Scouting Boston College
Boston College made national headlines when the Eagles knocked off then-No. 1 North Carolina earlier this month, but since then the path has not been very smooth. The Eagles dropped their next four games before requiring overtime to defeat Georgia Tech. Boston College beat N.C. State on the road Saturday to earn its second win in a row and currently stands at 15-6 with a 3-3 mark in ACC play.
The Eagles run an extremely compact version of the flex offense, one that crowds the lane and is dependent upon crisp passes. I spoke over the phone with Boston College Coach Al Skinner on Sunday, and he said that's the way it's always been for his teams.
"A lot of teams play dribble-drive, but we play pass first, dribble second," Skinner said. "Our offense is based on continuity, and in order to get that, you've got to pass the basketball."
Boston College ranks second in the ACC in assists per game (15.9) and holds the lowest turnover rate (13.0 per game) in the conference. The Eagles' assist-to-turnover ratio (1.2) ranks second in the ACC.
On the occassions when Boston College's precision-passing fluidity breaks down, the Eagles break into a series of ball screens for senior guard Tyrese Rice (6-foot-1, 190 lbs.). Rice has been the Eagles' go-to player for a few seasons now, but the difference this year, Skinner said, is that Rice does not have to shoulder the scoring load all by himself all the time.
"We're not asking him to score as much as he did last year," Skinner said. "We're hoping that his assists will go up and that his shooting percentage will improve. That's really what we're striving for, and hopefully we'll get there."
Last season, Rice averaged 21.0 points per game and was responsible for 29.5 percent of Boston College's scoring. He also took 27.1 percent of Boston College's field goal attempts.
This year, Rice still leads the team in scoring with 18.4 points per game, but that is just 24.0 percent of the team's 76.7 points per game average. Rice has attempted just 18.6 percent of all Boston College's field goals this season.
In turn, Rice's assists per game has gone up (5.0 apg in 2007-08; 5.5 apg this season), as has his shooting percentage from the field (43.3 percent in 07-08; 44.8 percent in 08-09).
A main part of the reason the Eagles have not had to rely as much on Rice is the emergence of sophomore forward Joe Trapani (6-foot-8, 218 lbs.). Trapani transferred to Boston College after spending his freshman season (2006-07) playing at Vermont and has established himself as a legitimate post presence. He is averaging 14.0 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. He also has tallied 20 blocks.
But what makes Trapani so valuable is his versatility. Skinner called him "a complete player." Trapani is shooting 34.8 percent from three-point range and has the second-most attempts from beyond the arc on the team (behind Rice). That means Trapani is able to stretch out opposing defenses, which creates some extra space in which Rice can operate more freely.
Defensively, sophomore swingman Rakim Sanders (6-foot-5, 225 lbs.) appears to be the Eagles' linchpin. Sanders has recorded 20 blocks and 35 steals, while also adding 12.0 points per game on the offensive end. He is shooting 45.7 percent from the field.
"He's a strong kid who's very good on the basketball," Skinner said. "He's got good hands and pretty good anticipation."
Sophomore forward Corey Raji (6-foot-6, 214 lbs.) and sophomore center Josh Southern (6-foot-10, 242 lbs.) round out Boston College's starting five. Raji is averaging 11.2 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, while shooting 52.7 percent from the field. Southern is averaging 5.5 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. He also has tallied 17 blocks.
"It doesn't matter whether it's against Maryland or it's against North Carolina, you've always got to have an interior presence," Skinner said. "It just allows some balance in your offense and hopefully (Southern) will be able to give us that."
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