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Since the 2002-2003 season, Boston University basketball has been shut out from the elusive automatic bid guaranteeing entry into the 65-team NCAA tournament, which is a single elimination tournament that takes place in the greatest month of the year, culminating the end of the college basketball season.
There are several other tournaments that signify the end of the season as well, such as the NIT, the CBI, and the recently developed CollegeInsider.com tourney, which gives another 32 teams a chance at postseason glory. This swells the number of schools participating in postseason play to 129, which is more than one-third of all Division I teams.
Boston University has participated in the NIT twice over the past several years. Recently in 2004, BU was shellacked by Rhode Island by 28. In the 2005 NIT, Georgetown rudely dismissed the Terriers 64-34. But, that Hoyas team featured several future NBA prospects like Jeff Green, Roy Hibbert, and future standout Jonathan Wallace.
The defensive-minded squad led by coach Dennis Wolff’s instruction came to a spiraling end after the NIT in 2005, as stars Rashad Bell and Chaz Carr graduated, leaving Shaun Wynn at the helm of the team (we all know where this story leads). In the 2005-06 season, fans piled out of Case Gym and Agganis Arena, faces full of dismay, watching the likes of Corey Hassan, Brian Geffen, struggle miserably through the season. In that year, the Terriers finished 12-16, losing to Vermont in the first round of the conference tourney.
With heads held high, 2006 – 2007 provided some promise for the young terrier lineup. “Mr. Basketball of Maine,” Carlos Strong, joined Newton, Mass.’ Corey Lowe, and Ontario’s assassin, Scott Britain, as top recruits for the upcoming season. Tyler Morris, a redshirt freshman, who played with future professionals Mike Conley Jr. and Greg Oden from a high school in Ohio, looked to bring home an NCAA tourney invite to Boston. You think the Terriers would even advance to the championships of the America East tournament…right?
BU had all the ingredients for an NCAA tournament-caliber team. Out was Dennis Wolff’s defensive-minded coaching style, and in came a run and gun style of play that lived and died by the three-pointer. The Terriers showed moments of promise during that season, led by Tyler Morris’ 14 PPG average. But, once again, the conference tourney proved to be the team’s Achilles heel. Corey Lowe’s heroics led BU past Binghamton in Round 1. In Round 2, even with the Terrier home court advantage, Albany erased BU’s halftime lead and pulled away in the 2nd half. Jamar Wilson and company eventually beat Vermont in the final to earn their NCAA tournament bid before getting crushed by ACC powerhouse Virginia.
My final year as a BU student (2007-2008), provided much excitement, but once again resulted in a bitter ending for basketball fans. John Holland emerged from the depths of St. Benedict’s (Bronx, NY) as a highly touted recruit from Dennis Wolff. Until this day, few of us understand how Dennis Wolff pulled this off, but nevertheless, Holland teamed up with Corey Lowe and Tyler Morris to form a talented back court trio.
Holland struggled at the outset of the season, but eventually dazzled fans with his acrobatic above the rim play and continuous defensive intensity. However, inconsistent play from Morris, Lowe, Strong, and Scott Brittain set back the Terriers. Holland did his best, electrifying the crowd with his own 10-0 run against the Hartford Hawks He finished that game with 38 points in one of the best performances in BU history (2-28-2008).
March proved tough for the Terriers, and they dragged their feet heading into the conference tourney. BU fought hard and beat Albany in Round 1 after a breathtaking 45-minute game, earning a second round berth against Hartford in the America East semifinals. Joe Zeglinski’s Hartford Hawks iced the Terrier shooting barrage, earning a seven-point victory. Despite being picked by many to win the tournament, BU fell short, and terrier fans once again hung their heads low.
Similarly, this past season provided a roller coaster that ultimately ended once again in defeat. Injuries to stars Tyler Morris and Carlos Strong proved vital to the Terriers’ lack of success. Corey Lowe lost his cool several times during the year, which eventually led to his benching by Coach Wolff.
Freshman Jake O’Brien used his inside and outside combo skills and sparked a dismal start to the Terrier season. A five-game losing streak during the Christmas season proved too much to overcome. Shrugging off early season setbacks, the Terriers caught fire in January, winning nine straight games, One of those nine wins was one of the greatest BU games in history, as the Terriers won in 4OT’s against Stony Brook at Case Gym.
Cold shooting, inconsistent defense, and sloppy play cost BU three straight games near the end of the season. They bounced back with three straight victories, and confidence was high entering the boxing match with UMBC in Round 1 of the America East Tourney. Leading by right points with less than three minutes to go, careless Terrier play allowed UMBC to storm back and tie the game. BU eventually faltered in OT, leaving Dennis Wolff’s future as the coach uncertain.
With all this being said, BU fans will have to remain strong to not to lose hope in their team. They have been picked twice to earn the automatic bid by winning the conference tourney, yet have not even reached the final game in both years. There may be several reasons for the underachieving Terrier success in recent years: to inconsistent coaching of Dennis Wolff, the opening of a more daunting home court known as Agganis Arena, or simply the lack of a big man (and no, Omari Peterkin, Ibrahim Konate, or Scott Brittain did not serve as a formidable presence in the paint).
Now with a new coach, there should be no valid excuses for the 2009–2010 season. Four main senior leading scorers return along with junior John Holland, and these Terriers will look to bring home an NCAA bid to Boston. Will these seniors (don’t forget Sherrod Smith too), ever get to taste what it feels like to play in the NCAA’s? We will know in a few short months, as November marks the tip off for the upcoming season. Or, will fans have to wait again until next year?