Friday, February 27, 2009

Weekend Hockey Primer: Getting Back On Track

2/27/2009 - Boston College 5, Providence 1 - BC 14-12-5 (9-10-5 Hockey East)

Barely breathin'. A must win for the Eagles. Looks like all that Ryder Cup inspiration paid off. Glad to see the Eagles took care of business on their home ice. Two goals from Almeida, and a goal a piece for Kucharski, Gibbons and Whitney. Muse stopped 17 of 18 shots.

The win, coupled with a Lowell loss, brings the Eagles within 3 points of 5th place in the Hockey East standings with 3 games to play. The win also breaks the tie the Eagles were in for 6th place with Massachusetts, currently losing to BU 5-3 in the 3rd. If the season ended today, the Hockey East quarterfinals would look like this:

(1) Northeastern vs. (8) Maine
(2) Boston University vs. (7) Massachusetts
(3) New Hampshire vs. (6) Boston College
(4) Vermont vs. (5) UMass-Lowell

The BC win coupled with a UMass loss momentarily staves off a quarterfinal matchup between Boston College and Boston University. But Terrier fans out there question whether playing the Eagles in a best 2 of 3 with home ice advantage would be better than potentially facing the Eagles in a winner-take-all semifinal at the Garden.

No Love in the National Polls. Not that any love should really is really warranted at this point, but this is the ultimate double whammy. The Eagles were dropped from the latest College Sports Poll, the first time all season. To add insult to injury, look who comes in at the #1 and #2 spots ... Boston University and Notre Dame. Guh.

Alumni Stadium Winter Classic? The University of Wisconsin hockey team has formally invited the Michigan Wolverines to play at Camp Randall in an outdoor hockey game next season on February 6. This is pretty cool. If the Badgers can sell out the stadium, it would break the previous outdoor attendance record of 74,544 that saw the Spartans and the Wolverines play at Spartan Stadium back in 2001.

This idea is awesome but why should these midwestern schools have all the outdoor hockey fun? It is time for BC to man up and host an outdoor game at Alumni Stadium. Fenway Park would be cool too, but might as well keep the game on campus. Host Boston U. on campus in late January or early February when students are back on campus (unlike some of our recent games against BU that conveniently fall over student breaks!). I know the school can't even fill Alumni for every football game and hockey attendance hasn't been all that great either. But if the Athletics Department can roll up their sleeves and really focus on this, I think they could pull this off. What better way to sell the school and Hockey East to high school recruits from Massachusetts and the rest of New England than an outdoor college hockey game?

Eagles in the NHL

What have you done for me lately? New Jersey Devils starting goaltender Martin Brodeur is back after having surgery on a torn bicep. Not only is he back, but he posted a shutout in his first game back against the visiting Avalanche.

Bad news for ex-BC netminder Scott Clemmensen, who was sent back down to the Devil's AHL affiliate Lowell Devils. The Devils are in first place in the Atlantic Division, largely due to the play of Clemmensen. Clem posted a 25-13-1 record, 2.39 goals against average and a .917 save percentage. Not too shabby. The reason Clemmensen got sent down - and not Kevin Weekes - was that Clem was called up on an emergency basis when Brodeur was hurt so he didn't have to clear waivers. Weekes would have had to have cleared waivers if he was sent to Lowell. Still, great work from a BC Guy. And he got a ringing endorsement from Brodeur for his time with the Devils:
I am sure he is disappointed, but he got a great chance to prove what he was able to do not only to the Devils but the entire league and I think he made his point," Brodeur said.
Breaking out the hardware. PRO-files New Jersey Devils forward Brian Gionta's path to the pros. A good read. Two BC Guy mentions in that article. At 5'7" Gionta remains the shortest player in the NHL. That is, until 5'6" Nathan Gerbe gets called up to the Sabres. (Thanks to Christian for the link)

Parting Shots. Finally, we leave you with this. Former Eagle Chuck Kobasew putting a hurtin' on the Panther's Keith Ballard. Atta boy. HT: Goon.

ACC Tournament Tickets Available?! and the Big Finish

Jeff:  Did you hear that ACC basketball tournament did not sell out from schools alone for the first time in 30 something years?

Brian:  I did hear that. And here is the subsequent spin article out of Raleigh about how this is a good opportunity for the conference to win over more fans by giving them an opportunity to attend.

I just think that the combination of moving the tournament out of the geographic heart of the conference (North Carolina), combined with a sucktastic ("sucktastic … 29 points …") state of the economy, it is what it is ...

Still, the non-sell out is a bit disheartening and a sign that the economy is pretty bad. But I guess the lack of a sold out ACC men’s basketball tournament is BC's fault too?

Jeff:  No, that wasn't what I was saying or implying at all.  First, let's clarify that it is just not sold out yet and tickets are going on sale starting Monday on ticketmaster.  The tournament, for the past 30 something years has been sold out simply from selling tickets through its member institutions. I highly doubt that anyone thinks that anyone thinks this is BC's fault.  Eight years ago 9 ACC schools sold out the Georgia Dome. This year twelve programs can't even sell out the place even though the conference powers – Duke and North Carolina - are both top 10 and the best traveling school overall (Clemson) is top 15.

The reason has to be the economy and I bet now they don't feel as bad about the football attendance the past two years at ACC Championship Games.

Brian:  I was teasing about it being Boston College’s fault but ACC "purists" will be quick to blame expansion and not the economy on the ACC basketball tournament (and the ACC football Championship Game) attendance woes.  Also, I don't think Clemson is the best traveling basketball school. They have zero history. They are looking for back-to-back ACC conference winning records for the first time since 1965-1967.  The Tigers aren't necessarily what I would call a basketball powerhouse.

Jeff:  I said best traveling program overall meaning combining both football and basketball. Clemson was easily the 3rd best represented school last year at the ACC Tournament. Also, there is no such thing as an ACC purist.

Brian:  Of course there is such a thing as an ACC purist. ACC purists want to go back to the days when they had their nice little 9-team league that revolves around Tobacco Road. They want to go back to playing everyone in football, not having an ACC football Championship Game and having a “truer” champion – whatever that means – and reinstating the round-robin college hoops schedule. Count people like Mike Krzyzewski, anyone associated with NC State and J.P. Giglio as your "ACC purists."

Jeff: In the grand scheme of things, Florida State recently joined the ACC also, so a purist would want to go back to the 8 school ACC or even kick out Georgia Tech and be left with seven schools.  Stop dignifying those people you mention by giving them a title they probably think they deserve

Big Finish

Jeff:  Ever wonder where those pre-printed championship gear t-shirts go when the team loses? Last year when my father-in-law went on a mission trip to Nicaragua, I gave him plenty of our 2007 "Ryan for Heisman" shirts to hand out.  He went back this year and saw plenty of people wearing them ...

Brian:  That is awesome! As a Giants fan, I hope they are also rocking the 19-0 Patriots t-shirts.

Brian:  The baseball team beat USF yesterday 3-1, behind 7 1/3 strong innings from senior JB MacDonald. The win pushes the Eagles’ record to 5-0. Sign of progress for the baseball team?

Jeff: The baseball team over the last five years has been solid for a northern school but just had a little bit of a rough season last year.

Jeff: How many games will the hockey team lose this weekend?

Brian: 0.

Brian:  My favorite North Carolina-based sportswriter reports that since 1981, 35 of 36 ACC teams that beat both a Coach K-led Duke team and a UNC team with a winning record in the same season made the tournament.  Good news for the Eagles, right?

Jeff:  The Eagles still need one more win to be safe but I don't see that being a problem.

Jeff: The teams the Eagles men's hoops team plays twice this season in conference (Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, NC State, and Miami) have a combined record of 21-39.  Does this make you feel a little better since we always get stuck playing Virginia Tech in football from the Coastal division?

Brian: Yes, although this is another argument for a round-robin ACC basketball schedule.

Brian: LSU and West Virginia agreed to a home-and-home football series for the 2010 and 2011 seasons. Aside from the USC series scheduled for 2013 and 2014, can I expect GDF to make a splash and schedule a major BCS conference opponent anytime soon?

Jeff: Why are you constantly bitching about the football schedule?  Southern Cal is huge!  Resigning Notre Dame has been priority #1 and then hopefully someday we'll get an SEC school or something like that.  It might not happen though if GDF isn't willing to play in Gillette Stadium or at the Meadowlands.  The big schools don't want to play in little Alumni and struggle to get their alums tickets.

