March 18, 2008

Sarandis: Ending on a high note?

R.R. Marshall: Ted, the good news is BC was able to break that six-game losing streak with a 71-68 comeback win over Maryland in the first round of the 2008 ACC Tournament. Since you were there what was your perspective on the game and what it meant to this team?

Ted Sarandis: The victory over Maryland proved to be a bright light in what has been a difficult season for this team, particularly the way the game went down. For this team to find a way to win after falling behind 20-5 early was really a tribute to the resiliency of this group, and it was the kind of game that should be a real boost for them for the future. It really appeared at the start that it would be very unlikely that they'd be able to make it competitive, let alone win, but they managed to trim that 15-point Maryland down to six at the half and then they came out and played perhaps their best second half of the entire season. They outscored Maryland 46-37 and withstood a furious Maryland rally late when their full court-pressure gave BC major problems.

It was a tremendous team effort with the Eagles getting five men in double figures in scoring for the first time since their January victory over Wake Forest, They got a really strong performance off the bench from both Shamari Spears and Josh Southern, who combined for 20 points and 17 rebounds. They were really central to the club's huge second half performance, and it was just a huge key for them to get that type of productivity off the bench. The Eagles also forced 21 Maryland turnovers and scored 17 second chance points thanks to 21 BC offensive rebounds, and they didn't allow Maryland's two frontcourt players to dominate the game. I really believe the fact that they were able to break that six-game losing streak and beat a team that was desperate for a win to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive has to be one of their more gratifying performances of the entire season. This was a real positive for this team, and it will allow them to start to feel good about themselves looking towards the future.

RRM: At times it seemed like Maryland coach Gary Williams was trying to just get his team through this game and have some energy left for their second round game. Do you feel the Eagles sensed this and took advantage with their big second half run?

TS: Maryland was in a tough position needing to win two games in the ACC Tournament, but Gary Williams played several of his key players major minutes so I didn't feel he was trying to save them for the following night. There was a definite sense of desperation from their club, and I thought they played extremely tight. I thought the longer the game went on with BC able to hang around and then forge ahead kind of punctured the psyche of Maryland. The Eagles were able to get the lead up to nine and then they were able to withstand that ferocious all-court pressure by Maryland in the last two minutes of the game.

I thought the key sequence in the game came when Maryland went on a run and took the lead by eight with 15:35 to play in the second half. BC did not crack, and they were able to rebound and retake the lead for good when Rakim Sanders hit a three-pointer with 6:52 to play. That was really the most impressive aspect of the game for me. It was just a very impressive half of basketball, and one I'm sure the players and the coaching staff will look to focus on over the offseason.

RRM: The bad news is BC's Achilles Heel surfaced again in the following game against Clemson when the Tigers' fullcourt pressure forced 22 Eagle turnovers and the Tigers won going away 82-48. Clemson may well be the best pressing team in the nation, but dealing with pressure has been an issue for BC all season and they never seemed to find a solution?

TS: There's no question that the press has been an issue for this team all season long. I'm actually surprised that opposing teams did not press BC a lot more frequently. They were completely overwhelmed by Clemson, as they simply could not handle the ball against their all-court pressure. As you mentioned the Eagles committed 22 turnovers that Clemson turned into 38 points, many of them lay ins and dunks. Inbounding the ball against all-court pressure has been a problem for BC all year, and now in retrospect that Clemson team could well have been their most difficult match up they faced this season.

They are going to have to spend the offseason working on a scheme to counter and break the pressure. They are going to have to dispel the perception that they won't be able to handle the ball against the press or they will see it all the time. The big problem for the Eagles started right from their trying to inbound the ball. The man inbounding the basketball has to be able to run the baseline and force the defense to move, and they can't settle for getting the ball inbounded into the backcourt along the side where the second man is able to slide in from the weakside and trap and use the sideline as another defender. BC has to learn to get some movement away from the ball and then be very active and quick in breaking with the ball with either Tyrese Rice off the dribble or looking to make the long pass into the frontcourt in trying to get an easy offensive opportunity. The old adage is teams that press don't like to be pressed, and I'd like to see BC come out next year and press a team like Clemson and try to turn them over and try to fight fire with fire, so to speak. But there's no doubt they are going to have to spend a lot of time working on handling the ball against all-court pressure, and it will be incumbent upon the young guys on the team to work really hard this summer and get a lot of instruction in what head coach Al Skinner likes to say is recognizing and seeing the floor.

RRM: The stalwart inside play of Josh Southern in the Maryland win has to provide a bright spot for this team heading into next season. Would he classify as the biggest surprise for the Eagles this season?

TS: He certainly finished the season strongly, and I thought he did a very good job in the win over Maryland. He struggled a little bit from the floor, going only three of nine from the floor, but what I really liked is that he made his free throws, had eight rebounds, and he passed the ball really well out of double teams, and I think that kind of performance bodes really well for him for the future. Josh Southern has a very high basketball IQ and a good feel for the game, and he has also worked hard to improve his free throw shooting.

We all know he did not play at the beginning of the year with 11 DNPs, but he hung in there and worked really hard. Al Skinner said he was the hardest working practice player for this squad. He showed steady improvement all season to the point where he became an important part of their regular rotation. I envision him as having a very bright future and being a real key for this team going forward. He's a big guy who moves pretty well, and he should be able to key an offensive attack that will play a little bit more aggressively and quickly next year. He's just a very solid, all-around player, and I really look for him to do some very, very good things for this team starting next season.

Next: Ted handicaps the 2008 NCAA Tournament and looks ahead at the 2008-09 BC Eagles

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