Early-Season Struggles for Boston College and UNLV

17 Nov

The season is only a few days old and a lot of teams have gotten off to good starts, and some have had slow starts.  Slow starts are not a season-ending problem, as there is plenty of time for things to come together as a team gels and turns things around.   What does become a bit of an issue is when teams have expectations of a good year, a slow start can get magnified and over analyzed, which can in turn weigh on the psyche of a team, making it a little harder to get things going in the right direction.

Unfortunately for Boston College and UNLV their slow starts could turn into snowballs rolling downhill if they can’t get some things figured out.

Expectations weren’t overly high for BC who won just 16 games last season (7-11 in the ACC), but the Eagles were picked 8th in the expanded ACC and returned a pair off All-Conference candidates in junior forward Ryan Anderson and sophomore guard Olivier Hanlan and guard Joe Rahon who had a strong freshman campaign, Coach Steve Donahue’s crew was pegged for a marked improvement in 2013-14.

BC began the season with two other New England teams with NCAA Tournament aspirations in Providence and Massachusetts.  Hanlan and Anderson combined for 44 points but were undone in overtime by 17 turnovers and Bryce Cotton and his 28 points.   A couple of days later the same duo combined for 41 but were outscored by 17 in the second half as the Minutemen ended up winning going away.   Staring 0-2 in the face the Eagles hosted Toledo on Thursday and led the rockets by eight at halftime, but in what has become a pattern BC was outscored by 11 and fell by three, 95-92.

Besides the disturbing trend of 2nd half fades the Eagles are also committing over 14 turnovers a game and are currently have a-35 rebound margin, grabbing just 24.7 boards a game ranking them 350th out of 351 teams in Division 1.

BC has time to turn things around but the schedule is not favorable for them, they have a three-game home stand before Thanksgiving facing Florida Atlantic tonight followed by Connecticut and Sacred Heart.

Expectations were a bit higher in Las Vegas.   Despite a 2nd round loss in the NCAA Tournament and losing the likes of Anthony Marshall, Kaitin Reinhardt (transferred to USC), Mike Moser (transferred to Oregon as a graduate student) and Anthony Bennett was the top pick in the NBA draft.

The Rebels were thought to still be a top team in the Mountain West despite the defections.  They had some good talent joining the team like UConn transfer Roscoe Smith, a couple of SEC transfers in Deville Smith (Mississippi State) and Jelan Kendrick (Mississippi) along with freshman guard Kendall Smith.  Add that to the returning Bryce Dejean-Jones and Khem Birch the talent level seems to still be there in Vegas.  It was also thought that the pieces they had this season would fit together better than those of last year’s team.

If the team was going to be an improvement it certainly didn’t show in the first exhibition against Dixie State, a 71-70 loss.  Dave Rice’s team committed as many turnovers (20) as personal fouls while shooting under 35% from the field.   Teams often struggle in an exhibition game, this could be an aberration.  In the 2nd exhibition against Adams State the Rebels played better in-so-much as they won the game 72-67, but they still struggled against a seemingly inferior opponent with 16 turnovers and 22 fouls.  In the season opener UNLV had the same turnover and foul difficulties but beat Portland State by 19 points holding the Vikings just 31% from the field.  UC Santa Barbara showed up at the Thomas & Mack Center and handed the Rebels a 21-point loss 86-65.  The Gauchos shot nearly 56% from the field while the Rebels reverted to a bugaboo of last year’s team, relying heavily on jump shots, shooting just 36%.  Their latest game against Nebraska-Omaha it felt like one of their exhibition games with 21 turnovers and 20 fouls which allowed UNO to stay in the game despite shooting just 33%.  UNLV needed a Birch tip in with 11 seconds left to give them a 72-70 lead and ultimately the win.

The Rebels may be 2-1 with home games against Arizona State, Illinois and Tennessee Martin before hitting the road against Arizona on 12/7, but it may be the ugliest 2-1 record in the country.

Things can change before the calendar flips to 2014 but Boston College and UNLV are digging themselves early and somewhat unexpected holes that may make this season more challenging than expected.


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