Jeff: Last one. Brian, as you know, my brother is a navy pilot and just got deployed on the USS Eisenhower and was told he was headed to Afghanistan.  Turns out they're going to be fighting pirates in the Gulf of Aden for the next few months. Is fighting real pirates cool?

Brian: Sounds very cool I guess, but also dangerous.  Here's wishing him all the best in his assignment.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Mt. Rushmore: Write-In Vote

We continue our profile of Boston College sports greats to arrive at our BC athletics make-believe Mt. Rushmore...

We've nearly come to the end of the road. We are set to unveil our BC Mt. Rushmore on Monday.

In the meantime, we thought we'd profile those BC sports greats who, while they didn't make the final list for our reader poll, nevertheless deserve some consideration. The list of our snubbees, in no particular order ...

Brian Gionta - I am going to guess and say that a majority of of the side bar poll votes (8%) were for Brian Gionta. Gionta was the greatest hockey player we have ever seen play for the Eagles. In our opinion, he certainly should have won at least one of the Hobey Baker Awards for which he was a finalist (his sophomore, junior and senior years). Individual awards aside, Gionta helped guide the Eagles to an unprecedented four straight Frozen Fours. Those Frozen Four appearances included two heartbreaking overtime losses to Michigan and Notre Dakota, a loss in the semifinals to Maine, and capped with a 3-2 OT victory over North Dakota for the program's second national title. And five goals in a period is about as great a performance as we have ever seen by a BC Eagle.

Mike Holovak - Holovak was a star running back for the Eagles from 1940-1942. He is regarded as one of the best running backs in Boston College history, having left school as the career leader in career rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. Holovak's teams went 26-5 in his three years. The Eagles finished #5 in the final AP poll of his freshman season (11-0), and #8 after his junior year (8-2). Holovak was a first round, 5th overall pick in the 1943 NFL draft. Holovak was on HD's Mt. Rushmore of Boston College football, so we've tried to tell you something about him other than text lifted directly from the BC media guide.

Len Ceglarski - Ceglarski played both varsity hockey and baseball while a student at BC. He was a member of the 1949 National Championship ice hockey team and batted .429 as the Eagles' starting second basemen. When legendary coach Snooks Kelley retired in 1972, he took over behind the Eagles bench. Over twenty seasons, Ceglarski guided the Eagles to over 400 wins including a runner-up finish in the 1978 National Championship game (a 5-3 loss to the dropkick dogs). He would retire as the NCAA Division I leader in career coaching victories with 689.

Mike Ruth - Also on HD's Mt. Rushmore, Ruth is Boston College's only Outland Trophy winner (nation's best offensive or defensive interior lineman). His senior season, he was also selected as to the AP's first team All-American and All East teams. Ruth played for the Eagles from 1982-1985. As a dominant defensive lineman, Ruth registered over 300 tackles and 29 sacks (a BC record). Along with Flutie, only 1 of 2 players to have his number - #68 - retired by the school. Helped guide the Eagles to their 1984 Cotton Bowl victory over Houston and a Tangerine and Liberty Bowl apperance.

David Emma - Emma, along with Mike Mottau, is one of the school's two Hobey Baker Award winners (1991). Emma finished his four year career as the school's leading scorer with 239 points, and is second on the all-time goals (112) and assists (127) list. Two time first team All-American selection. Emma was also awarded the 1991 Walter Brown Award (best American-born player in New England) and was inducted into the Boston College Varsity Club Hall of Fame in 2006.

Dana Barros - First BC Eagles basketball player to score over 2,000 points in his career (finished with 2,293). Barros was selected as Big East Freshman of the Year in 1985-1986. Led the Big East in scoring during both his junior (21.9 ppg) and senior years (23.9 ppg). Inducted into the Boston College Varsity Club Hall of Fame in 2005.

Craig Smith - Smith finished his career with 2,349 points, behind only Troy Bell. He is one of less than 100 players in NCAA Division I history to tally over 2,000 points and 1,000 boards in his career (joining Danya Abrams as the only Eagles on that list). His senior year, Smith was selected to the first-team All ACC team and the third-team All American team. Broke the team's freshman scoring record with 617 points. Played in seven NCAA Tournament games, registering 122 points, 75 boards and 53 field goals (BC records).

J. Donald Monan, S.J. - Father Monan served as the school's president for 24 years, the longest tenure of any Boston College president. Under his leadership, the school built Conte Forum, renovated Alumni Stadium, doubled the size of the 'Plex, and was a founding president of the Big East Conference. Monan was inducted into the Boston College Varsity Club Hall of Fame in 1985, and also awarded the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame's Distinguished American Award in 1996. The Distinguished American Award to a person who over a long period of time has made significant contributions to the betterment of amateur football in America.

Gene DeFilippo - This might be an unpopular honorable mention at this point depending on how you feel about how he handled the Jagodzinski soap opera, but the fact is that GDF has been the AD during an unprecedented string of successful Boston College athletics programs. Guided the school and the program from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2005. GDF was also instrumental in the building of football's Yawkey Athletics Center. Has seen the BC hockey team and sailing teams win multiple National Championships, as well as tremendous athletics success in football and basketball.

Any other write-in votes we missed? Last chance to state your case for one of these honorable mention candidates or someone we missed ...

Good Cop/Bad Cop: Eagles Beat Noles

Today we play a game of good cop / bad cop and discuss the latest and greatest in Boston College basketball.

Let's get our first suspect ...

Suspect #1 - The Seminoles losing Wednesday night's game (as opposed to the Eagles winning the game)?

Brian as Good Cop: I will play the good cop on this one. Florida State ended up committing 18 turnovers on the night. Orlando Sentinel FSU blogger Andrew Carter calls this "self inflicted wounds" on the part of the Seminoles. Florida State's Toney Douglas played one of his worse games of the season (4 turnovers, 3 fouls despite his team-leading 19 points). Early on in the game, somewhere around 9-4 Seminoles ... and which quickly ballooned to 16-4 Seminoles ... I wrote you an quick email with the subject "We are going to lose this game and it is going to be ugly." The Eagles absolutely did not belong in the game in the first half but due to the slew of FSU mistakes, went into the half trailing by 1. A better team would have put the Eagles away early and led the Eagles by 10-15 at half. Instead, the Noles left the door open and the Eagles took advantage.

Jeff as Bad Cop: How can you say Douglas had a bad night scoring 19 when Rice only scored 11. Douglas clearly won the battle of the superstars. Turnovers are either given up or forced, and after the first ten minutes of the game the Eagles played with a lot of intensity and forced many of those turnovers rather than them simply just being given up. And finally, you need to make shots in order to win the game and down the stretch the Eagles did just enough of that including Rice's big 3 to put them up 4 with 20 seconds to play.

Suspect #2 - Florida State as a tournament lock?

Brian as Bad Cop: FSU is now 21-7, 8-5 in conference with three regular season games left to play. The Seminoles have an impressive RPI but a not so great SOS. At first glance, you would think they are a tournament lock at this point regardless of the team's setback in Chestnut Hill. But not so fast, my friends. I'm here to tell you the boys from Tallahassee still have work left to do. FSU has three regular season games left - at home vs. Clemson, on the road in Durham and finish at home against Virginia Tech. Assuming the Seminoles' kenpom predictor to be correct for a second, FSU will lose to both Clemson and Duke but beat Virginia Tech in the regular season finale. 1-2 in their last 3 games gets them to 9-7 in the ACC and in the tournament. But let's say that FSU drops to the Hokies as well? That would make FSU 0-4 in their last 4 and drop them all the way to 8-8 in the ACC. This is starting to smell of a bubble team. Then, if the Noles draw a Maryland or an NC State in the first round of the ACC Tournament, this becomes virtually a must-win. So are the Noles a lock? No. Given the slight chance that they finish the season on a five game skid, this team will have to beat the Hokies or win their first round tournament game, otherwise the Seminoles could be N. I. it.

Jeff as Good Cop: Since really no one is a lock right now with 3 conference games yet to play and conference tournaments, FSU is the closest thing there is. All FSU needs to do is either win one of their remaining regular season games or win 2 games in the ACC tournament which this team is very capable of doing. The Eagles and FSU are both sitting with 8 conference wins and if the tournament started today, the Seminoles would get the higher seed.

Suspect #3 - Poor Conte Forum attendance for the next-to-last home game against a Top 25 opponent?

