOS 178
Last week: L 58-47 at Stony Brook, L 78-59 vs. New Hampshire
This week: 2/22 vs. Maine

Albany hasn't won a game since January. The first three losses were understandable, perhaps even expected. Losing by 11 to Stony Brook was troubling but not unprecedented. A 19-point defeat at the hands of New Hampshire? That's a red flag. The Danes have Maine at home, which ought to help Will Brown right the ship, but Albany needs to get its house in order. The schedule does give Albany a chance to grab some more wins as March approaches: the Danes get Maine and UNH (again) before the season finale in Baltimore, while the Retrievers see Vermont and Binghamton. One or two more slip-ups, though, and the Danes' first home game in the conference tournament might be scheduled for Friday.

7. Maine Black Bears
8-16 (4-8 AE), RPI 266, SOS 223
Last week: W 68-63 vs. Hartford
This week: 2/19 at New Hampshire, 2/22 at Albany

A five-point win against Hartford at home isn't particularly impressive, but Maine doesn't need impressive right now. No, Maine needs wins, the most important opportunity for which is fast approaching. A victory in Durham on Thursday will move Maine into a tie for seventh and secure the head-to-head tiebreaker should Maine and New Hampshire finish the regular season level. A loss, and the Black Bears will be two games back with the tiebreaker situation rendered all but moot. Maine's efficiency margin advantage suggests the Black Bears are the superior team; we'll find out on Thursday.

8. New Hampshire Wildcats
9-14 (5-7 AE), RPI 238, SOS 249
Last week: L 81-76 at Maryland-Baltimore County, W 78-59 at Albany
This week: 2/19 vs. Maine, 2/22 at Binghamton

UNH doesn't need to beat Maine in order to avoid the play-in game, but it would help. As a seven-loss team, finishing anywhere from fourth to eighth is a plausible result for the Wildcats. Two of the teams nearby in the standings, Albany and Stony Brook, visit Durham at season's end, so the real make-or-break moments for New Hampshire are still a ways away. Winning Thursday and Sunday will help build momentum, but for now the high-stress moments can wait.

9. Hartford Hawks
6-21 (2-11 AE), RPI 298, SOS 180
Last week: L 68-63 at Maine, L 80-63 vs. Maryland-Baltimore County
This week: 2/18 vs. Binghamton, 2/21 at Marist

There's no question which team is the worst in America East this year, so here's a different question: what happened to Morgan Sabia? Sabia's minutes have risen this year, but in the process his shooting percentage has fallen dramatically, from 47 percent last season to 40 percent now. There isn't any noticeable improvement in other categories. While Sabia wasn't the offense's cornerstone last year, he was an efficient and capable scorer. Without Zeglinski, Sabia's lack of improvement puts the primary scoring duties in the hands of guards whose greatest strengths lie in other areas. In a guard-oriented conference, that spells trouble.

Team efficiency

Overall



Conference play

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Day After: (Binghamton 60, BU 59)

Pros:
-- The crowd: For the first time all season, the crowd at The Roof was into it. It was loud, and didn't count the Terriers out when they were down big in the first half. When Corey Lowe hit his first 3-pointer of the game in front of BU's bench to give the Terriers their first lead since early in the first half, the energy was fabulous. Too bad that isn't a regular occurrence at BU.
-- Scott Brittain's performance: Brittain tied a career-high with 20 points (though a few more free-throws made at the end of the game might have changed the outcome, as well as a few more field goal conversions in the first half) and has played with increasing confidence as the season's drawn on.
-- Second-half comeback: After getting run out of the gym in the first half, the Terriers slowly chipped away at the Bearcats' lead and showed the right amount of grit in an extremely important regular-season game.

Cons:
-- Defending the fast break: Binghamton took it to the Terriers and before they could turn around, they were down 10. The Bearcats are arguably the most athletic teams in the league and it showed in the first half (before they resorted to running a half-court offense) as they hit a number of NBA-type shots.

Links:
Clawed by the Bearcats
Bearcats' aggressiveness and pace reveal on of BU's weaknesses
Boston University rally rims out
Wolffs want to pack in more
Bearcats escape Boston with rare win

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Post-game Photos & Audio: (Binghamton 60, BU 59)



Here's sound clips from BU coach Dennis Wolff's post-game press conference following his teams' 60-59 loss to Binghamton University.

BU coach Dennis Wolff's opening statement
video

Wolff talks about the conference and his offense's shot selection
video

Wolff discusses the final play to junior guard Corey Lowe
video

Wolff feels certain players need to work harder in practice
video