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2008: 14-17 (4-12 ACC)
Lost to Clemson 82-48, ACC Quarterfinals
In-conference offense: 1.05 points per possession (6th)
In-conference defense: 1.12 points allowed per possession (11th)
What Boston College did well: Block shots.
For three seasons in a row, from 2005 to 2007, BC had one of the most feared shot-blockers in the nation on its roster in Sean Williams. Granted, Williams never did play over half of BC's minutes in any year, but the Eagles generally had the reputation of blocking shots during that time. Last season, though, the Eagles blocked a higher percentage of opponents' two-point attempts than they did in any of Williams' years. That feat was entirely due to the work of Tyrelle Blair, the best shot-blocker in the ACC in 2008. He had shown in 2007 that he was a worthy replacement for Williams in that area. Blair is gone now and based on the Eagles' roster one can safely assume that the fear of rejection will not be an issue for BC's opponents this season.
What we learned in 2008: Al Skinner doesn't have mystical powers with marginal recruits.
Boston College coach Al Skinner has made a living recruiting kids that schools of similar or higher stature don't think will cut it at the power-conference level. Along with that, he has a reputation for turning these marginal prospects into terrific players. Most recently, Craig Smith and Jared Dudley have led the Eagles to great things but before them was Troy Bell who ran the point guard spot for four years was picked in the first round of the NBA Draft in 2003.
The track record gave Skinner somewhat of a free pass on his incoming class last season, which did not get much acclaim from recruiting gurus. Because of Skinner's prior magic acts, the Eagles were given some benefit of the doubt heading into last season despite the apparent offensive void left by the departure of Jared Dudley and Sean Marshall. It didn't quite work out, however, as the two freshmen that played the most, Rakim Sanders and Biko Paris, struggled adjusting to the college level.
What's in store for 2009: Turn on a BC game this season and you're bound to see a lot of scoring by sophomores. Two freshmen who saw less playing time than Sanders and Paris last season, wing Corey Raji and center Josh Southern, immediately held their own against talented foes in '08. All four of the rising sophomores should be in the top six in minutes played this season and the Eagles add a sophomore newcomer in Joe Trapani who will also get significant time.
So if youth alone is a reason for optimism, then Boston College has that in '09. More substantively, one thing that needs to improve from the youngsters is offensive production. A team with a great point guard and no help is a team that can't compete at the power-conference level. Skinner's flex offense was so effective for three years running you could have called it Gonzaga-East, but last season it was occasionally ugly. Pair that with a D that was, as usual, lackluster, and you get a trip to the basement of the ACC. After a year in the Skinner system, BC fans must hope that the sophs step up and give Rice the necessary weapons for the team to score at will again.
Meet the Eagles:
Tyrese Rice (6-1, 190, Sr.). Rice is following the career path of Virginia's Sean Singletary. He should be the second-best point guard in the conference behind Ty Lawson, but he could use a lot more support from his teammates.
Rakim Sanders (6-5, 225, So.). Sanders presents an odd resume. Had he turned 11 of his three-point misses into makes, he might have been the first player in history to be more accurate on threes than twos and more accurate on twos than free throws. Sanders shoots often enough and well enough (51 percent eFG) that he could be a useful scoring threat. The problem is he never makes free throws, hitting just 30 of 65 (46 percent) last season. The percentage should go up at least a little. Players in 2007 that shot at least 20 free throws and made fewer than 50 percent of them, averaged 56 percent from the line in 2008. (Shout out to Xavier's B.J. Raymond who went from 9-of-22 in '07 to 31-of-38 in '08.) Sanders needs a boost in accuracy but also an increase in frequency. There's little excuse for a player taking over 300 field goal attempts to only get to the line 65 times.
Corey Raji (6-5, 214, So.). Raji was sixth on the team in minutes played which is a shame because he showed flashes of being the guy who could be headlining BC previews next season when Rice is gone. At 6-5, Raji produced the stats of a player much bigger in two areas: he made over 60 percent of his two-point attempts and grabbed over 10 percent of his team's missed shots. No player as short as Raji getting at least 20 minutes a game did that last season. He also didn't commit turnovers despite his activity in the paint. Throw in a 9-for-25 effort from three-point range, and Raji is one of the most versatile players in the country.
Joe Trapani (6-8, 218, So.). Sophomore forward Shamari Spears, who was third on the team in minutes last season, transferred to Charlotte in the offseason. But BC gains a transfer in Trapani who comes over from Vermont and should give the Eagles much of what Spears provided last season. He was a part-time starter in his freshman season with the Catamounts and was their most frequent shooter per minute. He deserved the green light, finishing the season with 52 percent mark in eFG terms aided by 40 percent accuracy on threes.
Josh Southern (6-10, 242, So.). Southern moves from third to first on the center depth chart this season with Blair and John Oates both gone. It doesn't have to be a bad thing, either. He posted offensive numbers better than both last season and nearly all of his minutes were in conference play. He won't block shots, however.
Biko Paris (6-1, 196, So.). Part-time shooting guard, part-time point-guard, Paris struggled to get comfortable in Skinner's lineup last season. His role is unlikely to change so watch Paris' turnover rate in season number two in Chestnut Hill. It has to drop some but it would be nice if it dropped to acceptable levels, a change which would have to be considered a transformation if it occurred.
Reggie Jackson (6-3, 193, Fr.). It's another ho-hum recruiting class for BC, but Jackson could find that the minutes come easy if he's able to make plays without committing a bunch of turnovers.
Tyler Roche (6-7, 215, Jr.). Roche is primarily a three-point shooter but he's surprisingly adept at setting up his teammates, too.
Evan Ravenel (6-8, 260, Fr.). Ravenel's a wide body from Florida.
Dallas Elmore (6-5, 205, Fr.). Another long-distance recruit for Skinner, Elmore, like Jackson, comes from Colorado.
Prospectus Says: BC won just four ACC games but deserved to win a couple more. Considering that plus the fact that the talent level on this year's team might be a notch higher and getting to the middle of the conference pack doesn't seem so crazy. Anything higher will require more offense from somebody besides Rice.
Ken Pomeroy is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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