Brian as Good Cop: Hard to do, but I will give it a shot anyway. I will play the good cop on this one. Last night's game against No. 23 Florida State was attended by only 4,968 fans. Back of the envelope math tells me that Conte was only about 58% packed last night. Sounds pretty terrible at first, but this is certainly understandable. Last night's game had a lot of factors working against it ... 1) it was a 9:00pm tip 2) the last week before spring break 3) exam week and 4) it was Florida State and we weren't playing football. Even though Florida State came into Conte Forum as a ranked opponent, I'll bet most students and casual Superfans didn't even know that fact. Florida State is a football school, not a basketball school. With no real basketball history and a lack of name brand college hoops recognition, students would rather get better grades on their exams than watch another game where Tyrese Rice doesn't score a point in the first half. Plus it's not like students are going to storm the court after the win, even if we beat FSU on a buzzer beater. Finally, students are showing their opposition to GDF's dumb student ticket policies (half-season ticket plans) by not attending the games.

Jeff as Bad Cop: Florida State is a football team and nothing to get excited about when it comes to basketball, the economy still sucks, and a 9:00 Tuesday night game means you are not getting home until midnight or later, but c'mon people, where are ya!? This poor team deserves better support than they have gotten at home this season. The first few games following the UNC victory had good attendance but then attendance has slacked off again outside the Duke game. BC fans need to come out and take advantage of their chances to watch some great ACC basketball action and the student attendance is the most disappointing of all since they should be least bothered by the 9:00 pm start.

Suspect #4 - Joe Trapani as this year's team MVP?

Jeff as Bad Cop: Is this question a joke? Have we forgotten that Tyrese Rice is a member of this team. MVP doesn't just mean guy who scores the most points or guy who plays the most minutes - even though Rice would be MVP is that were the criteria averaging 17.5ppg in 33.1 min. Rice is our team MVP because he is our team leader and has taken all those Sophomores we've had and helped to turn them into decent players and people. He is also our team MVP because he is the man on the floor that the opposition has to worry about the most and sometime's throw 2 defenders at opening up shots for others like your boy Joe. Finally, Joe is in no way the team MVP because he threw away an inbounds pass late against FSU nearly costing us the game.

Brian as Good Cop: Since he's my boy, I will play the good cop. Joe Trapani is this year's team MVP. He's averaging 14.1 points per game, more than anyone other than Rice (17.5). He leads the team in rebounds (6.6 per game) and blocks (1.0 per game). He is the second best three-point shooter (.369) and free throw shooter (.778) of our starting five. Not to mention, he is forced to make up for our lack of height when Southern gets in foul trouble. At this point, this is where Raj leaves a comment about how Trapani hasn't hit a clutch shot or anything. But last time I checked, you didn't have to hit a clutch shot to be the most valuable player on your team. With Trapani, you don't have to worry about him getting shut out of the scoring column in the first half (like Rice), and he doesn't decide to have horrible games against good Top 25 competition (see: Rakim Sanders vs. Wake x2). Just how much more consistent has Trapani been compared to Sanders? Looking at both of their individual game lines, Sanders scored less than 10 points in 11 games this season compared to only 6 games for Trapani.

Simply, without Trapani, this team would have only marginally improved from last season's 14-17 record.

Suspect #5 - ACC ass clowns that work for a certain NC newspaper campaigning for the ACC to contract back down to 10 teams

Brian as Good Cop: To everyone's surprise, I will play the good cop on this one and go along with this idea. Sure, let's pair down the ACC back to 10 teams so Coach K, ACC sportswriters and others of their ilk can stop waxing poetic about the beauty of the round-robin basketball schedule. But why would you get rid of BC and Miami? Well, forget Miami for a second, why would you want to get rid of BC? In our four years in the league, BC has only posted the third best record in ACC play behind only Duke and North Carolina. But apparently, we still aren't a good enough "fit" for the conference since we are a small, Northeast school. And football? Ha. Without BC football the last four years, the ACC is Conference-USA, or worse yet, the MAC. So let's play nice and go with this idea of trimming the ACC back down to 10 teams. The question is, however, which 2 teams to contract?

You keep Virginia Tech because, as much as it pains me to say, they have been the flagship football program for the conference post expansion (and meh in basketball). You can't contract North Carolina or Duke because even though their football programs are mediocre / suck, respectively, their hoops are first-rate. Florida State and Miami (FL) have to be great in football again at some point, right? ... Right? Georgia Tech and Wake Forest have more than held their own in football since the Great Expansion of 2005. You keep Clemson around for the comedic value of the annual collapse of their overhyped football teams (and who would have figured?! suddenly have a decent hoops team). And Maryland, while irrelevant in football, at least have had recent success on the hardwood. So all signs seem to point to Virginia and NC State as the ACC's Minnesota Twins and Kansas City Royals. Honestly, what have either of these teams done post 2005?

Virginia had one great season in hoops and football two years ago, but otherwise has gone 7-9, 5-11 and 3-9 (this season) in basketball. They don't make much noise in the ACC Coastal in football, playing second fiddle to Tech in the state. While UVA is great for the conference in other sports, for the ones that count, the Cavaliers are easily forgettable.

And don't get me started on NC State. Complete this sample SAT analogy. Duke : ACC Coastal :: _________ : ACC Atlantic. If you guessed NC State football, you'd be correct! NC State would like to thank their Tobacco Road buddies over in Durham for diverting attention away from their horrible football seasons since 2005. 3-5 ... 2-6 ... 3-5 ... 4-4. 4-4 in their second year under TOB. Ooo! Progress.

For a large state school that underachieves in college football and basketball and likes to poke fun at Boston College, you bring basically nothing to the table in football or basketball. Get out of my conference and go join Conference USA. You can set up a nice, little in-state rivalry with ECU.

So go ahead, ACC purists. Contract away. But why don't you go ahead and contract away teams that have actually been irrelevant in the post-expansion ACC rather than teams that don't fit your little North Carolina-centered basketball conference?

Jeff as Bad Cop: ACC purist? I understand the term baseball purist but how can anyone be an ACC purist? It wasn't too long ago that the conference was born(1956) and then even more recently Florida State was was added in 1991. There are no retired men sitting around talking about how their fathers took them to ACC games as a child since their fathers had taken them as a child so how can we even have these purists and historians? Lastly, why would they contract to ten teams since the ACC started as 8 teams, lost South Carolina to become 7, gained Georgia Tech to become 8 again, and finally added FSU to become 9. The ACC has had a varied membership over the years but never ever was it a ten team conference.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Josh Beckett vs. BC

Brian: BC took their annual spring beat down at the hands of the Boston Red Sox in stride this year, losing 7-1. At least it wasn't as lopsided as last year! The Eagles actually led for 4 1/2 innings before the Sox broke it open with a six-run 5th inning.

Here, Josh Beckett channels power of that ridiculous titanium powered, magnetic necklace to throw 2 perfect innings against the Eagles.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Mt. Rushmore: Art Donovan

We continue our profile of Boston College sports greats to arrive at our BC athletics make-believe Mt. Rushmore...

Name: Arthur "The Bulldog" Donovan
Born: June 1925 (age 83)
Sport: Football (defensive tackle)
BC Era: 1946-1949

Standings: Finished in 13th place with 4% of the vote, ahead of only Mike Mottau (3%)

Why He's In
  • Four year letterman for the Eagles as defensive tackle from 1946-1949
  • His teams went a combined 19-14-3 in his four years on the team
  • In his last game as an Eagle, the team defeated Holy Cross 76-0 ... which is A-OK in our book. I mean, it is no Georgia Tech over Cumberland, but we'll take it.
  • Inducted into the Boston College Varsity Club Hall of Fame in 1970, and one of seven players to have their jersey retired by the school
  • Yes, this honor was for his professional career (which we said wouldn't count), but this is impressive nonetheless: Donovan is one of only two Eagles to be inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame in 1968 (the other is Ernie Stautner)

Maybe Not?
  • The best he could do at Boston College was second team all-New England
  • Teams weren't all that good ... 6-3 as a freshman, 5-4 as a sophomore, 4-3-2 as a junior, and 4-4-1 as a senior. But then again, how much influence does a DT have on a game?
  • Never played in a bowl game ... played during the bowl-less streak between 1942-1982
  • Lack of college football statistics from back in the day make it hard to understand his impact on the field
  • Known more for his dominance in the NFL, which included two NFL Championships with the Baltimore Colts (1958 and 1959)

  • "I was 17 pounds when I was born. My mother couldn't walk for about three weeks."
  • Badass extracurricular activity. Donovan was also guest commentator for the WWF's 1994 edition of King of the Ring alongside Gorilla Monsoon and "Macho Man" Randy Savage.

