8. Boston College Eagles- Coach: Al Skinner (12th season)
PG- Tyrese Rice (SR): There is no question that Rice is the cornerstone of this Boston College team. The lone senior on the Eagles is the best guard in the ACC, perhaps in the country. He’s very good at finding ways to the rim and if defenders over-commit to him, he’ll find the open man. He has a deadly jumper from mid-range as well as beyond the arc. If I had to choose one point guard in the country to run a fast break, it would be Tyrese Rice because he is quick, smart and can hurt opponents in so many ways. He reminds me a lot of Chris Paul, he takes what defenders give him and often makes them pay for their mistakes.
SG- Biko Paris (SO):Paris had a solid freshman campaign and saw significant playing time throughout the year. This year Paris needs to make defenses respect his jump shot to open up space for Rice and Rakim Sanders to penetrate. He shot a dismal 26.1% from beyond the arc last season. Unless Paris improves his jumper, his one dimensional offense makes him a minimal threat. He’ll be the 4th or 5th scoring option for the Eagles, but his improvement would help BC a lot.
SF- Rakim Sanders (SO): Sanders had a pretty good rookie year but underachieved the high expectations put on him as an incoming freshman. What I like most about Sanders is his strong 6-5, 225 lb. frame. He’s a good inside scorer and is the leading returning rebounder. He also has a solid jumper from about 15 feet and is slightly above average from beyond the arc. I’d like to see Sanders not settle for a long range jumper as often as he did last season. He needs to slash to the rim more often and either score, dish or draw the foul. With a small team this season, Sanders is going to need to play big for Al Skinner.
PF- Corey Raji (SO): The four spot is going to be the weakness for BC. Usually the four is a strong player who can rebound and bang bodies down low, but BC doesn’t have anybody like that. Raji is undersized at 6-6, 214 lbs but is the second leading rebounder returning this year behind Sanders. It’s going to be tough for Raji to out-jump his opponents for rebounds because of his size and he doesn’t have the frame to box out the likes of Tyler Hansbrough. Raji does provide a viable scoring option and will give other power forwards a tough time guarding him out on the perimeter.
C- Josh Southern (SO): Southern is a solid big man who really came on the second half of last year. He averaged 7.7 PPG and 4.4 RPG in the last 13 games of last year. He only saw less than 15 Min/G last season, but found himself getting more minutes toward the end of last year. He’s going to be the anchor of this frontline and will have to be a strong rebounder and defender down low because BC lost its two leading rebounders from last season.
Bench:Tyler Roche is the only player with major experience coming off of the bench. Vermont transfer Joe Trapani will give the Eagles an option with more size at the power forward and will get significant minutes along with sophomore Courtney Dunn at the four spot. Freshman Reggie Jackson will give Skinner another option at the two guard. Other than that there aren’t too many more options off of the bench.
Bottom Line: Rice is going to have to carry the Eagles wherever they may go. It’s never a good indicator if a team is starting four sophomores, but Sanders has a lot of potential and the other three are solid players. The lack of size and depth is going to give Skinner a tough time managing his team.
Key Non-Conference Games: 12/2 vs. Iowa, 12/6 @ UMass
Key Conference Games: 1/17 @ Virginia Tech, 1/27 @ Maryland, 2/24 vs. Florida State, 3/7 vs. Georgia Tech
Most Valuable Player: Tyrese Rice
Projected Postseason: NIT (2nd or 3rd round)
7. Maryland Terrapins- Coach: Gary Williams (20th season)
PG- Greivis Vasquez (JR):Vasquez has been the emotional spark for the Terps during his tenure at the point, but now that he’s the leader of this team he needs to learn how to control his emotions as well as the basketball. He’s always played with his heart but needs to start playing with his head a bit more now that a lot of Maryland’s success rests squarely on his shoulders. Vasquez’s 6-6 frame has always helped him get to the rim and shoot a mid-range jumper over his small defenders but he’s inconsistent from beyond the arc. How Greivis plays is the biggest barometer for the Terps. If he starts turning the ball over, which he has a tendency to do in bunches, they’ll have a pretty tough time finding a way to win. If Vasquez is handling the ball well and finding ways to score, the Terps can beat a good amount of teams in the ACC. The bottom line for Grievis is that he needs to be a consistent leader for Gary Williams.
