Ick. There is no sugar coating this loss. Providence is a NIT team at best this year and BC proved unable to hang with them on the road. They fought back to tie it late in the second half (thanks to a questionable goal tending call with less than a minute left) but they failed to capitalize on an early lead in OT. My takeaways:
1- Interior Defense and Rebounding: Without Dennis Clifford, BC failed to hold its own down low. They lost the rebounding battle 36-20 (11-2 offensive) and consistently found themselves unable to stop Providence’s guard penetration. While Bryce Cotton played a great game, a team that fancies themselves a tournament team needs to be able to stop the dribble drive. Anderson and Odio did an admirable job in the first half, but both got into foul trouble and couldn’t provide protection around the net. Donahue refused to switch to a zone defense until the very end of the second half when BC was relying on turnovers to keep the game alive.
2- Officiating: It is clear that the referees are going to have a bigger impact on this year’s NCAAB season. Prior to the season, the league mandated that refs need to be more diligent in calling hand check fouls and bodying down low. These changes were made very apparent in this game. Both teams were victims of seemingly cheap calls from the refs, but responded well at the free throw line. However, I think this could be a long term problem for BC this season, as they were tied for 111th in the nation last year at the free throw line. Until the end of the second half, this game was slow and awkward thanks to the incessant foul and travel calls from the referees. I hope this is not a sign of things to come.
3- Turnovers: BC cannot expect to turn the ball over 17 times a game and be playing basketball in March. I thought the offense moved the ball well in the first half, but when the game got tight they panicked and lost their patience. Hanlan took a number of miserable shots. He was bailed out by the refs which allowed his stat sheet to look respectable. Was not impressed by his overall performance, nor the team’s on the offensive end.
4- Odio Odyssey: In the first half, I thought he was the best player not named Bryce Cotton on the court. Defensively he was stout down low and offensively he moved the ball well both on the perimeter and in the post. While Anderson turned into a black hole at times, Odio effectively played the “4” position we were accustomed to seeing in the Al Skinner flex motion offense. But in the second half he proved to be invisible, unable to defend under foul trouble and, like the rest of his team, lost his patience offensively.
5- Tourney Tracker: After each game, I am going to assess how each performance affects BC’s potential tournament resume. For most BC fans (myself included) this BC basketball team needs to make the tournament in order for this season to be considered a success. This game definitely didn’t help matters. While going into OT on the road against a Big East school isn’t catastrophic, this loss could significantly hurt BC’s resume come tourney time. Providence projects to be a similar team to BC (good depth, young talent), but without the star power of Hanlan and Anderson. Providence was missing their second best player (Kris Dunn) and still proved to be the better team for most of the game. This could hurt BC in two ways. If Providence ends up being a lower tier NCAA team hovering around 10-12 wins (the more likely scenario) this may prove to be a “bad” loss on BCs schedule. But if the Friars can string some wins together and approach the 18-21 win mark (where I project BC will be) this game could vault Providence over BC on the bubble watch.
I am trying not to overact but this just was not a good performance. They did show a little life at the end of the second half, but without the boneheaded defensive goal tending, BC doesn’t even make it to overtime. I am hopeful this will not come back to bite them come Selection Sunday, but it is a definite possibility. I will be in the crowd for Sunday against UMASS at the Garden. Can the 2nd game of the season be a must win? For this BC team, I’d say yes.