YouTubage ... Heeeeeeeeere's Johnny!

You wouldn't deny a guy who's nicknames are "The Bulldog" and "Fatso" now, would ya?

Yeah, we agree. Kinda weak case.

Headlines: Translating Recent Draft Success into Conference Success?

Brian: Jeff, I was at a bar on Saturday night to see our boy Christian's Rage Against the Machine cover band, Evil Empire, play in Hoboken. On one of the TVs in between sets, they were playing ESPN's SportsCenter where, later in the broadcast, they got to the NFL Combine and the NFL Draft coverage. I caught a glimpse of Todd McShay's 2009 NFL Mock Draft Top 5 on the screen. Here's a rundown of McShay's top 5:

  1. Detroit Lions: Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia
  2. St. Louis Rams: Jason Smith, OT, Baylor
  3. Kansas City Chiefs: Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest
  4. Seattle Seahawks: B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College
  5. Cleveland Browns: Everette Brown, DE, Florida State
What struck me instantly was the presence of 3 ACC players in the Top 5, or ... 60%! Add in Virginia's OT Eugene Monroe, and you have 4 of the Top 10 draft prospects coming from the Atlantic Coast Conference. The most Top 10 prospects for any one conference. Quite frankly, I was a little taken aback by this fact on the SportsCenter screen.

While the ACC has had tremendous success over the past few years in the NFL Draft, the perception of ACC football around the country is that the conference is still down. My question to you is this: what, if anything, can the ACC do to start translating NFL Draft success into a better perception of ACC football around the country?

Jeff: Good math, Brian! I'm glad to see that BC education paying off! 3/5=6/10=60%!!

But seriously, yes it is unfortunate that the conference has heard its members be named so many times on the first day of the draft yet have had poor bowl records and extremely poor BCS showings in the last several years.

Boston College alone is looking at having at least 3 first rounders in 2 years, yet no major out of conference victories or bowl game victories to show for it.

Virginia is going to having a top 10 pick 2 years in a row yet this year they barely edged out Duke in their division's standings and got embarassed at home by USC to start the season.

Clearly top level talent is not the problem in the ACC, so I think it leaves us to point the finger at depth and coaching. Unfortunately, the SEC is still where it's at for college coaches with almost all their coaches making more than the newly hired Paul Johnson at Georgia Tech. There are no coaches in the ACC that can hang with the top coaches in the country. Bobby Bowden is certainly past his prime and Frank Beamer is just not quite in the Nick Saban / Les Miles / Urban Meyer, /Bobby Petrino league.

Depth is another issue. Look at recruiting classes headed to the SEC and you'll see the 20th name on a list be someone that every ACC school would be thrilled to have. Also, quarterbacks that hardly see any snaps transfer from these schools to then be successful at their second stops. I remember when Horrace Dodd transfered from Penn State to Boston College I believe because he wanted to play running back and the Nittany Lions wanted to make him a linebacker. BC fans got excited that we were getting a player that Penn State had had on scholarship. Top tier conferences should not be excited getting that kind of leftovers. Times are changing at B.C., but there's still a ways to go.

Brian: I think you largely have to look at the types of positions that are being drafted Top 10 out of the ACC. Take a look at the last four year's draft results for the ACC:

2005: cornerback (#8 overall)
2006: defensive end (#1), offensive tackle (#4), tight end (#6), linebacker (#9)
2007: wide receiver (#2), defensive end (#4)
2008: defensive end (#2), quarterback (#3)

With the exception Calvin Johnson and Matt Ryan, most of these Top 10 draft picks either play on the lines or on defense. While they had solid contributions to their college teams, largely these position players can't significantly alter the result a game like a Matt Ryan or a Calvin Johnson. The conference could be hurt by not having the high-profile offensive superstars going in the first 10 picks.

Take a look at the same Top 10 ACC draft picks by team:

2005: Miami (#8)
2006: NC State (#1), Virginia (#4), Maryland (#6), Florida State (#9)
2007: Georgia Tech (#2), Clemson (#4)
2008: Virginia (#2), Boston College (#3)

I think it also hurts the conference where these Top 10 draft picks come from. For all the great recruiting classes that Miami and Florida State keep reeling in, they each only have 1 Top 10 draft pick in the last four years. And non-traditional powers like BC, Wake, NC State and Virginia are all producing Top 10 picks. I've made this point numerous times, and maybe it goes back to your point about coaching, but until Miami and Florida State start capitalizing on the wealth of talent they sign every February, the perception of the conference will continue to be that it is a second rate football conference to the SECs, Big XIIs and Pac 10s of the country.

Jeff: There is perception and then there is also wins and losses. USC throttling Virginia and Alabama doing the the same to Clemson to start the season last year really hurt perception of the ACC even though Clemson fired their coach and UVA was the second worst team in the league. Both those losses hurt perception of the league more than was justified. The ACC failing to win BCS games, the Chic-Fil-A bowl, and the Gator Bowl is not perception, it's losses. Some of the national perception is unfair, but some is warranted.

Top 25 teams don't get a whole lot of publicity and coverage for a conference, top 10 teams do and the ACC had no teams that you could even make a weak argument for being top 10 last year.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Mt. Rushmore: Charlie O'Rourke

We continue our profile of Boston College sports greats to arrive at our BC athletics make-believe Mt. Rushmore...

Two profiles left before we unveil our Boston College Mt. Rushmore. These last two candidates didn't get much love in our side bar poll, but as equal opportunity bloggers, we profile them here nevertheless.

Name: Charles O'Rourke a.k.a. "Chuckin' Charlie"
Died: April 2000 (age 82)
Sport: Football (quarterback and tailback)
BC Era: 1938-1940

Standings: Finished in 12th place with 5% of the vote, ahead of only Art Donovan (4%) and Mike Mottau (3%)

Why He's In
  • Led the Eagles to a record of 26-3-2 (.839) over his three year career
  • O'Rourke was a triple threat who played tailback for the Eagles during the 1939 season, a team that finished 9-2 and made their first ever bowl appearance against Clemson in the Cotton Bowl
  • During his senior year, beat Georgetown 19-18 to snap their 22 consecutive game winning streak in a game called the "greatest college football game ever played." With BC leading 19-16 with 2 minutes left in the fourth, ... "O'Rourke raced back to his end zone, eluding tacklers for almost a full minute before taking a safety. He then punted BC out of trouble and preserved a 19-18 victory."
  • Quarterbacked the 1940 team to their 11-0 season, a Sugar Bowl victory over Tennessee, and a claim of the "mythical" national championship
  • "It was O'Rourke's 24-yard run late in the fourth quarter which gave the Eagles a 19-13 victory over Tennessee in the 1941 Sugar Bowl, staking BC's claim to the national championship. A photo showing O'Rourke in mid-scamper became a staple of BC Athletic Association publications and materials."
  • Although most of his QB records were later broken by Eagles greats like Doug Flutie, Glenn Foley and Matt Ryan, when he graduated he had broken nearly every school passing record there was (69 of 150 passes for 1,108 yards and 14 touchdowns over his 3 year career)
  • All-American selection in 1940 after his senior year
  • Inducted into the Boston College Varsity Club Hall of Fame in 1970, and one of seven players to have their jersey retired by the school
  • Inducted to the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame in 1972
  • After O'Rourke ended his career at BC, experts persisted in proclaiming him "the greatest football player" in the school's history

Maybe Not?
  • Largely overshadowed by those Eagle quarterback greats that came after him - Doug Flutie and Matt Ryan - and hurt by the absence of college football television coverage, or should I say, playing college football before TV was even invented (the Flutie "Miracle in Miami" on CBS over Thanksgiving and the ESPN-Matt Ryan hype machine)
  • How much of the 1939 and 1940 Eagles teams' success is the direct result of O'Rourke's contributions and how much was the result of the arrival of Frank Leahy?
  • Just how many quarterbacks can one mountain hold?

  • Last year, the Boston College Gridiron Club memorialized O'Rourke's name with the creation of the O'Rourke-McFadden Trophy, to honor the 1940 Cotton Bowl matchup between Charlie O'Rourke and Clemson's Banks McFadden. The trophy is given to the annual winner of the Boston College-Clemson game.

No other Boston College quarterback can claim that they led the team to an undefeated, untied season. If you didn't vote for Frank Leahy because he bolted for Notre Dame, how about the quarterback that got the team to 11-0?

