Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Live Blog: Mount St. Mary's University Mountaineers vs. Boston University Terriers

Starting lineups:
Mount St. Mary's University Mountaineers
F Kelly Beidler
F Shawn Atupem
F Raven Barber
G Jean Cajou
G Jeremy Goode

Boston University Terriers
F Jake O'Brien
F John Holland
C Jeff Pelage
G Corey Lowe
G Tyler Morris

Final score: BU 86, MSMU 77

Team leaders:
MSMU: Jeremy Goode, 20
BU: John Holland and Jake O'Brien, 21

MSMU: Kelly Beidler, 7
BU: Jake O'Brien and Carlos Strong, 6

MSMU: Jeremy Goode, 4
BU: Corey Lowe, 9

Hot shooting vaults men's basketball past Mount St. Mary's, 86-77
Men's basketball freshman Bailey leaves program, plans to transfer

Monday, December 14, 2009

State of America East: December 14, 2009

Sometimes teams come out of the gate in November ready to go, and blaze a trail of destruction straight through the first two months of the schedule. Those teams are scary. More often, though, it takes a while for a conference's major threats to emerge. Some adjustments can't be made until after a team has tested itself against the first few opponents on its non-conference slate. Only then, when the coaching staff has a better idea of what is working and what is not, will the real evolution of a team commence.

What we have at the moment is nine works in progress. Some of these teams are presently improving with each successive day, while others are stagnant, even deteriorating while their rivals pass them by. That's the reason for checking in each week. Think of this as the red "You Are Here" dot on the map in a mall. Each team has one, but wherever that dot is, the team in question is headed somewhere else.

Without further ado (or analogies), here's your weekly State of America East.

The Day After: Boston University 88, Marist College 72

Before the current season started, BU was pegged as the favorite to win the America East conference primarily because of its several dangerous scoring threats. Yet throughout the first nine games of the Terriers' campaign, the single most glaring issue facing the team was the issue least expected prior to November 13th's season opener at Iona. BU could not score the basketball.

So after Sunday's comfortable victory over Marist, the point of emphasis isn't BU's two-game winning streak -- its first winning streak of the season -- or the Terriers' excellent defensive rebounding or its first road win (the Indiana win was technically a neutral-court victory). It's the Terriers' shooting performance that merits close attention.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

GAMEDAY: Boston University vs. Marist College

It's not the home stretch for the regular season by any means, but mid-December means finals for college students. We're not at that stage yet for BU Basketball. There's still three games left before conference play begins. Consider this final portion of pre-America East action the Terriers' midterms. There's a chance to evaluate, but success or failure here isn't going to make or break BU's season -- just set the team on a positive or negative trajectory entering conference play.

By all accounts, Marist is the easy part of the test. The Red Foxes have played six games. The Red Foxes have lost six games. There's a trend. If an 0-6 record isn't convincing enough, consider the opponents and the individual results. Marist lost to Hartford, now 2-9, by 37 points. Also included in that record is a loss to 2-8 Holy Cross. This is the easiest game on BU's non-conference schedule, and expectations should be adjusted accordingly.

That being said, this is also the Red Foxes' home opener. Nobody has seen Marist play on its home court. It's important for BU to come out early and put its foot down. If the Red Foxes get out to an early lead, the crowd gets into the game, and Marist is allowed to believe it has a serious chance of winning its first game of the season, this could be harder for BU than anticipated.

Monday, December 7, 2009

State of America East: December 6, 2009

Four weeks have elapsed since the season's start, so it's about time to check in with BU's eight conference-mates. Which teams have done the best? Which teams are struggling to keep up with their non-conference opponents? And how is Binghamton not the worst team in America East right now?

