A Decade of Boston College Basketball: Part One
Last week, we took a trip down memory lane to remember Boston College troubled superstar center Sean Williams. Today we will continue to remember the past years of Boston College Basketball. We will look back at some of BC’s best dating back to the 2000 season and reviewing thru the present.
Okay here we go...
Well, it's safe to say that Boston College started off the decade with a bang. At the time, BC wasn't exactly a great basketball program. It was Al Skinner's fourth season as head coach in the Heights and in his first three seasons, the Eagles had turned in three straight sub .500 seasons.
In all fairness to Skinner, Jim O'Brien (and the alumni) had left BC in pretty bad shape. Skinner arrived in the middle of a lawsuit between Boston College and O'Brien. As a result, BC had lost its top recruit Scoonie Penn, who had followed O'Brien to Ohio State where they reached the Final Four in 1999. However, O'Brien's time at Ohio State would also end on bitter terms.
Regardless of what happened, Al Skinner was still able to build the program he desired. The Eagles leader was sophomore superstar Troy Bell. Bell would go onto the win Big East player of the year twice.
The Eagles began the season 11-0, which was new school record, before losing at St. John's. During that streak BC defeated Connecticut for the first time 1988.
BC had been ranked 24th in the nation when they lost to St. John’s, but the Eagles would bounce back with a win over Miami. A few days later the Eagles took a road trip down Tobacco Road and took a beating from Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
On January 27th, 2001 the Eagles won at Villianova for the first time since 1993.
Just one week later the 20th ranked Eagles defeated Villanova at the Conte Forum in front of a sellout crowd giving the Eagles their first sweep of Villanova since the 1992-93 season.
The Eagles kept home cooking when three days later they hosted 9th ranked Syracuse in front of another sellout crowd at Conte. BC would beat the Orange by 2 points on Xavier Singletary's layup with 39 seconds left. The win gave BC their 17th win of the season and improved their Big East mark to 8-1. After the win, the fans stormed the court and they had reason. Video Highlights from this game can be found here.
That season Boston College had become one of the more hostile places to play. They held a 14-0 home record after that game...they would finish the season 17-0 at Conte. The 10th ranked Eagles would get their 20th win of the season on the road at 25th ranked Providence and the win guaranteed the Eagles a first round bye in the Big East tournament. The Eagles were in pursuit of being the first team in Big East history to go last place to first place in consecutive seasons.
Boston College headed into the Big East tournament with a 22-4 (13-3) record. The 13-3 Big East record gave BC the Big East eastern division title and the overall regular season championship. Boston College became the first team in Big East history to go from last to first in just one year.
In the Big East tournament, BC destroyed all three of their opponents on their way to the Big East championship. BC defeated Villanova for the third time in the season 93-79, Seton Hall 75-48 (ended game on a 33-6 run), and Pittsburgh 79-57.
BC was figured to earn a two or three seed in the NCAA tournament. They were given a three seed and they would face Southern Utah in the first round. Boston College defeated the Thunderbirds in the first round, but their record setting season would come to an end when they were upset by USC. The loss made my ninth birthday one to forget, but the Eagles finished the season 27-5 setting a new school record for wins.
Click here for the recaps from the 2000-01 season.
Despite their early second round exit the Eagles had a lot to look forward to next season. The Eagles would be returning leading scorer and Big East co-player of the year Troy Bell, along with key contributors Ryan Sidney, Uka Agbai, and Kenny Walls.
The season started with head coach Al Skinner receiving a well deserved four year contract extension. Skinner had won Big East and National Coach of the year honors in 2001. The extension would keep Skinner on the Eagles bench until the 2007-08 season.
The hype surrounding the 2001-02 Eagles may have been greater than ever. The Eagles were all over national sports magazines. Here is a brief look at the predictions of just a few of these publications:
Lindy's: Ranked BC eighth in its national poll and first in the Big East Eastern Division and selected Troy Bell as its Big East preseason player of the year.
Athlon Sports: Predicted the Eagles to finish first in the Big East eastern division and to advance to the Sweet 16, selected Troy Bell as a second-team All-American, the Big East preseason player of the year, and named Uka Agbai as the Big East most underrated player.
Street & Smith's: Ranked BC 14th in the nation and first in the Big East eastern division, predicted Troy Bell to earn All-Big East first team honors.
The Sporting News: Ranked BC 18th in its national poll and first in the Big East eastern division, selected Troy Bell as its Big East preseason player of the year and called Uka Agbai the Big East's most underrated player.
BC had never really received attention like this, so as you can see the basketball team was becoming a big deal around campus.
The Eagles were returning three starters and only one question surrounded this team headed into the season. Could they handle all the media attention? Initially, yes, but when the conference schedule came around the Eagles failed to live up to the hype.
The Eagles began the season 9-0 and had beaten Big 10 foes Penn State and Michigan. The Eagles had an 18 game home win streak dating back to 2000. The last game they lost at home was February 23, 2000 vs. Pitt. The Eagles home win streak would end at 25 after losing to Pittsburgh in their Big East home opener.
After winning 25 in a row at home, the Eagles would drop their next three home contests and their national ranking would drop from 10 to 16 to 22. BC would snap the losing streak with a win over Virginia Tech, but later that week the Eagles would lose to top ranked Duke for the second year in a row dropping the Eagles out of the Top 25 polls.