Headlines: A Forgettable Weekend

Brian: A forgettable weekend for Boston College's winter sports.

The men's basketball team lost to Miami 69-58 on Saturday behind Jack McClinton and a barrage of Hurricane three point buckets. Watching McClinton cross up Joe Trapani on SportsCenter Sunday was pretty painful to watch. The loss drops the Eagles to 19-9 (7-6 in the ACC) with three regular season games to play ... and the NCAA Tournament is far from a lock for the Eagles. Especially after Maryland's upset of North Carolina on Saturday, our signature win over North Carolina isn't looking as great as it once was. Also, Miami's win at the Eagles expense keeps their NCAA tournament bid alive.

The ACC NCAA tournament picture seems like North Carolina, Duke, Wake Forest, Clemson, Florida State are locks, and Miami (FL), Boston College, Virginia Tech and Maryland are on the bubble.

In my opinion, the Eagles still have work left to do to make the NCAA tournament. So Jeff, what will it take to get the Eagles into the NCAAs?

Jeff: I would say your opinion is certainly correct. The Eagles do have work left to do in order to make the NCAA tourny. Even though the Eagles have two great wins by going 2-0 against UNC and Duke, they have accumulated too many losses to have punched their ticket to the dance yet. Losing out would put them at 7-9 in conference and there is absolutely no chance that the Eagles go to the tournament with a 4 game losing streak to end the regular season unless they win the ACC tournament. Losing their last 3 against Florida State, NC State, and Georgia Tech is very unlikely. Finishing 10-6 is still a possibility with 9-7 the most likely scenario. 10-6 would get them to a point where they can talk about what seed they deserve, possibly a 6 if they can make some noise in the ACC tournament. 9-7 gets them in but as a 8-10 seed. 8-8 in conference would leave them squarely on the bubble where they would really need a win in the ACC tournament to feel good about themselves.

Let me say about the loss in Miami that Miami just shot their way to a victory. They could've easily missed 4 more 3s in which case the Eagles would've won the game or at least had a chance to win at the end. Miami shot 55% from 3 for the game including the demoralizing 69% in the first half. Don't get down on the Eagles for losing this noon ACC road game.

Brian: Meanwhile, the men's hockey team dropped a pair of games to New Hampshire this weekend. The losses left the Eagles at 13-12-5 (8-10-5 Hockey East), good for 6th place in the Hockey East standings. Jerry York's boys have 4 regular season games left - a pair of what I'll consider must-wins against Providence this weekend and a home-and-home series against Hockey East's #1 seed Northeastern. It is crucial to the Eagles to register 4 points this upcoming weekend against Providence (currently 9th place in Hockey East). Unfortunately for the Eagles, the Friars have something to play for as well as they battle Maine for the 8th and final spot in the Hockey East quarterfinals.

If the season ended today, the Eagles are out of the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2001-2002. So what will it take to get the hockey team into the NCAAs?

Jeff: Interesting trend there - Eagles win it all and then fail to make the tournament the following year. The Eagles haven't officially missed the tournament yet this year but it seems pretty close to a certainty that they will at this point. BC has won so few of their games in 2009 that it seems they would have to win out in order to make it. There is no reason to be optimistic about this year's team that they might do just that other than having blind faith in Jerry York.

Brian: You are correct in noting the trend Jeff. That would be 2 for 3 when the Eagles win the NCAA title the prior year and fail to make the NCAAs the following year. In 1950, after our first title, we actually made it back to the Frozen Four (the tournament was just a Frozen Four back then), but we finished in fourth place losing to Colorado College and Michigan, in the consolation game, by an aggregate score of 20-9. Ouch.

While there is certainly no reason to be optimistic, I think the Eagles can still get into the NCAAs without winning the Hockey East tournament championship and receiving the conference's auto bid. The scenario would includes 4 points this weekend against Providence and somehow, somehow managing to sweep Northeastern in the weekend regular season finale. Those 8 points would push the Eagles record to 17-12-5 (12-10-5 HE), which places them back on the bubble. Those 29 points in the Hockey East standings probably leave the Eagles with a 4 or a 5 seed in the Hockey East tournament. A four seed gets you home ice, but the most likely scenario is that the Eagles end up as the 5 seed and play Vermont in the first round. Again, the Eagles will have to be impressive and either sweep the Catamounts or take the series in 3. Even then after all that, that still might not be enough unless the Eagles make a good showing in the Hockey East semis.

Certainly a long shot, indeed, but if the Eagles can go 6-1 or 7-1 down the stretch, and some other teams on the bubble self-destruct, the Eagles can still make the postseason. However, having already lost 2 games to Northeastern this season - unless NU already has the Hockey East #1 seed locked up before next weekend and they have nothing to play for - it is certainly improbable that the Eagles can get 4 points from the red hot Huskies.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Basketblogpoll #3 and Roundtable

1 Pittsburgh25-2 3
2 Connecticut25-2 1
3 North Carolina24-3 1
4 Oklahoma25-2 1
5 Memphis24-3 1
6 Villanova22-5 1
7 Clemson21-4 1
8 Wake Forest20-4 1
9 Missouri23-4 1
10 Michigan St.21-5 5
11 Duke21-5 1
12 Gonzaga21-5 1
13 Marquette23-4 9
14 Louisville21-5 4
15 Arizona St.20-5 1
16 Kansas22-5 4
17 Butler23-4 6
18 Florida St.21-6 6
19 Purdue21-6
20 Xavier21-5 6
21 Illinois21-6 4
22 Utah19-7 1
23 Washington20-7 2
24 Syracuse18-8
25 Dayton23-4 10

For your reference, here is last week's ballot.

Dropped Out: California (#19), Boston College (#25).

Welcome! Purdue (#19), Syracuse (#24)

Waiting Room: California (20-7), West Virginia (19-8)

By Conference: Big East 6, Atlantic Coast 5, Big XII 3, Big Ten 3, Pac-10 2, Atlantic 10 2, Conference-USA 1, WCC 1, Horizon 1, Mountain West 1

Biggest Winners
  • Starting at the top, the biggest winner this week has to be Pittsburgh. Not only did Pittsburgh upset No. 1 Connecticut on the road, but their road to reclaiming the top spot in both polls was cleared by both Oklahoma's and North Carolina's upset losses. Pittsburgh hits the road this week to face Providence and Seton Hall, and finishes at home with two tough games against Marquette and UConn. Pittsburgh jumps 3 spots to take our #1 ballot this week.
  • For the second week in a row, we are talking about Marquette. After getting hammered by Villanova, the Golden Eagles got back on track and took care of St. John's, Seton Hall and Georgetown. We move Marquette back up 9 spots to where we originally had them in our first blogpoll ballot a few weeks ago. Mea culpa, Marquette ... for at least a week. It's still entirely possible that Marquette will finish outside of our ballot at the end of the regular season, with arguably the toughest 4 game stretches to finish the regular season - Connecticut, at Louisville, at Pittsburgh, Syracuse.
  • Our third winner this week is the Eagles next opponent: Florida State.'s college hoops reporter Andy Katz named Florida State the national team of the week for this past week, after their wins against ACC bubble teams Miami (FL) and Virginia Tech
Biggest Losers

The biggest losers this week all come from mid-major conferences, two of them coming from the Atlantic 10.
  • Mid Major #1 - Dayton. After taking out Xavier and this blog ranking the Flyers as high as #15 last week, Dayton beat Richmond 69-63 before suffering a bad loss at Saint Louis on Saturday (BC feels Dayton's pain here). There is little to no room for error for mid majors on our ballot, and when you lose to a team you should put away, and with a strength of schedule in the 100s, we aren't very forgiving. We drop Dayton back down 10 spots to #25, and after thinking about this further, we probably will be in the minority for keeping Dayton in our ballot at all.
  • Mid Major #2 - Butler. Disappointing week for the Horizon League's Butler too. Last week, we ranked Butler as high as #11. Then they returned the favor by showing us that we no next to nothing about college basketball by losing to 13-14 Illinois-Chicago, followed by a road loss to Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The only think that somewhat redeems the Bulldogs from last week is their 75-63 win at Davidson. Down 6 spots, probably should have been dropped further ...
  • Mid Major #3 - Xavier. Our third mid-major victim this week is Xavier. A 65-60 loss to a 10-16 Charlotte team certainly classifies as a WTF. Xavier's quality out of conference wins (Memphis, Missouri, LSU, Va Tech, UVA) keep them relevant and in our Top 20. Xavier gets one more regular season shot to really impress the committee when they host Dayton on March 5.

