Looking Ahead In BC Hoops: Jackson's Energy Key To Success

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Looking Ahead In BC Hoops: Jackson's Energy Key To Success
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For those of you who have watched the Boston College Eagles last two games, you’ll know that they have hit their stride. Maybe a little too late or a lot too late, but remember that there is just one senior on this team. The Eagles currently stand at 14-13 (5-8) and 2-0 with Reggie Jackson as the starting point guard. 

Coach Al Skinner knew that something wasn’t right when his team still wasn’t winning at full health. Well after 27 games, he finally decided to give Jackson a shot as the point guard. It has been a theme all year long for the Eagles to fall back early and then storm back by substituting Jackson, only to lose the game in the finals minutes. 

It was a gutsy call to insert Jackson at point guard, who has made some questionable plays down the stretch of close games. However, he has also made some amazing plays that have helped shift momentum.

With Jackson in the lineup, the Eagles don’t have to worry about shifting momentum because they have had from start to finish in the last two games with Jackson in the starting lineup. With that said, it is clear that the Eagles are playing more inspired basketball and for the first time it seems that they are enjoying playing with each other.

When Rakim Sanders came back from his injury early in the year, he was flat and showed nothing of what we were used to seeing from him. As of now, his numbers don’t reflect how he will end this season. Several times earlier in the year, Sanders looked like he didn’t even want to be playing basketball.

After watching him the last two games, he has since resurrected from the dead and he is playing better than I’ve ever seen. He is using his size, his intelligence, and his raw ability. Sanders is playing more aggressive and he is playing like we expected. My hat goes off to the young man for sticking with it and not quitting half way through. Sanders surpassed the 1,000 point mark in the win over Virginia Tech on Wednesday. Next to Sanders is Joe Trapani and Cory Raji.

Both Raji and Trapani are and have been the Eagles most consistent players all year long. But it too seems that they are playing more inspired. Despite Trapani’s sluggish shooting performance against UNC, he came out hot against VT and put in 11 of the teams first 15 points, including three threes. Raji was the beast on the boards that we are used to, but he is getting that shot on the baseline that is almost automatic for him.

I can’t say enough about Evan Ravanel. His performance in the beginning of the season was subpar, but ESPN’s own Andy Katz spread word last summer that Ravanel was improving. We are starting to see that. If you ask me, he is playing better than Southern or Dunn has all year. Sure, Southern deserves to start, but he continuously makes dumb fouls and like Dunn he doesn’t finish strong. Southern’s rebounding has been solid, while Dunn has been horrible.

Personally, I don’t feel that Dunn should even be in the rotation anymore. There was a play against UNC where he was totally dominated on the glass, after one attempt at the rebound; he resumed by watching the play. UNC scored on a put back right in front of him and then he sulked down the court. This lead to Ravanel’s coming out party.

Evan Ravanel gives the Eagles more than Southern because he can make his free throws, he is wide, tall, and strong, and his can finish. Ravanel is a great rebounder, he can move the opponent, his foot work is great, and again, he can finish.

Why am I stressing this? Dunn and Southern have missed way to many close shots at the basket because they get interrupted or blocked because they try to lay it in, rather than slam dunking the basketball like Craig Smith once did for the Eagles. Ravanel goes up and hammers it down. He may not be the ideal big man, but at least he used his weight to its full advantage. He has great energy. He is not a shot blocker, but they Eagles don’t have a true shot blocker. Ravanel is the Eagles best low post defender. I am really looking forward to seeing him play more down the stretch.

Some would figure that this change has a negative impact on Biko Paris, but I think differently. I’ve noticed the Paris is playing a lot more aggressive. He is looking for his shot and he offers a nice change of pace, being that he hardly runs the flex. He also allows Jackson to play his natural position when they are in at the same time.

Back to the flex…it seems that the Eagles have finally got it down. It only took the whole season, but the flex has been more efficient for the Eagles the past two games than it has all year. Their possessions have great structure and they are taking good shots.   

The past two games have been the Eagles best two games all year, but was one greater than the other? Absolutely. Sure the Eagles beat a lesser UNC team (compared to VT), but the major difference was extending the lead.

Several times throughout the year (South Carolina & Miami to name a few) the Eagles have jumped out to big first half leads and then let the other guys back in it, this time around against Tech, the Eagles kept pushing the lead. The best example I can take from this, was when Rakim Sanders fouled at VT player hard on a breakaway with less than five minutes left and a huge lead.

To me that play is the best example of the difference between the Eagles of late and the Eagles of now. This team is going to play like that from here on out and they will carry it on to next year. 

The Eagles have three league games left, two of which are on the road in Atlanta and Raleigh. The final home game splits the two with a contest against UVA. Chances are slim to none that the Eagles will make the tournament, but a bid to the NIT or CBI is still alive.

In my mind, the Eagles will have to reach the ACC championship game if they want any chance at the NCAA’s. Notice I said reach. This would give the Eagles 20 wins on the season and if they were to reach the ACC championship game, they’d have to beat some good teams. This would certainly increase their chances, but they would still be slim.

Winning the ACC championship is the Eagles only hope after that. BC would have to win six in a row and eight in a row if you include the past two games. In my opinion, there isn’t a single team in this league that the Eagles can’t beat when they played the way they did against UNC and VT.  

Looking ahead to Saturday, the Eagles probably have their toughest matchup of the year going down to Atlanta to play Georgia Tech. BC will be pressured. They didn’t handle VT’s pressure to well so there is reason for concern. They need to stop inbounding the ball to the corner and run some set plays off the press. They have to make GT pay for pressing, just like they did to South Carolina.

If they can’t beat the pressure, they are done. If they can somehow methodically pick the press apart and slow the game down, it too will work to their advantage. Of any team in the ACC, I think GT is the most dangerous and I have trouble seeing the Eagles pull this one off.  Virginia and NC State are games that BC should win. They have played well against these teams in the past and I do expect them to beat them handedly.    

From here on out, the Eagles have a lot on the line. Any chance at a postseason tournament lurks every game and credibility for next year as well. People will remember that Jackson started the last several games for the Eagles and if they finish strong they can gain a lot of respect for next year seeing that they lose Tyler Roche, who is fifth on the team in scoring.

The Eagles also have what is probably their best ever recruiting class coming in under Al Skinner. Brady Heslip is at school and getting a feel for the system. He is a guy who can shoot and control the game. Ndao and Noreen both big men promise to bring a lot of versatility to the Eagles front court.

It’s going to be a lot of fun to watch the Eagles down the stretch based on what we have seen recently.  

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