Men's basketball picked to lead America East
"Let's hope the coaches are right," laughs Dennis Wolff, BU
men's basketball coach. The America East preseason coaches poll, along
with ESPN, has predicted that the Terriers will end the 2001-2002 season
at the top of the conference standings.
The last time BU received such a compliment was three years ago, after
winning the conference tournament and earning a bid to the NCAA tournament.
Back then, the Terriers proved the prognosticators correct. Stalled by
a four-game losing streak, they then rallied for seven straight wins at
the end of the season and took the America East regular-season title.
Since losing the tournament championship game to Delaware in 1998, however,
BU has suffered through and 9-18, 7-22, and 14-14 seasons.
Why is a team that is rebounding from a .500 record picked to finish
first? While it helps that last season's champion, Hofstra, left for the
Colonial Athletic Association, along with Drexel, Delaware, and Towson
State (America East picked up Stony Brook, Albany, and Binghamton), Wolff
says, "I don't think it's surprising at all." BU returns all
11 letter winners this year -- the 2000-2001 Terriers had no seniors on
the team. Add a promising recruiting class to this year's edition, and
the team has all the ingredients of a recipe for success.
BU lived up to expectations in its season opener on November 14, defeating
New Orleans, 69-63, in the first round of the Guardians Classic in Iowa
City. Although the Terriers didn't win the tournament, they did give Iowa
a scare in the championship game, before ultimately losing to the eighth-ranked
The game was closer than the score indicates. "We were down 10 points
with 12 minutes to go," says Wolff. "From the standpoint of
competing with a team like that on its home court, we did very well for
the majority of the game." BU jumped out to an 8-0 lead, led 13-5
with 16:18 left in the first half, and was within 6 points of Iowa at
halftime. Then, in the second half, the Terriers responded to an Iowa
basket with a 7-0 run to make it a one-point game with 16:39 remaining.
But that's as close as BU came.
"We just ran out of gas," says Wolff of the final minutes of
the game. "They were bigger than us inside and wore us down in the
lane." The disparity in size was evident in the rebound numbers,
which favored Iowa, 49-36. Undersized and fatigued, BU resorted to three-pointers,
and connected on only 3 of 18 shots in the second half of the game.
Guard Matt Turner (MET'03), who scored 17 points -- including two 3-pointers
-- in the first 10:26 of the game, was held to 4 points the rest of the
game. But Turner is not known for stumbling after a charge out of the
starting gate. He is the same player who scored all of his 14 points in
the second half against New Orleans on November 13. Is Turner a streaky
shooter who should get the ball only when he has hot hands? "What
I would call him is a really talented offensive player who has to work
on not losing his concentration," says Wolff. "I think Iowa
made some adjustments guarding him, but he didn't make adjustments to
the defense and consequently turned the ball over too many times."
BU was also stymied by 17th-ranked Boston College, who beat the Terriers
82-65 on November 18 in the Conte Forum. Forward Billy Collins (SED'02)
tied the game at seven with a 3-pointer, but the Eagles scored 10 unanswered
points. The Terriers cut the lead to three (23-20) with about 10 minutes
left in the half, but the reigning Big East champions went on a 24-6 run
and never looked back. However, BU evened its record at 2-2 with a 70-58
win over St. Peter's on November 25.
In the next month, BU will face a multitude of tough teams: Holy Cross
on December 1, Harvard on December 4, and Providence on December 22. Only
one of those games, against Harvard, is at home.
Wolff isn't discouraged by being beaten by two nationally ranked teams
on the road, as long as something can be learned from the defeats -- such
as how to win against competitive schools in the next four weeks. "Hopefully,
these games will give us an idea of what we should improve on," he
says. "You play in a hostile environment, figure out a way to get
better, and go on from there."