Basketblogpoll Roundtable

And finally, we get to the basketblogpoll. This week's basketblogpoll roundtable is being hosted by a very good Kentucky Wildcats blog, A Sea of Blue. Our answers follow below.

Who really looks like the best team in college basketball this season?

After the Maryland upset of North Carolina and Texas taking out Oklahoma on Saturday, I think you have to look at Pittsburgh as the team to beat this season. They have already dispatched of Connecticut on the road and should finish the regular season 28-3 with two more quality wins over Marquette and Connecticut at home. The Panthers seem all but assured a No. 1 seed in the NCAAs at this point and 28-3 and a Big East tournament championship would all but seal Pitt as the tournament's overall #1.

Outside of Pittsburgh, Connecticut, North Carolina and Oklahoma, some could make the case for a team like Memphis, who should also finish the regular season 28-3 and a perfect 16-0 in C-USA play. However, I think that coasting through C-USA play this year might come back to bite the Tigers in the NCAA. Also, I can't look past the teams that Memphis have lost to ... Xavier and the Big East's Georgetown and Syracuse ... three of the best teams the Tigers have faced this season.

Is Blake Griffin the Player of the Year already, or can somebody catch him?

Blake Griffin IS the Player of the Year right now. However, if he doesn't come back as strong as he has been from his injury from Saturday night, the door is not closed on other candidates. We're looking at you, Stephen Curry ... Luke Harangody ... Tyler Hansbrough ... Jodie Meeks.

The x-factor that Griffin has over these players is that these other players either have a better supporting cast than Oklahoma (Griffin is their #1 and arguably only option) or the teams don't have as impressive a tournament resume. Davidson has struggled, Notre Dame will likely finish with 13+ losses, and we have already talked about how bad SEC basketball has been this season (with all due respect to the roundtable hosts).

What currently ranked team is the biggest disappointment so far this year?

The answer to this question, and based on last week's poll (as this team will likely be unranked when the new polls come out on Monday) is UCLA. No question. UCLA was picked by the media as the near unanimous choice to repeat as Pac 10 champions and make a deep run in the NCAAs. Currently, the Bruins are tied for 3rd in the Pac-10 standings and are now in the mix with Washington, California, Arizona State, and Arizona for the Pac-10 regular season title. Getting swept by Arizona State, back to back losses in the desert and now the most recent setback - an 82-81 loss to Washington State at home - have certainly made the road to repeating as Pac 10 champs very challenging.

During the preseason, some might have thought that the Bruins would have returned to vying for another #1 seed come Selection Sunday. As it turns out, UCLA may be looking at a seeding anywhere from #7 - #10 when it is all said and done.

Predict the next team to beat Oklahoma.

You mean, of course, other than Texas. I think Oklahoma might be in for a rough stretch. I think the Sooners next loss depends largely on whether Blake Griffin is 100% for tomorrow's game against Kansas. If Griffin isn't 100% or is ineffective, I think the Sooners will lose at home to the Jayhawks. If the Sooners can get past Kansas, the next probable loss is on March 4 on the road against Missouri.

Thoughts and comments welcome.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Mt Rushmore: Al Skinner

We continue our profile of Boston College sports greats to arrive at our BC athletics make-believe Mt. Rushmore...

Name: Albert L. Skinner
Born: June 16, 1952 (age 56)
Sport: Men's Basketball
BC Era: 1997-present (head coach)

Standings: Finished the fan voting in 10th place with 8% of the vote, behind nearly everyone, including TOB to our surprise. If we were chiseling a basketball-only Mt. Rushmore, he's in for sure.

Why He's In
  • Coached the Eagles to a 2001 Big East tournament title and the #3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, as well as three Big East regular season titles
  • BC's all-time winningest head doach by a large margin - 229-145, a .612 winning percentage
  • Coaching hardware - awarded the 2000-01 National Coach of the Year award (Chevrolet/CBS Sports, Sports Illustrated, Sporting News, USBWA, and Eastern Basketball) and the 2004-2005 Big East Coach of the Year award
  • Guided the Eagles to 7 postseason berths from 2001-2007, including six NCAA Tournament berths and one NIT bid
  • Coached the 2004-2005 Eagles squad to a 20-0 start, the first Big East team in history to start a season 20-0
  • Skinner has led the Eagles to the winningest two-year (53, 2004-2005), three-year (72, 2003-2006), four-year (98, 2004-2007), five-year (117, 2002-2007), six-year (143, 2000-2006), and seven-year (164, 2000-2007) stretches in program history
  • Started the "diamond in the rough" recruiting method by bringing in Troy Bell from Minnesota and followed that up by recruiting Craig Smith, Jared Dudley, and Sean Williams
  • When I took my tour of the campus before entering BC I was told to buy football and hocket season tickets because they are tough to get. That quickly changed and student basketball tickets became the hottest ticket for students during the 2000-01 school year.
  • Students have not stormed the field for football in a long time but Al Skinner has provided two home victories worthy of storming the court. Syracuse in 2001 and Duke last Sunday.
  • He has always been a New England guy playing at UMass and then professionally in NY and coaching at Marist and URI prior to BC
  • Has shown loyalty to BC
  • Why vote for Skinner over Troy Bell? Troy Bell's team failed to make the postseason his freshman year and only made the NCAA tourney twice, never making it past the second round. Also, without Al, Bell never comes to BC.

Maybe Not?
  • Several close calls for making the NCAA tournament resulted in NIT berths where the team made no noise including most notably in 2002-03 season after the Eagles had won their division of the Big East and got left out of the dance
  • In the NCAA tournament the Eagles never made it past the Sweet 16 including an OT loss to Villanova after leading the entire game
  • More recent critiques of Al have been defensive breakdowns, an inability to break a full-court press, and lack of in-game coaching adjustments

  • Just how successful has Al Skinner been in the ACC? Since the Eagles joined the ACC in 2005-2006, only Duke and North Carolina have a higher winning percentage in ACC play
  • No one rocks a mock turtleneck like Skinner - "Coach Handsome" is always impeccably dressed with the latest offerings from Eastern Clothing of Watertown
  • Plays basketball at the Plex during lunchtime every day and will play with students or staff.

Does the most successful basketball coach in BC history make the mountain?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Praise the AD for keeping ticket prices flat!? and the Big Finish

Brian: Since we know you all missed him, we'd like to welcome back Jeff to the blog. Welcome back! How does it feel to take the plunge?

Jeff: It feels great. The last week has been awesome but it's nice to be home and finally settling in to a normal routine. The wedding planning and everything did become pretty involved. You're next in another few months, good luck!

Brian: So we have a lot of catching up to do, but before we fully catch you up ... tell us what's on your mind.

Jeff: BC sent out an email today begging season ticket holders to renew their season tickets in these tough economic times. In the email they remind people that they'll be able to renew their tickets in 2010 also for the season that will include the final Notre Dame home game for the next half dozen or so years. They also remind season ticket holders that they are able to purchase tickets to away games for all games except the Notre Dame game next year. Finally, they pat themselves on the back for not raising ticket prices for the 2009 season. Coming off a season where the only packed house was the ND game, how funny is this? With the economy the way it is these days, if the local movie theater raises its prices you stop going to movies, right? Even forget not raising their prices, if they don't have specials and coupons you're not going there for entertainment, right? Why are universities patting themselves on the back for not raising tuition or not raising ticket prices next year? In this nearly deflationary economy, why should we applaud these steps taken by BC or other institutions holding tuition rates flat?

Brian: Well, we shouldn't applaud these school's athletic departments. You're right. It's comical. Specifically for BC, you have to question what season ticket holders are actually paying for next season. Seven home games ... three against Central Michigan, Kent State and Northeastern. All snoozers. Then the ACC home schedule isn't much better - UNC, NC State, Wake Forest and Florida State. Florida State will be a hot ticket, but beyond our game with the Seminoles, I am hard pressed to come up with a solid #2 and #3 game. I guess I'd have to go with #2 NC State and #3 Wake Forest.

However, this is a big drop-off from the dream home slate of Virginia Tech, Clemson and Notre Dame. We probably won't see another home slate of games until USC comes to Boston in 2014. In 2014, the Eagles will get the Trojans, Tigers, Hokies, Tar Heels and Terrapins at home.

