Boston College Set to Open Season Friday

November 13, 2009 - 10:38 am
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The 2008-09 season came to a screeching halt with an all-too-familiar sour taste in the Eagles'€™ mouths. Yet again, Boston College was ousted early '€” perhaps too early '€” in the NCAA tournament against an opponent (USC) that some thought should have been manageable. Nonetheless, the summer months have passed, and Al Skinner'€™s squad reports back to the court as young as ever, and with the same starting five as in 2009 '€” minus second-team All-ACC guard Tyrese Rice. The loss of Rice leaves an undeniable hole in the Eagles'€™ offense, coming off a season during which he led the team in scoring with a powerful 16.9 points per game. Still, even with the loss of Rice'€™s scoring, Skinner remains confident that the Eagles, who finished 22-12 last season, will be able to rely on their cohesiveness and youth to move forward. The Eagles made an important step last season with key victories over rivals UNC and Duke, games that will prove to be building blocks for this season. With a returning core that includes four of their starting five from 2009, the Eagles hope to compete once again for an NCAA tournament berth. The Starting Five Rakim Sanders, G-F, jr: Strengths: Very physical and can score/rebound with the best of them. Looks to be a strong breakout candidate this year within the offense. If BC wants to make up for the loss of Rice, Sanders could emerge as a key player. Weaknesses: Sanders'€™ passing leaves something to be desired, along with his consistency. Those things will need to improve if he hopes to lead the Eagles to an NCAA berth. This is going to be the guy they'€™re counting on all year. Without Rice, the Eagles are going to have to make up for scoring somehow '€“ and Sanders is it. He has it all; the ability to do whatever he pleases down low with his muscle, the skills to run around defenders, and the ability to create for not only himself but everyone else around him. If he can brush up on his perimeter shooting as well as his passing in the lanes, Sanders could morph into the elite player the Eagles hope he will. Joe Trapani, F, jr: Strengths: At 6-foot-8, 218 pounds, this kid'€™s a tough out down low. Trapani averaged 6.6 rebounds per game last year with a solid 13.4 points to go with it. The junior may even see as much time at his forward position as he does as a rotating guard, allowing Boston College to spread the floor against some opponents since Trapani features a nice perimeter shot as well. Weaknesses: At 6-8, Trapani may be considered a little small for his position. He'€™s going to be matching up against the best the ACC has to offer, and on some nights, it might not work out too well for him. Even so, Skinner doesn'€™t think there'€™s a player in the league who can consistently take advantage of Trapani at the 4. It remains to be seen if the coach is right. This is the versatile member of the group. His size down low and solid perimeter shooting make him a viable option to be switched around between the guard and forward position. This could come in very handy against some of the stronger opponents in the ACC, especially ones who like to stack down low. The Eagles are going to need big contributions from Trapani as center Josh Southern continues to grow into his own. Josh Southern, C, jr: Strengths: At 6-10, 250 pounds, Southern has tremendous size for his position, something that will undoubtedly come in handy against the league'€™s heavyweights. He'€™s a great finisher and a dominant rebounding force. As long as he continues to mature, Southern will become a force in the frontcourt. Weaknesses: He may have top-100 prospect value, but Southern still has a lot to learn about the position. Something he needs to focus on in 2009 is his low-block scoring and a post shot. If he can master those two things, Southern will have the looks of a very good ACC center. It seems like Skinner'€™s main concerns about Southern aren'€™t his skills, but rather his consistency and his confidence. Southern has to be effective if the Eagles want any hope at a deep NCAA tournament run. Without a solid big man, it will be tough for BC to compete against the UNCs and Dukes of the world. Southern has a lot of work ahead of him, but his big frame is a tool that few players have. Skinner will work something out of him no doubt. Corey Raji, F, jr: Strengths: He has the grit and the toughness that you need at his position. Raji also has a passion and intensity that is tough to match on the court. Despite his 6-6 frame, Raji has shown he is able to rebound against some of the tougher defenders in the league. Weaknesses: His somewhat small size for his position could prove troublesome for the Eagles. Much like Sanders, Raji lacks a very good perimeter shot, posting a putrid 1-for-14 from beyond the arc in 2009. Raji could prove to be somewhat of a wild card for the Eagles this year. Skinner even admitted as much. Boston College has yet to draft plays around the 6-6 forward '€” meaning most teams just aren'€™t sure how to defend him. He'€™s got a lot of skills and a passion to match it. The question is just how much his size will prevent him from competing against some of the more powerful forwards in the ACC. Biko Paris, PG, jr: Strengths: He'€™s been groomed to take over the playmaking position by Skinner, and now he gets his chance. With Rice out, Paris steps in at the point position to run the offense. He'€™s statistically better at handling the ball than Rice. Paris also adds better defense than Rice did from his position. Weaknesses: The scoring. Despite Paris being arguably a better ball handler than Rice, the points BC will miss from the playmaking position won'€™t be made up easily. Paris has a tendency to distribute rather than shoot, something that can be a blessing but also a curse depending on how he uses it. With all the talk about how to replace Rice and his points, the spotlight falls on Paris'€™ shoulders. Skinner was quoted as saying that some BC players may even prefer playing with Paris because of his tendency to spread the ball around rather than take control in the scoring department like Rice did. Still, no matter how you slice it, Paris just isn'€™t going to put up the 17 points a game Rice did in any way, shape or form. BC'€™s one hope is that he finds the open guys who will. Five Dates to Circle December 2, at Michigan '€“ BC'€™s first definite test against a ranked opponent comes on against the University of Michigan on the Wolverines'€™ home court. BC plays in the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands Nov. 20-23 with top-10 teams Purdue and Tennessee, but there's no guarantee the Eagles will meet either squad. January 13, at Duke/February 6, vs. Duke '€“ Duke. Boston College. Need more be said? The team everybody loves to hate will provide a test in Durham in January and then travel to Chestnut Hill on Feb. 6. The two teams collided on February 15 of last season, and the Eagles took down then-No. 5 Duke, 80-74. January 26, vs. Clemson '€“ If BC'€™s earlier matchup against Duke doesn'€™t go quite the Eagles' way and it'€™s looking like the second won'€™t either, this is a game Boston College will have to win. If they want any hope at an NCAA berth, losing to Duke, UNC and Clemson won'€™t help at all. The Eagles face Clemson on their home court, which helps, but make no mistake about it '€“ if BC doesn'€™t have any luck against Duke and the way they'€™re playing doesn'€™t lead anyone to believe they will against North Carolina, this Clemson matchup could have huge implications. February 20th, vs. North Carolina '€“ Any game against the Tar Heels is worth circling, for obvious reasons. It won'€™t be BC'€™s first test against a mighty ACC foe, but it will certainly be a trying one. In recent years, however, Boston College has had a knack for pulling up nifty upsets '€“ might the Eagles have one in store on Feb. 20?