Thursday, March 23, 2006
By Jared Trexler
Wildcat fans, meet Boston College star forward Craig Smith now.
If not, you will surely see him in your nightmares later.
Smith is a physical specimen. He averaged 17.7 points and 9.3 rebounds per contest during the regular season. He plays with a chip on his shoulder. And they are wide shoulders.
More importantly, Smith is everything that Villanova isn't. He is a bruiser who manhandles opponents on both ends of the floor. He has been even bigger, if that's possible, during the NCAA Tournament, posting 23.5 points and 14.5 rebounds per contest.
Those numbers will keep Villanova head coach Jay Wright up at night.
Wright could stay stubborn and stick to the run-and-gun attack that led the team to the Sweet 16. If he does, it will be a short stay in Minneapolis.
He could play a zone and pack the defense in on Smith, forcing the Eagles to win from the perimeter. The problem with that approach is it will slow the game down, not exactly the pace at which Wright wants the game played.
He could double-down on Smith, telling Will Sheridan to play behind and having one of the four guards hedge down once Smith touches the ball. That could workfor 20 minutes, but BC's guards are great at recognizing double teams and will start cutting toward the basket.
The Wildcats could be leading at halftime only to see Boston College run a layup drill in the second half.
Three perfectly sensible options with the same result: BC wins.
Not having a player like Smith within 100 miles of the Main Line is the reason why a talented group of guards will go home Friday night.
Smith scored 18 points against Michigan State's Paul Davis. Sixteen and 23 points in two meetings with National Freshman of the Year lock Tyler Hansbrough. Nineteen points and 10 rebounds the last time he saw Duke senior Shelden Williams.
Wright doesn't have any big men of that caliber on his roster.
Once Sheridan picks up his second foul, and everyone knows that will happen sooner rather than later, Wright will look down the bench. He'll see Jason Fraser, who can barely run after multiple knee surgeries. He'll glance at seven-foot senior Chris Charles, who will give up about 30 points to Smith. He'll quickly look at freshman Dante Cunningham, knowing full well that Smith would take the youngster to school on the block.
He'll then yell to the end of the bench at Curtis Sumpter. Coach, a player can't enter the game in street clothes and Dockers. They will mark up the floor.
Wright will then realize what I already know. It's been a great season for Villanova, a campaign that has re-energized the Philadelphia college basketball scene.
But, it is all about to end on Friday for one simple reason.
You can reach Jared Trexler at email@example.com.
-Photo courtesy of Boston College University