Jeff: I have finally realized why Jags didn't mind getting fired. Jags was ready to leave because the Gold Rush campaign was a bust. TOB thought that if he could build a winning program at the Heights, Alumni would be packed for every game, fans and alums would travel to bowl and then BC would get slotted in the bowl games they deserved. He was wrong and then was ready to leave. Jags thought BC needed to be taken to the next level and then fans would support the team better at home and on the road. Jags brought the team to the ACC Championship Game and then tried to implement wearing Vegas Gold (the color Georgia Tech wears) at home games for an SEC type atmosphere and it was a complete bust. Furthermore he brought the team to a second ACCCG and support was worse than the first one even though fans initial excuse was not being able to find flights and accommodations in Jacksonville. Upon realizing BC fans are not going to change he headed to the NFL where every game, home and away, is sold out. Brian, am I on to something here?

Brian: I think it is tough to link the lack of Eagles hometown support with Jags departure. TOB hid behind this reason (excuse?) on his way out of Chestnut Hill. But for Jags, I don't think the fan support had much to do with his decision to leave BC. In Jags case, I think it had everything to do with the fact that he was a pro coordinator before coming back to college and taking on a head coaching opportunity. Once he got a taste of the NFL, after two seasons at BC I think he realized that he missed the pro game - not having to deal with recruiting, not having to deal with academic and personal issues of kids 18-22 years old, etc. The grass is always greener on the other side, right?

Jeff: Let's just imagine that the gold rush had taken off and alumni was packed like this. Jags would've felt that he was a part of creating something and possibly would've felt more obligation to stay on as head coach. Instead, the rest is history. Can we blame the fans for a second?

Brian: No, I'm not going to blame the fans for this. Our fan base is what it is. I wish there were more die hard fans but there simply aren't at this point. There are certainly other factors at play here. I think one is that Gene doesn't have the "anyone, anytime, anywhere" philosophy when it comes to scheduling college football teams. Could this have been one of the "disagreements in direction" that Gene and Jags had? I mean, really, how appealing is it to go to Chestnut Hill for a noon game against the revolving door of MAC teams, Northeastern, Rhode Island, Maine, Hofstra, Central Florida, etc. Why would anyone want to pay a significant amount of money to see the Eagles beat down on those types of teams? If Gene went out and scheduled a bunch of BCS conference teams and wasn't scared into thinking he can only schedule 1 BCS conference opponent and three cupcakes, maybe more fans would come out. Wouldn't it be great to have a good SEC, Big XII, Pac 10 or Big Ten program play at the Heights?

Another factor is that Gene and college football programs everywhere are sort of forced to adopt these sorts of scheduling practices (1 decent opponent and 3 cupcakes). Since strength of schedule was taken out of the BCS formula, the M.O. for most programs is schedule 4 patsies and win at least a couple of conference games so you can get to a bowl. The reward structure for scheduling tough opponents is actually backwards with the current bowl system. You have to look no further than the joke of a Notre Dame schedule that the Irish play in 2009 to see what college football rewards in terms of scheduling.

Finally, it takes time to establish rivalries with our new ACC friends. The ACC seems to want to make Maryland a rival, but they haven't been historically relevant in football and have taken a downturn in basketball the last few years. Most of these other schools seem to be simply too far away to develop any sort of meaningful rivalry yet. It will take time before casual fans and students decide to get amped for a noon game against a team like NC State, North Carolina, Virginia or Duke.

Big Finish

Brian: HD unveiled her Mt. Rushmore of BC Football. Setting aside the fact that she didn't give us any credit for stealing ESPN's idea and applying it to college, did she get it right (considering she's only followed BC football for exactly 1 season)?

Jeff: I think TOB is missing from her list. TOB took the program from virtually nothing and led them to 8 straight bowls winning 7. No one from his era made the list except Matt Ryan who was only the starter in his final two seasons.

Jeff: This week's USCHO's college hockey bracketology is out and there is no B.C. in the field of 16. Cause for concern?

Brian: Absolutely cause for concern. After last week's dismal 1 point weekend against Lowell (!) and with 6 games to go, 4 of them against New Hampshire and Northeastern, Eagles fans have been hitting the panic button for a few weeks now.

Brian: Coach Jags speaks! He reports that he has no regrets about his time at Boston College. Jeff, you have any regrets about the Coach Jags era of BC football?

Jeff: Not wearing a gold rush shirt to the home games I attended.

Jeff: The women's hoops team fell to No. 10 North Carolina last night. The Eagles are now 18-8, 6-5 ACC. The men's team is currently 19-8, 7-5 ACC. So who has had a better season so far?

Brian: Great question. Have to give the slight edge to the men's team since they were ranked preseason 11 of 12 (the women's team was selected to finish 7 of 12). Both the women and men's teams are currently 6th in the ACC standings, so slight, slight edge to the men. But this shouldn't take away from the very good season the women's team is having.

Brian: Last one, big, big basketball game tomorrow as the Eagles travel to Coral Gables to take on the reeling Miami Hurricanes. Make a prediction. Who wins? What's the score?

Jeff: Losing two games to Miami this season would be an extreme dissapointment. I think the Eagles split the season series with a 74-59 victory.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Mt. Rushmore: Frank Leahy

We continue our profile of Boston College sports greats to arrive at our BC athletics make-believe Mt. Rushmore...

Name: Frank Leahy
Died: June 1973 (age 64)
Sport: Football
BC Era: 1939-1940 (head coach)

Standings: Finished the fan voting in 7th place with 13% of the vote, behind Flutie, York, Ryan, Flynn, Bell and Kelley.  Apparently if there was a J.V. Boston College Mt. Rushmore squad, Leahy makes the cut.

Why He's In
  • Two year head coach of the Eagles football team, posting a 20-2 record, the second highest winning percentage ever for a BC head coach (will again become the best winning percentage after Spazche unceremoniously loses his first game of the 2009 season)
  • Guided the 1939 team to a 9-2 record and an apperance in the Cotton Bowl, the Eagles first ever bowl apperance (a 6-3 loss to Clemson)
  • In 1940, coached the Eagles to a 19-18 victory over Georgetown in front of 41,700 fans at Fenway Park.  The win snapped Georgetown's 22 game (3 season) unbeaten streak.
  • Coached the 1940 "Team of Destiny" to an 11-0-0 record, a Sugar Bowl win and a mythical national championship (the NCAA doesn't recognize BC's claim to the national title this year)
  • The 1940 Sugar Bowl victory over Tennessee 19-13 marked the program's first ever bowl win.
  • During the 1940 season, his team outscored opponents 339-65 in 11 games, 6 of those games shutout victories

Maybe Not?
  • And you thought the TOB and Jags breakups were messy ... from Wikipedia:
  • Although he had recently signed a contract renewal at BC, Leahy accepted the head coaching position at his alma mater, Notre Dame. He tried without success to get out of his BC contract. He pleaded to the school's vice president. When that didn't work, he went to the mayor of Boston. Then the governor of Massachusetts. Then, at a press conference, he told 50 reporters what the South Bend Tribune called "the biggest lie of his life". Leahy stated: "Gentlemen I've called you all here today to inform you that I recently received my release from my coaching contract. With the release went the good wishes and benediction of Boston College." Leahy stepped away, and the buzzing group of reporters battled for phone lines. A phone call came in for Leahy, and he took it.The vice president of Boston College was on the line. "Coach Leahy," he barked. "You may go wherever you want, and whenever you want. Good-bye."
  • After coaching at the Heights, went on to coach the Fighting Irish to 4 National Championships (1943, 1946, 1947, and 1949) in 11 seasons, including 6 unbeaten seasons and 2 unbeaten and untied seasons.  Ahh, what could have been ...
  • Played collegiate football for the Fake Irish (played tackle for Knute Rockne)
  • Did I mention he jumped ship for Notre Dame?

  • Although largely inducted for the gaudy 87-11-9 record he posted at Notre Dame, Leahy was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1970

Any love for a Notre Dame grad?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Toss Up: Tournament Seeding and the Stretch Run

We welcome back Raj to the blog to discuss a little BC hoops in a game of Toss Up. I promise to go easy on our guest and not give him the requisite beatdown I typically dole out to Jeff.

First one, Toss Up - Who Will End Up With a Higher Seed in the NCAAs? Boston College or Florida State?

