NU vs. Boston College could end up being a layup line.
Someone told me the NCAA Tournament was going on. I stopped paying attention once my bracket imploded on literally the first day (St. John's, incidentally, did not make the Elite Eight) but I believe them. However, I didn't notice myself because I was too busy talking to SB Nation Boston College blogger (and Kellogg '10 grad) Brian from BC Interruption about tomorrow's NIT matchup - he had me discussing Northwestern vs. Boston College on his site. Once I confirmed that he was in fact, not one of the Kellog guys who monopolized the Blomquist Gym basketball courts my freshman and sophomore years when I just wanted to play basketball, I asked him a few questions as well.
Hit the jump for questions. (He's way better at answering question than I was.)
(Preview coming later.)
The Eagles are crazy efficient offensively - No. 11 in the country, per Kenpom. How?
Under Al Skinner, Boston College used to run a pretty efficient Flex offense. The last five years under Skinner produced teams that had an adjusted offensive efficiency of 49 (2010), 34 (2009), 76 (2008), 11 (2007) and 7 (2006). It was never fun to watch, but Skinner’s offenses were effective.
Enter Steve Donahue, who upon arriving at The Heights, installed a completely different offensive system here at BC. Donahue’s system can probably be best described as a motion offense that relies heavily on the three ball. Now Donahue inherited a roster of players that were much more suited for Skinner’s Flex than his motion offense, so Donahue told the players to focus on shooting LOTS of threes over the offseason and to track their progress.
The results are pretty remarkable. Donahue got offensive production boosts from guys like Biko Paris, Reggie Jackson and Corey Raji and even got solid contributions from walk-ons Danny Rubin (for the first half of the year) and John Cahill (for the second half of the year). The end result was that 44 percent of BC’s shot attempts this year were from 3 (764-1749).
The Eagles run a 1-3-1 defense sometimes. How much does your fanbase hate that? As much as Northwestern's does?
Donahue runs a lot of 2-3 and 1-3-1 zone looks. I don’t think the fanbase cases what defense BC runs, just that it is effective. And it hasn’t been for long stretches of the season. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen opposing players go untouched down the lane for the easy bucket.
BC plays a lot of zone to make up for their lack of size. BC’s tallest player is 6’10" Josh Southern, and this team has lacked a true center for a number of years now. If opponents have a noticeable size advantage or have a good front court game, they can dominate the Eagles in the paint.
BC was on the very brink of dancing, but fell short. Why is that? Was it deserved? And how are BC fans handling the NIT-ness of the season? Does the fact that four starters are seniors potentially playing their last game every time out add a little meaning to the NIT?
If you ask fans of the program, they’d tell you Boston College got snubbed. Sure you’ll hear about Virginia Tech and Colorado as this year’s biggest snubbees, but BC beat Virginia Tech twice this season and I feel like they very much should have been in over teams like USC, VCU and Georgia.
I think reactions are mixed about the NIT. Some fans are gravitating towards the tournament. Others have tuned out. Me personally, I’m actually pretty pumped about the NIT. I think BC has a good chance of getting to Madison Square Garden (where I live), and I think an NIT Championship would really turn some heads and build a lot of positive momentum for the program under Donahue going forward.
There’s something about ending the season with a win that is pretty special, considering only a 3-4 programs can say that in any given year.
Brian, you told me you're a BC undergrad, but also went to Kellogg. While doing the whole "being smart at business" thing, did you get a feel for Northwestern's sports fanbase, and if so, how does it compare to BC's? What are we doing very very wrong? (Feel free to not answer this if you didn't get a sense.)
Great question. I could probably write a series of posts for Sippin’ On Purple comparing my experiences at BC and Northwestern ...
I will say that I felt pretty isolated from the Northwestern sports fanbase as a grad student at Kellogg. I got the sense each graduate school has its own culture and they really don’t take up the NU sports cause like I’m sure some other schools do. I always said it was like we were in our own little "Kellogg bubble" in Jacobs, and rarely interacted with undergrads or the Wildcats following.
That said, I think there’s plenty of things that NU can do to improve the Northwestern Wildcats sports experience for fans. I’m sure none of these things will come as a surprise to you.
For football, it’s simple things like not scheduling home games until the undergrads are on campus. I realize this is tough with Northwestern having one of the latest start dates in the country, but when 1/3 of your home schedule is played before students get there, the atmosphere at Ryan Field is going to be lacking. The other thing is if home games before the start of school are inevitable, why not tap into the graduate school populations that are already on campus? I had a Kellogg orientation on Saturday during NU’s home opener against Towson. Why not give grad students free tickets to all the games? That’s an extra 1,000 warm bodies per grad school that can attend the games.
Speaking of Ryan Field, you guys could definitely use an upgrade in the stadium department. It’s a shame that Chicago didn’t get the Olympics because I know a renovation was in the works, but the one side of the stadium has a very high school-football feel to it. Northwestern has the space to make the other half of Ryan Field look like the grandstand (unlike BC). Why not finish it off?
For basketball, Welsh-Ryan actually has a better atmosphere than Conte Forum for hoops. The only thing that needs fixing here is avoiding half the arena being filled with fans clad in orange (Illinois) or blue (Michigan).
I need two predictions: first, Saturday's game, and then I want a pick for the NU-BC season opener in football. It's only six months early.
For Saturday, it’s going to be a high scoring game. I think the combination of having home court and the early start give BC a slight edge. Final score – Boston College 80, Northwestern 75.
For the football game, it’s still way too early, but I like BC’s running game to have a big day behind Montel Harris and Andre Williams. For whatever reason, I keep having the NU-Illinois Wrigley Field game in my head, where the Illini ran roughshod on the NU defense. It won’t be that bad, but I think BC plays to its strengths and wins 27-17.
Good luck Saturday, and look forward to catching up later this year for BC-Northwestern part 2 on the gridiron.