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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.

Trapani Sanders
Opponent Decision Pts Reb Pts Reb
No. 9 Purdue Loss 14 8 6 5
No. 1 UNC Win 8 7 22 6
No. 3 Wake Forest Loss 20 11 4 5
No. 6 Wake Forest Loss 19 13 1 1
No. 11 Clemson Loss 5 3 23 8
No. 5 Duke Win 20 7 14 5
86 49 70 30

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.