|Patriots’ Defense to Face one of Season’s Toughest Tests in Bears||And Then There Were 16: Celtics to Waive Four Players, Bynum Next?||Chandler Jones Out 1 Month With Hip Injury; Patriots Sign Alan Branch||2014 MLB Playoffs Expert Picks: World Series|
For three consecutive years, the Terriers have been preseason selections by America East coaches and by several sports related websites, such as ESPN and CBS Sports, to advance to the NCAA tournament, but BU has failed to do so since 2002. This year, which started out so promising, seems to have the same trend as previous Terrier basketball teams over the past five years. The Terriers currently find themselves in fourth place in the America East standings at 8-5, but the team has been unable to string together victories or defeat any of the teams above them in the conference.
Since their previous two game losing streak, BU easily defeated UNH (69-47) and Albany (68-53), before a heartbreaking 76-75 loss against Vermont. Boston University has three home conference games left against America East competition, along with a bracket buster matchup at Delaware, where the Terriers look for their third consecutive win in the collegiate wide invitational. This is a key stretch of four games that will lead up to the America East Conference Tournament, March 5-7, in West Hartford, CT.
BU, the number one scoring team in the America East, has struggled with its defense this year, allowing almost as many points as they score per game. This is not common of previous Terrier teams which were always among the nation’s best defensive teams in terms of points allowed and opponents’ field goal percentage.
2. Senior Leadership
We have a team full of seniors, eight to be exact, and none of them have taken control when the team most needs leadership. For example, BU led Vermont 75-71 with one minute left in the game. BU senior Tyler Morris (92% ft shooter) missed a foul shot to complete his three point play: inexcusable.
During the next possession, Vermont senior Nick Vier came off a pick and drained a three from the top of the key because BU senior Carlos Strong fails to get around a screen with 45 seconds left in the game. With Vermont down one and 25 seconds left to play, Vermont senior Marqus Blakely had the ball at the elbow with two BU defenders draped all over him. Instead of attempting a wild shot, he dished the ball to teammate Evan Fjeld for an easy layup, which gave Vermont a one point lead. With nine seconds left in the game, BU senior Corey Lowe dribbled the ball off his foot out of bounds to seal the win for the Catamounts. This is just an excerpt from the end of the Vermont game, but a lack of senior floor leadership has caused BU to falter late in games.
3. Injuries and Transfers
Every year, at least one of the basketball recruits becomes unhappy with the program one way or another, and ends up leaving the team for different reasons. This year, standout recruit B.J. Bailey has left the team for personal reasons and has decided to move back to New Jersey to be closer to home. Scott Brittain, an Ontario native, suffered his sixth concussion before the season started and has ended his NCAA career early for health reasons.
Tyler Morris, who red shirted his freshman year due to injury, broke his hand diving for a loose ball causing him to miss a key stretch of games in the winter. Last year, Carlos Strong and Morris each missed the majority of the season with serious ankle and knee injuries. Former Terrier guard Corey Hassan now leads the NCAA in three pointers made at Sacred Heart. The list goes on and on…
Even before the season started, BU was once again picked to win the conference tournament and go dancing in March. Pressure from the fans, media, and internally from the athletic department always seems to get to the players, causing them to falter under the lights, and the team has also shown an inability to close out games. Maine broke a 54-all tie at the buzzer with an offensive rebound put back by a guard that was not boxed out. Vermont, playing on the road, found a hole in the Swiss cheese Terrier defense to score an uncontested layup in the closing seconds to seal the win.
5. Lack of an Inside Presence
The Terriers are stacked with five players who are all capable of shooting and scoring from all points of the court. Corey Lowe and Carlos Strong will not hesitate to fire away as long as they are past halfcourt. Jake O’Brien is one of the best long range shooting big men in the America East. John Holland and Tyler Morris aren’t afraid to put up three pointers either.
The one missing link in this combination is the lack of a true big man on the interior. Jeff Pelage and Valdas Sirutis chalk up minutes here and there for Coach Pat Chambers, but neither of them has a definitive offensive impact on the outcome of games. Both players can clog up the paint, rebound against other big men, and play acceptable defense, but neither man can post up in the paint and both lack an offesnive skill set. This has hurt the Terriers badly, as they have to rely on outside shooting, which has not always been there.