Stars, Skinner, and winning differently next season
This season validated many things around BC basketball. It showed that last year was a temporary setback due to rebuilding. It showed that BC could win in the ACC with a young team. And finally it showed that BC could win if Rice got more of his teammates involved. But as we all read in the run up to the tournament, opposing coaches and fans still felt Rice was the key to the team. Friday night USC stopped Rice and therefore stopped BC. But I don't think any of us believe it was that simple.
Rice is now gone and Skinner's squad will be very different next year. For the first time in a long time BC won't have a proven star returning. In fact next year will be the first time since 1999-2000 that BC will enter the basketball season without a player who has earned league honors. None of the super sophs, Roche or Jackson have been named to ACC rookie teams, defensive teams or all conference teams. The only player to get any sort of recognition is Joe Trapani, but that comes with a major asterisk since his America East All-Rookie Team honors had nothing to do with his BC career.
Stars have served Skinner well. Each year he took his scheme and adjusted it to the talents of his best players. He also let the under recruited, late bloomers lead the team emotionally and through example. Despite our occasional frustrations with how the team deferred to these different stars, the program worked. BC kept finding and installing great players and kept winning.
The current mix of players breaks that model. The six sophs (and even Reggie Jackson) are a different breed of BC recruits. They are not McDonald's All Americans, but all had solid offers from major conferences. None were as unheralded as Bell or Dudley. They also all came in together. Prior to that BC had small classes that saw usually just one star emerge. These guys have a bond that prior classes didn't. They also will share the load in ways previous teams did not.
I don't mean to limit any of the guys we have returning. I think more than one will get all league honors before their BC careers are over. You could argue that Sanders and Jackson were overlooked this year. But there is no one yet who has shown the consistency to be considered a star. Some of the clutch moments are a good foundation for stardom. You need a pile of game changing moments to be considered a star.
I actually think the team concept will take BC further than any of the previous Skinner years. Next year Al will have one of the most experienced, versatile and deepest teams in the ACC. Not dominant in any facet, but good enough in all. And most importantly, unless there is a late flyer or some one has a change of heart, BC will not be bringing in any significant recruit. Barring transfers and a little more Ravenal and Ellmore sprinkled in, what you see is what you get for BC basketball. Can they do it? I think so. In a way, I think they outgrew Rice this year. Friday's struggles were a learning tool and a transition. These guys now have the off season to bet better, work together and show that there is more to BC than just a star system.