SG- Eric Hayes (JR): Hayes, who is naturally a point guard, transitioned to the two guard last year for Williams. The transition seemed to be a rough one for Hayes. He drastically improved his shot from beyond the arc last season but his offense is pretty one-dimensional with virtually no ability to beat his defender off the dribble. If he does get into the lane, he’s very good at finding cutters or putting up a floater if a defender doesn’t commit to him. After Vasquez, Hayes is going to be the second scoring option for Maryland.
SF- Landon Milbourne (JR): The junior out of Oak Hill has a great combination of size and leaping ability for the three spot, but his athleticism hasn’t translated into the scoring or rebounding numbers he should put up. When I watch Milbourne, he seems uncomfortable with the ball in his hands. If Milbourne improves his ability to handle the ball, he’ll have the size and athleticism to get to the rim. Like Vasquez, Milbourne is a so-so shooter from beyond the arc, but when he’s on he’ll sink them in bunches. Williams is going to need a lot of production out of Milbourne because of the weak frontcourt.
PF- Jerome Burney (SO): Burney is a prototypical Gary Williams big man: long-armed and athletic. He’ll step in and provide a similar shot-blocking presence to that of James Gist or Bambale Osby, but Burney’s lack of offensive skills could be a liability for the Terps. Burney will have to stay out of foul trouble for Maryland because of the lack of reserves for the frontcourt, so Gary may have to pull on the reins when it comes to Burney’s shot-blocking aggressiveness. If Burney provides around 6 PPG and is a strong rebounder and defender, I’m sure Williams would consider that a successful year for Burney.
C- Braxton Dupree (SO):I consider Dupree to be the poor man’s Sean May. He provides a big body down low and has a pretty good set of post moves, but he just doesn’t have the athleticism to be a quality post player in the ACC. He’s an undersized center at 6-8 and has poor jumping ability, so he’s not going to go above the rim for any rebounds. Dupree does have a combination of a soft touch around the rim and a wide body. While he may not shoot straight over opponents, he uses his skills and his frame to shoot around them.
Bench: The backcourt has a number of fill-ins that can come in and produce. Sophomores Adrian Bowie and Cliff Tucker are a couple of athletic guards that are dangerous in the open court and are very good slashers. Freshman Sean Mosley is another good athlete to fill in at the two spot, giving Gary three viable options off of the bench. As for the frontcourt, it’s a different story. The two starters are sophomores, one who will probably get into foul trouble and another who has trouble running the court. One of the two subs for the frontcourt is senior Dave Neal who would have no business playing significant minutes in the ACC if it wasn’t for his hard-working attitude. Neal will provide solid minutes, but won’t do much on the offensive end. The other sub is sophomore Dino Gregory, another long-armed post man for Gary. Gregory has very little experience but will certainly be thrown into the fire this season. Jin Soo Kim, whose eligibility status is still up in the air, would a be a nice addition to bolster a frontline that needs all the help they can get.
Bottom Line: Maryland has one of the better backcourts in the ACC, but their frontcourt will be a liability all season unless one of the sophomores step up. Neal is the only senior on this team so Williams is going to have to look to his juniors, two of whom have started their entire carreer at Maryland, to lead this team. There have been murmurs around College Park that this may be Gary’s last season. Those murmurs could escalate if the Terps have another disappointing year and wind up in the NIT. Unfortunately, that’s the likely destination for these Terps, especially when you consider their ACC schedule: three of the five teams they play twice are Miami, UNC and Duke.
Key Non-Conference Games: Old Spice Classic: 11/27 vs. Michigan State, 11/28 vs. Gonzaga/Ok. State, 12/03 vs. Michigan
Key Conference Games: 1/10 vs. Georgia Tech, 1/27 vs. Boston College, 2/17 @ Clemson, 2/25 vs. Duke
Most Valuable Player: Greivis Vasquez
Projected Postseason: NIT (3rd or 4th round)