Suspensions and a key injury on Wednesday
With a slate full of games from the Big Ten and Big East, you'd expect to only have to concentrate on scores Wednesday night. Well, that all went out the window when Boston College announced that center Sean Williams and forward Akida McLain were dismissed from the team for a violation of team rules. Further details should be released in the coming days, but going into Littlejohn Coliseum to face an angry group of Clemson Tigers shorthanded is not a good way to spend your Saturday. The dismissed pair have been in Coach Al Skinenr's doghouse in the past for behavioral reasons, having missed games the past two seasons as a result. Those transgressions were taken care of at the beginning of each season, however, and that's what makes this episode all the more surprising.
Williams, who was leading the ACC in blocks, is clearly the bigger loss of the two. McLain, due to suspension and an ankle injury, played sparingly in his handful of games played. Jared Dudley is still dealing with a stress fracture in his left foot, so a heavier workload is not what he needs right now. Shomari Spears, who some compared to former Eagle Craig Smith, will need to show that those comparisons were justified if the Eagles are to go back to the NCAA Tournament. With the lack of depth inside, there is a silver lining for BC. With the ACC performing as well as it has to this point in the season, there will be plenty of chances for quality wins. But this will be an uphill battle for a team that wasn't deep to begin with.
As for the injury, look to Seton Hall's 69-68 win over Providence. Less than two minutes into the game, senior center Grant Billmeier was lost for the game to a left knee injury suffered while trying to defend a Herbert Hill dunk. Although John Garcia played nine inspiring minutes and scored six points, it remains to be seen how effective he can be on his left knee that still isn't 100%. Thursday will be a tense day on the South Orange campus, with fans awaiting both the latest on Billmeier's injury and whether or not Garcia experienced any soreness in his left knee. Unfortunately for the Pirates, Georgetown comes calling on Friday night, and the Hoyas may be the biggest team that the Hall faces all season. Worst case scenario would leave the Pirates with Stan Gaines and pretty much no one else in the paint (it doesn't look like Mani Messy will be looked to for major minutes this season).
The game of the night on Wednesday, besides the Pirates and the Friars? How about Cincinnati and Syracuse. The first half went as many would have expected, with the Orange dominating play, but the Bearcats stormed back and even had the lead in the final minute. Only to foul Eric Devendorf with 16 seconds remaining. His free throws game Syracuse the game 77-76, but Cincinnati's Marcus Sikes put on a show from behind the arc. Sikes hit eight three pointers, but couldn't prevent UC's fifth straight loss, their longest losing skid in nineteen years.
In the Colonial, don't look now but George Mason has won four straight league games after starting 0-3. The Patriots beat William & Mary last night, exacting revenge for a loss to the Tribe two weeks ago. Funny how things can change in conference play; two weeks ago William & Mary was one of the surprises in the leage and we were all asking what was wrong with GMU. Now the Patriots have passed the Tribe in the standings and can make up more ground with their next two games at home against Northeastern and league-leading Virginia Commonwealth. As for the VCU Rams, first-year head coach Anthony Grant won't get many votes for national coach of the year, but he's taken a good team that went 19-10 last season and turned them into a 15-3 team that people have to respect as a viable threat to win the CAA. We've all talked about Mason, Hofstra and Drexel, but it's time to give the Rams their due.
Lastly, here are a couple of games to pay soem attention to on Thursday:
- Pennsylvania @ La Salle: Big 5 rivalry.
- Fairleigh Dickinson @ Central Connecticut St.: A big game between two of the top teams in the NEC.
- Hartford @ UMBC: Two teams once at the top of America East look to hold onto any hope of competing at the top of the league.