The Hokies host their second eagles of the week on Saturday, facing their ACC rivals from boston college. I interviewed Brian from BC Interruption – a site for the eagles and by the eagles – with a 12-pack of questions.
Also, here is the interview I did with Brian at BC Interruption: Niemo Crashes Bean Town (Note: he capitalized the other schools in my quotes, you know I didn’t)
Q1: Tell me about this year’s bc team…
Brian: It’s been a strange year for BC. Early season suspensions, injuries, strong victories over Providence, Michigan and Miami, soul-crushing, embarrassing losses to mid-major programs like Harvard and Maine, and recently three listless efforts against ACC foes. I don’t know what to make of this team.
This team has all the talent to compete in the ACC this year, but they have come out flat and played up or down to their level of competition thus far this year. Vermont transfer Joe Trapani leads the way for the Eagles, averaging 15.2 per game and 6.8 rebounds per game. On any given night, BC will also get solid performances from Reggie Jackson (13.6 ppg), Corey Raji (11.8 ppg), and Rakim Sanders (10.4). The Eagles run a very tight flex offense. The one weakness this year has been post play, as the BC lineup doesn’t really showcase a dominant center.
Q2: How much do the eagles miss All-ACC Second Teamer, Tyrese Rice?
Brian: We certainly miss Rice’s production, especially with guys like Sanders and Corey Raji struggling to score since ACC play started. However, Rice never struck me as a true leader of the team. That’s something the Eagles’ desperately need this year. We thought that person would be Rakim Sanders but he is going through a serious funk on the court this year. To be honest, I’m really not sure what the cause of his funk is. Increasingly this team is looking to a player like sophomore Reggie Jackson to lead this team and be the vocal leader on the court.
Q3: bc has the third most wins in ACC play (behind unc and duke) since joining the league in 2005. What do you attribute that to?
Brian: Coming out of the gate strong …
Jared Dudley is one big reason the Eagles have had so much success in the ACC. Dudley only played in the ACC two seasons but was a big reason the Eagles won 11 ACC games in 2005-2006 and came within a bucket of winning the whole thing against Duke in the ACC Championship. In his senior year when he was named ACC Player of the Year, Dudley got the Eagles to 10-6 with an additional win in the ACC Tournament before bowing out to North Carolina. Craig Smith’s contribution to the 2005-2006 also helped.
After a fairly awful 2007-2008 campaign in which the Eagles won only 4 ACC games, last year’s success was one part Tyrese Rice stepping up and one part benefitting from the unbalanced ACC schedule (although BC did beat both North Carolina and Duke).
Al Skinner has had a knack for finding what we like to call “diamonds in the rough” on the recruiting trail. Guys like Dudley, Smith, and Rice get a shot to play at BC when they may have gotten overlooked by their local area programs. I think that puts a bit of a chip on their shoulder when they play for the Eagles. I also think that BC brought to the ACC a very different, more Big East-like style of play that the rest of the ACC might not have been accustomed to facing on a daily or weekly basis.
Regardless, and unfortunately, I think you’ll find BC come back down to earth in terms of total number of ACC wins since 2005 over the next few seasons as programs like Clemson, Florida State and Wake Forest enjoy basketball resurgence.
Q4: BC recruiting has not been particularly strong since joining the league. According to Rivals.com, bc has not signed a single recruit over 3-stars since joining the league. Why the struggles? Is it hard to recruit in Big East territory?
Brian: This is slightly misleading given that BC didn’t bring in a recruit this season. Al Skinner likes to bank scholarships for future seasons. He’ll need those scholarships so that he can reload over the next two seasons. BC will lose 1 player this season to graduation (Tyler Roche) and then have to replace 7 players (and all 5 starters) in 2011-2012.
FOX Sports’ Jeff Goodman has hinted that the coaching staff turnover has contributed to the apparent downfall of BC basketball recruiting. Assistants Bill Coen (Northeastern) and Ed Cooley (Fairfield) have since gone on to head coaching gigs. I’m not sure I completely buy this argument though. Skinner’s teams have rarely recruited well in New England, instead scouring the country for those “diamonds in the rough.”
All hope is not lost though, as the Eagles bring in two 3-star recruits and one 4-star, 6’8” power forward Kevin Noreen out of Minneapolis, MN.
Q5: Speaking of the Big East, do you think the Big East or ACC is the better basketball conference?
Brian: This year, I think the Big East is better. I can’t make heads or tails of what is going on this year in ACC basketball. Duke looks dominant and then NC State shoots lights out and topples them last night. UNC is in a serious funk. Georgia Tech, Clemson and Florida State go in and out of being contenders. At 1-4, I think we are finding that Miami isn’t for real.
I think the Big East has the better programs at the top (Syracuse, West Virginia, Georgetown, Villanova, Pittsburgh, Louisville) but have more deadweight at the bottom (DePaul, Rutgers, South Florida, Seton Hall, St. John’s). The ACC seems a bit better top-to-bottom. That’s the only reason I could maybe be persuaded that the ACC is a better basketball conference this year. However, if you were only comparing the top 12 teams in each conference, hands down the Big East is better this season.
Q6: Is Head Coach Al Skinner’s job in any jeopardy?
