FTRS: Who is the face of the 2009-2010 Boston College Eagles? The new Jared Dudley, if you will.
Brian @ BCI: In the preseason, everything was set up for Rakim Sanders to be the face of this program. But only a few minutes into his first game against Saint Joseph’s down in the USVI, he injured his ankle and was sidelined for 6 games. When Sanders came back, he never really returned to 2009 form. He’s had a bit of a down year but his numbers are slowly starting to creep back up to 2008-2009 levels.
I think going into next season, the face of the program will be Reggie Jackson. Jackson just took over the starting PG duties for Biko Paris and distributed the ball well in BC’s 80-60 win over Virginia Tech on Wednesday. Jackson has really good athleticism but BC desperately needs a leader on the court to run and set up the Flex offense. When Jackson isn’t relied on as the primary scoring threat and can successfully dish it to Joe Trapani, Rakim Sanders and Corey Raji, the Eagles will continue to have a great deal of success.
As Jackson grows into the starting PG role, I think you’ll see him develop into more of a leader and ultimately, the face of the program.
FTRS: BC has an alum on the U.S. hockey team in Brooks Orpik. Go America. Let's say we take a random sampling of BC fans. What is the divide percentage-wise of fans who would say hockey is their favorite BC sport versus football or basketball? What percentage of BC fans would say they prefer professional sports over BC athletics?
Brian @ BCI: It’s also worth mentioning that we have two women that just earned Silver Medals with the women’s Team USA ice hockey team. Hopefully Orpik and Team USA can bring home the gold this weekend. Orpik would become only a handful of players to have ever pulled off this notable trifecta – an NCAA hockey National title, a Stanley Cup and an Olympic gold medal.
Getting back to your question, which is a really good one, I would say hockey runs a close third to basketball. I think you’ll find like pretty much every other D-IA college campus that football is going away the most popular sport on campus. Basketball comes in second and hockey a close third.
If you went back, say, 10-20 years, I think you would find that hockey was more popular than basketball and was much closer to football than it is today. But with the recent success of the BC men’s basketball program, the increasing TV and media exposure given to college basketball, and a shifting geographic student body demographic, I think basketball stole the second spot a few years ago. If I had to put a time period to it, I would probably say around 2002-2003 was when basketball eclipsed hockey in popularity. In addition, with the move to the ACC, BC is drawing more students from the South than they ever were before. With the core demographic moving away from New England, when you draw more and more students from markets where they didn’t grow up with hockey and instead on Duke and UNC basketball, this has a big effect on fan and student interest.
If I had to put percentages on them, my finger-in-the-air guestimate would be upwards of 65% football, 20% basketball and 15% hockey.
I’m not sure I have an answer to your final question. We all have our professional sports / team allegiances and there’s certainly a big group of casual BC sports fans. But if they always prefer pro sports over BC athletics, I’m not sure I would even consider them fans.
FTRS: What are the current postseason goals of the Eagles? Have they changed since the season tipped off? Has the team exceeded or met expectations?
Brian @ BCI: The current BC postseason goal is make the NCAA Tournament via the ACC Tournament automatic bid. That may seem a bit far-fetched given that no team has won 4 games in 4 days since the ACC tournament expanded to 12 teams (and looking at BC’s 14-13 record at face value), but that’s probably the most realistic way that the Eagles can find their way into the field of 65.
The good news is that the schedule lightened significantly in the Eagles’ five final regular season games. BC drew Virginia (currently in 9th place), North Carolina (11th place) and N.C. State (12th place) - each for the first time all season - in their final five games. Hopefully the Eagles can go on a bit of a run a carry that momentum into the ACC Tournament.
If BC doesn’t make the NCAAs, then the goal becomes finishing the season strong, finishing a few games above .500 and making a postseason tournament (be that the NIT, CBI, CIT or other three-letter tournament you’ve probably never heard of). This is a more realistic scenario and one that, quite frankly, fell short of preseason expectations. Given that this team made an appearance in the NCAAs last season, and returned their core group of players less Tyrese Rice, I don’t think anyone around the program thought that the Eagles wouldn’t return to the NCAA Tournament.
FTRS: As far as we can tell in the Deep South, the ACC is being frowned upon by the national talking heads. Can you give us the public perception of the ACC from outside of the ACC's primary stomping grounds?
Brian @ BCI: What exactly are you implying here? That we aren’t full-fledged, card-carrying members of the ACC?!
Anyhow, getting back to the question … Last night, Mark Blaudschun, the Boston Globe BC beat writer, tweeted this: "After watching a solid month of ACC hoops, it looks like Duke and the 11 dwarfs. Anyone can lose on any night." So there’s one Yankee opinion on the matter. But I can’t say I 100% agree with this statement...
I think this year there’s three distinct tiers of teams in the ACC - a bunch of solid programs (Duke, Maryland, Wake Forest, maybe Virginia Tech), a few middle-of-the-pack programs with some major flaws (Florida State, Georgia Tech, Clemson, BC) and the rest. What is striking about this season is the lack of a foil for Duke atop the conference standings; namely, just how far the defending National Champions have fallen. Like it or not, the national perception of ACC basketball hinges on both Duke and UNC being good … very good. When one (or both) of those teams aren’t dominating the ACC, "the conference is down." This isn’t unlike the national perception of ACC football when Florida State and Miami are down. While I don’t agree with it, it’s pretty much fact.
Things could be much worse though. We could be this year’s version of Pac-10 basketball.
FTRS: The cat is out of the bag. We all now know that Georgia Tech has the best free throw defense in the ACC. Will BC shoot better than 55.5% from the charity stripe on Saturday? Will free throw shooting rule the day?
Brian @ BCI: Free-throw shooting has been a bit of a problem for the Eagles this year. Even though the Eagles have shot 71.2 percent from the charity stripe, that’s still good for middle-of-the-pack in the ACC. While it’s been a problem, and may or may not have been the difference in a bunch of close ACC losses, I don’t think that BC will shoot worse than 55.5 percent from the line on Saturday. BC’s only shot worse than that in two games this season – when they went 6-12 from the line in a loss to Rhode Island, and when they shot 6-14 against South Dakota State down in the US Virgin Islands.
The Eagles will do what they can to slow the pace of the game and take time to set up their methodical Flex offense. I don’t think free throw shooting will rule the day against Georgia Tech. My guess is you’ll see the Eagles shoot roughly 20 times from the charity stripe.
FTRS: Where does Al Skinner stand with the BC fanbase? Is he solidified in his work or is he on the verge of a Hewitt-esque firestorm?
Brian @ BCI: Skinner has earned Eagles fans’ patience, particularly with this recent stretch of back-to-back conference wins over North Carolina and Virginia Tech. That accomplishment seems to have quieted the Skinner naysayers just a bit more. Of course, that vocal minority will also point to the fact that Skinner didn’t insert Reggie Jackson into the starting lineup until 2 games ago, and our record in those games (2-0) has been much better than the preceding 25 (12-13). But in my mind, Skinner has bought himself a couple more years to put a winning team back on the hardwood.
Make no mistake about it though; there will be high expectations for this program going into next season as the Sanders-Trapani-Raji-Paris-Southern core of players goes into their senior season. A few more losing ACC seasons and the school may start to reevaluate the issue.
That being said, Skinner helped to put BC basketball back on the map (insofar as it was ever on the map in the first place). He might not be the best in-game coach or hands-on coach with players, but his system works and he’s brought success to Boston College.
Thanks to the guys at BCI for their responses. Hope the game is a great one resulting in another GT home win.