1. Stony Brook Seawolves
(5-2, RPI 93, SOS 222)
Last week: W 71-52 at Lehigh, L 65-57 at St. John's, W 63-60 vs. Columbia
This week: at Fordham, at Colgate

BU might have the conference's two best wins (Indiana on a neutral court and Northeastern at home), but Stony Brook looked competent in its loss to St. John's and is the only team in the conference without a loss against an opponent of questionable strength. Bryan Dougher, Muhammad El-Amin, and Chris Martin have been a quality backcourt, while Tommy Brenton is one of the league's two or three best frontcourt players despite scoring only six or seven points per game. A difficult 40 minutes against a questionable Columbia team hints at the potential impact of losing Desmond Adedeji, whose injury is season-ending, but right now the Seawolves' resume is best.

2. Boston University Terriers
(3-6, RPI 151, SOS 32)
Last week: L 92-64 at Connecticut, W 63-53 vs. Bucknell
This week: at Marist

BU's wins are impressive, especially given its short bench. Its losses, though, have been concerning. Corey Lowe has exhibited both brilliance and inexplicably poor decision-making, often within minutes of each other. The offense is finally starting to come around; coupled with generally strong defense, scoring has improved enough to give BU a 3-3 record in its last six games against an incredibly difficult non-conference schedule. The most difficult portion of the schedule is over. While the Terriers are highly unlikely to win all three of their games between now and the beginning of conference play, two out of three would put BU at 5-7, battle-tested and ready for America East opposition.

3. Vermont Catamounts
(5-4, RPI 114, SOS 209)
Last week: W 63-58 at Dartmouth, W 88-49 at NJIT
This week: at Yale, vs. Quinnipiac

Vermont's three-game winning streak has come against feeble opposition -- Toledo, Dartmouth, and New Jersey Tech, they of the oft-referenced winless season-and-a-half. One of the Catamounts' other wins, though, came courtesy of Rutgers in New Jersey; after the Terriers two most significant wins, that victory compares favorably to almost any other America East triumph. Marqus Blakely has been his usual self, drawing double and triple-teams and buying Vermont's on-and-off backcourt time to figure things out. Yale isn't exactly a stern test, but Quinnipiac is a solid opponent worthy of a home opener -- even a December home opener.

4. New Hampshire Wildcats
(2-3, RPI 229, SOS 129)
Last week: L 47-32 at Pittsburgh
This week: vs. Central Connecticut State, at Hofstra

In a normal America East season, a 2-3 record with wins over Division-III Suffolk and winless Marist wouldn't be appropriate for the conference's No. 4 team. But this is not a normal America East season. UNH's wins border on meaningless. Its losses, though, are all understandable. Two came against schools from BCS conferences (Maryland and Pitt); the third, at Harvard, makes more sense after watching Harvard solve William & Mary and BU, then take Connecticut to the limit. After almost a month, UNH is a virtual unknown. Wednesday's matchup against Central Connecticut should be a more appropriate test of the Wildcats' abilities.

5. Albany Great Danes
(3-6, RPI 236, SOS 201)
Last week: L 81-65 at Florida Atlantic, L 83-54 at Siena
This week: at Penn, at Central Connecticut State

The closest thing Albany has to a bad loss is probably a four-point defeat at the hands of Morgan State, but the Bears are 5-3 with a win over Arkansas, so it's tough to skewer the Danes for any of the losses. Like UNH, the Danes' biggest crime has been a failure to impress. Albany, though, has had a few opportunities. Morgan State and Florida Atlantic aren't overwhelmingly good opponents, but the Danes couldn't find ways to win, and the margin against FAU wasn't suggestive of a close contest. Losing winnable games can be habit-forming; with two more chances to impress this week, Albany needs to seize one, if not both.

6. Maine Black Bears
(3-4, RPI 259, SOS 325)
Last week: W 76-66 at Colgate, L 101-55 at Syracuse
This week: vs. Maine-Presque Isle, vs. Kennesaw State

Gerald McLemore is very good. Maine's point guards? Not so much. When McLemore is the only perimeter shooter on the floor for the Black Bears -- which happens more often than you'd think -- the box-and-one becomes a legitimately sound defensive strategy to employ. Take McLemore away and the Maine offense stalls. Credit the outstanding sophomore for putting up a bunch of points without much help; blame the Maine coaching staff for failing to recruit a legitimate starting point guard after years and years of substandard play at the position.

