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Touring the Northeast

January 15, 2003 Columns No Comments


Touring Around New England

by Phil Kasiecki

Eagles Lose An Important Close One

Oftentimes, a team losing a game like Boston College did last Sunday makes a statement in the next game it has. That next game was Saturday night in Syracuse, a game that was ripe for a statement game for the Eagles one way or another. The Orangemen were on the verge of cracking the top 25 despite not having left the state of New York thus far this season.

Despite a 13-0 run by the Orangemen in the early going, the Eagles stayed in the game as Troy Bell shot the ball well and was excellent at the defensive end. The Eagles also got Syracuse in foul trouble up front, as Craig Forth fouled out with just under 13 minutes left to play and Jeremy McNeil played most of the second half with four fouls. After rallying to tie on a Bell three-pointer, then later lead on a couple of occasions, freshman sensation Carmelo Anthony led a late run by Syracuse as they pulled away. Anthony finished with 24 points, but it was sophomore Hakim Warrick who hurt the Eagles the most with 24 points on 8-11 shooting and 15 rebounds.

The Eagles’ lack of depth came back to hurt them in this game. They play just seven players, so when Nate Doornekamp fouled out and Andrew Bryant had four fouls, they were in trouble. Craig Smith later fouled out, which also deprived the Eagles of a primary weapon. The Eagles shot just 40% from the floor, with Bell (29 points to move into second place on BC’s all-time scoring list) making 4 of the team’s 5 three-pointers on the day.

The game featured the top two freshmen in the Big East in Anthony and Smith. While Anthony was held to 8-19 shooting for his 24 points and had 10 rebounds, Smith had a field day against the weak Orangemen frontline. He scored 26 points on 9-13 shooting and had 10 rebounds before fouling out. Anthony and Smith are two of the top scoring freshmen in the country and two of the top five scorers in the Big East. Fellow freshman Gerry McNamara of Syracuse also showed that he’s among the better freshmen, continuing his solid play with 20 points, 5 assists and 4 turnovers.

Things do not get easier for the Eagles, as they head to Raleigh on Thursday to take on North Carolina State.

Another Good Freshman In the Big East, You Say?

Two years ago, Providence College had a terrific season in making the NCAA Tournament. The big reason was the return of point guard John Linehan from an injury that forced him to redshirt the previous season. With Linehan having graduated last season, and career reserve point guard Sheiku Kabba the top holdover at the position, the Friars had a question mark at the point entering the season.

Enter Donnie McGrath, and question no more.

“Donnie McGrath is beyond his years, that’s for sure”, head coach Tim Welsh said after the Friars’ 75-71 win over St. John’s last Wednesday. “As a freshman, he’s very heady, he understands the game, he understands who needs the ball and he’s very good on the pick and roll.”

The Big East is home to several of the nation’s top freshmen, notably the aforementioned Carmelo Anthony and Craig Smith. It was an excellent year for the Big East in terms of bringing in top talent from the prep ranks, and lost amidst the play of many excellent freshmen is that of McGrath, a 6’4″ combo guard from the New York City area. That he has yet to win the league’s Rookie of the Week award (which Anthony has won four times) speaks to the league’s depth among freshmen.

McGrath wasted little time being a difference-maker at the point, recording 6 assists with just 1 turnover in his debut against cross-town rival Brown. Two games later, he jumped into the school record books when he tied the freshman record for assists with 13 against Ohio University, registering just 1 turnover again. To date, the only game in which he has had more turnovers than assists was the second game of the season against South Florida. For the season, his assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.14 ranks him third in the Big East to go with his 5.3 assists per game being good for fourth in the conference.
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McGrath has also hurt opponents behind the arc, as his 42% mark on three-pointers ranks him fifth in the Big East. He moves well without the ball and also has a quick release that along with his good size enables him to shoot if the defender gives him the slightest amount of space.

Kabba has remained an excellent backup off the bench, giving the Friars a quick veteran guard who can shoot the ball as well. Kabba has made some big plays, and on the season is shooting over 38% on three-pointers and has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.9. They help key a three-point attack that has been a big key to the Friars’ success thus far this season. The 8-5 Friars are 5-0 when they make 40% or more of their three-point attempts, and 8-2 when they score 70 or more points.

Terriers Fast Out of the Gate, Huskies Start Slowly

With Saturday’s 65-62 win over visiting Vermont in an early season conference showdown, Boston University improved to 3-0 in America East play. The Terriers dominated most of the game, as the final margin of victory came largely from a late 17-2 run by the Catamounts. The Terriers shut down the Catamounts’ penetration for most of the game, played great post defense, and kept the perimeter shooting attack at bay for most of the game. Vermont is still not the same without T.J. Sorrentine, who is redshirting this season with a wrist injury, but sophomore Taylor Coppenrath is still one of the conference’s top players as its leading scorer and fifth-leading rebounder and Grant Anderson continues to be one of the most underrated players in the conference. Anderson may emerge as an All-America East performer when it’s all said and done.

Cross-town rival Northeastern has not started quite as well after some big non-conference games that include a recent win at Boston College. The Huskies started out with back-to-back road losses at Vermont and at Hartford, the former marking the sixth straight loss at Patrick Gym for the Huskies. While the Huskies did not shoot well in either game, a combined 32 turnovers did not help matters at the offensive end. In the game against Vermont, more than half of their field goal attempts were from behind the arc.

Other Notes From Around the Nation

Although it’s still relatively early, Saturday’s games help point towards a very interesting bubble picture when Selection Sunday approaches. Many teams that have good records with a questionable schedule are beating up on teams that look like good NCAA bets, as well as each other. The SEC was a prime example of it, while the Big 12 has a few teams (Iowa State, Kansas State, Colorado, Baylor, Texas A&M) that could easily slide into or out of contention as the season goes along.

Is Winthrop’s run in the Big South in danger of being over? The Eagles are just 2-2 in the conference out of the gates, with one loss to a struggling Radford team and a 64-50 home loss to current conference leader Coastal Carolina this past week. Coastal Carolina is off to a 3-0 start in a season that could be it for head coach Pete Strickland if they don’t produce good results. The Eagles have been fine defensively, but only Radford shoots the ball worse among Big South teams.

One thing that can always be counted on in college basketball is Georgetown playing a very soft non-conference schedule. While this season is hardly any different, let’s call out another Big East team for the same thing: Syracuse. The 11-1 Orangemen have left the state of New York exactly once this season, last week’s 70-66 win at Seton Hall. They haven’t exactly played a group of world-beaters aside from Memphis on opening night and Monday night’s 76-69 win against Missouri. At least Georgetown played at Virginia and at Duke, as well as beating South Carolina at home this season.

     

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