The Eagles finished the regular season 19-9 (8-8) in the Big East. The .500 Big East record was good enough for fourth in the eastern division. BC would defeat Rutgers, but fall to eventual runner up Pittsburgh in the Big East tournament. In the NCAA tournament BC would fall to Texas in the first round. The Eagles were fortunate to even receive a bid and the 11 seed, and first round exit had BC falling way short of expectations. They finished 20-12 earning their second straight NCAA tournament bid.
Game schedule, results, and recaps can be found here.
Despite the underachievement by the 2001-02 Eagles, expectations were still high for Boston College. BC would be returning four starters and the Eagles were predicted to finish second in the eastern division behind defending champ Connecticut. Troy Bell was selected to first team all-conference pre-season honors.
Just three games into the season, the Eagles took a huge blow. Not only had they started the season 1-2, starting forward, Uka Agbai went out with a serious neck injury. He was figured to be out for six weeks, but sadly his season would end against Holy Cross after just three games.
BC had serious holes to fill with Agbai out for the season. There were questions if BC would be able to compete in the Big East without Agbai, but in stepped freshman Craig Smith, who was nothing short of spectacular. He would earn Big East honors several times throughout the year. However, the spotlight remained on Troy Bell.
On February 12, 2003 Troy Bell became BC's all time leading scorer after dropping 33 against Providence.
BC would finish up their non conference schedule with an 8-4 record. The previous year it was the Eagles non conference record that got them into the NCAA tournament. This year was going to have to be a little different.
The Eagles would go 10-6 in conference play. Craig Smith was emerging into a double double machine and Troy Bell was working his way up the NCAA all time scoring list. The Eagles failed to make the NCAA tournament after going 1-1 in the Big East tournament, but still Eagles fans had a lot to be excited about after Craig Smith's huge freshman year.
The Eagles would accept a bid to play in the NIT. Again they would go 1-1 in the post season finishing with an overall record of 19-12.
Troy Bell ended his career at Boston College by being named to the AP All American 2nd Team and Basketball Times All American 1st Team. He was also named Big East player of the year. A month later the BC's all time leading scorer was drafted 16th overall by the Boston Celtics. Bell finished with 2,632 career points.
Here is a link to the Eagles results and game recaps from the 2002-03 season.
The Eagles had a tough start to last year’s season after losing Uka Agbai after just three games. This season, the Eagles starting lineup took another serious blow when three year starter Ryan Sidney left the team for personal reasons. Sidney was a 1,000 point man for BC.
BC had already been down one guard when Troy Bell graduated and now they were down two. But again, similar to the previous season, two freshmen stepped up big for the Eagles, Sean Marshall and Jared Dudley.
Ryan Sidney’s departure remained a mystery for quite some time.
For more information regarding the story of Ryan Sidney you can follow this link.
About two months later, it was announced that BC would be joining the Atlantic Coast Conference. BC followed other Big East squads Virginia Tech and Miami to the ACC. At the time, it wasn't clear when BC would join the league, however it was later announced that at the conclusion of the 2004-05 academic year, BC would be officially made the newest member of the ACC.
Craig Smith's big freshman year earned him All Big East second team honors, but about three weeks prior to the start of the season, Smith went down with a knee injury. Two weeks earlier, center Nate Dornekamp suffered a foot injury putting him out for 6-8 weeks. Dornekamp and Smith were both two year starters. Smith was expected to be out for four weeks.
Just as Smith was winning Big East honors his freshman year under the spotlight of Troy Bell, so was Jared Dudley. Both Dudley and Smith received honors several times throughout the year.
BC jumped out to an 11-2 (1-0) start after defeating Georgetown in their Big East season opener. The Eagles had fallen off slightly dropping to 5-5 before winning five of their last six Big East games to finish 10-6 and 21-8 overall. Their 10-6 record was good enough for 5th place in the Big East, which had conjoined the eastern and western divisions after the 2002-03 season.
In the Big East tournament, the Eagles would reach the semi final round before losing to Pittsburgh. After missing out on the tournament a year before, the Eagles would make a return the big dance.
Their season resume earned them a six seed. They were able to defeat Utah in the first round, but they lost by just three points to the eventual national runner up Georgia Tech. Large part of the loss had to do with Craig Smith and senior Uka Agbai being shut down, mainly due to foul trouble. Jared Dudley added 13 points.
A video highlight clip from the game.
Here is a link to BC's schedule, results, and recaps from the 2003-04 season.
Again the Eagles were bounced in the second round. Al Skinner just hasn't been able to get his teams over the hump despite their high expectations and solid regular season success. Many still wonder if BC could have made an Elite eight run that year, due to the fact that they had only lost to Georgia Tech by three without Smith or Agbai being involved. Add Sidney into the mix and maybe, just maybe they pull the upset. In the Sweet 16 they would've met with 10 seeded Nevada.
Yet again, the Eagles were really looking forward to the next season. BC had lost starting forward Uka Agbai who had passed a lot onto Craig Smith who would be entering his junior year at BC.
To conclude the 2003-04 season, sophomore Johnnie Jackson and freshman Devon Evertsen had announced that they would be transferring out of BC. The Eagles were quick to replace them by adding two walk ons and John Oates. About a month later Al Skinner received another contract extension, keeping him in the Heights until the 2009-10 season.
Stay tuned for part two of this three part series!
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