BC Notebook

Tobacco Road Comes to Boston

Tobacco Road Comes to Boston

Ryan Thomas

Do the Eagles stand a chance against the elite teams of Division I come Tournament time? The answer to that question lies within the center of the Boston College defense.

The Boston College Eagles have played eleven games since star-center Sean Williams was discharged before their Feb. 20 meeting with Clemson, compiling a modest 6-5 record since his still mysterious dismissal from the team.

Boston College is by no means a team that is a perennial national contender, sitting a notch below teams such as Duke, Wisconsin, Texas and Ohio State on the NCAA totem pole. Needless to say, there is not an inordinate margin for error when it comes to the Eagle’s chances of contending for a trip to the Final Four when the team starts to lose key players, players who led all of Division I in blocked shots per game (5.0 bpg) at the time of their termination from the team.

When Williams was dismissed by Boston College, questions were raised regarding just how big of an impact the lack of a constant physical presence in the middle would be for the Eagles. Through 15 games, Williams was living up to his college potential, scoring 12.1 ppg, grabbing 6.9 rpg and making his presence felt in the middle with a monstrous 5.0 blocks per game.

Since Williams’ departure, junior back-up center Tyrelle Blair has taken his place, and from a distance has not made much of an impact. Upon closer review, the level of his play and execution on the defensive end has really become the barometer to which the Eagles’ games can be measured.

In Boston College’s six wins since Williams’ departure, Blair has blocked 25 shots, an average of 4.1 bpg. In the Eagles’ five losses, Blair’s blocks per game average takes a dive down to only 1.6 per game. Along with the blocks comes the defensive presence that an energy-infused, 6’11”, 240-pound center brings to the Collegiate hard court.

In those six wins, Blair has not only been a drastically better shot-blocker but he has done a great job of clogging up the middle of the floor, which in addition to improving team defense slowing down the pace of the game, also lets the Eagles execute their favorite offensive, the “flex.” Boston College’s defense, along with Blair’s play dictates wins and losses. In those five losses, the Eagles allow 76.6 ppg, and in their six wins give up only 65.0 ppg, almost a 17-point swing.

Saturday’s match-up against conference foe Clemson proved to be a prime example to back up the numbers. Boston College played their slow-paced, defensive-minded game and beat the Tigers of Clemson 59-54 in a game that gave the Eagles a much-needed boost of confidence. Tyrelle Blair did his best impersonation of Sean Williams by playing 26 minutes, grabbing five rebounds, blocking six shots and playing great defense that helped lead the Eagles to victory.

Senior Day was definitely the day for the seniors to shine with forward Jared Dudley rounding back into form with 23 points (8-16 fg) and 11 rebounds and guard Sean Marshall playing 35 minutes of inspired basketball, leading to an 18 (6-10 fg) point showing. The seniors stole the show, but it was the Eagle’s defense that won the game, as they held the Tigers to 35.6 percent (21-59) shooting from the field. Sean Marshall’s play in particular proved to be a deciding factor, as he was everywhere to be found on Saturday afternoon, hitting a big second-half three, running the fast break and digging in on the defensive end. Marshall set the energy bar for the game and tempted his teammates to rise to his level, which they did.

Saturday’s victory brought the Eagles to within one-half game of the Atlantic Coast Conference lead with only one game remaining in the regular season. BC’s conference record stands at 10-5 and leaves them looking up at North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Virginia, all of whom hold a record of 10-4 and have a game in hand over Boston College. Winning the ACC is not crucial for BC’s tournament hopes, but a win over mediocre Georgia Tech to finish off the regular season would be a good boost of confidence for the boys in crimson and gold.

Boston College is a lock for the tournament at this point in the season with their 10 conference wins, but a trip to the Elite Eight or the Final Four would be a great story for a team that legitimately lost one of it’s brightest stars mid-season. Tyrelle Blair is the key to the Eagles’ run deep into the tournament. As Blair goes, so do the Eagles and their chances for national notoriety in 2007’s edition of March Madness baby! Eat your heart out Dickie V.