Brian: A great question. These two teams seem to be on a collision course to finish within a game of one another in the final regular season standings. predicts that the Seminoles will finish with a 22-9 (9-7 ACC) record, while the Eagles finish at 21-10 (9-7 ACC). If the two teams' records are almost identical, then you have to look at other indicators like RPI and SOS. Florida State edges us in both these categories. RPI gives a slight edge to the Seminoles (54 to 59) while SOS favors FSU even more (28 to 58). Next up would be the head to head matchup. If kenpom's prediction holds up and the Eagles win at home, this would be advantage BC. The last factor you can look at is how you play late. If the Noles don't come up with any upsets down the stretch and kenpom's predictions are true to form, they will finish the regular season having lost 4 of their last 5 games, including a four game losing streak. The Eagles, on the other hand, will go 3-2. Advantage Eagles. Overall, if the Eagles can beat Florida State at home and go 2-2 in their remaining games, I believe BC will get a higher seed than FSU.

Raj: With a tougher remaining schedule and only in conference quality win over Clemson, it seems like Boston College would be the logical pick. As Lee Corso says "Not so fast, my friend!" BC has been known to be overlooked in the seedings almost every year. So even though 21 or more wins looks feasible, look for Florida State to sneak in there, with a 54 RPI and few to none "bad losses."

Brian: Currently, it's a non-question for ESPN's bracketologist Joe Lunardi. He has the Eagles as an 11 seed and the Seminoles as an 8 seed. This seems a little off though, don't you think?

Toss Up - More Dangerous Away Matchup Down the Stretch? Miami (FL) or NC State?

Raj: I have to go with Miami. I have watched McClinton quite a bit this season and this kid is lights out. They get up and down the floor and play tough defensively. Six of the Hurricane's nine losses are by 5 points or less. They are dangerous and have taken the top teams of the ACC to the limit, and also taken us down at home. I think a win at Miami would seal our place in the Big Dance.

Brian: Sorry, Raj, but the answer here is NC State. Just like the Wolfpack football team (and your boy Russell Wilson), the school's men's hoops team is coming on strong down the stretch. Since getting blown out by Tobacco Road rival North Carolina, the 'Pack has gone 3-1 including blowout wins over I-A doormat North Carolina Central and Georgia Tech, an upset win over Wake Forest, and a close, overtime loss to Virginia Tech. The Wolfpack are currently 12-2 at home, having lost to only UNC and Marquette. The Hurricanes just haven't done as good of a job protecting their home court (10-4). Finally, home court advantage certainly favors NC State. The RBC Center is a much tougher place to play than the BankUnited Center. NC State can get more fans to show up for a December home game against Towson than Miami can get to go see a home game against the third ranked team in the country!

Toss Up - Which win was more important to BC Basketball? The win at North Carolina or the win vs. Duke?

Brian:  The answer here is certainly the home win over Duke.  This was the confidence builder the team needed down the stretch.  As we have stated here on the blog, taking 1 of 3 from our brutal stretch of 3 ranked teams was key to realizing our tournament hopes.  The win also snapped 24 years of Eagles futility vs. the Blue Devils and now even the casual BC student/fan is talking BC hoops.  The two home games left should be well attended and this will provide the team with a good home-court advantage.  More importantly, this win made college hoops experts finally stand up and take notice of BC basketball.  While the North Carolina win was impressive, soon thereafter experts were calling the win a fluke after losing to Harvard, Miami, Wake Forest and Virginia Tech.  And finally, while it sucks to say, the Gene-Jags incident that surfaced the day of the UNC win really detracted from the Eagles' upset win.  

Raj: I'd have to say North Carolina, although we all know the rankings are what have you done for me lately. The win over the Tar Heels was a huge confidence booster and a shocker to the world, as UNC was talking about going through the whole season undefeated. Not once was this game on anyone's radar, not even BC fans. This was a great example of what our team could d, and really rejuvenated the subsequent crowds at Conte and BC basketball.  I say this even knowing full well that the Duke win probably pushed us into the tournament and off the bubble. With the North Carolina game, Al Skinner lost the TOB label and got the signature win, and this was also the beginning of my lovefest with Brother Jimmy's.

Toss Up - Who has been more valuable to the Eagles success against ranked opponents - Rakim Sanders or Joe Trapani?

Raj: I'd have to side with my boy Rakim Sanders who has lived up to the nickname Mr. National TV. Against all opponents but Wake he has played great defense and shot well from the field. He fills up the stat sheet with points and rebounds and his pressure defense on the perimeter leads to turnovers. Although I have to admit, Joe Trapani has shown me he is more than just another Brian Ross. But seriously, an Allen Iverson-like haircut for Trapani might not be a bad idea.

Brian: Raj, Raj, Raj. The key to this question is "against ranked opponents." This year, we have played 6 ranked opponents, having only won 2 of those games. I have to look no further than the stat sheet to prove that Trapani has been more valuable to the Eagles. Let me break out the stat sheet for ya.  Check it.

No. 9 PurdueLoss14865
No. 1 UNCWin87226
No. 3 Wake ForestLoss201145
No. 6 Wake ForestLoss191311
No. 11 ClemsonLoss53238
No. 5 DukeWin207145

Success is a relative term I guess.  If you are asking which player contributed to our wins over Duke and UNC, then the stats show that you are correct in saying Sanders has been more valuable.  But look at our losses against ranked opponents!  Overall, over the 6 games, Trapani has been more valuable to the team.  And in three of our four losses to ranked opponents, Sanders didn't show up.  OK, so maybe Sanders has been more valuable to the team in their wins over ranked opponents, but Sanders has certainly been LESS valuable to BC in our losses.  

It would be nice to get both Trapani and Sanders going in the same game now, wouldn't it?

Toss Up - Who does the media favor more? The Big East or the ACC?

Brian:  This is an easy question.  The answer is the Atlantic Coast Conference if only because our conference is home to two of the most storied and overhyped college basketball programs - UNC and Duke.  All you have to do is compare the ESPN hype between each conference's two best teams.  #3 North Carolina just faced #5 Duke on the road last week and the hype leading up to the game bordered on ridiculous levels.  Contrast that with this past Monday's showdown between #4 Pittsburgh and #1 Connecticut.  While the game received some pub from ESPN, it wasn't nearly on the level of a Duke-UNC game.  Not to mention most of ESPN's college basketball experts have ACC ties.  ESPN talking heads Len Elmore (Maryland), Jay Bilas (Duke) and Hubert Davis (North Carolina) all have ACC ties, so of course they will throw love the ACC's way.  Finally, even a broadcaster with Big East ties - Dick Vitale (Rutgers) - currently openly professes his love for an ACC team - Duke.  The answer is the ACC.

Raj: Hands down the answer to this question is the Big East. If Georgetown and Notre Dame are still being discussed as bubble teams on ESPN, the Big East has to be considered to be favored by the media. The Hoyas and the Irish BOTH had 5 game losing streaks in conference. Both teams are not even .500 in conference but are getting into the discussion on what basis? Let's just hope the selection committee does the ACC right and gives us 7 teams, and doesn't give the HUGE EAST teams just because there are 16 teams in their conference.

Last one, Toss Up - If You Could Put Only One Basketball Star on the BC Mt. Rushmore, who would it be? Troy Bell or Al Skinner?

Raj: You are killing me here. I'm a huge Troy Belll fan, but Skinner's success cannot be argued with. Al Skinner has his own sponsor in Eastern Clothing of Watertown and his winning percentage at BC over 12 seasons is over 61%. That is good for 5th all time and makes him the longest tenured coach in BC basketball history. As much as we don't like his boring offense, I can't go against a guy who gets W's. If only Troy Bell had signed a deal with Taco Bell, he'd be like a crunchwrap supreme: Good to Go.

Brian:  For once Raj, I will agree with you.  The answer is Al Skinner.  Troy Bell was an amazing athlete for the Eagles, but Skinner followed up recruiting Troy Bell with Craig Smith, Jared Dudley and Tyrese Rice ... four of the top 10 all-time scorers in BC basketball history.  Skinner's success rejuvenating BC basketball after the messy Jim O'Brien breakup is unprecedented.  A Big East tournament title (albeit with Bell), coming within a bucket of an ACC Championship in his first year in the league, 20-0 to start the 2004-2005 season, a Sweet Sixteen appearance in 2005-2006, and now wins on the road vs. a #1 and at home vs. a #5.  Again, IF a basketball sports figure makes Mt. Rushmore, I would have to say I think Skinner gets the nod over Troy Bell simply because Skinner has backed up his recruiting Troy Bell with subsequent conference Players of the Year and All-Americans.

That's it.  I win again.  Thanks for filling in for us Raj and taking your beating like a man.