Brian: I don’t think so. At least not this year. Much like Paul Hewitt used the promise of a good recruiting class (read: Derrick Favors) to weather the storm that was a 2-14 season a year ago at Georgia Tech, I think you’ll see the same thing at BC with Skinner. Skinner will bring in the aforementioned Noreen as well as Papa Samba Ndao and Brady Heslip (who has already joined the team) next year. As far as BC recruiting classes go, that’s a pretty decent class. I think the AD and the school want to see what the next year or so will bring in terms of success on the court before making a move.
When Skinner’s back has been against the wall, he’s pushed the right buttons to get this team back on track. If anything, I guess he deserves the school’s patience with all the success he has brought to the program.
Q7: Prediction for the game?
Brian: I think the Eagles will put forth a solid effort but I’m not convinced that they will have enough to beat Virginia Tech. I’m interested to see what the Hokies bring because like I asked you guys, VT doesn’t have that marquee win on the early season just yet. I think this game will be close with the Hokies winning by 3. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if the Eagles can pull out the W.
Q8: bc is VT’s cross-division rival in football and we play twice every year in basketball. Do you think there is a real rivalry between the schools or is that just because of the Big East ties?
Brian: I think there is a nice rivalry forming between the two schools. Back in the Big East, Virginia Tech used to dominate the Eagles in football, while BC returned the favor in basketball. Now the tables have turned a bit. Virginia Tech has now won 4 of the last 5 against the Eagles in basketball, while the Hokies have probably struggled to put away BC the most of any team in football the last few years (at least in the regular season). I’d like to think that BC has gotten under the skin of Hokie fans just a little bit. Whether it be the 2007 Matt Ryan-to-Andre Callender game (denying VT a shot at the National Championship), or the 2006 regular season game where Tech failed to score a touchdown for the first time in I don’t know how many games. At least I rationalize a rivalry in my head.
Q9: What do bc fans/alums think of Virginia Tech in general?
Brian: Outstanding football program. Average basketball. A general respect for the athletics program. I like to say that without BC and Virginia Tech these past 5 years, ACC football looks more like the MAC than it does a BCS conference. So I think the conference and the other ACC programs should give both schools a little more credit than they currently are.
Q10: How much did those two losses in the ACC Football Championship sting?
Brian: As an attendee of both the 2007 and 2008 ACC Championships, yes, they sting quite a bit.
Q11: What schools in the ACC, and in general, do eagle fans really hate and why?
Brian: Not sure I hate them, but I am generally annoyed at the Tobacco Road ACC purists who want to give BC and Miami the boot and return to a 10 team league where they can play a balanced schedule. I think BC, in particular, has done more in the league than most of those other schools, and we have earned some respect. There’s also the NC State-Tom O’Brien tie, but State hasn’t beat BC in football since TOB left for greener pastures. So really, we just feel bad for TOB for making what in hindsight appears as a lateral move at best.
Outside of the ACC, I personally hate UConn, because they sued Boston College for conspiring to weaken the Big East and UConn football when we defected to the ACC. They then turn around and b*tch about how BC will never schedule them in football. “We were destined to be New England’s college football rivals!” Yeah, ok. Randy Edsall will be waiting for that call for a long time.
Q12: Through a small sampling of bc fans I know, I get the sense eagle football is #1, hockey #2, and basketball is #3. Is that accurate?
Brian: I think it used to be, but the times, they are a’changin. I really think now its football #1, basketball #2, and hockey #3. With the move to the ACC, I’m assuming that opened up the geographic footprint of students from parts of the south and other areas underrepresented at BC. Given that a lot of kids in the south don’t grow up following hockey, I think hockey’s popularity has waned at the expense of basketball. When BC was a smaller, more New England school, hockey was definitely the #2 sport and maybe even #1 for stretches of time. But with BC taking on more and more students from all over the country, I think hockey has taken a back seat to basketball. That’s a shame because hockey has traditionally been BC’s most successful athletics program.
Bonus Shot: Is BC happy to be in the ACC, or missing the Big East?
Brian: We’re happy in the ACC. I think people have to remember that had Boston College stayed in the Big East, it still would have been forced to expand to programs like Cincinnati, Louisville, Marquette, South Florida and DePaul. Because of Miami and Virginia Tech bolting, the Big East would never be the same with or without BC. A lot of fans point to the lack of a regional rival or increased travel time and cost, but traveling from Boston-to-Milwaukee or Boston-to-Louisville is just as far and as expensive as traveling to North Carolina or Georgia.
The money is better. The bowl tie-ins are better. It’s easier not to get lost in the mix as you could in a 16-team mega conference in basketball. There’s nothing about the Big East that’s better, other than the Big East basketball tournament at MSG (but even that has changed) and the fact that had BC stayed in the Big East, we would have at least 3 BCS bowl appearances under our belt.
Thank you to Brian for participating in this Opposing View!
Brian is an Editor and Co-writer for BC Interruption, the SB Nation Boston College sports blog. Brian and Jeff created the blog in 2007 as a way of debating and discussing all sorts of topics about BC football, basketball and hockey. Brian is a 2004 graduate of Boston College. His favorite BC sporting experience is wondering why he drove 9 hours in the pouring rain to sit in the Lane Stadium stands for 57 minutes and 49 seconds and not see the Eagles score a single point … [ouch… a tasteless reference to bc’s comeback win in football in 2007 led by current Atlanta Falcons QB, Matty Ice. Good death blow to finish.]