Thursday, March 24, 2011

From the FreeP: Holland's final games confirm his status as all-time BU great

By Jack Flagler/DFP Staff

If the Boston University basketball season had ended two weeks ago, senior forward John Holland would have hung up his jersey as one of the program’s best players of the last decade. He finished second on BU’s all-time scoring list and delivered a handful of highlight-reel dunks every season.

But after Holland’s performance in the final two games of the season, he will be remembered as one of BU’s best ever.

Holland single-handedly willed a flat Terrier squad to victory over Stony Brook University and an America East title. Then, he put the team on his shoulders again to keep BU close against the University of Kansas in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

After four years and hundreds of games in a BU uniform, Holland will be most remembered for those last two performances.

Kansas coach Bill Self praised him as a player who could contribute in the Big 12 Conference, and for one half against KU, he was the best player on the floor. He scored 15 points in the first 20 minutes and kept BU within four points before Kansas went on a second-half run to put the game away.

BU may have given Kansas the toughest test the Jayhawks will face on their way to the Final Four in Houston. Kansas easily dispatched the University of Illinois in the next round, and the team will not have to face another single-digit seed in its upset-prone region. Only Cinderellas University of Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth University and Florida State University remain in KU’s way in the Southwest.

With a rare talent like Holland leaving, the question facing BU will be whether or not the remaining players can repeat this season’s success next year.

It seems that every year, BU has to face the issue of team chemistry. Two seasons ago, we wondered how the team would adapt to a new system under head coach Patrick Chambers. Last year, we wondered how the team would gel without the leaders who graduated in 2010.

This year is no different. Although Chambers has proven himself as a head coach and everyone in this year’s group will be returning next year besides Holland, we still don’t know who will step up to become the team’s leader and primary scorer.

Junior Darryl Partin was the team’s second leading scorer this year and is an obvious choice to step into Holland’s role. But Partin’s play, while excellent as a whole, was also extremely streaky this year. He caught fire in some games and went for 20 points or more 10 times, including a 32-point outburst against Cornell when Holland’s shot wasn’t falling.

But Partin also had a tendency to disappear for long stretches. He shot just 8-for-29 in the America East tournament and connected on only three of his 12 3-point attempts. To be the guy Chambers draws a play for on the last possession of a tight game, Partin will have to improve his consistency.

Junior Jake O’Brien will also have a chance to step into a leadership role next year. O’Brien was selected preseason First Team All-Conference, but went down with a foot injury in December.

Even if O’Brien does return fully healthy next year, he will need to become more aggressive to fill the scoring vacuum Holland left. Having a big man step out and shoot 3s is terrific, but Holland was an excellent 3-point shooter who still attacked the rim and got to the free-throw line. Before his injury, O’Brien went to the charity stripe just 27 times, or less than twice a game. He will need to raise that number next season to be BU’s number one option.

The other key for next year’s squad is the development of this year’s freshmen. D.J. Irving emerged as a star with a great knack for finding the open man and a determination to get to the rim. Dom Morris is another triple-threat big man who can score from inside or outside and rebound the ball. Travis Robinson and Mike Terry, Jr. got limited playing time, but should have more of a chance to shine next year without Holland playing 35-40 minutes every game.

My guess for next season? BU will find themselves in another tough fight with Stony Brook, also a young team, for the conference title and a tournament berth. This year, there was no question which player would have the ball in his hands at the end of the Stony Brook game. But without John Holland next season, who will step up to give the Terriers a lift when they need it the most?

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