[Ed. note -- Front Page'd]
Now that we’re a third of the way through the season we can start to take a look at how this team has progressed and what the expectations are moving forward both this year, and in coming years. First of all, I’m happy with the improvement I’ve seen from this team so far. Last night was the first game this year where I didn’t notice a marked improvement over the previous game. They are relying on each other and learning to play more as a team, which is in turn making up for a lot of their individual deficiencies. The whole is going to need to be greater than the sum of its parts with this group. There are no stars on this team.
A couple of the players who have made huge strides the last couple games are Gabe Moton and (never thought I’d say this one) Matt Humphrey. Humphrey seems to have really bought in to the team mentality and is working at becoming a better cog in the offense than he has been previously. He isn’t rushing shots and he’s looking to dish unless he knows he has a high percentage opportunity. He’s also one of the better players at running ball screens, whereas a few too many guys (Cahill, Heckman, Rubin) seem content to just stand there and wait for a play to develop, Humphrey is looking to position himself. As for Moton, he hasn’t changed his game all that much with the exception of relaxing on his impulses to push too hard in transition, but he’s executing much better than he was early in the year. You can chalk that up to experience, mental focus, or a number of other factors. Not having him last night hurt (although Daniels having a very good game helped a lot) and hopefully he’s back soon.
One of the bright spots of the first couple games, Patrick Heckman, seems to have fallen back to Earth. A lot of this probably has to do with him still nursing 2 sore ankles. He was very adept at driving the lane and getting to the line. His moves relied on his ability to pivot and spin quickly, and that’s certainly been difficult for him, and you haven’t seen him try making the types of plays he made against New Hampshire or Saint Louis. Once he’s truly healthy I still think that he’ll mature into one of the best wings in the ACC.
As for the bigs, Caudill and Clifford still continue to be projects with high ceilings. Caudill is still slow, and Clifford is still weak. Both bring a lot of unteachable attributes to the table, but both have weaknesses that overshadow them. Neither one has solidified themselves as an aggressive rebounder yet, and BC is giving up an insane amount of offensive boards that they should be coming down with. Clifford also has trouble protecting the ball around the rim when he goes up for a dunk. He gets blocked in the paint at least once a game, usually more, which for a 7 footer is just unacceptable. He either needs to get stronger or do a better job of hiding the basketball on his way up. Shot fakes are also acceptable here. This is really more a question of technique than strength. Strength is what’s keeping him from rebounding the ball as he gets pushed out of the way easily. He shows great effort though, isn’t afraid to get on the floor, and his a nice mid-range jumper. Additionally, there are maybe only a dozen or so 7-footers in the country who shoot as well as he does from the stripe. That’s absolutely huge. As for Caudill, he’s very very slow. Only knock on his game that I have, but it’s a killer. Keeps him from kicking the ball out to open men, keeps him from snagging rebounds, keeps him from being able to guard a player with good post moves, keeps him from getting the block/charge calls on both ends, I could go on. I’m a little worried about this one because I don’t know if it’s necessarily correctable.
Looking at the team as a whole, these guys will be lucky to win two ACC games this year. I’d honestly settle for just getting 1. Next year will be marginally better. I think the ceiling for these guys is probably #4 or 5 in the ACC as seniors. This squad is never going to challenge for an ACC championship which is a problem when you rebuild your entire team. The goal of a rebuild should be to build a foundation for a team that can challenge for a league championship and this foundation can’t. They just aren’t talented enough. It will take another gutting of the team and another full rebuild to make that possible.
And I know it’s not Donahue’s style, but it will be a heck of a lot easier with higher ranked players. Sure it’s possible to build a winner with underrecruited guys and plenty of teams do it every year. But the trick is that none do it consistently. Butler had 2 great years, VCU had a great year, Harvard is having a great year. Before that it was Southern Illinois or George Mason. Creighton has a good team now, and Cornell had one under Donahue. But none of those schools, or any other mid-major that has had those "diamond in the rough" guys has been able to maintain success. The only schools that maintain success are schools that bring in highly ranked players on a consistent basis. Anyone can get lucky with unheralded guys, but for every school that does, there are 50 mid-majors you’ve never heard of because their unheralded guys suck. This translates in the ACC too. Maryland won a national championship with no McDonalds All-Americans in 2002 and has only pulled a handful of top 50 guys since. And they haven’t been able to duplicate their success. It will be a challenge but BC needs to recruit in that 40-100 range and pull 1 or 2 guys from that pool every year. They at least have to lockdown a foothold in northern New England and I don’t mean by landing guys like Clifford from schools like Bridgewater. I mean by landing guys from the prep schools.
I know I went off on a tangent there but those are my thoughts on the program and where it stands and where it’s going. I really like the guys on the current squad. They seem to have a very good mentality and they’re focused on getting better and winning games. I wish them the best, but I remain skeptical of the program’s ceiling.