7. Hartford Hawks
(2-7, RPI 319, SOS 288)
Last week: L 48-46 vs. Yale, L 89-56 at Seton Hall, L 75-62 at LaSalle
This week: at St. Francis (NY), vs. Sacred Heart

Through four games, junior point guard Andres Torres had 30 assists and five turnovers, and Hartford was 2-2, including a 75-38 steamrolling of Marist. Since then, Torres has committed nearly four turnovers per game and the Hawks have lost five straight. Hartford's ability to avoid turnovers is its best offensive trait, and since the Hawks suffer from both a free throw disparity and poor rebounding at both ends, Torres needs to make sure that strength remains intact. Without it, Hartford is unlikely to do much better than the two teams lying below it in these power rankings.

8. Binghamton Bearcats
(3-5, RPI 205, SOS 38)
Last week: W 64-60 vs. Bucknell
This week: vs. Marshall, at Drake, vs. South Dakota (neutral court)

Yes, Binghamton is -- somehow -- not the worst team in America East to date. This, despite struggling to beat a Division-II opponent at home and a 1-5 record against Division-I competition. Binghamton isn't well-equipped to handle most opponents at this level, but when an opponent can't find its shot for the better part of 40 minutes, the door is left wide open. Credit the Bearcats: Bucknell gave them a chance to win, and the Bearcats seized it. Greer Wright and Dylan Talley are turnover-prone but have the talent to compete at this level. Binghamton isn't about to break out, and by year's end the Bearcats will probably find the America East cellar, but the winless season has been avoided.

9. UMBC Retrievers
(0-7, RPI 344, SOS 330)
Last week: L 82-77 at Towson, L 76-67 at Toledo
This week: at Penn State, vs. Rider

The Retrievers were expected to have some difficulties during non-conference play, primarily due to Chauncey Gilliam's ineligibility. Well, Gilliam regained his eligibility in time for the season opener, yet UMBC remains winless. Two of the Retrievers' opponents, Coppin State and Toledo, have no wins against other Division-I opponents. Both of those teams beat the Retrievers. Coppin State's win came by an 11-point margin -- at UMBC. The Retrievers' best chance for a win before Christmas comes against American on December 19. The Eagles are 1-8; if the Retrievers can't get a victory in Washington D.C., they stand a good chance of starting conference play with a big, fat zero in the win column.

The Day After: Boston University Terriers 63, Bucknell University Bison 53

For 20 minutes, the Terriers provided 1,227 spectators with their best impersonation of the team everyone expected BU to field this season. Scott Brittain was sidelined, as was Valdas Sirutis, but the Terriers' first half gave everyone a glimpse of what this team can do when in form. Shots found the net more than occassionally, the passing was reasonably crisp, and whenever Bucknell started to think about offense, the BU defense procured turnovers and ripped down defensive rebounds. Bucknell's inability to hit the Charles from a boat was a factor, to be sure, but the Terriers were deserving of a substantial lead when the halftime buzzer sounded.

Three minutes and ten seconds into the second half, a 16-point lead was reduced to five. Boston University head coach Patrick Chambers called a timeout. The Terriers had lost control. Not only were things going wrong, but every strength the Terriers had exhibited while building their lead had vanished. Intelligent passes were replaced by fruitless drives to the hoop, yielding nothing. Defenders' pressure was being broken and nobody was left to close out on shooters.

The Terriers recovered and secured a win against an inferior opponent. Bucknell never managed to pull level or take a lead, and Carlos Strong and B.J. Bailey made some big plays down the stretch to give the home team a much-needed win.

The result is the most important thing, but there's plenty of additional information to be acquired by looking at how the result was obtained. How much weight should be placed on the Terriers' first half performance compared to their struggles early in the second half?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Live Blog: Bucknell University Bison vs. Boston University Terriers

GAMEDAY: Bucknell University Bison vs. Boston University Terriers

The Terriers have been bruised and battered, both physically and in the standings. After facing the likes of Kansas State, Georgia Tech, and Connecticut, it's time for BU to transition to a more appropriate level of competition.

UConn provided one kind of test for BU: the impossible task. How would the Terriers do against an opponent whose athletic resources are, by all accounts, far superior? Today's meeting with Bucknell is a different sort of test. Similar to the Harvard game, Bucknell is not considerably bigger, taller, faster, or stronger than BU in any meaningful way. The Terriers have played Bucknell as recently as last year. In theory, since the Terriers won that game, they know how to beat the Bison. Perhaps most significantly, Bucknell is coming off a loss to America East conference member Binghamton, one of the absolute worst teams in Division-I.

Other losses can be waved away as temporary setbacks. A loss today, especially if Corey Lowe is on the floor for the Terriers, would sound a louder alarm.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Day After: University of Connecticut 92, Boston University 64

No discussion of last night's game at the Hartford XL Center can begin without noting the obvious: BU is not at full strength right now. The Terriers haven't been healthy all season, but yesterday's roster situation bordered on the ridiculous. After suffering from a thin bench against Harvard, the Terriers essentially swapped one of their two best players, Corey Lowe, for a freshman, B.J. Bailey, then hit the road for a game against the most talented opponent on the schedule. The above is not a recipe for success.

That being said, last night's 28-point loss offered some additional information about how BU can be expected to play going forward, even if last night's team hardly resembled what the Terriers hope to field come January.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

GAMEDAY: Boston University vs. University of Connecticut

The concept of a "big game" is embraced by fans and media. Matchups are built up, beginning from the moment a game is announced and continuing all the way to tipoff. Sometimes the event lives up to the hype; other times, anticipation is forced to yield by mediocrity and disappointment.

Tonight's game between the University of Connecticut Huskies and the Boston University Terriers has been circled on BU's schedule from the very beginning. Sure, no coach or player in his right mind would openly approach this non-conference game as being more important than the others -- after all, teams and their individual components are expected to give 100 percent regardless of the opponent. But like the trip to Notre Dame from a year ago, there's something about playing an opponent you're not supposed to be able to defeat that changes things ever so slightly.

Around the League: December 2, 2009

Yesterday's game:
Vermont 63, Dartmouth 58
Ordinarily the Catamounts would prefer a wider margin of victory against the likes of Dartmouth (1-5), but this was the fifth road game in six days for Vermont (4-4). Marqus Blakely had five turnovers but redeemed himself with a double-double. Fueling the offense was Joey Accaoui, who was 6-of-7 from the field and 4-of-4 at the line for 17 points. Vermont committed 18 turnovers total but locked down most of Dartmouth's offensive options in order to secure the Catamounts' second straight win.

Today's games:
Yale at Hartford, 7:00 PM
Stony Brook at St. John's, 7:00 PM
UMBC at Towson, 7:00 PM

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Around the League: December 1, 2009

Yesterday's games:
Florida Atlantic 81, Albany 65
The Great Danes couldn't control Owl shooters, as Florida Atlantic (3-3) posted a eFG% of 60 and built an unassailable lead in the second half. Albany (3-5) did a good job offensively and on the boards but allowed four Owls to score in double figures, including 24 points for Greg Gantt. After the threesome of Will Harris (20 points), Tim Ambrose (19), and Mike Johnson (17), nine Danes combined for just nine points. That lack of balance does not bode well for Saturday's meeting with crosstown rival Siena.

Stony Brook 71, Lehigh 52
In what is fast becoming a trend, the Seawolves (5-1) clamped down on their opponent's offense and would not let go. Lehigh (3-3) scored 52 points in a 71-possession game. Stony Brook's previous four wins came against unimpressive competition, but Lehigh's victory against Quinnipiac suggests the Mountain Hawks are somewhat more formidable -- yet after John Adams' 13 points, no Lehigh player tallied more than eight.

Today's game:
Vermont at Dartmouth, 7:00 PM